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DVD Releases for November 20, 2007 - Part I

November 20th, 2007

This week, we have another big list of DVD releases, including nearly a dozen spotlight reviews. And again, we had to split the list into two parts. There are also a number of high quality releases this week, making the selection for DVD Pick of the Week a tough one. Live Free or Die Hard had me interested, either the Unrated 2-Disc Edition or as part of the Blu-Ray Die Hard Collection, but in the end I went with Star Trek - The Original Series - Season 1 - HD-DVD/DVD Combo. Even at a steep price, it is still the best on this week's list.

Angel-A - Buy from Amazon
Luc Besson's latest didn't exactly wow critics, nor did it thrive during its limited theatrical release. Now it is being released on DVD, where it will hopefully have better luck. It is worth checking out, maybe even buying, but give it a rental first.

Bad Santa - The Unrated Version and Director's Cut - Blu-Ray - Buy from Amazon
Being typecast can really hurt an actor's career. For Billy Bob Thorton, Bad Santa is considered the beginning of the end for his career as it seems nearly every role he's played in the past two years has been a variation of Willie T. Soke. But at least this film is a great film for those who are less inclined to celebrate Christmas as to mourn it.

I loved this movie the first time I watched it. However, I noticed I wasn't as enthusiastic about the film this time. I think it's because I've watched a lot of Billy Bob Thorton's recent lesser films (I've even reviewed School for Scoundrels), and I think I'm just burned out on this character. I didn't dislike the movie this time around, but I wasn't enthusiastic as the first time. Perhaps the next time I watch it, and I will watch it again, it won't be with School for Scoundrels or Mr. Woodcock in mind.

As for the extras on the Blu-Ray version, the first thing of note is the disc contains both the extended Unrated edition and the slightly shorter Director's Cut. There is an audio commentary track on the Director's cut with Terry Zwigoff and the editor Robert Hoffman from the previous release. The only new special feature is an interview with these two men by Roger Ebert that runs nearly 30 minutes. They deal with a wide range of subjects, including what was then the upcoming Art School Confidential and the earlier film, Crumb. The rest of the extras (deleted scenes, outtakes, behind-the-scenes, etc.), were from the original DVD releases.

Overall it is hard to argue that Bad Santa needs the high definition treatment. It is not the kind of movie that people will think of when they imagine their perfect home theater system. Additionally, there is one new special feature to the disc, which is a great bonus, but perhaps not enough to be worth the upgrade. On the other hand, if you don't have the film on DVD yet, now is a great time to pick it up on Blu-Ray.

The Batman - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
The first of two D.C. comics turned cartoons being released on DVD this week. This show took a while to grow on most people, but the fourth season should entertain fans. On the other hand, the lack of substantial extras prevents me from recommending anything above a rental.

Bill Maher - The Decider - Buy from Amazon
Another stand-up special from one of the most politically aware comics around. It is also arguably one of his best specials. The lack of extras is disappointing, but the DVD is still worth checking out for most and picking up for many.

Beyond the Golden Compass - The Magic of Philip Pullman - Buy from Amazon
Yet another release hyping the movie. Either someone is trying to cash in as much as possible before the film collapses, or we could have a $200 million hit here.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Chronos-With Ultimate DVD Promo Unit, David Gilmour: Remember That Night - Live At The Royal Albert Hall, Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Die Hard Collection, Hairspray, Nature's Journey & Ultimate DVD Promo, Pathfinder, and Rescue Dawn
Another big week for Blu-Ray releases including two $100 million movies that were also big hits with critics. Both of those are worth picking up, in fact, the Die Hard Collection came close to being the DVD Pick of the Week.

Broken - Buy from Amazon
Heather Graham stars as Hope, women living in L.A. who has to deal with all the wrong turns she made since she left Ohio, including her boyfriend, Will. These wrong turns also include a lot of drugs, which explains the style of the movie.

Just like poorly done Indie comedies tend to fall for the trap of having quirky characters instead of real humor, poorly done Indie dramas tend to be overwhelmed by pretension masquerading as deep philosophical questions. Nothing sums up to pretentiousness of the film than Will giving his, "Where's there's a Will there's a Way" speech. Heavy-handed and unoriginal are not way to draw an audience in. Add in two main characters that are nearly 100% unlikable, and it's a really tough just to get through the movie, and I found almost no redeeming value to the film. If I was forced to choose, Jake Busey was the best part of the movie.

I had a screener copy, which has no extras. However, it appears the full DVD is just as devoid of extras.

Unoriginal, pretentious, nearly wholly unlikable, etc. I can't even recommend a rental here, and I'm not alone in that opinion. It's hard to look at the final product and try to find where the movie went wrong. It seems right from the start there was no way this movie could survived.

Chappelle's Show - The Series Collection - Buy from Amazon
Both seasons of Chappelle's Show as well as the collection of lost episodes.

Charles in Charge - Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
I guess they are running low on TV shows to release on DVD.

Christmas Releases - Buy from Amazon: My Friends Tigger & Pooh - Super Sleuth Christmas Movie, Santa Baby, A Very Special Christmas
Now that we are getting closer to Christmas, the number of Christmas releases seems to be going down.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Season Seven - Buy from Amazon
The original, and the best of the CSI franchise. Last month I reviewed C.S.I.: Miami Season Five and was not pleased with the product. I am happy to report that this 7-disc set is superior in every way.

One of the main complaints I had with C.S.I.: Miami was its reliance on style over substance, especially the super close-ups on the evidence. On this season, there were shows where this didn't happen once. They didn't need it because the writing was better. The characters are more interesting, the mysteries draw you in better, additionally, there was better humor, which is important in a drama. I particularly liked Lab Rats, which featured the B-players, for lack of a better term, as it dealt with the quirky characters we rarely see and had the best humor. Other highlights including the other parts to the Miniature Murders thread, Living Legend with Roger Daltrey, Burn Out featuring a guest shot with Alan Tudyk, and more.

On the other hand, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation doesn't draw me in as well as NCIS or Bones, but it is superior to either C.S.I.: Miami or C.S.I.: New York and most episodes are worth checking out, but I can watch one or two and walk away. The best shows draw me in and I will watch an entire season in one or two marathon sittings.

Moving onto the extras, there are two sections: the audio commentary tracks that are spread through-out the first six discs and the featurettes that are all on the final disc. Of the seven audio commentary tracks, I liked the one for Lab Rats the best. This is no real surprise as I tend to like those tracks done by the actors more. Also, the more participants the better as there are fewer dead spots and the enthusiasm tends to spread. As for the featurettes, there are six of them that can be played separately are as one larger piece, which is odd as they are definitely separate entities. Things start off with Inside "Built to Kill", which deals with Cirque du Soleil and the act that was featured on the season opener. Miniature Murders deals with the tiny models used in the season arcing story and I liked this featurette the most. Who Are You? Inside "Living Legend" dealt with the casting of Roger Daltrey and the multiple roles he played. Robert David Hall takes a tour of the real life Las Vegas crime lab in Las Vegas: The Real Crime Solvers. The Evolution of CSI: Season Seven gives an overview of the season and the changes that have happened over the past seven years while Smoke and Mirrors: Directing Feature Television is pretty self-explanatory.

For a couple years CSI: Crime Scene Investigation started to feel a little stale, but Season Seven was an improvement. I particularly liked the season arc that was here, which adds to the replay value. Add in strong extras and the 7-disc set is certainly worth picking up.

The Doris Day Show - Season 5 - Buy from Amazon
Rarely do shows change so much during their run, and ever rarer still can they survive the changes. But fans of this wholesome show will be glad that the final season hits the home market this week. Also coming out this week is Doris Day Today, the 1975 TV special.

Dr. Katz Professional Therapist - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The first series done in Squigglevision, which I loved and gave most people headaches. Great series and a full series set that doesn't actually feel like a rip-off as the only released the first two season on DVD. In addition to the episodes, there are plenty of extras including some made solely for this release. For fans of the show, this 13-disc set is a must have.

Garfield Gets Real - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD CG release that's better than the theatrical releases, not that that's saying much. It should entertain kids while parents should be able to tolerate it.

Gene Simmons Family Jewels - Complete Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Reality TV series that follows Gene Simmons and his family, who are a surprisingly normal. Also, Gene Simmons is too shrewd of a businessman to allow the show to be too unscripted; it may be Reality TV, but he's in control. Extras included a bonus episode and some deleted scenes, which is just enough to lift it past the rental level for most fans.

Godzilla Collection - Buy from Amazon
I've lost track of all of the Godzilla box sets that have been released, but this is the best. The only complaint is all but two of the movies featured here have been released on DVD before. However, if you don't own any of them, this is a great set. And if you do own all of them, the two new ones will be released separately some time early next year.

Hairspray - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc, Two-Disc Shake & Shimmy Edition, Gift Set, or Blu-Ray
I had serious doubts about this remake and I figured it would never live up to the original and would struggle to become a big hit. However, the reviews were nearly identical while at the box office it became a surprise $100 million hit. As for the DVD release, the Two-Disc Shake & Shimmy Edition should please fans with two audio commentary tracks, featurettes on the musical numbers, a retrospective on the original, deleted scenes, and a near feature-length making of documentary. There's also a Gift Set that includes a case that looks like a locker, bag, and other physical extras, but I'm not sure if it is worth the extra cash. On the other hand, Two-Disc Shake & Shimmy Edition is easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. However, I am a little puzzled that John Travolta takes center stage on the front cover for the Two-Disc Shake & Shimmy Edition while Nikki Blonsky, the star of the movie, is nowhere to be scene.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Star Trek - The Original Series - Season 1 and Tremors
Only three HD-DVD releases this week, meaning there's yet another week where HD-DVD is lagging behind Blu-Ray in terms of number of releases, as well as top selling releases. The format war will still go on for a while, but Blu-Ray is in a position of being able to win through attrition. As long as they prevent HD-DVD from scoring a knock-out punch, they will win in the end.

Heart of Darkness - A Filmmaker's Apocalypse - Buy from Amazon
When Apocalypse Now started filming in 1976, the studio wanted to short, 5-minute behind-the-scene featurette to help promote the movie. Instead of bringing in a new crew, Francis Ford Coppola got his wife, Eleanor Coppola, to direct it instead. What was supposed to be a small project that was only going to be seen a few times instead became a near legendary film, one that almost never saw the light of day.

Apocalypse Now was a monstrously difficult film shoot with major issues right from the financing to the post-production. This movie talks about (nearly) all of them and shows what a major ordeal the filmmaking process was. The storm that destroyed a set, Martin Sheen's heart-attack, Marlon Brando diva routine, etc. Even if you are not a fan of the Apocalypse Now, and I have a hard time imaging there are many of those, this documentary will at least give you a lot of respect.

There are only two extras on the DVD, an audio commentary track and a bonus documentary. The audio commentary track features Francis Ford Coppola and Eleanor Coppola, however, they are recorded separately. Because of this, there is obviously no interplay between the two and this hurts the overall value, (plus there are a few dead spots), however, it is still worth listening to. The documentary, CODA: Thirty Years Later, which is a nearly feature-length documentary on the making of Youth Without Youth. It's interesting on two levels, first seeing the evolution of Francis Ford Coppola as a director, and the evolution of Eleanor Coppola as a documentarian.

When Apocalypse Now - The Complete Dossier was released last year, a lot of people complained that this documentary wasn't included. "You can't call it complete if is doesn't have Heart of Darkness." For these people, and all fans of Apocalypse Now, the wait is over and it is worth the wait.

Helvetica - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the font, Helvetica, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. I prefer Times New Roman, but one can't account for taste. The film is earning excellent reviews, but I can't image there's a huge target audience. However, it is worth checking out and the extras are great with more than an hour and a half of additional interviews.

Hudson Hawk - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
A movie so bad it deserved to end careers, and with Bruce Willis, it nearly did. The only reason it is coming out this week it to take advantage of Live Free or Die Hard, but hopefully no one will mistakenly buy this movie instead.

I Am Cuba - The Ultimate Edition - Buy from Amazon
Anyone else read this title and think of Stephen Colbert and his recent book? No? Oh well, alone with my insanity. I'm used to it.

Ice Road Truckers - The Complete Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
A reality TV series that follows truckers travelling on one of the most dangerous roads in the world. These roads are made of ice and can only be traveled on for a few weeks a year, and this puts pressure on those trying to get the needed supplies to remote mining communities. If you like Deadliest Catch, you will want to get this DVD as well.

Inside the Actors Studio - Johnny Depp - Buy from Amazon
Johnny Depp is a marvelous actor who seems to constantly choose roles for the challenge they will pose for him. He is also not someone who does a lot of interviews, which makes the ones he does do all that more interesting. Anyone who is a fan of his career will want to check out this DVD, although without any real extras, it's hard to say if purchasing is necessary over just renting. It depends on how much Johnny Depp you require.

Killer of Sheep - The Charles Burnett Collection - Buy from Amazon
Called one of the most important films ever made, this film takes a look at an African-American family living in poverty in a decaying neighborhood. This is an amazing film that never really got a proper release in 30 years from when it was made till this year and now it is coming out on a 2-disc special edition. Extras include an audio commentary track, cast reunion, and addition short films and a featurette from the writer / director Charles Burnett. Easily worth picking up.

The Lady Vanishes - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
One of Alfred Hitchcock earliest films, it will celebrate its 70th anniversary next year. This 2-Disc Criterion Collection release contains the film with a new transfer, audio commentary track, making of featurette, and the 1942 film, Crook's Tour, a spin-off of the movie. Fans of Alfred Hitchcock who own either of the previous box sets will certainly want to pick up this DVD and the film is wonderful enough to warrant consideration for DVD Pick of the Week.

Little Britain - Abroad - Buy from Amazon
I have a very British sense of humor, but this show is just too British even for me. However, even fans of the show will probably agree that this special wasn't as funny as the regular series. Also coming out this week is the Complete Collection.

Live Free or Die Hard - Buy from Amazon: Unrated, Unrated 2-Disc Edition, or Blu-Ray
The fourth, and very likely final installment of the Die Hard franchise seemed like a very risky proposition when it was first announced. However, like more franchise relaunches that have occurred over the past few years, and nearly every major release this summer, Live Free or Die Hard was a big hit. A lot of this had to do with the earlier box office success as they tend to have a snowball effect, but a lot also had to do with the excellent reviews. The movie is coming out in three versions, four if you count the pan & scan, which is selling very well, (I think a lot of people think it's the only way to get the theatrical cut, but both versions of the film are included other releases). As for the extras, there is an audio commentary track on both versions of the movie and the second disc of the Unrated 2-Disc Edition has a feature-length making of documentary that goes into all aspects of the moviemaking process and is worth checking out. Strangely, the Blu-Ray appears to only have the theatrical cut, and not the slightly more intense Unrated edition. If you don't have Blu-Ray, Unrated 2-Disc Edition is worth picking up. If you do, grab the Blu-Ray Collection instead.

Love American Style - Season One - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
An anthology comedy series that started in 1969. Each show there are (usually) three different takes on love, and not always a pleasant take on subject, but humor often comes from conflict.

Love American Style ran for five years and more than 100 episodes and spawned a number of spin-offs including Happy Days. It was also known for an incredible number of guest stars, a list that is far too long to even get into, as most episodes had at least three or four guest stars. It also has a certain comedic sensibility that feels like it is stuck in the 70s, which is both a good and bad news. Fans of the show will certainly get a nostalgic feel from the series, but those who have never seen it will have a harder time being drawn in.

This 3-disc set has the first 12 episodes from the first season, in the order they were broadcast, not the production order. There are no extras, not subtitles, and no play-all button. That said, it is a fun 3-disc set and fans of the show will certainly want to pick it up. Others who never saw the show but are fans of SitComs of the era should check it out, but rent it first.

Manufactured Landscapes - Buy from Amazon
This Canadian documentary is a companion piece to the book of the same name. Both are works by Edward Burtynsky and look at the way our industrialized society has changed our landscape. The film earned excellent reviews, but opened the same week as Sicko and it just couldn't compete. Hopefully it will find an audience on the home market because it deserves to be seen, especially with all the additional material, (mostly images and interviews).

Mission: Impossible - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
The secret agent series form the 60s that spawned a movie franchise releases its latest full-season set hits the home market this week.

This is an iconic show, right down to its famous theme song. In the show, the Mission: Impossible team, led by Peter Graves, deal with serious national security matters. And of course, if they are caught or kill, the government will deny all knowledge of their actions. In this 7-disc set they tackle dictators, mobsters, Commies, and a guy trying to corner the U.S. food distribution market... huh? (It's actually a really good episode with a psychological angle to it, but the set up sounds kind of funny.)

This is a great show with writing and acting that are top-notch, but there are some issues. For instance, times have changed and TV audiences have gotten a lot more sophisticated and combined with the technology of the day, a lot of the stories just couldn't work anymore. This is natural and you can't blame the show for this happening, but it does mean the show doesn't have the same impact as it did when it first aired. This won't affect people who grew up watching the show, but newcomers might take a bit longer to be drawn in.

On the down side, the seven-disc set contains no special features, but does have The Big Three, (Play All Button, Subtitles, and Proper Chapter Placement).

If you liked the show when it first aired, or enjoyed the previous releases this is an obvious addition to your DVD collection. If you haven't seen the show, check it out, but start with season one.


Filed under: Video Releases, Live Free or Die Hard, Hairspray, Bad Santa, Manufactured Landscapes, Angel-A, Broken