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DVD Releases for June 21, 2005

June 20th, 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 bad week for first-run releases; this is hardly surprising when you consider the low quality of wide releases earlier in the year. But unlike last week there's little in the way of older releases, special editions and TV on DVD to pick up the slack. Just one release stood out as a must have, the fantastic Degrassi The Next Generation - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon making this the third week in a row I've picked a release from this long running series as my DVD pick of the week. That's a record that probably won't be broken for a long, long time.

American Psycho - Uncut Killer Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Controversial is probably the best way to describe this film, which is based on an equally controversial novel by Bret Easton Ellis, there have been three previous releases for this film, but this is clearly the best version to get as you get the unrated version of the movie, plus two audio commentaries, deleted scenes, interviews and more. All combined there the special features are nearly as long as the movie is. Is it worth the upgrade? Definitely. But I wouldn't recommend buying the DVD before seeing the movie, it is certainly not for everyone.

Bewitched - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon: Black & White or Color
With the movie adaptation coming out this week there's no better time to release the first season of this show on DVD. The set comes in two versions, the original Black & White and the colorized version. The colorization process has improved over the past few years, but it is still miles away from where it needs to be before the average person could tell the difference between footage shot in color and that shot in black & white and then colorized. And until that happens, stick with Black & White. Special features are better than expected for a show that is 40 years old with two featurettes totaling about 22 minutes. Fans interested in this release will probably also want Tabitha: The Complete Series, the short-lived spin-off from the 70s.

Bright Leaves - Buy from Amazon
A very personal documentary by Ross McElwee about the tobacco industry and the global problems caused by nicotine addiction. It's a very personal film because Ross McElwee's great-grandfather helped create the tobacco industry in North Carolina, (his life was fictionalized in the 1950 film, Bright Leaf.)

Burt Reynolds Doubleshot - Buy from Amazon: Hustle and Starting Over
Two movies with Burt Reynolds are being released on featureless discs on Tuesday. Not sure if this is co-incidence or part of some elaborate scheme. The timing is strangely appropriate as The Longest Yard has just become Burt Reynolds hit of his career, but considering how long it takes to produce a DVD there's no way they could have planned that.

Callas Forever - Buy from Amazon
Maria Callas is a real opera singer who lost her voice and spent the rest of her life in seclusion. Franco Zeffirelli imagines what would have happened if her story had a happier ending. Fans of Maria Callas should be intrigued, but it lacks wide spread appeal.

Coach Carter - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
The best reviewed first-run release of the week, but at just 64% positive that's more of an indictment of the rest of the releases. Samuel L. Jackson stars in this tough coach / disadvantaged kids story, that while full of cliches is just effective enough. Special features are light with just couple of featurettes and a handful of deleted scenes. Recommendation: rent it.

Cursed - Buy from Amazon: Unrated, PG-13 or UMD Mini For PSP
The story of how this movie finally got made would undoubtedly prove to be more interesting that the actually movie. Production delays, rewrites, cast changes, this film had it all, and the end result was a disaster both at the box office and with the critics. It's a real shame since it could have turned into a good movie had there been no interference from the studio. Special features are adequate, but not enough to lift the movie to the rental level.

Dark Water - Buy from Amazon
In just a couple of weeks the American remake hits the theatres, so there's no better time to release the Japanese original on DVD. Like many other horror films from that part of the world, it relies on a slow building of creepy events to unnerve the viewer, which when effective is much more terrifying than the high body count of most horror films. Those interested in Dark Water should give this DVD a rental, but the lack of special features limited is value.

Degrassi The Next Generation - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
The best show about high school life on TV today. Arguably the best show about high school life ever, (although Freaks and Geeks might have given it a run for its money had it lasted longer.) It's a great show for kids and adults alike because it deals with relevant and difficult topics and deals with them in a mature way. At no time does this show talk down to its audience. The 4-disc set includes the director's cut of all 23 episodes from season 2 plus tones of extras. There's deleted scenes, outtakes, audition tapes, Karaoke, character profiles, cast bios and more. An excellent release and easily the DVD pick of the week.

Hostage - Buy from Amazon: Regular Edition or UMD Mini for PSP
Simply put, Hostage was a disappointment both at the box office and with the critics as well. It was meant to revive Bruce Willis' career, which has been suffering since The Sixth Sense came out, but failed on that count. Special features include an audio commentary track, deleted / extended scenes and a short, superficial making of featurette. Nothing special enough to recommend the DVD.

I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can - Buy from Amazon
An overly dramatic depiction of Valium addiction being released on a featureless DVD that only gets a mention here because the name was long enough that it caught my attention.

In the Realms of the Unreal - Buy from Amazon
Henry Darger was a reclusive man who worked as a janitor all his life. After his death his landlady discovered his secret passion for painting; over 300 paintings were found but the centerpiece was his 15,000 page illustrated novel, In the Realms of the Unreal. On the one hand, this is a fascinating look at a very interesting character, but on the other hand, it's doesn't delve deep enough into his work to be truly satisfying.

The Jacket - Buy from Amazon
I had high hopes for this film figuring it would prove to be a stylish and provocative drama and while it certainly was stylish, there wasn't enough emotional connection to be provocative. It also failed to live up to its box office potential, and while it should easily top its domestic gross on the home market, it will need help earning a profit. There are only two featurettes on the disc, the first being a look at the special effects. The second featurette is longer at half-an-hour and looks both at the history of the production and some deleted scenes. They really should have been two separate featurettes.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous - Buy from Amazon: Regular: Widescreen or Pan & Scan - With Soundtrack: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
While the original wasn't a favorite of the critics, it had a certain charm that resonated with audiences and became a surprise hit. This film was greeted with even less enthusiasm by the critics and more importantly struggled at the box office. The film should be a bigger hit on the home market, but the substandard DVD release will prevent it from reaching profitability.

The Outer Limits - The New Series - Buy from Amazon
This 6-disc set contains four discs each containing 6 episodes around a particular theme, (Aliens Among Us, Death & Beyond, Fantastic Androids & Robots and Mutations & Transformations) as well as two previously released discs, (Sex & Science Fiction and Time Travel & Infinity.) While the shows are good and the special features more than adequate I'd wait for full season sets to come out.

Oz - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
The fifth and penultimate season of one of the most violent and bloody TV shows is released on DVD tomorrow. Fans of the series know what to expect in terms of quality, (all 8 episodes demand repeat viewing) and in terms of special features, (audio commentary track on the final episode and 20 minutes of deleted scenes.) The only real complaint that can be levied at this set is the price, at only 8 episodes this season is half as long as Season 4, but is the same price. Can also be purchased with the first four season as part of a package deal.

Starchaser: The Legend of Orin - Buy from Amazon
One of many, many Star Wars rip-offs to be made in the 1980. This film's is only noteworthy because it was the first feature-length animated film to be produced in 3-D, although I don't think the DVD retains the 3-D aspect.

They Came Back - Buy from Amazon
The dead come back to life and swarm a small town. I know what you're thinking, 'We've seen this countless times is every zombie movie out there.' But this is different, the dead didn't return to create mayhem, in fact, people don't know why they came back. They try to resume their old lives, but that's hard to do when the living have moved on. That twist on the old genre makes the film worth checking out. The only special feature is a documentary featurette, which is on par with most limited releases.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
What's the most important step in releasing a remake? That's right, releasing the original on a special edition DVD. The movie is an absolute classic while the DVD appears to be just a re-release of the 30th anniversary edition. It does has enough extras to make purchasing worthwhile with audio commentary, making of, interviews and more.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Longest Yard, Coach Carter, Bewitched, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, Hostage, Dark Water, Cursed, The Jacket, Callas Forever, In the Realms of the Unreal, Bright Leaves