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DVD Releases for January 10, 2006

January 9th, 2006

It is a busy week, with about a half-a-dozen special editions, several TV on DVD choices and even four first run releases hitting the home market. Of those, three of them are contenders for DVD Pick of the Week, The Constant Gardener - Buy from Amazon, Red Eye - Buy from Amazon, and Red Dwarf - Series 7. While the two movies are better in quality, Red Dwarf - Series 7's overwhelming quantity and quality of special features just lets it squeak ahead of the pack and win the coveted DVD Pick of the Week. (Although I will be picking up all three tomorrow.)

The Chumscrubber - Buy from Amazon
This film had indie-cred to burn, but instead of trying to make a good movie, they tried too hard to make an 'independent' film and nothing kills cool quite like desperate effort. Still, there are some good performances here, and the DVD has more special features than most limited releases (audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurette, and deleted scenes), making it worth a rental.

As Time Goes By - Reunion Specials - Buy from Amazon
Amazing show, so much so that some feel that the reunion didn't live up to the rest of the series. And while that's a valid opinion, it's hardly a reason not to buy this DVD if you are a fan of the show. If you are not a fan of the show, give it a shot, but start at season 1 & 2.

The Constant Gardener - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
One of three wide releases coming out this week that were praised by critics, and of the three, this one earned the best reviews, but by a very narrow margin. As for the DVD, it's kind of weak. Sure, there are deleted and extended scenes, interviews and featurettes, but no audio commentary track. Even so, it is still a contender for the DVD Pick of the Week.

Dead Poets Society - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
At the time this film was released, it was Robin Williams' first foray into the field of serious acting. At the time is was warmly received, but now it feels a little too forced. Even so, it is still a good coming of age movie and well worth checking out if you haven't seen it yet, or haven't seen it in a while. On the other hand, the DVD is only average and isn't really up to the Special Edition label. Call it a rental.

Dirty Deeds - Buy from Amazon: Unrated or PG-13
What do you get when a bunch of baseball players get together and decide to make a movie? Apparently, you get this pile of garbage. Not many films are so bad that they score 0% on the Tomatometer, and of the dozen or so films to do so last year, only King's Ransom earned more critical scorn while getting a wider release. Special features are good for a limited release, but no amount of extras would compensate for the quality of the movie. Skip it.

Eraserhead - Buy from Amazon
One of the weirdest movies you'll ever see. It's even weird by David Lynch's standard. However, it is also an amazing movie to watch, and with the 90-minute interview with the director, the DVD is worth picking up. Also of note, The Short Films of David Lynch is also getting a release tomorrow, which is also equal parts genius and madness.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Bueller... Bueller... Edition - Buy from Amazon
John Hughes' biggest hit and one of his best. It has been a while since the previous edition was released, but it's not a clear cut choice which version is better. The Bueller... Bueller... Edition has several featurettes with a total runtime of 75 minutes, but the original's audio commentary tracks weren't included. Because of that, I can't recommend upgrading, but it is still worth adding to your DVD collection if you haven't done so already.

The Five Heartbeats - 15th Anniversary Special Edition - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
A film about the creation of a R&B group in the 1970s. Underappreciated is a term used quite a bit to describe this film, but it is really aimed at a pretty narrow market. If you don't really like that paricular genre of music, which is the highlight of the film, then it's best that you skip this one. Like many of the other special editions on this week's list, this one has good special features, but not enough to live up to the special edition label.

The Flash - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
This short-lived DC Superhero series hits the home market this week. I'm more interested in this 6-disc set not because the show was really good (it showed potential, but never lived up to it), but because if it does well then other short-lived superhero shows might get a shot on DVD. One of the problems with the show was the villains; they didn't have enough recognizable villains for the Flash to fight. Even so, it did develop a cult following, and those fans should be happy that the show has finally come out on DVD. Unfortunately, there are no special features on the set.

Good Morning Vietnam - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
The second Robin Williams' pic on this week's list and this one is arguably the better of the two films. However, the special features are equally lame. A six-part making of documentary and extended Robin Williams monologues is not enough for the Special Edition label and this also rates at just a rental.

Hustle & Flow - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or UMD Mini
The second of three critically lauded wide releases on this week's chart. Of the three such films, this one was the smallest release, with a peak theatre count of just 1,016 but it has arguably the best DVD with an audio commentary track and more than an hour of bonuses like footage of the premiere, a look at the music and more. However, there's one huge problem I have with this movie, and that's its lead character. Djay is described as a wannabe rapper looking for his one big break. But he's not a wannabe rapper, he's a pimp, and in my mind, pimps rank right up there with slave trader as the lowest of the low. Because of that, I have a really hard time cheering for his character. Others probably don't have the same problem with that as I did, and for them this DVD is easily worth picking up.

Island in the Sun - Buy from Amazon
A very controversial film when it was released in 1957 as it not only dealt with race relations, but interracial romance. For a film that's nearly 50 years old, the special features are impressive with an audio commentary track and a the A&E Biography episode on Dorothy Dandridge. Worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of Harry Belafonte's music.

The Magnificent Seven - Two-Disc Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of the greatest westerns of all time. (Although The Seven Samurai is a far superior film, but that's common with remakes.) This release is a substantial step up from the Special Edition released in 2001. In fact, it is worth the upgrade for the improved video transfer alone. New special features on the disc include a second audio commentary track and three featurettes. Definitely worth adding to your DVD collection.

Men Behaving Badly - Buy from Amazon: Series 3 and Series 4
This is the vastly superior British version of the show and not the American remake. There are two strikes against the show, namely the price per minute is a little bit much for a TV on DVD release, and the special features are pretty light. That being said, fans of the series should still pick up these sets.

Mark Messier - Leader, Champion & Legend - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
He was none of those during his stint with the Canucks. Yes, I'm still bitter.

Pinky - Buy from Amazon
Another film dealing with race relations and interracial romance, and like Island in the Sun, this one hasn't really aged well. I don't think there are many people today that would be shocked by the events that take place in the movie. However, it is still an interesting film from a historical perspective and the addition of an audio commentary makes the DVD worth checking out.

Sam Peckinpah's Legendary Westerns Collection - Buy from Amazon
Four westerns from the career of Sam Peckinpah. They include Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, The Wild Bunch, Ride the High Country, and The Ballad of Cable Hogue. They are also available separately, but the package deal is a much better bargain as the four movie set is only a few dollars more than buying The Wild Bunch - Two-Disc Collector's Edition and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid - Two-Disc Special Edition. All told, the six discs have 5 audio commentary tracks, seven documentaries, outtakes, trailers, and more. If you are a fan of Sam Peckinpah, this is an excellent collection to get.

Red Dwarf - Series 7 - Buy from Amazon
I've mentioned this series in the past and each time it was part of the DVD Pick of the Week. But with Series 7 the show took a serious drop in quality, so much so that I was considering stopping with series 5 & 6. However, after recently re-watching the shows, I've come to the conclusion that they were not nearly as bad as I remembered them. Perhaps I disliked them so much because expectations were so high. Granted, the 8 episodes on this 3-disc set are not as good as previous releases, but they are still worthy of repeat viewing, and the amount of extras is unbelievable with audio commentary tracks on all episodes, a 90-minute documentary, 40 minutes of deleted scenes, shorts, and much, much more. It's an incredible package and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Red Eye - Buy from Amazon: Widescreens or Pan & Scan
The last of the three wide releases that earned critically acclaim. Of the three, this one has the most populous appeal. This is an excellent film that proved that Rachel McAdams is going to be a star and that Wes Craven could bounce back from Cursed. (Although I still lay a lot of the blame for the failure of that film on studio interference.) However, I'm a little disappointed with the special features, as there are only an audio commentary track, two featurettes and some outtakes. But the quality of the movie wins out and it is worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. The only concern I have is the chance for a Special Edition to come out sooner rather than later.

The Return of the Pink Panther - Buy from Amazon
The first attempt to revive this long-running franchise, (it had been ten years since Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers had teamed up with the character). The film was very funny, but the DVD has absolutely no special features limiting its value to the rental level.

Saraband - Buy from Amazon
The last film directed by Ingmar Bergman, and his swan song was worthy of its position in cinema history. Even with special features that are rather weak (the disc includes just a making of documentary), this is a movie that is a must have for true cinemaphiles.

Stormy Weather - Buy from Amazon
Another film in the Cinema Classics Collection that comes out this week, this one is a musical from the 1940s featuring the likes of Lena Horne and Bill Robinson. The music should be enough to interest fans of the genre, while the audio commentary is more special features than one would expect from a film that's 60 years old.

Strong Medicine - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
I admit, I know very little about this show as I don't get the Lifetime channel, but it's a medical drama with a relatively strong following, especially for a cable show. Unfortunately, the 5-disc set has absolutely no special features, which is inexcusable for a DVD release for a show that is currently on the air. Hell, they have to be making promos for the show's current / upcoming season, so there has to be something they could put on the DVDs.

The Transporter 2 - Buy from Amazon: Buy from Amazon
The phrase, 'guilty pleasure' is the most apt way to describe this franchise. And while the reviews for the sequel were on par with the original's reviews, the DVD is much weaker, with just two featurettes and some deleted / extended scenes. Rent it and wait for the special edition.

Trouble Man - Buy from Amazon
A Blaxploitation film from the early 70s that's better than most, but that's not saying much.

Underworld - 2-Disc Unrated Edition - Buy from Amazon
What's the most important step in making a the sequel? You know the rest. This is just the previously released edition with a preview for Underworld: Evolution. Anything worth watching on that disc will likely end up as a special feature on the latter film's DVD release so skip it.

Viva La Bam - The Complete Fourth and Fifth Seasons - Buy from Amazon
I hate this show with a passion that knows no ends... and that's really all I'm going to say.

Wild Things - Movie Collection - Buy from Amazon
All three movies from the Wild Things franchise. The first film wasn't bad, the Direct-To-DVD sequel was bad, while the final film is so over the top that it's impossible to take seriously, which is part of its charm. All-in-all, the 3-disc set is cheap and that's the best thing going for it.


Filed under: Video Releases, Red Eye, Underworld, The Transporter 2, The Constant Gardener, Hustle & Flow, Saraband, Dirty Deeds, The Chumscrubber