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DVD Releases for September 19, 2006

September 19th, 2006

It's another week where first run releases are taking a backseat to limited releases and TV on DVD. That latter category is especially busy with the Fall season under way. In fact, it is from that list that we get the DVD Pick of the Week, My Name Is Earl - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon, but Hard Candy - Buy from Amazon earns an honorable mention.

8th and Ocean - Buy from Amazon
Reality TV. Particularly vapid and insipid Reality TV. Skip it.

10th and Wolf - Buy from Amazon
This film opened with terrible reviews, barely made a noise during its opening weekend, and then disappeared as quickly as it came. The special features are better than expected, but still not enough to warrant even a rental.

Backdraft - 2-Disc Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of Ron Howard's lesser known films. That is not to say it was a bad film, because is wasn't, and that's not to say it wasn't a box office hit, because it was. But when people think of Ron Howard's directing career, this is not one of the first films that pop into their minds. Now this under-appreciated film earns a very impressive Special Edition DVD that includes an introduction by Ron Howard and 40 minutes worth of deleted scenes. The second disc has a feature length making of documentary broken into four parts, and a roundtable discussion with real life firefighters about their job. Easily worth picking up, even if you have the previous edition; however, if there was an audio commentary track, it could have been a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Barbie in The 12 Dancing Princesses - Buy from Amazon
The latest in this line of direct-to-DVD releases based on the word's most popular doll. It should entertain its target audience, enough that the replay value warrants picking it up.

Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.5 - Buy from Amazon
Great show that easily trumps the original in terms of quality, which is both surprising and obvious. Remakes rarely improve upon the original, but in this case, the original was quite bad and I think nostalgia has inflated it into something it wasn't. This 3-disc set, on the other hand, is only average. First of all, I don't like how they've split the season into two, especially as the price is comparable to some full-season sets. Add in special features that are good, but not great, and you have a DVD that's worth picking up for the more dedicated fans, but that will leave the more casual one unwilling to shell out that much cash.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: The Big Hit, Eight Below, A Kinght's Tale, S.W.A.T., Tears of the Sun
Among the latest bunch of Blu-Ray discs, there's not a single one I would pick up. The best of the bunch is Eight Below, but that hardly demands the HD treatment. For Tears of the Sun and S.W.A.T., this is the third time they've appeared on the DVD Release column and there weren't worth picking up the first time around.

Bob Newhart - Button Down Concert - Buy from Amazon
Bob Newhart started his career as a stand-up comedian and his Button Down Mind was his first, and some argue his best CD. This concert was filmed for HBO in 1995 and while the material is not new, it is still an amazing performance and will satisfy those who have heard it all before just as much as those who have never seen Bob Newhart perform. Replay value is usually the limiting factor when it comes to stand-up comedy. Too often a joke is only funny once, but the delivery here is perfect, making the experience just as funny the second time around. Add in a 20-minute interview and the DVD is easily worth picking up.

The Bob Newhart Show - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
One of the best shows of its day (despite the fact that it won no Emmys or Golden Globes). Easily worth picking up, especially in light of the special features. Shows this old tend to have little or no special features, but this 3-disc set has audio commentary tracks on five episodes, a featurette, and outtakes. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show, and for those who have never seen Bob Newhart before, I suggest picking up this whole series.

The Boris Karloff Collection - Buy from Amazon
For many years, Boris Karloff was synonymous with horror. Fans of his, and there are many, should be itching to get more of his work. Unfortunately, this collection is mostly filler. In fact, outside of The Tower of London, none are really worth picking up, and without any real special features, this set isn't worth its low price tag. Shame really, as there is certainly plenty of Boris Karloff films that should be released.

The Chris Rock Show - Seasons 1 & 2 - Buy from Amazon
This show ran for three seasons, or about 3-dozen episodes. After a couple of Best Of DVDs, and a delay from earlier in the year, the first half of the show's run comes out on this 3-disc set. Add in audio commentary tracks and this DVD is worth picking up for fans of the stand-up comedy, even if they had never seen the show.

Chucky - The Killer DVD Collection - Buy from Amazon
This 2-disc collection is missing the first film, which may seem really strange, but it's easy to explain. MGM released the first movie, while the rest were distributed by Universal. Because there are four movies jammed onto two discs, some of the features from the previous releases are missing. This means upgrading is certainly not worth it, and even at an incredibly low price for four movies, I'd stick with the individual releases. Or for that matter, stick with the frist film and maybe pick up the last two, but that might be my pro-Jennifer Tilly bias coming through.

Crossing the Bridge - The Sound of Istanbul - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the music scene in Istanbul (not Constantinople). The film earned excellent reviews, started its run well, and then disappeared. The DVD should perform better, even if there are no real special features.

The Devil and Daniel Johnston - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about singer / songwriter, Daniel Johnston. While most people will have never heard of him, he has written songs that have been sung by some of the most influential members of the Alt-Rock world, including Pearl Jam, Nirvana and more. His story is made more fascinating by his lifelong battle with manic depression. Like the above film, it earned excellent reviews, but its theatrical run was more strong and steady. The DVD should also outperform with an array of excellent special features including an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and a ton of featurettes. Well worth picking up for fans of the musical genre and worth checking out for most others.

Elvira's Movie Macabre - Buy from Amazon: Count Dracula's Great Love, The Devil's Wedding Night, Doomsday Machine, Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks, Legacy Of Blood, and The Werewolf of Washington
Six terrible movies that you can watch by themselves or interspliced with Elvira's campy interludes. I guess if you are a big fan of Cassandra Peterson's alter-ego, these are worth checking out, maybe, but even at a bargain basement price, they only need a rental at the most. For that matter, you really only need to rent one of them, at random, and that should suffice.

Everybody Loves Raymond - The Complete Seventh Season - Buy from Amazon
Good show. A little repetitive and a little safe, but good nonetheless. Usually when a series lasts this long, the DVD releases become weaker and weaker, but this is not the case here. This 5-disc set contains all 24 episodes, with audio commentary on four on them, as well as deleted scenes and outtakes. If you have been keeping up with the series so far, there's absolutely no reason to stop now.

Jigoku - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
One of the most influential Japanese horror films ever, even nearly 50 years later its influence is still being felt today. Made in 1960, the film's depiction of hell is something American filmmakers couldn't dream of getting away with then, and even now the MPAA would probably give it an NC-17 rating. The DVD offers a few special features, most notably a 40-minute featurette featuring interviews with many of the cast and crew as well as those influenced by the movie. Fans of the current trend of J-horror will likely really enjoy this historical film.

Gilmore Girls - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
Despite my fears that this would be the last season, the show will outlive the network it was on. This season the show took a huge change in tone as Lorelai and Rory had a huge fight at the end of season five and spent most of the year not talking to each other. Because of this, and other issues, most fans agree that this is the weakest season during the show's run so far. Most also agree than it is much better than almost anything else out there. On the other hand, the 6-disc set is subpar with just an episode guide as an extra. Even so, it is still worth picking up, but a few audio commentary tracks and some behind the scenes featurettes could have turned it into a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Go for Zucker - Buy from Amazon
The first Jewish - German comedy since World War II, this film was critisized for being lowbrow. To which I respond, what were you expecting? German comedic tastes usually aim toward the lowbrow end of the spectrum. The film was a major hit in its native market and was the big winner at the Lolas, winning 6 of the 10 awards it was up for. Here, on the other hand, it barely made a peep at the box office and will likely not do too much better on the home market. Not only does the film not mesh with moviegoers' tastes here, the DVD doesn't have a whole lot of special features, which further limits its value.

Grease - Rockin' Rydell Edition - Buy from Amazon
The highest-grossing musical of all time, and I don't know why. I think this movie is grossly overrated. The story is simple, the acting and singing merely adequate, the songs are admittedly catchy, but not in a good way. On the other hand, the special edition is very well done with an audio commentary, retrospective, deleted / extended scenes, and more. The best feature for fans of the musical are the karaoke features; you can view one song at a time, all 11 songs in a row, or even watch the movie with each song having a karaoke display so you can sing along. It's a fun feature and helps this DVD be worth the upgrade. Also helping its cause is the packaging. Normally I don't care about the packaging, and long as it is not a cardboard snap case, however, this DVD comes in its own leather jacket, which certainly adds something and will stand out on your DVD shelf.

Hard Candy - Buy from Amazon
The film earned what I would describe as mixed reviews for a limited release. They were certainly better than most films earn, but not strong enough for the film to escape its limited release. (However, part of that problem has to be shared with the studio for its release schedule: it went from 2 theatres to 152 without enough publicity to support that expansion.) After the film stumbled during its theatrical release, I was afraid the DVD would be devoid or nearly devoid of special features. But fortunately my fears were unfounded. Included on the DVD are two audio commentary tracks, a substantial making-of feature, deleted / extended scenes, and more. The film is difficult to watch at times, but it is rewarding to those who give it a shot.

Hart to Hart - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers star as upper crust husband and wife who spend their time solving mysteries. The show ran for five seasons, as well as a several made-of-TV movies, and while there is a certain element of style over substance, it is still a fun show to watch. On the other hand, the DVD release is bare bones, limiting its value to a rental.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Season 2 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
The next 32 episodes from this classic 80s cartoon. This 6-disc set is made with the adult collector in mind and features extras like audio commentary tracks on three episodes, overview, making of featurette, full-length storyboards for two episodes, and much more. Those who own the previous releases will certainly be picking this one up. However, I think a lot of casual fans from the 80s will be disappointed in the show. While it was great for its time, it hasn't aged well.

Henry Fonda - The Signature Collection - Buy from Amazon
When it comes to box sets like this you have to watch out for filler and double-dips. While most of these movies are superb, every single one of these films has been previously released. The price is good for new collectors, but fans would have been better served if there were some films that were new to DVD included.

Inner Sanctum Mysteries - The Complete Movie Collection - Buy from Amazon
All six films from the Inner Sanctum Mysteries collection, which were hour-long, low budget releases from the 1940s. They are better than their budgets would suggest, but still just average. However, fans of Lon Chaney Jr. should get a kick out of the films and the price is certainly right.

King of Queens - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
I think it is safe to say that this show jumped the shark a while ago and has been coasting on the lowered expectations of the sitcom since then. Add in zero special features and this 3-disc set has very limited replay value.

Loverboy - Buy from Amazon
A husband and wife vanity project. If one were to use just one word to describe the film, "creepy" would probably be it. If one were to use just two words to describe this DVD, they would be, "Skip it."

My Name Is Earl - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Jason Lee stars as Earl Hickey, a ne'er-do-well who wins $100,000 in the lottery but has it taken away by a cruel twist of fate. He then decides karma is the reason and he must right all the wrongs he has committed before karma will let him be happy. Out of all the new shows that started last year, this is the one I watched the most, although before I was halfway done watching the pilot I knew I would buy the DVD as soon as it came out. Even if I was on the fence about the show, this 3-disc set would have settled that issue. On the DVD are all 24 episodes, audio commentary tracks on seven of them, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a making of featurette. There is one final special feature, which is worth the price of the DVD by itself. It is an alternate pilot made exclusively for the DVD where Earl Hickey turns on the TV as see Stewie Griffin of "Family Guy" and learns a lesson on vengeance instead of karma (this episode also has an audio commentary lifting the total to eight). This is a very unusual feature and enough to push the DVD from must have to DVD Pick of the Week.

The Proposition - Buy from Amazon
One of the best-reviewed films on this week's list, it is also one of the most violent and visceral. The film did well in limited release, but was never able to break out and earn much in the way of mainstream success. Fortunately this didn't stop the studio from including plenty of extras on the DVD, like an audio commentary track, a five-part marking of featurette, and deleted scenes. Easily worth picking up for those with the stomach for it, but admittedly, that's not a large percentage of moviegoers.

Roar - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A summer replacement series on Fox that only lasted 13 episodes, 5 of which were not aired during its original run. The show never really gelled, but there were some interesting ideas floating around and it would have been interesting to see what the makers were going with some of them. As for the DVD, this 3-disc set has no special features and limited replay value.

The Rocket - Buy from
A biography about Maurice "The Rocket" Richard, one of the greatest hockey players of all-time. The film was a big hit when it opened in Quebec, but died during its run in English-speaking Canada. However, that's not because the movie is bad, it's because the studio released it on the first day of NHL playoffs, which is the worst time to release a hockey movie as all fans are watching the real thing. The DVD should perform much better on the home market and even though the special features are rather limited it's still worth picking up and worth the import for American fans of hockey. All three of you.

Stay Alive - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Version or Director's Cut
The worst reviewed new release of the week, there's very little here to recommend to even those most desperate for something to watch. The film failed to live up to lower expectations, and even with the Unrated label, it won't turn things around on the home market.

Stick It - Buy from Amazon
The best-reviewed first run release on this week's list. Granted, its only competition is Stay Alive. The directorial debut of Jessica Bendinger, who wrote Bring It On, and there's more than a passing similarity between the two. For instance, they both use highly stylized slang, and while that is a selling point to the target audience, it will just confuse those that are not hip to the way kids are talking today. As for the DVD, the are plenty of extras including two audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, outtakes, two featurettes on the real-life gymnasts, and more. Easily worth picking up for the target audience, but there's not enough crossover appeal for a full recommendation.

U2 - Zoo TV - Live From Sydney - Buy from Amazon: Single Disc Edition or 2-Disc Limited Edition
The Single Disc Edition is the 1994 VHS release cleaned up and with the sound and video one would expect on DVD. The 2-Disc Limited Edition includes several bonus songs, including a couple of Easter eggs, as well as some behind the scenes featurettes and more. Is it worth the extra money? I say yes, but I'm always willing to spend more to get more.

The Unit - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A mid-season replacement, it only ran for 13 episodes, but performed well enough to be given a second season (which begins tomorrow). Obviously the network is hoping that this 4-disc set will help promote the second season debut, and vice versa, but while there are plenty of strong episodes, the special features are weak with just a single audio commentary track and a making of featurette.


Filed under: Video Releases, S.W.A.T., Eight Below, Tears of the Sun, Stick It, Stay Alive, Seed of Chucky, The Proposition, Hard Candy, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Go For Zucker, Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul, Loverboy, 10th & Wolf