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DVD Releases for September 26, 2006

September 26th, 2006

It was a difficult week to come up with a winner for the DVD Pick of the Week. This was partially because of the huge list of movies being released tomorrow and partially because I'm on cold medication. There were several contenders for the honor but in the end I went with Lady Vengeance - Buy from Amazon and Masters of Horror - Imprint - Buy from Amazon. But be warned, their extreme storytelling means that they are not for everyone.

9/11 - Press For the Truth - Buy from Amazon
The first of a series of documentaries dealing with 9/11 and / or the resulting wars. This film focuses on how four widows had to fight against the current administration to get to the facts about what happened on that day. A very powerful film, but seems unlikely to persuade anyone to change their minds about the situation. But that's more related to the political climate we live in than any fault with the movie itself.

Alvin and the Chipmunks - A Chipmunk Christmas - 25th Anniversary Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
A Christmas release a full three months before Christmas? You have to be kidding me. And it's Alvin and the Chipmunks, just to make matters worse.

Benny Hill Complete and Unadulterated - The Hill's Angels Years - Set Five - 1982-1985 - Buy from Amazon
For a long time Benny Hill was one of the most popular comedians in his native Britain and indeed the world. However, his style of comedy was considered sexiest by more and more people and watching these shows it is not hard to see why. Granted, Hill's Angels were not the apex of feminist ideals, but let's not forget that the men were treated with no more dignity than the women were. This 3-disc set continues the series' light touch when it comes to extras with a featurette on said Angels reminiscing about their time on the show and the latest installment of the Trivia Challenge. I would prefer more in the way of special features, but this set is still worth picking up.

Beowulf & Grendel - Buy from Amazon
This Canadian / Icelandic co-production was an adaptation of one of the oldest Epic poems known. This film had a lot of obstacles to overcome, including a tiny production budget compared to the scope of the story. For the most part, the results are mixed but there's enough here to be worthy of a rental. Adding to its value are the extras, which include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, interviews and more. For many, this could raise the value to the purchase level, especially if you are interested in the original poem and can't wait for next year's potential blockbuster.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Corpse Bride, The Fugitive, House of Wax, Lethal Weapon 2, Space Cowboys and Swordfish
The latest list of Blu-Ray releases. Corpse Bride is the best. House of Wax is the worst. None would make me want to spend the thousands it would cost to upgrade my home theatre to HD.

The Book of Daniel: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
I get into a lot of ... well, let's just call them online discussions, although flamewars would be a more appropriate term. This show was the focus of more than a few during its brief run. On the one hand, I read people claiming that it was proof that Christians are being persecuted because it depicted a pastor as having a drug problem. On the other hand, after it was cancelled I read claims that it was proof that Christians are being persecuted because a show focusing on a Christian family was pulled from the air. If I was a network executive and I read those two opinions, I would stick with greenlighting C.S.I. spin-offs and would avoid anything that dealt with religion ever again. (Of course, that would probably also generate complaints.) As for the show, I thought it was great. Yes, the family on the show was dysfunctional, but in reality most families are. The 2-disc set, on the other hand, is a little light on extras with just some deleted scenes. After the fuss it created, I can see why the studio was a little hesitant in sinking any more money into the project.

Brotherhood - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
TV series about two brothers on opposite sides of the law who have a lot more in common than either is willing to admit. It seems Showtime is taking over from HBO as the prime cable channel for challenging dramas. It also seems like they are copying HBO's habit of putting out DVD sets with too few special features. At least they are not overpriced as well.

Chaos - Buy from Amazon
One of the worst movies ever made. Terrible writing, terrible acting, terrible directing. It's a virtual remake of Last House of the Left, but there's no way Wes Craven will sue because then he'd have to admit his movie inspired something as awful as this.

Complete Walking With Collection - Buy from Amazon
All three Walking With... programs in one collection. Just a re-release and at a price that is not much lower than the three products bought separately.

Curious George - Buy from Amazon
One of the best-reviewed wide releases of the week, it nonetheless has very little crossover appeal. Unless you have very young kids, there is little to no reason to even rent this movie. Perhaps if you crave more 2-D animation and want to reward the studio for making the movie that way. Or perhaps you grew up on the books and want a hit of nostalgia. Special features on the disc are also geared towards kids with plenty of games including instructions on how to draw the titular character. In the end, it's worth picking up for the target audience, but unlike the true classics of animation, most adults will not be enthralled.

Danger Mouse - The Final Seasons - Buy from Amazon
The final 21 episodes of this great Secret Agent Spoof Starring Danger Mouse, and his hapless sidekick, Penfold. Fans of the series will obviously want to snap it up, but in keeping with the previous releases, there is not much here in terms of special features.

Daniel Boone - Buy from Amazon: Season 1 and Season 2
It's a bit of a risk to release the first two seasons of a show simultaneously. If the show doesn't sell, you've sunk twice as much money as you normally would have into production costs. Then again, many people hold off buying the first season to see if the studios are committed to putting out the whole series. There are also a growing number who wait to see if there will be a full-series box set released and wait for that. While the former decision will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, the latter is certainly the fault of the studios for trying to do the double-dip. In this case, releasing two sets seems to have worked as both 8-disc sets are selling well, but the total lack of special features might upset fans.

The Dead Zone - Buy from Amazon
To say Stephen King's track record when it comes to adaptations has been inconsistent is a huge understatement. There have been many, many misses, but The Dead Zone is one of his best. While the movie is great, I'm a little disappointed in the Special Edition DVD as there are only four featurettes as extras and no audio commentary track, deleted scenes, etc. Even so, it is easily worth the upgrade, but a more fleshed out DVD could have been a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. On a side note, this movie can also be purchased in a box set with Silver Bullet, Pet Cemetary, and Graveyard Shift. However, The Dead Zone is the only movie in that set worth owning.

Dick Tracy - The Complete Animated Series - Buy from Amazon
This animated show from the 1960s barely features Dick Tracy at all. He just assigns the cases to his junior detectives, most of who are terrible ethnic stereotypes, as they battle some of the classic Dick Tracy villains. Dick Tracy would work as a cartoon, but this show is not a good showcase for the comic strip.

Down in the Valley - Buy from Amazon
A character study revolving around Harlan, a cowboy who hasn't quite grown up, and Tobe, a teenager whose family life leaves her vulnerable to his dubious charms. There are plenty of excellent performances in the movie, including the two leads above, but the movie relies too often on characters making bad decisions, decisions that they only make in order to further the plot. This hurts the film enough to not be satisfying, but there's still enough that works to make it worth checking out. Add in extras that are limited as the film's release, and you have a rental, but nothing more.

Dracula - 75th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is the film that started the 1930s horror craze and is still one of the best vampire movies ever made. (The absolute best is Nosferatu.) This is the third time this movie has been released on DVD in recent years, and I'm happy to say it is the best. Not only is the audio and video cleaned up, there are plenty of extras including a feature-length documentary and a second audio commentary track. This does mean those who bought Classic Monster Collection and the Legacy Collection will want to shell out even more money, but it's worth it.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
This street racing franchise has surely run its course. The reviews were weak, although in line with the previous film, and it made less at the box office over its entire run than the second film made during its opening week. The DVD won't save the film as the extras are rather weak; there are just two featurettes and some deleted scenes, which is not enough to lift it past the rental level, and even that might be too generous.

Frankenstein - 75th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
Released just months after Dracula, this created a one-two punch that vaulted Universal to the top of the horror charts for years to come. Like Dracula above, this film is among the best adaptations of the original story and the DVD is a significant step up from the previous releases. My only complaint is the heart of the new extras is the same feature-length documentary found on Dracula. If you are going to share special features, make it a box set instead. Even so, it is certainly worth the upgrade, and for most it is worth picking up both DVDs.

Frankenstein - The True Story - Buy from Amazon
The second Frankenstein film featured on this week's list; this made-for-TV movie first aired in 1973 and in some ways is the most faithful adaptation. And while it is not as good as the above release, it is still a very successful adaptation. However, the DVD treatment is terrible. The audio is weak, the video is faded, and the only, 'extra' is a unskippable prologue that contains spoilers. What could have been an easy recommendation turns into a weak rental, at best.

Gormenghast - Buy from Amazon
Visually stunning, more than slightly confusing, this mini-series is an adaptation of the first two books of the series written by Mervyn Peake. This is one of those productions that should really appeal to fans of the books, but those unfamiliar with the source material might be turned off by the visual style or won't be able to keep up with the story. Because of that it is hard to give it a solid recommendation, but it is worth a rental at least.

The Ground Truth - Buy from Amazon
One of several documentaries coming out this week, most of which have a political tone dealing with 9/11 or the war in Iraq. The film is powerful, but preachy at times, and with people almost forced into sharply divided partisan lines, it is unlikely it will be able to convince anyone to change their minds.

HD-DVD releases - Buy from Amazon: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Dazed and Confused, The Dirty Dozen, End of Days, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, Grand Prix, and Terminator 3
Big list of HD-DVD releases, mostly of the older variety. In fact, only Land of the Dead and Terminator 3 are really recent. While it is nice to see older films getting the HD treatment, I still have not seen a reason to upgrade. Given there is still a format war, it will have a to be massive deal for me to choose sides.

Iraq for Sale - The War Profiteers - Buy from Amazon
The third documentary with political leanings. Like the rest, this one has a disturbing message and makes its case very, very well, but I fear only those who will agree with the premise will give it try.

The Kids in the Hall - The Best of - Buy from Amazon
Stick with the full season sets. Or wait for the full-series set that comes out in just over a month.

Lady Vengeance - Buy from Amazon
The final chapter in Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy. Like the others, it earned strong reviews but never really made an impact at the box office. However, it did earn a cult following and these fans will be eager to snap up the DVD on Tuesday. Adding to its value are the extras, which include not one, not two, but three audio commentary tracks, as well as an interview with the director and a making of featurette. On the other hand, the film is a little... extreme for some viewers and that makes be hesitant to give it too strong a recommendation, but it is certainly a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Lake House - Buy from Amazon
An intriguing premise is marred by weak execution. A remake of a South Korean film, Siworae, this version pales in comparison and anyone interested in this film should check out that film instead. Surprisingly, for a first run release, this DVD has almost no special features with just a handful of deleted scenes. I have no idea why that is. Granted, it didn't live up to expectations at the box office, but there should still be something worth mentioning on the disc.

Mama's Family - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Quite a popular show in its day, it hasn't aged well, and I'm not talking about the humor as much as the technical quality. The audio / video for this show is terrible. Also hurting its cause are the total lack of special features. Even so, fans of the show, and there are plenty, will want to pick it up. It just won't win many new converts.

Masters of Horror - Imprint - Buy from Amazon
Masters of Horror was created to showcase what horror directors could do with an hour-long format free from the limitations of network TV. This episodes was directed by Japanese auteur Takashi Miike and became infamous because it was never aired. Too much for cable pretty much sums it up. Just being extreme isn't enough to be worth picking up, but fortunately this episode is better than most of the ones they did air. Add in extras that include an audio commentary track, interviews, making of featurette, and more, and this DVD is easily worth picking up.

The Munsters: Two-Movie Fright Fest - Buy from Amazon
Two feature-length films based on the popular TV series. They're not bad, but they do feel like overlong episodes. They would have been better as a two-part, or even three-part story arcs.

A Nightmare on Elm Street - Buy from Amazon
The first, and best of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies. This film has been released on DVD previously, repeatedly, but there are still enough new extras on this 2-disc set to make upgrading worth wile. They include a second audio commentary track, a seven-part making of featurette, a featurette on dreams, on how this franchise helped the studio move from the independent scene to a major player, deleted / alternate scenes, and more. Like I said, this is worth the upgrade and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Notorious Bettie Page - Buy from Amazon
A biopic about the famous pin-up model, Bettie Page. This movie was one of three limited releases I was looking forward to that came out on the same weekend, and while none were able to become breakout hits, they were all able to earn some measure of mainstream success. The Notorious Bettie Page was in the middle of the group, both in terms of final box office and critically reception, but its DVD is the weakest. Special feature are limited to one audio commentary track, short and shallow featurette, and an even shorter vintage strip-tease by Bettie Page herself. Even so, it is still worth picking up, but a better package could have earned it the DVD Pick of the Week.

One Tree Hill - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
Typical teenage soap opera that is nearly indistinguishable from all the others. That said, it is very popular among its target demographic and with enough special features (audio commentary tracks on two episodes, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a making of featurette), it should be a strong seller.

Pride and Prejudice - 10th Anniversary Limited Edition Collector's Set - Buy from Amazon
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice has been adapted numerous times. And of all those times, this version is widely considered the best. The 3-disc set doesn't have a wealth of special features. The A&E Biography episode on Jane Austen is here, as is a retrospective, but this edition is special for the 120 page book detailing the production, which should satisfy fans and entice them to put out the cash.

Riptide - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
I remember this show, almost. I know I watched the show and I have a vague recollection of a robot and a boat. But I might be getting my private eye shows mixed up. I also remember enjoying the show, but I was only 10 when it was on, so I don't trust my opinion. The fact that it was created by Stephen J. Cannell and only lasted three seasons suggests that is was a bad show. It was a midseason replacement so there are only 13 episodes on this 3-disc set (including the two-hour pilot), and by "only" I mean only. There are no special features at all, and with the massive competition for 80s private eye shows (Magnum P.I., Remington Steele, or if you want to go a little more old school, Rockford Files), it just can't earn a recommendation.

Russian Dolls - Buy from Amazon
A sequel to L'auberge espagnole, this film is set five years after the events of the first film. Both films earned similar reviews but Russian Dolls couldn't come anywhere close to matching its predecessor's box office numbers, at least not domestically. This is a shame because the film really does deserve to be seen more. However, this DVD won't help that happen as it is very bare bones. The only extra on the disc is a short, and fairly standard behind-the-scenes featurette. Even so, it is worth a rental, but it could have been much more.

Save the Last Dance - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
This film was a surprise hit back in 2001, but does it really need a special edition DVD? Most movie critics would say no, which is fortunate because most DVD reviews would argue it's not getting one. The only special features on this DVD are a featurette about the dancing, another about the writing, and a ad for the upcoming direct-to-DVD sequel. Skip it.

A Slight Case of Murder - Buy from Amazon
This is not a remake of the Edward G. Robinson movie of the same name. This made-for-TV movie stars William H. Macy playing a man who gets well over his head after trying to cover up an accidental death. An excellent cast is obviously having fun with a great script and that translates into a good time for the viewer. I would prefer some special features, but this DVD is still worth checking out.

Street Trash - Buy from Amazon
This is a movie about an alcoholic beverage that melts people, so you know you're in for a high-class experience. In all seriousness, the film is better than average example of the splatter film that has earned a solid cult following in the nearly twenty years since it was first released. It was first released on DVD just last year, but on a bare bones DVD. This time around, they released the movie in a 2-disc extravaganza with two audio commentary tracks, a making of documentary that is longer than the movie itself, as well as the short film that inspired the movie, the promotional trailer, and more. This DVD is certainly not for everyone, and each person's interest in this movie is directly proportional to the number of Troma movies you own.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Two-Disc Ultimate Edition - Buy from Amazon
What's the most important step in releasing a prequel to the remake of the classic horror film? Re-re-releasing the original on yet another Special Edition DVD, of course. While this film has been released on DVD about four or five hundred times, this is easily the best edition, and the 2-disc set contains a ton of extras. Extras like two audio commentary tracks, two feature-length documentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes from the movie, outtakes from one of the documentaries, and more. Hopefully this will be the last edition released on DVD, and it could be with the new High Definition formats coming into their own. But even so, it might be too much to ask for fans to shell out even more money for yet another copy of the same movie. One last note, Eaten Alive, Tobe Hooper's follow-up, is also getting a special eidtion DVD release tomorrow. Neither the movie nor the special features are as good, but fans of the director will likely want to check it out, although a rental will be enough.

Three Times - Buy from Amazon
Shu Qi and Chang Chen play lovers in three different time periods, 1911, 1966, and 2005, in this exquisite movie. Shu Qi is amazing as usual and the cinematography is gorgeous. On the other hand, the DVD is completely devoid of special features. Yes, it is a limited release, and a foreign language film to boot, but still, the studio could have included something.

Waging a Living - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the working poor, an estimated 30 million people who hold full time jobs and yet still make less than the poverty level. Like the other documentaries on this week's list, this one is meant to generate outrage, but while it will work on its target audience, chances are no one else will see it.

Whose Line Is It Anyway? - Season One - Volume 1 - Family Edition or Uncensored
I love this idea. Give the consumer the choice if he wants to see the show as it was made, or with all the racy bits cut out. Guess which one is selling better? This is the American version of the show, led by Drew Carrey and not the British version hosted by Clive Anderson, who had a more contentious relationship with the actors, especially Greg Proops, which added to the humor of the show. I'm not sure why they felt the need to spit the season into two volumes, but the added skits and outtakes mean these 2-disc sets are worth picking up.

Windy City Heat - Buy from Amazon
The film is billed as an elaborate prank on struggling actor, Perry Caravello. However, while many doubt that claim, it is still a very demented, albeit lowbrow comedy about what people are willing to do the break into the business. Add in plenty of special features and it is worth checking out.


Filed under: Video Releases, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Curious George, The Corpse Bride, The Lake House, House of Wax, George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, Down in the Valley, Russian Dolls, Chinjeolhan geumjassi, Beowulf & Grendel, The Ground Truth: After the Killing Ends, Chaos