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DVD Releases for December 19, 2006

December 19th, 2006

This is the last week before Christmas and there are a lot of DVDs on this week's list that would make perfect last minute Christmas gifts. There are also a lot of DVDs that feel like they are being dumped on the home market in the hopes that they will be scooped up by ever desperate shoppers. Of the contenders, Jackie Chan's Police Story - Special Collector's Edition and The Simpsons - The Complete Ninth Season - Collectable Lisa Head Packaging came close to taking home the honor. But in the end I went with When the Levees Broke.

All the King's Men - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Busted Oscar bait. It's as simple as that. A remake / re-adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the film is made with an all-star cast, with a script by an Oscar-winning writer, and directed by the same man. It seemingly had everything going for it. But in the end, almost nothing worked. And while the DVD is above average, it is still not enough to compensate for the movie, and certainly not enough to live up to the Special Edition label.

Altered - Buy from Amazon
Made by the people who brought us The Blair Witch Project, this movie has had a rough ride for a long time and is finally coming out, albeit in a direct-to-DVD form. Reviews are nonexistent, but pre-screenings went poorly enough that they didn't think a theatrical release would be worth it, and that says more than any critic could.

American Pie - Naked Mile - R-Rated or Unrated
A direct-to-DVD sequel of a direct-to-DVD sequel to a franchise that lasted at least one movie too many. It's a terrible movie that makes me think Eugene Levy is being blackmailed into starring in it.

The Beauty Academy of Kabul - Buy from Amazon
A documentary that follows a group of women who try to start a beauty parlor in Afghanistan. It is an interesting angle to examine a country in upheaval and while there's was a decided danger that it could come across as flippant that isn't the case here. Extras are pretty good for a limited release, although I was looking forward to an update. (However, given the Taliban's resurgence in the country, that might not have been possible.) Overall it is certainly worth checking out, but I think a rental will suffice for most people.

Blu-Ray Releases - Flightplan, Pearl Harbor - 60th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, The Sopranos - Season 6 - Part 1
Just a quick note, Pearl Harbor is the 2001 version meaning it is the 60th anniversary of the attack, and not the movie (obviously).

The Celestine Prophecy - Buy from Amazon
A message movie that aims straight at its target audience with almost no crossover appeal. Either you fully believe what the book had to say, or you will stay far, far away from the movie.

Criss Angel - Mindfreak - The Complete Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Not a fan of this show, then again, I don't like any magic show where the star pretends what he's doing is anything more than smoke and mirrors.

Dreamland - Buy from Amazon
One of three movies of the same name that was supposed to come out this year. One of the others is in limbo while the third never got off the ground. Sadly, that last one was the most interesting of the three. This is not a bad movie and there's enough that works for it to be worth checking out, but in the end a rental is all that is needed.

E.R. - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
This show is in its 13th season meaning there's not a lot to say that fans don't already know and the rest of the people reading don't care. That said, this is the first season without Clooney, the first with Maura Tierney, and some would argue the best in the show's run so far. (It did win two Emmys and was nominated for seven more, but that's not the best performance the show had when it came to award nights.) As for the DVD, the 6-disc set has come deleted scenes and some outtakes, which is better than a lot of shows when they get this far into their run, but not as much as fans would have liked.

Gene Simmons - Family Jewels - Season One - Buy from Amazon
It's Reality TV, but not the soul crushing kind. More of the documentary kind. The Simmons family is surprisingly functional, which is something some people have complained about. As for the DVD, the 2-disc set is excellent with plenty of special features (behind-the-scenes, outtakes, extra interviews, etc.), and there's even a Super Special Edition from Amazon, but that appears to be sold out at the moment.

HD-DVD Releases - Casino, Derailed, The Matador, Scary Movie 4, The Scorpion King, and Wolf Creek
Of these releases, only The Matador is worth owning and even then it is not worth the upgrade to high definition.

Hogan's Heroes - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
I hate this show. It was a bad idea that never reached its limited potential because of bad writing. On the plus side, there's only one more season until its run is over.

The Illustrated Man - Buy from Amazon
Ray Bradbury is the Stephen King of Science Fiction. While his writing is great, his works usually don't translate well into movies. The anthology, The Illustrated Man, isn't nearly as bad as A Sound of Thunder, but it is still flawed. Don't get me wrong, it is still worth checking out, but it is so close to being great that it is frustrating at times. The extras are light, but that is to be expected given the age of the film, and fans of Ray Bradbury will probably want to pick it up.

An Inconvenient Truth - Free For Teachers
This film was released on DVD just last month, but now teachers can get it for free to help teach the children. (Interestingly, the studio was going to do this through a science organization, but was blocked since it could threaten contributions from other donors. Take a guess who those other donors were.) Now, for a limited time, the first 50,000 teachers can sign up and get a copy for free. An excellent idea.

Invincible - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
A pleasant surprise during the late summer weeks. At first look, one would expect this film to be wall-to-wall cliches that would overpower the viewer in a matter of minutes. And yes, there is a sense of deja vu in the movie, but strong performances by the cast help the movie succeed where other films would have failed. As for the DVD, there are two audio commentary tracks (including one by the real Vince Papale), and a featurette. This is an average package, but I was hoping for more. Even so, it is still worth picking up for fans of these kinds of sports movies.

Jackie Chan's Police Story - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Some have argued that this is the best film in Jackie Chan's career. And while I personally prefer Legend of the Drunken Master, I consider this one a close second. Even better, this is the original Hong Kong version and the DVD is packed with audio commentary, 16 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes, 10-minute interview with Jackie Chan, 6-minute tribute to Jackie Chan, and 34 minutes with the stunt team. An excellent collection of extras that makes the release a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Jet Li's Fearless - Unrated - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD combo
A mixture of period piece and straight up martial arts movie. The film is being released on an Unrated DVD, but in reality this merely means it contains both the domestic theatrical version and the slightly more intense Hong Kong original version. I wouldn't be surprised if the Unrated version still rated PG-13, but at worst it would earn an R-rating. As for the extras, I was disappointed as there were only two, a deleted scene and a featurette. Both are definitely worth checking out, but I was hoping for an audio commentary or two, and perhaps more about the making of the fight scenes. Maybe even a featurette about different fighting styles seen in the movie. Regardless, it is still worth picking up, but a little more fleshed out package would have earned it a DVD Pick of the Week.

Lady in the Water - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray, or HD-DVD
This movie proved that M. Night Shyamalan needed to reevaluate his career. However, almost all the evidence suggests he won't. The fact that he starred in the movie as an under-appreciated writer and makes the bad guy a... spoiler... film critic, and then proceeds to kill him off ... spoiler... tells you a lot of what he thinks about criticism directed at him. The DVD is average with a making of featurette, deleted scenes, and more, but there's nothing here that compensates for the quality of the movie.

Little Miss Sunshine - Buy from Amazon
It's hard for a film to escape limited release. It is something that 99% of such films fail to do, in fact. However, it was expected that Little Miss Sunshine would do just that. Even with such high expectations, this film still blew away analysts, earning nearly $60 million at the box office. The reason for this is simple: it's an amazing movie. The DVD is also excellent for a limited release with two audio commentary tracks, four alternate endings also with commentary tracks, and a music video. However, if the film is a player during award season, and early indications are promising, then there might be a special edition released shortly after the Oscars are handed out. Even so, the movie is still worth picking up now, and we'll deal with the double-dip if / when it comes.

Married... With Children - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
Like E.R. above, Married... With Children is one of those shows that was on the air so long it needs no introduction. You either can't wait for the next season to come out on DVD or you don't care. Nothing I say will change that. However, there are still some notes about this season. It begins with the Bundy clan going to Los Angeles, ends with them heading to Europe, and in-between there are pregnancies, new identities, and more. At this point, the show was still climbing, and while there are some signs that it would jump the shark shortly (in fact, next season with the introduction of Seven), this is still worth picking up, even if the 3-disc set has absolutely no special features.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend - Buy from Amazon
What could have been a hilarious comedy about female empowerment with a super hero twist was instead a one-note film about a jealous ex. No wonder it bombed. A no wonder the DVD features such a small selection of extras. Skip it.

National Lampoon's Pledge This - Buy from Amazon: R-Rated or Unrated
How bad is this movie? It's a National Lampoon movie that even they didn't think was worth releasing in theaters. That's right, Gold Diggers gets a theatrical release, Dorm Daze gets a theatrical release, but this movie goes direct-to-DVD. Hopefully this will be the end of Paris Hilton's acting career and she can go back to her day job.

The Promise - Buy from Amazon
After a very difficult journey to movie theaters here. This film was saddled with bad reviews and quickly disappeared. The make matters worse, the DVD release features the shortened North American release and not the original version, which further limits its value. The DVD does have plenty of extras for a limited release / import, but it still doesn't add up to anything more than a rental.

A Scanner Darkly - Buy from Amazon
This film held a lot of promise and while it wasn't fully realized, it is still worth checking out. This is not a movie for everyone, but those who have read Philip K. Dick's work or enjoyed Richard Linklater's past work (especially the also rotoscoped Waking Life), will likely be instantly drawn into the surreal world created by the two men. The extras are good for a limited release (audio commentary track and two 20-minute featurettes), and they create an excellent package that is worth picking up.

The Simpsons - The Complete Ninth Season - Buy from Amazon: Regular or Collectable Lisa Head Packaging
We are now halfway through the show's run, sort of. Season 18 is currently playing and the movie is coming out next year, but the show could last several more years to come. The season starts with the classic episode The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson and contains several other classics. Granted, many believe the show had jumped the shark by this time, but there are still enough episodes that are worth repeat viewing for the 4-disc set to be worth picking up. Add in a ton of extras, and it is a contender for DVD Pick of the week.

Sir! No Sir! - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War. But the big twist is, it's the soldiers who were refusing what they considered illegal orders. These stories are not something that is usually mentioned during the discussion of the times and that helps add further intrigue to the movie. Bonus features on the DVD are limited to extra clips, but limited is not the right word here. There are more than a dozen clips here with a total running time of roughly 100 minutes, which is more than the running time of the movie itself. Worth picking up for sure.

Step Up - Buy from Amazon
The film earned terrible reviews but did quite well at the box office. The main complaint from critics was the sheer number of cliches in the film; practically everything in the movie as been seen before and done better. Add in special features that are mediocre, and this DVD isn't even worth renting.

Walt Disney Treasures - Buy from Amazon: Your Host, Walt Disney, More Silly Symphonies, The Complete Pluto, Volume Two, The Mickey Mouse Club Featuring the Hardy Boys
Four more collections from Disney, but despite having more special features than some of the previous releases, they still pale in comparison to Looney Tunes.

When the Levees Broke - Buy from Amazon
A documentary by Spike Lee about the Hurricane Katrina disaster, which many consider a turning point of the Bush administration. An incredibly powerful movie, the kind that makes you want to grab a pitchfork and a torch and form an angry mob. Add in extras that include a brand new segment, and an audio commentary on the full four-part presentation, this is a must have and a clear contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Wicker Man - Buy from Amazon
Thinking about this movie the term pointless remake instantly comes to mind. The original cut, which was given an R-rating, is better than what was seen in theaters, but not by enough to make it worth renting.

The Wicker Man - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Yet another version of this film being released on DVD. In defense of the studio, you have to go all the way back to August till find the previous edition. Granted, this movie is much better than the remake, but it is still not worth two versions so close together.


Filed under: Video Releases, Scary Movie 4, Flightplan, Step Up, Little Miss Sunshine, Invincible, Lady in the Water, Derailed, Huo Yuan Jia, The Wicker Man, An Inconvenient Truth, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Wolf Creek, The Matador, All the King's Men, A Scanner Darkly, The Celestine Prophecy, Wu ji, The Beauty Academy of Kabul, Sir! No Sir!, Dreamland, Pledge This!