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DVD Releases for March 22, 2005

March 21st, 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, Star Wars - Clone Wars, Vol. 1 - Buy from Amazon, although Being Julia - Buy from Amazon and Finding Neverland - Buy from Amazon are also worthwhile films.

Batman and Robin - The Complete 1949 Movie Serial Collection - Buy from Amazon
For Batman completists only. It doesn't even have the camp value that the old Adam West series had. Add in the lack of special features and this one is best left on the shelf.

Being Julia - Buy from Amazon
This film earned just over $7.5 million in limited release, more than half of that can be directly attributed to Annette Bening's amazing performance. Her performance in the movie was so good that she was the odds on favorite to win right up till Hilary Swank's name was announced on Oscar night. Special features are also very strong, for a limited release, with audio commentary, making of featurette, behind the scenes featurette and deleted scenes.

The Best of the New Scooby-Doo Movies - Buy from Amazon
First of all, this is called a Best Of set, but it's really not. You can't have a Best Of set of The New Scooby-Doo Movies and leave out Scooby-Doo Meets the Addams Family. This is main problem with Best Of sets, no one can agree on what the best episodes are, this is why I stick with full season sets only. There are a few featurettes for bonus material, but I'd hold off on picking up this 4-disc set until it is known whether they plan to release further sets with the remaining nine episodes or whether they are stuck in licensing limbo hell forever.

Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
Not as good as the original both in terms of box office draw and especially critical appeal. Even before the film started production there were some rumblings that it wouldn't hold up to its predecessor as the book it was based on wasn't as strong as the original either. The special feature are impressive with an audio commentary track, deleted and alternate scenes, a few featurettes and a mock interview between Bridget Jones and Colin Firth. It's enough to push the film into the rental level, but its only worth picking up if you are a diehard Bridget Jones fan.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia - Buy from Amazon
One of Sam Peckinpah's lesser known works, nor is it one of his best. But it is his most personal, which makes it an interesting looking inside the man. Special features are light with only a commentary track, but this is to be expected for a movie that more than 30 years old.

Distant - Buy from Amazon
A depressing, but critically acclaimed film from Turkey. The film tells the story of two cousins living in a rundown apartment in Istanbul. Special features include an interview with the director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and one of his early short films, Koza, as well as some behind the scenes footage.

Doogie Howser, M.D. - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A sitcom featuring a child prodigy, Neil Patrick Harris as the titular Doogie Howser, who survived childhood cancer and became a doctor at age 16. Such a concept could have reduced Doogie Howser to a simple caricature, but that wasn't the case as the writing was quite good. The special features on this 4-disc set are light with just new interviews with the star and the creator, Steven Bochco.

The Dust Factor - Buy from Amazon
Its theatrical run was almost non-existent and it had the reivews to match. However, the DVD release is actually quite good with a making of featurette, deleted scenes and a music video by star Harden Panettiere.

Electra Glide in Blue - Buy from Amazon
I can't help but think this DVD is being released now because of the recent Robert Blake murder trial. If this is true, it is one of the most ghoulish and distasteful marketing strategies I've have ever seen. If not, then it's just really, really bad timing.

Fat Albert - Buy from Amazon
A TV adaptation whose appeal was based more on nostalgia than quality. On the plus side, there's a complete lack of toilet humor and a good moral to the story, but it is so sweet and amiable that it's not compelling story-telling. With average special features (audio commentary, extended scenes and Behind the Band featurette), it is worth a rental for younger kids and fans of the original cartoon, but that's about it.

The Final Cut - Buy from Amazon
A very interesting premise is marred by sub-par execution in nearly every aspect of the film. The special features are very strong for a limited release film with audio commentary, making of featurette, production designs featurette, deleted scenes and more, but it's not enough to raise it past the rental level, if that.

Finding Neverland - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
An excellent film that was made for Oscar glory but came up just short, winning only one (Best Original Score) of its seven nominations. Johnny Depp was amazing as Peter Pan author, J.M. Barrie, as were his co-stars Kate Winslet and Freddie Highmore. Special features on the disc include the ubiquitous audio commentary, two making of featurettes, a look at the premiere, deleted scenes and outtakes. A solid rental at the very least, and for fans of the author or of bipoics in general this one is worth picking up.

Firewalker - Buy from Amazon
Out of all the terms used to describe bad movies, "Unintentionally Funny" is my favorite. This movie, however, is merely tedious. A rip-off of countless treasure hunter movies, a genre that was experiencing incredible popularity at the time with Romancing the Stone, Temple of Doom and Goonies all coming out a year or two before this one. And all of those movies are vastly superior.

The Flintstones - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
The one time longest-running prime time cartoon saw some changes during its third season, not the least of which was the birth of Pebbles. This was also the first season shot in color. Special features include spotlights on the two wives and a look at Flintstones collectibles. Can be purchased with the first two season as part of a package deal. Also being re-released tomorrow is the theatrical film, A Man Called Flintstone, a secret agent spoof released in 1966.

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries - Season One - Buy from Amazon
For the first season, this was actually two different series that shared a timeslot. In the second season, the two shows merged into one, and for the third season they dropped the Nancy Drew character altogether. This set has all 14 episodes on two discs with absolutely no special features.

Kojak - Buy from Amazon
Telly Savalas stars as the lollipops sucking, street smart detective, Lieutenant Theo Kojak. Probably the best cop show of the 70s with plenty of style and great acting. The DVD set, on the other hand, is just the 22 episodes crammed onto 3 discs. That's not a huge shock given the age of the material, but it would have been nice to have some special features.

Krakatoa, East of Java - Buy from Amazon
Nothing sums up this film better than the realization that Krakatoa is west of Java. You'd think someone would have said, 'Hang on, we’ve messed up the direction! If we couldn't get that right maybe there's other problems that need fixing.' The plot, the dialogue, etc. is all really bad. The special effects, on the other hand, are quite good... at least they were quite good when the film came out in 1969. Now there's nothing left to recommend the movie, not even any special features.

MTV's Pimp My Ride - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
I know what you're expecting me to say, "Reality TV is the tool of the devil, yadda, yadda, yadda." However, this isn't really Reality TV as Reality TV must involve people doing hideous embarrassing things for a chance to win a mere pittance. This show, like Monster Garage, is less of a reality TV show than it is an mechanical competition. In addition to all 15 episodes from season one, this 3-disc set's special features include two car tours, deleted scenes, outtakes and a music video from host Xzibit. Not a highbrow show by any stretch of the imagination, but it's fun to watch.

The Pretender - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A child prodigy is kidnapped and held at a corporate research center that is imaginatively called, "The Center." 30 years later he escapes and uses his super human intelligence to right wrongs and figure out his past. There are a few shows like this; amnesia / faulty memory leads to a search for the character's true identity, The Lazarus Man and John Doe are two such shows, both of which were superior. The 4-disc set contains all 21 episodes with a few commentary tracks and a making of featurette.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead - Buy from Amazon
Two of the supporting characters from William Shakespeare's Hamlet take center stage in this impressive adaptation of the 1967 play by director Tom Stoppard. Interviews with said director and three of the cast are the only special features, but they are very extensive and worth watching.

Silk Stalkings - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
At best this show is full of campy goodness, amd a guilty pleasure. At worst it was a dull, exploitive and unintentionally funny. This is the last season the show played on network TV, before moving from CBS to the USA Network the next year. The 6-disc set has all 23 episodes plus some interviews with the creator and composer as its only special feature.

Stand By Me - Delux Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
Stephen King has written a lot of horror stories over the past 35 years, many of which have been adapted into movies, but its his dramas that tend to be the better films. Stand By Me is one of his best films and the DVD release is excellent, for a film that's 20 years old, with an audio commentary, documentary featurette, music video and the soundtrack on CD. Unfortunately, there's not enough new from the previous release to justify picking this one up unless you are a fanatical Will Wheaton fanatic. And if you are such a person, check out The Girls Room with Wheaton and Soleil Moon Frye, a.k.a. Punk Brewster.

Star Wars - Clone Wars, Vol. 1 - Buy from Amazon
The best Star Wars TV spin-off ever. Of course, its competition consists of some Ewok movies, a couple of cartoon series and the reprehensible Star Wars Holiday Special. The cartoon is a great segue between Episode II and III, but is not required viewing. All 20 of the 3 and a half minute episodes from the first season are on the disc, plus a nearly equal time of special features. Special features that include commentary tracks, interviews, behind the scenes, trailer for Episode III and more. A great DVD for fans of the franchise and combined with Season 2, it should satisfy fans till the final chapter comes out. To go along with this release, the studio is re-releasing Episode I - Widescreen or Pan & Scan and Episode II - Widescreen or Pan & Scan. And considering how well the DVD are selling, Episode III should be a monster hit.

TV on DVD Starter Sets - Buy from Amazon: 24, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Pretender
Each DVD has either the first two shows in the case of the hour long dramas or four best of shows for the Sitcom. I have mixed feelings about these single disc releases. On the one hand, I love Complete Season sets and every TV on DVD set I own is either a full season set or full series set. On the other hand, the sets cost just $10 and come with a $10 gift certificate for the complete season set. So you can try out the show and if you like it you can buy the full season set without spending it costing you more than just buying the full set itself. And if you don't like the show, it only cost you $10 bucks to figure that out. Not for me, but I can see its uses.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Star Wars Ep. III: Revenge of the Sith, Finding Neverland, Fat Albert, Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, Being Julia, Final Cut, Distant, The Dust Factory