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DVD Releases for August 2, 2005

August 1st, 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 slow week for first-run releases, but that shouldn't surprise anyone since it's been that way for quite a while now. The best bet is the Foreign Language film, Downfall - Buy from Amazon.

Alexander - Buy from Amazon: Director's Cut - Widescreen, Pan & Scan, Theatrical Version - Widescreen
Alexander will be remembered as one of the biggest flops of 2004, both with the critics and especially at the box office. The $155 million mess made just $34.3 million domestically and even the $130 million it made internationally was way too little, way too late. And while the Theatrical Version is very bad, the Director's Cut is quite a bit worse. On the other hand, these 2-disc sets contain a lot of special features, but I don't think any amount of extras would lift this film to the rental level.

Annie / Annie: Royal Adventure - Buy from Amazon
When Annie was released in 1982 it earned good reviews and became one of the biggest hits of the year, (although its $50 million production budget meant it didn't earn a profit.) Annie: A Royal Adventure! was a made for TV movie that it mostly forgettable. Annie - Special Anniversary Edition is being re-released separately and it's probably the better deal.

Avant Garde - Experimental Cinema of the 1920s & 1930s - Buy from Amazon
Two dozen experimental films from the 1920s and 1930s. While these films are certain... interesting, their appeal is mostly for film students, historians, etc. and not for a wide audience. Even so, there's a lot of early influences here and that alone might make it worth checking out for film buffs. There are no special features on the 2 discs, but it does come with notes by film critic Elliott Stein.

The Boatniks - Buy from Amazon
One of several live-action Dinsey films coming out tomorrow. Like the rest of them, this film wasn't very good when it first came out and it hasn't aged well. Of the four such films coming out tomorrow, this one is the worst; severely stuck in the 70s, it is only good for nostalgia.

The Cosby Show - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
I had to double-check to make sure this show was actually coming out. During its eight-year run The Cosby Show became one of the most popular shows of all time, so why it's hitting the home market with such little fanfare is beyond me. What's more disappointing was the level of special features; the only extra on the 4-disc set is the 10th Anniversary Reunion / Restrospective. No audio commentary, no deleted scenes, no outtakes, etc. Still, fans of the show will be pleased to finally have the first season on DVD.

Cypher - Buy from Amazon
Director Vincenzo Natali's follow up to the ultra-low budget film, Cube. Cypher is earning mixed to positive reviews, much like Cube did several years earlier. Also like Cube, Cypher is an interesting premise with flawed execution, but it's worth a rental.

Downfall - Buy from Amazon
This film was controversial right from the time it was first announced; it's the first film to deal with the life of Adolf Hitler in a sympathetic way. Some felt this was giving too much credence to Hitler's racial policies while others believed that by humanizing Hitler would allow us to understand him better. And by understanding him better it would help us prevent someone else from inflicting the same evil on the world. I am definitely a member of the latter group. So it's an important film, but is it a good film? Yes. In fact, it is the best recent release on this week's list. As for the special features, there is an in-depth documentary and interviews with cast and crew that really compliments the movie. More than enough to make the film the DVD pick of the week.

The Dukes of Hazzard - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
With the movie coming out on Friday, there's no better time to release the Fourth Season on DVD. After season four, John Schneider and Tom Wopat left the show due to a contract dispute, and even though they returned for seasons six and seven, the show never really recovered. Special features include audio commentary on one episode and featurette called Building the Legend: The Dukes Story. Can also be purchased with the first three seasons as part of a package deal.

A Fine Mess - Buy from Amazon
Blake Edwards has written and directed some excellent movies, this isn't one of them. In fact, this is arguably his worst movie, (although Son of the Pink Panther would get my vote.)

Ghostbusters - Double Feature Giftset - Buy from Amazon
Both films in the Ghostbusters Franchise in one package. The first movie is a classic while the second movie is not. The only new special feature not on the previous release is a couple of episodes from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. Is it worth the upgrade? Not unless you are a really big fan of the cartoon, and even then I'd wait till those were released in full-season sets. On a side note, the original is also being released on UMD for PSP.

The Greatest American Hero - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
There's some confusion over this set's release date as Amazon has it coming out yesterday and other places having a August 9th release date. The studio has the release date as tomorrow, and I'm going to assume they are correct. Season three only lasted 13 episodes, and the only special features on the 4-disc set is a 8-page pamphlet with notes from show's prop maker. That's not much, but if you own the other seasons, then it's very likely that you'll pick up this one up as well.

Guess Who - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD for PSP
Not as bad as a lot of people were fearing, but still not a good movie. A remake of a 1967 film that starred Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy. The main twist to the film is the racial role reversal with Ashton Kutcher being the boyfriend and Bernie Mac being the prospective Father-In-Law. The special features are average for a first-run release with audio commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes and a making-of featurette. That's not bad, but still not enough to lift the film past the rental level.

Hearts Afire - The First Complete Season - Buy from Amazon
This short run series starred John Ritter, Markie Post and Billy Bob Thornton. The plot involved the politics in Washington, at least it did for the first season. The second season saw the main cast move to a small town and run a newspaper. The third season, the show was cancelled. The 4-disc set contains all 22 episodes, plus some outtakes.

John Wayne Doubleshot - Buy from Amazon: The High and the Mighty and Island in the Sky
Two films from John Wayne that have been out of circulation for a long, long time. Without getting into too much detail, the family pulled the films from circulation after John Wayne's death so it's been 25 years since these films have been seen. Island in the Sky is the better of the two films telling the story of a plane crash in Labrador and how the marooned men survive while they wait for rescue. The High and the Mighty is actually quite a bad movie but is heralded as the first of the disaster flicks, which isn't really true as there was a version of Titanic that was made more than a decade earlier. Granted, a lot of the themes used in this movie are repeated in Airport franchises. Both discs are loaded with special features including audio commentaries, intros, making of featurettes and more.

Johnny Tremain - Buy from Amazon
Typical live-action Dinsey fare from the 1950s. The film deals with the American Revolutionary war with better than average historical realism for a Hollywood film, it's certainly better than The Patriot in that regard. Special features are much better than most releases from that era, but I think this DVD will only appeal to those who watched it as a kid and want a hit of nostalgia.

Over There - The Battle Begins (Pilot Episode) - Buy from Amazon
For those of you pining for the nostalgia of last week, comes the pilot episode of the new Iraq War TV series. Yep, a show that debuted just last week is already out on DVD. The show was going for gritty and realistic, but there have been plenty of complaints about the way the soldiers are being presented. Even if you did really like the show, it would be better to wait for the full season set.

Naked Fame - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about a 40 year-old gay porn star who quits porn to join the music industry only to discover the two industries aren't that different. Reviews were mixed but leaned to the positive side but the movie is too much of a niche appeal for any mainstream success. On the other hand, those that do buy the DVD will be rewarded with several special features, (interviews, extra footage, musical performances, etc.) which is a lot more than most limited release DVDs.

The Rider Named Death - Buy from Amazon
A Russian film set during the violent revolution early in the 20th century. The film earned just mixed reviews overall, but 100% positive from the run-of-the-mill reviewers. Part of the problem is the film isn't in-depth enough; you don't learn enough about the character or their motivations.

The Swan Princess / The Swan Princess III: The Mystery of the Enchanted Treasure - Buy from Amazon
The first and third chapters in the Swan Princess franchise. I'm not sure why they aren't released the second one either. And to further confuse matters, these two movies were released as part of a package deal not that long ago.

The Thin Man Collection - Buy from Amazon
This 7-disc set contains all 6 movies from the Thin Man collection, which starred William Powell and Myrna Loy as the debonair detective and his wife / partner. This series began in 1934 with a true classic, The Thin Man, and granted, some of the middle films were much weaker than the earlier ones, the collection as a whole is still phenomenal. Bonus features on the movie include classic shorts, vintage cartoons, radio plays, and more. There is also a bonus disc with a four-part documentary on the series that is a must see for fans. Like I said, the first film is more than 70 years old, and it's starting to show and the audio is very poor compared to today's standards. Still, I highly recommend the set.

Toby Tyler - Buy from Amazon
The best of the live-action Dinsey films coming out tomorrow, as long as you aren't expecting a faithful adaptation of the novel it was based on. The book it was based on was a dark, depressing tale full one horrible characters that certainly had no happy ending. It's like taking Oliver Twist and turning it into a comedy. Yes, I know it's a Dinsey kid's movie, but even so, if you are just going to mangle the story don't pretend it's based on the novel to begin with, come up with an original screenplay instead. Ok, enough ranting. While the movie is the best of the bunch, the DVD is apparently devoid of special features.

When Billie Beat Bobby - Buy from Amazon
Better than your average TV movie of the week, but still flawed in a number of ways, for instance, Ron Silver's performance was way over the top. Granted, the actual tennis match was a media circus, so maybe over the top is what's called for.

The World's Greatest Athlete - Buy from Amazon
The last of the live-action Dinsey films coming out tomorrow. This one stars John Amos and Tim Conway as two hapless coaches who find the world's greatest athlete, played by Jan-Michael Vincent, living in Africa and take him back to civilization. It's cheesy and corny and the special effects, which were bad for it's time, are completely laughable now. The disc isn't barren of special features with some outtakes, but overall it really only has kitsch value.

The X-Files - Mythology - Volume 2 - Black Oil - Buy from Amazon
15 episodes that follow the Black Oil storyline. On the one hand, this 4-disc set is very well done with new bonus features including a documentary and a timeline. However, this release is a double-dip as the complete series has already been released on DVD. In the end, this is only worth picking up for the extreme hardcore fan who wants to own everything The X-Files related, or the more casual fan who liked the Black Oil thread but didn't bother picking up seasons 3 through 5.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Guess Who, Alexander, Der Untergang, Naked Fame, The Rider Named Death