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DVD Releases for November 20, 2007 - Part II

November 20th, 2007

Another big list of DVD releases, including nearly a dozen spotlight reviews. And again, we had to split the list into two parts. There is also a number of high quality releases this week making the selection for DVD Pick of the Week tough to make. Live Free or Die Hard had me interested, either the Unrated 2-Disc Edition or as part of the Blu-Ray Die Hard Collection, but in the end I went with Star Trek - The Original Series - Season 1 - HD-DVD/DVD Combo. Even at that price, it is still the best on this week's list.

Nosferatu - The Ultimate Two-Disc Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of the first vampire movies every made, and still one of the best. The 2-disc set includes a new print of the movie, as well as a documentary on the director, F.W. Murnau, and clips from several of his movies that are now considered lost. For fans of horror movies, silent films, early cinema, this DVD is a must have and it is a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Queer as Folk - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Not as many full series sets this week as in some recent weeks. In fact, there are just three on listed here.

Rescue Dawn - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Christian Bale stars as Dieter Dengler, a German man who emigrates to the United States to become a fighter pilot only to be shot down over Vietnam on his first mission. The film earned great reviews and started out well in limited release, but couldn't maintain this momentum when it expanded. (Although, it is important to note that $5 million is a good run for a limited release.) The DVD should perform even better as the extras are worth the price with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making of featurette, etc. Worth picking up. It is also interesting to see a smaller film like this come out on Blu-Ray. It's a sign that, on the software side of the equation, the cost of making Blu-Ray discs are not an issue when compared to HD-DVD releases.

Santa Clause 3 - The Escape Clause - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
The Santa Clause franchise started out very well. Not only did the first movie earn very good reviews, it drew in moviegoers and became a holiday treat. However, by the third installment, however, it has become more than a little tired.

This time around, Martin Short joins the cast as Jack Frost, who is bent on replacing Scott Calvin as Santa Claus. It's an interesting twist, but script just isn't has tight as the first film. In fact, the drop-off from the second to the third is much great than the drop-off from the first to the second. The writing wasn't as sharp, as was the acting, (but I think this was a function of the script), etc. Even fans of the Santa Clause franchise will find this movie skippable.

As for the extras, there is a good mix starting with an audio commentary track with the director, Michael Lembeck. Not a whole lot of insight is given here, and he is overly praiseworthy at times. Also, when Martin Short suit goes white, he looks like Dennis Kucinich and not Tom Delay. I think it's the elf ears that do it. Dennis Kucinich has elf ears, right? Additional extras include the usual a trio of making of featurettes, outtakes, alternate opening, etc. In addition, there are a couple of musical extras starting with Chirstmas Carol-Oke, which is self-explanatory, and a really bad pun. Finally, there's a music video by Aly and A.J. for "Greatest Time of the Year."

As for the Blu-Ray Disc, there are two additional bonus features: a tour of Elfberg and Deck the Halls, neither of which I found particularly interesting.

Santa Clause 3 - The Escape Clause doesn't live up to the quality of the first two installments of the franchise, so much so that I can't recommend anything past a rental, and even that's being very, very generous. Since the DVD isn't worth purchasing, the Blu-Ray is certainly not worth the extra money. However, even if you were interested in buying the movie, the reasons to upgrade are just too limited for the extra money.

Sawdust and Tinsel - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Not one of Ingmar Bergman's best know films, it is nonetheless still amazing. In fact, it is the first of his film that really shows the genius that was struggling to find its voice. Add in the fact that this is the first time this movie has been released on DVD and it is a very important release. That said, with just an intro, audio commentary track and a booklet, the extras on this DVD are disappointingly light. Even so, it is worth picking up for any fan of the director and his style of filmmaking.

Shrek the Third - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
The second release on this week's list that is the third installment of its franchise. Sadly, this is not that much better than the previous trilogy release.

The first Shrek was a brilliant take on Fairytales that was familiar enough to entertain kids while containing enough pop-culture references to keep their parents watching. The second Shrek is one of the biggest hits of all time, and the biggest digitally animated box office hit of all time, and with good reason. But something happened with Shrek the Third.

There are a lot of reasons while the film's critical reception suffered, but the biggest of these is the lack of freshness. Shrek the Third offered very little that was new from the previous installment while the pop culture references that worked the first time around started to feel forced. That's not to say its all bad, there's still more than enough story to entertain the kids, and not bore their parents. And the digital animation is clearly the best in the franchise.

As for the extras, there are a lot of features with an equal mix of those aimed at kids and those aimed at adults Big Green Goofs had the animation errors that have populated the DVD releases for all three movies, Lost Scenes are three scenes presented in storyboard form presented by some of the animators. Meet the Cast is the typical making of featurette with a mix of scenes from the movie, interviews with the cast and crew, and behind-the-scenes clips. Tech of Shrek deals with the advances in technology from the first film to the third, which is not surprising since it has been close to a decade since they started the first film. As for the kid specific features, you have Worcestershire Academy Yearbook and Shrek's Guide to Parenthood, which are both a collection of audio clips. Next there's the Donkey Dance, which butchers the song Safety Dance by the Canadian band Men Without Hats... You would think after Party All the Time Eddie Murphy would have learned not to sing. And finally there are a bunch of DVD-ROM activities called Shrektivities. I would have liked an audio commentary track or two, but this is a good collection.

Overall it is clear that Shrek the Third is the weakest installment in the franchise, but it should still entertain kids. Add in a strong array of extras, and the DVD is worth picking up, but I can't really be enthusiastic about that recommendation.

SpongeBob SquarePants - Atlantis SquarePantis - Buy from Amazon
Yet another four-episode collection of SpongeBob SquarePants, which lifts to total number of DVD releases for this series to seventeen... thousand. At least it feels like it's that many.

The stories include the titular episode, Atlantis SquarePantis, where SpongeBob and friends travel to Atlantis and meet the Lord Royal Highness, voiced by David Bowie. That's right, the Goblin Lord himself is voicing an episode of SpongeBob. The DVD starts out on a high note with the best episode, and not just cause the Atlantians look like they were based on Blue Meanings... but that helps. SpongeBob vs. The Patty Gadget also was a fun episode.

On the other hand, Picture Day was too repetitive, while Money Talks and The Krusty Sponge dealt themes we've seen before in the series, but at least Money Talks ends with a good joke.

Extras on the DVD include two featurettes, one on the animation studio, and the other on the making of Atlantis SquarePantis. This first featurette is under 2 minutes, so it is hardly a featurette. The second featurette is a lot longer at 11 minutes, but I doubt even kids will learn anything about the animation process they didn't already know.

Like I said last week when this DVD was released, the shows are best scene in their full-season sets. Only half the episodes on this DVD are worth checking out, (assuming you consider the double-length Atlantis SquarePantis as two episodes), and the extras are rather light. Fans of the show should give it a rental, but I can't recommend purchasing in the meantime.

The Song Remains the Same - Buy from Amazon: Special Edition and Collector's Edition
This isn't the first time this concert film has been released on DVD, but it is the best. Not only are there plenty of extras, including several bonus songs, the audio has been upgraded and is now about as good as you can get out of a DVD. My only concern, there's a good chance that this time next year it will be release on Blu-Ray. Even so, it is worth picking up for all fans of Led Zeppelin. As for the two versions, Collector's Edition contains several physical extras like lobby cards, CD soundtrack, even a vintage T-shirt. Worth the extra cash for diehard fans.

Star Trek - The Original Series - Season 1 - HD-DVD/DVD Combo - Buy from Amazon
Star Treking across the universe,
On the starship Enterprise under Captain Kirk.
Star Treking across the universe,
Only going forward, 'cause we can't find reverse!

The first season on the first Star Trek series is released on the home market, again, this time on a 10-disc HD-DVD / DVD combo package. This will surely excite Trekkies everywhere and get them to buy HD-DVD players if they don't already have them. But is this release worth the money? It doesn't matter to the hardcore fan, but I thought I should look into it.

When asking this question the quality of the episodes is of course very important, however, Star Trek is such an iconic series, I don't feel the need to spend a lot of time talking about them. After all, even though I'm a fan of the series, I can't hold a candle to the hardcore fans, while regular readers don't want to watch me geek out. ... Again.I will mention some of the highlight episode, but I will focus mostly on the extras, especially the HD-DVD specific extras.

Highlight episodes including the two-part episode, The Menagerie, which is a reworking of the original pilot, The Cage. Personally I preferred this pilot to the pilot they went with. The Naked Time is an important episode because it was remade as an early episode of The Next Generation. Mudd's Women is the first appearance of Harry Mudd, and that's enough to watch it again and again. The Corbomite Maneuver features Clint Howard and is a fan favorite. Balance of Terror features the first appearance of the Romulans, Shore Leave has McCoy seeing Alice in Wonderland, The Galileo Seven has Spock in charge of a shuttlecraft, The Squire of Gothos, Arena, Tomorrow Is Yesterday, Space Seed, (Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!), The Devil in the Dark, Errand of Mercy, The City on the Edge of Forever, it seems like every other episode is a classic, not just of Star Trek, but of Science Fiction in general.

As for the HD-DVD treatment, when creating these DVDs, they replaced a lot of the special effects with computer graphics. This is an ... interesting change. I'm sure it will give many, many long-time hardcore fans conniptions. Others, well, others will write death threats, but this would be an overreaction. For the most part, they merely enhanced effects that looked archaic by today's standards and there were no, "Greedo Shoots First" moments.

As for the extras, they are equally impressive. For the DVD sides, there are featurettes on most of the 10 disc.

Disc One
Spacelift: Transporting Star Trek to the 21st Century
A 20-minute featurette detailing all of the changes made to upgrade the show to high definition. This includes taking the original camera negatives and cleaning them up, re-recording the theme song, even updating some of the special effects. It is this last part that will cause the most conversations amongst the

Disc Two
The Birth of a Timeless Legacy
This featurette discusses the origins of the show, including the two pilots, which is nearly unheard of. It deals a lot with the casting of the series and while many of the stories will be familiar for most of the fans of the show, the 24-minute featurette is still fun to watch.

Disc Three
Reflections on Spock
An interview with Leonard Nimoy on his famous character. Since the focus is narrower, the featurette is shorter at just 12 minutes, but no less interesting.

Disc Four
Life Beyond Trek: William Shatner
Life the above interview featurette, but with William Shatner. Here he talks about his obsession with horses and competition. It's less interesting than the previous featurettes.

Disc Five
To Boldly Go... Season One
Looks over the highlights of the first season, and there are a lot of them. In fact, there are so many highlight episodes that there was no way to fit all of them into the featurette's 18-minute running time.

Disc Six
Sci-Fi Visionaries
This featurette talks about the science fiction writers who helped with the first season episodes. The early episodes had amazing writing, which is a major reason why the show has lasted more than 40 years.

Disc Seven
Billy Blackburn's Treasure Chest
Billy Blackburn was an actor on Star Trek - The Original Series and he played every single character. Okay, mostly he played Lt. Hadley, but he also showed up as the White Rabbit, the Gorn, etc. Here we get to see some of the immense amount of home movie footage he took while on the set. It's an excellent featurette showing a different side of the film.

Disc Eight
Kiss 'n' Tell: Romance in the 23rd Century
A look at all of the romance we see in Star Trek, and not just in the first season. At just 8 minutes it's a little on the short side, but it allows the secondary characters a little more time.
Trek Connections
Six trivia questions where you try to find the connection between two actors who were guest stars on Star Trek.

Disc Nine
None

Disc Ten
Star Trek: Beyond the Final Fronteir
This feature documentary looks at the legacy of the franchise, not just the first series. The center here is the auction of memorabilia. Personally, I would have loved to have the miniature models, but some of the prices were insane with some items selling for 10, 20, 100 times the listed price. This is the biggest extra on of the DVD side of the disc and there's substantial replay value here.
Star Trek Online Game Preview
This is just what it sounds like, a preview to the upcoming game. It's a MMORPG, which means it will be competing with WoW, and that's not a strong position to be in. I do like the idea of being in your own ship, as being planet bound killed the Star Wars game.

The heart of the HD-DVD bonuses are the Starfleet Access features, which are on a half-dozen or so episodes. While watching these episodes with Starfleet Access enabled, you are prompted to read about the characters, the locations, the technology, etc. But best of all, there are also video clips under the Genesis label. These are the featurettes that fans of the show will enjoy the most and they talk about a wide range of topics. However, I do have a minor complaint about its execution; I would rather have the features popup automatically, as I don't like watching shows with the remote control in my hand. It you chose one type of information, Genesis for instance, the subsequent instances of those types will popup automatically, but not the other types. (At least I think that's how it works.) It is nice to see a HD-DVD release that actually takes advantage of the technology to give us something that you can't get on DVD.

On a down side... good god that's an expense DVD. To buy the whole series at this price will cost $400, and that's with Amazon's discount. On the other hand, That's what it costs to get a high quality HD-DVD player, so it actually makes it a good time to upgrade to high definition in a perverse kind of way.

Overall, I can say without a doubt that I am happy to have this DVD in my collection. But I got it for free because I'm a critic. Would I have paid for this 10-disc set? Yeah, probably, but as I've pointed out in the past, I have more money than brain cells. It is not that the DVD is outrageous on a price per minute is not bad compared to other TV on HD-DVD releases, and you do get what you pay for. Overall I would say it is worth the money, and is even a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Teen Titans - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
The latest in a long list of D.C. comics turned cartoons to be released on DVD. The show started to show its age by the fourth season, but the Slade / Raven storyline should be enough to draw in fans. On the other hand, the extras are light, as usual, and it's hard to recommend purchasing over renting.

Titanic - Tenth Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
The biggest box office hit of all time, and I still haven't seen it. This is the latest of roughly 400 DVD releases for the movie, but it isn't selling very well. I think there have been too many sub-par releases for this one to be viewed any differently.

The Universe - The Complete Season One - Buy from Amazon
A 14-episode series that discusses the universe, which is a rather broad topic, but the series is still rather in-depth when it discusses our planet, the others in our solar system, other star systems, and even other galaxies. Sadly, there are no extras on this 4-disc set, but it is still worth checking out.

Walking Tall - Buy from Amazon
"You guys watch Joe Don Baker movies?" I love MST3K.

The Wild Wild West - Third Season - Buy from Amazon
The second 60s TV show that was turned into a movie to get a spotlight review on this week's list. The theatrical release of The Wild Wild West was flop with the critics and a money loser at the box office. However, you shouldn't hold that against the show.

The Wild Wild West is a western from the 1960s with a healthy dose of buddy cop comedy mixed in with the action. On the other hand, the show has not aged particularly well in the past 40 plus years. Production values seem rather low compared to today's standards. Like Mission: Impossible - Season Three, this shouldn't bother long time fans, but I'm sure a lot of people who have never seen the show before will have trouble taking it seriously.

There are no extras on the 6-disc set, nor are there and subtitles or a play all button. At least they got the chapter placement correct.

The Wild Wild West is a fun series to watch, but not one that needs to be owned on DVD. Called The Third Season a rental.


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Filed under: Video Releases, Shrek the Third, Live Free or Die Hard, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, Rescue Dawn