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DVD Releases for September 12, 2006

September 12th, 2006

Another busy week, but without much in the way of first run releases. There were a couple of limited releases that looking intriguing, and some special editions worth the upgrade, but in the end there were only two real contenders for DVD Pick of the Week: The Office - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon and Smallville - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon. In a photo finish, Smallville - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon won out, but this was partially because no matter how good The Office is, it's not as good as the original.

Agatha Christie Classic Mystery Collection - Buy from Amazon
8 Agatha Christie mysteries from the 80s including three with Hercule Poirot and three with Miss Marple. Although the two themed sets are available separately, the full box set is a marginally better value (the savings is less than $1 a movie). However, all eight movies are worth watching and fans of Agatha Christie will want to add them to their collection.

America's Funniest Home Videos - Buy from Amazon: Battle of the Best, AFV Looks at Kids and Animals, Nincompoops & Boneheads, Love & Marriage, and Sports Spectacular
Reality TV. Skip it.

Are You Scared? - Buy from Amazon
A horror film about Reality TV. An unoriginal horror film about Reality TV. Skip it.

The Batman - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
D.C. usually puts out really good DVDs for its animated shows, but this one was a bit of a disappointment with only the one featurette. On a side note, all those waiting for the 1966 TV series to come out, you have a long, long wait. It has been stuck in legal limbo for years, and there's no sign of that ending.

Beavis and Butt-head Do America - 10th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Mike Judge has only directed three movies, but while all received some measure of good reviews, this film was the only box office hit. (To be fair, Office Space went on to become a hit on the home market and I have a feeling Idiocracy will too.) This version is far superior to the previous edition with its audio commentary, retrospective, etc. but it still doesn't feel like it is living up to its Special Edition label. That's a real shame.

Black. White. - Buy from Amazon
Another Reality TV show, which can't be coincidence. This show takes one white family, one black family and puts them in one house. Then they use special effects make-up to get them to switch races. What could have been a truly interesting experiment was hampered by poor execution and the end product seemed too much like other Reality TV shows that rely on cheap sensationalism to entertain. There's enough here to certainly stimulate conversation, and there's a ton of extras including audio commentary tracks on all 6 episodes, and it is certainly worth checking out. However, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

Bottom's Up - Buy from Amazon
This "film" stars Paris Hilton, which is pretty much all you need to know with regards to the quality.

Celebrity Packs - Buy from Amazon: Cameron Diaz, Martin Lawrence, Michael Douglas, and Sandra Bullock
A series of double-dips for various actors. On the one hand, they are reasonable inexpensive and are in effect buy two and get one free. On the other hand, you're lucky if two of the three films are worth picking up, and in one case, none of them are. Also, if you like the actor in question, you probably have at least one of the films on DVD already.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu - Buy from Amazon
One of the best reviewed movies on this week's list, it takes viewers along for the ride in a medical nightmare. Anyone who is concerned about the state of health care should see this movie, even though it is technically about the health care system in Romania. As for the DVD, I'll admit I'm a little disappointed as the only special features are an interview with the director and a comparison to America's health care system. I would have liked more, but it won't stop me from recommending the DVD.

Diagnosis Murder - Complete 1st Season - Buy from Amazon
I enjoyed watching this show when it first aired, and occasionally will watch it now on syndication. However, while the show is good, it is not the kind that you need to have on DVD -- the replay value just isn't there. Also, there's little in the way of special features with just a bonus episode of Jake and the Fatman, It Never Entered My Mind, which introduced the character Dick Van Dyke would play for eight years.

The Dick Cavett Show - Hollywood Greats - Buy from Amazon
TV on DVD that's not full season sets? Yeah, normally I hate these too, but in this case it would be nearly impossible to release full season sets as there were just too many episodes to make a full-season set practical. However, these themed sets are very well down with interviewees including Alfred Hitchcock, Marlon Brando, and others. These sets have proven to be quite popular, and hopefully an upcoming set will focus on some of his political guests.

Goal! - The Dream Begins - Buy from Amazon
This $100 million trilogy bombed, taking in just $1.9 million during its opening weekend to place 13th along the way and that was followed by a quick exit from theatres. Granted, soccer films are almost never popular here, so the lack of success isn't that surprising. What is surprising is the film bombed pretty much everywhere it played, including its native United Kingdom. Critically the film faired better, but not by a significant margin. While the film should have done better than it did, even under the best of circumstances it still would have been a financial miss. The DVD should do better than it did in theatres, partially because of the extensive special features, but mostly because it would be medically impossible to do worse.

The Great New Wonderful - Buy from Amazon
When the film first opened it only managed mixed reviews with complaints that it was too slight to be engaging. It then opened with a sub $5000 per theatre average while showing none of the legs limited releases usually have. The film uses the attacks of 9/11 as a mere backdrop for a story of your average New Yorkers and this is likely why it failed to connect with moviegoers. The lack of special features will prevent it from connecting on the home market.

Grey's Anatomy - Season Two - Uncut - Buy from Amazon
One of the biggest hits on the home market, Season 1 spent 26 weeks on the top ten TV on DVD sales chart being knocked off just last week. (And there's a chance this set might cause it to bounce back onto the charts.) I find the show to be way too much of a soap opera for my liking, but I will admit that this 6-disc set is extremely well done. Not only are there all 27 episodes from last season here, but four are extended (hence the Uncut label), as well as interviews and featurettes. I would have preferred a handful of audio commentaries, but that won't stop fans from picking up the DVD.

HD-DVD releases: Buy from Amazon: Backdraft, House of Wax, Leathal Weapon 2, Red Dragon, Seabiscuit, Space Cowboys, Traffic, Troy
I can't wait until the days of shovelware are over. None of these releases makes me want to pick up a HD-DVD player, and none will until studios start to take advantage of the format and give customers something that they can't get on DVD. How many times have I said that? I've lost count. But I can guarantee I will have to say it again. As for some of the specific DVDs, Backdraft has a Special Edition coming out next week so there's no reason to grab this one. There was never a reason to pick up House of Wax and I say that as a fan of Elisha Cuthbert. Seabiscuit is a good movie, but doesn't need the HD-DVD treatment while Troy would benefit from the higher res, but it is below average. Of the group, I think Space Cowboys is the best.

Headspace - Buy from Amazon
A man meets a mysterious stranger and suddenly becomes super smart. But being intelligent grows out of control and all hell breaks loose. Typical anti-academic claptrap coming from Hollywood in an attempt to dumb down their potential audience. I'm kidding, sort of. The film is actually an above average direct-to-DVD horror film with more than enough special features to satisfy fans. (This includes two audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, featurettes on the FX and more.) All in all, it is worth picking up for fans of the genre.

Hellbent - Buy from Amazon
A teenage slasher with a gay twist. As a teenage slasher, it is better than most, but that's still not enough to win over many critics. The frank depiction of gay sex might turn off some fans of teenage slashers, but its target audience should get a kick out of it.

I Am a Sex Addict - Buy from Amazon
The film opened with positive reviews, but they were still not enough to help it expand significantly. The film started out well enough, but quickly became too repetitive for most audiences, but fans of writer / director Caveh Zahedi will still want to pick it up.

Las Vegas - Season Three - Uncut & Uncensored - Buy from Amazon
This show is still on the air? How? Why? Even fans of the show shouldn't bother with the DVD as it is just not well done compared to other releases for contemporary shows.

Laurel and Hardy Collection - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Three films for the latter years of the duo's career. These are not the best examples of their work and it is more for collectors than casual fans. On a side note, the pair's treatment at Fox should be required reading for all studio executives, and the lesson learned should be thus... When you hire creative people, let them create. Do not under any circumstance interfere because, "You know better."

Laurence Olivier Presents - Buy from Amazon
Six films made for BBC Television produced by, and either starring or directed by Sir Laurence Olivier. Because they were made for a British audience, they could be more true to the stories without risking offending people, especially Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. So fans of the original plays will want to pick this collection up, even with its lack of any real special features.

Lucky Number Slevin - Buy from Amazon
Early buzz on this film was great and helped build up anticipation, perhaps too much so. When it finally opened, its reviews were barely above .500 and it barely managed to meet lowered expectations. The DVD is better than average with two audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes (including two alternate endings), and a short making of featurette. It is clearly the best first run release on this week's list, but that still adds up to a solid rental / weak purchase.

The Miracle Match - a.k.a. The Game of Their Lives - Buy from Amazon
The second soccer film on this week's list, this one performed much worse both at the box office and with critics. Even ignoring the gross historical inaccuracy of the film (neither the U.S. nor the British side was expected to perform well in the tournament, and neither did), it is just a long boring slog through the same sports cliches we've seen a hundred times in the past. Skip it.

Moonlighting - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon
A textbook example of how a show can jump the shark once the sexual tension is gone. The show never really recovered and many fans would be best served by sticking with the first three seasons only and giving this one a pass.

National Lampoon's Vacation & European Vacation - Buy from Amazon
It's a double-dip, so there's absolutely no reason to upgrade, but the price is certainly right for those looking to add these movies into their collections.

The Office - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
I just couldn't get into Season 1 of this show. Part of the problem was it was too much like the original to the point they were practically reusing the same scripts. However, season 2 the show found its own legs and started to come into its own. So much so that some people have stated that this version is better than the original. These people are clearly nuts. Granted, I do have a very British sense of humor and this could explain my opinion, but I'm still right and they are wrong. Even so, the show is now great and the DVD release lives up to it with plenty of extras. Extras that include audio commentary tracks on 10 of the 22 episodes, deleted scenes, webisodes, promos, fake PSAs, outtakes, and more. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Police - Everyone Stares - The Police Inside Out - Buy from Amazon
Documentaries are a tricky genre to work within. Many times the people most interested in seeing your film will be the most familiar with the subject and it is therefore difficult to bring something they don't know. This is the case here. The film is filled with fascinating looks into the rise of The Police, arguably the greatest rock trio of the 80s, but it is simply not in-depth enough to satisfy.

Roseanne - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
We are halfway through this award-winning show's run. This is also the first season without Alicia Goranson as Becky (she was replaced by Sarah Chalke of Scrubs). While the show is still great, the extras are weak with just an interview with Roseanne and another featurette with her answering fans questions.

Serving in Silence - Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer - Buy from Amazon
A dramatization of the story of Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, who was thrown out of the army after she admitted she was a lesbian. The critically acclaimed TV movie took home three Emmys back in 1995 including ones for both Glenn Close and Judy Davis. Extras on the DVD are a cut above what one might expect for a TV movie that's more than a decade old, but with just three, short featurettes, it is still not a huge amount of extras. Even so, it is still worth picking up for those who saw it when it first aired and worth a rental for those who didn't.

Smallville - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
After a fourth season that divided viewers, season 5 was a lot more universally loved; in fact, with the season long build up of the Superman myth, many are calling it the best season so far. The DVD is also good with audio commentary tracks on 2 episodes, deleted scenes, making of featurette for the 100th episode, and more. While I always want more, this is certainly enough to be a selling point and to make the 5-disc set a must have for fans and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

SpongeBob SquarePants - Season 4 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
This 2-disc set contains the first half of season 4. Why did they split the season into two volumes? Because it hasn't finished airing yet. Why didn't they wait till it finished to put on the DVD? ... I have no idea. In addition to the cartoons, there are featurettes on the voice talent and the animatics for two cartoons.

Star Wars - The Original Original Trilogy - Buy from Amazon: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi
The original versions of the original Star Wars are finally being released on DVD, but this is not the first time they've been released digitally. In fact, these are just the laserdisc versions that were released in 1995. On the one hand, this means Han Solo shoots first. On the other hand, the films are not in anamorphic widescreen. The reason for this is simple, there are rumors of a definitive, high-definition release coming out next year (most likely Blu-Ray, which could end the format war), and one of the selling points will likely be the anamorphic widescreen treatment. So are these three DVDs worth picking up? That depends on how much of a Star Wars junkie you are (and if you have a widescreen TV / Blu-ray player). I do have one worry and that's the super-duper special edition that is rumored to be coming out next year will only have the Special Edition releases, and on that note, I will be picking up these versions. But I don't expect the majority of fans to do so.

Stella - Season One - Buy from Amazon
This show felt like an interesting experiment in entertainment that just didn't pan out. Absurdist humor can be quite funny and I often enjoy it, but this show did nothing for me. I'm obviously not alone in this feeling as the show was cancelled after just 10 episodes. As for the DVD, fans will be happy that they will be able to re-watch the shows over and over again, but that's all they are getting, the shows.

Taps - 25th Anniversary Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
A great cast including George C Scott, Timothy Hutton, and Sean Penn is wasted with a script that has too many holes to hold itself together. What could have been a genuinely intriguing movie turns into a mildly interesting character study with limited replay value. Extras are good given the age of the movie (audio commentary and a couple of featurettes), but it doesn't really live up to the Special Edition label.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon
They are putting out far too many of these DVDs far too fast. Even the most diehard fan is going to be overloaded by the time the movie comes out. I think three months is the ideal time between DVD releases as it keeps the series fresh in the customer's mind without making them feel like they can't keep up. As for this 2-disc set, there appears to be nothing in the way of extras, which is a shame but not unexpected.

Teen Titans - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
When it comes to putting cartoons out on DVD, it seems like the only studio that gets it is Warner Bros. Your target audience is adult collectors, not little kids. Usually their sets are top notch, but recently they've been slipping. This release, and the Batman release above contain just a single featurette. I guess they are putting all their efforts into the Looney Tunes releases. It's still worth picking up, but I can't be enthusiastic in my recommendation.

The Wild - Buy from Amazon
This could be considered the first domestically produced digially animated kids movie to bomb. The film was attacked by critics and shunned by moviegoers, perhaps if it wasn't so similar to last year's Madagascar it would have been a success. It is unlikely that the DVD will perform much better on the home market, especially with its weak set of special features (outtakes, deleted scenes, etc.). It doesn't even add up to a rental.

Wildboyz - The Complete Seasons 3 & 4 - Uncensored - Buy from Amazon
More Reality TV, and of the soul-crushing variety. Skip it.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Troy, Seabiscuit, The Wild, House of Wax, Lucky Number Slevin, Goal! The Dream Begins, The Game of Their Lives, Hellbent, The Great New Wonderful, I Am a Sex Addict, Moartea domnului Lazarescu