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DVD Releases for August 9, 2005

August 8th, 2005

Every week films get a second chance at success from the home market; or, in some cases, a first chance at success. Here is a list of wide releases, limited releases, classics and a few from the growing TV on DVD section. I do believe last week was the first week that a Foreign Language film was selected as the DVD Pick of the Week, this week it's two in a row as Kung Fu Hustle - Buy from Amazon takes that coveted prize. Also scoring a DVD Pick of the Week rating is The Muppet Show - Season One - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon, which is a must have for fans of Jim Henson's particular brand of genius.

3 Men and a Cradle - Buy from Amazon
The French film which was later remade as 3 Men and a Baby. The latter film is a very faithful reproduction, so much so that the two films earned similar reviews both have contrived stories, both are overly sappy, but overall it works. The special features include an interview, a short clip / interview featurette, and a lullaby baby montage, which is about what one would expect.

Because of Winn-Dixie - Buy from Amazon
One of the better reviewed films released during the first three months of the year. It's sweet, it's sentimental, it's squarely aimed at kids while a great kids movie should be able to entertain adults as well. The special features are good with audio commentary, making of featurette, a featurette on the dog training and outtakes. If you have kids in the right age range, then this DVD is worth picking up. On a side note, with this film and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Annasophia Robb could become one of the premier child actresses around.

Cannon Movie Tales - Buy from Amazon: Beauty and the Beast, Emperor's New Clothes, Hansel and Gretel, Puss in Boots, Rumpelstiltskin, and Snow White
Half-a-dozen Fairytales that were mostly direct-to-video after earlier ones bombed at the box office. They have developed a bit of a cult following but overall the quality is pretty low, however, Puss in Boots might be worth checking out just to see Christopher Walkens singing and dancing.

Columbo - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
8 more episodes of this popular detective show hits DVD featuring one of the most memorable TV detectives ever. The only special feature on the 2-disc set is a bonus episode from the spin-off Mrs. Columbo.

Dallas - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
Never got into this series as soap operas never appealed to me, however, even I will admit that this season ends with one of the greatest cliffhangers of all time. I won't spoil anything, even though almost everyone reading this will already know what happened. As for the 5-disc set, it's not bad with audio commentary on 2 episodes and a documentary look at the cultural phenomenon the show was. Can also be bought with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Dallas 362 - Buy from Amazon
Scott Caan's directorial debut wasn't entirely successful, especially among the cream-of-the-crop critics. It's hard to recommend the film on its own merits, but it could be the first film in a successful career for Scott Caan if he decides to go that road.

The Dead Next Door - Buy from Amazon
An homage to nearly every low-budget / zombie movie ever made and produced by one of the masters. It is director J.R. Bookwalter's best film, which is not saying much. It really isn't a good movie per se, but is best enjoyed as an example of how far lots of ambition and very little budget can get someone who is truly a fan of the genre. The special features, on the other hand, are amazing with a running time almost as long as the movie itself. Audio commentary, interviews, behind the scenes, auditions and more. However, in the end the DVD is only worth it for hardcore fans of zombie movies and is not for the general public.

The Eye 2 - Buy from Amazon
Sequel to The Eye, which is already on DVD, this film is not as good as the original was. In the film Qi Shu stars as Joey Cheng, a woman recovering from a suicide attempt when she starts to see ghosts but the seeing ghosts part is the only real connection to The Eye. On a side note, there is both another sequel and an American remake coming out.

Farscape - Season 2 - Collection 2 - Starburst Edition - Buy from Amazon
Farscape was one of the best sci-fi shows on TV during its run, but the DVD releases were a little light on special features. The Starburst Edition have more special features and are at a much lower price. On the one hand, fans of the show must be very happy to get these new sets, but on the other hand, they must be kicking themselves for shelling out over $100 for the old sets.

Huckleberry Finn - Buy from Amazon
Pan & Scan only = Skip it.

Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte - Buy from Amazon
Director Robert Aldrich follow-up to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, already available on DVD. This film is more subdued, which is not saying much as it is still filled with over-the-top characters and performances. Bette Davis stars as Charlotte Hollis, an aging, reclusive spinster whose home is threatened with demolition to make way for a new highway. She send for her cousin Miriam, played by Olivia de Havilland, to help her stop the developers, but Miriam has plans of her own. Special features include the original promotional material, (teaser trailer, full trailer, TV spots) and a feature-length commentary by film historian Glenn Erickson. Fans of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? should be entertained by this film and for them it's well worth picking up.

John Cleese - Wine for the Confused - Buy from Amazon
As one would expect from a documentary hosted by a Monty Python alum, this shows is an excellent mix of information and humor and should help the novice know their way around the local wine shop. If you saw Sideways and got hooked on wine, this is a great place to go for more information, as a matter of fact, the 90 minute show includes a look at the wineries shown in that movie. Special features include extended interviews, additional tips and a more.

Kung Fu Hustle - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan or UMD Mini for PSP
The best-reviewed new release this week, Kung Fu Hustle was criminally ignored by movie goers when it went wide. On the plus side, looking at its sales rank quite possible every person who saw it opening weekend is picking up the DVD on Tuesday. Special features are excellent with feature-length audio commentary, (in Cantonese with English subtitles) extensive behind the scenes special, half-hour long interview with Stephen Chow, outtakes, deleted scenes and more. A word of warning, this is the North American theatrical cut and not the original version of the film. This means some of the blood was removed as well as some other cuts. I would have preferred to at least have the option to watch either version, either in one set or sold separately, and while I really dislike it when Hollywood makes changes to foreign films, it won't stop me from picking up the DVD.

Look at Me - Buy from Amazon
A story of a dysfunctional relationship between a father and a daughter. He is a successful author who treats everyone around him poorly, but doesn't have to pay the consequences because of his fame. The movie is filled with characters that are fundamentally unlikable, but the film works so well that in the end the viewer is still drawn in. The special features are better than most limited releases with a making of featurette and deleted scenes.

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit - Buy from Amazon
Gregory Peck stars as Tom Rath, a man trying to find the American dream without losing his conscience in the meantime. He doesn't want to sacrifice his time with his family just to be stuck playing office politics, but his wife wants him to be more aggressive and make something of his life. A stellar film with an amazing DVD release for a film that's just shy of 50 years old. Special features include audio commentary, newsreel footage of the premiere, restoration comparisons and trailers.

McCloud - Seasons 1 and 2 - Buy from Amazon
Part of the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie lineup along with Columbo and McMillan & Wife. While Columbo was easily the most popular show to come out of the Mystery Movie series, McCloud did have its moments. Season one has 6 hour long episodes, while season 2 the second season had 7 90-minute long episodes and the only special feature is an episode from McMillan and Wife, which is also being released tomorrow.

McMillan & Wife - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Part of the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie lineup along with Columbo and McCloud. While Columbo was easily the most popular show to come out of the Mystery Movie series, McMillan & Wife did have its moments. The first season had the 2-hour long pilot movie and the 7 90-minute long episodes but unfortunately, the 2-disc set has no special features.

Memories of Murder - Buy from Amazon
This film was just in theatres; in fact, it could still be playing in its lone theatre. The film is set South Korea in the 1980s and deals with the country's first serial killer, but without DNA and other forensic tools the only methods to two cops investigating the crime have is interviewing suspects, lots and lots of suspects. This is a fantastic film and the DVD release is a cut above most limited releases as well with audio commentary, interviews, deleted scenes, original trailer and more.

Merci! Docteur Rey! - Buy from Amazon
Out of all the films on this week's list, this one earned the worst reviews at 0% positive, this is quite a surprise since Merchant Ivory films are renowned for their high quality. The script is weak, the directing is poor and the cast tries too hard to salvage the failed French farce.

The Muppet Show - Season One - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
They've been selling 'Best of' sets for this show for years now, 15 volumes in fact. However, this is the first full-season set and long time readers now what I think about 'Best-of' vs. Full-Season sets. I grew up on The Muppets and for many this 4-disc set might be worth picking up just for the nostalgia alone. Fortunately, it's still a good show, witty, imaginative, bizarre, and just plain entertaining. Special features are strong for a show that's nearly 30 years old, the original pilot is here, as is the pitch pilot, promos and pop-up trivia. While the main characters have been seen in the various movies, I can't wait to get reacquainted with the oddball supporting cast, the Swedish Chef, Dr. Honeydew and Beaker, that guy with the boomerang fish, and many more. One last note, The Muppets' Wizard of Oz is also coming out tomorrow but it is not nearly as good as other Muppet Movies. And even with plenty of special features for a TV movie, it's only marginally entertaining.

Naked Gun - Buy from Amazon
A perfect example of the law of diminishing returns. The first movie was brilliant, an instant classic; the second movie wasn't as good, but was still very funny; and while the last movie wasn't terrible it certainly didn't live up to the standards set by the first two. Even so, the box set is cheap enough that it's worth picking up for the first two films alone.

Oh, Heavenly Dog! - Buy from Amazon
Chevy Chase stars as Browning, a private eye who was killed off only to be reincarnated as a dog. Yep, it is as bad as it sounds.

Off the Map - Buy from Amazon
The film was made in 2003 but wasn't released till 2005 due mostly to its uncommercial nature. The movie's pace, which can either be described as leisurely or glacial, mitigated some of the praise the performances earned, especially from the ever dependable Joan Allen and the surprising newcomer, Valentina de Angelis. Special features are great for such a limited release with an audio commentary track, documentary featurette, and an episode of the Sundnace Channel series, Anatomy of a Scene. However, with such a meandering pace it's best to rent it first, but quite a few people who try the film will end up liking it enough to purchase it.

Profit - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Profit was a dark show, very dark, with a lead character that was as far from a hero as you would see on TV in 1996. And that's the reason the show didn't last on network TV. Had it aired now on Showtime or HBO it probably would have earned a long run. The 2-disc set includes all 8 episodes, including the 2-hour pilot, including the four unaired episodes. Other features include audio commentaries on four episodes, an hour-long documentary called "Greed Kills" and an Easter Egg worth hunting down. This show was ahead of its time, but at least fans can get the complete series on a well-produced set.

Roswell - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
The third and final season of the short-lived series, it's not as good as the first two seasons. The show had moved from the WB to UPN, and like Buffy, which made the same move in the same year, it's quality seemed to take a large hit. This is the shortest season at just 18 episodes, and the 5-disc set also has the fewest special features with audio commentary on 4 episodes and two featurettes. Still, if you were happy with the previous releases then there's little reason not to complete the set.

T.J.Hooker - The Complete First and Second Seasons - Buy from Amazon
William Shatner stars as T.J.Hooker in all his over emphasized glory. Even fans of the show will admit there's a simple campy feel. The first season of this cop show only ran for five episodes, so it was smart of the producers to lump seasons one and two together. Unfortunately, the 27 episodes, (and their promos) are all you'll get as there are no real special features.

Thundercats - Season One - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
A classic cartoon from the 80s and one that has developed a cult following. Normally I don't buy TV on DVD unless its full-season sets, however, the first season of Thundercats was 65 episodes long, so dividing it up into two volumes in understandable. And given the age of the show, it is also understandable that there is only one special feature, a interview featurette featuring fans of the show including Wil Wheaton.

Tom Sawyer - Buy from Amazon
Skip it. Even ignoring the changes made to the book, this DVD is Pan & Scan only. I don't know why studios would put out a pan & scan version only.


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Filed under: Video Releases, Because of Winn-Dixie, Kung Fu Hustle, Comme une image, Off the Map, Dallas 362, Merci Docteur Rey, Memories of Murder