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DVD Releases for December 20, 2005

December 19th, 2005

For those looking for last minute gifts (and you can't get much more last minute than this), there are many, many former wide releases coming out this week. Unfortunately, only one such film earned even reasonable reviews, and that was Serenity - Buy from Amazon, which is our DVD Pick of the Week. Also earning that honor is Party of Five - The Complete Second Season.

21 Hours at Munich - Buy from Amazon
Obviously being released to take advantage of the publicity surrounding Munich. Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of publicity for that movie as Steven Spielberg is taking a much more subdued approach to advertising the film. As for the TV movie itself, it is an accurate but somewhat dispassionate look at the events from 1972 and the DVD has no special features. If you are interested in seeing Munich, then this DVD is worth a rental, especial since Spieberg's movie movie deals with the events that take place after the events in this film. But the lack of special features reduces the overall value below the purchasing level.

The Amazing Race - The Seventh Season - Buy from Amazon
It's reality TV. Sure, it's Emmy-winning reality TV, but that doesn't make it okay.

Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.0 - Buy from Amazon
This is just the first half of season two and contains the first 10 episodes from that season. Coming out on the home market just three months after Season 1 was released and with a pretty hefty price-tag, this might scare away some potential customers, but it is a good series and mostly worth the price.

Bob the Butler - Buy from Amazon
Tom Green's latest goes the direct-to-DVD route, which is no real surprise. The film isn't as terrible as one might expect from a family film starring Tom Green, but it certainly isn't worth watching for free, and by no stretch of the imagination should anyone pay money to see it.

The Brothers Grimm - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini
Terry Gilliam has an amazing imagination, which is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it lets him create movies with incredible visuals and stories. On the other hand, when it gets out of hand he can create films that are a bit of a mess, like this movie was. I'm a huge fan of Gilliam, and it pains me to say that this movie is nowhere near his best. In fact, in my mind only Jabberwocky is worse. The DVD release is well done, with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and a couple of featurettes. All in all, I'd say its worth a rental and the more obsessive Gilliam fans will likely end up buying it.

Chicago - Razzle-Dazzle Edition - Buy from Amazon
I think this DVD is coming out tomorrow, reports vary. If it does, it is a wonderful two-disc set filled with special features like audio commentary tracks, deleted music numbers, interviews with members of the original Broadway cast, featurettes, and more. Easily worth the upgrade.

Creep - Buy from Amazon
This British film did reasonably well in its native market, given its production budget, but is going the direct-to-DVD route here. Reviews were mediocre to nonexistent with most complaints saying the film was too by-the-numbers to be scary. The DVD is also lacking anything to set it apart, and that reduces its value to the rental level, and it's only that for fans of the genre.

Cry Wolf - Buy from Amazon: Unrated Widescreen, Unrated Pan & Scan, or Rated Pan & Scan
It's hard to describe this film's performance thus far. It did open in the top five despite playing in only 1,789 theatres. It only made $10 million domestically, but only cost $1 million to make. It had the chance to become a breakout hit, but while it failed to do that it still made enough to be a financial success. As for the quality of the film, its reviews were quite bad, but the DVD release is excellent. Extras include audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurette on the casting, behind the scenes and two shorts. These shorts were the filmmakers' entries in the competition for the grant to make this movie and are very well done. In the end the film is a solid rental and I suspect that many people who give it a try will end up buying it.

E.R. - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
With long-running series like this there's not much to say with regard to the show -- either you know all about it, or you don't care. A couple of notes, however. This is the first season with Alex Kingston and the last with Sherry Stringfield, at least for a few seasons. As for the DVD release, the 6-disc set has a couple of featurettes, deleted scenes, and outtakes. Nothing too fancy, but enough to keep the fans buying. Also available with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose - Special Edition: Buy from Amazon: Unrated or PG-13
This movie bugged me beyond all reason. I have no problem with demonic possession as a plot point in a movie. However, when you try to tell me the movie is based on real life events, then I feel like my intelligence is being insulted. I wasn't the only critic who felt this way, but the movie proved to be a solid, midlevel hit. The DVD is also solid with an audio commentary track, deleted scene, and a trio of featurettes. However, I'm not going to pay money to have my intelligence insult, and I can't recommend anyone else does the same.

Four Brothers - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan or UMD Mini
One of only three films to be released in August that beat expectations, although it wasn't as big of a hit with the critics. That's not to say it is a bad movie. It's a good story of brotherhood and revenge. The DVD is also well done with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and a few featurettes on the writing, cinematography, etc. It's worth picking up.

Frankie & Johnny Are Married - Buy from Amazon
Interesting film about a director trying to save his marriage by casting his wife in his latest play. It earned better than average reviews, which would be good for a wide release but not good enough to earn the word-of-mouth limited releases need. The DVD has better than average special features for a limited release with an audio commentary track and behind-the-scenes featurette, but that's not enough to escape the rental level.

The Great Raid - Buy from Amazon: Director's Cut - Widescreen or Theatrical Cut - Pan & Scan
A movie in desperate need of an editor. It would have benefited if the romantic subplot was removed, if the buildup was cut back, and if it focused more on the actual raid. The Director's Cut is the much better version of the DVD, but even with plenty of special features, (audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, etc.) it doesn't rate past a rental.

Murder on the Orient Express - Buy from Amazon
The original is so much better than this film that there's no reason to bother with this made for TV remake.

Must Love Dogs - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
A predictable romantic comedy, which is rather redundant. Add in a DVD release that is rather lame and I can't recommend this movie, no matter how much I like Diane Lane and John Cusack. That's too bad, because if the DVD was just average for a first-run release, then it would have been worth a rental at the very least.

Neil Peart - Anatomy of a Drum Solo - Buy from Amazon
Neil Peart is the greatest living drummer. 'Nuff said.

November - Buy from Amazon
Courteney Cox stars in this muddled film as Sophie Jacobs, a woman whose boyfriend is killed in a convenience store robbery. The film tries to hard to be artsy and the surprise twist is both obvious and over-used. On the other hand, the DVD is very well done with two audio commentaries, interviews, alternate opening, etc. If the film was better it would easily be worth picking up, as it is, it's barely worth a rental.

Once Upon a Mattress - Buy from Amazon
A made for TV remake of a made for TV movie from the early 70s, which was based on a play from the 60s, all of which starred Carol Burnett. Here's the thing. The movie made its TV debut yesterday and the DVD is being released tomorrow. That turn around is a little fast for me.

Party of Five - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
It has been a long time since Season 1 was released and the delay is simple to explain. Season 1 didn't sell as well as the studio had hoped. While it would have been understandable if the studio had just dropped the series, or released season 2 on a bare bones set, they actually put out a good release. Special features on the 5-disc set include audio commentary tracks on 3 episodes and a half-hour interview with Jennifer Love Hewitt. If you have any interest in seeing the other seasons come out on DVD, pick this set up and right away, because without improved short-term sales, the studio will drop the series and probably won't pick it up again.

Rebound - Buy from Amazon
One of the worst reviewed movies of the year. Add in and DVD that is way below average for a first run feature and this is a DVD that needs to be skipped.

Santa's Slay - Buy from Amazon
Originally this film was supposed to be released in theatres last year, but it was pushed back to this year, then dumped direct-to-DVD. It's about as bad as one would expect. That's too bad, since the premise does show promise; in the movie Santa is actually a demon who lost a bet and was forced to be Santa Clause for 1,000 years, now the bet's over and he's making up for lost time. Under quasi-capable hands that could have been turned into a good movie, but I can't even recommend renting this movie. I wouldn't even recommend watching it for free on TV.

Serenity - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
Based on the short-lived TV series, Firefly, this film was rumored to be in the works since before the Complete Series hit DVD. When it finally hit theatres, the movie earned excellent reviews but really struggled at the box office. The studio said that the film would need to make $50 million domestically and $80 million worldwide to have a sequel, but it only made about half that. That doesn't mean the chances of a sequel are dead, as strong home market sales have been the path to many such films. Not only should the Fanboy Effect help sales, but the DVD itself is packed. Special features include audio commentary, an introduction by Joss Whedon, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and three featurettes on the history of Firefly, special effects, and the re-birth of the series in movie form. Also, there's an Easter egg that you can access from the main menu, but that's as much information on that as I'm going to give. This is a film that deserved a wider audience than it got and the DVD is easily the DVD Pick of the Week.

Seven Men from Now - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
It's been a long time since this film was available and because it hasn't been seen in so long, it has vanished from the collective memory, which is a shame since it truly is a great western. Special features are great for a film that is just shy of 50 years old include the ever-present audio commentary and more than an hour in featurettes on various subjects. Worth picking up for fans of the genre.

Vodka Lemon - Buy from Amazon
The movie takes place in a bleak and dreary landscape with people stuck in a desperate situations, but the film has a dry wit and it all works. It's the best reviewed movie on this week's list and I just wish there were some special features. Even without any, it still rates a rental and many who give it a try will want to pick it up.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Chicago, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Four Brothers, Must Love Dogs, The Brothers Grimm, Serenity, Rebound, The Great Raid, Cry Wolf, November, Vodka Lemon, Frankie & Johnny Are Married, Santa's Slay