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DVD Releases for November 7, 2006

November 6th, 2006

It's the first week of the month, and like usual, it's a busy, busy week. But while there are plenty of DVDs coming out tomorrow, the list if first-run releases is weak and the recent limited releases didn't really pick up the slack (although Wordplay - Buy from Amazon was the best of that list). This means when it came to DVD Pick of the Week we have to go back, sometimes way back. The most recent is Grosse Pointe - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon while fellow TV on DVD release, Police Squad! The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon, is also in up there. For movies we have The Transformers - The Movie - 20th Anniversary Special Edition - Buy from Amazon and the two box sets James Bond - Ultimate Collection - Volume 1 and Volume 2. I'm not going to choose just one, but I'm thinking of not picking up the Bond sets until next month when I can get the whole collection at once.

Archangel - Buy from Amazon
A TV-movie starring Daniel Craig as a British professional working in Moscow who looks into the life and death of Joseph Stalin. The film is better than most TV movies, but that's not much of a complement. Add in no real special features and the DVD is only worth a rental.

Ark II - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Saturday morning TV series from the 1970s about a post apocalyptic world. In the show three scientists (and a monkey), drive around in an R.V. helping people. Yeah, it's as bad as it sounds. It's also overly preachy with poor production values. On the other hand, there are more special features on the 4-disc set than I would have expected (audio commentary tracks on two episodes and a retrospective), and there are probably a lot of people interested in picking it up merely for the nostalgia.

Beverly Hills, 90210 - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A teenage soap opera just like any of the hundreds of such series that have come out. On the other hand, this was one of the first, so it does have that going for it. Personally, I hate these shows, but even fans will admit there are some problems with this 6-disc set. The studio really should have done something to fix up the audio / video while the extras are only average given the popularity of the show. Sure, there are a couple audio commentary tracks and a few short features, but I think fans were expecting more.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Reds - 25th Anniversary Edition
Just the one release this week, not counting concurrent releases. Reds is a great movie, but hardly needs the High Def treatment to be enjoyed.

Cars - Buy from Amazon
One of the biggest hits of the year, it nonetheless missed expectations both at the box office and with critics. Fans of digitally animated movies in general and Pixar in particular will want to add this movie to their collection. However, the extras of sufficiently weak that I fully expect a special edition to come out in the not too distant future. End verdict, give this DVD a rental and wait to buy the special edition.

The Chairman - Buy from Amazon
Not one of Gregory Peck's best known works, nor is it one of his best. A Cold War spy thriller that has enough flaws that the end product just doesn't work. As for the DVD, there are a few outtakes and deleted scenes, which is more than expected but not enough to recommend it. Perhaps if you are a fan of the actor or the genre then it might be worth checking out, but even then the DVD only needs a rental.

Christmas Classics Box Set - Buy from Amazon
Four Christmas movies released in one box set. However, the average quality of the films is way too low to be worth picking up. In fact, only one film, the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol, is worth watching, but even then it is not the best movie version of that Dickens novel.

Christmas In The Clouds - Buy from Amazon
This film is either warm-hearted or schmaltzy, depending on your personal tastes. The DVD, on the other hand, is devoid of any special features and that severely limits its value.

Cinema Paradiso - Limited Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of the best films to come out of Italy over the past 20 years or so. It is a movie made for people who love movies. This is not the first time this film has been released on DVD, but it is the best. This 3-disc set contains two versions of the movie, audio commentary track on the original, retrospective, "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello" (along with several recipes from the show). Finally, the third disc is a CD soundtrack. This is easily worth the upgrade and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Dr. Who - Buy from Amazon: The Hand of Fear and The Mark of the Rani
Both stories coming out tomorrow are excellent. The Hand of Fear is the last story with Sarah Jane Smith while The Mark of the Rani is one of just 11 stories featuring Colin Baker as the doctor. Like the rest of the releases from this show, these DVDs are packed with special features, including audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, interviews, etc. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show, who still have a lot of spending ahead of them if they are intent on picking up the entire series (at least the episodes that are not lost).

Edward R. Murrow - The Best of Person to Person - Buy from Amazon
For people who saw Good Night, and Good Luck and want to see more of Edward R. Murrow. This 3-disc set contains more than 30 interviews with a running time of over 7 hours. The subjects include Norman Rockwell, John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and many others. Could use some special features, especially information on the interviewees and some historical context.

The Fallen Idol - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
A post-war British film about a small boy who overhears talk of scandal and eventually is convinced his butler is a murderer. One of the best films produced from that era and the extras are good considering the film's age, but not quite up to the level of some other Criterion Collection releases.

Flower Drum Song - Buy from Amazon
One of Rodgers and Hammerstein's few misses, this musical featured an Asian cast and Asian-themed music, which might explain why it wasn't a big hit when it was released back in 1961. This is also the only Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical not to be released by Fox, which explains why it is not in the box set also coming out tomorrow. The special feature are on-par with those of the box set and anyone who picks up that DVD will want to grab this one as well.

The Fountainhead - Buy from Amazon
This is a message movie, and as such it has many perils it needs to avoid, unfortunately, it avoids none of them. It's heavy-handed in its message, the dialog is wooden and stale, it's melodramatic in its delivery, and just a wee bit too phallic. The film has earned good reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes, but a sizable chunk of those positive reviews comment on the campy nature of the movie. However, the worst sin a message movie like this can make is having an unconvincing argument. The movie is about ... spoiler... an architect played by Gary Cooper, whom we are told is a brilliant architect who is ahead of his time and unwilling to compromise. Except we see no real evidence of his genius and instead he comes across and an egotistical jerk who is completely unwilling to consider other opinions. In the end, he finally gets to design a large building, but has to put his friend's name on it or it won't get built. When it is built, he finds his plans were changed so he blows it up. He then argues in court that his rights as an individual allow him to do that, even though the building was owned by another individual, whom must also has rights. In the end he is acquitted because the prosecution doesn't even bother to cross-examine him. One last note about Ayn Rand's philosophy, like Nietzsche she believed in the uberman, someone who is so smart that classical morals don't apply to them. If I recall correctly, she said that 2% of the population were the superman who didn't need to be told what to do while the other 98% are cattle whose opinions were meaningless. (On a side note, I've never met anyone who believed this and didn't also believe they were part of the 2% so it is less about sound philosophy and more about greed and ego-stroking.) In The Fountainhead, Howard Roark is presented as one of those supermen, however, if your boss can alter your work and you have no say, then you are not part of the 2%, you are part of the cattle. Just stand in the corner and chew your cud. As a movie, the direction is, for the most part, excellent, but that's one lone pro in a sea of cons. Add in rather weak extras and the DVD isn't even worth renting.

Gary Cooper - The Signature Collection - Buy from Amazon
Five films from the career of Gary Cooper, including the previously ranted about film, The Fountainhead. Gary Cooper made a lot of great movies, but this collection is not a good representation of his career. Sergeant York is clearly the best and picking up the Two-Disc Special Edition is the better deal.

Girls Behaving Badly - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
Reality TV. Hidden camera Reality TV. Ick. ... Moving on.

Grosse Pointe - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A behind-the-scenes satire of teenage soap operas created by Darren Star, who helped create Beverly Hills, 90210, one of the shows that it spoofs. The show was great but never found the audience it deserved lasting one, slightly shortened season. Many fans held out hope that the show would eventually be released on DVD, and after a tease earlier in the year it is finally coming out. Given its short run, a featureless DVD is to be expected, but in a pleasant surprise there are a good amount of special features (audio commentary tracks and some interviews). Great show and one that should be seen by more people. One final point, this is an Amazon exclusive release so you will have to order online.

Grounded for Life - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
This should got moved around a lot during its 5-year run, and I don't mean just switching schedules, it changed networks as well. This is the first, and only, full season the show was on the WB and at 28 episodes, it was also the longest. (Several were actually meant for season 3, but were held back till season 4 because of the move.) Special features are average with audio commentary tracks on three episodes and that's enough for it to be worth picking up.

Harvey Toons - The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
Harvey Toons is the generic name given to a collection of characters produced for Paramount by Famous Studio and include characters like Casper, Wendy, and others. There are a lot of fans of these films who are likely dying to see them again. However, there are a couple problems. Firstly, this is not the complete collection. Some of the more politically incorrect ones are not here, others have been edited down. Secondly, the 19-hour running time has been crammed onto 4 double-sided discs leaving no room for extras.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Reds - 25th Anniversary Edition
Just the one release this week, not counting concurrent releases. Reds is a great movie, but hardly needs the High Def treatment to be enjoyed.

Inside The Actors Studio - Buy from Amazon: Dave Chappelle and Icons
One of the most cerebral interview shows out there, James Lipton has interviewed more than 200 actors, directors, etc. on his show and has managed to create an environment that allows for a more meaningful interview. The first of these two DVDs is Dave Chappelle, which features Dave Chappelle's first interview after he left his show and went on a sabbatical in Africa. The second, Icons features four interviews with Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Barbra Streisand. The extras are a little light (new intros and deleted scenes), but the are fascinating enough on their own to warrant picking up.

JAG - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Season two of this show was shorten to only 15 episodes because it was canceled by NBC after season one and picked up by CBS as a midseason replaced for season two. Season 2 was also the season Catherine Bell joined the cast and the ratings suddenly improved. Compared to Season 1, this season is shorter, but the price is the same. The extras are about the same, maybe a little better, but not by enough to make up the difference in running time.

James Bond - Ultimate Collection - Volume 1 and Volume 2
With Casino Royale less than two weeks away, what better time could there be to release the complete franchise on remastered DVDs? I'm not going to bother describing the movies, this is Bond after all, you either know the films or you probably stumbled upon this site by mistake. What is really important is whether or not these sets are worth the upgrade from the previous releases, which are only three years old. And the simple answer is yes. Not only are the films completely remastered and looking better than they have in decades, but there are a ton of new extras including commentary tracks, deleted scenes, screen tests, and more. Easily worth the upgrade for most, however, I can't image the HD-DVD / Blu-Ray releases are that far off and it might be worth the wait. Oh, who am I kidding? I don't have the patience to wait. Two final points, yes, the collection is out of order, but if you are planning on buying all four volumes, then this is not an issue. Lastly, the third and fourth volumes come out next month, which may seem like a long wait, but I'm sure you will survive.

Little Man - Loaded With Extra Crap Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
The only thing funny about this DVD is its name. The movie is terrible, the extras are merely average, and the replay value is nonexistent. Skip it.

LoudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the Alt-Rock band, The Pixies that earned moderate reviews overall but did quite poorly with the cream-of-the-crop. Part of the problem is the band lacks drama, they seem like regular average guys and that doesn't make for a very intriguing film. Also, for a film about a band, there's a lack of music.

M*A*S*H - The Complete Eleventh Season - Buy from Amazon
Eleventh and final season of this award winning show, blah, blah, blah. What I really want to talk about is the Martinis and Medicine Complete Collection. This box set contains all 11 seasons, plus a few extras, for less than half the cost of buying the full-season sets. So loyal fans get screwed again. This will kill TV on DVD releases if the studios are not careful.

The Marlon Brando Collection - Buy from Amazon
Five films from Marlon Brando in one box set. Julius Caesar is the best while Mutiny on The Bounty isn't far behind. The others, however, kind of feel like filler. But even though you can buy those two DVDs separately, the box set is only a few dollars more and is worth the extra price.

Melrose Place - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Nighttime soap opera from the same people that brought us Beverly Hills, 90210 but at least with this show you didn't have 30-year olds pretending they were still in high school. Aaron Spelling created a lot of shows, most of which I hated; they were too slick, too stylish and simply not enough substance and this show is no exception. Add in special features that are merely average and this is a 8-disc set that I can not recommend.

NFL History of the ... Buy from Amazon: Broncos and Colts
NFL? Who cares about the NFL? The CFL is where it's at. Did you see those playoff games over the weekend? I can't believe Calgary blew a big lead, again. And that Toronto / Winnipeg game went right down to the wire.

Obsession - Buy from Amazon
Another film coming out on DVD to take advantage of the publicity Casino Royale is generating. In this case, this movie stars, sort of, Daniel Craig. While he is shown prominently on the cover, he only received third billing in the movie. That's really the only reason it's coming and that's not enough to be worth a recommendation.

Police Squad! The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The makers of Airplane! cast Leslie Nielsen as a cop in a this TV series, which lasted just 6 episodes. It's common consensus that the show didn't last because there were too many jokes and people have to pay too much attention to the show to catch them all. With TV on DVD, shows like this can survive better and perhaps if it started now it would make it. But we will never know. Given the age of the show (nearly 25 years), and the incredibly short run, most people probably would assume that it would be released on a featureless DVD, if it was released at all. However, there are plenty of extras including audio commentary tracks on 3 of the 6 episodes, outtakes, interviews, a look at the famous freeze frame shots, and more. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Poster Boy - Buy from Amazon
A political film about Gay/Lesbian rights that falls flat.

The Pusher Trilogy - Buy from Amazon
Three films from Denmark centering around the drug trade. The films earned excellent reviews but failed to make an impact here. Can also purchase Pusher 3 separately.

The Quiller Memorandum - Buy from Amazon
A fine spy thriller from the 1960s that seems to be mostly forgotten. Fans of the genre will want to check it out and with an audio commentary track by film historian, it has better than average re-play value.

Rodgers and Hammerstein Box Set Collection - Buy from Amazon
Simply put, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II revolutionized musicals in America changing them into an art form. This collection contains the six plays they wrote together that were turned in musicals for Fox (the only other movie adaptation, Flower Drum Song, is also being released tomorrow). Extras on the DVDs are excellent and even though the films are coming out separately as well, the box set is the clear choice. For fans of the genre, this is a must have.

Shadowboxer - Buy from Amazon
This film is a mess. It's hard to see where it went wrong or if the project was doomed from the very start. The combination of great stars that are in this failed film might be enough to get some people to give it a try, but for the most part it is entirely skippable.

She-Ra - Princess of Power - Season One - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Too often when cartoons make the transition to TV on DVD, the studio makes the mistake of thinking their target audience is kids and not the adult collector. This is not the case here. This 6-disc set is packed with audio commentary tracks, documentary, animated storyboards for a full episode, and more. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show.

The Sopranos - Season 6 - Part 1 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
The quality of this show really dropped this season, and to make matters worse, they are charging a premium price for only 12 episodes and special features that are merely average. It's just not worth the price. Skip it.

Stalker - Buy from Amazon
This is an awesome movie based on a Russian novel called Roadside Picnic. This is a movie that needs to be re-adapted by someone with much more resources. Of course, I wouldn't trust just anyone to have what it takes to make the movie. ... Terry Gilliam is at the top of my list for this project, but I'm sure there are a handful of people who could handle it. But back to this movie. It's a cerebral science fiction movie with almost no special effects, which is a blessing and a curse. It is a shame that the filmmakers were not able to visually depict the world as it was described by Arkadi Strugatsky and Boris Strugatsky. On the other hand, at least the filmmakers didn't concentrate of making the movie a CG extravaganza at the expense of the story. As for the DVD, the extras are good considering how hold the film is (closing in on 30 years), and the fact that is an import. There are a few interviews, an excerpt from the director's student film, and a look as his childhood home. I would have loved an audio commentary track or two, but that won't stop me from picking up this DVD.

Tales of the Rat Fink - Buy from Amazon
A semi-animated documentary about Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. You rarely see animated and documentary used to describe the same film, so right away you know this is going to be something different. The end result, however, is mixed. Those who followed the artist's career won't learn much from the film, but will likely still enjoy the movie. Extras are also mixed, but add enough to the overall experience to make the DVD a solid rental / weak purchase.

Totally Awesome - Buy from Amazon
This spoof of 80s Teen movies is the first film from VH1. There is a huge amount of material to pull from, however, the end result is hit and miss, and more miss than hit. Looking at the cast, Chris Kattan is the biggest name, which is all you really need to know about the film. To be fair, there are funny bits here and the extras are better than expected, but I still can't rate it past a rental.

The Transformers - The Movie - 20th Anniversary Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Too often when TV shows are turned into movies, they end up feeling like and overlong two-parter. This is not the case here. Easily one of the best movies based on a cartoon, I don't care what other critics say. How many kids movies do you know of where they ... spoiler alert ... kill off half the main characters, including the main good guy? Granted, I think this is what caused the film to flop when it was released in theaters back in 1986. As for the 2-disc Anniversary Edition, it is easily worth the upgrade from previous editions and includes extras like two audio commentary tracks, trivia track, featurettes on the backlash to the spoiler I mentioned above, deleted and alternate scenes, and more. Those who were fans of the show when they were kids will surely get a hit of nostalgia from the movie while not getting upset over some of the events in the film. Definitely a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Ultimate Flint Collection - Buy from Amazon
A spoof of spy movies like James Bond. And the two films, Our Man Flint and In Like Flint, are being released on DVD just over a week before the latest bond hits theaters. Surely that's a coincidence. Anyhoo, the films are surprisingly good and the DVDs are very well done considering the age of the movies. Easily worth picking up for fans of spy movies, serious or otherwise.

The West Wing - The Complete Seventh Season - Buy from Amazon
On Tuesday you can purchase the seventh and final season of this award winning series. Or you can buy the whole series for about 28% less than buying the full season sets individually. One day, someone, somewhere it going to find out who makes these decisions and they are going to ram the full season sets up very personal orifice. I'm not joking here... well, obviously I'm using comedic exaggeration to make my point, but the truth is a lot of people are very upset over this practice and that is going to have a very real effect of sales.

Wordplay - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about crossword puzzles, specifically The New York Times crossword puzzle, the man who creates them, and the people who play them. The film is a fascinating look at what could be perceived as a rather dull topic with a ton of camoes from celebrities from Bill Clinton to the Indigo Girls to Jon Stewart. The extras are amazing with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, a look at some of the puzzles, a look at the crossword puzzle championship, featurette on the film's appearance at the Sundance film festival, and more. Certainly worth picking up, even if you are not a fan of crossword puzzles, and a contender for the DVD Pick of the Week.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Cars, Wordplay, Shadowboxer, Christmas in the Clouds, Poster Boy, The Pusher Trilogy