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DVD Releases for November 21, 2006

November 27th, 2006

The Thanksgiving long weekend is the busiest time of year for shopping so it makes sense that studios try to rush out as many A-list DVDs for before that weekend and the Tuesday after tends to be a little light. There are still several hundred DVDs being released tomorrow, 90% of which are Superman related. Actually, there are fifteen such releases, but the DVD Pick of the Week is not among them. That honor goes to Clerks II - 2-Disc Collector's Edition, but there were several runners-up including Bones - The Complete First Season, Joan of Arcadia - The Second Season, and of course, Superman - Ultimate Collector's Edition.

7th Heaven - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
One of the longest-running shows currently on TV, there was quite a delay between the release of Season 2 and this release, mainly due to poor sales. And poor sales were mainly due to the lack of extras. This problem has yet to be solved.

Ant Bully - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray or HD-DVD
One of the biggest bombs in the digital animation field so far. However, it is not the worst reviewed entry, not by a long shot. Granted, it was a tad preachy at times, but the lessons about bullying are certainly worthwhile. The film's biggest sin is relying way too heavily on big names and not enough on proven voice talent. Extras on the DVD are weak, especially for a first run release. Included are a making of featurette, deleted scenes, and some bonus shorts, all with a combined running time of about 35 minutes. The replay value just isn't high enough to warrant a purchase, but it's worth a rental.

Bones - The Complete 1st Season - Buy from Amazon
One of my favorite new series from last year. Granted, it is one of 30,000 police procedural shows out there in the vein of CSI, but the chemistry of the cast is much better, especially between David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. (On the other hand, I do have issues with that Holographic display that Michaela Conlin's character made. It's just not a realistic depiction of the technology, and that's a pet peeve of mine.) With better chemistry, you can watch the show for more than the just the case of the week and that dramatically improves its replay value. Add in special features that include two audio commentary tracks and three featurettes, and this is a 4-disc set that is easily worth picking up and a solid contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Cheetah Girls 2 - Cheetah-Licious Edition - Buy from Amazon
This movie broke High School Musical's record for highest rated original Disney Channel movie with 8.3 million viewers (compared to 7.7 million for the other film). On the other hand, it isn't as good, nor does it have the same replay value. It's worth a rental for its target audience, but not much more than that.

Clerks II - 2-Disc Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
The long awaited sequel to 1994's ultra low budget Clerks finally arrived this summer. And while there was a substantial decline in quality, the end result is still something that should please 90% of Kevin Smith fans. And the 2-Disc set is absolutely packed with extras. On disc 1 there's not one, not two, but three audio commentary tracks, more than half an hour of deleted scenes and a featurette on the most infamous scene in the movie. (I won't spoil it here, but you probably known what I'm talking about.) Disc 2 features includes a feature-length making of documentary, nearly 30 minutes of outtakes, and ten of the Train Wreck video blogs entries created for the website. (They probably didn't have enough room on the DVD to include all of them, which is a shame). Overall it is a must have for fans of Kevin Smith and a prime contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Criminal Minds - The First Season - Buy from Amazon
Two police procedural shows being released on DVD on the same week? Considering how many such shows there are on TV, this shouldn't be that uncommon. This series follows a group of FBI Profilers and stars Mandy Patinkin as the head of the group, who is recently coming back from a mental breakdown. In my mind, this is not as good as Bones, but it still have more replay value than CSI thanks to better chemistry and more intriguing characters. On the other hand, extras are better with audio commentary tracks on three episodes and three featurettes making it worth picking up. But a more fleshed out set would have made it a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

An Evening With Kevin Smith 2 - Evening Harder - Buy from Amazon
First of all, that is either the greatest name ever, or a pun so bad that it can cause physical and psychological harm, it depends on your point of view. Like An Evening With Kevin Smith, this two-disc set features Kevin Smith basically telling stories and answering questions from the audience. While your appreciation of the 2-disc set will obviously depend a lot on your appreciation for Kevin Smith, even more casual fans should enjoy the program as the man is an excellent storyteller. In fact, he's a much better storyteller than he is a director. Extras are light, and mostly in the form of Easter eggs, but the running time is nearly four hours so there's plenty of bang for your buck. Can also be purchased with the previous release as part of a package deal and both are worth picking up.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: An American Werewolf in London, Dune, Meet the Parents, and The Mummy
Of the four HD-DVD releases this week (not counting the concurrent releases), The Mummy is arguably the most visual and would therefor benefit the most from the HD-DVD treatment. However, while Dune's special effects are much older, they are practically the only thing in the movie that works.

Joan of Arcadia - The Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This show earned reasonably strong ratings during its short run, but its demographics were the death of it. The average age for the audience skewed way too high to please advertisers and that's more important than total viewers. (On the other hand, its replacement, Ghost Whisperer, has beaten it in both total ratings and the key demographic, so canceling the show seems to have been the smart move.) At least this 6-disc set is well made with plenty of special features including audio commentary tracks, season recap, making of featurette, set tour and a table read. If you picked up the first season there's no reason not to pick up this one as well. In fact, if you haven't you might want to give the series a shot.

Molly - An American Girl on the Home Front - Buy from Amazon
The latest in the An American Girl series of TV movies, this one is set in World War II and stars Maya Ritter as the titular character. Not quite as good as the first two films, but should still please their target audience, but the low amount of special features limits its value to a rental.

Now You Know - Buy from Amazon
The third Kevin Smith-related release coming out this week. This film is written and directed by View-Askewnivrse alumni Jeff Anderson, while featuring the acting of Kevin Smith, Trevor Fehrman, and Jeff Anderson. Fans of Kevin Smith will feel right at home with this movie. Others, on the other hand, might be turned off by the similarities in tone. Extras are good for a limited release with an audio commentary track, introduction, and a Q&A session. That's enough to lift its value to the purchase level.

Robin Hood - Most Wanted Edition - Buy from Amazon
An underrated entry in the Disney animated feature film list. (Although it's not as bad as Rotten Tomatoes thinks it is. There seems to be issues with the Tomatometer rating on this one with one negative review counted four times.) Granted, the animation is not at the high quality normally associated with the studio (in fact, it reuses several bits of animation from previous films), but it is still colorful enough for the story and more than enough to entertain kids. As for the DVD, it's a serious upgrade from the previous release, but not up to the same level of other Disney releases and it certainly feels like it aimed at kids and not adults who grew up watching the movie. Even so, it's a great hit of nostalgia and those who remember from their childhood will want to check it out again. However, unless they have kids of the right age, a rental will suffice for most people.

See No Evil - Buy from Amazon
Since the WWE started making movies, they have managed to release several films, none of which have earned strong reviews, and none of which have made much of an impact at the box office. However, all of them were cheap to make and are well on their way to showing a profit. This film is a typical, some might say overly-cliched, teenage slasher that will only entertain those with lower standards, or who really, really like WWE. The rest should avoid it at all costs.

St. Elsewhere - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
One of the greatest ensemble dramas ever, this medical show set the stage for the many recent series and is generally considered the standard to which all other such shows are judged. (Not to mention having one of the best series finales of all time, perhaps only topped by Newhart, which had a similar feel to it.) The show itself is more than 20 years old, and as such it would be forgivable if the studio put it out on a nearly featureless DVD. But fortunately, this is not the case as the 4-disc set contains audio commentary tracks, two features on the show and spotlights on two of the cast, which is more than enough to be a must have for any fan of the show and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

A Star is Born - Buy from Amazon
The third version of this movie starred Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson and is easily the weakest of the three versions. The production was a mess, which is not surprising since it was produced by Barbra Streisand's hairdresser / boyfriend. This is the 20th anniversary of the film, but make no mistake, this is not an Anniversary Edition DVD. In fact, the extras are merely average for a regular release with just and audio commentary, some deleted scenes and wardrobe tests. It's worth, at the very most, a rental, and that's mostly for the curiosity factor.

Superman - Various Releases
If there's one overriding trend this weekend it is the number of Superman-related releases. There is of course the most recent film, but there are also a ton of re-releases hoping to take advantage of the publicity and, even a box set or two for the Uber Fan.

Superman Returns was a disappointment at the box office, and to a lesser extent, with the critics. There's nothing totally wrong with the movie, it's just a series of little things that add up. The movie doesn't feel as fresh as Batman Begins, for instance. Some of the casting seems just a little off. Overall it is still an enjoyable movie to watch, it's just not something that demands repeat viewing like the cream-of-the-crop Super Hero flicks from the past few years. The film is being released on four different formats, Single Disc Edition with no special features, 2-Disc Special Edition with a making of documentary that is slightly longer than the movie itself as well as a few deleted scenes, HD-DVD / DVD Combo with the same features as the Special Edition, and finally Blu-Ray, again with all the special features. The Single Disc Edition is only for people who kind of liked the movie, or for those who didn't get a chance to see it in theaters, but it's only worth a rental in either case. If you want to own the movie, pick one of the other formats depending on if you have a HD-DVD, Blu-Ray or just plain DVD player.

Other Superman releases include...

The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection - Buy from Amazon
As the name implies, this box set contains the four films from the Christopher Reeve era. Superman is the best of the bunch and is released as a Four Disc Special Edition, Superman 2 wasn't nearly as good, but still warrants repeat viewing and the 2-Disc Special Edition does the film justice. On the other hand, the less said about the other two films the better. All four movies are being released separately, but the box set is like buying the first two movies and getting the others for free, which is what I'd be willing to pay for them.

Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray, or HD-DVD
Richard Donner directed the first Superman and it became one of the best and biggest movies of its time. He was actually working on the sequel concurrently, and after the success of the first film one would have to be crazy to replace him. But after accusations of cannibalism on the set he was fired and replaced by Richard Lester. (Okay, the cannibalism comment is mostly likely incorrect, but it's the only reason I would accept for firing him.) However, before he was replaced, Richard Donner had filmed about 75% of the film and in 2004 Margot Kidder said in an interview that there was enough footage for them to release the film and ever since then fans have been demanding this version. However, is the film a better than the theatrical release? Most would say yes, but not by that large a margin. This film is about 75% Donner and 25% Lester while the theatrical version is about 50 / 50. Also, since Donner didn't film everything he wanted and it was impossible to re-shoot scenes, this isn't really Donner's Cut, just the best he could do with what he had. Still, fans of the franchise will certainly want to check it out. As for the DVD, it contains several extras including an audio commentary track, introduction, a featurette on the (re)making of the film and more. Certainly worth picking up, either alone or as part of the massive box set.

Superman - Ultimate Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
This 14-disc set contains The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection, Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut, Superman Returns 2-Disc Special Edition, and the previously released Look, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman. Quite frankly, I was expecting this set to be a lot more expensive. I was also expecting it to contain a bust of superman or something. Basically it costs nearly the same as buying the three best films, Superman, Superman Returns, and Superman II (either version), and getting the other three movies for free. Easily worth picking up and definitely a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Smallville - The Complete Fifth Season - HD-DVD - Buy from Amazon
The next Superman release is the first TV-on-DVD to be released on a High Definition format. The Sopranos would have had that distinction, but its HD release was pushed back more than a month.

Supergirl - Buy from Amazon
And the final Superman release is Supergirl. This movie is even worse than Superman 4. 'Nuff said.

Touched By an Angel - The Third Season - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
How to kill a TV on DVD release. First, split the season into two volumes for no discernable reason. Second, include no special features at all. I can understand splitting seasons for shows from the 1960s when they have 40 episodes in a single season, but it doesn't make sense here.

The Usual Suspects - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of my personal favorites finally gets the DVD treatment it truly deserves. Woohoo! Actually, it's the third special edition release for this movie and there's not much difference between this version and the last 2-disc set. (There's a new audio commentary and a couple of extended features.) I can't say its worth the upgrade, but if you haven't picked it up yet, there's not better time to add the movie to your DVD collection.

Van Wilder - Two-Disc Van Gone Wilder Edition - Buy from Amazon
What's the most important step in releasing a sequel? You know the rest. I liked this movie, more than I should have, but even I think this is a totally unnecessary double-dip and its low, low ranking on Amazon's sales chart doesn't bode well for The Rise of Taj's opening this weekend.


Filed under: Video Releases, Superman Returns, Clerks II, See No Evil, The Ant Bully