Weekly Release Roundup
Well... it's only a pretty good week for DVD this time around. It's
not quite dumpy, but there are really only two huge releases for us
to talk about. The rest will fall in the "some will want 'em,
others won't" category.
All together, we get a major release, three TV sets, a couple of
cult films... and some very hot chicks. So let's take a look at the
one all of us are going to be putting into our libraries...
What can we say? It's an official Best Picture; the finest made
film in Spielberg's cannon and one of the greatest films ever
made on the subject of the Holocaust. Although not a perfect
film, it is a great film and its power is undeniable. And after
witnessing the fallout from The
Passion of the Christ, it doesn't pay to criticize
(good or bad) films of this magnitude.
Oskar Schindler wasn't a great man; he wasn't even a good man.
He was an opportunist and a profiteer who, for business reasons
(and later moral ones), saved over 1,000 Jewish people in the
1930s and 40s by employing them in his factories. He was one of
the greatest insiders to have - a man who was loyal and
therefore trusted by the Nazi party - but he was also a man who
understood the importance of looking at the big picture. For the
good of business, and ultimately of man, Oskar did what we all
know to be the right thing.
Because of just how powerful the film is, most people who saw
Schindler saw it upon its
initial theatrical release and then filed it away. So for me, seeing
Schindler's List on DVD was a
revelation of just how good it really is. The acting (especially
Ralph Fiennes), the cinematography, the music, the sound design -
all of it is first rate. Schindler
is a brilliant film, and it looks and sounds incredible on DVD.
The transfer is gorgeous. The black and white photography (with a
few scenes in color) looks amazing. It's an anamorphic widescreen
transfer, with solid and deep blacks, minimal grain and nice detail.
The sound is also quite strong. Most of it is front heavy, but when
it needs to, the mix pulls some nice directional effects out. It's
presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, and both tracks sound very
good (with the edge going to DTS).
Extras are where the disc falls a bit. Spielberg hates
commentaries, so don't expect to find one here. To avoid confusion,
because there will be a few editions on the shelves, we'll go over
what's on all the retail versions (there are two rental versions for
the Blockbusters). First, you can choose to get the standard edition
in either widescreen or full frame. This edition has two
documentaries. Voices from the List,
made by Laurent Bouzerau, focuses on the survivors of the true
events behind the story of Schindler's
List. It mainly utilizes interviews and makes its point
very well. The other is The Shoah
Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg, which is just
that: an introductory overview of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual
History Foundation Spielberg helped found. You'll also find some
cast and crew bios and that's it.
The other edition out there is a gift set, which comes in a nifty
plexiglass case. The DVD inside is identical to the one listed
above, but thrown in are a book entitled Schindler's
List: Images of the Steven Spielberg Film, a CD
soundtrack, a limited edition senitype (film cell) and a certificate
of authenticity, validating the fact that you spent 80 bucks.
It's not a packed special edition, but it's a good DVD, so be sure
to check it out.
Next up, and also not to be missed, is...
How Fox could cancel this show is a brain teaser for every
straight-thinking person out there. It was the best sci-fi
television comedy ever produced, and these DVD sets prove that
each time a new one comes out. In Volume
3, we get the episode where Fry and the guys get
captured by amazon women and are sentenced to be humped to
death... the one where Fry goes underground to get his lucky
five-leaf clover... the key episode where flying disembodied
brains are taking over the Earth and only Fry can save us... the
episode where Fry and Bender go to jail... the one where Bender
becomes a walking brewery... he one with Beck's head... the one
with the Harlem Globetrotters and the time slippage... the one
with Lucy Liu... the one where Fry becomes better for having
worms... and the one where Fry and the gang go back in time and
Fry becomes his own grandfather.
Yes, there's even more great shows left in this four disc set, but
I only get a few paragraphs to make my sell.
All of the episodes look and sound great on DVD, and they all come
with funny and informative commentaries, as well as deleted scenes
and storyboards. Disc Four is the most loaded, with featurettes on
how to draw the characters, additional clips and stills, and an
alternate commentary for Roswell That
Ends Well (the one where Fry does the nasty with his
This is another great Futurama
box set, which just leaves us wanting more. Damn you, Fox, for
canceling this show! Damn you... and thank you too for this DVD.
So those are the "must have" DVDs for the week. What else
Primetime: Mel Gibson's Passion
This was a quick turn-around for ABC. I haven't seen this one,
so I can't tell you what it looks like or what's on it... but it
hit stores on Monday. If you're a Passion
junky (with your replica nail and coffee mug), then you'll
probably want this too. Mel proves to be a bit nutty while
making his case to Diane Sawyer, but hey... you gotta admire the
guy for his... well, passions. By the way, Fox will be releasing
the actual film on disc in a few months.
Sun, Sister Moon
Acclaimed filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli's film about St. Francis
of Assisi isn't a fan favorite. Bad dialogue, stiff acting, a
happy pop score by Donovan and only one good scene with one good
actor (that would be Alec Guinness as Pope Innocent III) mar
this one pretty badly. Still... damn it is a good-looking film.
Fans of religious movies might get a kick out of the subject
matter, but we're betting it's a bit too hippie-centric for most
folks. Paramount gives us this one as a straight movie-only
edition with anamorphic widescreen video and both English and
French (with English subs) Dolby Digital mono audio.
of the Dead
We covered this one on the site late last week. You can read
review here. It looks great, and is a surprisingly full
special edition. Most fans will probably wait for the bigger set
coming later this year, but if you see the new remake and just
have to see what inspired it now, do check out this very nice
Julia Roberts, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Dunst, Julia Stiles
and Maggie Gyllenhaal star in this feminist
Dead Poets Society. Sorry,
hate to say it, but it's true. This film by Mike Newell examines
the 1950s and how women fit into American society. There weren't
a whole lot of options out there for a woman back then, and
college was a place where women either learned how to be better
wives by taking home economics classes or better secretary by
taking typing. Or... women could teach. That's how Julia Roberts
finds herself standing in front of a class of girls at Wellesley
College, each with huge potential (they just don't know it yet).
This film takes place at a time when everything was about to
change, and Mona Lisa Smile
is trying to take a snapshot of that change.
Mona Lisa Smile isn't a great
film. But the acting is very, very good, which elevates it a bit.
These four actresses really get on well together, and I liked them
as an ensemble. Hopefully, they'll all find something to do with
each other again. Maybe something fun, like a girl-powered
Columbia TriStar's DVD features a very nice anamorphic widescreen
transfer and sound in Dolby Digital 5.1. Extras include a series of
featurettes. First is Art Forum,
where Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer
Goodwin and Marcia Gay Harden discuss art, artists and their impact
on the world. College Then and Now
looks at how much college has changed over the years, and includes
interviews with cast and crew. What Women
Wanted: 1953 discusses the themes of the film. Finally,
there's a video for Elton John's The
Heart of Every Girl, which ends with an ad for the
soundtrack, and a collection of trailers. Not bad.
Mona Lisa Smile really could
have been a great film, but it ends up just being good. Still, it's
worth your time for a rental.
for Rock & Roll
Say what you want about Prey for
Rock & Roll, but it's a fun flick. In a
Rocky Horror kind of way.
It seems destined for a camp classic as far as I'm concerned.
Gina Gershon snarls, pisses, bites, claws and screams her way
through the film as the lead singer of an all-girl rock band,
who is facing the prospect of turning 40. She's wondering if she
should stay with the band, which has seen better days. Covered
in cliché, Prey is
what you'd expect of a Rock & Roll flick, and doesn't aspire
to be anything more than that. The band is made up of similar
hot femmes, including Lori Petty, Drea De Matteo and Shelly
The disc features a good-looking anamorphic widescreen
transfer, with nice color and moderate grain, Dolby Digital 5.1
and 2.0 audio, a trailer and audio commentary with director Alex
Goddess: The Raquel Welsh Collection
The queen of hot mamas is back, and Fox has collected some of
her defining moments on DVD in one handy-dandy box set. The
Sex Goddess Collection
includes: Mother Jugs and Speed,
One Million Years B.C. and
Sadly, the best film of the bunch, Mother,
Jugs and Speed, is a movie-only release, as are
One Million Years B.C..
Fathom is the same disc
here, which leaves the legendary star-filled, soft-core
sex romp, Myra Breckinridge,
as the sole loaded special edition.
All the films in this set include anamorphic widescreen video and
Dolby Digital sound (mono on most discs). Myra
has both the R-rated and unrated versions of the film, each with a
seperate commentary, one by director Michael Sarne and the other by
Ms. Welsh, an episode of AMC Backstory
and a bunch of trailers.
These are all fun films, and Raquel Welsh ain't bad to look at. But
if you don't want all of the films in this set, we understand and
are here to tell you that all are available individually as well.
Ten Commandments: Special Collector's Edition
Before Mel filmed Jesus gettin' beat up, Cecil B. DeMille
parted the Red Sea so that Moses (Charlton Heston) and his
people could cross. Long an Easter tradition on TV,
The Ten Commandments hits
DVD again, this time as a special edition featuring a
fascinating commentary by film historian and
Ten Commandments expert
Katherine Orrison, a 6-part documentary, a photo gallery,
trailers and newsreel footage. Paramount brings us
Commandments in very lush
anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 sound.
There doesn't seem to be much difference between this and the
previous edition, in terms of video and audio quality, so if
you're looking to upgrade you'll only be doing it for the
New Scooby-Doo? Volume 2: Safari, So Goodi!
Fans of the Kids' WB!/Cartoon Network's new revamp of
everyone's favorite talking dog should dig the newest volume in
the collection. Wrapping up four more episodes of the series,
the presentation is pretty standard with full frame video and
Dolby Digital 2.0. Extras are for the kids, featuring such
things as Velma translating Scoobyspeak and details on the
locations of the cases featured in these episodes. For those of
you planning on seeing the new film, there's a voucher good for
one kid's ticket in the case.
This one has been available from AnimEigo for a while now, but
you can finally find it in all your favorite video stores today.
We love Ichi, and we've
this disc here. To sum it up for you... just buy it
Woman: Dangerous Game
I'm picking this one just so I can have the cover in my column.
I love the Zero Woman
series, but as of press time, I haven't seen this disc yet. So
I'm just recommending this one based on the cover. Don't tell
Also available today:
Science Theater 3000: Volume 5 (which includes Boggy
Creek II, Merlin's Shop of
Mystical Wonders, Time Chasers
and The Touch of Satan) and
the Clive Owen starrer
And hey... on a personal note, if anyone out there happens to see
the cult film Forbidden Zone
(the one starring Danny Elfman and Hervé Villechaize -- not
the Alien Abduction film or
the Red Shoe Diaries entry) on
DVD during your trip to the video store this week, or if you know
anything about its release, drop me an e-mail. My sources say it's
out today, but I can't find anyone selling it. I want it and I must
have it. Let me know!