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DVD Releases for July 11, 2006

July 10th, 2006

This week is not as slow as last week. Then again, I don't think it would be possible for it to be as slow. However, it is still not a strong week in terms of quantity, but at least the quality is there. Contenders for DVD Pick of the Week include 30 Days - Season 1 and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story - Buy from Amazon. But in the end I went with a double-shot of Masters of Horror - Joe Dante - Homecoming and Our Hero - The Complete Series - Buy Direct.

30 Days - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
From the filmmaker who made Super Size Me comes 30 Days, a documentary series putting people into vastly different situations than they are used to and film them for a month. The series has the potential to be offensive, one-sided, and just plain mean, but it doesn't fall into those traps. An excellent show with special features that are better than average (audio commentary on 4 of the 6 episodes, and 15-minute diary cams for all of them). Even with a cost on a per minute basis that's a little steep for TV on DVD releases, it is still a must have and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. And before anyone brings it up, this is not Reality TV, this is documentary TV.

Basic Instinct 2 - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Version, Unrated Edition, or Blu-Ray
One of the wosrt reviewed movies to come out this year, it was also one of the most expensive flops, costing $70 million to make and bringing in less than $6 million. To put this into perspective, that's less than half of Sharon Stone's $14 million paycheck for the movie. Whoever agreed to pay her that much should be fired and banned from ever making movies again. In fact, they should be banned from ever watching movies again. This DVD would have to have special features that neared perfection to be worth even a rental, and it's not close. There are an audio commentary, deleted scenes, short making of featurette, but that's below average for a first run release. Skip it. One last note: the film does earn its Unrated label, but it's still not worth watching.

Bill Maher - New Rules - Buy from Amazon
A collection of the New Rules section from Bill Maher's show, Real Time. These are very funny, but with just over 1 hour of material, the DVD is overpriced for TV on DVD. On the other hand, if you consider it a stand-up instead, then it is the perfect price and well-worth picking up. Personally, I'd rather they sell complete season sets, even with a lot of topical material that won't age well. It would be nice to have them on DVD as a time capsule of sorts.

Bridezillas - Buy from Amazon: Season 1 and Season 2
Reality TV that features the "outrageous antics" of several brides-to-be. Not the most soul-crushing Reality TV program out there, but it's still pretty bad. Skip it.

Chaplin Mutual Comedies: Restored 90th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
Charlie Chaplin considered his time at Mutual Film to be the best of his career, and it is hard to argue with the results. During his year-and-a-half there, he produced 12 two-reelers (25-minute shorts), and they include some of his best loved work (The Immigrant, One A.M., Easy Street, and others). Extras on the 4-disc set include a couple of documentaries, while there are two booklets included as well. Easily worth picking up.

Dennis Miller - All In - Buy from Amazon
We try to avoid politics on this site, because, let's face it, politics has become a highly divisive subject. However, it's hard to talk about Dennis Miller without mentioning politics, because his brand of comedy has always been political. He used to be a Libertarian and take shots at both major parties and while I'm not a Libertarian and disagree with a large portion of their core values, I still found his humor very funny. But since 9/11 he changed and became extremely partisan. Having a liberal social view and doing political stand-up go hand in hand since you are making fun of the establishment. It's easy to point to absurdities in the system when you see them every day. On the other hand, trying to make fun of what you think the world would be like is a lot harder because the jokes can come off as strawman attacks. It is possible to be a socially conservative comedian and have politically relevant material, it's just a lot harder. Now that Dennis Miller has chosen a very partisan brand of humor, he is stuck there. This set shows that when he tries to be more balanced, his new fans will quickly turn on him. If he were to return to his roots, he would be Dixie Chicked in a heartbeat and I don't think he could recover. One last note, the same phenomenon could affect more liberal comedians if the Democrats retake the Senate and or House of Representatives this fall. It will be interesting to see what happens.

A Different World - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
When this show was on the air it was immensely popular, even topping the ratings of The Cosby Show, from which it was spun-off. However, the DVDs haven't sold very well. Part of the problem could be a changing culture, but a large part has to do with the total lack of special features.

The Ellen Show - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
This is Ellen DeGeneres' second show and the first after she came out. I really enjoy Ellen DeGeneres' stand-up routines and found her very funny in her first sitcom. However, I don't think the creators of this show ever figured out how to handle the lesbian angle and it never gelled during its short run. Fans of the show will be happy that it is coming out on DVD, but the 2-disc set is completely devoid of special features.

E.R. - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
One of the longest running shows still on the air. The fifth season saw a lot of changes... I'm assuming. Quite frankly, after 12 years I've lost count of who came and went and when the arrived or left. I think it's the last season with George Clooney and the first of two with Kellie Martin. The show continues its strong quality, but the DVDs are a little weak with regard to extras. Granted, there are plenty of deleted scenes and the outtakes are funny, but a few audio commentary tracks would have been great. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Grand Prix - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
This movie has some of the best racing scenes ever captured on film, and it also has some of the most stilted dialogue delivered by people with only a passing acquaintance with the English language. This is not an insult to the actors, many of which were great in their native language. In addition to the bad dialogue performed poorly, the film offers a lot of melodramatic relationships, most of which fall flat. But, my God, those racing scenes are unbelievable and for fans of the sport this movie is worth picking up for those alone. In fact, people who don't like auto racing might become fans after seeing this movie.

Grilled - Buy from Amazon
After several failed attempts to get a theatrical release, this film finally gets dumped direct-to-DVD. Ray Romano just can't get his movie career jumpstarted. Here he plays part of a duo of meat salesmen with Kevin James. While these two work well together, the movie never gets going. Add in special features that are below average, and this is a DVD worth skipping.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Enter the Dragon, Dukes of Hazzard - Unrated, Pitch Black - Unrated, Friday Night Lights
This week's batch of HD-DVD releases are mixes, as usual. Enter the Dragon is the best, Dukes of Hazzard is the worst, Pitch Black is the most visual, while Friday Night Lights hardly requires HD to be enjoyed.

I Dream Of Jeannie - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This is the second season of the show and the first season shot in color, so you don't have to decide between the original or colorized versions. Not that it was a hard choice. The show has the same high quality as season 1, but watching them all in quick succession will bring a sense of repetitiveness to it. Also, there are no special features on the 4-disc set and because of that, I can't really recommend buying the DVD, unless you are a truly hardcore fan.

Masters of Horror - Joe Dante - Homecoming - Buy from Amazon
Only one Masters of Horror episode is being released today, which makes sense, after all, there were 13 episodes so they couldn't have released two at a time forever. This is by far the most political, and it's no coincidence that it is also the best, narrowly beating out Stuart Gordon - Dreams in the Witch House. Horror has always been at its best when it had a political or social statement to make that couldn't be made through more conventional means. Granted, most of the time the message is told in metaphor and allegory and isn't so blunt, but sometimes the sledgehammer approach is what's needed. So the film itself is the best of the series, what about the special features? They too live up to the rest of the series with audio commentary tracks, making of featurette, several interviews (including an archival one). Excellent value and the DVD Pick of the Week.

McCallum - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
John Hannah plays the titular character, forensic pathologist Ian McCallum. Ian McCallum is a dark character, but John Hannah's performance is brilliant, giving him a lot of charm. However, while this 5-disc set contains all 9 feature-length episodes made, there are no special features. Also, it's a little more expensive on a per minute basis than most TV on DVD releases, but given the fact that it is an import from the U.K., this is to be expected.

NHL Stanley Cup 2005-2006 Champions - Carolina Hurricanes - Buy from Amazon
Something unprecedented happened last year. The NHL came back from a lockout cancelled season and was stronger than before. I don't think a professional sports league has ever done that. It took years for baseball to recover, but I guess this just shows how low hockey had sunk. As for this DVD, it's your typical championship season recap, but I'd much rather have a massive box set like they produced for the 1994 Champions. (Have I mentioned I hate the New York Rangers? I have? Good.) Even so, it's a good deal, especially for fans of the Hurricanes. But I don't suggest Oiler fans buy -- the wounds are just too fresh.

Our Hero - The Complete Series - Buy Direct
While doing research for an unrelated subject (seeing if and when This Is Wonderland season 2 will come out), I came across the DVD release for this Canadian TV series. This award-winning show was cancelled after just two seasons, which is a shame and completely predictable. If there's one thing the Canadian entertainment industry just can't do, it's market its worthy projects. The show is about a high school girl whose father is a syndicated humor columnist and constantly uses her life as part of his writings. Upset by his latest public invasion of her privacy, she gets revenge by writing a 'zine about her family. For those not in the know, a 'zine is short for magazine and is a self published, ultra cheap, underground journal. What starts out as revenge quickly becomes a passion and the center of the show. While the show was aimed at teens, it is smart and witty and can certainly be appreciated by adults. This four-disc set contains all 26 episodes with audio commentary on four of them and some outtakes. I don't know when the DVD was first released, but it would have been the DVD Pick of the Week then and it is now. One last note: I hope this DVD sells well enough to encourage studios to release other Canadian shows on DVD. Shows like Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy, Student Bodies, Internet Slutts. (That last one is not what you think, it's a little hard to describe, but image if MST3K surfed the Internet instead of watched movies.)

Perry Mason - Season 1 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
The most important rule you can learn from watching this show is, if you commit a crime and someone else is on trail for that crime, don't go to court and watch. The show is an absolute classic and one of the earliest courtroom dramas on TV. This show is such a high quality that even though this 5-disc set is completely featureless, it is still worth picking up. I just wish they could have collected some vintage interviews... perhaps had a TV historian do some commentaries... something.

Pink Floyd - Pulse - Buy from Amazon
It's been a long time since this concert was released on VHS, but the wait is over and it is worth it. I actually saw this tour live in Vancouver, so I'm more excited to get this one on DVD than I would have been if it were another concert. Since this was their last major concert before the one-shot reunion at Live 8, it is a must have for all fans of the band. And that should include all of you.

Pirate Booty - Buy from Amazon: The Black Swan, Blackbeard, National Geographic: Blackbeard - Terror at Sea, and Pirates - R-rated Versions
There are a handful of pirate movies coming out tomorrow to take advantage of the buzz surrounding Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. They vary in quality (both in terms of the movie and the special features), but most are worth checking out for fans of the genre. One last note, Pirates - R-Rated Versions is the R-rated version of an award-winning X-rated film, just a warning for those who were interesting in buying it thinking it would be another Pirates of the Caribbean clone.

Protocols of Zion - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which some still believe is legitimate despite it being proven to be a fraud more than 100 years ago. While the film is obviously a very personal work for to director, Marc Levin, it is not focused enough to be completely satisfying. But there are still enough here that does work to be worth checking out. However, with average special features for a limited release documentary (interview, deleted scenes, etc.), it is just worth a rental.

Reno 911 - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
With the fourth season starting this Sunday, now is the perfect time to release Season 3 on DVD. The show continues its high quality with its semi-improvisational style and bizarre antics of the small, and highly dysfunctional, Reno police force. The 2-disc set contains all 9 episodes and includes audio commentaries on 5 of them as well as nearly an hour of deleted / extended scenes. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show while they wait for season 4 and the upcoming movie.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story - Buy from Amazon
What do you do when you are trying to make a film based on a novel that is widely considered unfilmable? You make a movie about the filming of the movie based on a novel that is widely considered unfilmable. Just an amazing movie and with special features that are well above average for a limited release (audio commentary, deleted and extended scenes, interview, behind-the-scenes footage), it is easily a must have and a solid contender for DVD pick of the week.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea - Season 1 - Volume - Buy from Amazon
The final 16 episodes of the first season are released on this 3-disc set and include outtakes and an interview. Given the age of the material, this is a pretty good set. However, the show hasn't aged well and those that don't have a soft spot in their hearts for the show will find it hokey.

Weeds - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
Mary-Louise Parker stars as Nancy Botwin, a widow who turns to selling pot to help her with her money problems. Critically acclaimed, the show was nominated three two Golden Globes including a win for Mary-Louise Parker as well as a WGA award for the pilot. Add in a superb amount of special features on this 2-disc set (audio commentary on 6 of the 10 episodes, three featurettes, music video, and more). However, I still haven't forgiven Showtime for canceling Dead Like Me. So, while I can fully recommend the show, I'm not going to make it DVD Pick of the Week.


Filed under: Video Releases, The Dukes of Hazzard, Friday Night Lights, Basic Instinct 2, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Protocols of Zion, Grilled