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DVD Releases for April 25, 2006

April 24th, 2006

It was a big week for DVD releases, but mostly in terms of quantity and not quality. The two releases I was looking forward to the most were Match Point - Buy from Amazon and Crumb - Special Edition, but neither DVD is overloaded with special features. On the other hand, American Dad - Volume 1 is packed, but I never really got into the show. I don't think any of the releases really deserves to by the DVD Pick of the Week, but Crumb - Special Edition is the best of the bunch.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Buy from Amazon
One of two V movies made in 1997 based on Jules Verne's classic novel of undersea adventure. This is the better of the two movies from 1997, but it is not as good as the Disney classic from 1954.

Aeon Flux - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
When this film was released debuted last December, it earned awful reviews and opened with under $13 million. Now it is being releases on what is being described as a Special Collector's Edition DVD, but the quality just isn't there. Granted, there are two audio commentaries and a five-part making of documentary, but this is not that much better than the average first run release and certainly not worthy of the Special Edition moniker. In total, the DVD's a rental, at best.

American Dad - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
When I first saw American Dad, I really didn't like it. There was simply too much hype surrounding the show since it was from the same creative team that made Family Guy and there were too many similarities between the two series. But the most damning fault was it just wasn't as funny as Family Guy. Perhaps if this were the first series from Seth MacFarlane, I would be more enthusiastic about the show. On the other hand, there's no denying that this is an excellent 3-disc set with a huge number of special features starting with audio commentary tracks on 12 of the 13 episodes. (No, I don't know why they skipped just one episode.) Other special features include a 20-minute making of featurette, a look at the voice acting, tons of deleted scenes, animatics, and much more. A must have for fans of the show and easily one of the best releases coming out this week.

Andre the Butcher - Buy from Amazon
Porn star Ron Jeremy stars as the titular character in this really bad horror spoof. There's an audio commentary track on the DVD and a single deleted scene, but even then it's not worth watching.

The Avengers '62: Complete Set - Buy from Amazon
The Avengers is just not the same without Emma Peel.

Bachelor Party Vegas - Buy from Amazon
I like both Donald Faison and Kal Penn, but wow, this movie is just garbage. Skip it.

Best of Bizarre - Buy from Amazon.ca: Volume 3 and Volume 4
A wildly entertaining sketch comedy show from Canada, which explains why you have to import it if you live in the States. While the show is funny, I hate TV on DVD releases that are not full season sets. When Volume 1 and 2 came out I was hoping that this is just the studios way of testing the waters to see if there was a demand for full season sets, but with each new volume that seems less and less likely.

Casanova - Buy from Amazon
I think it is safe to call this film busted Oscar bait as it was a costume drama released very late in the year and this type of film is usually a favorite among Oscar voters. However, the quality just wasn't there and the film was mostly ignored by award committees and moviegoers alike. As for the DVD, it should do much better with special features like audio commentary, making of featurette, featurette on the costumes, and more. It's worth a rental, but not much more than that.

Casualties of War - Extended Cut - Buy from Amazon
One of the second wave of Vietnam War movies to come out of the late 80s. This one was praised by critics but mostly ignored by moviegoers. This version of the movie is about 5 or 6 minutes longer and while they don't add a whole lot to the movie, they don't hurt it either. As for the DVD, there's not a whole lot here with just a brief interview with Michael J. Fox and a making of featurette. Overall it ads up to a rental, but it should have been much more.

Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory - Buy from Amazon
Five MGM musicals from their golden age that can be bought separately, (It's Always Fair Weather, Summer Stock, Three Little Words, Till the Clouds Roll By, and Ziegfeld Follies), or in this box set. Each disc as a featurette, vintage cartoon short, and usually something more. If you are interested, pick up the box set as it is a much better deal for the money.

Crumb - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
A brilliant documentary about comic book artist and pop art illustrator Robert Crumb. While the DVD is a step up from the previous release, it does not live up to the Special Edition moniker with just an audio commentary track and a preview for the upcoming Terry Zwigoff film, Art School Confidential. One of my favorite documentaries and I've been meaning to add it to be DVD collection for some time now and with a DVD that is light on special features this is one that I will be picking up this week.

The Detonator - Buy from Amazon
First of all, The Detonator has to be one of the dumbest names I've ever heard for a movie. This is just the latest in a long string of direct-to-DVD releases for Wesley Snipes and at this point retirement seems to be the best option for his career. On a side note, he is the only person in the $1 billion club to never had a $100 million movie.

Doctor Dolittle 3 - Buy from Amazon
Another direct-to-DVD release, this one is the latest film in the Dr. Dolittle franchise and has Kyla Pratt taking over the lead. It's not as bad a many direct-to-DVD films are but it is barely worth watching and certainly not worth buying.

Duane Hopwood - Buy from Amazon
Yet another attempt by a Friends alum to revitalize their career. This is hardly the worst movie made by one of the friends, but it wasn't able to find an audience during its limited release and quickly disappeared from theatres. The DVD had just an audio commentary track for a special feature, which is light even for a limited release, and it all adds up to a rental.

Elevator to the Gallows - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
One of two classic films that was recently re-released theatrically that is on this week's list. This one is the better of the two and like most Criterion Collection DVDs, it is packed with special features including several interviews, (mostly vintage), and a featurette called The Miles Davis Score that features footage of Miles Davis playing live to the film.

Every Time We Say Goodbye - Buy from Amazon
One of Tom Hanks earliest, least known and lesser film. This is the first time the film has been released on DVD so that should make fans happy, but the total lack of special features is still a disappointment.

Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children - Buy from Amazon
Yet another direct-to-DVD release on this week's list. This one is based on the same video game that spawned Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. This film suffers the same problems that the first one did; i.e., it looks pretty but doesn't offer a satisfying story. This problem is even more pronounced if you have never played the game before. Special features on the 2-disc set include a substantial making of feature, deleted scenes, montage of clips from the game and more. Worth picking up for fans, but there's not enough crossover appeal. Can also be purchased on UMD Mini. On a side note, that movie format is dying and will likely not be mention on this column much in the future.

Fists in the Pocket - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
The second Criterion Collection release on this week's list. This is the directorial debut from Marco Bellocchio and widely considered to be his best work to date, (although his recent Good Morning, Night came close). Fists in the Pocket focuses on Alessandro and his fantasies of dealing with his dysfunctional family, which of course is just an allegory for the dysfunctional state Italy was in at the time. Like almost all of Criterion Collection, this DVD has amazing audio and video, but the special features are light with just a making of documentary and an interview. It is also cheaper than most Criterion Collection releases, but I'd rather pay more to get more.

Guys & Dolls - Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
Marlon Brando stars as Sky Masterson, a gambler in this classic musical from MGM. The Deluxe Edition is a step up from the previous release with two documentaries, interviews, and more. Easily worth picking up for fans of the movie or of the genre in general.

HD DVD Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: Apollo 13 and Doom
Two more DVDs are being shoveled onto HD DVD. I'm holding off buying either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray till one format kills off the other, but even if you are looking forward to being an early adapter, it will be a while before there are HD DVDs that have better special features than there DVD counterparts, and unless you have a HD TV that's 56" or bigger, you won't really notice the improvement in quality.

Inspector Gadget - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
I loved this show as a kid, partially because it is goofy fun but mostly because I've been a fan of Don Adams work since his Get Smart days. However, I'll admit that my appreciation for the show is based a lot on nostalgia rather than any inherent quality of the show. This 4-disc set has 22 episodes from the first season as well as a short retrospective and an image gallery. Assuming Volume 1 sells well enough to justify the release of the other three volumes, the total cost will be $100 - $140, which may or may not be too much just to relieve your childhood. Had there been more special features, then it would be worth it for a lot more people.

Jacques Cousteau - River Explorations - Buy from Amazon
Six discs and 14 episodes of Jacques Cousteau exploring some of the most famous and majestic rivers in the world. Fans of the undersea explorer should love this set, although Pacific Explorations is a better place to start.

Joe Cartoon: Greatest Hits 1 - Buy from Amazon
Joe Cartoon is the site with the infamous interactive cartoon, Frog in a Blender. After that became popular there were several other, similar cartoons created as well as non-interactive cartoons like Stoned Flies. This DVD has just over two-dozen such shorts, but most of them are slow and repetitive and one would be kind to call the animation minimalistic. Add in the fact that you can get these cartoons off the site for free and there's no reason to buy this DVD at all.

Law & Order - Trial by Jury - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
When it comes to the two biggest franchises on TV currently, I prefer Law & Order over CSI for a number of reasons, the most important one being the variations between shows. Law & Order is all about the crimes, you know more about the personal lives of the average member of SVU than you know about all the cast combined of Law & Order. And with Criminal Intent we got to see the crimes being committed from both angles while with Trial by Jury we finally saw how the jury deliberated. Unfortunately, this show never found an audience and was axed after just 13 episodes leaving one more unaired. This 3-disc set includes all 14 episodes made, plus the crossover episode with SVU, a featurette on the differences between this and other Law & Order shows, and deleted scenes. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show.

Magic - Buy from Amazon
A loser uses a ventriloquist dummy to say things he's too afraid to say himself only to have the dummy take over his life. That plot synopsis make the movie sound so utterly bad, but the movie itself is excellent with a amazing performance by Anthony Hopkins and equally fantastic directing by Sir Richard Attenborough. Given the age and the lessor-known nature of the movie, the special are good with a look at the history of ventriloquism, interviews, Ann-Margret screen-test, and more. I would have liked an audio commentary, but I can't complain about the package as it is.

Match Point - Buy from Amazon
There are many DVDs on this week's list that were recent theatrical releases, and this one is the best. The DVD, on the other hand, is completely featureless. This is typical of many Woody Allen releases but it turns what should have been a must have and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week to merely a rental. This is easily the biggest disappointment on this week's list.

Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer - Double Feature - Buy from Amazon
Two made for TV movies, More Than Murder and Murder Me, Murder You, both starring Stacy Keach as Mike Hammer. These movies were made in 1983 and helped launch the Mike Hammer TV series that started the next year. So far there are no announced plans to release the series on DVD, but obviously if this set sell well enough, there will be. Hopefully the full season sets will contain special features, as these two discs are completely bare.

Nero Wolfe - The Complete Classic Whodunit Series - Buy from Amazon
Love the show, hate the DVD release. This is basically both seasons for the same cost as season 2, which means I overpaid by about 40%. If studios keep releasing complete series sets and prices so much cheaper than full season sets, then people will stop buying the full season sets and studios won't know if that's because people are waiting for a better deal or there's simple no market. On the other hand, if you haven't picked up the show yet, I suggest you do. It is an excellent series with great acting from both the main cast and the recurring guest actors, who play a wide variety of characters.

Odyssey 5 - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The crew of the Space Shuttle have just completed there mission of retrieving a satellite when the Earth implodes. Just before the crew runs out of oxygen they meet an alien who transports them five years in the past so they can prevent the upcoming disaster, but they have very little to go on. To make matters worse, less than a year later, the show imploded because of low ratings. Overall, this was a good show but it did take a little while to get going, which is deadly in this day and age. Fans of the show will be happy that it is coming out on DVD at all, but with just an audio commentary on the pilot episode, there's not a lot here and those hoping to here details on future plans will be disappointed.

The Passenger - Buy from Amazon
The Passenger was recently re-released in North America and it is one of the best movies on this week's list. On the other hand, the special features are slightly above average for a limited release for with two audio commentaries. (Usually a limited release has one audio commentary and a featurette or two, which is nearly equivalent.)

Patlabor - The Movie - Buy from Amazon: Regular Edition or Limited Edition
I got into Anime during the late 80s and early 90s and this was one of the first such films I saw. The Regular Edition is not bad, but it is the Limited Edition you should look for as it contains not only a bonus disc with a making of documentary, but two books. The first contains essays, artwork and the like while the second contains storyboards.

The Patriot - Extended Cut - Buy from Amazon
This is the movie that made me hate Mel Gibson, but the story actually starts with Braveheart. I loved that movie the first time I watched it but then I found out the 'First Night' scene never happened in history. (For those who have never seen the movie, a British lord claims he has the right to sleep with a bride on her wedding day before the groom does.) At first I thought it was just an oversight, something added to the movie to give some more dramatic tension. But with The Patriot, there was a scene where the British Colonel Tavington locks some people in a Church and burns it down. This also never happened. When I learned this, (and the fact that the character Mel Gibson plays in the movie used to hunt Indians for sport), I thought that this was not an accident. Two attacks against the British are just as likely a result of malice. Granted Hanlon's Razor states that one should never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, but in this case stupidity is indistinguishable from malice and should be treated the same. As for the DVD, it is a step back from the previous release as it lacks the audio commentary track. Skip it.

Reba - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
Depending on how you feel about this show, this is either the season that the show hits its grove or got stuck in a rut. Personally I think the former is more accurate as the overall feel of the series is more natural and the comedy is less forced. As for the 3-disc set, it is on par or maybe even slightly better than the previous releases with audio commentary tracks on a few episodes and two featurettes. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show.

Robert Altman Collection - Buy from Amazon
Robert Altman is an amazing director, but this four-movie collection is substandard. First of all, there's some double-dipping here with M*A*S*H, which only gets a single-disc treatment here. Also, while that film is his best and A Wedding is a hidden gem, A Perfect Couple is just average and Quintet is arguably his worst films. Double-dipping, filler, and special features that are below average equal a set that is not worth the otherwise reasonable price.

Shopgirl - Buy from Amazon
It has been a while since Steve Martin has starred in a movie that was a hit with both critics and moviegoers alike. The film came close earning better than average reviews and did well, for a limited release, earning just over $10 million. But in the end I don't think it was enough to convince moviegoers he can star in films better than The Pink Panther. As for the DVD, it has the ever-present audio commentary, a couple of deleted scenes, and a making of featurette. Also good but not great. Call it a solid rental.

Tommy Lee Goes to College - Buy from Amazon
It's Reality TV. To be fair, it is better than I thought it would be. But the verdict is still, 'Skip it.'

A Touch of Frost Season 9 and 10 - Buy from Amazon
A great show, but the DVDs are only for hardcore fans. The price is just too much for 5 90-minute episodes, especially with no special features. I know, it's an import, but even so that's too much.

Tristan and Isolde - Buy from Amazon
This film was marketed as love story to rival Romeo and Juliet, but neither the critics nor moviegoers were sold. Considering how poorly the movie did in theatres, I wouldn't have been surprised if the studio just dumped it on the home market on a nearly featureless DVD. But fortunately for fans they didn't as there are two audio commentary tracks, making of featurette, music videos and more. However, it still doesn't add up to anything more than a rental, and even that might be pushing it.

Unexpected Dreams: Songs From the Stars - Buy from Amazon
This is not a DVD, but a CD with 14 songs sung by TV and movie stars. When I heard of this CD my first thought was, "Lucy... In the... SkyWithDiamonds!" But the singers, who include Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Irons have real talent and this is not just some vanity album. Also, part of the proceeds goes to support "Music Matters," the Los Angeles Philharmonic's music education programs.

A Wake in Providence - Buy from Amazon
This film opened in limited release this time last year and while its reviews were better than most film, it never could find an audience. Looking at its sales ranking on Amazon and it seems unlikely that the DVD will do much better.

The Waltons - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
This 5-disc set continues to tradition of heartfelt storytelling and featureless DVDs. Can also be bought with the equally featureless previous seasons as part of a package deal.

The Wedding Singer - Totally Awesome Edition - Buy from Amazon
As soon as I saw the Totally Awesome Edition label I thought, "Well, this is going to suck." Nothing described as, "Totally Awesome" is ever any good. And sure enough, it does suck. That's not to say the movie is really bad, because it is actually one of Adam Sandler's better movies. But the DVD is just a cash grab as the studio is hoping to earn some easy dollars with the Broadway release of the upcoming musical. Yes, you read that right. They are making a Broadway musical based on this movie. In fact, the only real extra on the DVD is a behind-the-scenes look at said musical. Skip it and wait for a real special edition to come out.


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Filed under: Video Releases, Match Point, Tristan & Isolde, Casanova, Shopgirl, A Wake in Providence, Duane Hopwood, Aeon Flux