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DVD Releases for December 21, 2004

December 20th, 2004

Every week films get a second chance at success from the home market; or, in some cases, a first chance at success. Here is a list of wide releases, limited releases and a few from the growing TV on DVD section, including the winners of the DVD Pick of the Week, Shaun of the Dead - Buy from Amazon and Napoleon Dynamite - Buy from Amazon

The 4400 - Buy from Amazon
What would happen when everyone who was ever abducted by aliens is suddenly returned all at once? That's the basic premise of the 6 hour mini-series The 4400, which broke records when it debuted on the USA network earlier in the year. Unfortunately, like so many Paramount's TV on DVD releases, it is devoid of special features. (It seems that only Star Trek and its various Spin-offs have avoided this fate.) At least the price was kept low so for fans of the show it is still worth picking up, if only to get reacquainted with the show before it is turned into a regular series next year.

Adam Sandler's 8 Crazy Nights - Buy from Amazon
What's the worst time of year to re-release a film about Chanukah? The week after Chanukah ends.

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid - Buy from Amazon
This film did quite poorly when it was released late in the summer, both at the box office and especially with the critics. But even so, it did do better than expected on both fronts. Special features are weak with just some deleted scenes and a making of featurette. Can also be purchased with the original as part of a package deal for those who want two bad movies instead of one.

Danny Deckchair - Buy from Amazon
The limited release market is even more competitive than the wide release market, and for every film that reaches $1 million there are probably dozens that fail to make any impact. Danny Deckchair is one such film. Mixed reviews and a flighty premise spelled doom for the movie but it might have a shot on home market, but it will have to rely on solid word of mouth and that takes time.

De-Lovely - Buy from Amazon
The film did very strong business in limited release despite earning merely mixed reviews. The real draw for this film is the music, so much so that buying the soundtrack makes more sense. Those that do buy the DVD will not only be treated to Golden Globe nominated performances by both Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd but also 2 audio commentary tracks, a making of featurette, a behind the scenes featurette, deleted scenes (including an alternate ending), and more.

Hester Street - Buy from Amazon
Carol Kane plays a woman who recently emigrates to New York City with her son only to find her husband, who has been living there for five years, has abandoned their traditional ways. A good film that is highlighted by Carol Kane's Oscar nominated performance, and the DVD has good special features for a movie that nearly 30 years old.

Hype! - Buy from Amazon
A Rockumentary about the Seattle Grunge scene. A great film that treats the music with respected but treats the media hype around it with bemused humor.

King Arthur - Buy from Amazon: Unrated Widescreen Version or PG-13 Pan & Scan Version
When this film opened domestically, it reviewed very poor reviews and tanked at the box office. And while it did much better internationally, it still didn't earn enough to be considered a success given its total budget. The special features are good, but not good enough to make the film worth buying for most people. If you are interested, pick up the Unrated Widescreen Version, which is more inline with original plan to go for an R-Rating.

The Manchurian Candidate - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
There were a lot of remakes made this year, and this was one of the most successful, which is more of an indictment against the rest of them than endorsement of this film. The reviews were good, but nothing compared to the original. It's box office performance was merely average and certainly not up to its production budget. At least the DVD release is well done with plenty of special features, even so it is not enough to get the film into the Top 100 on the Amazon Sales Chart.

Napoleon Dynamite - Buy from Amazon
There were plenty of surprises at the box office this year, but perhaps none as surprising as this film. Made for just $400,000 it opened well, but not great, but then a few weeks into its run the word of mouth started to grow and so did its box office, which is currently at $44 million and growing. Reviews for the film were good, but not great, so a lot of credit has to go to MTV, which helped turn the film into a cultural phenomenon with the cross-promotions. The special features on the disc are good for a limited release, but not as strong as most first run releases with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, (also with commentary) and a making of featurette.

People Who Die Mysteriously in Their Sleep (of Natural Causes) - Buy from Amazon
A name like that makes you stop and take notice. The film is a series of scenes cut from other movies, cut together to form a new one, a 'sampling movie' as the makers call it.

Shaun of the Dead - Buy from Amazon
The all-time greatest Rom-Zom-Com, that's Romantic Zombie Comedy for those not in the know. A very British comedy that did well considering its small budget, but not as well as it should of considering its amazing reviews. Hopefully that will change on the home market. Special features well definitely help with 2 audio commentary tracks, more than an hour of deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, auditions, video diaries, studio pitch and more.

The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Yet another season of this long running series comes out on DVD. Those who own previous releases in this franchise know what to expect when it comes to the amazing extra features, which make the box set worth picking up for even casual fans. There are some other highlights to keep in mind, for instance, this is the season that the show celebrated its 100th episode. Can also be purchased with the first four seasons as part of a package deal.

Stander - Buy from Amazon
Thomas Jane stars as South African police officer, Andre Stander; a modern day Robin Hood who rob rich banks and gave it to the poor. … Actually he and his gang used the money to buy really expensive cars, but they were able to develop a folk hero status. The film earned favorable reviews but went nowhere are the box office. The film will earn more at the home market, in part because of to better than average special features, but in all honesty, it would be hard for the film to earn less.

Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Seventh Series - Buy from Amazon
The last season of the fifth Star Trek series comes out on DVD. Those who have purchased previous releases from the franchise will know what to expect when it comes to special features, and the rest of us have stopped reading by now. Couple of further notes, the complete series can be purchased as part of a package deal and the first season of the latest series is schedules to be released in early May.

The Streisand Collection - Buy from Amazon: The Main Event, Nuts, Up the Sandbox and What's Up Doc?
With Meet the Fockers coming out on Wednesday several Barbra Streisand films are being releases this week. Well, re-released to be more accurate. These four movies were released back in 2003 as part of the Barbra Streisand Collection, but with the 30% discount, it's quite a bit cheaper to buy from separately right now.

Surviving Christmas - Buy from Amazon
When I first saw this film on this week's list I thought to myself, "There's two films called Surviving Christmas?" Nope. It's the same film. This repugnant film, which was released into theatres less than 2 month ago is now coming out on DVD. That's got to be some kind of record.

Thunderbirds - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
Will go down in history as one of the biggest flops of all time, a misfire on practically every level. Special features are above average, but no amount of special features could be enough to make this DVD worth buying.

Two Brothers - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen and Pan and Scan
Director Jean-Jacques Annaud's best work both critically and at the financially was The Bear. (While Enemy at the Gates earned more, it also cost much more to make and benefited from much higher ticket prices.) So it comes to no surprise that he would return to the genre with Two Brothers. However, despite its healthy reviews, the film could only open in 9th place and failed to crack $20 million at the box office, and it doesn't look like it will do any better on the home market.

The Young Black Stallion - Buy from Amazon
Looking for new revenue streams, IMAX is releases its films into the home markets. The problem with most such films is they are based on the IMAX technology and without the huge screen they are not that impressive. To make matters worse, even with the huge screen this movie was merely mediocre. The DVD does have a lot of special features include a 15 minute new beginning, but even so that only puts the running time at 60 minutes, much too short given the asking price.

One last note, several older Christmas movies have jumped back into the Top 100 on the Amazon Sales Chart. They are, in no particular order:

And it's not in the top 100, but it is my third favorite Christmas movie …
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Filed under: Video Releases, The Manchurian Candidate, Bad Santa, King Arthur, Napoleon Dynamite, Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Eight Crazy Nights, Two Brothers, Shaun of the Dead, De-Lovely, Surviving Christmas, Thunderbirds, Young Black Stallion, Danny Deckchair, Stander