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DVD Releases for April 18, 2006

April 17th, 2006

It's another really slow week for DVD releases, with only a few that even come close to being contenders for DVD Pick of the Week. The best of the bunch and the one mostly likely to please a wide audience is Mrs. Henderson Presents - Buy from Amazon. On the other hand, the one I'm looking forward to the most is Event Horizon - Special Collector's Edition. Meanwhile, I'll probably pick up Remington Steele - Season 3 for Mother's Day, whenever that happens to be.

The American President - Mother's Day Gift Set with Card and Gift Wrap - Buy from Amazon
I guess this means Mother's Day is coming up. At least I didn't miss it this year. Other Mother's Day gift sets coming out tomorrow include The Bodyguard, A Cinderella Story, Must Love Dogs. The Phantom of the Opera, Sweet November, and You've Got Mail. But of the list of films, The American President is clearly the best.

Breakfast on Pluto - Buy from Amazon
One of Neil Jordan's lesser works, it does feature excellent performances by both Cillian Murphy and Stephen Rea. Special features are average for a limited release with an audio commentary track and a short making of featurette, but it only adds up to a rental.

The Buccaneers - Buy from Amazon
First things first, I have double sided DVDs. I'd rather spend five bucks more to get a second DVD, and trust me, it doesn't cost that much to make a DVD. Besides the double-sided dilemma, this is a great BBC mini-series starring Mira Sorvino and Carla Gugino, among others, and is a good value with hour-long episodes and an interview featurette.

The Complete Mr. Arkadin (aka Confidential Report) - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Written, directed, and starring Orson Welles. That alone should get your attention. Add in the fact that it is a 3-disc Criterion Collection edition and cinephiles everywhere should be drooling. The set contains all three versions of the movie including the new, 'Comprehensive Edition' that runs about six minutes longer. Other special features include audio commentary on the Corinth Version from 1955, interviews, deleted and extended scenes, radio program and more. This isn't the best movie Orson Welles ever made, but even average Orson Welles is better than most of what hits theatres today, and anyone interested in film history will want to check this out.

Cross of Iron - Buy from Amazon
A classic anti-war movie from director Sam Peckinpah, who was know mostly for creating films with an almost poetic depiction of extreme violence. This is the full 132-minute version of the film presented in widescreen for the first time and while the special features are light (audio commentary by a film historian is the only real extra), fans of Sam Peckinpah should be happy just with the vastly improved video transfer and will want to pick it up on that point alone.

Doogie Howser, M.D. - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon
I think it is very fair to say the show was running out of steam by this point in its run and was cancelled at the end of the season. But despite this, fans of the show will want to finish the collection even though the only special features on the 4-disc set are interviews with two cast members, Lawrence Pressman and Kathryn Layng.

Event Horizon - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is one of those films that was slaughtered by the critics, while I enjoyed it, but I fully admit I am the minority here. This is a film that cost $60 million to make but made less than half of that when it was released nearly a decade ago. Given that massive hole, I didn't expect the film to ever get a Special Edition DVD, but here it is, and it is fantastic. Included on the 2-disc set is an audio commentary track, feature-length making of documentary, 10 minutes of deleted scenes, about the same amount of on set clips, and more. People who hated the movie when it first came out, and there were a lot of them, will question why this DVD is even being released, but for fans of the movie, it is easily the best release of the week.

Herbie Hancock: Possibilities - Buy from Amazon
I know what you are thinking, "Didn't this movie just come out in the theatres on Friday?" Yes it did. And no, I don't know why the release schedule is like this either. As I mentioned on Friday, fans of Herbie Hancock would served just picking up the CD as the movie is middling, at best.

Hostel - Unrated - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini
Like I mentioned last week, I dislike this new trend in sadistic horror films, and because of that I find nothing to recommend with this DVD. Not even the fact that it has four audio commentary tracks, not the hour-long making of documentary, nothing.

Laurel and Hardy - TCM Archives Collection - Buy from Amazon
Last week there was a different collection released, but this week the films included and actually good. Granted, neither of these are the best films in the duo's career but The Devil's Brother is in the top third, and while Bonnie Scotland is much lower on the ladder, it is still entertaining enough. This 2-disc set contains audio commentaries on both films, a feature-length making of documentary, and a collection of cameos the pair made in other shorts / films. Easily worth picking up for fans and neophytes alike.

Mercenary for Justice - Buy from Amazon
Steven Seagal stars in this direct-to-DVD disaster as John Seeger, soldier-of-fortune. There's obviously a demand for these movies because they keep making them and with huge budgets, or at least huge for direct-to-DVD. I can't seem this film recouping its $15 million production budget, but stranger things have happened.

Michael Palin - Sahara - Buy from Amazon
Another travelogue featuring Monty Python alum, Michael Palin. This is not the best installment in the series, but it is still fantastic and worth repeat viewing. As the name suggests, Michael Palin and his crew travel the Sahara desert from Gibraltar to Tunisia and back covering 10,000 miles in three months. In addition to the four-hour program, this 2-disc set contains more than 1 hours of extras including interviews, deleted scenes, and a video diary. Well worth picking up especially while waiting for Around the World in 80 Days, which will likely be the last of the travelogues to be released, and should hit stores in two to three years.

The Mill on the Floss - Buy from Amazon
This is the 1978 BBC mini-series and not the 1997 TV movie of the same, both of which were adapted from the 1860 George Eliot novel of the same name. Of the two BBC mini-series on this list, this is the weaker of the two.

Moonstruck - Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
This multi-Oscar winner is an amazing movie, but it's probably not in a lot of people's DVD collection since the previous release was utter crap as it was Pan & Scan only. I hate it when studios do that. This time around the movie is widescreen and, in addition to the old audio commentary there is a retrospective, a featurette on the music, a featurette on Italian cooking, and even a couple of recipe cards. That's a good amount of special features and definitely makes it worth the upgrade, but not really enough to live up to the Deluxe label.

Mrs. Henderson Presents - Buy from Amazon
Out of all the DVDs being released tomorrow, this is the one that comes closest to being the DVD Pick of the Week. That's not because it is a great movie, because it's not. It is fun and entertaining, but not great cinema by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is it the best DVD this week because of the fantastic amount of special features. The audio commentary and making of / interview featurettes are little better than average for a limited release, but not enough to be a must have. However, if 100 people were to buy every DVD on this week's list, this film would bring the most enjoyment to the most people and makes it the leading contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

NHL Original Six Series - The New York Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup Champions - Buy from Amazon
I hate the New York Rangers. I especially hate the 1994 New York Rangers. But at least I have a very legitimate reason why. It all started back in 1994, June 11th to be exact. That's when I, C.S.Strowbridge, proclaimed to the universe and all those who reside within it, that I would not get a shave or a hair cut until the Vancouver Canucks won the Stanley Cup. They had just won Game 6 in an exciting game and it seemed like a good idea at the time. What's even worse was the way they lost that series. After every Canuck win, the Rangers Coach (Mike Keenan), would complain bitterly to the press about how unfair the referees were, and sure enough, the next game the Rangers could get away with murder and nothing would be called while if a Canuck just touched a Ranger he'd flop to the ice like he'd been shot and the Canucks would get a penalty. (To add insult to injury, the Canucks later hired Mike Keenan as a coach and signed Mark Messier, grossly overpaying him in the process.) Had the Canucks lived up to their potential this season I might be a little happier about reliving the past, but injuries to their number one goaltender and their top three defencemen (and admittedly, a lack of urgency down the stretch), meant they failed to make the playoffs, despite being picked by some to win it all this year. Those who were not left bitter and twisted by the experience will love this package as it contain all seven games of both the Wales Conference Championship series and the Stanley Cup Championship series as well as the 1994 Stanley Cup Champions Highlight Program. (I think they should have included the first two rounds as well, but since the Rangers went 8-1 in those games winning most of them with ease, including them would have added a lot to the cost but little to the overall package.) Too many similar packages only show a few highlights from the games, so to get the final 14 games in their entirety is amazing, and had the Canucks won, this would have easily been the DVD Pick of the Week. As it is, I can safely recommend it to any Rangers fan, or fan of hockey in general because despite the outcome, the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals was the greatest final series since expansion. On a side note, I am very proud that I was able to write all of that without swearing once. However, in my attempt to contain the raw anger and hatred, I think I may have hurt myself.

One Bright Shining Moment - Buy from Amazon
One of several hundred political documentaries that have come out in the past few years. This one deals with the doomed 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern and shows just what happens to an idealistic and honest politician... they lose the race for the White House. Okay, maybe I'm a little cynical. One of the best films on this week's list, but there are just enough flaws to keep it from being a must have for political junkies. But with extra interviews, deleted scenes and more, it is still worth picking up.

Remington Steele - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
We're at the halfway point of this great series and the episodes continue to get better. Highlights for this season include the two-part trip to Ireland, Cast in Steele, and the season finale, Steele of Approval. Fortunately, the DVDs are keeping pace. Included on the 4-disc set are audio commentaries on 3 of the episodes, featurettes on the making of Steele in the Chips, featurette on the creator, and more. Easily worth picking up for fans of the shows and even worth checking out for those who have never seen it before (although I would recommend starting at Season 1, obviously).

Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis - Buy from Amazon
The law of diminishing returns hit this franchise and hit it hard. What started out so well quickly became a joke. (The third film was actually better than the second, but by then the box office completely dried up. Also, if you want to see that film, try and find the Unrated version.) As for this movie, it's really bad, but in many ways it is so bad it's good. It's really cheesy and fans of low budget horror zombie movies should get a kick out of it. Even then, it is strictly a rental.

Serenity - HD DVD - Buy from Amazon
Serenity becomes one of the first movies to come out on the new HD DVD format, and it is an excellent movie with an unique sense of visual style. It is the kind of movie that the format was made for. There is one small problem, there are no HD DVD players on the market. There's a good chance I'll be picking it up tomorrow, but that's because I have more money than brain cells. Other HD DVD releases coming out tomorrow include the excellent Million Dollar Baby, the mediocre Phantom of the Opera and the terrible The Last Samurai (there's no way Tom Cruise could have taken on one samurai and won, so the scene where he defeated three or four completely ruined the movie for me).

The Sentinel - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
The show aired on UPN, which would explain why I never heard of it before... anyhoo... The show aired on UPN for parts of four seasons; it started out as a mid-season replacement and ended the same way. So while the price seems good at first glance, it is for only 10 episodes. The show stars Richard Burgi as James Ellison, a special forces agent who was lost in the Peruvian jungle and who developed super human senses as a result. Apparently it's not as bad as it sounds but it hardly could be worse. As for special features, there are not, which should drive fans of the show nuts. Maybe next time, but I doubt it.

Six Pack - Buy from Amazon
This movie actually came out a couple of weeks ago but I forgot to mention it. At least I think I forget to mention it. I can't actually remember if I did or not. The film stars Kenny Rogers as Brewster Baker, a race car driver who runs into a group of kids who strip cars for money under the protection of the local corrupt sheriff. This is not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it's one that I loved as a kid and would watch over and over again. I'm going to have to check it out to see if it lives up to my recollection of it, but the total lack of real special features will likely prevent me from buying it.

Thundercats - Season Two - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Normally, I hate it when shows split seasons up into multiple volumes, but since season 2 had 65 episodes, this is more than acceptable. In fact, had they included all episodes in one volume the price would have been so high as to scare away potential customers. Given the age of the show, the special features are not bad with featurettes on the music and more, and it should be enough to satisfy the average Thundercats fan making the 4-disc set well worth picking up.

Unveiled - Buy from Amazon
One of several highly rated limited releases that was all but ignored during its short theatrical run. The DVD should perform much better even though the only special feature on the disc is a short film called, "Everyone. Everywhere." But it does make a nice companion piece to the movie.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Hostel, Serenity, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Breakfast on Pluto, One Bright Shining Moment, Unveiled