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DVD Releases for June 20, 2006

June 19th, 2006

It may seem like a really slow week for DVD releases, but this is because several releases were grouped together. I have one section for the five Alfred Hitchcock releases instead of spreading them out and padding the word count. Taking that into account, the week is about average in terms of quantity, and quality. There were a handful of contenders this week, and a few that looked good in advance but the special feature were a let down. In the end I went with NewsRadio - The Complete Fourth Season as the best of the best while Married With Children - The Complete Fifth Season earns and honorable mention. ... "Go with him." (If you get that reference, you probably already have the latter release pre-ordered.)

Alfred Hitchcock - Various Movies - Buy from Amazon: Frenzy, Rope, Saboteur, Topaz, and The Trouble With Harry
Five movies from the master of suspense are being re-released on DVD tomorrow. All five are on The Masterpiece Collection, which I reviewed previously. While all of these movie are worth checking out individually, the full box set is the much better deal. Not only does it cost the same as picking up the five movies being released this week, it also contains five other movies and a bonus disc with additional special features.

The Bill Cosby Show - Season One - Buy from Amazon
This isn't The Cosby Show from 1984, this is The Bill Cosby Show, from 1969 to 1971. In it, a much younger Bill Cosby plays Chet Kincaid, a gym teacher at a urban high school. Since both shows are infused with Cosby's brand of humor, those who enjoyed his later series will likely enjoy this one as well, however, the lack of special features is disappointing.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 50 First Dates, The Fifth Element, Hitch, A Knight's Tale, The Last Waltz, The Terminator, Underworld: Evolution, and XXX
The first Blu-Ray player was supposed to come out this week, but that was delayed. However, for the really early adapters, there are several films being released on that format tomorrow. They are of varying quality, but at least with Underworld: Evolution and The Terminator, the movies are visual experiences. Does seeing Hitch of 50 First Dates in Hi-Def make a real difference?

Charlie Chan Collection - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Looking back on these movies today and they seem incredibly racist; anytime you use an actor of one ethnicity to play another because audience won't accept the real thing, it is racist. But looking past that, (and given the films are more than 70 years old, we probably should), these are some excellent movies. There are four main films in this set, Charlie Chan in London, Charlie Chan in Paris, Charlie Chan in Egypt, Charlie Chan in Shanghai, plus the Mexican version of Charlie Chan Caries on called Eran Trece. Special features on the set come in the form of three featurettes with a total running time of nearly an hour. Worth picking up for fans of the series as they wait for the 2007 remake / sequel starring Lucy Liu.

Clark Gable - The Signature Collection - Buy from Amazon
Six movies starring Clark Gable making their DVD debuts in this box set or available separately. (Don't buy them separately as they are cheaper as part of the package. Essentially it is like buying four and getting 2 free.) Because these films are all new to DVD, some of Clark Gable's A material isn't here because they've already been released, sometimes with multiple versions. However, that doesn't mean there's a bunch of filler here with the weakest film in the set, (arguably Mogambo), still worth checking out. Special features include vintage shorts and classic cartoons for each movie.

Eight Below - Buy from Amazon
Not the best movie to come out this week, but nor is it the worst. And depending on how charming you find animal lead movies, this could be worth checking out, but the lack of special features limit its appeal. There are some deleted scenes and a making of featurette, but no audio commentary or anything else. Disappointing, especially considering how financially successful it was.

A Fine Madness - Buy from Amazon
Early Sean Connery film. Not one of his best or best known but may interest some of his fans. The low amount of special features, (there's just a vintage featurette on Sean Connery), limits its appeal to a rental.

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Buy from Amazon
A Mafia spoof starring a ton of great actors, but while there are many parts of the movie that work, it is more of a guilty pleasure.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
Just the one HD-DVD release, not counting the concurrent release of Syriana. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is a great movie, but the Hi-Def experience is not needed to enjoy the movie. Quite frankly, I've been extremely disappointed with the two formats so far as not enough releases have taken advantage of the substantial increase in technology. Also, almost none have brought anything new to the consumer in terms of special features. Until that happens on a regular basis, DVD will remain king.

The Hills Have Eyes - Buy from Amazon: Unrated Edition or Theatrical Version
This horror remake had the makings for a complete disaster, but turned out to be merely average. Comparing the film to the original, this one has a lot more gore, a lot, but stays true to the original's story. As for the DVD, it's better than most with two audio commentary tracks, making of featurettes, etc. As for the Unrated label, it is mostly a marketing ploy. Sure, there's a few extra bits of gore, but in most cases if you blink, you'll miss them. Even so, it is the version most fans of the movie will pick up.

The King of Queens - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Your typical sitcom, and I mean that as a description and an insult. It's not bad exactly, just derivative, repetitive, predictable. Like most shows released on DVD, this one has run out of special features. I know why studios do this, they make the first season a packed set to entice customers, and then when they have you hooked, they stop trying as hard. Although in this case, they never really tried that hard to begin with. Still, if you enjoyed the previous releases, there's no reason to stop now.

Lady & The Tramp II - Scamp's Adventure - Buy from Amazon
A special edition release for a direct-to-DVD sequel that really shouldn't have been made in the first place. Add in a DVD that doesn't live up to the Special Edition label and you have one that should be avoided at all costs.

The Loved One - Buy from Amazon
A satirical look at the funeral industry, which was based on writer Evelyn Waugh's own experience. In fact, it is an amalgam of his experience with the American funeral industry and the American movie industry. The movie is certainly funny at times, but it is not as good as it should be given the talented cast. The DVD is not featureless like most lesser knonw releases from the era would be, but the 15-minute featurette and the trailer doesn't make a loaded disc either.

Married With Children - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Sadly, there are no special features on this 3-disc set, just like there weren't any for Season Four. However, I'm still ranking this DVD as a must have for the fifth season was the best season in the show's 11-year run. Nearly every episode is a classic, The Unnatural, Kelly Bounces Back, Married... with Aliens, Wabbit Season (arguably the most cartoon like episode of the season, perhaps the series, by hysterically funny), All Night Security Dude, Married... with Who (the introduction of Jefferson D'Arcy), Oldies but Young 'Uns (the pilot to the short-lived spin-off, Top of the Heap), and more. Even the lack of special features doesn't stop this set from being a contender for DVD Pick of the Week, and had it had just one or two audio commentaries on the episodes I mentioned it would have won for sure.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
Anyone who collects TV on DVD releases knows what it's like when one of your favorite shows has one or two seasons released, only to have the studio pull the plug because of disappointing sales. That's what happened to this series. But the studio gave it a second chance and that turned out to be a smart decision since the past two seasons have become best sellers and this one will likely continue that trend. On the down side, the studio is also continuing the trend of putting out featureless DVDs that was started with Season Three, but the show is still worth picking up.

NewsRadio - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
The fourth season of this series was the best, it was also the last with Phil Hartman and those two facts are not unconnected. The fourth season also contain plenty of special features include audio commentary tracks on 10 of the 22 episodes, (which alone is more than most sets get), and a gag reel and a short scene with the creator, Paul Simms, playing every characters. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Night Watch - Buy from Amazon
There was a lot of hype surrounding this film after it broke records in its native Russia. But it couldn't live up to that hype, either at the box office or with critics. Part of the problem is the film's confusing nature, the world it occupies has many factions and rules and the film explains them so quickly that if you miss the first 15 minutes you would never catch up. This does mean the film is better suited for the home market where you can pause and rewind should you miss something important. Also helping the DVD's value are the special features, which include two audio commentary tracks, alternate ending and more. This is not as much as there is on the Region 2 2-disc set, but it is better than most limited releases have and makes the DVD worth picking up.

NYPD Blue - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
One of the longest running primetime dramas ever, the show built up a huge fanbase during its 12-year run. One of the more stable seasons in terms of cast changes, there were still a lot of stories being told, As for the 4-disc set, it's good with a handful of audio commentaries, and a couple of featurettes, but that's not quite enough for it to be a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Omen - 2-Disc Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
The remake comes out and they wait a week to release the original on a special edition 2-disc DVD set? Who made that decision, and were they fired for it? The Omen is an entertaining movie, but not a particularly good one. Much of the special features on this DVD come from the previous releases, but there is a second audio commentary track, an interview with Wes Craven, and a deleted scene. Everything else has already been released on one DVD or another and that limits its upgrade value. Also, if you don't own the movie yet, it's probably best to wait till the remake hits DVD and buy the super-special box set, which they are undoubtedly planning.

Superman - Various Releases - Buy from Amazon: Adventures of Superman - The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons, Krypto the Superdog - Volume 1, Lois & Clark - The New Adventures of Superman - The Complete Third Season, Look, Up in the Sky - The Amazing Story of Superman, Superboy - The Complete First Season, Superman - The Animated Series - Volume Three, and Superman - Brainiac Attacks
You know what, I get the strange feeling that they might be planning to release a Superman movie soon. Why else would they put out so many Superman related DVDs at the same time? Enough sarcasm. Looking at the seven releases coming out tomorrow, most are bad, really bad. In fact, I would only pay money for one set, Superman - The Animated Series - Volume Three. It's an excellent show with enough special features to warrant purchasing. On the other hand, Look, Up in the Sky - The Amazing Story of Superman is worth a rental, but the lack of special features prevents it from climbing any higher. Along with the other Superman related DVDs coming out tomorrow, Justice League - Season Two also hits the shelves. While this 4-disc set features Superman, but he's part of a team that also features Batman and Wonder Woman, both of which have upcoming movies. One last note, you can purchase all three season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman as part of a package deal.

Syriana - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
The best recent release on this week's list, even so, it is not quite as good as I was expecting even with George Clooney's Oscar winning performance. The film did amazing business in limited releases, but the political / social / economic angle was a little too confusing for mainstream audiences. Still, a $50 million domestic box office for a film that cost $50 million to make is strong enough to ensure a profit somewhere down the line. That probably won't happen till after the special edition comes out. I'm assuming there is a special edition coming out because this DVD is weak with just a couple of featurettes and some deleted scenes as extras. My suggestion, rent this version, buy the special edition.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Arguably the best movie on this week's list, it features award-worthy performances by both Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp, although only the former was nominated. On the other hand, I was disappointed in the Special Edition DVD as the only special features are an audio commentary track and three short featurettes, (with a combined running time of under This would be below average for a first-run release and not up to the level needed to justify a movie from 1993. Even so, it is still worth picking up, but a more substantive package could have earned it the DVD Pick of the Week.


Filed under: Video Releases, Superman Returns, Hitch, 50 First Dates, Eight Below, Underworld: Evolution, Syriana, The Hills Have Eyes, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Nochnoy dozor