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DVD Releases for May 24, 2005

May 23rd, 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. It's another great week with several great choices, NewsRadio - The Complete First & Second Seasons - Buy from Amazon and The Job - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon, for instance. The Aviator - Buy from Amazon will please most people, it just left me cold while Chappelle's Show - Season 2 - Uncensored - Buy from Amazon will please many, and offend even more.

After School Specials - Buy from Amazon: Volume 5 and Volume 6
Two more volumes of After School Specials are being released tomorrow so someone must be buying them. I find that strange because the only time I hear these shows mentioned is when someone is complaining that a movie treated a social issue in a particularly inept fashion, "... treating alcoholism with all the refinement of an After School Special."

Airwolf - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
When I was growing up you could either be a fan of Airwolf or Blue Thunder, never both and two groups could never mix. (We took our Supertech Helicopter shows seriously back then.) The first season the show was a mid-season replacement so there are only 11 episodes on this 2-disc set, (including the feature-length pilot movie) but no special features. Later in the week we should have an in-depth review of both this release and Baa Baa Black Sheep.

All-Access Collection - Buy from Amazon: The Day After Tomorrow, I, Robot and Man on Fire
Three movies that were released just last year and have already been released on DVD, so these special editions better be awesome or fans will write them off and double-dips. For all three movies the previous DVD release were mediocre to poor and while these three are much better, they are not worth the upgrade. On the other hand, if someone had skipped any of the previous releases because of the lack of special features these are worth picking up.

The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
The second season is better than the first as the actors were settling into their roles better. Still no real special features on the 5-disc set, but given the age of the show that's hardly surprising.

Are We There Yet? - Buy from Amazon: Regular Edition or UMD Mini For PSP
Out of all the films that have finished atop the weekend box office charts this year, this one is arguably the worst. Your typical road trip movie with all the subtle humor of Home Alone but without the writing or timing of the latter film. The DVD release is better than expected with an audio commentary track, making of featurette, outtakes and more, but not enough to compensate for the quality of the movie.

The Aviator - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
The multi-Oscar winning film finally hits the home market with a 2-Disc set filled with special features. Disc 1 contains an audio commentary track while disc two contains a dozen featurettes with a combined length nearly as long as the movie itself, and it�s a long movie. This is an amazing movie, especially visually, but it lacked the emotional depth I was expecting. In the end that explains why it took home mostly technical Oscars while Million Dollar Baby won the more prestigious ones.

Baa Baa Black Sheep - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
A World War II set in the Pacific theatre and tells the story of Major Greg "Pappy" Boyington, who forms a fighter squadron of misfits after he's demoted to a desk job. The show only lasted a season and a half, but developed a cult following and they should be happy the show is finally making it to DVD. They would have been even happy if there were more special feature than just an archival interview with the real-life Pappy Boyington. This set contains the feature-length pilot plus half the season 1 episodes on 2 double-sided discs, I expect the rest of the show to be released in the same format. Later in the week we should have an in-depth review of both this release and Airwolf - Season 1.

Batman - Buy from Amazon: The Animated Series - Volume Three and Season 1 - Volume 1
Two animated series depicting two different visions of Batman. The former is probably one of the best depictions of the Caped Crusader, while the latter is not even close being little more than a TV executives idea of what is hip. Fans of the Animated Series can also buy the all three volumes as part of a package deal.

The Brooke Ellison Story - Buy from Amazon
A surprisingly good film for a TV movie; you can tell the film is a personal project and it was the final project for Christopher Reeve. Based on a true story the movie stars Lacey Chabert as Brooke Ellison, a quadriplegic trying to graduate from Harvard, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as her determined mother. Special features are light with just some interviews with the real life Brooke Ellison and her family.

Chappelle's Show - Season 2 - Uncensored - Buy from Amazon
Season 1 of this series became the best selling TV on DVD set ever topping The Simpsons - Season 1. (It has since been beaten by Seinfeld - Season 1 & 2.) This season helped Dave Chappelle go from stand-up comedian to most the quote man on college campuses across the country thanks to instant classics like Charlie Murphy's interviews, the Racial Draft and more. Adding to the DVD's value are the special features like audio commentary tracks on 5 episodes, 90 minutes of deleted scenes, unused stand-up and bloopers, plus the full interviews with Charlie Murphy and Rick James. If you own Season 1 you probably already have Season 2 pre-ordered. If not, both sets are worth picking up if you are not easily offended, that is.

Combat - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon: Conflict 1 and Conflict 2
Fans of the franchise know what to expect from these DVD releases. It's one of the most realistic war shows ever made and each of the 2 4-disc sets have more special features than most releases from the 60s have.

Everybody Loves Raymond - The Series Finale - Buy from Amazon
I'm not a fan of this type of release, I much rather wait for the full season set to come out. On a per minute basis, this is an expense DVD and the only special feature is the original pilot, but if you are interested in this DVD, you probably already own the first season. The make matters worse, the hour long special doesn't appear to be on the DVD, had it been included the disc might have been worth picking up, as it is, it's not even worth the rental.

Fat Actress - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
All the horrors of Reality TV and the Cult of Celebrity all rolled up into one. Kirstie Alley plays Kirstie Alley, an overweight, out of work actress trying to get her career and love life back on track. Think of it as Curb Your Enthusiasm, but not nearly as funny and much more soul crushing. On the other hand, Mayim Bialik was great as Kirstie Alley bitchy neighbor.

The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle - Buy from Amazon
First a bit of history, in the 1920s Hollywood was under attack for destroying the moral fiber of the nation. I know, people of today might have trouble even imaging that. Anyhoo, at a party Fatty Arbuckle threw a young actress Virginia Rappe became ill and died a few days later, but the D.A. decided to make an example of him. Three trials later he was acquitted but his career was in shambles. This 4-disc set contains 32 of his rarer classics and includes audio commentaries on seven of them plus a few short featurettes.

Garfield Fantasies - Buy from Amazon
The last three of Garfield's 30-minute specials hits the home market on a featureless DVD. The three features are Garfield's Babes and Bullets, Garfield's Feline Fantasies and Garfield's Nine Lives. There's not much here, but the price is right.

The Godfather - Buy from Amazon: Part II and Part III
Not too long ago the Trilogy was released on DVD, but there was a problem with the encoding so they re-released the original to correct the problem. Now, they are re-releasing the other movies on DVD just incase the encoding error caused you to not buy the box set when it was first released. On the other hand, if you own that set these two releases are completely superfluous and should not be regarded as a double-dip.

The Job - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Denis Leary stars as Mike McNeil, a cop who is clearly more messed up than the perps he deals with. Alcoholic, addicted to painkillers, in a bad marriage and to top it off, his mistress is way too much work. This show was so, so completely close to being amazing. It's only problem was it was a network show, and you could tell Denis Leary was battling network suits trying to push the envelope further. To be blunt, this show should have never been on network TV, had it been on cable from the start, the show would have lasted 5 or 6 years. Special features are great, audio commentaries on five episodes, interviews, behind the scenes, outtakes and promos, simply amazing for a show that lasted only one season and makes the 4-disc set a pick of the week.

Law and Order - The Third Year - Buy from Amazon
One of the longest running shows in the history of TV, and this is the season that Jerry Orbach joined the show, so even if you've never bought a DVD release from this franchise you must buy this 3-disc set. Special features are light with just a tribute to Jerry Orbach, who tragically passed away earlier in the year.

M*A*S*H - The Complete Eighth Season - Buy from Amazon
It's hard to imagine that someone doesn't know about this long running franchise, so much so there's little that needs to be said. This season the show won two of its 14 Emmys, it's the last season for Radar O'Reilly and the 3-disc set has no special features.

NewsRadio - The Complete First & Second Seasons - Buy from Amazon
Starring Dave Foley as Dave Nelson, the new station manager of WNYX forced to contend with egotistical on-air talent, crazy co-workers and an even crazier owner. But while he was the lead, the show was definitely an ensemble comedy with the likes of Phil Hartman, Stephen Root and Maura Tierney. This set contains all 29 episodes from the first two seasons instead of trying to release season one separately, which is a smart move. It was also a smart movie to delayed this release by more than a year; normally that would infuriate fans, however, it was delayed at the request of the creator because the studio was originally going to released a featureless set and he wanted time to create top-notch special features. And there are plenty of special features including audio commentary on 20 episodes, outtakes and interviews. In the end, this is a great show that never got the respect it deserved suffering through nearly a dozen scheduling changes in its five-year run. But finally people can re-discover it on DVD.

Pooh's Heffalump Movie - Buy from Amazon
This film was originally planned as a direct-to-video release and it's on the home market where the film should shine. The film is good, but not great and the DVD release is well below par with just a sing-along and a short featurette. Still, if you have kids in the right age range chances are you'll be buying this DVD anyway.

Richard Pryor - Double-Shot Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: Stand-Up and Movies
Now one but two Richard Pryor package deals are being released this week. The Stand-Up set contains both Live at the Sunset Strip and Here and Now while the two Movies are See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Stir Crazy. On a side note, Stir Crazy is the first R-Rated movie I ever saw and I've considered Richard Pryor to be one of the funniest men alive ever since.

S-21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine - Buy from Amazon
A powerful but difficult film to watch that deals with S-21, a detention center in Cambodia where 17,000 people where killed in just four years. It's hard to decide which is more disturbing, the callous nature in which the former guards describe their work, (it's almost as if torturing someone was equivalent in emotional depth as filing papers in an office) or the fact that this was just one of dozens of such centers and 2 million people died in this paranoid genocide. As with most limited releases, the special features are light with just some interviews and historical information.

Samurai Jack - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
Season 2 of this highly stylized cartoon hit DVD on the 2-disc set. This show is probably more appreciated by adults who understand its influences better, but its still fun for kids as well. There are little in the way of special features with an audio commentary track on a single episode and pilot pitch. Can also be purchased with the second season as part of a package deal.

Speed Racer - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
Never could get into this show when I was a kid, the theme song drove me nuts and made me want to stick sharp objects into my ears. On the other hand, the show does have a cult following and these fans will snap up the 3-disc set even though it has no special features.

Spongebob Squarepants - Fear of a Krabby Patty - Buy from Amazon
Stick with full season sets, not that this is a bad release, it's just full season sets are better deals.

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Filed under: Video Releases, The Aviator, Pooh's Heffalump Movie, S-21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine, Are We There Yet?