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DVD Releases for January 24, 2006

January 23rd, 2006

It's another slow week for DVDs with little in the way of release worth renting and there's nothing here I would rate as must have. Because of that, there's no DVD Pick of the Week, which is probably for the best as I'm spending too much on DVDs as it is. On a side note, things definitely start to pick up next week.

'Allo 'Allo - The Complete Series Four - Buy from Amazon
The is the season that the series jumped the shark. After season three the actress that played Maria left and her character was replaced by Mimi, and the show was never the same. To compound matters, that seemed to set off a flood of cast changes and that really hurt the show. Add in special features that are nearly non-existent and this DVD is only worth it for the more hardcore fans of the show.

The Aristocrats - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the word's dirtiest joke. You would think a movie about a joke told by a hundred Stand-Up Comedians would be funny. But it's not. Of the countless comics in the movie, only Sarah Silverman really understands that to make a joke funny after the 100th time hearing it, you have to do something very creative. Most of them just try and string together the longest series of profanity they can think of to the point where more than one critic used the term Tourette Syndrome in their reviews, which should never be used as a compliment. On the other hand, there are some interesting discussions on the nature of humor and special features with a total running time longing than the movie itself. However, I still can't recommend renting and it is certainly not worth picking it up as there is zero replay value. On a side note, while I'm not the only one who feels this way about the movie, looking at the reviews it seems I'm in the minority.

Dallas - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
This is the season that we learn who shot J.R., and while season 3 ended with an amazing cliffhanger, the conclusion was disappointing, to say the least. Along with the 23 episodes from this season, this 4-disc set also has the reunion special as a special feature. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Down and Derby - Buy from Amazon
A lightweight film aimed at Mormon families and released mostly in Utah. Everything about the film felt like a poorly done sitcom, which explains why it failed to make an impact at the box office. As for the DVD, there's nothing here to overcome the weakness of the movie. Skip it.

Educating Rita - Buy from Amazon
Michael Caine stars as Dr. Frank Bryant, a drunk English professor who takes on a new student, the titular Rita played by Julie Walters. Arguably the best movie on this week's list as both the aforementioned stars earned Oscar nods for their performance, as was Willy Russell's screenplay. This is also one of the few films on this week's list that is adult-oriented, and by adult-oriented I don't mean sexual explicit, I mean not juvenile. Unfortunately, while the movie is excellent, the DVD is devoid of special features reducing it to the level of a rental for most people.

Flightplan - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
The biggest hits this past September, the filmmakers were able to set and excellent mood and filled the film with tense moments and suspense. And then it all falls apart in the end. Having a surprise twist is a real gamble, when properly done it will make the viewer want to re-watch the movie immediately just to check for clues. Poorly done and it will make the viewer want their money back. With this movie the surprise twist is in the latter category as any amount of critical thought will cause the whole thing to fall down. Special features on the disc include the usual audio commentary, a making of featurette and a short look at the design of the plane. It adds up to a rental, but nothing more.

The Fog - Buy from Amazon: Unrated Widescreen or PG-13 Pan & Scan
Simply put, this is an unnecessary remake. Quite inept in every aspect, but not so bad that you can have fun mocking it. "Overtly dull" is probably the best way to sum it up. Special features are better than most with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and a few featurettes with a total running time of about 30 minutes. But that's not nearly enough. Skip it. Can also be purchased with the original as part of a package deal.

Initial D - Buy from Amazon
Of the three Street Racing movies on this week's list, this is the best, but that's not saying much. Like most of these types of movies, they are fun when the street racing is happening, but the parts in-between tend to be cliched and boring. As for special features, disc one has the movie in DTS format for improved audio and video, while the second disc has the standard making of featurette, behind the scenes, deleted scenes, outtakes, etc. Call it a rental.

My Big Fat Independent Movie - Buy from Amazon
The film tries too hard to be hip and cool, and trying to be cool is like trying to make a cult classic, it almost never works out. Also, the Independent Film boom the movie uses as fodder is more than a decade old meaning a lot of the jokes found in the movie seem incredible dated. The DVD does have much more in the way of special features than most limited releases including audio commentary, making of featurette, 'Red Band' trailer, etc. and it adds up to a rental for fans of the genre. However, it had the potential to be a must have like many of the movies it spoofs are.

National Lampoon's Barely Legal - Buy from Amazon
Continuing to denigrate the good name of "National Lampoon." There's really nothing more than needs to be said other than, "Skip it."

Oliver Twist - Buy from Amazon
Roman Polanski's follow-up to the award winning The Pianist. In comparison, this film was a huge step down as it just didn't have the same emotional impact. It almost felt as if he was just going through the paces. There is not audio commentary track, but there are three featurettes with a total running time of nearly one hour and that makes it worth a rental, but that's it.

Repo Man - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
With a title like Repo Man, you would think this movie was about someone who repossesses cars and the typical hi-jinx he gets into through the normal course of his work. And you would be partially correct. While the movie stars Emilio Estevez as the titular Repo Man, there's almost nothing normal about it. This is a movie with style to burn, so much so that you either are immediately enthralled by it or completely turned off and because of that it is destined to remain a cult classic rather than a mainstream hit. As for the DVD, it's a step up from the Special Edition that came out more than 5 years ago as it has the old audio commentary track and three featurettes with a total run time comparable to the movie itself. I would say it's worth the upgrade, but your mileage may vary. If you've never seen the movie, on the other hand, it is certainly worth a rental, but this is not a DVD you can buy sight unseen.

Saturday Night Live - Best of ... - Buy from Amazon: Alec Baldwin or David Spade
Two more best of DVDs are being releases tomorrow, including one with Alec Baldwin, who has hosted the show about a dozen times, and David Spade, who wrote and starred on the show for seven seasons. As many of you know, I'm not a fan of Best Of releases, and I would prefer full season sets. Mad TV released a full season set, and so should this show.

Street of Legend - Buy from Amazon
A Street Racing movie like Fast and the Furious, but better, at least I thought so but I consider having either Vin Diesel or Paul Walker in a movie as a major downside, so to have both is cinematic suicide. As long as you only expect some great street racing scenes and not high art, it's a fun diversion.

Thumbsucker - Buy from Amazon
A limited release that earned better than average reviews, but couldn't generate the word-of-mouth needed to escape the art house circuit. On a side note, many critic praised Keanu Reeves performance as Dr. Perry Lyman but I found it nearly instantly irritating. It was like Ted became an orthodontist and didn't feel the least bit fresh. As for the DVD, it only has an audio commentary track for special features, but that's on par for most limited releases.

Thunderbolt - Buy from Amazon
One of three A Street Racing movies to come out tomorrow, this one stars Jackie Chan and is noteworthy for being one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made at $25 million, however, it is not one of Jackie Chan's favorite movies, which explains why it has taken this long to get to the home market.

The Time Tunnel - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
The show only lasted one season, yet the studio is dividing the release up into two volumes. I'm really not happy with that decision, but the 4-disc set is relatively inexpensive and there are more special features than one would expect from a show that's nearly 40 years old, especially a short-run show. It's worth picking up for fans of the show, I just happened to not be one of them.

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie - Buy from Amazon
There seems to be some confusion on the release date for this DVD with some sources having it coming out tomorrow and others having it coming out February 21st, 2006. Just in case tomorrow is the correct release date, this is the first feature-length animated movie starring Marvel's most famous Super Hero team. This direct-to-DVD movie also has several special features including a look at the voice talent, the history of the group, preview for the sequel and more.

Virgin Spring - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
The film that inspired Wes Craven to make The Last House on the Left, but you shouldn't hold that against it. The film is set in medieval Sweden and stars Max von Sydow as a man who learns his houseguests were responsible for the rape and murder of his daughter. What could have turned into a standard revenge flick in lesser hands becomes yet another masterpiece by legendary director, Ingmar Bergman. Add in audio commentary, interviews, intro by Ang Lee and more and you have the closest to a must have DVD on this week's list. But it's more for Cinemaphiles than mass audiences.

Vital - Buy from Amazon
Vital stars Tadanobu Asano as Hiroshi Takagi, a man whose memory is wiped after he is in a car accident. Later he decides to enroll in medical school but while dissecting a cadaver he begins to have flashbacks to his old life. But are these real memories, hallucinations, or something else? It's a surreal film from Japan with plenty of special features on the disc, but the movie may be a little extreme for most viewers, so if you are interested, give it a rental first.


Filed under: Video Releases, Flightplan, The Fog, Oliver Twist, Thumbsucker, Down and Derby, National Lampoon's Barely Legal, My Big Fat Independent Movie, The Aristocrats