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DVD Releases for April 26, 2005

April 25th, 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. There are quite a few DVDs that piqued my interest this week, but there was only one that jumped out as a must buy: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - 2-Disc Special Collector's Edition

Airline - The Complete Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
I recently picked up Harvey Birdman - Attorney at Law, Vol. 1, and included in the packaging was the ad for other Adult Swim sets and their tagline is, "Why watch it for free when you could pay for it?" And while I understand the humor of the ad campaign, there is a rational reason to buy TV on DVD. Two reasons actually. The first reason is convenience. But with technology like TiVo and DVD burners, or a 2-in-1 TiVo and DVD burner, the extra convenience isn't worth the price tag. So TV on DVD really comes down to the second reason, special features, but unfortunately this 2-disc set has none. I can understand when a show from the 60s or 70s has no special features, but this show is currently on the air, making the lack of special features even more unforgivable. Speaking of the show, it is reality TV but more of the documentary style and less of the degrading, dignity robbing variety, which is a plus. But in the end, the lack of special features means this set is best left on the shelf.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon - Buy from Amazon
One of many films made for Oscar glory that fell short during award season. Reviews were merely good compared to the average movie and not near the upper echelon that a real Oscar contender should earn. There are some really good performances in the movie, specifically from the star, Sean Penn, which makes the DVD worth looking into. But without any special features, it doesn't go past the rental level.

Beaches - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Called Tearjerkers by fans, and Chick Flicks by others. Within the first 10 minutes you know exactly what's going to happen throughout the rest of the movie and the way in which your heartstrings are tugged is too blunt to be compelling. And while the special features are good (audio commentary, interview with Mayim Bialik, outtakes, and more), they are not really at the level that would justify the Special Edition label.

Blade: Trinity - Buy from Amazon: R-Rated or Unrated
The Blade franchise ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. Ok, a really loud and bloody whimper, as most critics complained. The fans, on the other hand, complained that Blade wouldn't need no stinkin' sidekicks, but personally I liked the new characters and I'm still holding out hopes for the intended spin-off. But unless the DVD is a huge seller, I'm thinking that's not going to happen. Helping the cause is the excellent DVD release: both versions have a behind the scenes featurette, alternate ending, outtakes and interviews. The Unrated version also contains 10 minutes of additional footage and 2 audio commentary tracks. And since the Unrated version contains both versions of the movie there's no reason to pick up the other version. Also available tomorrow is the Blade Boxset, all three movies in one convienent package for those that really like the franchise but didn't bother picking up the DVDs when they were first released.

Cirque du Soleil - Solstrom - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
All 13 episodes presented on 5 superbit discs. The superbit technology means the shows take up more room on the DVDs so the only special features are a making of featurette and promos.

Crank Yankers Uncensored - Season Two - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
It's puppets, making crank phone calls. I fail to see the humor in that situation. Want to watch a Puppet Show for adults? Grab Puppets Who Kill instead.

Cursed - Buy from Amazon
Not the recently released werewolf movie, but an Asian horror film dealing with a haunted mini-mart.

Darkness - Buy from Amazon: R-Rated or Unrated
A big hit in its native Spain (well, big compared to most Spanish films). However, when it came here it was savaged by the critics and mostly ignored by moviegoers. But given its small $10.6 million production budget, it still should make a profit on the home market in quick order. Special features on the disc are light, with just a behind-the-scenes featurette. The Unrated label might get a few extra sales from people hoping to see Anna Paquin nude, but I think those people will be disappointed.

Divorce Italian Style - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Baron Ferdinand has a problem. He wants to marry the nubile Angela, but he's already married. And since divorce is strictly frowned upon in Italy he decides he has only one logical course of action, get his wife to fall in love with another man and kill them both in a fit of jealous rage. A brilliant black comedy that is getting the Criterion touch, which in this case includes two documentaries, interviews, screen tests and more.

The Doris Day Collection - Buy from Amazon
This 8 DVD collection includes 6 films that are making their DVD debut as well as two repackaged movies. The films included are not the best films from Doris Day's career (neither The Man Who Knew Too Much nor Pillow Talk are in the set). But even if you own the two DVDs that were previously released, the box set is the better deal as it is nearly half as expensive on a per DVD basis. Special features vary, with most discs having musical shorts and/or cartoons from the era as well as trailers and featurettes.

E.R. - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
ER is one of the longest-running shows on the air today. In fact, it is just wrapping up its eleventh season. There were some cast changes from Season 2. Sherry Stringfield is out and Laura Innes is in, for instance.

This season was particularly strong, and the show earned nearly two dozen Emmy nominations, winning three of them. If you own the other releases you probably have this one already pre-ordered, that's how well these DVD sets are put together. If not, you might want to start with Season 1, which is being re-released tomorrow. Or you can pick up all three seasons in one package deal.

F for Fake - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
A fake documentary about fakery. The film is built layer upon layer in a way only Orson Welles could pull off, and while it is neither his best known work, nor his greatest, every fan of his work will want to see it. Add in the impressive special features (audio commentary, a real documentary about Orson Welles, interviews and more), and this DVD is worth picking up.

The Great Questions in the Hamburger Universe, Vol. 1 of Deep Deceptions by Miceal Ledwith featured in What The BLEEP Do We Know!? - Buy from Amazon
Wow! That has to be the longest name I've ever seen.

Highway to Heaven - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Michael Landon plays Jonathan Smith, an angel on probation sent to Earth to help those in need. With his partner, Mark Gordon (played by Victor French, who co-starred with Landon in Little House on the Prairie) they travel across the country offering to help in whatever role they can. The show has a similar feel to Little House on the Prairie, but it's less schmaltzy in its approach. Special features on the 7-disc set include a feature length documentary on star Michael Landon and rare outtakes. Also of note, the first disc can be purchased separately for those that are unsure if they want to make the full season commitment.

House of Wax - Buy from Amazon
The not quite original but almost guaranteed superior version of the film starring Vincent Price. This version is also a remake and the set contains the original version from 1933.

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan or 2-Disc Special Collector's Edition
One of the best reviewed movies released this past December, although that didn't translate into the massive box office some were expecting. The regular version on the DVD is well done, with two audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes and 3 featurettes. But it is the 2-Disc Special Collector's Edition that's the real deal with the above special features plus a disc full of featurettes that look at the special effects, sound and more. Definitely worth picking up.

Leonard, Part 6 - Buy from Amazon
What can you say about this movie. Well, for starters it's one of the worst movies ever made. This DVD would almost be worth picking up if it had an audio commentary track with Bill Cosby, who hated the movie almost as much as moviegoers did.

The Manson Family - Buy from Amazon: R-Rated or Unrated 2-Disc Special Edition
This look at the Manson family uses a documentary like style to tell the tale. Too many movies about real life serial killers are cheap exploitation movie that sensationalize the killings, treating the events like just another teenage slasher movie. And while this one falls into that trap too often, it is a cut above most other films in terms of quality. The R-Rated version has no real special features while the Unrated 2-Disc Special Edition has a documentary, a look at the FanTasia film festival in Montreal and archival interviews with Charles Manson.

Monty Python's Graham Chapman - Looks Like A Brown Trouser Job - Buy from Amazon
Graham Chapman final public speaking tour before his death in 1989. The video and audio are poor, very poor, practically home movie quality, but hearing Graham Chapman's deadpan delivery of stories about skiing trips, explosives and more is worth it for Chapmaniacs. Extensive extras include rare clips, interviews, the Iron Maiden music video, Can I Play with Madness, in which Chapman appears and more.

The Nameless - Buy from Amazon
A Spanish horror flick based on a novel by British author, Ramsey Campbell. The film has an excellent set up and the atmosphere is moody and disturbing, but the final product disappoints. And with no special features the disc is only for aficionados of the genre.

Noam Chomsky - Rebel Without a Pause - Buy from Amazon
No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, Noam Chomsky is an important voice. In this DVD he talks about 9-11, media manipulation, corporate control and other topics and include 40 additional minutes of footage and interviews.

Survivor: The Australian Outback - The Complete Season - Buy from Amazon
As I mentioned before, there are two types of reality TV: the documentary slice of life type and the degrading, soul destroying type. Survivor is the latter type. On the plus side, the special features are excellent compared with most DVD releases for reality TV series.

The Three Stooges - Buy from Amazon: Snow White and the Three Stooges, Soup to Nuts and The Three Stooges in Color
Three DVDs featuring the Three Stooges hit stores tomorrow. Snow White and the Three Stooges is a feature length film meant to be a vehicle for Olympic figure skater Carol Heiss, but she didn't have the acting chops to carry a film so it was the Three Stooges were added in the role of the seven dwarves. Soup to Nuts is from 1930 and is the first film appearance by the Three Stooges, or the Three Lost Souls as they were billed. Not a particularly strong outing for the group, but definitely of interest for their fans. Lastly there's The Three Stooges in Color, which contains both the colorized and the restored black and white versions of four Stooges short films. All four films are Public Domain and have been released before, but at least this DVD does have some special features, unlike the first two.

Undertow - Buy from Amazon
A thriller that is too slow and too predictable with characters that are too underwritten to be worth caring about. The special features on the disc are better than most limited releases with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

The Waltons - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Set in Virginia during the Great Depression, season two continues to follow the lives of the Walton family. Fans of the series often call it heartwarming and wholesome. Others refer to it as overly sentimental. The 5-disc set contains all 24 episodes including the special, two-hour Thanksgiving special but no special features. Can be purchased with the first season as part of a package deal.

Wild Things 3: Diamonds in the Rough - Buy from Amazon
A second direct-to-DVD sequel to a film that wasn't that well received when it first came out. The original was an above average thriller that is best known for a threesome involving Denise Richards and Neve Campbell. However, the twists and turns actually made sense in the end. The first sequel was simply an excuse for poorly done sex scenes and this film is more of the same. Also being released tomorrow is a box set containing all three films.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Blade: Trinity, Darkness, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, Undertow, The Manson Family