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DVD Releases for May 15, 2007

May 14th, 2007

It's another slow week for top level DVD releases, but I should probably stop saying that as practically every week from May until the end of summer is going to be somewhat slow. The third quarter is historically the slowest time of year for DVD sales as people who rather go to the cinema and watch the latest blockbuster rather that sit at home. That is not to say there isn't any DVD worth picking up this week, and the DVD Pick of the Week, Pan's Labyrinth - 2-Disc Platinum Series, would have earned that designation regardless of how busy the week was. Also earning that distinction this week is Robson Arms - The Complete First Season, a great Canadian TV series.

American Dad! - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
From the creator of Family Guy, and it shows. I was never able to really get into this show. To me, it felt too much like a rip-off of Family Guy and had it been created by someone else I think most fans of that show would have been up in arms over the similarities. On the other hand, fans of the show will be more than impressed by the level of extras on this 3-disc set. There are audio commentary tracks on all 19 episodes, more than 40 minutes of deleted scenes, a featurette on the making of one of the episodes, and the animators talking about their favorite clips. The show is at its best when it has a strong political edge, and without it, it is just average. Even so, the second volume is still worth picking up.

Army of Shadows - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and based of a novel by Joseph Kessel, this gritty World War II movie is considered by many to be among the best of Jean-Pierre Melville's impressive filmography. This is the first time the film is available in North America, and since it is a Criterion Collection release, it is done right. Extras include an audio commentary track, interviews, a featurette on the restoration, and more. Easily worth picking up for fans of either the director in particular or of realistic, more understated World War II films.

Arthur and the Invisibles - Buy from Amazon
The first of a planned trilogy. Given how poorly the film performed here, both with critics and at the box office, it seems unlikely that the other two installments will be released in theaters domestically. Given how poorly it performed internationally, one wouldn't be out of line to question the financial prudence of making the other two installments at all. On the other hand, they are continuing the Goal! franchise and that was an even bigger bomb. As for the DVD, it's well below average with just a featurette on the voice acting and a couple of music videos. Not worth picking up, and only worth a rental if you have young kids at home.

Banacek - The First Season - Buy from Amazon
Starring George Peppard, who most people probably remember most from The A-Team, this insurance investigator series was part of the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie series in the 1970s and it rotated with two other series. This means there are only 8 episodes on this full season set, but it has a longer running time than you average 30-minute sitcom has for a full season, and given the price, it is still a good deal. That said, I would have rather have paid more and gotten a few more extras with more substance. However, as is, it is worth picking up for fans of the series.

Becket - Buy from Amazon
This movie tells the story of Thomas à Becket, who was appointed to Archbishop of Canterbury by King Henry II as a way to curb the church's power. However, he takes his job seriously and causes no end of trouble for the king. Among the best films for both leads, it is an excellent picture and their performances are amazing. (Both Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole earned Oscar nominations while the film as a whole earned 12, including a win for Best Adapted Screenplay.) As for the DVD, it has an audio commentary track as well as a couple of interviews, which is enough to make the DVD worth picking up, but a bit more could have made it a contender for DVD Pick of the week.

Beetlejuice - Buy from Amazon
This is the third or fourth time I've noticed this hilarious movie being re-released on a featureless DVD. The fact that they've re-printed it means there's a demand for the DVD, perhaps even a strong enough demand for a special edition. 2008 is the 20th anniversary for the movie, and that would be the perfect excuse to come up with a retrospective, audio commentary track, etc.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Battle of the Bulge and Road Warrior
I thought these came out last week, but Amazon has them coming out this week.

Born to Fight - Buy from Amazon
This is not the Thai martial arts movie I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. This is an entirely different Thai martial arts movie. Like the previous one, this one has a lot of action, but that's all it has going for it. In fact, there's not even enough action to keep the film going for its entire running time. If you are a really big fan of these types of movie, then its worth a rental, at most. Even then, there are better options out there.

Coach - The Second Season - Buy from Amazon
A good show that overstayed its welcome by a year or two. However, while the show was good for the first several years, the 2-disc set is devoid of any special features and that limits its value to a rental at most.

Curse of the Zodiac - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD dud whose target audience are people who will mistake this movie for Zodiac. Don't be one of those people.

The Dead Girl - Buy from Amazon
A series of vignettes on the effects a murder has on several people. The film earned good reviews and a few Independent Spirit Award Nominations, but failed to find an audience during its short theatrical run. The DVD, with an audio commentary track and interview, should perform much better, but it would be nearly impossible to perform worse.

ER - The Complete Seventh Season - Buy from Amazon
One of the longest-running series currently on TV. If you don't know what the show is, I'm going to assume you're Amish, in which case, what are you doing on the Internet? Anyone who has been collecting the series from the start also knows exactly what to expect in terms of extras: deleted scenes and outtakes. It's not much, but with the quality of the show it will be enough for most fans to continue collecting.

Family Law - Buy from Amazon
A film from Argentina about a family of lawyers that earned better reviews than most films, but not enough to survive the highly competitive art house circuit. The film is certainly worth checking out, but with an apparently featureless DVD, a rental will do.

The Fountain - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray or HD-DVD
An artistic vision or pretentious crap. The critics were divided on the subject, while moviegoers decided to stay home. Given the poor performance at the box office, the DVD is has average extras, which consist of a multi-part making of featurette. For most people it won't even be worth renting, but for others it will be worth picking up and watching again and again. It's nearly impossible to tell which group you fall into without seeing it for yourself.

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe - The Complete Saturday Morning Serial - Buy from Amazon
All twelve parts of the classic series from 1940. Worth checking out not only for the nostalgia, but also because these shows had a great impact on a number of modern directors, including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

Frasier - The Ninth Season - Buy from Amazon
Good show. Featureless DVD. Moving on.

Half Past Dead 2 - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD sequel to a movie that really didn't deserve to get a theatrical release in the first place. It's marginally better than the original, as it isn't offensively bad, but it is clearly a dumb action movie and little more than a Saturday afternoon time waster.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Road Warrior
Just the one HD-DVD release, which is also coming out on Blu-Ray.

Home Improvement - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
This is a show that clearly ran out of steam before finally leaving the airwaves. While it is hard to pinpoint the exact moment in jumped the shark, each season didn't feel as fresh as the season before it. This quickly annoyed many people but the consistency helped keep a loyal fanbase. As for the 3-disc set, there are only a few minutes worth of outtakes in terms of extras, which isn't enough to really recommend picking it up.

How To Win At Casino Gambling - Buy from Amazon
The list price is $9.98, but that doesn't include the cost of losing your house to some casino.

The Kovak Box - Buy from Amazon
A sci-fi mystery starring Timothy Hutton as a writer who seems to have walked into one of his novels. The film is more cerebral than most sci-fi movies that come out these days and features some great acting, but the film is still destined to be passed over by most people. Worth checking out.

The Last Sin Eater - Buy from Amazon
One of the films that helped kill the recent revival in Christian filmmaking. The reason most Christian films have struggled lately is simple: most are terrible. Preachy, ineptly made, melodramatic, etc. There's almost no redeeming quality here. Skip it.

M*A*S*H - Goodbye, Farewell & Amen - Buy from Amazon
This is basically the final episode of the series plus the bonus discs from the Martinis and Medicine box set. If you own that set, there's no reason to pick this up. On the other hand, if you bought the seasons individually, then this is a much cheaper option than upgrading.

Martin - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This was the show that transformed Martin Lawrence from stand up comic to star. Granted, his box office drawing power has waxed and waned over the years, but he had his third $100 million movie this year while cracking $1 billion in total box office. The show itself has an undeniable 90s vibe to it, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, the total lack of extras certainly hurts the value, limiting it to a rental.

Masters of Horror - Right to Die - Buy from Amazon
The latest Master of Horror is Rob Schmidt, whose previous genre work includes Wrong Turn and ... well ... that's about it. However, while a lot of people questioned his inclusion in this program, Right to Die turned out to be one of the better episodes of season 2. As for the DVD, it is in line with other second season releases with an audio commentary track, making of featurette, and more. Not as strong as the first season releases, but still worth picking up.

Michael J. Fox Comedy Favorites Collection - Buy from Amazon
The package says it all: four favorites from Michael J. Fox. Except for The Secret of My Success, however, they are all below his career average in terms of box office totals. Critically speaking, only The Hard Way earned overall positive reviews. (Personally I like Greedy and The Secret of My Success just as much.) Overall, it is like too many such box sets, which are collections of second-rate films where the low price is the main selling feature. However, that said, I like Michael J. Fox, I think three of the four films are worth picking up, and that's enough to give the whole package a purchase rating.

Monarch of the Glen - Series Six - Buy from Amazon
A cosy British TV series that mixed equal parts humor and drama. However, while the series started out well, by the fifth or sixth season it was showing definite signs of age. For many fans collecting just the first four seasons will be enough.

Pan's Labyrinth - Buy from Amazon: Single Disc Edition or 2-Disc Platinum Series
One of the best movies to come out last year. Not only did it earn nearly perfect reviews, it was a major player on Oscar night (although I still think it was robbed in the Best Foreign Language Film category). As for the DVD, it comes in two versions: Single Disc Edition or 2-Disc Platinum Series. The first is OK, but not great, with an audio commentary track and an intro. If that were the only version coming out tomorrow, it would have been worth picking up but a disappointment. However, the 2-Disc Platinum Series is amazing with all of the extras from the first release plus a second disc loaded with extras including featurettes on myths and the inspirations for the movie, another on the visual effects, another shorter one on the color, and a fourth on the music. In addition there's an episode of Charlie Rose featuring Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. The last major extra is the interactive notebook that features storyboard comparisons, interactive notes and sketches, special effects comparisons, and an extensive photo gallery. Overall, this DVD is easily worth picking up. In fact, it is the clear winner of the DVD Pick of the Week.

The Red Green Show - 1998 Season - Buy from Amazon
Starting in the middle and working their way forward, this is the second DVD release from this Canadian series, and is the eighth season of the show. No, I don't know why they started in the middle, and no, I don't know if they will get to the earlier seasons. One hopes so, because even with no extras, this is a great show and worth picking up.

Robson Arms - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
The second Canadian TV series to come out this week and the third in two weeks. Awesome. At this rate, they are bound to start releasing some of the Canadian shows I've been waiting forever to get my hands on (like Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy). This particular show is more drama than humor (although it is a 30-minute show and airs on the Comedy Network up here). It is also one of the best shows to air on that network and deserves a much wider audience. Add in a couple audio commentary tracks and more and the DVD is a must have and a clear contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Rockford Files - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
I love this show. It was one of my favorites when I was growing up and when I catch the odd re-run these days I still really enjoy it. However, this 5-disc set is just not up to the level it should be with no real special features. Even so, I recommend picking it up, but I'd really want to see more extras here.

Seraphim Falls - Buy from Amazon
Seraphim Falls is not a good movie, but it has some amazing performances from Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson and that might be enough for many to want to pick it up. (Also, the cinematography is stunning.) As for the DVD, the extras are light (but that is to be expected given the film's box office struggles). The audio commentary track and making of featurette do add enough to the overall package that I'm giving the DVD a tentative purchase rating.

The Siege - Martial Law Edition - Buy from Amazon
The Siege deserved a special edition? Really? I think most critics would disagree with that. Then again, with an audio commentary track and a trio of featurettes, it hardly qualifies as a full-blown special edition anyway.

Stomp the Yard - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
This film performed much better than expected both at the box office and with critics. Yes, 24% positive is much higher than expected and the buzz suggested it would end up in single-digit territory. As for its box office performance, the film was able to pay for its production budget after one week while it likely showed a profit before its theatrical run was over, which is something only one in ten films manages to pull off. However, just because it beat expectations doesn't make it a good movie, and even with an audio commentary track, deleted / extended scenes, outtakes, and a making of featurette, I can't recommend even renting it. On a side note, the movie is also being released on UMD for PSP. I didn't think they still made those.

Tex Avery's Droopy - The Complete Theatrical Collection - Buy from Amazon
One the one hand, Tex Avery is a master at his craft. His animated shorts are some of the best ever made. On the other hand, this 2-disc set only has a couple featurettes as extras. The only cartoon releases I've been really happy with have been the Golden Collection from Warner Bros. That said, this is still worth picking up for fans of Tex Avery, Droopy, or Golden Age cartoons.

The Thirst - Buy from Amazon
One of two movies made last year called The Thirst. This one stars Clare Kramer (from Bring it On and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), as Lisa, who is a Vampire... and a stripper. That's pretty much all you need to know about the quality of the movie, but I will say that those who like their gore with equal parts camp will probably walk away from this movie satisfied. As for the DVD, there's an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, etc. Not much, but worth a rental for fans of the genre.

Vengeance Is Mine - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
A serial killer on the run from the police meets and falls in love with an owner of a brothel. This is a great example of Japanese cinema, but the subject matter and the brutal violence is sure to make most people turn away. As for the DVD, it is lighter on extras than most Criterion Collection releases with just some interviews, but is still worth picking up for fans of Japanese films.

Wanted - Dead or Alive - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Steve McQueen stars as Josh Randall, a bounty hunter in 1877. McQueen was just becoming a major star when this show started (in fact, he got the role based in part on his performance in The Blob). There was a big gap in the release date between season 1 and this release, which means if you are a fan of the show, you better pick it up soon or season 3 might never come out.

The War at Home - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Typical dysfunctional family sitcom without anything to really help it stand out. The writing is lazy, the characters are universally unlikable, etc. The DVD is better than expected with some deleted scenes, outtakes, and interviews, but it is still not worth even a rental. Skip it.

The War Tapes - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the current Iraq War made from footage shot by the troops on the front line. It's as real as you can get, which makes it even more powerful than most others attempts to capture the same subject. Also, the DVD is better than expected given the film's short theatrical run with deleted / extended scenes and follow up interviews with some of the soldiers. This last feature is something I think more documentaries should have as the story rarely ends when the movie hits theaters.

Wings - The Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
A lighthearted show that entertained audiences for most of its eight year run, but even fans would be unlikely to call it art. As for the DVD, this 4-disc set has zero special features.


Filed under: Video Releases, Stomp the Yard, El Laberinto del Fauno, Arthur et les Minimoys, The Fountain, Seraphim Falls, The Last Sin Eater, The War Tapes, Family Law, The Dead Girl