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DVD Releases for December 6, 2005

December 5th, 2005

The rush for last minute gift ideas continues with plenty of DVD releases this week. The best movie coming out this week is Cinderella Man - Collector's Edition, but the DVD Pick of the week goes to Star Wars - Clone Wars - Volume 2.

24 - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
The fifth season starts is a little more than a month, but the DVD is being released early to take advantage of the holiday shopping season. Season 4 is an improvement over season 3 with less emphasis on cliffhanger endings and more on overall story arcs. Special features continue to be impressive for the series with audio commentary tracks on half of the 24 episodes, deleted and extended scenes, featurettes on the new sets, the big train crash, and more. Perhaps the best featurette is the Season 5 prequel, which is an 11-minute long setup for the next season. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force - Volume 4 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini
One of the best programs on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup, although it is also one of the more difficult ones to describe to people who haven't seen it. Like the rest of the releases in the series, there are plenty of special features including audio commentary on 9 of the 13 episodes, plenty of promos including one for a non-existent movie, and a look at the voice talent behind the movie and more. It's a great show and a great set, but it's a little pricey on a per minute basis compared to most TV on DVD release. Still worth it for fans of the show.

Cinderella Man - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan, or Collector's Edition
This was an expensive movie to make and there were high hopes for the film both at the box office and during award season. However, while it earned excellent reviews it really struggled at the box office, which probably killed any shot at Oscar glory. (Although it would be ironic if, after being written off by most people, Paul Giamatti actually won.) The both DVD releases are excellent with 3 audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and five featurettes on various topics (casting, history of boxing, etc.). The Collector's Edition has a second disc with even more deleted scenes and four more features, including archival footage of the original fight between Braddock and Baer. I have only one real complaint about the movie, and that's the unfair demonization of Max Baer. But even so, it is a great movie and the DVD is worth picking up.

Cirque Du Soleil: Anniversary Collection - Buy from Amazon
The good news, this set contains eleven Cirque Du Soleil DVDs at a very reasonable price. The bad news, a couple of the DVDs are single-disc versions that are missing the second bonus disc that came with the original release. I don't see why they would do that, but it really hurts the value of the set. Is it worth buying the set and picking up the two other DVD releases (La Nouba and Varekai) as well? Only if you are a truly hardcore fan.

Combat - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The complete series of this gritty, World War II show for a substantially lower price then what you would have paid had you bought all the seasons separately. If studio keep doing this, they are going to alienate the fans and increase the chancee of finding something smelly and on fire on their doorstep, not that I would recommend that course of action.

The Dark Corner - Buy from Amazon
An excellent example of the Film Noir genre starring Mark Stevens and Lucille Ball, who is not known for her work in the genre but is great as the stalwart secretary. The film is more than 60 years old, so it's no big surprise that the only special feature on the disc is an audio commentary track. In fact, it wouldn't have been a big surprise if there wasn't even that special feature. Fans of the genre should check it out, they won't be disappointed.

Dirty Love - Buy from Amazon: Unrated or R-Rated
One of the worst movies of the year. Could possibly set a record for Razzies, if enough people even know the film came out (looking at its box office, I would doubt that very much). Saying, "skip it" seems completely inadequate when it comes to this movie, but it doesn't deserve any more effort.

Dukes of Hazzard - Buy from Amazon: Unrated Widescreen, Unrated Pan & Scan, PG-13 Pan & Scan, or PG-13 UMD Mini
Another movie that was scorned by critics, but at least this one did reasonably well at the box office, although I won't go so far as to call it a box office success. It did cost a bit more than films of this type usually do, and with a very poor international showing it will need some help to show a profit. And it won't get it from the DVD release, which is below par for a first-run release. There is no audio commentary, but there are a handful of featurettes on the making of the movie, the car, Daisy Dukes' shorts, and more. I can't even say its worth a rental if you are a fan of the TV Series since it is substantially different, and much weaker.

Everybody Loves Raymond - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Season five of this award winning series hits the home market. The show maintained a strong fan-base throughout its run, but I found the show too repetitive and stopped watching by this point. Special features on the 5-disc set include audio commentary on a handful of episodes plus deleted scenes and outtakes. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Fantastic Four - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan, or UMD Mini
This is the film that finally killed the record-breaking slump we had this year. Looking at the film's reviews, a lot of people would wonder how it was able to do that when many other, much better films failed. But the reason is simple, Johnny Storm. When was the last time there was a Super Hero movie where the Super Hero actually enjoyed having powers? Most of the time they are a mopey, depressing lot who complain about having superpowers. But Johnny Storm was clearly having fun and that was infectious to the audience members. However, it is not a good movie, and the special features on the disc are only average with an audio commentary track and a handful of short featurettes. It all adds up to a solid rental, but hopefully the sequel will be better.

Felicity - An American Girl Adventure - Buy from Amazon: Movie or Gift Pack with Bracelet
The second American Girl movie, but quite frankly, the first one was better. Can also be purchased with the first film as part of a package deal, but you don't get the bracelets.

A Fine Mess - Buy from Amazon
This is a bad, bad movie and I'm amazed it earned so many postive reviews. The movie is being released on a featureless disc and isn't even worth renting. It's not worth watching if it plays for free on TV.

Footballers Wives - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This show is quite popular following the lives of several football players and their wives, but it has more in common with Desparate Housewives then it does with actual football. As an import from the U.K. it is pricier than most other TV on DVD releases and there's no special features to help compensate.

Forbidden Games - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
The story takes place in France during World War II and is about young Paulette, who was orphaned when her parents were killed during an air raid. She is taken in by a family and their son, who becomes a father-figure for Paulette despite him being only a few years older. The movie is superb and the special features have a good mix of new and old, mostly in the form of interviews. Overall the DVD is worth picking up.

Fox in a Box - Buy from Amazon
Four blaxploitation flicks starring Pam Grier including a bonus disc with interviews on the influence these movies had on popular culture. The price is great, but the movies are uneven in quality. Still, it is definitely worth picking up for fans of the genre.

The Future of Food - Buy from Amazon
There are documentaries that just tell a story, then there are documentaries that advocate a point of view. This one fails under the latter category. It deals with food and while it makes a convincing argument about the overuse of antibiotics its fails to take science into account when going after genetically modified foods. Genes code for protein, you put the gene in the plant and it makes that protein. It's as simple as that. So you could produce a potato that produced a segment of the protein shell of the malaria virus so that eating the potato would act like a booster shot to a malaria vaccine. (Yes, they have done that.) The science is sound, a lot of the business practices are not and that's where the movie should have concentrated. Also, the filmmakers fall into the "nature is good, chemicals are bad" trap. First of all, everything is made of chemicals; water is a chemical. Secondly, just because it is found in nature doesn't make it good for you; hemlock is natural and I think Socrates would agree with me when I said it is bad. The issue of food is obviously very important, and there are major problems with the food supply (do some research on 'Shoot, Shovel & Shut Up' and you may never eat beef again). However, this is not the best documentary I've seen on the subject.

Four Minutes - Buy from Amazon
A docu-drama look at Roger Bannister, the man who broke the 4-minute mile. It's a made for TV movie, but its quality is better than that would suggest. Also, the special features are better than one would expect with a behind-the-scenes featurette, interviews, deleted scenes, outtakes, and more. It's worth checking out.

Full House - Buy from Amazon
This show must have had a large fan base since it was on the air for eight seasons and the DVD releases are selling well, but I don't know anyone who watched the show. It survived on being safe and because of the billion dollar industry that are the Olsen Twins. Special features take a step back from Season 1, which further reduces the set's value. Can also be purchased with the first season as part of a package deal.

Fun With Dick and Jane - Buy from Amazon
With the upcoming remake just around the corner, what better time could there be to release a special edition of the original movie? Except this isn't a special edition, it's the previous edition with a new case. Not a good sign for the movie's chances.

Garfield and Friends - Volume 5 - Buy from Amazon
The fifth and final volume of this long running series finally hits the home market. Those who bought and enjoyed the previous releases will know what to expect in terms of the quality of the show and special features (plenty of the former, none of the latter) and will want to complete their collection. Those that haven't probably stopped reading this description already. On a side note, there was a special edition release for the movie that was set to come out this week, but it has been delayed to coincide with the upcoming sequel.

He-Man & She-Ra - A Christmas Special - Buy from Amazon
As if I didn't hate Christmas enough.

Imagine: John Lennon - The Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
The 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death is just a few days away, so this release has a ghoulish feel to it. It's a great movie and the DVD release is top notch (especially given its age), but I can't help feel that the release is an attempt to earn some quick cash due to the anniversary of these tragic events and I can't support that.

Jackass - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini
The first and final volume in the three volume set. No, I don't know why volume 1 was released last. The entire show can also be purchased as a Box Set but it's just as expensive as buying the three sets separately, although it contains a bonus disc. The show is simply a series of stupid people hurting themselves for the entertainment value, and while the DVD release is well done, I can't recommend it because the show is so stupid.

Kenny Vs. Spenny - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Two idiots try to out-stupid each other in a series of competitions. Did I mention they are from Canada? It has a lot in common with the previous release, but this show seems to have a certain je na sais quoi that keeps the show funny and prevents it from moving into the soul crushing humiliation that most Reality TV shows aim for. Add in more than enough special features and the show is worth picking up.

Kid Galahad - Buy from Amazon
A middle of the road Elvis vehicle with the King playing Walter Gulick, an up and coming boxer. Elvis himself hated these films so I have a hard time recommending them to others, but they do have a certain charm that has withstood the test of time.

Kiss of Death - Buy from Amazon
Another film noir release coming out this week, this one is also amazing and was very shocking when it was released due to the level of violence in the movie. While it is no longer shocking, and other elements have also not aged well, it is still an great example of the genre and the audio commentary by film historians make the DVD worth checking out.

Konga - Buy from Amazon
A cheap King Kong rip-off. Unless you are really into bad movies I recommend you skip it.

Ladies in Lavender - Buy from Amazon
Given the pedigree of this film I was expecting big things. After all, it stars two women who have been knighted because of their contributions to the world of acting. However, the reviews were only slightly above average and the film never made it out of limited release. The only special feature on the DVD is a featurette, which further hurts its value. It's still worth checking out, but only as a rental.

Law & Order - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
One of the longest running shows of all time, and like many long-running shows, you either know all about it or you don't care. There are a few notes with this season when it comes to the cast; it is the last season with Michael Moriarty and the first for both S. Epatha Merkerson and Jill Hennessy. Special features are lacking and the show is on syndication practically 24 hours a day, so I can't recommend buying the set, no matter how good the show is.

MacGyver - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
Wow. The video and audio quality seems to be getting worse and is well below cable TV quality. Add in zero special features and this set is totally skippable. Can also be purchased with the rest of the equally skippable seasons as part of a package deal.

The Magnificent Seven - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
This short-run series only lasted 22 episodes spread out over 2 seasons, but it had a very loyal fan-base. Based on the movie of the same name, which was based on The Seven Samurai, the film follows a group of seven gunslingers who try and protect a Seminole Indian village from attack. It's a good western but without any special features I don't think this set will win over many new fans.

M*A*S*H - The Complete Ninth Season - Buy from Amazon
Like the rest of the releases in this series, this one contains a lot of great episodes but nothing in the way of special features (unless you count the ability to turn off the laugh-track). It's still a great show and the 3-disc set is worth picking up, I just wish there were more special features. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Matt Helm Lounge - Buy from Amazon
Four films starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm, a swinging secret agent who is obviously part of the inspiration for Austin Powers. All four movies are quite bad, but in a goofy fun kind of way. And the box set is quite a deal, but even so, I can't recommend it.

Murder She Wrote - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Another long-running show that is coming out on a featureless set. The competition for consumers is too great to put on TV on DVDs sets without any special features.

Newlyweds - Nick & Jessica - The Final Season - Buy from Amazon
Reality TV plus the Cult of Celebrity combine into this nightmare of a TV series. The special features aren't bad, but not good enough to make the 2-disc set worth buying.

The Ninth Day - Buy from Amazon
The film earned strong reviews but there are some serious problems with historical accuracy. The DVD has an interview with the director, but that doesn't lift the film past the rental level.

NOVA - The Complete 2005 DVD Set - Buy from Amazon
Nova is an amazing show and almost everything they put out has a perfect mix of education and entertainment. However, one look at the price-tag will scare away most prospective customers.

Penguins Under Siege - Buy from Amazon
A cheap attempt at cashing in on The March of the Penguins success. Skip it.

The Pinky Violence Collection - Buy from Amazon
Four films from Japan that combined sex and violence in a way that have made them underground favorites amongst some, but are too out there for most people. The set also includes a CD with music from the movies, but the price is too high for the casual fan.

The Proud Family Movie - Buy from Amazon
I really wish Disney would start putting out more of their TV series on DVD, and in full season sets and not these TV movies / best of sets that they normally do. As for the movie itself, it is rather mediocre compared to most episodes of the show, and the special features don't do enough to compensate.

Puddle Cruiser - Buy from Amazon
The first film from Broken Lizard, who later brought us Super Troopers and Club Dread. The only reason it is coming out this week is because one of the members of the group, Jay Chandrasekhar, directed The Dukes of Hazzard. The movie is mostly forgettable but the DVD has two audio commentary tracks and a featurette on the guys. If you liked their other two films, then this one is worth a rental.

Rock Star: INXS The DVD - Buy from Amazon
INXS's search for a new lead singer hosted by the barely dressed Brooke Burke. The DVD doesn't have any of the Reality TV portion of the show, which is probably for the best since it earned really poor reviews. What it does have is plenty of music, plus some interviews, behind-the-scenes, at more. Easily worth the $10.00 asking price.

The Rockford Files - Season One - Buy from Amazon
I loved watching this show in syndication when I was a kid and when I caught reruns recently I was pleased to see that it is still a fun show to watch. It is also nice to see a Prvate Eye who isn't practically a Super Hero. (Jim Rockford tends to lose more fistfights then he wins.) I do have two problems with the set. Firstly, the only special feature is an interview with James Garner, and secondly, the TV movie / pilot is not included on the 3-disc set. Even so, it is still worth picking up.

Roseanne - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Carsey-Werner learned their lesson last time. For Season 1 the production company sent the syndicated versions to Anchor Bay, but this time we have the full, network versions of the shows. Special features are still below average for a TV on DVD release with a couple of interviews and some montages. It's worth checking out, but not picking up.

Saved By the Bell- The New Class - Buy from Amazon
And the horror finally ends.

Shoot the Piano Player - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
The second feature-length film by famed French director, Francois Truffaut. It is one of his best films and like all Criterion Collection releases, the quality of the DVD is top notch. The only complaint I have is the price, but you get what you pay for.

Star Wars - Clone Wars - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
The second volume of this series, which was described by George Lucas as an extended opening crawl for Revenge of the Sith, so you know how important it is to the franchise. (It is also pretty conclusive evidence that he considers the Star Wars universe to live beyond just the movies, but that's another debate.) The animation is amazing, if a little stylized for some people, and the stories are packed, and the number of special features on the DVD is great. But I do have a small complaint about the price, which is a little expensive given the show's 64-minute running time. But even so, it is another must have for Star Wars fans.

Star Wars - Original Trilogy - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
This is the previously released box set without the bonus disc and there is absolutely no reason to buy it.

That's So Raven - Raven's House Party - Buy from Amazon
Another Disney TV series getting a Best Of release. This is such a mistake. Lizzie McGuire had a bunch of these releases and by the time they decided to put out the first full season set, most of the people who were interested had already bought most of the episodes and that hurt sales. (Which is a shame since it was a very well done set and was even nominated for best Children's Program at the 2005 TV DVD Awards.) Hopefully, the folks at Disney will stop the best of sets and give the fans what they really want. Until then, I recommend skipping these releases.

Walt Disney Treasures - Buy from Amazon: The Chronological Donald - Volume Two (1942-1946), The Adventures of Spin & Marty - The Mickey Mouse Club, Disney Rarities - Celebrated Shorts, 1920s - 1960s, and Elfego Baca and The Swamp Fox: Legendary Heroes
Four more sets from the Disney vault are released on DVD. Some of the shows are very rare and hard to find, but the price they are asking is way too much. Disney Rarities - Celebrated Shorts, 1920s - 1960s is worth it and depending on how much you like Donald Duck, The Chronological Donald - Volume Two (1942-1946) might be as well. But the other two, skip them.

The West Wing - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
The weakest season so far, Aaron Sorkin had left and his replacement, John Wells, took a while to get up to speed. However, the special features are on par with the previous releases (audio commentary on three episodes, deleted scenes, and a couple of featurettes) and is still worth picking up for fans of the show. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Where the Sidewalk Ends - Buy from Amazon
The third film noir classic coming out on DVD tomorrow. I would say it's the weakest of the three, but still an great film and worth checking out.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Star Wars Ep. III: Revenge of the Sith, Fantastic Four, The Dukes of Hazzard, Garfield, Cinderella Man, Ladies in Lavender, The Ninth Day, Dirty Love