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DVD Releases for November 29, 2005

November 28th, 2005

This week the we have dueling documentaries looking to score the coveted DVD Pick of the Week title: March of the Penguins - Buy from Amazon and Murderball - Buy from Amazon. While the former was the bigger hit at the box office, it is the latter than is the DVD Pick of the Week. On a side note, it feels like a really slow week. Perhaps studios were unwilling to release a movie the Tuesday after the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Paradoxically, there are a lot of box sets coming out tomorrow, most of which are re-releases of previous DVDs and are not worth the upgrade, but were designed to be the perfect gift.

Brad Pitt Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: Legends of the Fall and A River Runs Through It
Two early films in the career of Brad Pitt are getting Deluxe Edition releases this week. A River Runs Through It is a marginally better film than Legends of the Fall is, but in both cases the cinematography is a bigger selling point than the story. Also, for Deluxe Editions, there are simply not enough special features. In the end, they feel like nothing more than cheap attempts to cash in on Mr. and Mrs. Smith's release, which is also tomorrow.

C.S.I. - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
This is a good show, but there's two strikes against the DVD set. First of all, it's not one of those shows that you need to watch every episode in the right order to understand what's going on. And secondly, it's on TV so often that the DVD set has to be phenomenal to make purchasing worth it. This 7-disc set comes close, with audio commentaries on 9 episodes, a retrospective, a look at the Quentin Tarantino directed season finale, and a couple of addition featurettes that look at the realism in the show. It's a good set and well worth the money, but at the moment the I can turn on the TV practically any hour of the day and watch the show in syndication, so purchasing it on DVD is a low priority. Can also be purchased with the previous seasons as part of a package deal.

Death to the Supermodels - Buy from Amazon
This movie is bad. Really bad. It's not hard to see what the filmmakers were going for, but it is also not hard to see how far they missed the mark. The DVD has a couple of deleted scenes, but that's not nearly enough to make up for the quality of the movie. Skip it.

Deuce Bigalow - European Gigolo - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of the worst movies of the year, failing to live up to low, low expectations. It had a real chance of turning its fortunes around on the home market and all it needed were two words, "Unrated Edition." However, the studio seems to have taken the high road and not released the movie with 2-and-a-half minutes of extra footage to try and sucker in some additional shoppers. They did put together a pretty good DVD here, with several featurettes with a total runtime longer than the movie itself. Unfortunately, none of them come close to compensating for the quality of the movie. Skip it.

Empire - Buy from Amazon
Mini-series that uses the Roman Empire as the basis for a soap opera story. One of my pet peeves is when Hollywood messes with historical accuracy in movies. Now if it is done like it was in Forrest Gump (a fiction main character is inserted into real life events), then I don't have too much of a problem with it. On the other hand, projects like this one purport to tell the story of a real person and then change events just to make the movie more dramatic. Add in special features that are not inspiring and you have a 2-disc set that is best ignored.

Family Guy - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
The follow-up to one of the most significant TV on DVD releases of all time. The previous volumes in this series proved to be so popular that the TV series was resurrected on network TV, the first time that's ever happened. I don't think this volume will sell nearly as many copies though, because the competition in the TV on DVD area has increased tenfold since they were first released. The 3-disc set is on par with the other releases, including audio commentary tracks on a handful of episodes, a featurette about the show, the music, table reads and more. It is well worth it for fans of the show. Can also be purchased with the first two volumes as part of a package deal.

The Frighteners - Unrated Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon
When this movie was first released there was a lot of talk about how it was going to revive Michael J. Fox's career, but it under-performed at the box office. (His career was then revived by the TV series, Spin City.) However, the film is getting a Special Edition release this week because of its director, Peter Jackson. If I have to explain who he is or why this is a timely release, then chances are you are reading this site by mistake. As for the actual quality of the DVD, it's a good release with 13 minutes of extra footage, audio commentary, feature length documentary, and more. OK, maybe that's not quite enough for the Special Edition label, but it's a fun movie and it is still worth picking up.

Havoc - Buy from Amazon: Unrated or R-Rated
Anne Hathaway tries to shed her squeaky-clean image in this film about bored rich kids who obviously have even more free time than they have money. I hate movies about bored rich kids (there are few groups less sympathetic), and this movie is no different. The film has a good, young cast, but the movie is poorly done and the DVD is devoid of special features. Skip it.

Jurassic Park Adventure Pack - Buy from Amazon
All three movies in the Jurassic Park trilogy released at a great price. However, these have all been previously released in the exact same form, so there's no reason to upgrade.

King Kong Vs Godzilla/King Kong Escapes - Buy from Amazon
A double-shot of King Kong movies being released to take advantage of the upcoming release of King Kong. This is for the diehard, hardcore, uber-fan only.

Lila Says - Buy from Amazon
I can't believe Sony would censor one of their DVD releases. The movie is rated R and has a sexual nature, so why they felt the need to blur out a comic book that contained nudity is beyond me. Add in zero in the way of special features and the DVD isn't worth picking up.

The Mangler Reborn - Buy from Amazon
The Mangler was a really bad movie and it flopped at the box office. But this is the second direct-to-DVD sequel to come out. Avoid at all costs.

March of the Penguins - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen and Pan & Scan
One of the biggest box office surprises of the year, and also one of the best reviewed films of the year. This documentary is a great movie for families, nature lovers, etc. and there's plenty of special features here, including a video diary, critter cam, and even 8 Ball Bunny (the Looney Tunes cartoon with Bugs Bunny trying to return a penguin to the south pole). An interesting side note: like Christmas with the Kranks, this film was helped out at the box office by a Church based marketing campaign. Also like that film, it doesn't really make sense; they were emphasizing the film's pro-family message, saying that penguins were proof that monogamy works. There's a small problem with that theory: penguins are not monogamous as they choose a new mate every year. In fact, monogamy is exceedingly rare in nature, but so is toilet paper, for instance, which is why humans generally don't look to the animal kingdom for rules on etiquette. Anyhoo, back to the movie. It is a wonderful experience and on obvious contender for the DVD Pick of the Week.

Mission Hill - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
All 13 episodes of this short-live animated series hits the home market tomorrow. Created by two former producers of The Simpsons, the show follows the exploits of Andy, a slacker living in a rundown neighborhood in New York City, who is forced to take in his younger, and much smarter, brother. The stylish animation and the too-hip-for-primetime attitude meant the show was doomed from the start, but it did have a cult following when it was part of Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. Fans of the show should enjoy the four audio commentary tracks and especially the interactive map, which contains many short featurettes on various subjects. Overall, it is well worth picking up.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen or Pan & Scan
One of the bigger hits of the summer, this film earned better than average reviews but was really helped out by the massive publicity surrounding Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's off-screen shenanigans. It's a fun popcorn flick, but even with good special features (three audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and a featurette) there's not enough replay value here to warrant a purchase. It is, on the other hand, a solid rental.

The Mummy Collector's Set - Buy from Amazon
All three movies in the Mummy franchise, including The Scorpion King, in one box set. It's a good deal if you don't already own any of the movies, but if you do it's better to complete your collection individually.

Muppet Movies - Kermit's 50th Anniversary Releases - Buy from Amazon: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Muppet Treasure Island
Four films from the very popular Muppets' franchise hit the home market just in time for Kermit's 50th Birthday. The Muppet Movie is the best of the bunch, while The Great Muppet Caper is arguably the weakest, but still worth watching. The other two movies, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island are both spoofs and are not only funny films, but are also really good adaptations. (In fact, the only adaptation of A Christmas Carol I like more is Scrooged.) On the other hand, the special features are light, with three of the discs only having character profiles. The Muppet Christmas Carol has a character profile as well, but also has an audio commentary track, gag reel and more. If I were to chose just one of these DVDs to buy it would probably be The Muppet Movie, with The Muppet Christmas Carol a very close second place, but they are all worth watching at least once.

Murderball - Buy from Amazon
According to Rotten Tomatoes, this is the second-best reviewed film of the year, with a score of 97% positive. However, the film struggled to find an audience during its theatrical run, finishing with just over $1.5 million. I think part of the problem was the subject matter: the film deals with quadriplegic athletes who form the national team for Wheelchair Rugby, or Murderball as it used to be known. This will make a lot of people uncomfortable, which is a shame since more people should see the movie. That should happen on the home market, as the DVD release is excellent, with two audio commentary tracks, extra interviews, a promotional tie-in with Jackass, deleted scenes, and more. Best bet for the week.

Sky High - Buy from Amazon: Widescreen, Pan & Scan, or UMD Mini
The film outperformed expectations during its late summer run, which was helped out by better than expected reviews. However, the DVD release is lacking; there are no audio commentary tracks, just two short featurettes, some outtakes and a music video for a total running time of roughly 30 minutes. It's worth a rental, but I'd wait to see if there's an upcoming special edition release before buying.

Tremors Attack Pack - Buy from Amazon
The original Tremors is a great movie that was unfairly ignored by most movie goers. But it did develop a cult following which lead to 3 direct-to-video releases, which were better than expected (granted, expectations for direct-to-video releases are generally very low). Four movies for just over $20 is a great deal, especially if you or someone you know if a fan of B-Movie / Creature Features.


Filed under: Video Releases, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, La marche de l'empereur, Sky High, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Murderball, Lila dit ça, Havoc