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Joel Gallen
Ellen DeGeneres
Writing Credits:
Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres has done everything from starring in hit sitcoms and movies to writing best-selling books, to having her own talk show. But she's never forgotten her roots as a stand-up comedian. Taped at New York City's Beacon Theatre before a live audience, Ellen DeGeneres: Here And Now features the kind of humor that first made her a star, offering her offbeat insights into everyday life. Her feel-good comedy touches on something that everyone can identify with, from the obligatory gay joke, procrastination, the fashion statements of celebrities, the ironies of public cell phone use, airline etiquette, self-esteem, time saving catastrophes, and more.

Rated NR

Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby 2.0
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 60 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 11/25/2003

• Ellen DeGeneres Biography

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Ellen Degeneres: Here and Now (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 5, 2003)

After a rocky few years in which her TV series flopped and her former lover became tabloid fodder, Ellen DeGeneres made a nice comeback in 2003. Not only did she provide a lead voice in smash hit Finding Nemo, but also she filmed a well-received special called Here and Now.

Subtitled “Modern Life and Other Inconveniences”, this show comes from a June 28, 2003, performance at New York’s Beacon Theatre. In the hour-long concert, DeGeneres indulges in her usual form of observational humor. She runs through a mix of subjects in a fluid manner that rarely sticks long on one topic.

DeGeneres gets the whole gay issue out of the way at the very start. She seems to do this mainly because of expectations, and she does so in a reasonably clever way. After that, DeGeneres launches into a run of issues. She starts with the topic of procrastination and goes through other concepts like musical juxtapositions, the state of modern TV, commercials, wireless technology, forgetting what you’re talking about, technology and laziness, overindulgence, movie theater behavior, getting pickles out of a jar, excessively thick packaging, automatic toilets, and general conflicts during social interactions.

Mostly DeGeneres sticks with the theme mentioned in the DVD’s subtitles, as she goes over issues of 21st century living. She focuses on the absurdity of daily life as she picks apart the small details of these topics. This comes across in a stream of consciousness way, as she shifts from topic to topic smoothly.

DeGeneres is and always has been something of a light version of Jerry Seinfeld. She features the same kind of observational “slice of life” humor with which the sitcom king did so well. That doesn’t mean she comes across as a simple imitator or lacks for good material, though.

I can’t count myself as a fan of DeGeneres’ work, but I never felt negatively toward her either. Now presents a good representation of her work. She seems more self-assured than I recall, as she lacks the jittery and flustered tone that she utilized as a younger comic. Now she appears smoother and more confident, and this helps focus on the material instead of her physical tics.

Now provides a surprisingly coherent piece given the extremely wide array of topics DeGeneres discusses. The material flows smoothly, and it doesn’t feel awkward when she transitions from one area to another. With so many shifts, some of them should become jarring, but that doesn’t happen.

While I can’t say that I find DeGeneres’ comedy to be “laugh out loud” funny, she does maintain a reasonably high caliber of work here. Frankly, I don’t like most stand-up comedians; I roll my eyes at their gags a lot more often than I chuckle. DeGeneres doesn’t produce many guffaws, but she remains pretty amusing, in a gentle way. Really, the only gag I think falls flat is the one in which she solemnly reads the lyrics to Salt ‘n Pepa’s “Shoop”. That’s a tired gag that seemed lame when Steve Allen would do it for Fifties rock songs; it hasn’t grown better with age.

But that’s only one noticeable misstep in an otherwise smooth program. Now comes across well on DVD through a professional and serviceable presentation. It sticks with the basics and doesn’t try to add artificial “spice” to the experience. DeGeneres comes on stage, delivers her act, and that’s it; no backstage nonsense or video effects or anything else to interfere. Occasional crowd shots appear, but those remain minor, which is good. We see DeGeneres mainly in medium or close-up shots, which works well for this kind of experience.

Overall, nothing about Here and Now stands out as exceptional, and no one will consider this to be a groundbreaking piece in any way. However, it presents a solidly professional and entertaining comedy routine in a solidly professional way. The entire piece feels quite satisfying.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Here and Now appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Simplicity ruled the day with Now, as the basic production looked basic but solid.

Sharpness generally seemed satisfactory. Sometimes the wider shots of DeGeneres appeared a little ill defined and weren’t as distinctive as I’d like. Nonetheless, the program mostly came across as accurate and concise. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws also were absent, as the presentation suffered from no artifacts, video noise or other issues.

Given the basic setting, colors stayed simplistic but solid. DeGeneres’ blond hair and blue sweater dominated the palette, and both looked firm and well depicted within the low-key parameters of the show. Blacks also appeared deep and firm, and the occasional low-light shot seemed clear and appropriately visible. There wasn’t a whole lot to the visual presentation of Here and Now, but the DVD replicated the concert fairly well.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Here and Now. Not surprisingly, the mix presented a very modest soundfield. DeGeneres’ monologue emanated firmly from the front center channel, so that speaker heavily dominated the proceedings. Otherwise, we got audience laughter and applause from the front sides and – to a lesser degree – surrounds. And that was it! Virtually no music appeared in the program.

Audio quality remained positive. Speech easily became the most important aspect of the track, and DeGeneres’ remarks consistently sounded natural and warm. I noticed no edginess or problems with distortion, as her comments were always very smooth. The light applause and laughter also seemed clear and accurate. No one will use Here and Now as a demo disc, but the soundtrack did what it needed to do.

As for supplements, the DVD includes only one. We find an Ellen DeGeneres biography. This text offers a decent look at her career but doesn’t reveal anything terribly fascinating.

For those who’d like to see a showcase of Ellen DeGeneres’ stand-up talents, Here and Now offers a good place to start. She provides a generally amusing routine that comes across well in this program. The DVD presents perfectly acceptable picture and sound, but includes almost no extras. This one might be better as a rental, but it does merit a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5777 Stars Number of Votes: 45
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