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DVD Releases for April 19, 2005

April 18th, 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, classics and a few from the growing TV on DVD section. This week's selections are not as strong as last week, which is good since I still have more than three dozen DVDs sets I haven't had time to watch yet, (more than 6 dozen if you count individual DVDs.) So I should really cut back on my DVD purchases till I catch up. But while the selection on a whole was weak, the DVD pick of the week is top notch, That 70s Show - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon.

Beach Red - Buy from Amazon
An authentic and moving anti-war movie. Staring Rip Torn and Cornel Wilde, who also directed, the film depicts a marine invasion of a small Japanese island and shows the bloody and costly from both sides without resorting to cheap stereotypes. Fans of World War II movies should really enjoy this picture, but the lack of special features keeps it from rising about the rental level.

Birth - Buy from Amazon
A movie that looks like it was made for Oscar glory and designed to have enough controversy to draw in moviegoers, but the storyline and the execution were flawed and the final result was less than spectacular. And now the DVD release is also less than spectacular with only the trailer as a special feature. If you're curious it might be worth a rental, but that's it.

Carmen Electra's Aerobic Striptease Collection - Buy from Amazon
All five DVDs in the Carmen Electra erotic workout collection in one box set. Normally I wouldn't even mention exercise videos, but this one is currently number 45 on the Amazon Sales Chart. Two of the DVDs in that collections, Advanced Aerobic Striptease and The Lap Dance & Hip Hop, are also being released separately tomorrow, in case you already own the rest of the set.

Devils on the Doorstep - Buy from Amazon
Banned in its home of China, the film went on to win the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. A powerful anti-war film that starts out quite funny but takes a serious and tragic turn during the last half. Special features are at the level one would expected for such a film, interview with the director, introduction by Steven Soderbergh and the trailer.

Dynasty - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
Season 1 of this long running daytime soap was quite different than the remaining seasons. The first season was only 13 episodes long and there was huge cast turnover at the end the season, (for instance, the show's most famous actress, Joan Collins didn't join the cast till season 2.) Special features are good with audio commentary tracks on 5 of the episodes, including the 3-part pilot, a retrospective featurette and character profiles.

The Errol Flynn Signature Collection - Buy from Amazon
Like the previous Signature Collection releases, this collection is an excellent introduction to the works of Errol Flynn, the greatest swashbuckler the silver screen has ever seen. The five films in the set include: Captain Blood, Dodge City, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, The Sea Hawk and They Died With Their Boots On. Are these the five best films of his career? No, The Adventures of Robin Hood is missing from the set, for instance. But these five films are great examples of his work, nonetheless. And while the five films can also be purchased separately, the box set is the much better deal. Cost wise, it's like buying 3 films and getting two for free, and the box set also contains a bonus feature length documentary. Each disc contains a featurette, short film, cartoon and a program with Leonard Maltin.

The Four Feathers - Buy from Amazon
One of half-a-dozen versions of this classic story. This one is far superior to the recent remake but DVD is featureless. Not surprising for a film from 1939.

Garfield and Friends - Volume Three - Buy from Amazon
With several successful DVDs releases, movie and an upcoming seqeul, Garfield has never been this popular. This 3-disc set contains 24 more episodes, but unfortunately no special features.

House of Flying Daggers - Buy from Amazon
This film set box office records in its native China, and it's easy to see why. Amazing cinematography, incredible Wire Fu, but the plot was a little weak. The disc has audio commentary, two making of featurettes, music video and more. Can also be purchased with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as part of a package deal.

A Love Song for Bobby - Buy from Amazon
Another film made for Oscar glory but fell short. Scarlett Johansson's performance was superb, the plot was cliched, the dramatic tension never really mount and the less said about John Travolta's southern accent the better. On the other hand, the special features are strong for a limited release with an audio commentary track, documentary featurette and deleted scenes.

Maximum Overdrive - Buy from Amazon
One of many sub-par Stephen King movies, but unlike big disasters like The Lawnmower Man franchise, Stephen King can't complain that someone took his story and ruin it, cause he directed it.

Meet the Fockers - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
The film suffered from a huge drop in quality compared to the original, but still managed to out performed that film at the box office. The movie itself is 15 minutes longer than the theatrical release and there are tons of special features on the disc: audio commentary, even more deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, behind the scenes and more. More than enough to push the DVD past the rental level for fans of the franchise.

Miracles - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The greatest benefit of the growing TV on DVD market is the ability to purchase short lived TV shows that didn't last past their first season. I can almost guarantee that everyone reading this column has at least one short-lived TV show they are dying to get on DVD. (I own seven such DVD sets and am I eagerly looking forward to many, many more.) This particular show lasted just six episodes during its original run but this 4-disc set includes all 13 episodes made, audio commentary on 6 of them, interviews with the cast and crew and deleted scenes. Having that many special features for such a short run TV series is a very nice thank you to its fans.

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection, Vol. 7 - Buy from Amazon
When it comes to TV on DVD I prefer full season sets by a huge margin, but due to licensing difficulties it is unlikely that MST3K will ever come out in full season sets. The latest volume includes three movie from season 4, (The Killer Shrews, Hercules Unchained and Hercules Against the Moon Men) and another from season 8, (Prince of Space.) Arguably the best collection released on DVD, Hercules Against the Moon Men is quite possibly the funniest episode they've ever done. Bonus features include several shorts, including the extremely rare Assignment: Venezuela.

Pope John Paul II - Buy from Amazon
This release just seems so ghoulish. It's one thing to commemorate the life of the Pope, it's another to charge $15. If the proceeds went to one of his favorite celebrities it could be a different, but as it is it looks like a crass cash grab.

Primer - Buy from Amazon
Made for just $7000, this intriguing science fiction film deals with two inventors that build the ultimate device, a time travel machine. The inherent paradoxes involved in time travel make this film very difficult for the viewer to follow, but the film is so well done that it is worth it. The film has two audio commentaries, one with writer / director / star / etc Shane Carruth and another with Shane Carruth and assorted cast and crewmembers. The film is not for everyone, but those who like it will want to watch it again and again.

The Quiet American - Buy from Amazon
The original from 1958 and not the remake from 2002. Although, calling it a remake isn't quite right as this version they took the book and twisted it to say the exact opposite as the author intended. That alone makes the from latter film the superior version. There also appears to no special features either, so I'd stick with this one.

Riding the Bullet - Buy from Amazon
Like so many Stephen King adaptations, this film doesn't live up to the source material. It does have some better than expected acting from David Arquette, who may be the best part of the movie. Never thought I'd say that. The film went nowhere during its short theatrical run, but probably works better on the small screen anyway.

That 70s Show - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This job keeps me quite busy, in fact, there are only two days that my schedule is light, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, this is not a coincidence. Tuesdays are for Scrubs while Wednesdays are for That 70s Show, the only two prime time TV shows I still watch. Season 2 is even better than Season 1 with some classic episodes, (Red's Last Day, Eric Gets Suspended) and introducing some great guest star, (Leo and Pastor Dave) and has the mandatory guest shot by Stephen Tobolowsky. Special features are also an improvement on season 1 with audio commentary on three tracks, two featurettes and six behind the scene webisodes, (for a total running time of over an hour.)

xXx - Uncensored Unrated Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon
What's the most important step in releasing a sequel? Re-releasing the original on a special edition DVD, of course. This 2-disc set contains 8 minutes of new footage in the film, thus allowing the studio to use the Unrated label. It also has plenty of special features, but a significant portion of those are previews for the upcoming film. There are some interesting features including the short film, "The Final Chapter: The Death of Xander" that bridges the two films, but that's not enough to push the DVD past the rental level.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Meet the Fockers, House of Flying Daggers, Birth, Primer, A Love Song for Bobby Long, Riding the Bullet