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DVD Releases for March 20, 2007

March 20th, 2007

It's a busy week for DVDs, and it's even busier next week. Not only are the overall numbers high, the quality is good too, with several films from last year's award season / holiday rush coming to the home market. One of these films, Rocky Balboa - Buy from Amazon, was a serious contender for DVD Pick of the Week, as was a TV on DVD release, NewsRadio - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon. But in the end I went with a cult classic that more people should experience, Re-Animator - Limited Edition - Buy from Amazon.

Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations - Buy from Amazon
This in an excellent show, but the 4-disc set only has eight of the nine first season episodes. I have no idea why they left out Uzbekistan or if it will appear on another DVD set. Still, it is worth picking up for fans of Anthony Bourdain. Speaking of which, the show that was based on his book, Kitchen Confidential, is coming out in a couple months and is worth pre-ordering now.

Are We There Yet? - Buy from Amazon
This is the second time this movie has been released on DVD. The only difference between this version and the last one is a short ad... I mean preview... No, I mean ad for Are We Done Yet?. It's not worth the upgrade, and this kind of marketing can't be supported. Skip it.

Batman Beyond - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
This is the next generation of the Batman franchise and, for the most part, it has been embraced by fans. This 2-disc set has the last 13 episodes from the show as well as more extras than most cartoons get and is well worth picking up for fans. Can also be purchased with the previous two seasons as part of a package deal. If you are a fan of Batman in all of its incarnations, I heartily recommend picking up these DVDs.

Blood Diamond - Buy from Amazon: Single Disc Edition or 2-Disc Special Edition
Clearly made to win Oscars, this film did pick up a number of nominations, but went home empty-handed. It's reviews support that performance -- strong enough to get noticed, weak enough to miss out on the big prize. The DVD comes in two versions, the Single Disc Edition with just an audio commentary track as an extra, and the 2-Disc Special Edition with said audio commentary track, a 50-minute featurette on blood diamond trade, featurettes on Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly, another on the making of the battle scene, and finally a music video. Overall it's a strong package and worth picking up.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Big Fish, Chicken Little, and Finding Neverland, From Hell
Of the three non-concurrent Blu-Ray releases this week, Finding Neverland is the best but least needs the high definition upgrade, Chicken Little is the exact opposite, while Big Fish and From Hell fit nicely in the middle on both counts. In other words, none really demand an upgrade to the format.

The Bridesmaid - Buy from Amazon
Claude Chabrol has been making films for nearly 50 years now and has perfected his trade, making amazing thrillers that have been described as Hitchcockian by some. This movie focuses on a man who falls in love with his sister's bridesmaid only to learn disturbing things about her past as she tests his commitment to him. Given the film's short theatrical run, and its foreign language nature, there's little surprise there are only two extras (a behind-the-scenes featurette and an interview). However, it is still worth checking out for most and picking up for fans of the director.

Burning Annie - Buy from Amazon
A slice of college life that I enjoyed more than the average critic. It's because I was able to easily connect with the lead character, Max, a self-deprecating college student who seems to communicate at times with one-liners. However, while I liked the movie, the DVD is sorely lacking, with no special features. Even so, it is worth a rental for most people and the replay value might be high enough to warrant picking up for some.

The Care Bears Movie - The 25th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is the 25th anniversary of the Care Bears themselves, not the movie as that is only 22 years old. Also, the only extra is a bonus episode from the TV series. Give the quality of the DVD and the movie, this is only for people looking for a serious hit of nostalgia. And even then I'd suggest looking elsewhere.

Christy - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
This series stars Kellie Martin as the titular character, a 19-year old lady whom travels from her comfortable life to teach in the Appalachian community of Cutter Gap. The series was old-fashioned, which limited its audience. A small group of loyal fans were not enough to save the show, as it only lasted 20 episodes, give or take (it depends on how you count the two double episodes that started each of the two shortened seasons). As for the 4-disc set, there are no special features, but fans of the show are just happy it's on DVD.

Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner - Extended & Uncensored - Buy from Amazon
The celebrity roast used to be a pretty big in the 60s and 70s, with Dean Martin hosting several for his TV series. However, times changed and the raucous, raunchy, and often offensive nature of these events meant they fell out of favor. Recently Comedy Central has revived the tradition with a series of specials roasting some of today's most deserving celebrities. This includes the latest target, William Shatner.

Shatner is best know for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek, but has had a long and successful career in movies, TV series, and even as a writer. He has also attempted to sing on a number of occasions, which is a prime target for insults in this 80-minute special. There are several people roasting him, including those who have some connection to the man or his work (Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, etc.), genuinely funny people, (Jason Alexander, Kevin Pollak, etc.), and then there were the others. Some of these people were the professional roasters, people who I've never seen before, outside of other celebrity roasts. They didn't care if they were insulting people or being insulted, just as long as someone acknowledged them in some way. They were clearly, for lack of a better term, attention whores.

An event like this is going to be hit and miss and unfortunately it was more miss than hit. I did like a few of the performers, including the aforementioned Star Trek alumni, Betty White, and a few others. But for the most part they were just average, even the ones I liked. Perhaps most disappointing was Kevin Pollak; while his impression of William Shatner is amazing, I've already seen that routine a dozen times and was hoping for a bit more. Then there were the train-wreck people like Andy Dick, who lived down to expectations, while the less said about Farrah Fawcett the better. She shouldn't be at a roast, she should be at an intervention.

Extras on the DVD were light and just as hit and miss as the main show. Red Carpet Interviews had interviewer Jessi Klein starting out a little nervous and ending rather drunk. The 8-minute extra is hit and miss, but has a better batting average than the main feature. However, it's censored, and I'm not sure why. Behind-the-Scenes Footage is exactly what it sounds like, but at just 4-minutes there's little replay value. Making of the Roast runs a mere 2.5 minutes and is barely worth mentioning.

Overall, I was disappointed with the DVD. The roast itself didn't have enough laughs in its 80 minutes to have strong replay value and two of the three the extras weren't worth sitting through the first time. If you saw it on TV and really liked it, the extended and uncensored bits might be enough to be worth picking up, but I can't rate it more than a rental.

Come Early Morning - Buy from Amazon
Joey Lauren Adams' directorial debut wowed critics but failed to make an impression with moviegoers. The DVD should perform better, but with no extras the value is limited to the rental level.

Deadliest Catch - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
A great documentary series about the Alaskan crab fishery and the brave men who risk their lives trying to make a living. And when they say Deadliest, they are not kidding; fishing is considered one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. But while this show could feel ghoulish, like they are waiting for someone to get injured because it would make for some good footage, it never goes there. While the show is great, the DVD is sub-par as the 5-disc set has just the 10 episodes and no special features.

Eragon - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition or 2-Disc Special Edition or Blu-Ray
This big-budget fantasy flick was eviscerated by critics and failed to live up to lowered expectations. It opened well enough, but during the second weekend it suffered a nearly 70% drop-off, which suggests those who were willing to check it out were not happy with their experience. Extras depend on which version of the DVD we are talking about. The Single-Disc Edition has just the audio commentary track while the 2-Disc Special Edition has that track, as well as deleted and extended scenes, making of featurette, interviews, storyboards, and a few image galleries. There's enough bulk here, but not enough substance to be worth picking up. Even a rental is above what most people will need here.

Everyone's Hero - Buy from Amazon
One of the weakest-performing digitally animated movies of all time. That is not to say it was one of the poorest, as it earned nearly average reviews. The movie itself isn't particularly bad, it is just uninspired and very tame. It should please the younger members of its target audience, but adults won't want to sit through it. It could still be worth picking up if you have young baseball fans, but even then there are likely better options.

Garfield & Friends - An Ode to Odie - With Toy or Without
It's TV on DVD that's a best of set, so I can't really recommend it, however, if you are going to pick it up, grab the one with the toy.

JAG (Judge Advocate General) - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
Good show, but has a hard time separating itself from other similar shows. Add in a healthy syndication deal and zero special features and it is hard to recommend picking it up. I guess it depends on how important it is to see the episodes in order or all in a row. For me for this show, it's not that important and catching it on TV is fine. Can also be purchased with the previous two seasons as part of a package deal.

Justice League Unlimited - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
The final 2-disc set for this series is a great purchase for fans of the show. The extras aren't overwhelming with a couple panel discussions and a music only track for one of the episodes, but that it still more than most cartoons get when they are released on a TV on DVD set.

Masters of Horror - Pro-Life - Buy from Amazon
This was not the strongest episode from season 2, but there's still a lot to like here, including the performances of the two leads, Ron Perlman and Caitlin Wachs. As I've said in the past, horror and politics go hand-in-hand, although, this case, it's a little ham fisted to be really effective. (I do think having John Carpenter direct it meant much higher expectations and the politics issue is divisive enough to alienate viewers, both of which unfairly hurt the episode.) As for extras, they are strong with audio commentary track, making of featurette and a shorter spotlight on the birth scene. Overall, it is still worth picking up, but not quite at the DVD Pick of the Week level that some other episodes were.

Maude - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Groundbreaking show, pure and simple. This show dealt with topics that are mostly shunned to this day, and dealt with these topics in an honest and open way. This makes it even more disappointing that the 3-disc set is devoid of special features. This is a show that screams for extras: audio commentary tracks on key episodes; interviews with cast, crew and TV historians; retrospective; anything. But there's nothing here. Even so, the show is good enough to be worth picking up, but the DVD could have easily been the DVD Pick of the Week had it received the treatment it deserved.

McHale's Navy - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Set in World War II, this show was more about the military life than any historical battles. For those who have never heard of McHale's Navy outside the movie made in 1997, I am pleased to say the TV series was better. However, it wasn't that much better. Extras on the 5-disc set include just a retrospective, and that's not enough to make it worth picking up. Perhaps, as a hit of nostalgia, some will want to rent it, but that's all that is needed here.

Miami Vice - Buy from Amazon: The Complete Third Season and The Complete Fourth Season
A double-shot of style over substance as two 5-disc sets are released on Tuesday. However, while there's plenty of pastels here, there are no extras. Personally, I never liked the show to begin with and so there's not even a hint of nostalgia here to make renting worth it, but your mileage may vary.

The Michael Shayne, Private Detective Collection - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Four movies from the 1940s crammed onto 2 double-sided discs. The films star Lloyd Nolan as P.I. Michael Shayne and overall the four movies are better than most of their contemporaries. Extras are also better than expected with a handful of featurettes, but the double-sided discs are a major negative in my book. If you are a fan of these movies, then this DVD is worth picking up, if you've never heard of them but like P.I. films from the same era, it is worth checking out.

My Country, My Country - Buy from Amazon
Strong reviews didn't help this film find an audience during its short theatrical run. The DVD should do better with a few extras including deleted scenes, updates, and more. Worth checking out, but a rental will do.

Mythbusters - Mega Movie Myths - Buy from Amazon
Mythbusters is one of my favorite shows on TV, and not just for Kari Byron (although she helps). This special has Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman battling movie myths like shooting open a locked door, ejection seats in cars, and more. It's a great special and worth picking up, but I want more full-season sets to be released.

Naked City - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
A groundbreaking movie that helped usher in the gritty realism of the 70s, even though it was made more than 20 years earlier. Like practically all Criterion Collection releases, this one has an excellent transfer and extras that emphasize the film's historical importance. Easily worth picking up.

The Nativity Story - Buy from Amazon
The movie that may have killed the bible epic, at least for a couple years. The film earned mediocre reviews with many critics complaining about the timidity of the film, which is the exact opposite complaint to the one that The Passion of the Christ received. In that movie the spirituality of the events were buried under too much violence and gore. In this movie the spirituality was sacrificed to avoid controversy (and even then they were not able to court their target audience effectively). As for the DVD, it is terrible. It's clear to me there will be a special edition released, I would assume just before Christmas, and this release is just to grab a few more dollars from people.

NewsRadio - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
This was a great show, but this season is really depressing to watch when it first aired as it was the first season made after star Phil Hartman was tragically killed in a murder / suicide. Not only was it a reminder that we tragically lost someone way too early, but Bill McNeal was the heart of the show and was impossible to replace. The addition of Jon Lovitz and Patrick Warburton help make the best of a bad situation, but the season is still the weakest of the show's five year run. As for the DVD, it is great with audio commentary tracks on 7 episodes, a lengthy and funny gag reel, and two one-man skits, the second with audio commentary. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week even with the bad memories attached to it.

Re-Animator - Limited Edition - Buy from Amazon
I think most people would agree that the term "Cult Classic" is overused. However, I think most will also agree that it applies to this movie as much as any other. Based on a short story by one of the greatest horror writers of all time, H.P. Lovecraft, this movie has many, many fans, but is a little too out there for most people, especially that one scene with a headless zombie. (If you seen the movie, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If not, I won't spoil it.) This is not the first time this movie had been release on DVD, but it is the best. New features include a nearly feature length documentary on the movie that discusses how it was made, from concept to special effects shots. There are also a host of older extras including two audio commentary tracks, a lengthy interview with the direct Stuart Gordon and the producer Brian Yuzna, two interviews with the composer Richard Band, and yet another interview with Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. Easily worth picking up, worth the upgrade and a serious contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Return of the Living Dead 5 - Rave to the Grave - Buy from Amazon
The Return of the Living Dead is a classic in the zombie genre. This film, is not. Some might call it so bad it will taint your memories of the previous movies in the franchise. That may be a little harsh, but fans of those movies would be better served watching them again then picking this DVD up.

Rocky Balboa - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
A great end to a franchise that many thought had long run out of steam. Unfortunately, while the film did well with critics, it missed expectations at the box office. (It missed expectations, but it was still very profitable.) The DVD should prove even more profitable with plenty of extras. Starting off the extras are an audio commentary track, but there are also three making of featurettes (one on the movie as a whole, one on the climatic fight scene, and the other on the computer fight), there are also several deleted scenes and a very short gag reel. Overall it's a very good movie with an excellent set of extras and it is an easy contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Run's House - The Complete Seasons 1 & 2 - Buy from Amazon
Whose house?
Run's house!
Whose house?
Run's house!
If you don't know what I'm talking about, you probably are not interested in this 3-disc set. If you do know what I'm talking about, you are probably too old for Reality TV.

This is a show that follows Joseph Simmons (a.k.a. Rev Run from Run-DMC), and his family; his wife, Justine; his two daughters, Vanessa & Angela; and his three sons, Jojo, Diggy, & Russy. It is Reality TV, but not the soul crushing, "eat a testicle for $5," kind. It's not even the, "follow the dysfunctional family around hoping they embarrass themselves," soul-crushing kind. These people are surprisingly functional, almost too functional.

The series shows the family through a series of events, Angela's graduation party, Vanessa & Angela looking for an apartment in NYC, emptying the pool house, dieting, etc. Most of which are solved in a reasonable and rational way (I particularly liked how Rev Run convinced his daughters to stay at home -- very strong parenting skills exhibited there). On the other hand, his strong parenting skills made the show ... well, boring at times. Sure, they are rich, but Run Rev has done a good job at raising kids that are not spoiled brats. It's just like watching an average family, and since I don't pay attention to my own family, I'm not sure why I'd want to watch five hours of someone else's family.

As for the 3-disc set, it's well done with a few extras, mostly in the form of extra interviews, Family Confidential as they are called on the DVD. You can watch each of them individually, all at once, or as part of the shows (they appear at the end of each episode).

Overall it's a good package for fans of the show and might be worth checking out for fans of other family Reality TV series. Call it a solid rental leaning to a purchase.

Sleeper Cell - American Terror - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This is a high quality show, there's no denying that, and one that deals with a subject that is just too hard to get right. Go too far one way and it turns into fear mongering; go too far the other way and loses its dramatic weight. This show manages to walk the tight rope throughout the season's 8-episode run. Extras on the 3-disc set are good with audio commentary tracks on two episodes, three featurettes, and a an overview of Farik, the head a terrorist. Easily worth picking for fans of the show and worth checking out for others.

W.C. Fields Comedy Collection - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Five more films from the iconic comedian form the earliest days of Hollywood starting as a Vaudeville act. Of the films in this 5-disc set, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break is the best known, but probably not the best film and that's saying a lot. All five are worth checking out and have high replay value. Also included is a television special done by Wayne and Schuster, a Canadian comedy duo who made a series of such retrospectives in 1965. On a side note, Wayne and Schuster should have more of their work released on DVD.

The Wild Wild West - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
A Western from the 1960s featuring two secret agents, James West, a smooth talking ladies man, and Artemus Gordon, a master of disguise. It's a very fun show that was ruined by a bad movie adaptation. As for the 7-disc set, there are no special features, which is disappointing but since the series is 40 years old, it is not a surprise.

Wondrous Oblivion - Buy from Amazon
A coming of age story about a cricket-obssessed boy who just can't play. When his new neighbors move in he's ecstatic to see they built a cricket net in their back yard, but this is 1950s Britain and the new neighbors are from the West Indies. For the most part the film works, but there are enough flaws to lower the replay value to a degree. Extras are good for a limited release with an audio commentary track and some behind-the-scenes footage, but it still adds up to just a rental.


Filed under: Video Releases, Chicken Little, Eragon, Rocky Balboa, Big Fish, Blood Diamond, Finding Neverland, The Nativity Story, Everyone's Hero, Come Early Morning, Wondrous Oblivion, My Country My Country, Burning Annie, Are We There Yet?