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DVD Releases for February 21, 2006

February 20th, 2006

As usual, there's a very strange mix of DVDs coming out tomorrow with something for even the most unique of tastes. As for the best of the best, The Memory of a Killer - Buy from Amazon is the DVD Pick of the Week, only the third foreign language film to earn that distinction. Honorable mentions include two films that were unfortunately neglected when they first came out, Class of 1984 - Buy from Amazon and Erik the Viking - Buy from Amazon. Neither of which would be considered high art, but I like them and getting to highlight personal favorites of mine is one of the perks of the job.

3rd Rock from the Sun - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
We're at the halfway point of this shows run, and it just keeps getting better. Like the previous releases, this 4-disc set has plenty of special features with audio commentary tracks, interviews, outtakes, and more. Definitely worth picking up.

Action - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
One of several hundred short-lived TV series to grace Fox before being unceremonially dumped. Jay Mohr starred as Peter Dragon, an amoral movie executive who is trying to make a comeback after his latest movie was a $150 million bomb. A great look at the Movie Industry and the shady characters that live there, it would have worked a lot better on cable than network TV, but it's too late for that now. As for the 2-disc set, there are more special features than one would expect for a show that only lasted 13 episodes, (five of those were unaired), but the quality of the special features are not that great. Even so, fans of the show should be thankful that it was released at all and should pick it up tomorrow.

All the President's Men - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Skip it. I know what you're thinking, "But this is an incredible movie about an important issue that is even more relevant today than it was when it was made. Not to mention the great selection of special features. How can you say, 'Skip it' so flippantly?" Because next week it is being released as part of the Controversial Classics - Volume 2 - The Power of Media and that package includes Network and Dog Day Afternoon and if you are interested in any one of those movies, you'll probably want to pick up all three.

Class of 1984 - Buy from Amazon
I love this movie, more than I probably should. The way it starts out, it could be your typical Inspirational Teacher story like Dangerous Minds, but turns into a bloody Revenge flick like Death Wish. You would think a Canadian movie made more than 20 years ago and which made less than $7 million at the box office would be dumped on a featureless DVD without anyone noticing. But the studio has put together a nice DVD here with an audio commentary track, 30-minute making of documentary, and more. Definitely worth picking up.

Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber - Buy from Amazon
Okay, I admit, I'm a fan of Jennifer Love Hewitt and own more of her movies on DVD than I probably should, so I'm not the most unbiased person when it comes to her films. This particular film is a TV movie of the week from the Oxygen network and stars Jennifer Love Hewitt as Katya Livingston, an ambitious and shallow ad exec trying to climb the social ladder. Don't worry, it's better than that makes it sound. However, it's still not a great movie and without any real special features on the DVD, I can't recommend it for anything beyond a rental.

Daddy Long Legs - Buy from Amazon
A musical starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. It's a slick movie with great songs, sets and dancing, but the story is light and predictable. As for the special features, they are also on the light side with an audio commentary track, archival footage of the premieres, and more; but that's more than most DVD releases for films from the era.

Death in Gaza - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the conflict in Gaza and how the cycle of hate and violence is perpetuated by both sides. Considering the very emotional response most people have for this topic, provoke passions on both sides of the debate, which is what every good documentary should do. Originally the film was going to explore both sides of the conflict through Palestinian and Israeli children, but tragically, the director James Miller was caught in the middle of a firefight between Palestinians and IDF and was killed in the crossfire. Included in the DVD are a making of featurette and a tribute to James Miller. Anyone interested in this conflict should pick up this DVD.

Domino - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan or UMD Mini
This is one of those movies that must have looked great on paper. The true-life story of a supermodel turned bounty hunter. Obviously given the film's reviews and anemic performance at the box office, something went horribly wrong. Given that, I wouldn't have been too surprised if the film was dumped on a substandard DVD, but that is not the case here. Special features include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, featurette on the visual style of the movie, and interviews with and about the real Domino Harvey. In the end, the film was all about the visuals with not enough effort spent in making the movie entertaining or engrossing and even with special features on par with most first-run releases, it can't rate past a rental.

Edvard Munch - Buy from Amazon
A biography of Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch. The film was originally made for TV in a 3-and-a-half hour format, but this DVD has the three-hour theatrical cut but fortunately both versions are astounding. With such a long running time, there's little room or need for special features on the disc, but the DVD does come with a booklet featuring an interview with the director.

Erik the Viking - Buy from Amazon
Erik the Viking is one of those movies I've been waiting to get on DVD for a long time, and I'm probably the only one. Tim Robbins stars as the titular character, a Viking who was just too empathetic and introspective for life at that time. The film was written and directed by Terry Jones and was originally intended to be a Monty Python film, but the death of Graham Chapman put an end to that. It does still have a Pythonesque feel to it, as well as a appearances by both Terry Jones and John Cleese. The film earned poor reviews and even worse box office results, so there's no surprise that the DVD has no special features. However, that won't stop me from picking it up tomorrow. On a side note, this film and Yellowbeard have been on my To-Buy list for a long, long time. However the latter film is still not available on a Region 1 DVD, but one can hope the wait for that film will not be too much longer.

First Descent - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini
A documentary about Snowboarding that was hampered by mediocre reviews and killed by being releases in 'Select Cities.' When will studios learn about the perils of Select Cities? While the film struggled at the box office, the DVD should perform much better, especially with a collection of special features that include tons of additional footage. But even so, unless you are a really hardcore fan of the sport, it's hard to rate this DVD anything more than a rental.

Left of the Dial - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the fledgling liberal news radio station, Air America. This is a good film, but it will obviously appeal more to left-leaning people, or at least to people who don't think, 'Liberal' is an insult. That is not to say that it is overly-biased because it does show the struggles and the screw-ups the station suffered through during its early days. Extra features include the ever-present audio commentary, deleted scenes, and a Q&A session with the crew. Definitely worth picking up.

The Memory of a Killer - Buy from Amazon
The best recent release on this week's list. This Belgian film, which is known as De Zaak Alzheimer in it native tongue, (a.k.a. The Alzheimer Case), deals with a Hitman who is starting to go senile. A lot of times foreign films are dumped onto the market with almost no special features, and while the disc is not overloaded, there is a featurette on the making of the film and another on its premiere. Easily worth adding to your DVD collection, and one of the contenders for DVD Pick of the Week.

Midnight Cowboy - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Nominated for seven Oscars, this film won three of them, and it's easy to see why. It is also the only X-rated film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. This 2-disc set contains an audio commentary track, retrospective documentary, a documentary look at the controversy surrounding the movie, and a biography of director John Schlesinger. Much better than the previous release and well worth the upgrade.

North Country - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
Obvious Oscar bait, but while the film earned positive reviews and a couple Oscar Nods, it wasn't strong enough to become a major player during award season. That was certainly disappointing, but nothing compared to the lack of interest among moviegoers it generated. And with only a featurette on the real life inspiration for the film and some deleted scenes, the DVD won't do much better.

NYPD Blue - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
It's been a while since season 2 was release on DVD. It's not that there wasn't a demand for the show, it's just that licensing difficulties started to interfere with the release. Unfortunately, the wait didn't result in a better product since there are fewer special features this time around with audio commentary on just two episodes, and a few featurettes with a running time of just 40-minutes. Compare that to season 1's three audio commentary tracks and more than double the running time of its featurettes and it is a disappointing drop-off. Hopefully the special features don't keep shrinking, because at this level the 4-disc set is still worth picking up, but too much lower and that could change. Can also be purchased with the first two seasons as part of a package deal.

Pin Up Girl - Buy from Amazon
Betty Grabble stars as Lorry Jones, a secretary with dreams of stardom. After a series of every increasing lies and deception, she may get everything she wanted, or it could all come crashing down. This is your typical musical from the era that is too lighthearted to be really memorable. Special features are better than expected with an audio commentary track, deleted musical number and more.

The Prince & Me 2 - The Royal Wedding - Buy from Amazon
I'll admit, I like The Prince & Me, mainly for Julia Stiles. However, in this Direct-to-DVD sequel, Julia Stiles has been replaced by Kam Heskin, who is talented, but doesn't live up to Julia's performance. Add in no special features, and this is a DVD best skipped.

Pulse - Buy from Amazon
With the Hollywood remake on its way, the Japanese original hits the home market. One of the better J-Horror films as it excels at what the genre does best, setting the mood and filling the viewer with a sense of dread. Like most DVD for foreign films, the special features are light with just a making of featurette, however, it is a very well done featurette and ups the value of the DVD from a solid rental for most people while fans of the genre will want to pick it up.

R-Point - Buy from Amazon
A South Korean horror film set during the Vietnamese war. The film does have some serious flaws; for instance, the characters all seem plucked from the Big Book of Military Cliches. Also, the film is slow moving at times and some events are never fully explained, although that last part actually helps build the mood. On the other hand, the DVD is stacked for an important with an audio commentary track, a making of documentary and two other featurettes. Worth a rental for fans of moody, tense horror films, and worth picking up for fans of Asian horror.

Rent - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan, or UMD Mini
Rent was a massively popular and critically acclaimed Broadway musical. But this adaptation failed to live up to its predecessor on either front as its reviews were mediocre and its box office was flaccid. The DVD release, on the other hand, is amazing filling two discs with special features. On the top of that list is the audio commentary track and the feature-length documentary called No Day But Today: The Story of Rent. There are also a few deleted scenes and other smaller features. In the end, if you are a fan of Rent, either the musical or the movie, then this is a terrific package.

The Seat Filler - Buy from Amazon
A romantic comedy starring Kelly Rowland and Duane Martin. Duane Martin stars as Derrick, a struggling law student who takes a job as a seat filler at an award show. There he meets Jhnelle, a pop superstar who mistakes him for a high powered executive. Anyone who has every watched more than a couple romantic comedies will know exactly where this story is going, but it's a pleasant time getting there. Special features include a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, and an extended musical number.

Separate Lies - Buy from Amazon
This film started its limited release run well, but couldn't escape the art-house circuit. Part of this has to do with the methodical nature of the film; if the film grabs you, you will be entralled, but as a character study, there's not a lot of action outside the opening event that kicks off the drama. Special features are light with just the audio commentary track, but it is extremely well done and it alone will be worth the price of the DVD for many people.

Spongebob Squarepants: Lost in Time - Buy from Amazon
Stick with the Full Season sets.

Stuart Little 3 - Call of the Wild - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini
The latest installment of the Stuart Little franchise is a direct-to-DVD animated fare. Unfortunately, it is as bad as it sounds. The animation is terrible, the story is predictable, the extras on this DVD are pitiful, there's just no reason to get this DVD. Skip it.

The Take - Buy from Amazon
In Argentina, thirty unemployed auto workers take over an abandoned factory and refuse to leave. The owners want to sell the machinery for scrape metal, but the workers stop them, and even get the factory running again while showing a better profit then under the old management. This is a great documentary because it not only shows us a problem, it actually shows us a solution. Extras include a making of featurette and a short film and help make the DVD worth picking up.

Twist of Faith - Buy from Amazon
There are not many subjects that will enflame passions as fast as the Catholic Child Molestation scandal. This powerful documentary was nominated for an Oscar but was sadly overlooked by the movie-going public. The DVD should fare much better especially with special features that include audio commentary tack, deleted scenes, interview with the director, the Q&A session at the premiere, and more. It is a difficult subject and many people will have trouble with some of the discussion, but the film is worth it.

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie - Buy from Amazon
This is the second direct-to-DVD animated movie on this week's list, and this is the better of the two. The animation is better, the story is better, the special features are better, (trivia track, history of the Avengers, search for voice talent, etc.). However, in the end, it still doesn't rank past a rental.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea - Season 1 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
The best Irwin Allen TV series, although given the quality of most of his projects, that is not a huge compliment. To be fair, the first season or two of the show was actually pretty good, but things declined pretty fast from there. This 4-disc set contains the first half of season 1, (15 episodes), as well as the original pilot, which was shot in color. Extras on the set are light, but that is to be expected for a show this old, but the overall package is still worth picking up for fans of the show.

Waterbourne - Buy from Amazon
A group of terrorists unleash a biological agent into the Los Angeles water supply, but in the face of this attack the people turn to each other in a show of strength and unity. I'm kidding of course, they turn into a pack of crazies. This is a very low-budget movie and a lot of the time it shows, which is forgivable. What isn't as forgivable is the cliche-ridden characters and dialogue. Even so, it is an interesting film and worth a look, but I can't rate it past a rental.

The Weather Man - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
One of many, many films that failed to live up to expectations this past October. That's a bit surprising since it was also one of the better reviewed wide release of that month. The DVD release is about on par with most first-run films with a five-part making of documentary with a total running time of nearly an hour, however, too much of the information is repeated between the parts. But that's it in terms of special features, which means the disc is only a rental.

Week-End in Havana - Buy from Amazon
The third musical from the era, this one stars Alice Faye and John Payne. Again, this one is thoroughly average and there's not much here to set it apart. Like the other two DVDs, this one has an audio commentary, but that's it in terms of special features.


Filed under: Video Releases, Rent, North Country, The Weather Man, Domino, Separate Lies, First Descent, De Zaak Alzheimer, Twist of Faith