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DVD Releases for August 23, 2005

August 29th, 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. It's another week without a single first-run release worth picking up. There are half-a-dozen Special Edition and TV on DVD releases that are good, but none of them really stand out as worthy of being a DVD Pick of the Week. If I were to pick just one release from each category as the best, it would be House, M.D. - Season One - Buy from Amazon from the TV on DVD section and from the Special Edition sections I'd go with The Blues Brothers - 25th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon.

Almost Heroes - Bur from Amazon
The first of two Chris Farley films hitting the home market this week and this one is definitely the weaker of the two, in fact, it's arguably the weakest of his career. Add in no real special features and this DVD is best ignored by all but the more hardcore Chris Farley fan.

As Time Goes By - Complete Series 8 & 9 - Buy from Amazon
A charming and understated British comedy finished its run on British TV just a few years ago, but I imagine fans were desperate to get the final shows on DVD ever since then. The show stars Dame Judi Dench and Sir Geoffrey Palmer as two lovers who lost touch with each other because of a lost letter and who are reunited some 40 years later by equally accidental reasons. The DVD release for the final seasons is a little light on special features, but fans of the series should be more than willing to pick the set up. Those who haven't purchased the previous releases can pick all nine seasons, plus the series ending special, in a Complete Series Set.

The Blues Brothers - 25th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
There have been a lot of movies made based on Saturdat Night Live skits and most of them have been utter crap. Just garbage. However, The Blues Brothers is one of the good ones, arguably the best such film. Compared to the previous release, this release has the both the theatrical version of the film and the extended version, the old making of featurette, which ran nearly an hour, plus half as much in new special features like intro, concert footage, and more interviews. It's easy worth the upgrade, but not quite enough new to be chosen as a DVD Pick of the Week. On a related note, there is a full review and a contest coming soon.

Chef! - The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
One of the best Britcoms of the 90s, Chef! starred Lenny Henry as Gareth Blackstock, a brilliant and foul-tempered chef at the prestigious Le Chateau Anglais. The first two seasons were absolutely flawless, and while season three wasn't as strong it was still one of the best shows on the air. The special features are a little light with just a couple of interviews and Lenny Henry's appearance on an actual food program. Still, it is worth picking up, but just missing earning a coveted DVD Pick of the Week.

Chrystal - Buy from Amazon
This film is obviously one for the art house circuit only as it earned mixed reviews overall but 100% positive from the cream-of-the-crop. The average moviegoer was obviously not impressed as the film really struggled at the box office. And in zero special features and the disc is best left on the shelf.

Clueless - "Whatever!" Edition - Buy from Amazon
Probably the most unusual adaptation of a Jane Austen novel ever made and while a modern re-telling of Emma set in a South California High School may seem like a dumb idea, it works. Heck, it more than works, it's one of the best comedies to come out that year. The previous release came out way back in 1999 and was a featureless disc. This version has a lot of special features in the form of seven featurettes with a combined running time of more than an hour. The longest of these is a retrospective with new and old interviews with most of the cast, (although Alicia Silverstone is missing) and clocks in at nearly 20 minutes. I would have liked an audio commentary or two, but the DVD is still worth the upgrade.

Combat - Season 5 - Invasion 1 and Invasion 2
This is the final season of the first TV show to take a realistic look at World War Two, again split up into two sets. Fans of the series will certainly want to pick up the final season, especially since the special features are a notch up from some of the earlier releases.

The Complete Ripping Yarns - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Created by Monty Python alumni, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. The shows are only slightly less nonsensical than Monty Python's Flying Circus, but they still have that British craziness about them. All nine episodes are on this 2-disc set, which also includes audio commentaries for every episode, a short look at Michael Palin's early life and the option to turn off the laugh-track.

Corvette Summer - Buy from Amazon
Only noteworthy because it was Mark Hamill's first film after Star Wars. Seriously, it's a bad movie and without any real special features it's best left on the shelf.

Curb Your Enthusiasm - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
This is a good show, perhaps not as funny as the earlier seasons, but still very funny. Unfortunately the DVD release is subpar without any real special features. What's strange is the second season also had no special features, while the other seasons did. Assuming this next season isn't the last, we'll see if this pattern continues when season six hits the home market in August of 2007. Can also be purchased with the first three seasons as part of a package deal.

Death of a Dynasty - Buy from Amazon
A thoroughly mediocre movie that is only really entertaining for all the gratuitous cameos. The DVD release is about average for a limited release, but doesn't even push the film to the rental level.

Fire and Ice - 2-Disc Limited Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is the animated film by the grounding animator Ralph Bakshi and the fantasy artist Frank Frazetta and not the live-action film about ice skating by the same name. The animation itself is excellent due to the rotoscoping technique used, but the story is full of cliches and the dialogue is downright embarrassing at times. (Also, while the animation is very fluid, the drawings are not top notch due budget constraints.) Special features include audio commentary, marking of, interviews, on set diary, and full-length documentary, (which has its own audio commentary.) The 2-disc set is expensive, but worth it for fans of adult oriented animation. One last note, there are mix reports whether there's a single disc edition or not, regardless, it's the Limited Edition version that fans should get.

Funny Blokes of British Comedy - Buy from Amazon
This 75-minute film profiles four famous characters of British SitComs and the actors who played them. It's a good show, but not as good as The Funny Ladies of British Comedy.

Garfield and Friends - Volume Four - Buy from Amazon
With so many kids shows coming out on Best of sets, it's nice to have full season sets like this. It would be nicer if they had any special features, but the real fans of the show should still be happy.

The Gumball Rally - Buy from Amazon
The ultimate street racing movie, which is not to say it's good, cause it's not, but it is entertaining. I don't know if the movie deserves a special edition release, but it deserves at lease some special features. Without any, it's a just rental.

The Heist - Buy from Amazon
This TV movie has Pierce Brosnan doing what he does best, playing a James Bond like character. In this case he's a man that was falsely sent to jail only to seek revenge in the form of an elaborate heist. It's a pretty good movie, but the DVD lacks any special features.

Highway to Heaven - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
This show isn't bad, but it does have the tendency to be overly melodramatic and preachy. Also, like the first season, this 6-disc set is light on special features with just a single audio commentary track.

Hero at Large - Buy from Amazon
An early John Ritter film. He stars as Steve Nichols, a out of work actor who gets mistaken for a Super Hero after he stop a robbery while he dressed up as Captain Avenger for a job. It's a fluffy, but mildly enjoyable film but without any real special features it's a rental, at best.

House, M.D. - Season One - Buy from Amazon
I'm going to spoil the series opener of this series, in fact, I'm going to spoil every episode of this series. Dr. Gregory House gets a really tough case, the first course of treatment causing the patient to get worse, he is then forced to put in some hours in the free clinic, a patient he sees there gives him some insight into how to treat his tough case, everyone lives happily ever after. Pretty much every episode follows that formula, which should make this show incredible repetitive and dull, however, Hugh Laurie is such an incredible actor that he makes it work. I do have a couple of complaints about the DVD release, firstly, I hate double-sided discs, I'd much rather pay a few extra dollars and get six discs instead. Secondly, the DVD is done in Widescreen, not Anamorphic Widescreen and while I don't have a Widescreen TV myself, this is a big flaw for those who shelled out the extra bucks for a better TV. Lastly, the special features are a little light with just a few, short, featurettes that total less than half an hour. Had there been a few audio commentaries this would have been a DVD Pick of the Week, but as it is it just misses out, but it's still worth picking up.

Jane Fonda Collection - Klute, The Morning After, and Rollover
With Monster-In-Law coming out tomorrow, the studio is trying to take advantage of Jane Fonda's newfound popularity by releases three of her older films. Klute's the best of the bunch, and The Morning After has its moments while Rollover is best avoided.

Kontroll - Buy from Amazon
A Hungarian film that won numerous awards in its native land and film festivals around the world, and it's easy to see why. It's even more impressive because its director, Nimrod Antal's first film. The film is worth checking out, but the DVD release was poorly done, video quality is poor, audio is worse, and like many DVDs for limited releases, there are no special features. Give it a rental.

The Librarian: Quest for the Spear - Buy from Amazon
With a name like this, this film better be a comedy. It's actually an action / comedy film with s decidedly B-Movie feel. Noah Wyle plays a librarian who's out to save the world, "That's so sad." It's a bit of campy fun and the special features are better than most TV movies.

Lilo & Stitch 2 - Stitch has a Glitch - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD sequel to the last 2D animated films to hit $100 million at the box office. The quality is about what you'd expect for a Direct-to-DVD release and the special features are sub-par, so unless you have kids that are really, really big fans of the original, skip it.

Married... With Children - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
It's time for good news, bad new! Good news, this is arguably the best season of this long running series. Bad new, the DVD release is kind of pouched. Because of the licensing problems with the theme song and some missing audio tracks, the studio had to use the syndicated versions of several of the episodes on this set. Further proof that when making a TV you should always get the DVD rights to the music you use before the show even airs. Anyhoo, there are several classics episodes this series including the two-parters, "It's a Bunduful Life" and "You Gotta Know When to Fold `Em." So even with the problems with some of the episodes and the lack of special features, this is still a set that is worth picking up. Without these problems the set would have been a DVD Pick of the Week for sure.

McLibel - Buy from Amazon
The story of the longest libel lawsuit in British history, as we as one of the largest PR blunders of all time. The whole mess started when two activists, Helen Steel and Dave Morris, handed out fliers outlining some complaints against McDonalds so the corporation sued the pair in the British courts, which are notorious for favoring corporations in such situation. They obviously expected the two individuals to quickly settle rather than fight it out, but seven years later they prevailed and changed the laws there. An excellent movie being released on an equally great DVD. Not only does the disc have both versions of the film, but special features include extended interviews, audio commentaries, rehearsals, and plenty of text based features. Fans of David and Goliath stories or those who fight for more corporate responsibility should really enjoy this documentary.

The Mind of the Married Man - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
When this show was first coming out, the studio tried to hype it by calling it Sex and the City for men. But there was already a series like that and it was called Manchild. The Mind of the Married Man never really gelled with the audience and only lasted two seasons. This 2-disc set contains all 10 episodes from the first season with audio commentary tracks on two of them as well as deleted scenes.

Monster-In-Law - Buy from Amazon
This film earned much weaker than expected reviews, but still went on to earn more at the box office than most people expected. The DVD release is also better than expected with an audio commentary track, half-a-dozen featurettes, deleted scenes, outtakes and more. This is a good release, I can't argue against that; however, the movie is just so bad that it can't rise above the rental level.

Monty Python's Flying Circus - Personal Best Series - Buy from Amazon: Eric Idle and Michael Palin
When it comes to TV on DVD almost always I say give me full season sets or give me nothing, and since the Complete Series Megaset has already been released there's little reason to settle for Best of sets.

Nip/Tuck - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
I just can't get into this series, I find it too melodramatic and the lead characters are completely unsympathetic. No, they go beyond unsympathetic to the point where I actively cheer against them. Also, the sex is poorly handled; now I'm no puritan, far from it, I enjoy a realistic portrayal of sex when it enhances the drama. But when it replaces the drama I have a problem. Special features include about 40 minutes of deleted scenes and a short featurette of the relationships one of the characters had over the course of the season. Can also be purchased with the first season as part of a package deal.

Ong-Bak - The Thai Warrior - Buy from Amazon
This film has some amazing action scenes, reasonable acting, and a paper-thin plot. And depending on how much you love Martial Arts movies, that might be enough. The film plus the extras, (live performances, behind the scenes, music videos) are enough to rate an rental for most people. And if you are like me and own Bloodsport on DVD, then this is definitely worth picking up.

Pirates of Silicon Valley - Buy from Amazon
A 'dramatized' look at the rivalry between Microsoft and Apple. And by dramatized I mean they made some stuff up. It's still interesting at times, but those looking for historical accuracy will be disappointed, as will anyone looking for some real special features.

Pretty Woman - 15th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
The film that made Julia Roberts a star. It's good film, well, good for a romantic comedy that is, which means most people will be able to predict practically every major plot point well before they happen. The film has already had a 10th Anniversary Edition, and a regular release before that. And while there are a more special features than previous releases, they are merely on par with the average first-run release and not up to the standards of the Special Edition. Is it worth the upgrade, I'm leaning towards no, but it might be for the more enthusiastic fans of the movie.

Quick Change - Buy from Amazon
One of Bill Murray's most under-appreciated films; when it first came out it was all but ignored by moviegoers. But it is one of his best films and deserves a second life on the home market. However, since it had to wait 15 years to get its chance most people will have forgotten about this film. And the lack of special features further reduces the film's chances. Even without any extras, the DVD is worth renting and I bet quite a few people who do give this film a chance will like it enough to buy it.

Roseanne - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Warning! These are the syndicated episodes and not the shows as they were originally broadcast. The studio is working on the problem and it's best to wait till they've come up with a solution. On a side note, this is happening a lot recently, especially with shows by Carsey-Werner and before buying any older show that was released in syndication it is important to make sure you are getting the full episodes. If not, complain to the studios and tell them why you didn't pick up the DVD releases.

Sahara - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan, or UMD Mini for PSP
This is a movie that cost way too much for the time of the year it was released and it had almost no chance to show a profit. However, for a film that struggled at the box office and with the critics, it certainly has a good DVD release. Special features include not one but two audio commentaries, two making of featurettes, outtakes and more. However, this is barely enough to lift the film to a rental level as the film is just so ridiculous.

The Saint - The Early Episodes - Set 2 - Buy from Amazon
All 27 episodes from the second season are on this 4-disc set. Like the first season, there's little here in the way of special features, but that's not surprising given the age of the show.

Schultze Gets the Blues - Buy from Amazon
A film that has been aptly described as offbeat and quirky. It's an excellent movie, especially considering it is writer / director Michael Schorr's first film, but it didn't get off to a fast start at the box office and even with very strong legs, made just under $600,000 domestically. The DVD release is on par with most limited releases and includes just an audio commentary track, but that is enough to ensure it will have a much stronger run on the home market.

Shirley Temple Collection - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Three movies from the most famous child star of all time. Each disc includes the original Black & White versions, as well as the Colorized version, but have no special features. The three movies, Curly Top, Heidi, and Little Miss Broadway, can also be purchased separately, but the box set is the much better deal.

Tommy Boy - Holy Schnike Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is the first starring role for Chris Farley and it is easily the best of the four he made before his death, but that's not saying much. There are way too many cliches, way too many missed opportunities for real humor, and too much is just plain dumb for the film to work. On the other hand, the DVD is amazing and the 2-disc set is packed with special features. Disc one has just an audio commentary Peter Segal, but disc two has four featurettes, deleted/extended/alternate scenes, storyboard comparisons, and more, with a total running time that is longer than the movie itself. It's a great package for fans of the movie, I just happened to not be one of them.

Walk on Water - Buy from Amazon
This film earned reasonable reviews and had a strong theatrical run, especially for a foreign language film. The DVD should have an even better run on the home market making the studio very happy.

Wise Guys - Buy from Amazon
Early in his career Brian De Palma was golden; everything he touched was a masterpiece. Then came Wise Guys. Wise Guys was the first Brian De Palma film to flop with the critics and while he quickly returned to form with The Untouchable, he's been hit and miss ever since. Making matter worse, the DVD release has no real special features reducing it to a curio for De Palma fanatics.


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Filed under: Video Releases, Monster-in-Law, Sahara, Ong-Bak, Walk on Water, Schultze Gets the Blues, Kontroll, Chrystal, Death of a Dynasty, McLibel