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DVD Releases for December 13, 2005

December 12th, 2005

It's Special Edition week, with several such releases just screaming to become last minute Christmas gifts. Many of these are not A-List gifts and are more for people who are difficult to shop for. Even so, just a quick glance reveals more than half-a-dozen releases worthy of consideration for the DVD Pick of the Week, with The 40-Year Old Virgin - Unrated Widescreen Edition leading the way. Other choices include Airplane - Don't Call Me Shirley Edition, Gilmore Girls - The Complete Fifth Season, Rock 'n Roll High School - Rock On Edition, and The Simpsons - The Complete Seventh Season. And from the Better Late Than Never Category, there's Nothing - Buy from Amazon.

The 40-Year Old Virgin - Buy from Amazon: Unrated Widescreen, Unrated Pan & Scan, or R-Rated Pan & Scan
One of the biggest pleasant surprises of the year, both at the box office and with the critics. What could have been an immature, gross-out comedy turned out to have a lot of heart and really connected with the audience members. Since you can only get the Widescreen edition in the Unrated Edition, we won't even discuss the R-Rated DVD as it is not worth it. The film itself is 17 minutes longer, with the extra time filled by almost equal portions of extended improve scenes and material deemed too crude for a wider audience. Special features are also strong with a full length audio commentary, deleted and extended scenes (some of which also have audio commentary tracks), alternate lines, outtakes, interview with Stormy the porn star, and in-depth look at the chest waxing scene. All-in-all it is a great DVD and easily a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. One last note, the AFI just named The 40-Year Old Virgin as one of the ten best films of the year. I don't think anyone thought that was possible when the movie was first announced.

Airplane - Don't Call Me Shirley Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of the greatest spoofs of all time. A film so well done it demands repeat viewing just to get all the jokes. Fortunately, if you buy this DVD you will be watching the movie repeatedly just to see all the special features. You need to watch it once just to see the movie, then a second time for the audio commentary track, then a third time with the pop-up trivia track, and finally a fourth time with the Long-Haul set-up. The Long-Haul version includes some deleted scenes, as well as interviews clips with the cast and crew seamlessly integrated into the movie. I really like the ability to watch the deleted scenes with the movie, but I'm not sure if the interviews will add to or detract from the movie-watching experience. I'll have to watch it a few times before I can decide on that.

Bad News Bears - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan, or UMD Mini
I had high hopes for this film, thinking it would be like Bad Santa with little kids and baseball. However, it seems like the filmmakers tried too hard to make a family film and that hurt what could have otherwise been an edgier film. That is not to say it's a fluffy family film and it earns its PG-13 ratings, I just would have preferred they went a little further. As for the DVD release, it delivers an extra base hit, but is by no means a home run. Extras include an audio commentary track and features on the making of, writing, casting and the baseball scenes. Overall it is a solid rental, and will be worth picking up for many people.

Baxter - Buy from Amazon
In movies, one of the most common plot devices in the love triangle. In that triangle there are three people, the hero, the woman he loves, and the other guy. Baxter is the term given to the other guy; the loser that is described as being the safe choice and who has absolutely no chance at winning the girl in the end. Having a film where we see it from the Baxter's point of view is pretty clever, but the film is poorly executed and the DVD only has a few outtakes to compensate. Saying it's worth a rental is generous in this case, but there are enough good performances that that's the final prognosis.

Beautiful Country - Buy from Amazon
Strong reviews didn't help this film as it struggled in limited release and never really found an audience. It should do much better on the home market especially with an audio commentary track and an interview with screenwriter Sabina Murray, who was recently nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Okay, it isn't exactly loaded, but that's better than most limited release DVDs.

Big Bad Mama - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of several special editions to come out tomorrow. This is neither the best movie, nor is it the best DVD with just an audio commentary track and a retrospective. Skip it.

Death Race 2000 - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini
One of those movies that is so bad that it's good. The DVD is below par when you take into account the Special Edition label and the age of the movie with just an audio commentary track and a retrospective, but I guess that's plenty for the type of film it is. On a side note, I'm holding off buying this movie since there is a remake in the works and a super-special edition might be released closer to that film's release.

Dukes of Hazzard - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Daisy Duke takes center stage on the box for this release for an important reason: Luke and Bo Duke aren't in this season. According to the show, they went on the NASCAR tour to race. In reality, John Schneider and Tom Wopat left the show became of contract demands (they seemed to think that they were the stars of the show, while the studio thought it was the car). Arguably the weakest season and for hardcore fans only.

Eraserhead - Buy from Amazon
There are plenty of words that you could use to describe this film, but normal is not one of them. But this is a very strong DVD for a very gripping film. However, there is some confusion on the release date with January 10th being the most common on, so this is just a quick note in case some where thinking it was being released today.

Gallipoli - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
An early role for Mel Gibson and still regarded as one of his best. Directed by Petet Weir, it tells the story of Australia's involvement at the Battle of the Nek. The only special feature on the disc is a making of documentary, granted, it is quite in-depth, but I expect more from DVDs sporting the Special Edition label.

Gilmore Girls - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Season Four of this series was released less than three months ago, which leads me to believe that the current season will be the final season of the series. (The studio is trying to squeeze this release in mid-season so they can release the final season shortly after the series finale is aired to take advantage of the publicity.) I admit, I stopped watching the show regularly by this season, but that's not because it's quality dropped. In fact, this is widely regarded as the best season so far (but it looks like season six will again improve on that record). However, I just really prefer watching TV on DVD, so much so that my TV on DVD collection recently overtook my regular DVD collection in size. Special feature are also improving with an actual audio commentary track on one episode, as well as a featurette on the 100th episode and a montage of the wittiest lines. These sets are not the most packed when it comes to special features, but as always, they are easily worth picking up and a contender for the DVD Pick of the Week. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Godzilla - Final Wars - Buy from Amazon
I'm going to guess that despite the name, this will not be the final entry in this long-running franchise. That's probably good since it would mean the series would go out on a sour note. The only real special feature on the disc is a featurette, reducing the value to that of a renter.

Harryhausen Gift Set - Buy from Amazon
Three films from Ray Harryhausen in one box set. However, all three are part of the Legendary Science Fiction Series and that package is a better deal.

The Island - Buy from Amazon
One of the biggest bombs of the year. Given the pedigree, almost everyone was expecting this movie to hit $100 million, at a minimum. I say almost everyone because I predicted it would bomb, but even I was taken off guard by the level of the devastation. Reviews were bad, but not terrible, and the film did go on to do reasonably well on the international scene and could eventually show a profit if the DVD release does well enough. However, with just an audio commentary and making of featurette, it isn't even worth a rental.

King Kong - Peter Jackson's Production Diaries - Buy from Amazon
I can almost guarantee that these Production Diaries will be part of the King Kong mega-set that will come out by this time next year. And since anyone interesting in watching Peter Jackson talk about making movies for four hours will be buying that set, there's no reason to pick it up now.

Kronk's New Groove - Buy from Amazon
A Direct-to-DVD sequel to a Disney movie? Why, that's unheard of! Enough sarcasm. The movie is about as bad as the average such release and barely worth a rental, and that's only if you or your kids really enjoyed the original.

Miami Vice - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Like the first season, this show is all about style. Unlike the first season, this 3-disc set has no special features. For the diehard fan only.

The Newsroom - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A look behind-the-scenes of a nightly news program as they look for the next big story and it shows that there's nothing that these people won't do in the name of ratings. It's a Canadian show, so most people reading this will have never heard of it. But it is certainly worth checking out.

Nothing - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian film written and directed by the same person that brought us Cube, and it's an intriguing film, but with a much stronger comedic bend. This film actually came out at the end of October but I forgot to mention it at the time. Then I recently saw the film on TV and after watching it I immediately thought, "I've got to see that again, with the audio commentary on." Unfortunately, I was watching it on TV so there was no audio commentary track, but the DVD has one, as well as a making of featurette. Would have been a DVD Pick of the Week had I remembered it when it first came out, and those who liked this film should also pick up Cube, which deals with similar themes but with a much darker vibe.

Pretty Persuasion - Buy from Amazon
I had high hopes for this film as the cast looked amazing and the film looked like an edgy black comedy. But the reviews were below average for a wide release, and nowhere near the level needed to escape limited release. Add in a DVD that's completely devoid of real special features and it is the epitome of lost potential. Even so, it is still worth a rental.

The Producers - Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
What's the most important step in releasing a remake? Okay, all cynicism aside, this is an amazing movie, but this DVD is nearly identical to the Special Edition, which was released around the time the musical was reviving Broadway. So there's no earthly reason to upgrade, but if the film isn't already in your DVD collection, it should be.

Reba - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
One of the WB's highest rated comedies, I first watched the show because I enjoyed Reba McEntire's character in Tremors but it turned out to be better than I expected. (I especially like the interaction between her and Scarlett Pomers, who plays her younger daughter Kyra.) The DVD set is also well done with audio commentary tracks on four episodes plus a featurette on the second season. Worth picking up for fans of the show.

Rock 'n Roll High School - Rock On Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini
The term, "Cult Classic" seems so inadequate here. As proof, both Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov star in this movie, who were the king and queen of Cult movies of the Era, plus it have the Ramones and a ton of Rock'n'Roll. What more could you want? The DVD release is also excellent with two audio commentary tracks, audio only concert, retrospective, and more. Easily worth picking up and even a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Roll Bounce - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
Great 70s soundtrack. The rest of the movie wasn't as good. The DVD is packed with not one, not two, but three audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and more. But while there's a lot there, the overall quality isn't great and the DVD only rates as a rental.

Saint Ralph - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian film about a boy who is looking for a miracle to save his dying mom. It earned good reviews when compared to most wide releases, but not good enough to set itself apart for the myriad of limited releases. The special features, on the other hand, are better than most limited releases with an audio commentary track and a short making of featurette, which adds up to a solid rental. However, the film could have easily been more than that.

The Simpsons - The Complete Seventh Season - Buy from Amazon: Collectible Marge Head Pack or Regular Box
Those who have been keeping up with the series know just how incredible these sets are. Audio commentaries on every episode, deleted scenes for most of them, animatrics, featurettes, and more. This 4-disc set is a must have, although I admit that the task of collecting all 17 seasons on DVD is a little daunting and I've fallen behind. I will catch up!

Sin City - Recut, Extended, Unrated - Buy from Amazon
It's been less than four months since the regular edition was released. That's simply not acceptable, and the DVD fails on that account alone. Granted, there were very strong rumors that this release was in the works, so if you held off purchasing the film on DVD you're still interested is knowing if the wait was worth it. In a word, yes. In two words *Bleep* yes! This two-disc set is absolutely packed with goodies include two audio commentaries, and disc one also has several short featurettes on everything from the car, the make-up, the casting, etc., with a total running time of pretty close to an hour. Disc two has nearly an hour of featurettes including another 15-minute film school with Robert Rodriguez, as well as a 10-minute cooking school, a look at the loads of green screen work, and more. Had they released this version first, it would have easily been the DVD Pick of the Week. As it is, it is still worth picking up for those who held back, and worth upgrading for those who didn't.

Tour of Duty - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The complete series for about $20 less than what you would have spent had you bought each season separately. I can't emphasize how much I think this is a bad idea.

Valiant - Buy from Amazon
The first digitally animated film aimed at kids to bomb at the box office. Also, one of the worst reviewed digitally animated films. It's a deadly combination and it would take an absolutely stellar DVD release to compensate. Unfortunately, the DVD release is terrible with only a couple of fake outtakes and a really bad game. Skip it.

The Yards - Director's Cut - Miramax Collector's Series - Buy from Amazon
A middling effort that was all but ignored when it was first released. The Director's cut is a bit tighter, and the Collector's Edition release has plenty of special features. But overall, the film isn't fresh enough to be more than a rental.


Filed under: Video Releases, King Kong, The 40 Year-old Virgin, Sin City, Death Race, The Island, The Bad News Bears, Valiant, The Producers: The Movie Musical, Roll Bounce, Saint Ralph, The Beautiful Country, Pretty Persuasion, The Baxter