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DVD Releases for December 12, 2006

December 12th, 2006

While the number of DVDs coming out this week isn't has high as last week, there is still a high level of quality with several contenders for DVD Pick of the Week, including The Devil Wears Prada - Buy from Amazon and World Trade Center - 2-Disc Commemorative Edition. However, the clear winner was James Bond - Ultimate Edition, both Volume 3 and Volume 4.

Air Buddies - Buy from Amazon
The latest film from the Air Bud franchise is yet another direct-to-DVD affair, this time featuring a bunch of puppies. The cuteness factor hits an all-time high and the DVD is selling better than expected. Those who have enjoyed the previous movies will likely find something to enjoy here. I'm just not one of them.

America - Freedom to Fascism - Buy from Amazon
Message movies are important; you need to have films that have a point of view. That said, message movies also have a few extra perils they have to watch out for, number one being an unconvincing argument and, 'Unconvincing' is probably the best way to describe this film. There are some pretty convincing arguments that the United States is in danger of moving towards fascism, but this film doesn't present them. Instead, it spouts a lot of crap about how you don't have to pay income tax based on the fact that Ohio isn't a state, or something like that. Not only is the argument wrong, it is presented in an uninteresting and non-compelling way. Add in paranoid conspiracies and the film loses all credibility.

The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Final Season - Buy from Amazon
The show mercifully ended after this season. It was clear the show couldn't go on any more. In fact, there are more than a few who think it shouldn't have gone on as long as it did. Many fans stopped collecting the series after season five when Don Knotts left, but for those who want the complete series, you finally got your wish. Speaking of The Complete Series, it is also being released tomorrow but it not significantly cheaper than buying the seasons as they came out.

Barnyard: The Original Party Animals - Buy from Amazon
Made by the same team that did Jimmy Neutron, but while there was a similar style, the results were nearly polar opposites. Even so, the kids seemed to like it and it scored some serious box office for a late summer release. The DVD release is good for a first run release with an audio commentary track and several behind-the-scenes featurettes. Worth checking out, but a rental will do for most people. One last note, there was a lot of discussion why some of the cows were male and why these 'male' cows had udders. Some thought this was a mistake by the artists / writers / etc., but the real answer is quite logical: Udders look funny. And who could disagree with that.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Kung Fu Hustle
Just the one this week, not counting the concurrent releases, but at least Kung Fu Hustle is a great movie.

Bugsy - Extended Cut - Buy from Amazon
I don't understand why Warren Beatty doesn't get more work. I guess if I was married to Annette Bening I wouldn't be eager to spend my days away from home making movies either. Bugsy was a big hit with critics and did well enough at the box office, perhaps not well enough to keep the studio completely happy, but enough to show a profit sometime during its home market run. This 2-disc Extended Cut is good with 15 minutes of new footage, and 90-minute making of documentary, two additional deleted scenes, and a screen test. If there were an audio commentary or two, it could have been a DVD Pick of the Week contender. As it is, it is still a solid purchase.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - Buy from Amazon: Four-Disc Extended Edition and Giftset
This film had the unenviable task of trying to follow in the footsteps of Lord of the Rings and become the next fantasy blockbuster winter franchise. And while the film worked for the most part, it is still seen as the poorer cousin by many. To compound matters, this is the second 'special edition' to come out in less than a year, which is simply too short of a time. That said, there are some significant upgrades to be found here (as well as some that are purely marketing).

The movie itself is about seven minutes longer, but those seven minutes are spread out over the whole movie with a few seconds here and a few seconds there. Unless you've studied both versions, you might not even notice the changes. Disc one also has a new intro by the director, which is all of 20 seconds long. He could have at least tried to justify the extensions. Both audio commentary tracks are back, but they fall silent during additional scenes and that hurts the flow.

The second disc is the same as in the first release.

Disc 3 has a feature-length biography on C.S. Lewis called Dreamer of Narnia, which I just could not get in to. I'm not that into the books, so a look at the life of the author is not that intriguing to me, but the target audience for this 4-disc set should be another story.

Disc 4 has the bulk of the new features including a making-of documentary that is roughly the same length as the movie. Easily the best feature on the disc, it goes into a lot of detail of the movie while keeping the viewer entertained. On the down side, there was a bit of overlap between this and the smaller featurettes, but at more than two hours, this is to be expected.

Overall it is a great package, but the time between editions is a little short for my liking. However, if you are going to pick up this double-dip, go all the way and get the Giftset, which also comes with collectible Bookends and a mail-in rebate for owners of the previous edition.

The Dean Martin Double Feature - Buy from Amazon
Two films from Dean Martin's career: Who Was That Lady? and How to Save a Marriage (And Ruin Your Life). Neither rank highly in his filmography while the extras are non-existent.

The Devil Wears Prada - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
One of the biggest surprises of the year at the box office, and the best-reviewed first-run release on this week's list. This film featured amazing performances by Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep as a newcomer into the fashion industry and her devil of a boss. This piece of counter-programming was expected to be a midlevel hit; however, the film managed nearly $125 million domestically and more than $300 million worldwide, making it one of the most profitable hits of the year. The extras, on the other hand, are only average for a first run release with an audio commentary track, 30 minutes of featurettes, 20 minutes of deleted scenes, and 5 minutes of outtakes. That's a good package, but I was hoping for an audio commentary track with Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway and perhaps a little more in-depth peek behind-the-scenes. Even so, it is still a solid buy and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Doors - 15th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
This movie is either a psychedelic trip into the myth of Jim Morrison, or a pretentious and dull excursion into over-excess (both on the part of the subject and the director). Those who enjoyed the film probably already have the previous edition on DVD and there's little reason to upgrade. Sure, the film is now in anamorphic widescreen and those with widescreen TVs might like that improvement, but even there the video quality is not all it should be. I would have to assume that in a year or two when the High Definition Wars are over and there's a winner, this movie will be released again with a better transfer and I would recommend the wait.

The Family Plan - Buy from Amazon
An unoriginal TV movie that is only of note because it stars Abigail Breslin, who played Olive in Little Miss Sunshine. However, that movie doesn't come out until next week.

The Fox and the Hound 2 - Buy from Amazon
Stop me if you've heard this one. A direct-to-DVD sequel to a Disney film that is not as good as the original was. Why yes, they are threatening to lock it in the Disney Vault in a few weeks.

Full House - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
A terrible show that lasted way longer than it should have.

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A spin-off from The Andy Griffith Show, and with that series finishing its run on DVD, there's no better time to start this show's run. The show wasn't as good as The Andy Griffith Show, at least comparing season 1 of both shows. However, if you were to compare season 1 of this show to season 8 of the other, then Gomer Pyle comes out on top. The 5-disc set also has better special features with audio introductions to several episodes, interview and two bonus episodes. Worth picking up.

HD-DVD - Buy from Amazon: Field of Dreams and Hulk
Just the two HD-DVDs this week, not counting the concurrent releases. Field of Dreams is the better movie, but Hulk is more visual.

House of Sand - Buy from Amazon
A beautifully shot and carefully crafted film about three generations of women stuck in a desolated land looking for a way out. On the other hand, it is a tad slow-moving at times. Extras are weak, with just a making-of featurette, but this is common for limited released and shouldn't stop movie fans from checking it out.

James Bond - Ultimate Edition - Volume 3 and Volume 4
Fans of the franchise, even those who bought the previous box sets, will be flooding stores looking to complete their collections. It has been a month since the previous two volumes were released and these last two live up to the high, high standards. The audio and video have been improved from previous releases, the extras a bountiful and top-notch, and would make an excellent gift. In fact, that's the only reason I haven't picked them up already. ... So... If any of my friends and family are reading this, James Bond Ultimate Editions make a great Christmas gift.

Law & Order: Criminal Intent - The Second Year - Buy from Amazon
I prefer the Law & Order franchise to the C.S.I. franchise for a number of reasons, the main one being the variety of the shows. While C.S.I. Miami is practically plagiarized from the original, each of the Law & Order shows adds something new to the mix. For instance, Law & Order: Criminal Intent shows us the crimes being committed from the criminal's point of view instead of just the police hunting them down. Unfortunately, while the shows are very good, the 5-disc set is not, with just some deleted scenes as extras. With the series in syndication and little need for continuity, I can't recommend picking it up.

Loving Annabelle - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a rebellious new girl who starts a relationship with her Catholic private school teacher. The film is 'inspired' by the 1931 German film, Maedchen in Uniform, which is a far superior production. Despite better than expected extras, I'm still waiting for Maedchen in Uniform to make its North American debut on DVD and giving this one the pass.

Masters Of Horror - Fair Haired Child - Buy from Amazon
The final episode from season 1 to be released on DVD (on a side note, season 2 starts to come out in February with Family and Pelts). The film is directed by William Malone, who hasn't had a lot of success in the genre recently. (How many here saw FearDotCom? And how many of those liked it? Thought so.) However, after seeing this episode of the series, many were converted. Add in the usual ton of extras that this series is known for and the DVD an enjoyable tale that is worth picking up.

Material Girls - Buy from Amazon
One of the worst movies of the year and it bombed at the box office. Quite frankly, the film was way too similar to Cow Belles, and that TV movie was better. If Hilary Duff doesn't start picking better projects and soon, she could start seeing her movies go the direct-to-DVD route.

Mozart & The Whale - Buy from Amazon
A romantic comedy about two people with Asperger's Syndrome. It's low key but charming and deserved to find a wider audience than it did. On the other hand, the DVD only has an audio commentary track and for most people a rental will suffice.

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont - Buy from Amazon
A light drama that is high on charm and fans of these type of British movies should have a lovely time. On the other hand, the extras are a little light and a rental will be enough for most people.

Stacked - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
This show only lasted 19 episodes, 5 of which were never aired, but even then it still beat most TV critics' expectations. The special features are not bad for such a short-lived show and fans should be happy, I just can't image there are too many of those.

Talladega Nights - The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - Theatrical Version, Unrated Version, or Unrated Blu-Ray
After a couple of releases that disappointed at the box office, Will Ferrell stormed back with this movie. Not only did it earn nearly $150 million domestically, it also earned impressive reviews. The unrated version is 13 minutes longer, or about 10% of the length of the film. However, most of the additions were wisely cut from the movie and the theatrical version is funnier. On the other hand, the extended edition has more extras including interviews and additional deleted scenes. If you had seen the movie in the theaters, I recommend renting the unrated version so you can tell which version you like it better before buying it.

Will Rogers Collection, Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Four films starring Will Rogers. Not his four best films. In fact, it feels like a whole lot of filler compared to Volume 1.

World Trade Center - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition or 2-Disc Commemorative Edition
The second film to come out this year dealing with the attacks of 9/11. Although this one is the bigger film, United 93 was better. (To be fair, 71% positive is hardly a bad score, just not as strong as the other film earned.) Interestingly enough, there was controversy from the very beginning that Oliver Stone would interject conspiracy theories about the attacks, but in the end that was not an issue. In fact, there were some that complained he didn't give some of the conspiracy theories enough weight in the movie. Sometimes you just can't win. The Single-Disc Edition is excellent. Had it been the only edition of the DVD, I would not have been even a little disappointed. However, the 2-Disc Commemorative Edition is stellar with all of the extras on the first release (two audio commentary tracks, making of featurette, etc.), as well as additional interviews, deleted scenes and more. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. One last note, the 2-Disc edition is also coming out on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD.

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Filed under: Video Releases, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Kung Fu Panda, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Hulk, The Devil Wears Prada, Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, World Trade Center, Material Girls, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, Casa de Areia, Mozart and the Whale, America: Freedom to Fascism