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DVD Releases for January 31, 2006

January 30th, 2006

This week is busier than it has been for about a month, but there still isn't much in the way of contenders for the DVD Pick of the Week. The best of the bunch is Corpse Bride - Buy from Amazon, but the special features are not up to par and that prevents it from being a true DVD Pick of the Week.

The A-Team - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
This season is the halfway point of the series and even fans of the show admit it was starting to premise was starting to run thin. Add in zero special features, and problems with some episodes, and this 3-disc set is for hardcore fans only.

All American Girl - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Margaret Cho stars as Margaret Kim, the daughter of South Korean immigrants. Like many SitComs based on the work of stand-up comics, it can only be as successful as the leads ability to adjust from stand-up to acting and the writer's ability to capitalize on the stars strengths. In this case, neither was 100% up to the task, but even so the show might have lasted longer had there not been so much studio interference. Add in audio commentary tracks on 4 episodes and some new interviews and this 4-disc set is worth picking up for fans of the show or of Margaret Cho's stand-up routine, but it probably won't convert newcomers.

Archie Bunker's Place - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
The third of four All in the Family spin-offs and of those four shows, two of them had an additional spin-off each making the series arguably the most prolific of all time. This series is not nearly as strong as the original, in fact, off all the shows spawn by All in the Family only Gloria is weaker. Add in no special features and this 3-disc set is best ignored.

Benny Hill Complete and Unadulterated - The Hill's Angels Years - Set Four - Buy from Amazon
Ten more episode from the classic sketch comedy show from United Kingdom. As you can probably tell by the title, this set the lovely ladies that have always been a part of Benny Hill's comedy became a much more integral part of the show. While many complained that these women were simply there to be ogled and exploited for their looks, they were also a central part of many comedy bits, bits that usually ended with the men being the butt of the joke. Those that have been keeping up with this series know what to expect in terms of the show and the special features, however, this time the featurette is about the Hill's Angels and has interviews with many of them as the reminisce about their time on the show.

Bubble - Buy from Amazon
The first movie ever released simultaneously in the theatres and on TV and then released on DVD the following Tuesday. While the film's theatrical released bombed taking in just over $70,000 in 32 theatres, it looks to perform better on the home market. However, while the film earned strong reviews it still feels more like an experiment that needs to be contemplated and examined rather than a movie that can simply be watched and enjoyed. The special features are great with 2 audio commentary tracks, a couple of featurettes, deleted scenes, and more but even so I can't recommend it for anything more than renting.

Corpse Bride - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
Easily the best first-run release on this week's list and the obvious choice for DVD Pick of the Week. However, the DVD is light on special features with no audio commentary track and only a handful of short featurettes with a total running time of about 25 minutes. I suspect a Special Edition release will come out sooner than later, but that won't stop me from picking up the DVD tomorrow, but it does stop me from awarding it the highest rating I can give.

Diff'rent Strokes - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
One of many signature sitcoms of the 80s. This season is an improvement over the first, but looking back it still feels awfully cheesy. Good news, the 4-disc set is really cheap costing as much as the average first-run release. The bad news, the 4-disc set is cheap as the sound and video feel dated and there are no special features.

Dune - The Extended Edition - Buy from Amazon
The extended edition is the version that was made for TV and clocks in at around three hours. It is also the version of the film that David Lynch disowned. Part of the problem with the movie was that is was overly long to begin with and did a poor job at explaining what was shown. But the aesthetics and the mood set by the movie is enough for it to earn some very loyal fans. This 2-disc set contains both versions of the film, plus plenty of special features in the form of featurettes on the special effects, costumes, set design, etc. It's well worth picking up for those who enjoyed either version. For those who have never seen it before, give it a rental. You'll be amazed, confused, or repulsed. Possibly all three at the same time.

Essential Atom Egoyan Box Set - Buy from Amazon
Four of Atom Egoyan's earlier works, as well as three shorts. Special features on the 4-disc set include audio commentaries, documentary featurettes, deleted scenes, making of, interviews, and more. Granted, it is still quite pricey compared to most box sets of this nature, but it is still worth picking up for fans of this director as the movies are difficult to find individually.

Four Weddings and a Funeral - Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
I admit, I like Romantic Comedies, especially those written by Richard Curtis. This is the first of five films written by Richard Curtis and starring Hugh Grant and it is arguably the best. (Although I would call it a close toss up with Love Actually.) As for the DVD, it is a huge upgrade from the previous release even before you take into account the special features as the video and audio are vastly improved. That's not to say the disc is bare, because it's not. There's the usual audio commentary, deleted scenes, two making of featurettes, another on casting and more. Easily worth the upgrade.

Gastineau Girls - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Follow the wacky adventures of two rich socialites as they waste their lives on self-indulgence. Each episode is a 30-minute argument for keeping the Estate Tax.

Gone with the Wind - Two-Disc Edition - Buy from Amazon
For those who loved the movie, but thought the Limited Edition Box Set was too much.

Gumball 3000: Six Days in May - Buy from Amazon
The Gumball 3000 is an annual Street Racing event that attracts car enthusiast, speed addicts, a few Celebrities, assorted crazies and plenty of cops. While the race is legal and it is easy to compete without breaking any laws, some people have been known to speed, and the cops have been known to bust a few drivers. This year's race started in Paris went south to Marrakech and finished in Cannes just in time for the Film Festival, with stops in Madrid, Casablanca, Barcelona, and more. For a documentary about a race, it spends a lot of time dealing with the characters rather than the actual race. The movie itself is a little short at just over an hour, but the DVD has a few special features to compensate including an audio commentary, 4-minute montage of driving shots, interviews with the founder Maximillion Cooper & Adrien Brody, and more. It's a fun package and worth checking out.

Hill Street Blues - The Complete Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
Arguably the first ensemble drama ever on TV and the show is important for that fact alone. Unfortunately, the 3-disc set is quite bad with several problems with the video and audio and little in the way of special features. On the one hand, this is a very substandard release and no fan of the show should be happy with its treatment, on the other hand, if not enough people buy it, the studio won't put out any other seasons. Personally, I think the best course of action is a politely worded e-mail to Fox telling them why this kind of treatment for such a groundbreaking, award-winning show is unacceptable.

Homestar Runner: Strongbad_email.exe - Buy from Amazon
A collection of 100 Strong Bad E-mails on one DVD. These are very funny, but they are also available online for free. I guess if you really, really like these and want to financially support the people who make them, then this is worth picking up.

In Her Shoes - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
Although it performed better with critics than expected, this chick flick never really found an audience. The DVD should do better, but the special features are not great with just three featurettes. Call it a solid rental.

Johnny Belinda - Buy from Amazon
This film stars Jane Wyman, who was Ronald Reagan's first wife. This movie always reminds me of the Spitting Image TV special, The Ronnie and Nancy Show. One of my favorite quotes from the show was, "Many think that is it was during the filming of Johnny Belinda that the marriage turned rocky, when in fact it was during the filming of Rocky that the marriage turned Johnny Belinda." ... I wish Spitting Image was available on DVD. ... Moving on.

Knight Rider - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
This is a show that Jumped the Shark really fast and now only has appeal because of its kitsch factor, which is admittedly really high. On the other hand, the DVD value is really low since the audio / video quality is poor and there are no special features. Skip it.

The Legend of Zorro - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
A sequel that was just too many years in the making and by the time it finally hit theatres, no one cared about the original. The original was fun while the sequel tried too hard to be family fun and that killed the film for me and most other critics. As for the DVD, it's a good package with an audio commentary track, four featurettes with an average length of nearly 10 minutes, and deleted scenes. That's not enough to make up for the quality of the movie and puts the DVD at the rental level, at most.

Lust for Life - Buy from Amazon
A biopic about the life of Vincent Van Gogh and the film that Anthony Quinn won his second Oscar for, (despite being on the screen for just 12 minutes). A great film and even thought the disc only has an audio commentary track, it is still worth checking out.

Magnum, P.I. - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
There are a lot of 80s shows coming tomorrow and while this isn't the best of them, it certainly has held up better than most. On the other hand, the 3-disc set is again completely devoid of special features, which is a common problem with TV on DVD releases from Universal. I'd write and complain, but they apparently just don't care.

MI-5 - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
MI-5, or Spooks as it is known in the U.K., is one of the best shows on the air and details the lives of the British Intelligence organization. Add in audio commentary tracks on all ten episodes, interviews, deleted scenes, and more and you have a 5-disc set for that is a must have for any fan of the show.

Muppets Movie Collection - Buy from Amazon
Three Muppet movies for one low price, however, only The Muppets Take Manhattan is really worth picking up while Muppets From Space is a rental at best. On the other hand, the special features are better than the Muppets 50th Anniversary edition DVDs.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
The original release had just an audio commentary for a special feature, while the special edition has the audio commentary, a making of featurette, and a CD of contemporary wedding songs. This is well below average for most first-run releases and not worth the upgrade.

Phil the Alien - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian film, which explains why you've never heard of it. The movie tells the story of Phil, who's an Alien. He crashes on Earth, quickly becomes enamored with alcohol, lands in jails and joins a bar band. The film is low-budget, utterly strange, and mostly funny. Worth a rental for most folks, and it is the patriotic duty of all Canadians to buy it.

The Pink Panther - Buy from Amazon: The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark, The Return of the Pink Panther, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, The Revenge of the Pink Panther, Trail of the Pink Panther, Curse of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther
With the latest attempt to revive the franchise just around the corner, the rest of the films are being re-released on DVD tomorrow. Anything up to Pink Panther Strikes Again is worth owning, Revenge of the Pink Panther is a mediocre while the rest is pure garbage.

The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection - Buy from Amazon
Arguably the best collection of cartoon shorts this side of Looney Tunes Golden Collection. This is an amazing collection of shorts including the first one for which Friz Freleng won his only Oscar. In fact, it was the first time a studio had won an Oscar for the first cartoon short they produced. In addition to the 124 cartoon shorts, there are featurettes on Friz Freleng, the animation, the cultural phenomenon, and more. I would have liked some audio commentaries or more historical context, but at least the studio understands their target audience is adult collectors and not little kids. There are also 3 single-disc releases, but combined they only have just over half the total cartoons. Granted, they contain the best of the cartoons, but true fans will want the complete collection.

Rat Patrol - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
This World War II series aired for a couple seasons around the same time as Combat, but the two shows had little in common as this one was more escapist action and not the gritty drama the latter show offered. Also, the DVDs are completely devoid of special feature.

Sexual Intelligence - Buy from Amazon
Kim Cattrall hosts this documentary look at sex. Now, outside of acting on a show with the word, 'Sex' in the title, does she have any actual expertise in the subject? The show itself is just average and there are not enough special features that it even warrant a rental.

Supercross - Buy from Amazon
Arguably the worst movie of 2005. The DVD could be packed with extra features and it still wouldn't be worth watching, however, I will give the studio credit as there are plenty of special features here. Audio commentary, making of, behind-the-scenes, a look at the actual sport, etc. Good package, terrible movie, skip it.

Taro the Dragon Boy - Buy from Amazon
An amazing example of Anime that is based on a Japanese legend about a lazy and selfish boy who gains the strength of 100 men, but only when he's helping others. Fans of the genre and neophytes alike should check this DVD out, even though there are no real features.

The War Within - Buy from Amazon
This movie generated a lot of animosity for such a small release, but that is to be expected when dealing with such of difficult topic as terrorism. The film tries to understand why these seemingly normal people commit such horrible acts, but trying to understand is not the same as condoning or excusing, which some people accused the filmmakers of doing. Add in special features that are better than most limited releases, (audio commentary, deleted scenes, etc.) and you have a solid rental.

When a Stranger Calls - Buy from Amazon
What's the most important step in release a remake? Releasing the original on a special edition DVD, of course. So I'm a little concerned that this DVD appears to be just a simple re-release of the featureless disc from 2001. As for the movie itself, it has some very effective moments, but those are too few and too far apart to be anything more than a rental.

X-Files - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon: Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3
The first three seasons of the long-running series at its new, and much cheaper price. This was one of the first shows to come out on full season sets, and back in 2000 no one really new how much a full season set should go for. So the producers asked the fans and the price they came up with was $150 for a full season set, and if you think about it, that's a pretty good price per minute compared to most first-run releases. However, that's ridiculously expensive compared to most TV on DVD releases today and part way through the run they dropped the price to $100 per season, and now they are dropping it again to $50 per season are re-releasing them from the beginning. So for those of you that spent over $1000 to buy the complete series when it first came out, sorry, but you were hosed. For those that waited, congratulations on being a shrewd consumer. To other studios, make sure you price the season set fairly from the beginning, because if you do this too often, people will stop buying them in the first place.


Filed under: Video Releases, The Corpse Bride, The Legend of Zorro, In Her Shoes, Supercross, Bubble, The War Within