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DVD Releases for May 16, 2006

May 15th, 2006

It's a pretty average week for DVD releases with a handful of DVDs worth checking out. That said, there wasn't many that were in competition for DVD Pick of the Week and in the end Home Movies - Season Four was the only one in serious contention. The only other DVD on this week's list than I would rate as a must have is These Girls, but I admit, that is partially due to my pro-Canada bias.

American Soldiers - Buy from Amazon
A terrible anti-war movie from the same director that brought us Superman 4. So bad that it will turn the most ardent pacifist into a gung-ho, military hawk. Skip it.

The Big Valley - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
Barbara Stanwyck starred as Victoria Barkley in this classic 60s Western and was nominated for three Emmys winning in 1966. Since the show is more than 40 years old, it is just nice to get the shows on DVD and the lack of special features is disappointing, but not unexpected. In fact, I'm more disappointed that the studio decided to go with double-sided discs.

Doogal - Buy from Amazon
One of the worst movies of the year, it was also one of the biggest bombs. It would take a lot of extras to compensate for that and make the DVD worth picking up, but the studio didn't even try with just a short behind-the-scenes featurette. Skip it.

Duma - Buy from Amazon
Two attempts to find this film an audience theatrically when nowhere, but even though the DVD is virtually featureless, it is selling very well currently in 51st place on Amazon Sales Chart. Granted, the revews were amazing, but the performance is still amazing.

Every Time We Say Goodbye - Buy from Amazon
I thought this DVD was coming out last month. There's really nothing I need to add from that column.

Game 6 - Buy from Amazon
While hardly a bad movie, this film wasn't good enough to earn the word of mouth needed to escape limited release. It's a shame that the film didn't do better in the theatres because it is worth checking out, but the lack of special features keeps it from rising above a rental.

George Bernard Shaw Collection - Buy from Amazon
Six BBC movies based on works by George Bernard Shaw. The films are: Arms and the Man, The Devil's Disciple, Heartbreak House, The Millionairess, Mrs Warren's Profession, and Pygmalion. Pricewise, the box set is essentially buy four get two free and is the better deal.

Glaciation Trilogy - Buy from Amazon: The Seventh Continent, Benny's Video, and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance
Austrian writer / director Michael Haneke's Glaciation Trilogy hits the home market tomorrow. If one were to describe these films in one word, that word would be, 'Depressing.' Soul-crushingly depressing. There is a fourth Michael Haneke DVD being released tomorrow, Funny Games. It is the best of the four films, but still not good enough to recommend. Lastly, the only extra on the discs is a 80-minute interview with the director, but it was cut up into four pieces and spread over the four DVDs. I think the studio wanted give a little bit on each disc so none of them were bare, but it just seems like a calculated attempt to get people to buy all four DVDs when they would otherwise just buy one or two.

Grizzly - 30th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
The perfect movie for Stephen Colbert. Sometimes it feels like he's the only thing between us and those namby-pamby, liberal, pro-Bear special interest groups. When will they learn the bears are not to be trusted? Also coming out tomorrow is the follow-up film, Day of the Animals, which combines the pro-bear agenda with environmental scare tactics. There's nothing scary about the environment. I'll tell you what's scary. Bears. Bear and the people who give them aid and comfort. ... Moving on.

Grounded For Life - Buy from Amazon
This was the final full season for the show on Fox. Three episodes into season three it was cancelled but then moved to WB. Not only did it last the rest of the season, it continued for two more. The second season episodes are up to the quality of the Season 1, but the special features have taken a turn for the worse. Season 1 had ten audio commentary tracks out of 20 episodes and four interview featurettes while this set only has one audio commentary and three interviews. On the other hand, both have outtakes and highlights. However, while the extras are weaker, the set is still worth picking up for fans of the show.

HD-DVD Round-Up - Buy from Amazon: Full Metal Jacket and Unforgiven
This week there are two more DVDs being ported over to HD-DVD. Unforgiven is the better movie, but neither really need to be seen in HD-DVD so without something new on the disc, it is not worth the upgrade.

Here Come the Brides - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A short-lived series from the 1960s that is about three brothers who have to find 100 single woman willing to travel from Massachusetts to Seattle and marry some of the locals. That sounds like a rather unorthodox premise, but the show still has quite a big fan base given its ages are short life span. I have a feeling nostalgia has a lot to do with that. Even with no special features, fans of the show will want to pick up this 6-disc set, but I don't think it will convert many people who have not seen the show before.

Hill Street Blues - The Complete 2nd Season - Buy from Amazon
The DVD release for Season 1 of this show had some issues, both with the quality of the audio and video as well as the lack of extras. While there are more extras this time around, the studio is still cramming the 18 episodes on just 3 discs. Sacrificing quality to save a few bucks is never a good idea. Fans are really in a tough spot here. Either they buy the show and reward the studio for substandard work, or they skip it and risk not getting further seasons on DVD.

Home Movies - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
Easily the best release coming out tomorrow as it combines a high quality show with tons of special features. All 13 episodes from the fourth and final season are on this 3-disc set as well as 24 audio commentaries. That's right, there's an average of nearly 2 audio commentaries per episodes with two of them having three audio commentaries. Other special features include animatics for a few episodes, audio outtakes, and a look at the origins of the show. Finally, there is a CD with 52 songs that Brendan Small wrote for the series. Easily the DVD Pick of the Week. Two final notes for those interested in the set, don't forget to check out our contest and later there will be an in-depth review posted.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection - Volume 9 - Buy from Amazon
When it comes to TV on DVD normally I want full season sets and nothing else. There are two exceptions to this rule, firstly, shows like Lizzie McGuire where the episodes were aired in such a haphazard way that you can only approximate what the full season would look like. Secondly, shows like MST3K, which for legal reasons will never have full season sets. So we're stuck with best of sets, at the same price as most full season sets and less special features. Okay, it is still worth picking up for fans of the show, but barely. I'm just worried that there will be a superset released later on that's has a better value per dollar ratio meaning all those who have sunk money into it now will be ripped off.

Napoleon Dynamite - Like, the Best Special Edition Ever! - Buy from Amazon
It hasn't been that long since this film first came out on DVD. That short time in-between double-dips is enough to prevent this 2-disc set from getting a recommendation, which is too bad since this is a massive step up in terms of quality with an additional audio commentary track, even more deleted scenes, two documentaries, interviews, audition tapes, and a bunch of appearances by Jon Heder as Napoleon Dynamite. Easily worth the upgrade, if it wasn't for the short turnaround time.

New Police Story - Buy from Amazon
Some were calling this film a return to form for Jackie Chan, but despite this, it is being released direct-to-DVD here. Not only that, it is being released on a featureless DVD. It's worth checking out for fans of Jackie Chan, but it is only worth a rental.

The Producers - Buy from Amazon
The original movie was arguably Mel Brooks best work and the Broadway Musical won a ton of awards and was a runaway smash hit. Because of this, there was very high hopes for the movie starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. But early buzz was troublesome, then the reviews were only average, but people were still shocked that the film managed less than $20 million domestically. I'm still not sure why that happened. The film should find a second life on DVD especially with the extras that including an audio commentary track, deleted and alternate scenes, outtakes, interviews, and a short behind-the-scenes look. Easily worth picking up.

The Ringer - Buy from Amazon
This film actually earned better reviews than I thought it would, that is not to say it even great or even good reviews, just better than I expected. Add in extras that are only average, (audio commentary, deleted scenes, etc.) and the end result is a DVD that most people will think is worth a rental, but not much more than that. On the other hand, there are those of us with a bent sense of humor that will want to pick this film up and add it to our guilty pleasures section of our DVD collection. You know who you guys are, and there's no shame in enjoying these types of films every once and a while.

Shooting Livien - Buy from Amazon
This is one of those films I came across in my daily research for this site, but it slipped out my radar screen and now I know why. After a few film festival appearances, the movie is being released direct-to-DVD. That's too bad since it deserved a better fate. Granted, it is not a great movie, but writer / director Rebecca Cook show promise and the DVD is definitely worth a rental. Perhaps if there were more special features, it would have been worth more than that.

Side Effects - Buy from Amazon
Katherine Heigl stars as Karly Hert in this film by first time writer / director Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau. The latter woman based this film partially on her 10 years as a sales rep for the pharmaceutical industry and while it's serviceable as a romantic comedy, when it turns into a message movie for the last act, it is too heavy-handed to be successful. The DVD, on the other hand, is very well done for a limited release with two audio commentary tracks, outtakes, deleted scenes, documentary, behind-the-scenes featurette, and more. It's worth a rental, but that's it.

Something New - Buy from Amazon
Something New was a big disappointment when it first came out. The film earned strong reviews, especially when compared to other wide releases, but it missed the top five when it first opened and disappeared shortly after that. It really deserved better and while it will do better on the home market, it won't be a big hit because the DVD is just mediocre. There's no audio commentary and just a short fluff promotional piece and an even shorter dating tips section. Call it a rental.

Supernanny - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
Reality TV = Skip it!

That Girl - Season One - Buy from Amazon
It's amazing looking back that this show was once considered ground breaking as it was the first American show to feature a strong, independent woman as the lead character. That may not seem like much now, but it was pretty special 40 years ago. However, if that was the only thing the show had going for it, then it wouldn't had lasted five seasons. The real draw was Marlo Thomas, who was perfect as Ann Marie. As for the 5-disc set, there's a lot of extras for a show this old with audio commentary tracks on four episodes, interview with Marlo Thomas, a look at the location shoots, and more. Worth picking up.

These Girls - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian film staring David Boreanaz as Keith Clark, a man being blackmailed by three under-aged girls into having sex. The film is a coming of age story, of sorts, and despite the unconventional plot and potentially offensive subject matter, the film is very good earning some of the best reviews on this week's list. The DVD, on the other hand, is completely devoid of special features. It is still worth picking up for most people, and for fellow Canadians, it is your patriotic duty to buy it tomorrow.

Unrated Extended Editions - Triple Shot - Buy from Amazon: Con Air, Crimson Tide, and Enemy of the State
Three films get the Unrated Extended treatment tomorrow. There are reasons to add each of these movies to your DVD collection, some more spurious than others. For instance, Con Air, while the weakest of the movie in terms of reviews, (49% positive), and extras, (none), has a great cast including personal favorites like John Cusack and Colm Meany. Enemy of the State is like a spy thriller without any spies. Will Smith plays and every-man who has the world of espionage thrust upon him but the real draw for me is the supporting case including Jason Lee, Seth Green, Jack Black, and others. Crimson Tide is the best of the bunch and almost seems out of place with the other, less serious films. None of the DVDs have an overabundance of special features, especially when you take into account they are all double-dips, while the extended footage is less than 10 minutes a movie. (Also, the Unrated label is pure marketing, nothing here would boost the movies above their original R-rating.) There's nothing here that suggests an upgrade is really necessary, (although the improvements in the video and audio quality might be enough for some), but if you don't have these in your DVD collection yet, now is a great time to get them.

Walt Disney's It's a Small World of Fun - Buy from Amazon: Volume 1 and Volume 2
Walt Disney has burned its fans so many times with double-dips, that I can't recommend anyone buy any of their collections of shorts ever again.

When a Stranger Calls - Buy from Amazon
One of about 12 billion horror remakes to have come out in the past few years. This film earned bad news even when compared to others such films. Part of the reason this remake was so bad was that the original wasn't that good to begin with. Sure, it had a great hook with the babysitter and the phone calls, but that's all it had. On the other hand, the DVD is really good with two audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, making of featurette and more. The supplements change what would have been a skippable disc into one that is worth a rental, but it can't do anything more.

The White Countess - Buy from Amazon
The final film from the Merchant / Ivory as Ismail Merchant sadly passed away last year. While this was their last film, it was not one of their best; of course, sub-par Merchant / Ivory is still better than most films than come out. Add in special features that are very strong for a limited releases, (audio commentary, behind the scenes, making of, and a tribute to Ismail Merchant), and you have a DVD that is certainly worth picking up.

Winter Passing - Buy from Amazon
I had high hopes for this film, but the reviews were not up to the level I thought there were and then the film never found an audience playing in just 10 theatres at its widest. That makes it one of several films on this week's list that struggled more than they should have. Unfortunately, this DVD also has the weakest special features of that group with just a short behind the scenes featurette and doesn't rate past a rental. Wasted potential.

Writer of O - Buy from Amazon
This film is a combination of documentary and dramatization, but while this is a novel approach, it is not an entirely successful one. That said, there is still enough in the film that is of interest, and when combined with the moderate level of extras, the DVD is worth a rental.


Filed under: Video Releases, When a Stranger Calls, Napoleon Dynamite, The Ringer, The Producers: The Movie Musical, Something New, Doogal, The White Countess, Duma, Game 6, Winter Passing, Side Effects, Writer of O