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DVD Releases for August 16, 2005

August 15th, 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's been quite a slump for high quality wide releases the DVD front, mainly because there wasn't a single wide release that earned overwhelmingly positive reviews during the first three months of the year. This week the first such film is hitting the home market, but the DVD release is crap, so it's up to the TV on DVD section to bail us out once again. Fortunately there are two amazing sets coming out tomorrow, one was a critically acclaimed but short-lived series and the other is a critically acclaimed and incredible enduring show. The first is Undeclared - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon, which is coming out just in time for the release of The 40 Year-Old Virgin, both of which were created by Judd Apatow. And the second is The Simpsons - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon, which needs no other explanation. Lastly we have Ryan - Buy from Amazon, which was released earlier in the month, but should be part of everyone's collection.

Alien Planet - Buy from Amazon
A mix of speculative science and science fiction in the same vein as the Walking With series. Because this is more speculative than the Dinosaur series it might turn off people looking for hard facts, but the assumptions are based on sound science. At first glance, the special features may seem light with just some extended interviews, but there's more than 40 minutes worth of extended interviews.

'Allo 'Allo - The Complete Series Three - Buy from Amazon
The double-entendres fly fast and furious when Rene Artois loses the sausage with the stolen painting, The Fallen Madonna, or as the characters call it, The Madonna with the big boobies. One of the longest running British Sitcoms of all time, lasting nine seasons and 85 episodes. This is also the last season for Francesca Gonshaw, whose character of Maria Recamier was much beloved. Special features include the cast on a British game show called Blankety Blank, star Gorden Kaye at an award show, and a discussion panel between the members of the 'Allo 'Allo fan club and a group of people who find the show offensive.

The Andy Griffith Show - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
It hasn't been that long since the second season was released on DVD, and like the previous seasons, there's not much here in terms of special features. Can also be purchased with the first two seasons as part of a package deal.

The Astaire & Rogers Collection - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Five musicals with the most famous dance couple ever, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. With sets like this you have to watch out for two things, Double Dips and Filler. There are no double dips as each film is being released on DVD for the first time and more impressively, there is no filler. Granted, The Barkleys of Broadway is the weakest of the ten movies they did together, but it's still better than most musicals. Special features vary, but all have a vintage short and cartoon and most have an audio commentary and / or featurette. One last note, the film can be purchased separately, Top Hat, Swing Time, Follow the Fleet, Shall We Dance, and The Barkleys of Broadway, but the Box Set is a much better deal as it like buying three and getting two for free.

The Ballad of Jack and Rose - Buy from Amazon
A case of amazing acting and a mediocre script, and as with most films, the script matters more. The fact that Daniel Day-Lewis was great in the film should shock nobody, nor is there much surprise that Catherine Keener was superb. It was a surprise that relative newcomer Camilla Belle was able to match the others' performances. Like more limited release DVDs, there are no special features reducing the value to a rental.

The Breakin' Collection - Buy from Amazon
I can't imagine there was a huge public outcry for this set. Breakin' was mediocre at best and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo is widely regarded as the least necessary sequel ever. Beat Street is the best of the three movies, but that's not saying much. Special features are much better than I would expect given the quality of the movies, but not nearly good enough to make the set worth picking up. And it's only worth a rental if you are a fan of bad movies.

The Brown Bunny - Buy from Amazon
Quite a dull movie, even the shorter version you get here, and for all the controversy it generated, the exchanges between director Vincent Gallo and Roger Ebert were far more entertaining than the movie itself. This is a SuperBit Edition, which means there's no real special features.

Dave Chappelle - For What It's Worth - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini
Well, it looks like The Chappelle Show could be done after just two season, not because of poor ratings, but because Dave Chappelle is burnt out, at least for the moment. (I blame all the college students quoting his show cause they think it makes them seem funny, which would be enough to make anyone need a break.) For What It's Worth, the last standup act he filmed before his hiatus, isn't as good as Killin' Them Softly, but it is still worth picking up for his fans. The DVD contains the 60-minute set filmed in 2004 in San Francisco and includes the early versions of some of the material, but the quality of that set leaves much to be desired.

The Deal - Buy from Amazon
It's been just 2 months since this film hit theatres, I think. There was no box office data released so I can't say for sure that it was ever released. Reviews were bad with most critics complaining that as a thriller it is just not thriller. The concept is good, but it would take a master's hand to transform corporate backroom dealings into a visually thrilling film.

Feeding the Masses - Buy from Amazon
This film has been described as the Wag the Dog of the zombie genre. A social satire about the mainstream media, government, etc. using an impending zombie apocalypse as its backdrop. It's an imaginative take on a tired genre and even with its flaws its worth a rental. And for fans of the genre, there are plenty of special features, (audio commentary, making of, and two unreleased shorts), making this DVD worth picking up.

Funny Ha Ha - Buy from Amazon
The film earned excellent reviews but was all but ignored at the box office. The DVD release should do much better and even with just an audio commentary track as its lone real special feature it is a cut above many limited releases.

Girl Play - Buy from Amazon
A film that really struggled in limited release, both with the critics and with audiences. But it should really perform better on the home market, the cover alone will make sure of that. The only special feature is the half hour documentary look at the film, which is on par with other limited releases.

The Glass Shield - Miramax Collector's Series - Buy from Amazon
A mostly forgotten film from the mid-90s. It's not a bad movie, but there are not enough special features to justify the Collector's Series label.

I Love Lucy - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
The fifth of six seasons for Lucille Ball's signature series. Like those previous seasons, this set has plenty of special features for a show that's 50 years old. Behind the scenes, deleted scenes, outtakes, 5 more episodes from the radio show My Favorite Husband and more. More than enough to keep the fans of the show happy. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Isao Takahata - Double Shoot - Buy from Amazon: My Neighbors the Yamadas and Pom Poko
Anime has never really caught on with American audiences, but it does have a small and loyal fan base. The first film is based on a comic strip and really takes its source to heart and it looks very much like a comic strip. Pom Poko is a more traditional anime film with glorious visuals to go with its environmental message. Both discs have the entire movie done in storyboards while My Neighbors the Yamadas also has a featurette look at the voice talent.

Jamboree - Buy from Amazon
A 1950s Rock 'n' Roll musical that is mediocre at best, but some of the musical performances are strong enough that its worth a look. But without any real special features it doesn't rank higher than a rental, and that's just for fans of that era's music.

LazyTown - New Superhero - Buy from Amazon
This show creeps me out. The puppets in the show fall into the same Uncanny Valley as zombie do. At least it's a good show for kids with a positive message; however, if they were a little less obvious about it, it might be more effective.

Little Britain - Series 1 - Buy from Amazon
A British TV series, a very, very British TV series. It's a Sketch comedy show with the two leads playing nearly every character in the show, all of which poke fun at the oddball characters that populate the British landscape. Amazing special features include audio commentary tracks on all 8 episodes, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, live sketches are more make this 2-disc set a must have for fans. However, those who have not seen it yet might want to catch it on BBC America first. Speaking of overly British TV shows, you can get this show and League of Gentlemen in a package deal.

The Mambo Kings - Buy from Amazon
Probably most notable for being Antonio Banderas' first English language film. It did very well for a limited release with most of the credit, and critical praise going to the Cuban music. The only special features on the disc are an audio commentary track and a documentary featurette. It's worth a rental, especially for fans of Antonio Banderas, who mostly likely missed this bit of early work.

The Man Who Copied - Buy from Amzon
It's hard to imagine a film about photocopying would be this entertaining. Granted, it's not a perfect film, but the movie is strong enough and there are enough special features here to make it worth renting.

My Left Foot - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
I have mixed feelings about this release; on the one hand, the movie is awesome, but on the other hand, the DVD just isn't up to the Special Edition label. With just three short featurettes it is certainly better than the previous release and the video and audio quality has increased. But that's not enough to justify the Special Edition moniker, perhaps if they called it the Remastered Edition instead.

The Office - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
This is the US version starring Steve Carell and not the U.K. version that is already on DVD. This version isn't as good as the original, but it wasn't the disaster most people were expecting; more importantly, it was showing signs of improving and by next season it should hit its stride. This set has all 6 first season episodes on one disc and includes quite a bit of special features, 5 audio commentary tracks and nearly an hour of deleted scenes. Depending on how much you liked the original and how possessive you are over the changes, this is either a worthy successor or something best ignored.

Phil of the Future - Gadgets & Gizmos - Buy from Amazon
Why does Disney insist on putting out their TV series on Best of sets? Everyone know the real fans want complete season sets.

Ryan - Buy from Amazon
This actually came out a couple of weeks ago, but I missed it then so I'm bringing it up now. Ryan is the Oscar winning Canadian animated short by Chris Landreth about Ryan Larkin, the Canadian animator who was nominated for an Oscar for his groundbreaking animated short, Walking. The short itself is only 14 minutes long; however, this DVD also contains the making of documentary Alter Ego, which is about an hour long. Other shorts on the disc include three by Ryan Larkin, Syrinx, Walking, and Street Musique, as well as two more by Chris Landreth, the end and Bingo. This is a must have for any fan of animation, both the tradition form about Ryan Larkin and the CGI that Chris Landreth works with.

Saved by the Bell - New Class, Season 4 - Buy from Amazon
You have got to be kidding me.

The Simpsons - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
The sixth season of this incredible long running series, (it's starting season 17 in the fall) hits the home market tomorrow. There are quite a few highlights this season including the Who Shot Burns? cliffhanger season finale. Those who have picked up the previous releases know what to expect in terms of special features. There are audio commentary tracks for every episode, deleted scenes, animatics, featurettes, funky case, etc. I'd go into more detail, but chances are you have already pre-ordered the set, if not, you really should. (On a side note, this season has the crossover episode with The Critic, which is also worth picking up.)

Sin City - Buy from Amazon: DVD or UMD Mini for PSP
The first wide release of the year to earn overwhelmingly positive reviews, so it should be a lock for DVD pick of the week. Well, not so fast. The DVD release is awful with just one short behind-the-scenes look and the director has already said there's a special edition on the way. The longest you'll have to wait for the special edition is just before the sequel hits theatres and the wait probably won't be that long. So skip this DVD and save your money for the Special Edition. Oh, and whatever you do, don't buy four copies just to get all four of the slipcovers, you really don't want to encourage the studios when it comes to bad ideas like that.

Strings - Buy from Amazon
Your typical fantasy story, the King dies and his son is tricked by his wicked uncle into attacking their sworn enemies but along the way her realizes figuring out who is a good guy and who is a bad guy isn't as clear as he once thought it was. The story is pretty simplistic, and there are a few plot holes, but what makes this movie unforgettable is that it's entirely done with marionettes. And the fact that all the characters are marionettes is integral to the world; one character can cut another character's strings, gate stop characters by blocking their strings. Granted, some of the symbolism is a little heavy-handed at times, but it is still a fascinating movie. The only special feature on the disc is a very short behind the scenes look, which is too short to be effective. Overall, this is worth a rental just based on how unique it is, but it is too unique for a wide audience to appreciate it.

That's So Raven - Disguise the Limit - Buy from Amazon
Why does Disney insist on putting out their TV series on Best of sets? Everyone know the real fans want complete season sets. (At least they make my job easier by allowing me to cut and paste.)

Undeclared - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Another short-lived TV series that's sure to become part of my collection. Sometimes these short-lived shows are just dumped on the home market because the studio doesn't want to lose even more money, but not this set. All 17 episodes are on this 4-disc set, including one that was never aired and a 'director's cut' of another, and special features include 18 audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes from every episode, auditions, rehearsals, Radio City Music Hall Q&A, and more. It's easily the DVD pick of the week, and if you don't already have it, pick up Judd Apatow's previous series, Freaks and Geeks as well.

The Wedding Date - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
You typical romantic comedy that reuses every cliche available. The special features are also weak for a first-run release with just an audio commentary, deleted scenes and an interview with Debra Messing.

Will and Grace - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
Speaking of Debra Messing, he hit TV show, Will and Grace is releasing the fourth season on DVD tomorrow as well, but I assume the timing was just a coincidence. At this point the show has Jumped the Shark but it still has enough funny moments to entertain fans. On the other hand, the 4-disc set is a little weak on special features.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Sin City, The Wedding Date, The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Funny Ha Ha, The Man Who Copied, Girl Play, The Deal