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March 27, 2006

"Taxi! Follow that ape!"

Here we go with another week. More biggies from last year are coming out about now, so let's get going on this week's DVDs:

3 Films by Louis Malle Criterion issues a box with, well...ya know...3 films by Louis Malle! You get Murmur of the Heart (1971), Lacombe Lucien (1974), and Au revoir, les enfants (1987). The films are available seperately, but buying the box set scores you a bonus DVD of extra supplements.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969) I haven't seen this one for many years. It's the first Peanuts film and I remember it being good; it's the one where they travel out of town to compete in a spelling bee...wuh wah wuh wah wuh wah wuh wah wah wah...wah!

Danger Mouse: Seasons 5 & 6

Doctor Who - The Beginning Collection I'm sure this is hardly news to you Who fans, but this set contains the first 3 William Hartnell stories in one set.

Get Rich or Die Tryin'

King Kong (2005) Peter Jackson's latest comes out in either a single disc or double SE set. Both versions are available in widescreen or pan/scan...choose wisely!

Knots Landing: Season 1 Whew...now I feel better.

Left Behind (2000) This reminds me of the bumper stickers that read, "in case of Rapture, can I have your car?" And here's a choice chunk from the description: "In Left Behind, journalist Kirk Cameron and pilot Brad Johnson stumble onto a bizarre phenomenon..."

Memoirs of a Geisha

Northern Exposure: Season 4

Planet of the Apes Legacy Boxset Fox is reissuing the Apes films in a new box set with more up-to-date film transfers. Battle for The Planet of the Apes has an extended cut previously unavailable. The original film is available seperately as well. You can also get, are you ready?
Yes, it's the Planet of the Apes - The Ultimate DVD Collection - With Ape Head Packaging! You get everything in the smaller box plus an extra bonus disc and the entire Apes TV series. And don't forget about that head; more than you could ever want, no doubt. I guess it's "Ape Day" here in DVDLand.

Quantum Leap: Season 4

Robot Chicken: Vol. 1

Six Feet Under; Season 5

Snoopy Come Home (1972)

Triumph of the Will (1935) The Nazi classic gets a re-release with some extras. I don't know if this one's better; Apes and Nazis in one blog entry...IT'S A MADHOUSE!!!

March 22, 2006

"Imagine me with no head - and don't say that's an improvement."

The other night I watched the first episode of the latest incarnation of Doctor Who. This is old news to the true Who fans who have most likely already seen the show over the 'net; the new show has been on in the UK for over a year and is going to be starting a second season. But for the rest of us, this is a chance to check out the show or revisit it. I was never much of a fan of the original even while recognizing why it has such a devoted following. The old show had such deep and convoluted story arcs with a dose of sci fi geek extreme characters mixed together with a decidedly British sensibility.

While appreciating the show on one level, I could never really get into it, partly due to the ultra cheesy special effects and, well I don't know...it just never really grabbed me I guess. In any case, I am hardly in a position to evaluate the new show in more than a cursory way. I can tell however that they have strived to keep a link with the old while giving it a newer look. So here are a few observations based on the first episode:

The effects are, for a show in this day/age, still pretty cheesy, perhaps deliberately so. The first episode, "Rose," features some corny animated plastic zombie-like baddies. Perhaps this was their way of a zombie movie sendup (some of the scenes seemed right out of a Living Dead film), but these plastic fantastic monsters made me chuckle a bit; the scene where Rose's boyfriend gets swallowed by a trash can was amusing.

The guy who plays this version of the Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, is really good with a nice blend of anti-hero and witty mysterioso (whatever that means!). I was bummed to hear that he left the show recently.

Billie Piper, who plays Rose, the new Doctor's...oh, what is it called, companion? Assistant? Anyhow, I'm sure someone will correct me; she's OK. A bit whiney at first, but she has to spend the first episode reacting to all the new weird Whovian stuff going on around her so I'm looking forward to seeing how she turns out as a character.

My reaction to the music ran between amusement and irritation. Some of it was like bad 1980s dance electronica. Speaking of the music, they've kept the old theme song for the show with a newer sound for it. Good move.

The Tardis is pretty much the same as far as I can tell with its distinctive police call box, which looks more out of place now that they don't seem to be common in the UK these days.

So, maybe I'll check back after I've seen more episodes, but so far I like it well enough to stick with it for a while at least.

March 20, 2006

"I'm tellin' ya, Animal, these Nazis ain't kosher."

Clean fresh DVDs every week of the year...paraphrasing Donald Fagen a bit. But yes, the seemingly endless bounty of new new stuff rolls on. As always, you can click here for the complete list of the fun.

21 Jump Street: Season 5

Bewitched - The Complete Third Season

The Busby Berkeley Collection A box set of new-to-DVD (save for 42nd Street) Warners films from the 1930s: Footlight Parade (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933, natch), Dames (1934), Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), and 42nd Street (1933) They're all available seperately, but if you spring for the box you get a bonus DVD: The Busby Berkeley Disc. DVD Savant has a good review of the set here.

Capote Philip Seymour Hoffman's Oscar-winning performance makes it to the wee disc.

Chicken Little The big animated film from last year that didn't get an Oscar nomination.


Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story

The Flying Nun: The Complete First Season Wow, pretty much everything is coming out now...

In the Mix Here's a good comment on this film from IMDB: "Wait for the DVD, in fact borrow a friend who was dumb to buy it."

Huff: The Complete First Season

Over There - Season 1

South Park - The Complete Seventh Season

The Squid and the Whale The critically acclaimed drama from last year.

Stalag 17 (Special Collector's Edition) The Billy Wilder classic gets an upgrade...and will probably get another one on HD.

The Ten Commandments (50th Anniversary Collection) Zzzzzzzz....oh yeah, see my comments above.

March 16, 2006

"It'd be like a Chrismukah Bar Mitzvahkah!"

I thought it was about time for another "what I'm watching" update so for those who care, here's a brief update.

We've been watching a fair amount of TV DVDs these days. One show that we've totally been hooked on is The O.C.. This show is addictive as crack and has about as much redeeming value. But oh it's fun to watch. The writing/acting is pretty good and the music they use is great. The first season is remarkably well developed for the beginning of a show. I hear that after the second season the show goes downhill...a shame, but not that surprising. Most shows can't sustain that level too long, but it's fun to watch something turn out to be good when you don't expect it. The DVDs are fine. The show is shot on 16mm film so there's some grain to be seen on the DVDs, but it's fine for a TV disc. The first season's in 4:3 and the second in 16x9, which looks better. The bonus features for season one are pretty standard issue fluff...

Speaking of stuff that I thought would be a bad thing, I've been getting into the new (new for me) Battlestar Galactica series. I was a fan of the 1970s show growing up, but thought remaking it was a lame idea. Well, Ron Moore (longtime Star Trek producer) did a really good job reinventing the show with the same basic story/characters as the original. It has a very gritty documentary style (some of the hand-held camera stuff goes overboard, but not in an Oliver Stone kinda way) that is about as far removed from the more recent Trek style as can be. From listening to the commentaries (well worth listening to), it's apparent that he was trying to do something different. The noticable lack of technobabble is quite refreshing. The added political angles in the show take it beyond the average space opera territory as well. So far (I'm in the middle of season 1) I'm liking it. The DVDs look very good and have decent 5.1 sound mixes. The show is shot on HD video, so I'd expect the picture to be decent. I hope to be able to watch this one in HD someday in the not-too-distant future (you can catch it on the Universal HD channel).

Finally, we watched Whale Rider last night. We both liked it a lot. The high points were the even handedness of the screenplay (it doesn't decend into overt sentimentality) and the acting, particularly by the lead, Keisha Castle-Hughes who was outstanding. Worth a rent at least.

March 14, 2006

"I'm a little busy bringing down the network tonight, Bill."

Hello and welcome to another week of DVD jollity. I'm a little late this week, but since we had a big snowstorm yesterday, I have a good excuse. So here we go with this week's DVDs:

The Agatha Christie Miss Marple Movie Collection This box set of 1960s films includes: Murder She Said (1961), Murder at the Gallop (1963), Murder Ahoy! (1964), and Murder Most Foul (1964).

Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers

Basic Instinct - Ultimate Edition - Unrated Directors' Cut Wow, I'm glad they've released this one again!

David and Bathsheba (1951)

Good Night, and Good Luck Winner of this year's Ann Coulter Award for Cinematic Excellence!

A History of Violence

I Dream of Jeannie - The Complete First Season Available in Black & White of colorized.

Remember the Titans (Director's Cut)

Sleeper Cell The Showtime terrorism series.

March 6, 2006

"Blimey! That's one big woman."

Oscar time has come and gone again. We didn't host a fab party as we have in the past. Why? Well, first of all we've been really lame about going to see stuff in the theater so we hadn't seen any of the Best Picture nominees. And we were lazy. We'll try and do better next year. We did watch the show though and while I'll spare you all with yet another lengthy analysis of the show; here's a shorter one.

There was only one real surprise. I fully expected Brokeback Mountain to win Best Pic. Looking back, maybe Crash wasn't such a shocker. In 1948 Gentleman's Agreement took the award, IMO for similar reasons to last night's winner (the former dealt with anti-Semitism) even though the film is just okay and a bit dated now.

I really hope they ditch the sickly sweet craptastic music that played over all the acceptance speeches. Sweet Jesus that was bad!

Jon Stewart had some good moments, but seemed a bit out of place at times. Overall I liked him all right, but he was almost too downbeat for the show; sometimes that worked, other times not so much. However, the "campaign ads" were really funny, particularly the "Dame" one.

So how about the montage of "big screen" clips with the message: big Hollywood epics need to be seen on a theater screen, not on DVD dummy! This was a peculiar choice for the show since DVD sales are the main reason the industry still turns a profit. Granted, some films scream to be seen on a huge screen, but this "message" was so awkward that it came across as a scolding of the people who pay Hollywood's bills.

While it was nice to see Lauren Bacall on the show, I was feeling a bit sorry for her trying to read the teleprompter.

So enough of that, let's move on to this week's DVDs:

The Cosby Show Season 2 A Cohhhhsssssssby sweater!

Fallen Angel (1945) Another Preminger noir makes it to DVD.

The Flintstones Season 5

Free Enterprise Special Edition An amusing film...not sure it needed a SE, but what the heck.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Instead of the standard 2 DVD sets they did for the previous films, you now have the choice of a featureless single DVD or a 2 DVD SE. They say the bonuses on the 2 disc'er are pretty good including some deleted scenes, but the price is higher for the new 2 disc set than the previous ones.

Hogan's Heroes: The Complete Third Season

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)

Howl's Moving Castle (2004) Miyazaki's latest.

Jarhead Anyone see this?

Just Friends (2005)

My Neighbor Totoro (1998) This Miyazaki film gets a 2 disc update which should be a real improvement over the old one.

No Way Out (1950) DVD Savant has a writeup here.

Police Woman - The Complete First Season

Prime (2005)

The Shaggy D.A. (1976)

The Shaggy Dog (1959) Gee, why would Disney be reissuing this one???