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November 27, 2006

"We all have our little faults. Mine's in California."

So here we are after Thanksgiving and good 'ol Black Friday. I slept through all the raging deals and have no regrets. If you enjoy that kind of thing, more power to you. There is a new wrinkle in the Hobbit/Peter Jackson business. Apparently the rights to the book end up with an independent producer who with no ties to New Line, the studio Jackson's suing, and plans to have him direct it. So we'll have to wait and see how this all pans out. Check out this story for more info. Now, let's get into what's on deck for this week:

7th Heaven - The Complete Third Season I know you're all about to add this gem to your queues!

The Ant Bully CG talking animals (or bugs), celebrity voices, you know the drill...

Bones - Season One

Clerks 2

Criminal Minds - The First Season

Ellen: Season 5

An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder Kevin Smith fans, this is a good week for you.

Pandora's Box (1928) Criterion gives the deluxe treatment to the classic silent "Lulu" film. Be sure to read DVD Savan't review of the disc here.

Robin Hood: Most Wanted Edition The 1973 Disney film gets its second DVD release; this time in widescreen.

See No Evil

A Star Is Born (1976) The 70s version of this film comes to DVD for the first time. Streisand and Kristofferson!

St. Elsewhere: Season 1 I really liked this show when it was on in the 80s. I'm very curious to see how it holds up today.

Superman Returns It's Superman week with the studio shoving every possible Superman movie product out on the shelves. This is the 2006 film with, to quote my sisters, "the hunky Superman." I found the film to be just OK; a bit of a disappointment that doesn't top the 1978 film.

Superman - Ultimate Collector's Edition This is the big enchilada: pretty much all the Superman film stuff stuffed into a 14 DVD box set which includes: Superman The Movie: Special Edition (1978, a 4 DVD set that includes both theatrical and extended cuts), Superman II - Two Disc Special Edition (1980), Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (the reconstruction of the film--Donner was fired during production and replaced with Richard Lester. This version restores some scenes with Marlon Brando that were dropped so they wouldn't have to pay him), Superman III - Deluxe Edition (1983), Superman IV: The Quest For Peace - Deluxe Edition (1987, anyone actually see this stinker?), and the new Superman Returns set. There are gobs of extras and all films are available by themselves.

Van Wilder: Two-Disc Van Gone Wilder Edition This SE should make my brother in-law happy!

By the way, DVD Savant has a good review of the Preston Sturges box set that came out last week, which can be found here.

November 20, 2006

"Where'd you meet this Weenie King?"

Happy Turkey, er week everyone. The new DVDs are getting thick for the holiday season, so let's see what we have this week:

Alias - The Complete Fifth Season Yes, the end of the line for this show. There's also Alias: The Complete Collection available if you want to buy the whole thing (makes a great, if immense, stocking stuffer!).

Another Gay Movie


Boston Legal - Season Two

Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez Sacha Baron Cohen's HBO pre-Borat TV series.

The Double Life of Véronique Criterion issues the 1991 Krzysztof Kieslowski film.

Family Affair - Season Two

A Fish Called Wanda: 2-Disc Collector's Edition This is already on DVD, in a poor full frame sans-bonuses version. This SE has been a long time coming and was delayed by Sony's buyout of MGM. I have no doubt that this version is superior to the old DVD.

How I Met Your Mother - Season One

Ice Age: The Meltdown Ah, more CG talking animals and celebrity voice-overs...

An Inconvenient Truth Oh, don't see this one...you know that whole global warming thing was made up, right? ;-)

Litle Athens

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) This has been on DVD before, but this time it's coming as a 2 DVD SE including both original black/white and color versions (because you know, kids can't tolerate stuff in black/white). Definitely better than the 1994 version.

Perry Mason - Season One, Volume Two

Preston Sturges: The Filmmaker Collection Universal is getting better about releasing their classic Paramount catalog. These films are a welcome addition since four of these titles are new to DVD: The Great McGinty (1940), Christmas in July (1940), The Lady Eve (1941, Criterion did this one a few years back), Sullivan's Travels (1941, another one Criterion issued), The Palm Beach Story (1942), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), and The Great Moment (1944). As with many of these Universal sets, zero bonuses (would it have killed them to stick some trailers on?).

Scoop (2006) Woody Allen's latest film about a dog that doesn't like to be picked up.

Seinfeld - Season 7 The season that gave us the Soup Nazi.

Star Trek - The Animated Series The early 70s (crudely) animated Trek series finally makes it to DVD (making it one of the few new things released, Trek-wise to the format in some time). I'm almost afraid to watch these...though it might be amusing. I don't really have nostalgia for this series since I was a bit too young when it first on and it didn't seem to get re-ran that often, unlike the original series that was on all the time when I was growing up. This set also has some bonus features such as commentaries and the ubiquitous text pop-up commentaries.

November 17, 2006

"Why, honey, of course there's gonna be a war."

Now that Sony has shipped their Playstation 3 (it came out in Japan earlier), the HD disc format war has really begun. Blu Ray didn't really have a strong product on the market until recently and by most accounts, the PS3 is going to be the standard bearer for the format for the mainstream (if you can call a $600 console "mainstream"...but then again, it's the cheapest player on the market as the others start at $1,000), going up against Microsoft's Xbox 360 which recently got an HD-DVD drive (as an optional add-on). The Nintendo Wii can only play standard definition DVD. For an overview of these three rivals, click here. The PS3 launch is truly a big deal for Sony who is betting the farm on the PS3 both as a console and as a jumpstart for the Blu Ray format. Along with all the reporting on the new systems comes the wave of speculative articles on the upcoming death of physical media. More specifically, the opinions that by the time either HD format wins, people will be abandoning discs as a method of getting music and movies. Slate has an article on this, which can be found here.

I'm not sure the author is wrong, necessarily but I'm also not sure downloads/video on-demand will take over as fast as he and some others predict. Some of this depends on the tech and content companies figuring out how to do this in a consumer-friendly fashion as well as broadband speeds that can deliver it quickly. I think if HD discs fail, it will be due to lack of interest by the general public. The bad part of this would be if lower resolution downloads take over and there is no option for really good HD. The new formats have their issues, but one thing they have going for them is very high picture and sound quality (the video data rate is higher than broadcast HD).


I also read an article declaring VHS dead, which can be found here. Generally, I am not really sorry to see video cassettes go by the wayside. The quality was never great and the mechanical complexity of the VHS (or Beta for that matter) transport was always a liability. I have generally had better luck with DVD, even though video cassettes are more sturdy than optical discs. I still remember having tapes stuck in a VCR, having to partially dismantle the deck, and if the tape was valuable, taking the cassette itself apart to splice the broken tape. God, how I do not miss that feeling: wondering whether the tape would come out of the VCR intact when I pressed the eject button. On the other hand, VHS was simple and usually worked (it's just that when it didn't, it was a real mess). Aside from the stereotype of folks not knowing how to set the clock, it was something that was easy to grasp, far easier than DVD recorders with their multiple disc formats and write once/write multiple times business.

The real issue for me, as far as VHS dying off goes, is that there is a large amount of material that was available for the format that has not been replicated on DVD. This issue is becoming less relevant with mainstream movies, but with more offbeat programs and educational videos, it's a real problem. Academic institutions have large collections of these videos and even if they could get everything on DVD, they don't have the funds to repurchase everything. The first solution would be to digitize the analog material and burn it to DVD or better yet, put it all on a server so students can access it remotely. But this is where things get sticky since copyright issues abound and we have our old friend the DMCA which rears its ugly head whenever we get into anything digital.

Another issue that nags at me is the fact that I don't trust the content companies. Sure, I would be OK with many forms of entertainment I enjoy being offered to me as some kind of download or on-demand, but for movies I really like, I want to be able to own a copy. The way that rights management technology works allows the content owners to cut me off if they, for whatever reason, don't want to make the content available anymore (like a legal dispute over music). If I only have access to Jackson's Lord of the Rings via on-demand or a DRM-controlled computer copy, I could lose it or be forced to pay whatever fee the studio wants. If I have the disc sitting in my home that doesn't require crummy activation schemes to play, such as the current DVD, I still get to enjoy the content that I purchased. If it goes out of print due to legal issues, I still get to watch it as long as I had the foresight to purchase it. So color me skeptical as far as physical media going away. The companies are going to try and sell non-disc media as more convenient (and it can be) and Internet-activated discs as offering more "interactive" content (am I just old and crusty or is a lot of this so-called interactive content a bunch of BS?) as the benefit of a requirement to "activate" my movies (just like software). So where does this all lead? Back to the days where movie studios charge you each time you see something and they control how it gets seen. Back to the pre-home video days. A lot of companies salivate at this prospect, but it ain't going to be that simple. How it plays out, no one really knows, but it's bound to be interesting.

November 14, 2006

"Sorry miss, I was giving myself an oil-job."

We're getting close to Thanksgiving and the much-hyped Black Friday again this year, so the new DVDs pile up. This is the biggest release week in some time. This week, I'm going to try something different: instead of the usual IMDB links to the listed movies, I'm going to link directly to Netflix listings so you can add them right to your queues. This was suggested by one of you, so let me know if you don't like this. So here we go with this week's list of new DVDs:

3rd Rock from the Sun: Season 6

Accepted Starring Justin Long, the less-funny guy in the Mac vs. PC ads.

The Best of The Electric Company: Vol. 2 Another nostalgia trip coming up!

Bing Crosby: Screen Legend Collection Universal mines more from the old pre-war Paramount catalog: Waikiki Wedding (1937), Double or Nothing (1937), East Side of Heaven (1939), If I Had My Way (1940), and Here Come the Waves (1944).

Cary Grant: Screen Legend Collection Another Paramount/Uni box: Thirty Day Princess (1934), Kiss and Make-Up (1934), Wings in the Dark (1935), Big Brown Eyes (1936), and Wedding Present (1936).

Columbo - The Complete Sixth & Seventh Seasons

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: The Complete Sixth Season

The Da Vinci Code For anyone who cares, there are a couple of options if you want deluxe-o versions of this blockbuster.

Family Guy - Volume Four

Forbidden Planet - 50th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition The 1956 sci fi classic gets an upgrade on DVD. The transfer is improved from the old 1997 DVD and there are a lot of extras. Check out the excellent DVD Savant review here.

The Golden Girls - The Complete Sixth Season

Gunsmoke - The Director's Collection

Home Improvement - The Complete Fifth Season

John Tucker Must Die

King Kong: Deluxe Extended Edition Peter Jackson does another extended version ala LOTR. I have yet to hear how good the longer version is and I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't seen the film at all yet.

Lassie (2005) Wow, Peter O'Toole's in this one...

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (2005)

Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume Four Another four DVD set of classic Looney Tunes and bonuses. The shorts are way too numerous to list...if you want to see what's included, click here. If this one is as good as the previous three, it ought to be a great. There's a truncated 2 DVD set available as well ("Looney Tunes Spotlight Collection Volume 4").

Northern Exposure - The Complete Fifth Season

The Paul Newman Collection Yes, another Warner box set: Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), The Left Handed Gun (1958), The Young Philadelphians (1959), Harper (1966), Pocket Money (1972), The Mackintosh Man (1973), and The Drowning Pool (1975).

Rock Hudson: Screen Legend Collection Uni does a random mix of Rock films: Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1952), The Golden Blade (1953), The Last Sunset (1961), The Spiral Road (1962), and A Very Special Favor (1965). All hail the holiday gift set!

Six Feet Under - The Complete Series Gift Set The whole thing.

Who Killed the Electric Car?

November 6, 2006

"You are a sad strange little wagon, and you have my pity!"

All right, back on track this week and good thing since there's a lot more stuff coming out as we get closer to the crazed holiday buying season. Box sets ahoy! Backers of both hi-def formats are pushing out as many titles as they can before the end of the year, but save for some new releases, the titles coming out are less than impressive for the most part. I'm a bit glad that the titles out so far aren't tempting me to get into one of the formats right now. Costs aside, I (along with many others I'm guessing) don't want to invest in this until there's a clear winner. So let's see what we've got for new stuff this week:

The Best of Carson - Volume 1 Another collection of Tonight Show highlights.

Beverly Hills, 90210 - The Complete First Season It took a while for this one to make it to DVD, but here it is; I'm guessing music rights were the reason for its delay.

Cars The big hit this week, no question. I enjoyed this one, but didn't find it up to the level of some previous Pixar films. This was a bit timely though since we just got back from a vacation that took us through parts of the country with bits of Route 66. We were also obliged to ask aloud whether we were near Radiator Springs, AZ.

The Fallen Idol (1948) Criterion provides the first DVD release of this Carol Reed classic. To learn more about it, check out the DVD Savant review here.

Flower Drum Song (1961) This Rodgers/Hammerstein movie version comes to DVD for the first time.

Gary Cooper: The Signature Collection Some new-to-DVD titles show up in this box set, which include Sergeant York: Two-Disc Special Edition (1941, a review of this disc can be found here), The Fountainhead (1949, I was really hoping for excerpts from the play, "Ayn Rand Gives Me a Boner" as a bonus feature...), Dallas (1950), Springfield Rifle (1952), and The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959).

James Bond Ultimate Collection Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 Well, look here, it's time for another round of Bond film reissues. This is the third time, IIRC (could be mistaken; I have some of these films from their original DVD releases in the late 1990s). This new round offers some new transfers (although the word on the web is that some are better than others) and some new bonuses. Here's my take: the bonuses aren't doing much for me since I didn't really watch much from the previous DVDs and we all know that these films will be hitting HD in the next year or two. Plus, they're packaging them in box sets so you have to get the crappy Bonds to get the good Bonds. Some of the Bond films really aren't worth watching more than once (if once at all!), IMO. Anyway, here's what you get in volume 1(the other two volumes come out next month): Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), The Man With The Golden Gun (1974), The Living Daylights (1987), and The World Is Not Enough (1999).

Volume 2 includes: Thunderball (1965), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), A View To A Kill (1985), Licence To Kill (1989), and Die Another Day (2002).

The Marlon Brando Collection See, I told you there'd be box sets! More new-to-DVD films within this set: Julius Caesar (1953), Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), Mutiny on the Bounty - Two-Disc Special Edition (1962), Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), and The Formula (1980).

M*A*S*H - Season Eleven The last season hits DVD and...you can now buy the whole enchilada: M*A*S*H - Martinis and Medicine Complete Collection, as well.

Oh! What a Lovely War (1969)

Police Squad! - The Complete Series (in color!) Yep, it's finally on DVD. This one's been awaited by many for a long time. And at under $20, it's a no-brainer for me.

She-Ra: Princess of Power - Season One, Vol. 1 Uh, yeah...

The Sopranos - Season Six, Part I The final season is broken into two parts. I'll be sad to not see more season sets come out, if for no other reason than I'll stop getting reminders to watch more of this show beyond season 1.

The West Wing - The Complete Seventh Season The final season comes out on election day. Figures. The entire run of the show can be had in The West Wing - The Complete Series Collection (for those of you who are West Wingless).

November 1, 2006

"Get me. I'm givin' out wings."

OK, so I'm back from the big trip (which Shades is blogging about in great detail here) and now have a cold and extra stuff going on at work. Figures...

But this week seems a bit on the slow side, DVD-wise, so let's see what we have this week:

Baywatch Season 1 (Season 2 also is out this week) Ah, one of the USA's most popular exports!

CSI: Miami - The Complete Fourth Season

Ghost Whisperer - The Complete First Season

The Hitchhiker - Volume 3

It’s A Wonderful Life 60th Anniversary Edition Paramount, the current owner of this film, serves up a double-dip for those of us who bought this one years ago. Apparently, the picture is better, but the bonuses lackluster. I'll be waiting until HD for this one. And if you don't own this, so much the better.

Keeping Up with the Steins

Kids in the Hall - Complete Season 5

Mission: Impossible III The most notable thing about this title is it's the first major film to be released on DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-Ray on the same day. Let the consumer confusion commence!

The Tarzan Collection: Volume 2 Warners issues the second set of Weissmuller Tarzan films (the later, less memorable ones no doubt) in this box: Tarzan Triumphs (1943), Tarzan's Desert Mystery (1943), Tarzan and the Amazons (1945), Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (1946), Tarzan and the Huntress (1947), and Tarzan and the Mermaids (1948).

And finally, DVD Savant takes a good look at the already-released Astaire and Rogers Ultimate Collector's Edition (Volume 2).