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DVD Releases for October 11, 2005

October 10th, 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. This week there are four first-run releases, but not one is worthy of being the DVD Pick of the Week, so again it is the TV on DVD category comes to the rescue. Arrested Development - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon is the best bet this week but Veronica Mars - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon is also well worth picking up.

11:14 - Buy from Amazon
This film was made in 2003, did the festival circuit for a while and earned excellent reviews. What it didn't earn was a real theatrical release. But at least now people will have a chance to see the film, as it is being released on (a better than expected) DVD with audio commentary, deleted scenes, 10-minute long making of featurette, and more. Definitely worth checking out.

Arrested Development - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
One of the greatest sitcoms on TV today, and sadly one of the least watched. It's a little too out there for the average TV viewer, but those that are willing to give the show a shot will be rewarded. Season 2 earned 11 Emmy nominations, winning 1, and it's easy to see why, with amazing writing and a nearly perfect cast. The 3-disc set contains all 18 episodes with audio commentary tracks on three of them, deleted & extended scenes, outtakes, a 3-minute recap of season one and more. If you own Season 1 there is no reason not to pick up this set. If you don't, pick them both up.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Buy from Amazon
Amazing cast, awful reviews, zero special features. It all adds up to a DVD that is best passed over.

Ellen DeGeneres - Beginning / Here & Now - Buy from Amazon
Two concerts with Ellen DeGeneres doing her stand-up act. Neither of these concerts here are her best work, and they have both been previously released on DVD. Skip it.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Season 1 didn't sell as well as I would have expected, which might explain why season 2 doesn't have any special features. As for the show itself, its budget was increased, meaning the sets were redone and looked much bigger, the story lines and some of the characters became a little more cartoonish, but it still had a fun vibe to it. Without any special features, there's not enough here to recommend buying the set vs. catching the episodes in syndication. Can also be purchased with season one as a package deal.

Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst - Buy from Amazon
A documenary looking at one of the most sensational events of the mid-70s, the kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst by the domestic terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army. The film does a very good job at telling the compelling story without sensationalizing it further. Special features include audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and more.

High Tension - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen & Unrated, Pan & Scan, UMD Mini
I had high hopes for this movie when the buzz from Sundance was very strong for this type of film. But the reviews were weaker than expected, and the film barely made a dent at the box office. There were three main problems. First, the surprise twist left many people feeling cheated. Second, the dubbing into English was less than successful. And finally, the film was cut from NC-17 down to an R-Rating. And while there's nothing they could do about the ending, the Unrated version fixes the other two problems. Adding to the disc's value are all the special features including a full-length audio commentary track, a scene specific audio commentary track, a couple of making off featurettes, and one more on the make-up. Had they simply releases the theatrical version I would have said it was a rental, but with the excellent work on the DVD, this is easily worth picking up for fans of the genre. However, it is too intense to win over new converts.

Hondo - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
A John Wayne film that has been out of circulation for years. Hondo is one of his better films but also one of his lesser known films. Special features include audio commentary, making of featurette, and more; it's not much compared to first-run releases, but quite good for a film that's 50 years old.

The Jeffersons - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
If you've been buying the sets from this series then you know what to expect in terms of the show and the total lack of special features. Without any special features you have to be a pretty hardcore fan to buy the set, but I'm sure there's plenty of those out there.

Kicking & Screaming - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen & Pan & Scan
The film failed to meet expectations at the box office, and there are a few reasons why. First, its reviews were sub-par, but it is also important to take into account the general lack of interest in soccer domestically. However, the biggest concern is the overexposure of Will Ferrell, who has been in four films this year alone. Special features are weak for a first-run release with just a making-of featurette, interviews, deleted scenes and outtakes. It all adds up to a rental at best.

King Kong: King of Atlantis - Buy from Amazon
I expect a lot of King Kong-related releases to come up between now and December when the latest version hits theatres. Most of these releases are forgettable and should be ignored, this one included.

Kingdom of Heaven - Buy from Amazon - Widescreen, Pan & Scan, or UMD Mini
Kingdom of Heaven's disastrous opening was proof that the drop-off at the box office this year was something major and couldn't be explained simply by the lack of The Passion of the Christ. Even with reviews that were mediocre at best, the film shouldn't have done this poorly at the box office and will probably do quite well on the home market. Helping its cause are the special features that include a text commentary track, two made-for-TV specials, and four behind-the-scenes featurettes.

McLintock! - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Of the two John Wayne movies coming out tomorrow, this one is much more well known, but also much weaker. Special features include an audio commentary track, 40-minute documentary, a look at filming realistic fight scenes, a history on the corset, and more. Again, very good considering the age of the film.

Me and You and Everyone We Know - Buy from Amazon
The directorial debut of performance artist Miranda July. The film also had the distinction of being the first film to play at the IFC Center in New York. The film performed very well at the box office, but the DVD is being released with almost no special features (just some deleted scenes), and that pushes its value to just the rental level.

Project Grizzly - Buy from Amazon
Sometimes inspiration comes when you least expect it, like when you are walking in the woods and a Grizzly Bear attacks you. That's exactly what happened to Troy Hurtubise. As a result he decided to build a bear-proof suit so you could go face-to-face with the next bear and win. There are two ways to watch this movie, one way is as a serious documenary on how people handle a near death experience and the obsession it can create. The other way is to simply have fun watching the guy get shot with arrows, hit by a truck, etc. as he tests his latest prototype. I'm going to assume it is the latter reason that is driving sales. Those who do buy the DVD will be rewarded with two audio commentaries, deleted scenes and a booklet. Worth checking into.

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
One of the best reviewed wide releases of the year, the film performed up to expectations, and a little bit more. The special features are average, with some behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, video commentary of select scenes and the full 'Suckumentary' that Amber Tamblyn's character shoots in the movie. You are either part of the target demographic and you will want to buy this DVD, or you are not and it isn't worth a rental.

Soap - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
The fourth and final season of this funny and edgy series hits the home market. If you own the previous releases, then there's little reason not to pick this one up; granted, it is the weakest of the four seasons and, had the show been renewed, the chances are season five would have really gone downhill. However, a few special features would have increased the value of the 3-disc set, making it worth picking up for more casual fans.

South Park - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
Not quite as good as Season 5, but still filled with some classic moments, including the episode, "The Simpsons Already Did It." Each episode includes an intro by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, which is fun, but I'd rather have full-length audio commentary tracks.

Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital - Post Mortem - Buy from Amazon
The full mini-series has already been released, so there's no reason to pick up this DVD, since the full set is cheaper and has more special features.

Unborn But Forgotten - Buy from Amazon
Basically a combination of FearDotCom and The Ring and it's as mediocre as that sounds.

Undead - Buy from Amazon
The Zombie genre is overflowing with films and it is getting increasingly difficult to approach the subject with fresh eyes. And while Undead succeeds in some respects, it doesn't do enough to earn an overall positive review. Still, it has enough that fans of the genre will find something to enjoy. (Although that is also one of the film's flaws, there's simply too much going on and the film isn't focused enough.) Special features on the disc are amazing for such a limited release, with two audio commentary tracks, deleted and extended scenes, interviews, making of, behind-the-scenes, and more. In total the running time is almost as long as the film itself and makes the DVD worth picking up for hardcore fans of the genre and well worth renting for the more causal fans out there.

Unleashed - Buy from Amazon: Unrated Widescreen, R-Rated Widescreen, or R-Rated Pan & Scan
This is the film's last chance to make a profit. It struggled domestically and did no better on the international scene, even in its home market of France and the U.K.. The reason the film has struggled is simple: it is a strange combination of brutal fight scenes and a touching story about redemption, and those genres don't mix well. The film is well done and deserves an audience, but I recommend renting the R-Rated version if you are at all squeamish (and even then some of the fight scenes will be too much). On the other hand, if you have a high tolerance for seeing bones breaking, and worse, the Unrated version is for you. Special features are light enough (with just a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes, interviews and music videos) that I can't recommend buying either version.

Veronica Mars - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
I missed this show when it started, but that's not surprising since I don't watch a single show on UPN. When I did catch a few episodes in repeats, I really enjoyed the show more than I thought I would. I especially enjoyed Kristen Bell's portrayal of a high school student despite the obvious handicap of being 24 years old. Then again, I knew someone who was 24 years old and still in high school. When this set was first announced, the studio said they had two choices: rush out a featureless set before the start of the new season or wait until Christmas and release a feature laden set. They decided on the worst of both options, releasing the set a few weeks late with only a little more than 20 minutes of deleted scenes. I'm still planning on picking it up, and I recommend others do as well, but without more special features is doesn't rate as a DVD Pick of the Week.

Z Channel - A Magnificent Obsession - Buy from Amazon
An amazing documenary look at Jerry Harvey, the programming chief of Z Channel, which was one of the first pay cable stations in the US. Under Jerry Harvey's guidance, Z Channel became the premiere place to find films that didn't quite fit anywhere else; in a world of specialty channels it is hard to imagine a station that would play everything. The 2-disc set has plenty of special features and is a must have for serious cinephiles, even if they just use the film as inspiration when choosing the next films for movie night.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Kicking and Screaming, Kingdom of Heaven, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Danny the Dog, Me and You and Everyone We Know, High Tension, Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Undead, 11:14