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October 25, 2005

"I'm crushing your head. Crush. Crush."

So what do you know, I'm getting this post out on time! Stranger things happen I suppose...so anyhow, it's Tuesday again, the day of holy media releases. Best Buy has set out their tables of bountiful media goodness, ready to feed the hungry masses of people, just waiting for their helping of DVDs. Gotta get your fix, but don't be a prick and trample that guy in the wheelchair over the last copy of The Best of Gallagher Volume 2. On that nausiating note, let's get into this week's DVDs:

3rd Rock From the Sun: Complete Season 2 This was a show that was funny at times, but seemed to wear thin pretty quickly, at least for me. I can't imagine needing to own it, but if you do...

Alias: The Complete Fourth Season Another season set with hot women on the cover...I'm sure it helps to sell it!

Bewitched (2005) This was apparently pretty mediocre, which means it's probably above average for a movie re-do of a 1960s TV show.

Bewitched: The Complete Second Season And of course the TV show. You can buy it in black & white or colorized.

The Concert for Bangladesh

Danger Mouse: The Complete Seasons 3 and 4 Cor!

Detective Story (1951)

The Doris Day Show: Season 2

Hart To Hart: The Complete First Season Really, was this necessary?!

Herbie: Fully Loaded The original Love Bug film is actually pretty OK, but this just seems pathetic...

The Kids in the Hall: The Complete Season 3

Kill! (1968)

Leonard Bernstein Concert Box Set A 9 DVD set of live performances.

Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 Crap, I haven't even finished watching all the stuff in Volume 2!

The L Word: Season Two

Samurai Rebellion

Save the Tiger (1973) Another Jack Lemmon power performance.

Titanic Special Collector's Edition This movie has needed a DVD update for a while now since the old disc came out in the late 90s as a bare-bones non-anamorphic release. The new set has 3 DVDs (though Region 2 gets a 4th disc with extra content) with the film spread over 2 of them. You get a new film transfer, which is apparently killer and a bunch of bonus material. It won't save the film's awful dialogue and cardboard characters, but the setpieces and effects will be even better now...the only reason I can think of for watching it. DVD Savant has a good review of the DVD here which recognizes the problems (and even talks about the Nazi Titanic film!) while recognizing what Cameron got right.

The Wizard of Oz Yes, it's the third time on DVD for this classic. The last DVD was good, but this one's supposed to be even better with more stuff. It's available in either a 2 or 3 disc set. The 3 disc one has a bunch of extras on L Frank Baum and earlier versions of Oz plus re-creations of premiere program books and tickets. For the serious fans, of course! For a complete rundown of the goodies, click here.

October 21, 2005

"It's the *pictures* that got small."

All right kids, let's talk some tech, shall we?

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Apple has introduced a new iPod that plays video. Fairly or not, Apple's getting a lot of press over this new Pod. Sure, they're certainly not the first to put video playback on an mp3 player, but since they command about 70% of the market, they get the press...that and Steve Jobs' being the celebrity that he is. Check out this review of the 30 gb model. They seemed pretty happy with the results, video-wise. The new iPod's screen is sharp enough that stuff looks decent on it even if it may suffer when played back on a standard TV (using an adaptor cable) or on a computer. Besides the new video feature, we also get a larger hard drive on the low end model (30gb up from 20) and a skinnier form...oh yeah, they also offer it in black, which floats my boat. Up close, the new Pod is very cool. It looks larger than the old one, but isn't. This is mainly due to the larger display. They also dropped Firewire from the new iPod; USB 2.0 only.

I guess besides the cool fact that the new Pod offers more bang for the same buck, is the question of whether one wants to watch video content on a deveice such as this. I don't have one of these to try (yet) but I can't imagine the experience of watching anything significant on this thing to be a good one. Maybe if you were on a treadmill or something and had this thing right in front of you with a sitcom...that might work. Movies? Sounds pretty silly to me. The other issue is that battery life is limited to 2-3 hours when playing video (14 hours playing music). A portable DVD player or laptop would seem to be a better option for those who spend their lives airborne.

Another bit of interest surrounding this is Apple's move to offer TV show downloads via iTunes, $1.99/show. There isn't much there, just a handful of titles, but it's an interesting first toe in the pool. I could see this business model's attraction...here's an example:

A couple of weeks ago, we had a huge rainstorm and during it, we lost our satlellite TV signal for a bit. Alas it was during Gilmore Girls, a show we normally record with the trusty Tivo. That night we didn't get the episode and would normally have to wait until some unknown point in the future to catch it. Luckily we did get to see it the next day, but I had to go seek it out on the Internet. Sure, I got it but it was a minor pain in the butt and if I could have easily downloaded it from iTunes for $2, I would have done it, no hesitation. Sure, I usually wouldn't do it (that's what the Tivo is for), but for those times when you just have to have it, it would be really nice to do so. So we'll have to see how far this goes. Will people download shows for $2 that they aren't allowed to burn to DVD (annoying limitation, IMO)?

For right now, it makes far more sense to buy a TV show on DVD than download it. Better quality and features make it worth it if the show is important to you. But what if you could download the whole season of a show at high def quality with the same features for the same price? Sure it isn't here today, but it isn't too much of a stretch to see it coming...if the networks and studios are willing to go along.

October 18, 2005

"Ve vant ze money, Lebowski."

Boom boom and we're off on another week of DVD spending fun...yeah, it's a bit late this week, but I'm sure you can all survive...check here for the bunch as always...

Batman Begins This week's hit by far. I haven't seen it, but hear it's pretty good. This one's available in either a single "regular" version or a 2 disc "Collector's Edition."

Batman Anthology This set contains all the recent Batman films, save for the new one. You get new film transfers and a fair amount of bonus material. The original Batman (1989) really needed a refresh since its DVD came out in 1997. The films are all available seperately so you can skip the lousy ones.

Batman - The Complete 1943 Movie Serial Collection I had no idea this went back so far, though it seems to bear little resemblence to the modern one.

The Batman vs Dracula: The Animated Movie (2005) Bat Week flies on...

The Big Lebowski: Collector’s Edition OK, here's the deal with this one. The standard one disc version is pretty much the same, bonus-wise as the old DVD except that they don't put both widescreen and pan/scan on the same DVD. There's also an "Achiever's Edition" which throws in 8 Exclusive Photo Cards, 4 Character Coasters, and a Collectible Bowling Towel. The DVD is the same in both. The old DVD had a mediocre film transfer at a low bitrate so it doesn't look great on large screens. The new one addresses that but according to some, looks soft. For me, the lack of new bonuses and questionable picture quality upgrade makes this a non-starter for me. If Univeral had gotten something new or made a slam-dunk transfer, I'd double-dip without hesitation since this is a favorite of mine.

Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection Another packaging of the Lee films, including Game of Death 2, The Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, Game of Death, and The Big Boss. Apparently the discs contain newer film transfers and sound mixes.

The Coen Brothers Collection A repackaging of currently available DVDs with the new Lebowski disc: The Big Lebowski, Blood Simple, Intolerable Cruelty, and The Man Who Wasn’t There.

CSI: NY - The First Season

Land of the Dead (2005) This one's available as an R-rated theatrical or unrated director's cut.

Lifeboat Fox finally releases this Hitchcock classic for the first time on DVD. The DVD is supposed to be very good, so it was perhaps worth the wait.

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955) The Sinatra classic makes it to DVD.

The Mark of Zorro (1940)

The Mask of Zorro (1998) Gee, why would they be releasing this one again...for the fourth time???

The Twilight Zone-Definitive Edition: Season 4

October 10, 2005

"Dear Buddha, I would like a pony and a plastic rocket."

Hi again gang. I was going to just do one entry today, but I saw a few things that may be of interest...

All right Browncoats, Serenity may not be a massive box office hit ($17.6m so far), but at least you have the DVD to look forward to...soon...on 12/20. Early word indicates that the disc may include Whedon audio commentary, along with at least 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes ("Future History", "We'll Have a Fruity Oaty Good Time", "Re-Lighting the Firefly" and "What's in a Firefly"), a video introduction to the film by Whedon and 6 minutes worth of outtakes. I have no idea if they're going make more Firefly films, but from looking at this modest DVD that's coming out relatively soon after the theatrical release, I'd say that y'all have another version to look forward to down the road with more stuff to entice a re-buy. Welcome to the world of hardcore fan movies. We Star Trek fans may yet feel your pain where you're subjected to endless reissues. And then you'll be able to buy the film in Blu-Ray disc! More on that in a minute...

Speaking of sci-fi fan movie stuff, here's a review of the upcoming Star Wars Episode III DVD (out on 11/1). Let's all take a ride on the NOOOller Coaster!

Now, for those of you who are watching the ongoing Hi-Def on disc goings on, it's looking like Sony may win the day with Blu-Ray. Last week, Paramount said they'll be supporting Blu Ray and Warner has said the same, which leaves Universal as the one holdout. Hopefully this means they've managed to avoid a format war since selling a HD format to the public without two competing formats is tough enough, IMO as it is. Now we'll see what happens...here's an article on the latest.

"Annoy, tiny blonde one, annoy like the wind!"

Happy Monday everyone. Here we are into October and still in my favorite season here in MN: Fall. Nothing beats the Fall weather around here, though it doesn't seem to last very long, the period between the heat/humidity and the bitter cold. DVD Savant has a good review of the Alfred Hitchcock The Masterpiece Collection box set that came out last week. Nothing terribly exciting this week, but a few things of moderate interest...so let's get into this week's DVDs:

11:14 Go read the description...sounds interesting.

Arrested Development: Season Two

Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids: Volume 2 More retro Cosby fun.

Hondo (1953) Another Wayne estate-controlled film makes it onto DVD for the first time.

The Jeffersons: The Complete Fourth Season

Kingdom of Heaven I imagine a very compelling and interesting film could be made about the Crusades...this isn't it.

McLintock! (1963) See the above Wayne title...

Soap: The Complete Fourth Season

South Park: The Complete Sixth Season

Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season This show is supposed to be pretty good. Anyone seen it? I may have to queue it up.

October 3, 2005

"The vicious table-hopper is on the prowl, and the spotted back-biter may lurk behind a potted palm."

It really doesn't feel like October, does it (it's in the 80s today and kinda sticky), but I'm not going to complain as every day like this is another one where I don't have to turn on the soon-to-be-sucking-me-dry furnace! One sign it's Fall: a Disney animated classic is rereleased. As usual, get the complete DVD list here (but really, I'm sure none of you actually look at it since the titles I point out are always the ones of greatest importance!).

Oh by the way, for you Lord of the Rings movie fans, a new soundtrack CD set is on the way: all 180 minutes worth of music recorded by composer Howard Shore for The Fellowship of the Ring. The 4-disc The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - The Complete Recordings will be released on 11/22. The first three discs of the set will contain the score in CD stereo format, while the fourth disc will be a DVD containing the complete score in 5.1 surround sound. Other extras will include artwork and a booklet of liner notes. Remember kids, that's just the first film. Overkill for most, fantastic for others. I assume they'll get around the other two at some point...gotta keep the revenue flowing!

This struck me as interesting. There's been much said (in certain circles) about nixing the theatrical to video window, but along the same lines we have the ever-shrinking window between TV show airings and DVD releases. How low can it go? Here's a new example: Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0 Season 2 started this Fall and on 12/20, the season's first half (the second half starts up in January) will be released with bonuses and stuff unaired in TV, natch. This trend is of course good for those people I know who choose to have no TV reception whatsoever and rely on DVD for their TV show fixes, but I have to wonder if this another blow to TV ad revenue streams? Not that I lose any sleep over it! OK, here's this week:

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection Includes: Saboteur , Shadow of a Doubt , Rope , Rear Window , The Trouble With Harry , The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo , Psycho , The Birds , Marnie , Torn Curtain , Topaz , Frenzy , Family Plot , and a Bonus Disc. Universal is taking two steps forward, one back in a way with this new re-packaging of old DVDs. Apparently the stuff on the bonus disc is new, an AFI Special on Hitchcock, but missing film clips that Uni doesn't own; I guess they were too cheap to licence them. Another issue is there's an audio lip synch problem on the Psycho DVD that isn't present on the old one. On the plus side, the Vertigo DVD is now 16x9 enhanced and includes the original mono audio track (the old DVD only has the 5.1 re-mix with modern foley effects; the music sounds much better, but the track isn't quite authentic). Also the film transfers are improved on Psycho, Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Topaz, and Frenzy. The rest of the titles are the same. As far as I can tell, the new discs are only available in this set.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season One

The Amityville Horror (2005) Crappy the first time and crappy the second...

The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Second Season

Cinderella: Platinum Edition The classic's first time on DVD. T'will sell by the boatload, no doubt...

Farscape - Starburst Edition: Season 2 Collection 2 Another installment...

The Fly: Collector's Edition (1986) You know, this is a pretty good movie, but it's so digusting/depressing I just don't think I ever need to see it again. But if you enjoy revisiting it, this DVD is for you.

The Fly II: Collector's Edition Hey Phil, here's yer chance! (sorry, in-joke)

The Interpreter Intrigue at the UN! Uh, yeah...

Star Trek: Nemesis - Special Collector's Edition At the moment, they're all caught up with reissuing the Trek films. So now it's safe to pick up (also available this week) the Star Trek Motion Pictures Collection which includes all the current special edition DVDs...until the HD versions come out!

Val Lewton Horror Collection A box set of the RKO horror films from producer Val Lewton. In this set you get Cat People(1942), Curse of the Cat People (1944), I Walked With a Zombie (1943), The Body Snatcher (1945), Isle of the Dead (1945), Bedlam (1946), The Leopard Man (1943), The Ghost Ship (1943), and The Seventh Victim (1943). The films appear to be available seperately.

William Shatner’s A Twist to the Tale What the hell? Anyone know what this is...besides a TV show of some kind???