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DVD Releases for November 22, 2005

November 21st, 2005

As Christmas approaches, each week more and more DVDs are being released that theoretically would make perfect gifts. But for the DVD Pick of the Week I went with the perfect Re-Gift, Seinfeld - Re-Gift Set. There are a couple others I would recommend (like the King Kong - Collector's Edition), but overall it feels like a really slow week.

8mm 2 - Buy from Amazon: Unrated or R-Rated
A direct-to-DVD sequel to 8mm, which wasn't a good movie to begin with. Can also be purchased with the original as part of a package deal: Unrated or R-Rated.

9 Songs - Buy from Amazon
I mentioned this release previously, but it must have been delayed. Still not worth picking up, or even renting.

Aeon Flux - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The movie adaptation comes out in a couple of weeks so there's no better time to release the series on DVD. This is a very stylish cartoon, but it is not for everyone, and it is certainly not for children. The 3-disc set is great and has plenty of special features (audio commentary tracks on most episodes, the original shorts from LiquidTV, and a couple of featurettes), but it is too out there to recommend blind. Try before you buy and give it a rental. The chances are that many who do will pick the set up.

Alien vs. Predator - Unrated Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon
A double-dip for a movie that wasn't worth it the first time. It might be worth renting for some people just to see how it differs from the original release, but it isn't worth picking up.

Almost Normal - Buy from Amazon
Brad Jenkins is a 40-year old gay man who wishes on his birthday that he was "normal." After a disastrous family reunion, he crashes his car, only to wake up in the past , where he gets to relive his High School days. But here's the catch, now everyone is gay. The film made a few stops on the film festival tour (even winning an award or two) but never got a theatrical release. This usually means the DVD release is light when it comes to special features, but not this time as there is an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, outtakes, and more. Worth checking out.

American Idol - Best of Seasons 1-4, Worst of Seasons 1-4, or The Best and the Worst of Seasons 1-4
Not only is this a Reality TV release, it is a Competition Style Reality TV release. Not only that, but it celebrates the humiliation aspect of the show. Lastly, it's a TV on DVD release that isn't a full season set. Skip it.

The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
This is a great series, if a little outdated, but there are no special features. The show is from the 1960s, so this isn't surprising. Even without special features, if you've enjoyed the previous releases then there's really no reason not to buy this set. Can also be purchased with the previous season as part of a package deal.

Batman vs. Dracula - Buy from Amazon
An animated tale featuring two of the most famous bat-related characters ever created. It's quite expensive given the short running time, but the collectable figurines might make it worth it for the more obsessed fan.

The Beat My Heart Skipped - Buy from Amazon
A French remake of an American film about a gangster who wants to give up his life of crime and become a concert pianist. Amazing reviews helped the film earn $1 million domestically, which is a good total for a foreign language film. With special features that are better than many limited releases, it should do even better on the home market.

Cheaper by the Dozen - Baker's Dozen Edition - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
What's the most important step in releasing a sequel...? This movie is not that good, having a very strong sitcom feel, but this version of the DVD is a substantial step up from the previous release. Is it worth the upgrade? That's hard to say, since I didn't think it was worth picking up in the first place. Probably not, in fact. I'd wait until Cheaper by the Dozen 2 comes out on DVD to see if there will be a package deal.

CSI: Miami - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
Regular readers may remember my rant about the differences between the CSI franchise and the Law & Order shows, so there's no need to get into them here. Suffice to say, there's plenty here for fans of the series (audio commentary on six episodes, and nearly an hour's worth of featurettes), but I'm just not one of them. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Extreme Makeover - Home Edition - Best of Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
This is a documentary style Reality TV program, which isn't the same as competition style Reality TV, which is a tool of the devil. However, the 2-disc set is a "Best Of" release, and I can't recommend it, even to fans of the show.

The Golden Girls - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
The latest release of this multi-Emmy winning series hits the home market, but while the special features are better than previous seasons, its still not enough to warrant a recommendation.

Home Improvement - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
One of several TV on DVD sets coming out this week that simple don't have enough special features to make them worth picking up. This is a show that was very popular during its run, but looking back it seems very formulaic and repetitive. If you have enjoyed the previous releases, then there's no reason not to pick this one up, but those looking for more value for their dollar should look elsewhere.

Honeymooners - Buy from Amazon
One of the worst movies of the year, and the DVD appears to be Pan & Scan only. Skip it.

King Kong Releases - Various DVDs
To take advantage of the hype surrounding the upcoming release of King Kong there are several DVD releases coming out this week:

King Kong - Buy from Amazon: 2-Disc Special Edition or Collector's Edition
The original and the best of the King Kong movies (Peter Jackson may be able to top it, but I don't think he will). The 2-Disc Special Edition is packed with special features, including feature-length documentary, original special, recreating the 'Lost Spider scene' and much, much more. The Collector's Edition comes in a collectable tin case and has all of the above plus a recreation of the original movie program, postcard sized mini-poster and a mail-in offer for a full-sized poster. Personally I'd go with the Collector's Edition, but I'm always willing to spend more to get more.

King Kong Collection - Buy from Amazon
This set contains King Kong - 2-Disc Special Edition, Son of Kong, and Mighty Joe Young. Son of Kong is not worthy of the King Kong tradition, while Mighty Joe Young is nearly as good as King Kong. Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it is a very good movie. Since all three movies can be purchased separately, it would be better to get the Collector's Edition of King Kong and buy Mighty Joe Young while skipping Son of Kong altogether.

King Kong - Buy from Amazon
This is the vastly inferior remake and should be skipped by all but the most diehard fans of the Franchise.

Kong - King of Atlantis - Buy from Amazon
The cartoon this TV movie is based on isn't that bad, but this movie is just terrible. Skip it.

King of the Hill - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Mike Judge's second cartoon, and I personally think it is an improvement over Beavis and Butt-head. While I enjoy the show, it is one of those shows that is on TV so often that I don't feel the need to buy the DVDs unless they are packed with special features, and that is not the case here. In fact, there are no special features at all.

Leave It to Beaver - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon: Regular or Limited Edition Gift Set
A classic show from the 1950s is finally getting a DVD release, but the special features are non-existent on the regular set and the Limited Edition Giftset just has a collectable Lunchbox and photo-album. Not enough to make it worth picking up except for the diehard fans.

Now & Forever - Buy from Amazon
A schmaltzy and overly sentimental movie being released on a featureless disc. Skip it.

The Polar Express - Buy from Amazon: Single Disc Edition Widescreen, Pan & Scan, Two-Disc Edition Widescreen or Gift Set
There are four versions of this movie coming out tomorrow, but the only real choice is between the Two-Disc Edition Widescreen and the Gift Set. Unfortunately, neither version is really all that good, as the special features are lacking; granted, there are several featurettes here, but the total running length is just half-an-hour and none of them are all that in-depth. Is getting a Snow Globe and the Toy worth the extra $10 to $15 for the Gift Set? Maybe, but I'd wait a year to see if they'll release a Super Special edition with an audio commentary track and a more substantial making of documentary. In the meantime, wait until it is closer to Christmas and give it a rental, or head out and watch the IMAX version, which is being re-released.

Ran - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
One of Akira Kurosawa's final films, but it is just as good as any other film in is collection of masterpieces (okay, The Seven Samurai and Rashomon are better, but that's it). The 2-disc collection includes an audio commentary track, making of documentary, a couple of interviews, and more. True, it is an expensive set, but the film is so good that it should be in everyone's collection.

Ringers: Lord of the Fans - Buy from Amazon
A documentary look at how obsessive fans of the Lord of the Rings can get. This is a subject that could have resulted in either fanboy worship or cynical and mean-spirited derision, but fortunately it avoids those two extremes. (Although, to be honest, it is fair and balanced look at the subject and is a lot closer to the former than the latter.) If you were the kind of person to pick up the Special Gift Sets when they came out, then this is a perfect addition to your DVD collection. And even those who are less obsessed will find it fun to watch.

Rush - R30 - 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
Rush is the greatest rock band to ever come out of Canada. This 4-disc set (2 DVDs and 2 CDs) contains footage from the band's 30th anniversary concert, early concert footage from the 70s, interviews are more. This is a great deal for any Rush fan out there, even though it is missing some of the band's best work (Time Stands Still and Second Nature, for example).

Seinfeld - Buy from Amazon: Season 5 and Season 6 or The Re-Gift Set
The greatest sitcom of all time and the sets are packed with tons of extras (audio commentaries on many episodes, featurettes on characters, specific episodes, trivia tracks, outtakes, deleted scenes, and more). Obviously this is the DVD Pick of the Week. The only real question is whether you should buy season 5 and season 6 separately, or whether The Re-Gift Set is the better deal. The latter costs about $20 more, but features a hand-written shirt and a collectable puffy shirt. I'm not sure if that's enough to warrant the higher price for most people, but that's the set I'll be picking up. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal, but since the Re-Gift Sets are not included, it's not worth buying the series this way.

Shirley Temple Collection - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Three more Shirley Temple movies are being released on DVD this week, either as part of a Box Set or separately: Baby Takes a Bow, Bright Eyes, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Bright Eyes is the best of the group, but isn't all that good and the only "special feature" in the box set is the optional colorized version of the movies.

Spike & Mike's Sick And Twisted Festival Of Animation - Contagious - Buy from Amazon
There are some really funny short cartoons in this set, including some of Bill Plympton's work and that alone makes the set worth picking up for me. However, there are also some that are just painfully unfunny, and since they are of a gross nature, it is not something you can buy without checking out first. So give it a rental to see if there are enough hits to misses to be worth it for you to pick it up.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance - Buy from Amazon
The first of Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy, even though it was the second one shown here. Like many South Korean revenge films, the films is a little extreme for most people, but paradoxically, it is also a beautifully shot film. Those willing to take chance will be rewarded with an audio commentary track, behind-the-scenes featurette, and a preview for the upcoming Lady Vengeance.

The Tales of Hoffmann - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
An anthology of three stories of love lost. One of writer / director Michael Powell's better films, and the Criterion Collection release has more special features than most films this old. There is an audio commentary track with Martin Scorcese, an interview with George A. Romero and a short film by Michael Powell.

Tracey Takes On - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
According to Amazon.com, this DVD is being release on December 31st, 2025. I think it is best to assume that that's an error in their database. The show features Tracey Ullman as more than a dozen characters, and deals with a wide variety of topics. It's an excellent showcase for her particular style of comedy. Extras include audio commentary tracks, the HBO comedy special that served as the pilot, and more.

War of the Worlds - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan, or Limited Edition 2-Disc Set
The second highest-grossing film of the year, and one of the better reviewed wide releases as well. (Although my opinion of the film is not nearly as high, but more on that later.) The Single Disc release is lame with only one special feature (on the design of the aliens), while the Limited Edition 2-Disc Set is better, but not quite up to the Special Edition label (for example, there's no audio commentary track). This movie should have been amazing, but it failed to live up to expectations for me, especially the ending. Warning: I'm about to ruin the ending of the movie, so don't read the following if you want to be surprised by the ending. In the end, despite all of the destruction the aliens have caused, none of Ray Ferier's family dies. His wife made it to her parents fine, her parents lived, even his son who went off to fight the hopeless battle makes it out okay. Stupid happy ending completely ruined the movie. On the other hand, the scene with the burning train was visually amazing and I have to give credit for that. I love the book, but I'm still looking for a really good adaptation, perhaps the rumored "Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds" will be the film I'm waiting to see.

Winged Migration - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
It's not often that a documentary gets a Special Edition DVD. But it's also not often that a documentary breaks the $10 million milestone at the box office either. The previous release was an amazing DVD, but the Special Edition appears to be a repackaging at a lower price so it is obviously not worth the upgrade. But it is worth picking up if you haven't already got the movie.

The X-Files - Mythology - Volume 4 - Super Soldiers - Buy from Amazon
The weakest of the Mythology Series, as many of the episodes just are not that good. It does include the series finale and some special features not seen in the Full Season Sets and that might be enough for the really hardcore fans to pick it up, but I can't recommend the set.

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Filed under: Video Releases, War of the Worlds, King Kong, The Polar Express, Cheaper by the Dozen, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, AVP: Alien Vs. Predator, The Honeymooners, Winged Migration, De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté, 9 Songs, Boksuneun naui geot, Now & Forever, Aeon Flux