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DVD Releases for May 23, 2006

May 22nd, 2006

It was a big week for DVD releases, but most of them were of the older variety and there were no recent, high-quality, box office hits in the mix. I was tempted to go with Patton - Special Edition as the DVD Pick of the Week, but in the end went with Transamerica - Buy from Amazon instead.

The 4400 - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This series started out as a mini-series but season two was twice as long, which explains why this DVD set is twice as expensive. The 4-disc set contains all 12 second season episodes, (thirteen if you count the 2-hour season opening as two episodes), as well as audio commentaries on three, and three featurettes on various subjects. This is a great show, and the DVD set is very well done and easily worth picking up for those who enjoyed the First Season.

April's Shower - Buy from Amazon
Your typical Romantic Comedy with a Lesbian twist. Unfortunately, like too many films of the same genre, it is overloaded with cliches and that kills any enjoyment someone might otherwise get from the movie.

Bloodrayne - Buy from Amazon: Unrated Director's Cut and Theatrical Cut
Widely considered one of the worst movies ever made. This movie is so bad it can induce tumors in lab rats after just 5 minutes of exposure, which makes it about five times better than Uwe Boll's previous movie. This movie is so bad, it might be worth renting just to listen to the audio commentary track to hear Uwe Boll's justification... but not worth it enough to pay for it. Convince one of your dumber friends to rent it and watch it at their place. On a side note, the movie comes with the PC game, but it is still not worth the price.

Blu-Ray - Buy from Amazon: Chronos
The first Blu-Ray players were supposed to be released today, but they were then pushed back till June. I would assume the Blu-Ray release of Chronos would be pushed back till then, but Amazon still has it coming out tomorrow.

The Boondock Saints - Unrated Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
The background story for this movie is a lot better than the actual movie is. This 2-disc set is only average for a special edition and doesn't come close to making up for the quality of the movie. Skip it.

Boston Legal - The Complete 1st Season - Buy from Amazon
William Shatner's return to primetime television was a triumphant one as he won an Emmy for his supporting performance of Denny Crane while his co-star, James Spader win for best lead performance. However, the 5-disc set is below average with no audio commentary tracks, and only three short featurettes. Still worth picking up, but the addition of a few audio commentaries would have made it a must have, while a fully loaded set could have been a DVD Pick of the Week.

Brilliant But Cancelled - Buy from Amazon: Crime Dramas and EZ Streets
I love this concept, collecting a series of short-lived TV series that would otherwise be forgotten and releasing them under one banner. However, the execution is deeply flawed. For instance, EZ Streets had 10 episodes made, but only 4 of them are on the DVD while Crime Dramas has one episode for each of Touching Evil, Johnny Staccato, Gideon Oliver and Delvecchio. These could be the only DVD release for these shows, so fans might want to pick them up as a consolation prize or to convince the studies that there is enough demand to release full series sets.

The Cecil B. DeMille Collection - Buy from Amazon
To call Cecil B. Demille a legend in filmmaking is an understatement. The man practically invented the art form, directing some of the greatest movies ever made. In this box set five of his movies being released on DVD for the very first time: Cleopatra, The Crusades, Four Frightened People, Sign of the Cross, Union Pacific. All of these are great films, but his best works are not here. (Both versions of The Ten Commandments and King of Kings have already been released on excellent DVDs, and their inclusion here would have been considered double-dipping anyway.) Unfortunately, there are no extras for any of these films. On the one hand, they are very old, averaging more than 70 years old and that explains the lack of special features. On the other hand, they are also historically important and I'm sure the studio could have found some film historian to do audio commentary tracks.

Cheaper By the Dozen 2 - Buy from Amazon
Terrible movie, but one that was a big hit regardless. Steve Martin, Eugene Levy, and Bonnie Hunt are all incredibly talented, but the material is thin and they were practically phoning in their performances. The same can be said for most of the children in both clans with the possible exception of Alyson Stoner who played Sarah Baker. Her coming of age story was the only aspect of the movie that had any depth, and even that couldn't have sustained a movie half as long. Add in extras that are below average for a first run release, and you have a DVD that is not even worth renting. Can also be purchased with the original as part of a package deal for those who want two bad movies in one set.

Classic Crime Collection - Street Justice - Buy from Amazon
Four crime dramas, Murder Inc., The French Connection, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and The Seven-Ups, released in one box set. Their quality ranged from amazing to below average. Unfortunately, it leans heavily to the latter category, with the only film really worth picking up already available in a 2-Disc Special Edition and the rest have little or no special features. The box set is the better deal and is about half the price to buy them separately, but I'd still suggest picking up The French Connection - 2-Disc Special Edition and The St. Valentine's Day Massacre while skipping the other two.

Classic Western Collection - The Outlaws - Buy from Amazon
Four westerns, The Proud Ones, Forty Guns, Broken Lance, and The Culpepper Cattle Co., released in one box set. Like the previous set, the films here are merely average. Unlike the last set, there are no classics of the genre that stand out as must haves. That combined with the light amount of special features and you have a box set that can be safely skipped.

The Closer - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
This is the current show starring Kyra Sedgwick and not the earlier series of the same name starring Tom Selleck. Kyra Sedgwick stars as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, the new head of the Priority Homicide Department at the L.A.P.D. It is one of the better procedural shows on TV at the moment, but since there are roughly 70 such shows on right now, and I mean right this second, many tend to get lost in the shuffle. Add in the fact that the show's on TNT and most people will have never heard of it. That's a shame since it deserves to be seen by more people. However, this 4-disc set won't earn too many new fans as the only extras are some deleted scenes; it's still worth picking up, but it could have been an award contender.

Compulsion - Buy from Amazon
One of several films based on the Leopold-Loeb murder case from the 1924 and while this is one of the best, I still prefer Hitchcock's Rope instead. There are no special features on the DVD, but considering the fact that the movie is well over 40 years old, that is not surprising.

Deadwood - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
The first season of this show was amazing, however there was a noticeably drop-off in quality for this season, but it was still a great show. Season 3 starts in a couple of weeks, and it was recently announced that this will be the last season. Perhaps strong sales of this set could convince HBO to keep it going, but I wouldn't bet on it. Strong sales are certainly warranted when looking at the special features, which include 9 audio commentary tracks on 6 episodes of the 12 episodes, making of featurette, and a look at the real Deadwood. My only complaint is that price tag, which might be a deal breaker for many people. Can also be purchased with the first season as part of a package deal.

The Devil's Miner - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about two young boys working in the Cerro Rico silver mines in Bolivia trying to support their family while earning enough to continue their education. One of the best movies on this week's list, but the light special features will hurt sales.

The Dirty Dozen - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
The Dirty Dozen is one of the greatest World War II movies ever made and there's not much that needs to be said about the movie that hasn't been said a hundred times, so I'll concentrate on the DVD. This 2-Disc set contains both the theatrical movie and the Made-for-TV sequel from 1985 (which is not really a selling point), as well as a mix of new and old material for extras. New includes an audio commentary track, a making of documentary, a look at the historical figures that inspired the original Novel, and an intro by Ernest Borgnine. Vintage material includes a promotional piece from the 1960s and a marine recruitment video narrated by Lee Marvin. Overall it is an excellent package and worth the upgrade. Also coming out tomorrow are the two other made-for-TV movies, but they are for hardcore fans only.

Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
It's like Supernanny, only for dogs... and it's actually a good show. OK, yes, it is technically Reality TV but it is not the soul-crushing, human despair variety but more of a How To Guide. This 4-disc set contains all 26 episodes as well as deleted scenes and, "Doggie auditions." Owners of rambunctious dogs should check out the show and the official site.

Game 6 - Buy from Amazon
I thought this was coming out last week, but it is apparently coming out this week. However, there's nothing new I need to add that I didn't mention then.

The Goebbels Experiment - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels in his own words. Kenneth Branagh reads passages from his diary in this effective and scary look into the mind of one of the men that helped orchestrate one of the most evil acts in recorded history. Given the historical significance of the subject, I was expecting more special features. Even so, it is still worth a rental.

HD-DVD Selection - Buy from Amazon: Blazing Saddles, The Bourne Supremacy, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Fugitive, U-571, Unforgiven, and Van Helsing
A busy week for HD-DVD releases, but until there's a special edition that was made specifically for the format including special features in HD-DVD that are not available on regular DVD, then there's little reason to upgrade.

Heroes of War Collection - Buy from Amazon: Frontline Combat, Navy Battles, Soldier's Stories
Three box sets, each containing four World War II movies. The price is right, but the lack of special features and the uneven quality of the movies hurts the overall value. Simply put, there are much better World War II movies coming out tomorrow and I suggest sticking with those.

High School Musical - Buy from Amazon
This Disney Channel made-for-TV movie didn't seem like much when it was announced, but it became the show's highest-rated original program ever and the musical is starting to take on a life of its own. The DVD is good with plenty of extras (not surprisingly, they focus on the music and dance numbers), but I would have liked an audio commentary as well. Even so, it is worth picking up.

Hollow Man 2 - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD sequel to a movie that was terrible to begin with. It's as bad as that description makes it sound. Skip it.

Jim Henson's the Storyteller - The Definitive Collection - Buy from Amazon
This 2-disc set contains both the original Storyteller series and the Greek Myths series and anyone who is a fan of Jim Henson will want to pick it up. However, while the shows are incredible, the DVD is mediocre with no real special features. Very disappointing.

Julie Johnson - Buy from Amazon
This film sat on the studio shelf for several years, finally was released on TV and now it hitting the home market. However, it really wasn't worth the wait. A lot of the parts are good, but they don't come together as a cohesive whole.

Kingdom of Heaven - 4-Disc Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon
I have three major problems with this release. First of all, the movie wasn't that good to begin with. Secondly, the it's only been a year since the movie was released theatrically, and this is the second DVD release and that's way too short of a time for a double-dip. Finally, a lot of the extras on the previous release are not available on this one. On the other hand, the Director's Cut is significantly better both in terms of the quality of the movie (which now runs more than 3 hours), and in terms of the special features. It's easily worth picking up, even if you own the previous release, and if this version had been released at the same time as the first, or at least announced, it would have been the DVD Pick of the Week.

Little Britain - Series 2 - Buy from Amazon
This show took a step back in terms of quality this series; it's still funny, but not as great as series 1. On the other hand, the extras are just as strong with audio commentary tracks on all six episodes, making of featurette, live sketches, interviews and more. Worth picking up for fans of the show.

London - Buy from Amazon
I was interested in seeing the movie based on a few of the cast members, but when it was released it was eviscerated by critics, ignored by moviegoers, and never expanded anywhere near me. Now that it's out on DVD, I'm impressed by the number of special features, but the overall package still doesn't rate past a rental. And even calling it a rental might be overdoing it.

The Longest Day - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Another amazing World War II movie being released tomorrow on a special edition DVD. I prefer The Dirty Dozen as a movie, but I have to admit, this is the better DVD package with two audio commentary tracks and a disc full of making of and historical featurettes. Very impressive and easily worth picking up.

M*A*S*H - The Complete 10th Season - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
The penultimate season of this Korean War TV series. Shows that last this long tend to fade away, a mere shell of their former glory, but that's not the case here. Season 10 had some classic episodes and was nominated for 10 Emmys, winning 2 of them. On the other hand, there are no special features on the 3-disc set so I don't see how it earns the Collector's Edition moniker. Still, if you've been keeping up with the series, there's no reason to stop now.

Metal - A Headbanger's Journey - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about Heavy Metal and Headbangers done by an anthropologist and fellow metalhead, Sam Dunn. Since it is directed by both a fan of the music and an anthropologist, this movie as a unique and engaging look at the culture. It also features interviews with fans, musicians, and more. Add in a 2-disc set that is packed with extras (audio commentary, extended interviews, outtakes, and much more), and this is a must have for fans of the genre.

One Last Thing - Buy from Amazon
This film was released in theatres just over two weeks ago and did almost no business, in part because the DVD release was such a short distance away, but the reviews didn't help. It looks like it will perform much better on the home especially with a DVD that has more extras than most limited releases (audio commentary, making of featurette, outtakes, etc.), but it still doesn't rate past as rental.

Patton - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Of the four World War II movies coming out on 2-Disc special editions tomorrow, this one is the best. Since the film has been released on DVD before, the obvious question is, "Is it worth the upgrade?" The answer to that is yes, an emphatic yes. The set is loaded with an audio commentary track, a feature-length documentary on George S. Patton, a shorter documentary on some of the men that served with him, another documentary on the making of the movie, and more. Overall it is easily worth the upgrade and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Samurai Jack - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
A highly stylized cartoon about Samurai Jack, a hero sent forward in time by his arch-nemesis, the evil wizard Aku. Once there, he finds a world still ruled by Aku and he knows he is the only one capable of defeating him. The show continues its high quality in season three while the DVD is also as strong as the previous releases with an audio commentary track, featurette, and lost artwork. Speaking of previous releases, this 2-disc set can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Saturday Night Live - Best Of... - Buy from Amazon: Cheri Oteri and Commercial Parodies
I like Cheri Oteri and a lot of what she did on Saturday Night Live, however, I was not impressed with the collection of skits found here as a few were very weak while several others should have been included. That's the problem with "Best Of" sets. On the other hand, the special features are better than most releases from the show. The second collection, Commercial Parodies, has a better mix of skits (including my personal favorite, Happy Fun Ball), but besides the 70 parodies, there are no special features. They are worth rentals for fans of the show, but not much more than that.

Tora! Tora! Tora! - Buy from Amazon
The final of the four World War II movies coming out on 2-Disc special editions tomorrow, this one earned the weakest reviews but is still worth picking up for fans of the genre. Like the other three releases, there are plenty of extras, including an audio commentary track, making of featurette, documentary on the history of Pearl Harbor, and several Fox Movietone News clips. Easily worth the upgrade from the previous release.

Transamerica - Buy from Amazon
There were not many recent releases to come out on DVD this week with only one or two true wide releases. (Bloodrayne doesn't really doesn't count as a wide release since it opened in less 1,000 theatres. Then again, Bloodrayne doesn't really count as a movie.) Of the limited releases on this week's chart, Transamerica clearly did the best, but even then it never managed to break 700 theatres. It's going to do much better on the home market partially thanks to its reviews and taking box office into account, then this one is clearly the best. Also helping its cause are the special features, which include an audio commentary track, a couple of interviews, outtakes, music video, making of the music video and more. Easily worth picking up and a contender for the DVD Pick of the Week.

Viridiana - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Some would argue that this is Spanish director Luis Bunuel's best film and while there are others that would argue for The Exterminating Angel or another film from his career, it is hard to argue against the this one. The DVD is a Criterion Collection release, so you know what that means in terms of quality (although it is a little lower than most DVDs with that label, but it is also cheaper). For fans of Luis Bunuel, this is a must have. For those who have never seen any of his work, this is a good place to start.

Who Gets to Call It Art? - Buy from Amazon
A documentary look at the post-WW II art scene, but it is not in-depth enough for a serious scholar, nor is it engaging enough to draw in newcomers. There are quite a few extras for a limited release, but not enough to push it past the rental level.

Wings - The Complete First and Second Seasons - Buy from Amazon
Very successful in terms of ratings, but even fans of the show have to admit it was a formulaic sitcom. And while the formula usually works, it doesn't really demand repeat viewing. Add in nothing in terms of special features (a sin Paramount Home Video has been guilty of far too many times), and you have a 4-disc set that is not worth the price tag. On the other hand, Tony Shalhoub is one of my favorite actors and seeing his early work might be worth a rental.

X-Men Evolution - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
The penultimate season of this cartoon arrives just a few days before the final chapter of the highly successful trilogy is released in theatres. It must be a coincidence. The 2-disc set has enough special features not to feel bare, but not enough to be a real selling point. Still, it's worth checking out for fans of the show.


Filed under: Video Releases, Cheaper by the Dozen 2, Kingdom of Heaven, Transamerica, BloodRayne, Game 6, Das Goebbels-Experiment, Devil's Miner, One Last Thing..., London, April's Shower