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DVD Releases for May 8, 2007

May 8th, 2007

It is not a particularly strong week for DVD releases, and I think Spider-Man 3 had a lot to do with that as it is dominating the news so much that it scared studios enough to keep them from putting out their A-list releases. There were a few TV on DVD releases that caught my eye, like The 4400 - The Complete Third Season, as well as a few Special Editions, like Big - Extended Edition. But in the end I'm going with a double-shot of Canadian releases, Things to Do and Trailer Park Boys - Season 6, because I'm such a hoser. (Important note, you must import the latter title from Canada, but it's worth it.)

The 4400 - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
There are a lot of TV shows made for cable channels that are better than almost anything the big networks can put out. The 4400 is one such series. Season 3 continues to improve upon the quality of the DVD releases with the 4-disc set having audio commentary tracks on 5 of the 12 episodes, as well as featurettes on the making of the show, the special effects, superpowers, etc., and some outtakes. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Because I Said So - Buy from Amazon
One of the worst reviewed movies of the year, which is a real shame since it stars Diane Keaton, who is a terrific actress and deserves better than this. Add in extras that add almost nothing to the movie and I can't even recommend renting it.

Big - Extended Edition - Buy from Amazon
The movie that made Tom Hanks a major star, and still one of his best. Hanks, who has been nominated for five Oscars and has won twice, stars as Josh Baskin, a 12-year old boy who wishes that his was grown up only to wake up the next morning as an adult. It's a simple story, a cautionary tale of getting what you wished for, but the writing, directing and the acting are all brilliant, and lift this movie above all expectations. As for the DVD, it is very well done with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making-of featurette, behind-the-scenes, and more. Easily worth picking up, even if you have the previous release on DVD.

Breaking and Entering - Buy from Amazon
Directed by Anthony Minghella, starring Jude Law, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, and others, this should be a great movie. Should be.

This is a case of a lot of great pieces that never really coalesce into a cohesive whole. I found myself enjoying several parts of the movie like Martin Freeman's performance (his talent for lip-reading was impressive), or Vera Farmiga's performance as a prostitute. However, while certain performances or certain scenes were totally engrossing, overall the movie didn't draw me in emotionally and that really hurts a film like this. Part of the problem was the relationship between Jude Law and Robin Wright Penn, which was written in the script as emotionally detached. This was an important part of the story, but it was a barrier for me to get drawn into the movie.

Extras on the DVD are average for a limited release with an audio commentary track with Anthony Minghella, who is not an excitable person but is informative and gives a lot of insight into the creation of the movie. He touches on the origins of the idea, including some real life break ins, as well as the casting, writing, etc. (On a side note, he too noted that there wasn't enough Martin Freeman in the movie. Perhaps he will cast him in his next movie and give him a meatier role.) Next up is a 12-minute making of featurette called Lie.Cheat. Steal. Love. It's your typical mix of clips from the movie, talking heads, and behind-the-scenes footage and while there's some overlap with the audio commentary track, it is still worth checking out. Finally, there are a half-a-dozen deleted scenes that run a total of 8 minutes (with optional commentary). There were a few interesting tidbits, but nothing that really should have been left in the movie.

I wanted to like the movie enough to recommend it, I really did. There were enough parts that worked for me that I'm glad I got a chance to watch the movie, but the overall effect was not enough for a strong recommendation. I would suggest renting it and perhaps other people will be more engaged by the movie as a whole.

Cagney & Lacey - The True Beginnings - Buy from Amazon
A groundbreaking show focusing on two female detectives played by Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly, but not originally. Originally Christine Cagney was played by Loretta Swit in the pilot and Meg Foster for the first season. This 4-disc set contains none of those episodes, so really this isn't the first season, but the second, but calling the second season the true beginning is quite accurate. During the six years Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly were co-stars, they earned a combined 12 Emmy nominations and one of them won each and every year. That's a dominating performance. As for the 4-disc set, there are not a lot of extras, with just a single featurette. That's not enough to for an enthusiastic recommendation, but the show is good enough by itself to check out.

The Caine Mutiny - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Humphrey Bogart is one of my favorite actors of all time, and while The Caine Mutiny isn't my favorite film of his, it is close to the top. In it he stars as Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg, and commander of a mine sweeper during World War II whose methods are ... unorthodox. After he is removed from duty, he accuses his crew of mutiny and they have to defend themselves at a court martial. As for the DVD, there are not a lot of extras here, just a two-part making of documentary. However, it's well done and adds a lot to the movie and even though I'd like a lot more in terms of extras, it is still easily worth picking up.

Catch and Release - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
This was a January release, and as such there's little surprise that it failed to make an impact with critics or moviegoers. It's hard to pinpoint where the film went wrong, but the highlight of the movie was Kevin Smith's acting, and that's not just Fanboy talk. I even saw a review where the critic used the word, "Oscar" to describe the performance, and I don't think he was being sarcastic. As for the DVD, it is average with two audio commentary tracks and that's it. Fans of Kevin Smith (he's a key participant in one of the audio commentary tracks as well), or other members of the cast, might want to check it out, but even then a rental will do.

Classic Western Round-Up - Buy from Amazon: Volume 1 and Volume 2
Each volume has four movies crammed onto two discs with only a few original trailers as extras. Normally I don't even consider trailers to be extras unless they are award-worthy, or in this case, old enough to be of historical significance. The selection of films is good and the price is right, but I'd rather pay more to get more.

Daniel Boone - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
A Western TV series starring Fess Parker as the famous frontiersman. This show is from the 1960s, so it is a pleasant surprise that the 8-disc set has any extras at all. While an audio commentary track, restoration featurette, and some other bits and pieces may not seem like a whole lot compared to some of the contemporary sets coming out, it is still enough to lift it past the rental level.

Deliver Us from Evil - Buy from Amazon
An Oscar-nominated documentary about the pedophile priest scandal, specifically Father O'Grady. An incredibly powerful film, it is equally difficult to watch, which explains why it never found an audience during its theatrical release. The film is better suited for the home market where one can take a break partway through if it becomes too much. Additionally, this DVD is packed, especially compared to most limited releases. Extras start with an audio commentary track but also include deleted scenes, interviews, additional information on the cases and the specific problems, as well as featurettes on the filmmaking process. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Dirty Dancing - 20th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
A beloved movie that became a bit of a cultural phenomenon when it was first released. Looking back one has to ask why? It's a terribly predictable cross-class romance with some dancing thrown in. On the other hand, there are plenty of fans and this 2-disc set does deliver with an audio commentary track, deleted / extended / alternate scenes, outtakes, interviews, behind-the-scenes featurette, music videos, even a tribute to Jerry Orbach. Easily worth picking up for fans of the movie. I'm just not one of them.

Donnie Brasco - Extended Cut - Buy from Amazon: DVD and Blu-Ray
This version adds 20 minutes to a movie that doesn't need it as the original cut was great. The additional scenes add very little to the movie, and some might even say they hurt the pacing a bit, while they are less extras here than on the previous release. Maybe if you really like the movie it's worth a rental just to compare the two versions, but otherwise skip it.

Everybody Loves Raymond - The Complete Eighth Season - Buy from Amazon
The penultimate season of this long-running show. When a show runs this long, the extras tends to get a little weak in the end, but this is not the case here. There are audio commentary tracks on 8 of the 22 episodes, outtakes, and a panel discussion of the show. If you have picked up the previous seasons, there's no reason not to pick this one up. If you haven't, there's little reason you'd start now.

Fur - An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus - Buy from Amazon
Like Birth, this Nicole Kidman movie smelled like Oscar bait. A difficult role in a movie that was too out there for mainstream audiences but was designed to wow critics. Except it didn't. In fact, it was a mess. Extras are average with an audio commentary track and deleted scenes, enough to be worth a rental for the curious, but that's it.

The Guns of Navarone - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
A World War II flick starring Gregory Peck. It's old-fashioned, but very effective. As for the DVD, this is the third or fourth time it has been released on DVD, but the new version is worth the upgrade. The 2-disc set has an audio commentary track and disc one, and an in-depth feature-length documentary on disc two, broken up into more than half a dozen parts. Easily worth the upgrade.

HD DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Battle of the Bulge and The Road Warrior
A slim selection of movies coming out on HD-DVD this week. Both are older movies and both are worth watching, but neither needs the upgrade to HD-DVD.

Jason of Star Command - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Another live action Saturday morning TV show for kids made by the same people who brought you Space Academy. Several of these series have been release on DVD over the past year or so, and like the rest, this 3-disc set is better than expected with audio commentary tracks on a handful of episodes, a 30-minute documentary, plenty of image galleries, and much more. If you remember this show fondly from when you were a kid, or just enjoy the 70s idea of the future, then it is worth picking up.

John Wayne Collections - Buy from Amazon: Volume 1 and Volume 2
It's the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Wayne this year, and therefore there will be a number of DVDs released to celebrate. These two box sets are mixed; Wayne made a lot of movies so it shouldn't be too hard to find enough that are worthy of being included, but of the eight found here, only three or four can really be considered first tier material with a couple coming up as filler. On the other hand, four movies for less than $20 is a tough price to beat. Also coming out tomorrow is the 100th Anniversary Collection, but that feels even more like quantity over quality.

Lawrence of Arabia - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Lawrence of Arabia is one of the all-time greats. It is impossible to call yourself a Cinephile if you don't have this movie in your DVD collection. The only question is what version should you get as it's been released on DVD four times now. This 2-disc set has four featurettes, interviews, a making-of featurette, archival newsreel footage, and more, but I can't say if that's worth the upgrade. On the other hand, it is certainly worth picking up if you don't already have the movie on DVD.

Linda Linda Linda - Buy from Amazon
An all-girl rock band at a Japanese high school breaks up just days before their high school festival. The three ladies have just three days to recruit a new lead singer, which could be trouble because she's an exchange student from South Korea and doesn't speak Japanese very well. The film was a big hit on the festival circuit, but most people probably never heard of it. It is certainly worth checking out, and with extras that are slightly above average for an import, it is worth picking up.

Little Britain Live - Buy from Amazon
Little Britain is a TV series that's just a little too British for my liking, and that's saying a lot cause I'm a really big fan of BritComs. On the other hand, this is a very well done DVD and should please fans of the show. Hell, I'm tempted to pick it up just to encourage them to release Bottom Live on a Region 1 DVD.

Music and Lyrics - Buy from Amazon
A charming romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. The film wasn't as big of a hit as expected, but it still made enough to be a midlevel hit and more than enough to be considered a financial success. On the other hand, the DVD is sub-par with just a short making of featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes and a music video. It's worth checking out, but I can't really recommend picking it up.

The Painted Veil - Buy from Amazon
Oscar bait that earned reasonably good reviews, but not enough to become a player during award season. The film also struggled at the box office, doing well in limited release but unable to maintain its momentum as it expanded. Because it failed to earn awards or box office dollars, it is not a shock that the DVD is devoid of any real special features. Even so, it is worth checking out, but for most a rental will do.

Pirates of the Golden Age Movie Collection - Buy from Amazon
Four pirate movies crammed onto two discs. The movies on the DVD are average for the genre and there are no added features to lift it past a rental.

Revenge - Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
An unremarkable movie that is one of the lower points in both the career of the director and the star. Possibly the only aspect of interest here is that the Blu-Ray is nearly outselling the DVD, at least according to Amazon's sales chart. If that is the case, it would be big news in the Format Wars.

The Secret Life of Words - Buy from Amazon
Starring Sarah Polley and Tim Robbins, this film earned good reviews but there was just too much competition during the award season for it to get noticed. The DVD should perform better, but not because of the extras as there are none.

That '70s Show - Season 6 - Buy from Amazon
This is a show that lasted longer than it should have. However, while a lot of fans like to pretend season 8 never happened, this show was still going strong during season 6. Highlights of this season include Eric and Donna's upcoming marriage, Fez's green card marriage to Laura, and Kelso becoming a cop. As for this 4-disc set, it is better than average with audio commentary tracks on 2 of the 25 episodes, retrospectives with Debra Jo Rupp and Kurtwood Smith, and more. This isn't loaded to the gills like some TV on DVD sets are, but it is more than enough to satisfy most fans and make it a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

That Thing You Do! - The Director's Cut - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Tom Hanks' directorial debut. This movie was a hit with critics, but for the most part moviegoers gave it a pass. This DVD contains both the theatrical version and the new extended version, and when they say extended, they mean it as it clocks in at nearly an hour and a half, or almost 40 minutes longer. Additionally, the film has an audio commentary track by the stars on the first disc, and a little more than an hour in featurettes on the second. These include your standard making-of featurettes, as well as a reunion. Easily worth picking up, even if you have the previous edition.

Things to Do - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian movie about two underachievers who try to restart their lives be writing and completing a To Do list. The movie slipped underneath most people's radar, but the DVD should perform better, even if the only extras are the audio commentary track, a short making-of featurette, and even shorter clip from a fictional talk show featured in the movie. Overall it is worth picking up for most, and the patriotic duty of each Canadian to buy it.

The Tiger and the Snow - Buy from Amazon
The latest from Roberto Benigni was savaged by critics and ignored by moviegoers. The DVD should perform better with some deleted scenes, interviews, and a making-of featurette, but even so, for most people a rental will suffice.

To Catch a Thief - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
There are a lot of Special Editions coming out this week, and this will undoubtedly cause a few of them to slip between the cracks. This Alfred Hitchcock film was made right in the middle of his most productive, most creative decade and it stands up with the best of his work. (Yes, it is breezy and light, but it is supposed to be. The charm of the two leads is more than enough for keep moviegoers entertained.) The movie is certainly worth adding to your DVD collection. However, if you have the previous edition, the only new extra on the DVD is an audio commentary track. That might be enough for some to upgrade, but I can't really make that recommendation.

Trailer Park Boys - Season 6 - Buy from
A Canadian TV series about three ... men who live an a trailer park, grow pot and commit petty crimes. For those who have only seen the movie, the series is even better, while those who have never heard of the show before, check out first two seasons first, chances are you'll be hooked.

The Waltons - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
This much beloved TV series is at the halfway point of its DVD run. While the show was a huge ratings hit and is still remembered fondly today, it is just too old-fashioned for my tastes. As for the DVD, there are 24 episodes on the 5 double-sided discs, but no extras.


Filed under: Video Releases, Music and Lyrics, Because I Said So, Catch and Release, The Painted Veil, Breaking and Entering, FUR: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, Deliver Us From Evil, The Secret Life of Words, Tigre e la neve, La