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DVD Releases for October 31, 2006

October 31st, 2006

Halloween falls on a Tuesday this year, and that is playing havoc with this week's DVD releases. The only single day that messes with the movie industry more than Halloween is Christmas Eve. That doesn't mean there are no DVDs worth picking up -- there are -- but they are few and far between. There were only two real contenders for DVD Pick of the Week, Ghost Whisperer - The Complete First Season and Kids in the Hall - Complete Season 5, and if I were forced to choose just one I'd go with Ghost Whisperer - The Complete First Season.

Barry Manilow - First and Farewell - Buy from Amazon
I have to admit that Barry Manilow's continued popularity is something of an enigma to me. He really hasn't changed to try and adapt with the times but instead stuck with the music he loved long enough for it to come back in style again. This 2-disc set spans 30 years with his inaugural tour and his recent farewell tour. Special features include excerpts from a couple of other concerts and interviews with the man himself. Also coming out tomorrow is the The Greatest Songs of the Sixties, a follow-up to the million seller CD, The Greatest Songs of the Fifties.

Baywatch - Buy from Amazon: Season 1 and Season 2
At one time this was the world's most successful syndicated show despite the fact that it was quite terrible. As for the DVD releases, they are actually the first two syndicated seasons and not the seasons that ran on NBC. Additionally, not all of the episodes are here, as the rights to some of them are owned by another studio.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: The Phantom of the Opera, The Searchers, Under Seige, and Unforgiven
Of this week's group of Blu-Ray releases, Unforgiven is the best. In fact, it is the only one worth more than a rental.

CSI - Miami - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
This spin-off is too similar to the original for me; it's practically plagiarism. This bugs me so much that it affects my enjoyment of the original. And considering how frequently these shows are on syndication, I see little reason to pick up on DVD sets, no matter how well done they are.

The Devil's Rain - Buy from Amazon
A horror film from 1975 that has a surprising number of big names in it including William Shatner and Ernest Borgine. This would be a good film to watch with a few friends and mock MST3K style, if it wasn't so dull. The special features are better than expected given the age of the film and its lesser known nature, but it's not enough to lift it to even the rental level.

Fatal Contact - Bird Flu in America - Buy from Amazon
A TV movie using Bird Flu as the media induced scare of the week. Don't get me wrong, Bird Flu could become a major health issue in America if it mutates and becomes easily transmittable. It could make the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 seem like a mild cold. However, a film like this makes matters worse because it is simply too unrealistic. It will make those who feel we need to prepare groan every time the filmmakers get the science wrong (which is unwaveringly), while it will be used by skeptics as proof that the whole problem is overstated. Skip it.

Fireplace: Visions of Tranquility - Buy from Amazon
A fireplace... in HD. What the ...?

Ghost Whisperer - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
I would say this was the biggest pleasant surprise last fall. A lot of people thought the show was a huge mistake and that Jennifer Love Hewitt couldn't headline a successful show. Granted, her previous two attempts didn't last long (in fact, her last show, In the Game, was canceled twice and no episode ever made it to air). However, despite a lot of predictions of doom the show started off very well and was able to maintain a strong following. As for the DVD, this 6-disc set is very well done with a ton of special features including audio commentary tracks on four episodes, making of featurette, set tour with Jennifer Love Hewitt, deleted scenes, outtakes, and more. There's also a featurette of the 'psychics' that are the basis of the show. However, if you have seen the real-life counterparts in action, you will know they are nothing like what happens in the show. They clearly are using the cold reading technique. This technique relies on rapid guessing and refining them by using the reactions of the sitter, or mark as they are known in the business. "I see an older man behind you." "The letter M or J is significant." "You recently lost someone close to you." At least one of these will apply to nearly everyone and since people tend to remember the hits and forget the misses the reader appears to have some kind of power. However, despite the fact that I consider psychic phenomenon utter tripe, I did enjoy this show. And with a DVD that is packed, it is easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the week.

HD-DVD - Buy from Amazon: Excalibur, Under Seige, V for Vendetta
Really weak list of HD-DVD releases this week with V for Vendetta being the only one worth picking up.

The Hitchhiker - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian anthology series in the same vein as Tales from the Crypt, but without the supernatural angle. This 2-disc set contains 10 episodes and no special features. Even fans of the show will be disappointed in this presentation, limiting its value to a rental.

The Human Factor - Buy from Amazon
A revenge flick from 1975 featuring George Kennedy as a man who goes after the terrorists who killed his family. There were a lot of similar films that came out during that era and while this one is better than average, and the interview with George Kennedy is a very good extra, for most people it is not enough to rise past the rental level.

It's a Wonderful Life - 60th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
I know what you are going to say, "It's too early for Christmas!" and I agree. However, this is the best Christmas movie ever made. On the other hand, I'm still waiting for a definitive DVD release. Granted, the transfer is amazing, but that's the only improvement over the previous edition. Where is my two-disc, fully packed DVD with audio commentaries tracks (one by a film historian and another by Roger Ebert), retrospective, feature-length making of documentary, etc. I'm sure there's a significant demand for such a release, but because of a lapse in copyright, this will probably never happen. If you don't have this movie in your collection, now is the time to get it. However, I can't really recommend it for an upgrade.

Keeping Up with the Steins - Buy from Amazon
A coming of age story about a boy about to have his bar mitzvah while his father tries to outdo his rival at throwing a more extravagant party. Reviews were mostly poor with many critics complaining it had a sitcom feel to it. On the other hand, the film has a certain charm that should please its target audience, but even then a rental is all that is needed.

Kids in the Hall - Complete Season 5 - Buy from Amazon
The fifth and final season of this classic Canadian sketch-comedy show finally comes out on DVD. Included on the disc is the special series finale as well as audio commentary tracks. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. Also coming out tomorrow is the Megaset, which costs about 13% less than buying the each season individually. ... Normally these sets are discounted a lot more than that. And here I stopped buying these after season 1 because I knew there was a full series set coming out (I didn't have inside information, just a hunch). So I wait all of this time to get the full series in one set only to find out I won't be saving any money.

Kissology - Volume 1 - 1974-1977 - Buy from Amazon
A 3-disc collection of early Kiss concerts, including performances in San Francisco, Detroit, and even Tokyo. Because there is more than one concert here, some songs are repeated, several times. But having the concerts on DVD, plus the ample extras, make this DVD a must have for any self-respecting member of the Kiss Army.

Martin & Lewis Collection - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
8 movies starring the duo of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis crammed onto 4 double-sided discs. There are likely a lot of fans who would love to have these movies on DVD, but most of them will be upset over the treatment they've received.

Mission: Impossible: III - Buy from Amazon: Regular, Special Edition, HD-DVD, or Blu-Ray
The third and final film in the Mission: Impossible franchise, at least the last one starring Tom Cruise. Despite earning the best reviews of the franchise, the film missed expectations. This is likely due to Tom Cruise overload. The film was certainly a step up from the previous installment, but it still didn't work for me. I found too many similarities with the previous films including... spoiler alert ... the pull-off masks, yet another traitor in the agency, etc. (On a side note, they really need to work on that last one. It seems the only real enemies this agency has are on the inside.) And for that matter I didn't like the performances of either Tom Cruise or Philip Seymour Hoffman. I'm more surprised by the performance of Hoffman, who is one of the best actors working today. Normally when a good actor fails to impress, I figure it is either due to poor directing, bad script, or being miscast. I don't know which one is the real reason here, but I think the last one is the most likely. As for the DVD, there are a lot of special features on the 2-disc set, but it seems like a problem of quantity over quality. Take the audio commentary track, for example. J.J. Abrams and Tom Cruise kept the chatter up throughout most of the movie but there was a lot of repetition. I can't tell you how many times they discussed where a particular scene was shot or if a effects shot was digital or practical, but I can tell you after hearing about it for the sixth or seventh time I no longer cared. The rest of the features were similar. I assume if you really liked the movie you will be willing to sit through six featurettes, deleted scenes, two montages, etc. but for me it was too much. Bottom line: The movie felt like, "Been there, done that" and the extras didn't add enough to the experience. Can also be purchased with the rest of the franchise as part of a box set on DVD, HD-DVD, or Blu-Ray.

Speed Racer - Volume 5 - Buy from Amazon
The final 8 episodes hit DVD. Many fans were not happy with the treatment this show got over the last two DVDs and there were left asking why were the last 16 episodes split into two volumes. But while the price per minute is high for a TV on DVD release, I still think most fans will want to pick it up.

The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
This is a terrible show. Even those that remember the show from their childhood and thought fondly of it will be surprised seeing it again as adults. Even nostalgia won't save this one. Skip it.

Tales from the Crypt - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
13 more episodes of the pseudo-scary anthology series hit the home market. The best of this season's episode is "Death of Some Salesman" and includes guest a shot by Tim Curry. Practically all of the episodes are worth re-watching, making the replay value better than most, but the lack of special features is still disappointing. Overall it is worth picking up, but strong extras could have made it a DVD Pick of the Week.

The Tarzan Collection Starring Johnny Weissmuller - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
The final six films in the early Tarzan franchise crammed onto 3 double-sided disc. With two movies a disc there is no room for extras, which is not surprising given the age of the films, but disappointing nonetheless.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Mission: Impossible III, V for Vendetta, Keeping Up with the Steins