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DVD Releases for March 8, 2005

March 7th, 2005

Every week films get a second chance at success from the home market; or, in some cases, a first chance at success. Here is a list of wide releases, limited releases and a few from the growing TV on DVD section including this week's winner, which I'll get to in a second. It was a strange week for DVD releases with only one recent wide release coming out this week, a few limited releases but it mostly TV on DVD. There were only a few releases that aroused my enthusiasm. Arguably the best release of the week is Xena - Warrior Princess - Season Six - Buy from Amazon but Popular - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon is the release I'm more likely to pick up.

21 Jump Street - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Undercover cops sent into high schools to deal with youth crimes. What started out as a good show quickly turned into a middling teenaged soap opera. And with an audio commentary track on one episode as its only real special feature, the 6-disc DVD set is for hardcore fans only.

Barbie - Fairytopia - Buy from Amazon
The fifth DVD from this franchise based on the equally popular toy. Given the sales of this DVD, it also won't be the last. Kids who like this DVD might also like Candy Land - The Great Lollipop Adventure.

Bright Future - Buy from Amazon
Another Japanese film being released on DVD this week. Like Dolls below, this film earned mixed reviews, but this time it was the regular reviewers that loved the film. Included on the DVD is the feature length documentary looking at the career of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the director.

Columbo - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Like season 1, this season was still just a series of made for TV movies, 8 of them to be precise. Also like the previous season, this 4-disc set contains no special features.

Dolls - Buy from Amazon
A deliberate and meditative film from the same director as the ultra-violent films Fireworks and Zatoichi. Reviews were mixed with the Cream of the Crop loving the film, while the rest were less impress. Like most limited releases, the special features are light with just an interview with the director.

Dutch - Buy from Amazon
I mentioned this movie in the January Preview, and low and behold, it is coming out on DVD this week. Not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but fans of Ed O'Neill's working class stiff persona he perfected in Married… With Children should enjoy the movie. Like most movies with a similar box office / theatrical release date, this one is being released on a featureless DVD.

Felicity - Senior Year Collection - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
The fourth and final season of this series hits the home market tomorrow. Teenage dramas have been the staple of the Warner Bros. for almost as long as the network has been around and while this is a good example of such shows, it is not the best. Special features on the 6-disc set are better than average with audio commentary tracks on 3 episodes and three featurettes.

Friends - The Complete Ninth Season - Buy from Amazon
Not the strongest season in this long running series, not by a long shot. Too many romantic flip-flops turned the show into more of a soap opera and less of a sitcom. Still the DVD release is well done with audio commentary tracks on four episodes, couple of featurettes, interviews, outtakes and music video. That's more than enough for people who own the previous releases, and those who don't can pick up all nine seasons as part of a package deal.

Ladder 49 - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
This movie idolizes Firefighters, and while they may be a deserving group it doesn't make for a compelling movie. Movies about Idols, whether they are a person or group, just aren't compelling unless those Idols are being torn down. (It's human nature, like Schadenfreude.) On the other hand, a movie like Ray didn't shy away from showing his flaws and it was a much better movie for it. Add in special features that are just average, (audio commentary, making of featurette, etc.) and the DVD can't rise about the rental level.

Lightning in a Bottle - Buy from Amazon
An amazing collection of Blues music performed by some of the masters and includes interviews with a dozen performers. This is a must have for fans of this particular musical genre, and equally good for people just becoming interested in the Blues. The DVD include bonus performances and an interview with the director.

The Mole - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
I despise Reality TV so my opinion of the show may be biased, but this show can't have much in the way of repeat viewing potential. Once you know who the Mole is, there's really no point in watching the shows again. And chances are if you are interesting in buying the show, you probably already know who the Mole is.

Monkey Kung Fu - Buy from Amazon
Monkey Kung Fu? I thought that was just something they made up for Kim Possible.

Popular - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
There's a simple math equation every TV executive should memorize: Great Show + Bad Timeslot = Early Death. The second season of this teenage drama wasn't quite as strong as season 1 with some of the story lines crossing the line from satire to farce, but it was still head and shoulders above most such dramas. The special features are also weaker than the first season with just audio commentaries on two episodes and a quiz, but this 6-disc set is still worth picking up. In fact, had the special feature been on par with season one, it would have been my DVD pick of the week.

Popular Mechanics for Kids - Buy from Amazon: Gators, Dragons and other Wild Beasts and X-Treme Sports and Other Action Adventures
Two more DVD from this Edutainment show are being release tomorrow, and while it's a great show for kids to watch, I'd much rather have full season sets. Also, there are no in the zero special features on the discs further reducing it value.

The Ring - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
What's the most important step in making a sequel? Re-releasing the original on a special edition DVD, of course. It's a good movie, but too much of the new features are merely ads for the upcoming release to be worth picking up, unless you don't own the previous release, in which case you are probably not interested in the next movie either.

Saved By the Bell:New Class Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
Every time I see a new release from this long running franchise I'm amazed it lasted as long as it did. The first incarnation lasted four seasons, then there was College Years and then seven seasons of The New Class. Boggles the mind. Back to the show, all 26 episodes appear on 3 discs with no special features.

Stage Beauty - Buy from Amazon
I think it's safe to say this movie was made with Oscar in mind, but with reviews that were barely above the overall positive level that wasn't going to happen. Special features are good for a limited release with an audio commentary track, making of featurette and deleted scenes. But overall it cast get past the rental level.

Sweet Valley High - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
One of several teenaged dramas on this week's list, this one is based on a series of books. Not nearly as good as the books or most of the other shows only topping Saved By the Bell. A lot of people have been waiting a long time to but it is likely that these people have matured enough in the ten years since it was on that they will no longer find the show enjoyable.

Thief and the Cobbler - Buy from Amazon
One look at the DVD cover and you can pretty much guess what the creators were going for, an Aladdin rip-off. Although the reviews are better than expected, they are not strong enough to justify recommending the DVD.

WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception - Buy from Amazon
A political documentary that looked at the build up to the war in Iraq focusing not on the political parties by on the main stream media. The central claim in the film is that the media was afraid to question the administration's claims lest they be painted as unpatriotic. And while there is certainly evidence to suggest that might be the case, the film doesn't make its case well enough to convince a neutral party.

Woman Thou Art Loosed - Buy from Amazon
This movie came out of nowhere to grab a spot in the top ten despite playing in only 408 theatres. It then disappeared almost as fast as it came, falling more than 50% the following weekend. While the movie has an important message, it is too heavy-handed and ends up merely preaching to the converted. Also hurting the DVD's prospects are the complete lack of special features.

Xena - Warrior Princess - Season Six - Buy from Amazon
The six and final season of one of the most popular syndicated shows finally comes to DVD. Like other releases in the Xena and Hercules franchises, this is another top notch DVD release with audio and video commentary on 4 episodes, interviews, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, behind the scenes look at the filming of the series finale, part 3 of the look at the monsters, at a Xena fan convention and more. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I've never been disappointed with a Anchor Bay Entertainment TV on DVD release and it is easily a candidate for DVD pick of the week. However, while this is a great set for hard core and casual fans alike, it is not a good jumping in point for the uninitiated. Also available with the rest of the series as part of a package deal.

Zatoichi - The Blind Swordsman - Buy from Amazon
For people who really enjoy the Zatoichi franchise but didn't bother picking up these DVDs when they were released individually.

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Filed under: Video Releases, The Ring, Ladder 49, Woman Thou Art Loosed, Stage Beauty, WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception, Akarui mirai, Dolls