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April 29, 2008

"All those wonderful orthopedic devices."

Hello everyone and welcome to another week of new DVDs:

27 Dresses (2007) Also on Blu-Ray.

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Vol. 3

Beverly Hills, 90210: Season 4

The Big Gay Sketch Show: Season 1 and 2

Cheers: Season 9

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

The Fall of the Roman Empire: Deluxe Edition (1964) First time on DVD.

The Golden Compass (2007) Also on Blu-Ray.

Paddle to the Sea (1966)

The Red Balloon (1953)

The Waltons: Season 7

April 21, 2008

"Why don't you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?"

It's finally beginning to feel like Spring around here. My pathetic strands of raspberry plants are sprouting green stuff and the tulips that won't die have once again poked up through the ruins of our former flower patch. Can you tell how serious I am about gardening? Anyway, here's what we have coming this week for new DVDs:

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

Cloverfield (2007)

Death of a Cyclist (1955) Gee, just in time for...cycling weather???

Eclipse Series 10 - Silent Ozu-Three Family Comedies

Friday Night Lights: Season 2

Gumby: The Movie (1995)

Laverne & Shirley: Season 4

The Major and the Minor (1942) Billy Wilder's first film hits DVD.

Midnight (1939)

One Missed Call (2008)

The Orphanage (2007)

The Savages (2007)

April 14, 2008

"This is the most magnificent discarded living room set I've ever seen."

I was out of town over the weekend, playing a symphony concert out in Rapid City. Among other things, we did Beethoven's 5th symphony (one of the non-"ultra-violent" ones). I honestly felt that I played it as well or better than I ever have before. Granted, I know the piece very well and have worked on the bass part a lot, but it just sounded good with a technical comfort level I don't recall having with this challenging piece of music. There's no reason I should be playing this better than I would have in college when I was younger and playing hard every day. Who knows, maybe I'm being delusional. Or, even as I play less and get older, my musicianship continues to improve, bit by tiny bit. Whatever it is, it was a fun gig that I felt good about. And to my Dad, who's conducted this group for may years: I've always been amazed at the amount of quality you squeeze out of this rag-tag collection of players. The road there isn't always pretty, but you and the orchestra always manage to make it work. Bravo! What does this have to do with new DVD releases? Not a damn thing! I just felt like writing about it at the moment.

Another thing: I watched a fryer burst into flames at my local McDonald's. Seriously. There were flames shooting up out of the grease before the fire suppression system doused the thing. Tee hee. The staff, after the fire was out, seemed to be at a loss as to what should be done. I really can't blame them.

So, on that note, let's see what we have on DVD this week:

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) Also on Blu-Ray.

American Dad!: Season 3

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) Also on Blu-Ray.

Blast of Silence (1961)

Juno (2007) Also on Blu-Ray.

A Passage to India (1984) A new special edition, also being issued on Blu-Ray.

April 7, 2008

"I don't have time for flatulence and orgasms!"

For this week's new DVDs, click here.

Before I begin, I thought I'd mention something I've been watching lately: St. Elsewhere. Fox has released the first season of this 1982 medical drama on DVD (no word yet on the rest of the series). It's cheap enough that I picked it up to see how it held up (I used to watch it when it was in first-run).

All in all, the show holds up well. The writing is great and the ensemble cast mostly excellent. This show, which had relatively poor ratings at the time, covered a lot of controversial ground in its stories. In just the first half of the season, besides various medical/personal problems, they deal with issues such as terrorism (a bit tame compared to today's dramas, but it was something for a network show to even deal with in the early 80s), abortion, racism, the homeless, and transsexuals.

I don't know that they were the first to have their characters grapple with these topics, but I don't believe it was too common at the time. The issue of abortion is dealt with in a sensitive and nonpolitical way. The people dealing with it seem very realistic. Far too often, shows are afraid to deal with topics like this for fear of alienating parts of the audience. They seemed to have little fear of this on this show. It can get a bit preachy once in a while (the episodes I saw about racism were pretty blunt), but usually they assume a certain intelligence in their audience.

The show was done in a serial form, while common today, wasn't so much on American television then. The style and pacing of the show reminds me a bit of The West Wing, particularly the way they do frequent camera follows of characters walking down hallways, with passing of the narrative to another group of people talking in mid-conversation. I'd be shocked if Aaron Sorkin hadn't seen St. Elsewhere.

The hair, clothes, computers (TRS-80!), and other things are fun and 80s-dated, but once you get into the groove of the show, it doesn't distract. The DVDs look just okay. I don't know what sort of film stock they shot this show on, but it looks very flat and grainy. I suspect the DVDs look about as good as this show is capable of. There are a couple of short featurettes on the set and an okay commentary on one episode. But for the cheap price this show goes for, who cares!

So, what do we have this week?

The 11th Hour (2007)

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) I've always had a fondness for this film. There's already a new special edition out on DVD; now it's on Blu-Ray. Cool!

Bette Davis Centenary Celebration Collection

Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory, Vol. 3

The Cosby Show: Season 7 Season 8 also comes out this week.

Hell's Kitchen: Season 1 This is the American version. The only reason I could think of to watch this show again would be for the DVD's uncensored track.

Lions for Lambs (2007)

Matlock: Season 1 Yes, fans of this show actually own DVD players: time to release it!

Resurrecting the Champ (2007)

Sense and Sensibility (2008, BBC)

There Will Be Blood

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007)