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DVD Releases for October 18, 2005

October 17th, 2005

Every week, films get a second chance at success on the home market; or, in some cases, a first chance at success. This week is deceptively weak for releases; while there are plenty of DVDs coming out tomorrow, many of them are re-releases, double-dips and the like. The best of the bunch is Lifeboat - Special Edition, with Batman Begins - Buy from Amazon close behind.

Adventures of Superman - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
All 26 episodes of the first season of the 1950s version of Superman hits the home market in a 5-disc set, including the theatrical film, Superman and the Mole Men. I'm a little surprised this is being release as one set, since the later seasons were 13 episodes a piece and it wouldn't have been too strange to keep all the sets the same size. Special features are very good for a show that's more than 50 years old, and just below par for the average recent release.

Al Pacino Collection Box Set - Buy from Amazon
Three movies directed and starring Al Pacino. The Local Stigmatic is just under an hour, is based on a play and is made to look like a play. Looking for Richard is the only film in the set that had a theatrical release and it is also based on a play, namely Richard III by William Shakespeare. Lastly, there's Chinese Coffee, another film based on a play, and while it played a film festival or two, it has never been widely distributed until now. The set also includes a bonus DVD full of special features and is worth picking up for most Al Pacino fans.

American Movie Musicals Collection - Buy from Amazon
Three musicals, Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls and West Side Story, all in one box set. The price is right, but all three movies are double-dips.

Atomic Betty - Buy from Amazon: Volume 1: Betty, Set, Go! and Volume 2: Betty to the Rescue!
A Canadian cartoon about Atomic Betty, a pre-teen who lives a double life as a Guardian of the Galaxy. A fun show that has earned some comparisons to The Powerpuff Girls. I prefer full season sets, but most kids shows are not released like that, but this show can also be purchased in the 2-Volume Set.

Author! Author! - Buy from Amazon
Some sources have this film being released on DVD tomorrow, Amazon has is coming out on January 1, 2010. I think the other sources are more accurate in this case. For an Al Pacino film, this is lighthearted fare and is certainly not one of his better films. I can't rate it any better than a rental.

Batman Bonanza!
Nearly every movie even remotely related to Batman is being released on DVD tomorrow starting with...

Batman Begins - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan, or Two-Disc Deluxe Edition
One of the best reviewed wide releases of the year, Batman Begins was also one of the biggest hits, crossing $200 million domestically. (Although it fared slightly worse on the international scene earning just shy of $167 million.) The DVD release comes in two flavors, Regular and Delux, and it is the latter that is the better deal. The Regular Edition has terrible special features and isn't worth the price. On the other hand, the Two-Disc Deluxe Edition has tons of special features with a total length of more than an hour an a half including featurettes on various subjects like the making of, the comic book origins, and that ugly, ugly car. Also included in the Deluxe Set is a booklet with the three comics that served as inspiration for the film. What it doesn't have is an audio commentary track, which is a shame, because if it did it would have easily been the DVD Pick of the Week.

Batman - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
The first, and I think the best of the series of Batman films that were made from 1989 to 1997 (but it's not quite as good as Batman Begins). The Two-Disc Special Edition is a huge step up from the previous edition with audio commentary, behind-the-scenes, the evolution of Batman as a comic book character, music videos and more. Taking into account the age of the film and the Special Edition label, it's a good release and possibly the only release of the group worth picking up.

Batman Returns - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
This film's reviews are on par with both Batman and Batman Begins, but I don't think this film is anywhere near that caliber. The special features on the set are on par with Batman - Two-Disc Special Edition, but the movie is weak enough to reduce the value of the DVD below the purchase level, at least it is for me.

Batman Forever - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is where the Batman franchise took a huge turn for the worse. It's not that Val Kilmer was a bad Batman -- far from it -- but Joel Schumacher is nowhere near as good a director as Tim Burton and the villains were lame. The special features are good, but, even so, the film isn't worth picking up.

Batman & Robin - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
So bad it makes Batman Forever look like Batman Begins. Special features are good, but that hardly matters.

Batman - The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997 - Buy from Amazon
All four movies from the Batman circa 1989 - 1997 franchise. Pricewise, it's like buying three and getting one free, but since only two of the films are worth owning it is not worth picking up unless you are a hardcore Batman fan.

Batman - The Complete 1943 Movie Serial Collection - Buy from Amazon
All 15 episodes of the movie serial collected onto a 2-disc set. This movie was very influential on the comic book, including introducing the Batcave and completely changing the look of Alfred the Butler. There are no special features on the two discs, but the film itself is better than the 1949 Movie Serial Collection, which was released earlier in the year.

Batman Vs Dracula - Buy from Amazon
An animated tale with Batman facing off against fellow creature of the night, Dracula. The movie is below average, even for the series it's based on, but the special features almost compensate. I'd rate it as a rental.

Bat Thumb - Buy from Amazon
This isn't actually being released tomorrow, but it's such a fun parody that I just had to mention it.

The Big Lebowski - Buy from Amazon: Collector's Edition - Widescreen, Collector's Edition - Pan & Scan, or Achiever's Edition
The Coen brothers have made a lot of great films, but they have rarely met with commercial success. This film is no different, as it earned stellar reviews but struggled at the box office, partially because of its low theatre count. However, like most of the rest of their earlier films, it has become a cult classic. The latest DVD release isn't that much better than the previous release, so it's not worth the upgrade unless you are a hardcore Coen fan. The Achiever's Edition has a lot of non-DVD extras (for instance, there's a commemorative bowling towel) but I'm not sure it's worth the price tag.

Blood of Beasts - Buy from Amazon
One look at the cover and it's would be easy to assume the film is a mix between Lord of the Rings and King Arthur, but it's more like Beauty and the Beast. A really, really bad version on Beauty and the Beast. Add in zero special features and the DVD is entirely skippable.

Bruce Lee - Ultimate Collection - Buy from Amazon
Five films from Bruce Lee's tragically short career in one box set; however, his most famous film, Enter the Dragon is not included. The five films included are The Big Boss, (a.k.a. Fists of Fury, a.k.a. Fists of Glory); Fist of Fury, (a.k.a. School for Chivalry, a.k.a. The Chinese Connection, a.k.a. The Iron Hand); Way of the Dragon, (a.k.a. Fury of the Dragon, a.k.a. Return of the Dragon, a.k.a. Revenge of the Dragon, a.k.a. Dragon); and finally Game of Death 1 and 2. The release is better than the previous box set, but that's not saying much. Unless you are a really big fan of Bruce Lee, I'd stick with Enter the Dragon Two-Disc Special Edition instead.

Care Bears - Big Wish Movie - Buy from Amazon
The second CGI film from this long-running franchise hits the home market tomorrow. Like previous release, this one has enough songs to keep the young ones happy, but obviously has little appeal for anyone outside that target demographic.

Chained Heat 2 - Buy from Amazon
The first Chained Heat was bad. This one is worse. Yet they keep making them, so someone must be buying them. On a side note, for some reason Chained Heat is still not available on DVD. The most likely reason is licensing difficulties, but I prefer to think that a burst of good taste has delayed the release.

The Coen Brothers Collection - Buy from Amazon
Four films from the Coen Brothers in one collection. Includes the newly released special edition of The Big Lebowski plus Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn't There, and Intolerable Cruelty. The price is right as long as you don't already own more than one or two of the films here.

C.S.I. New York - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
This is the one with Gary Sinise, not like it matters. The problem with the C.S.I. franchise compared to the Law & Order franchise is the repetitiveness. It's the same situations with practically the same character, just in different cities. On the other hand, in Law & Order you almost never hear about the personal lives of the characters. Special Victims Unit deals with more emotionally charged crimes and the emotional lives of the cops are more important, while the DA's office is much less involved in the show. Criminal Intent shows both sides of the crime, so we not only see the criminal committing the crime but the cops trying to solve it. They are all still police procedure shows, but they are different enough that it matters. This seven-disc set contains seven audio commentary tracks, and nearly 40 minutes worth of features on various subjects from the sets to the animals used in the first season. It's a good set, and worth picking up for fans of the show. I'm just not one of those people.

Day of the Dead 2 - Contagium - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD sequel to George A. Romero's classic Zombie flick, Day of the Dead, but George A. Romero had nothing to do with the production. And while the idea sounds really bad, the results are much worse. Skip it, unless you have a high tolerance for boredom.

Dot the I - Buy from Amazon
A film about a love triangle with a surprise twist that will either blow you away or make you think that the movie blows. Unfortunately, the latter opinion is the prevailing one. It might still be worth a rental if you are a fan of these types of movies, but that's it.

Elektra - Unrated Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon
This 'director's cut' runs a whopping 2 minutes longer than the theatrical release, and even with much more in terms of special features, it's still not worth the upgrade from the previous release, which came out only seven months ago.

The Emperor's New Groove - The New Groove Edition - Buy from Amazon
When this film was first released, it earned surprisingly strong reviews but struggled at the box office, earning less than $90 million on a $100 million production budget. The New Groove Edition is better than the single disc edition, but not as good as the Ultimate Edition, and with two previous releases this triple-dip is completely unnecessary.

Eternal - Buy from Amazon
An amazing looking film from Canada Unfortunately, not much in the movie feels unique or fresh. Not the Vampire angle. Not the lesbian angle. Not the cop looking for his missing wife angle. Not even when the aliens kidnapped those prostitutes and forced them to play in an inter-galactic hockey tournament did the film ever escape the realm of the cliche. Ok, I admit the last part didn't actually happen, but I thought I'd throw it in there because I figured you stopped reading after I mentioned Vampire lesbians. In all honesty, there's not much to recommend the movie, but it's Canadian and so am I, and that's enough for me to pick it up tomorrow. [Ed: Yeah, yeah, C.S., we believe you.]

Ferngully: The Last Rainforest - Family Fun Edition - Buy from Amazon
Not a bad movie, but looking back it seems a little preachy at times and Robin Williams manic portrayal of Batty Koda grows tiresome quickly. Even so, it has been nearly 15 years since its release, and this is the first time its been on DVD, so that will make fans of the movie very happy; however, with no real special features I can't rate the DVD above the rental level.

Garfield - Cat Tales Gift Set - Buy from Amazon
Three primetime Garfield specials on one DVD: Garfield Fantasies, Garfield As Himself and Garfield Travel Adventures. The DVD has no special features and it is quite pricey compared to most TV on DVD releases, but on par with first-run movies, both of which combine to keep this DVD from rising about the rental level.

George A. Romero's Land of the Dead - Buy from Amazon: Unrated - Widescreen, Unrated - Pan & Scan, or R-Rated
This movie was killed by high expectations. It's actually quite good, but not up to the same level as some of Romero's earlier Zombie films. However, both Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are absolute classics in the genre, and to dismiss this film simply because it doesn't live up to those two is unfair. Special features on the director's cut include an audio commentary track, making of featurette, a tour of the set, deleted scenes, and more. But I get the feeling there will be a extra special edition coming out sooner than later, and I'd wait to buy that one and rent this one instead.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe - Season One - Volume 1 - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
This 6-disc set contains the first 33 episodes of the classic 80s cartoon, as well as more than a few special features. A lot of people love this cartoon, but I think nostalgia has a lot to do with that as the animation is dated, the writing is poor, the social lessons are heavy handed and preachy. It simply hasn't aged well. Special features include interviews, deleted scenes, trivia, and more, making the set worth picking up for its numerous fans.

Hilarious House of Frightenstein - Buy from Amazon
This is the American version of a Canadian kids show. The show is low budget, very campy, and was narrated by Vincent Price. The original version had an hour-long format, but this set contains four half-hour shows. While I'd prefer the original versions, it is something of a miracle that they've made it to DVD in any format. Worth checking out, even if it's just for nostalgia.

The Jazz Singer - 25th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is the horrible 1980 remake and not the vastly superior original from 1927. The special features are good, but not good enough to make up for the quality of the film.

Lifeboat - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Fans of Alfred Hitchcock should have three box sets in their DVD collections, Wrong Men & Notorious Women - Criterion Collection, Signature Collection, and The Masterpiece Collection. With those three sets you'll have just about every Alfred Hitchcock film of note except To Catch a Thief and Lifeboat. The former film has been out on DVD for years, while this is the first release for the latter film. Lifeboat is one of those films that showed Alfred Hitchcock's genius at his best, as he manages to create a tense, suspenseful movie while being mostly confined to one tiny set. Special features include an audio commentary, making of featurette, trailer and galleries; that might not seem like much, but the film is 60 years old and that has to be taken into account.

Ma Mere - Buy from Amazon: Unrated or R-Rated
One of the more twisted movies that came out last year, but it had little going for it outside the controversy. Unless curiosity gets the better of you, there's no reason to even rent this film.

Mad Hot Ballroom - Buy from Amazon
One of several documentaries that struck a chord with both critics and moviegoers during the past year. Unfortunately the DVD release is sub-par. Now I know most limited releases have few special features, but when a film does this well at the box office the studio should add something as a thank you to the people who helped make the movie a success. But there are no special features on the disc at all and that lowers its value to the rental level.

The Mark of Zorro - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Another release looking to capitalize on the upcoming release of The Legend of Zorro. This version contains both the colorized version and the original, and superior, Black & White version.

The Mask of Zorro - Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
What's the most import step in releasing a sequel? You know the rest. This is the fourth release of this movie and there's simply not enough new here to make it worth upgrading. On the other hand, it is a really fun movie and is worth adding to your collection if you don't have any of the other versions.

Sabata Trilogy Collection - Buy from Amazon
Three Spaghetti Westerns featuring the character of Sabata, the first two starring Lee Van Cleef and the last starring Yul Brynner. Not the best films in the genre, but certainly not the worst either.

Le Samourai - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
There is some confusion about when this DVD is being released. Some having it coming out tomorrow, others have it coming out October 25th. Regardless, this is a stellar film, and the Criterion Collection release is packed with interviews.

Saving Face - Buy from Amazon
An excellent film about family relationships, and while the film did okay business during its limited release, it's on the home market that it should shine. Extras include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes, and some galleries, which is enough to make the DVD worth picking up.

Saw - Uncut Edition - Buy from Amazon
What's the most import step in releasing a sequel? Yadda, yadda, yadda. This release is a lot better than the previous release, but that one came out just nine months ago, which is way too short of a time for a double-dip like this. Skip it.

Tarzan - Buy from Amazon
The last Disney 2-D Animated film to be an event picture. It's a great movie, but there has already been a better DVD release.

Tell Them Who You Are - Buy from Amazon
A documentary look at famous cinematographer Haskell Wexler, directed by his son Mark Wexler. While the film does talk about Haskell Wexler's important contributions to the world of cinema, it is the dysfunctional relationship between the two that is the center of the film. It is a very good film, but the DVD is devoid of special features, reducing is value to the rental level.

The Twilight Zone - The Definitive Edition - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon
The fourth of five seasons for this series, and the only one that used the hour-long format. Like the previous releases, this one has plenty of special features, including audio commentary tracks, interviews, outtakes, and more. Easily worth picking up for fans of anthology shows in general and especially for fans of The Twilight Zone.

Unscripted - Buy from Amazon
With Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney involved, there was a lot of hope for this TV series. But while it succeeded on some levels, the Reality TV hybrid look at the Movie Industry never really met expectations. At least fans of the show will be able to pick up all ten episodes on this 2-disc set, but without any real special features, the DVD won't garner many new fans.

Filed under: Video Releases, Batman Begins, Saw, Intolerable Cruelty, Elektra, George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, Mad Hot Ballroom, Saving Face, Dot the I, Ma mère, Tell Them Who You Are, Eternal