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THE MONEY PIT - 06/24/2005

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (June 24, 2005 at 12:21 am)

Right now, I’m in Montreal, Quebec – deep in the French heart of Canada – Best Manning a wedding of a good friend of mine, because he made me. The bastard. I’m not all that keen on traveling, and I’m even less keen on traveling to Canada, but the aforementioned bastard used our friendship against me, so in Canada I am, far from this here shopping guide (which I am, FYI, writing ahead of time, since the duties of a Best Man are incredibly time-consuming and leave little ability to do important things, like this guide). Barring running away with the bride, I should be back next week. Until then, let’s get this sucker rolling…

I still don’t know what the hell they were thinking with that godawful batsuit, but there’s plenty of cool conceptual art and designs to be found in the hardcover The Art of Batman Begins: Shadows of the Dark Knight (Chronicle Books, $40.00 SRP), detailing the evolution of everything from the look of Gotham to the new take on the Batmobile.

Stripes remains a seminal film in the devilment of any young man reared in that bygone age known only as “The 80’s.” It’s up there in the same pantheon as Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, Vacation, and The Blues Brothers, all of which are landmark – and lasting – comedic achievements. I don’t think we necessarily need the extra 18 minutes contained in the Stripes: Extended Cut (Sony, Rated R, DVD-$19.94 SRP), but the good news is that they don’t hurt the film – and more Bill Murray is always welcome. For purists, the original cut is featured as well, in addition to a brand-new retrospective documentary featuring newly-recorded cast interviews (including the elusive Murray). Now snap to attention, and begin belting “There she was, just a-walkin’ down the street, singin’…”

Signs are not pointing to a very good outing for the big screen version of Bewitched, but I don’t much care since it facilitated the DVD release of the original series, starring Elizabeth Montgomery as homemaker/mother/sorceress Samantha Stephens as she tried valiantly to follow her husband Darrin’s wishes and keep her powers a secret. Still funny after all these years, it’s a must have set for those reared on early Nick at Nite. Sony has taken the unusual route of releasing not only the original black & white versions of the show’s first season (it didn’t go color until season 2), but also has released a separate set featuring the colorized versions of those episodes (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$39.95 SRP each). Not really sure about the reasoning, but I don’t much care as long as the B&W is available. Bonus features include a retrospective featurette and bloopers. And for the real completists, they’ve also released the entirety of the short-lived (and not very good) late-70’s spin-off Tabitha (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$29.95 SRP), which followed magical hijinks of Samantha & Darrin’s now-grown daughter and her mortal brother Adam. You hear that, Fox? Now you have to release After M*A*S*H.

As genre programming goes, the modern relaunch of The Outer Limits was to Showtime what Tales from the Crypt was to HBO – though without the accolades and A-List talent. Which is a shame, because there was some good sci-fi being done over at Limits, which you can experience in the 6-disc Outer Limits: The New Series collection (MGM/UA, Not Rated, DVD-$69.96 SRP). Of the 36 episodes featured, the real standouts are Leonard Nimoy in a rather faithful (imagine that!) adaptation of “I, Robot” and Meatloaf as a Confederate colonel who terrorizes two Civil War re-enactors inexplicably thrown back in time. Good stuff. Each disc features documentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

You know, I really hate the type of book that refuses to be put down after you pick it up. You know the type – interesting, engrossing… It holds you by the throat and won’t let go. Well, Carl Gottlieb’s The Jaws Log (Newmarket Press, $15.00 SRP) is just such a book. If you don’t automatically recognize Gottlieb’s name, he’s an actor (in Altman’s M*A*S*H) as well as a screenwriter. One of those writing jobs just happened to have been one of Spielberg’s greatest films – Jaws. This book is essentially Gottlieb’s diary during the year-long production ordeal. Revelatory is too weak a word to describe just how much information and insight is packed into this tome, recently re-released in a 30th anniversary edition. If you’re a fan of Spielberg, Jaws, or just tales of Hollywood behind-the-scenes, then check this book out.

Shockingly, the additional gore found in the unrated version of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven’s spectacular horror misfire Cursed (Dimension, Not Rated, DVD-$29.99 SRP) in no way makes the film any more watchable, intelligible, or enjoyable. Which is sad, really, because the idea of the massively-foreheaded Christina Ricci going all feral would seem to be such a draw. Bonus features include behind-the-scenes featurettes and selected scene commentaries with SFX Makeup supervisor Greg Nicotero and actor Derek Mears (which, from an informational standpoint, is the most enjoyable part of the entire disc).

The 5th season of HBO’s Oz (HBO, Not Rated, DVD-$64.98 SRP) was not the brutal prison drama’s finest hour, but even sub-par Oz is a far sight better than most of the chum to be found on the boob tube. Season 5 finds the inmates living in the newly redesigned post-fire Emerald City, still full of the piss and vinegar we’ve come to know and love. The 2-disc set features audio commentary on the episode “Impotence” and deleted scenes.

Coach Carter (Paramount, Rated PG-13, DVD-$29.95 SRP) is another entry in the long line of flicks that present tough-as-nails coaches who whip their troubled teams into shape by making them better people through a firm hand (and usually based on a true story). Beyond that, all you have to know is this one stars Samuel L. Jackson as the eponymous coach, and he does a lot of firm-but-loving yelling. Bonus materials include deleted scenes, a music video, and a pair of featurettes.

Setting aside all of the myriad personal baggage attached to George Jones the person, there’s no denying the visceral music of George Jones the performer and country legend. And, as befitting a legend, there are a slew of superstars that have lined up to duet with him over the years, most of which are featured on the expanded 2-disc reissue of his 1979 album My Very Special Guests (Epic/Legacy, $29.98 SRP). Those guests include Elvis Costello, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Alan Jackson, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, and over two dozen more.

Obviously attempting to cash in on his raised Bat-profile, we’ve got an Uncut Killer Collector’s Edition of American Psycho (Lions Gate, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP), featuring Christian Bale as yuppie killer Patrick Bateman. The new bonus features include an audio commentary with director/co-writer Mary Harron and actor/co-writer Guinevere Turner, deleted scenes, “The 80’s Downtown” featurette, a behind-the-scenes documentary detailing the journey from book to screen, and a video essay titled “The Pornography of Killing.”

No one will confuse Hostage (Miramax, Rated R, DVD-$29.99 SRP) with fine cinema, but as an action/thriller, it punches enough buttons in its overwrought glory to make for a mostly satisfying (if numbing) night in front of the TV. Bruce Willis stars as John Mc… ummm… Jeff Talley, a former big city hostage negotiator who thought he’d left the stress behind after accepting a small town police chief job – but then a random crime escalates into a standoff, and yadda yadda yadda… you know the drill. Bonus features include audio commentary with director Florent Siri, deleted & extended scenes with optional commentary, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

As manufactured but not quite as musically gifted in the songwriting department, there’s an endearing bubblegum pop to The Partridge Family which is inescapable… You will hum this stuff, whether you want to or not. Check out the 17-track Come On Get Happy: The Very Best of The Partridge Family (Arista/Legacy, $11.98 SRP) and experience the addictive emptiness for yourself.

Comments: None

THE MONEY PIT - 06/17/2005

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (June 17, 2005 at 11:38 pm)

Here we are, meeting like this again. It was inevitable, really… Mainly because it’s Friday, and this is a regular column. Funny how logic explains so much so easily, so quickly. Eerie, really. And we’re not even in Indiana. Anyhoo, let’s get this mother rollin’…

It took me awhile to warm up to Comedy Central’s Reno: 911! – which is odd, because it’s exactly the kind of surreal, subtle, character-driven humor that I adore. Essentially a mostly-improvised take-off on Cops – featuring the severely dysfunctional sheriff’s deputies of Reno, Nevada – it’s as if Christopher Guest decided to do TV. Credit must go to the amazing cast, many of whom are veterans of MTV’s The State and CC’s Viva Variety (where’s that DVD?). If you haven’t already, pick up the first season set, and follow it up with the deluxe 3-disc season 2 set (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$38.99 SRP), which features audio commentary on select episodes, 90 minutes of deleted footage, a hilarious live performance from the Aspen Comedy Festival, and quite a few easter eggs.

With Penn & Teller, Ricky Jay is high in my personal pantheon of really cool people whose respect for the history of their craft never ceases to impress me. Like P&T, the craft in question is that of good ol’ fashioned showmanship (with a focus on magic and sleight-of-hand, naturally), and his latest book – Extraordinary Exhibitions (Quantuck Lane Press, $49.95 SRP) – is a celebration of the showmanship of the past three centuries. Presenting (via his extensive collection) the elaborate promotional posters (broadsides) from that bygone era, he takes the reader into the art and psychology of selling weird and wonderful attractions to the public – attractions that included a mermaid, a chess-playing automaton, an African hermaphrodite, a singing mouse, a bullet catcher, a flea circus, and a cannonball juggler. Brilliant.

Time marches on, I suppose, but it’s still difficult to believe that it’s been 30 years since the release Steven Spielberg’s phobia-inducing sharkfest, Jaws, but it must be, because we’ve got the release of the appropriately titled 30th Anniversary Edition (Universal, Rated PG, DVD-$22.98 SRP). This 2-disc special edition features the same transfer of the original 2000 DVD release, but incorporates the DTS track originally only available separately. As far as bonus features, though, we finally get the uncut, 2-hour version of the making-of documentary originally featured on the laserdisc release (its editing for the 2000 disc was a major source of disappointment) plus an archival interview with Spielberg done on the set, in addition to the deleted scenes and outtakes from the 2000 release. The only thing missing this go round, for some reason, is the brief Shark World featurette on real great whites. Why must these double-dips always leave something off that makes keeping the original release necessary? Other than that omission, it’s worth picking this edition up just for the documentary – though the 60-page photo journal that’s included in the slipcase is a nice bonus.

Many of you out there have either experienced – or are planning to experience – the film that will hopefully wipe the awful stain of Episode III from out collective minds, Batman Begins. If the very thought of a new Batman flick has got you jonesin’ for more superhero fare, why not dip into a trio of releases featuring the animated Dark Knight. First up is the 3rd collection of episodes from Batman: The Animated Series (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$44.98 SRP), featuring the final 28 episodes of the original run, plus a Batgirl featurette and commentary on select episodes (”Read My Lips,” “Harlequinade,” & “House and Garden”). Next is the second season of those wacky SuperFriends (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$26.99 SRP), containing 16 episodes, “The Wonderful World of The Wonder Twins” featurette, and a “Pajama-Rama” SuperFriends retrospective with Kevin Smith and guests. Last up on the Bat-train is the first collection of episodes from Cartoon Network’s less-than-stellar (and unnecessary) new series, The Batman (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$14.97 SRP). And if you’re going on an animation binge anyway, you should pick up the two latest volumes in the Hanna-Barbera Collection featuring the complete series of the Wacky Races spin-offs Dastardly & Muttley in Their Flying Machines and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$34.98 SRP each), both of which sport audio commentaries and featurettes.

Honestly, I really don’t know where to begin in describing the latest film from writer/director/poo-auteur John Waters, A Dirty Shame (New Line, Rated NC-17, DVD-$27.95 SRP). The basic premise finds an accidental concussion unleashing the primal carnal urges of formerly mild-mannered convenience store clerk Sylvia Stickles (Tracey Ullman), and a storm of moral controversy amongst the people of Baltimore. Oh, and Selma Blair has huge boobs in this flick. Huge. Ludicrously so. I really don’t know what else to say. If you like the funny, kinky perversity of Waters’s cinema, than you’ll be right at home. The DVD features an audio commentary with waters and a making-of featurette, in addition to the original theatrical version of the film. If you don’t want to stop there, however, you can pick up the film as part of the Very Crudely Yours, John Waters box set (New Line, Rated PG/R/NC-17, DVD-$102.98 SRP), which also contains Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living, Polyester, Hairspray, Pecker, and the exclusive John Waters DVD Scrapbook.

Why they’re tricking out, I have no idea, but we finally get a new batch of Saturday Night Live collections, this time featuring the always-enjoyable Jon Lovitz and Tom Hanks (Lions Gate, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP each). The Hanks disc features a photo gallery and dress rehearsal material, while Lovitz contains his original audition, a photo gallery, dress rehearsal footage, a TV appearance, and audio commentary! In even bigger news, though, Time Life has made available a long-desired trio of discs spotlighting classic castmembers Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner (Time Life, Not Rated, DVD-$29.99), which include original audition tapes and TV appearances. Why these aren’t available in stores, I have no idea, but I’m thrilled they’re available anywhere - so why don’t you head on over to Time Life and snag yourself a set?

Casino (Universal, Rated R, DVD-$22.98 SRP) was one of the last holdouts to get the full-on special edition treatment befitting the entire Scorsese oeuvre, but now fans can satiate themselves with a complete remastered print, deleted scenes, documentaries on the true story behind the film and the production itself, interviews, and a spotlight on Nicholas Pileggi.

In May of 2003, nearly 4 decades since the Beatles were banned in Russia, Paul McCartney gave a triumphant – and rocking – concert that wowed a crowd of over 100,000 people in Moscow’s Red Square. You can now own that historic performance with Paul McCartney in Red Square (A&E, Not Rated, DVD-$24.95 SRP), which contains not only the Moscow concert, but the entirety of his concert in St. Petersburg as well. Bonus materials include a behind-the-scenes featurette, plus a History Channel look at the Beatles and Russia.

I never thought it would have legs, but USA’s Dead Zone just keeps on keeping on, managing to continue wringing stories out of Stephen King’s paranormal second sight-er… And good for them, ‘cause I love what Anthony Michael Hall has done with Johnny’s vision quests and the burden of trying to prevent the impending Armageddon caused by one Greg Stillson. It’s during the 3rd season (Lions Gate, Not Rated, DVD-$34.98 SRP) that Stillson (Sean Patrick Flanery) comes to the fore, and the 3-disc set features all 12 episodes plus audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, a short film from castmember John L. Adams, and a gag reel.

In celebration of Father’s Day (yes, it’s this weekend, people), Rhino is reminding people that the video for Peter Gabriel’s “Father & Son” is featured as part of the Peter Gabriel: Play (Rhino, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP) video collection. A pretty spiffy disc, that is, and a nice gift to boot.

The only thing that has me hopeful about the upcoming big screen take on The Dukes of Hazzard is that it’s being helmed by the same guys behind Super Troopers. Other than that, I’m as wary as I always am about these attempted translations, so until then, I’ll just soothe my pop culture riddled nerves with a heapin’ helpin’ of Duke boy antics courtesy of the new collection featuring the Complete 3rd Season (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP). Bonus features include a special introduction (by Tom Wopat, John Schneider, and Catherine Bach), on-camera commentary on episode 4 (”And in This Corner, Luke Duke”), “Just Good Ole Friends” featurette, and a “Dukes Family Tree” with series creator Gy Waldron.

Will Smith cranks the charm up to 11 in Hitch (Sony, Rated PG-13, DVD-$28.95 SRP) as mysterious relationship guru Alex “Hitch” Hitchens, a guy whose tips & tricks always gets his clients the girl - including his latest schlubby client (Kevin James). However, when writer Sara Melas (Eva Mendes) discovers the guy she’s dating is actually “Hitch,” she splashes his secret all over the front page – throwing his won relationship into turmoil, as well as those of his clients. What can I say? It’s a fun, frothy little film that managed to hold my attention… And for that, it deserves a gold star. The DVD features deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, a music video, and a blooper reel.

The remastered reissues of the Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass continue with a trio of new releases – Going Places, SRO, & What Now My Love (Shout! Factory, $13.98 SRP each) – and the good news is they’ve finally released the album containing the immortal “Spanish Flea” (Going Places). Crikey, how I love that song… so much so that I practically wore out my father’s 45 of it, listening to that jaunty trumpet on a near-endless loop. Heck, even Homer Simpson loves that gem.

Get your required Peter Sellers fix with the brilliantly dated What’s New Pussycat? (MGM/UA, Not Rated, DVD-$14.95 SRP), starring Sellers alongside Peter O’Toole, Woody Allen, and Ursula Andress in a sex romp that only the mod-era could possibly have spawned.

The release of the third season of Northern Exposure (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP) brings us halfway through the six season run of the always-quirky lives of the residents of Cicely, Alaska. Bonus features include deleted & extended scenes, unexposed footage, and lost storylines.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – value-added materials is what will save the music industry (for now). By that, I mean the kinds of rare, from-the-vaults goodies that many companies are finally realizing are exactly what will drive fans to repurchase a classic album, in addition to remastering. Sony Legacy have long been ahead of the curve on this, and their latest fan-pleaser is the 2-disc Legacy Edition of Janis Joplin’s landmark Pearl (Columbia/Legacy, $29.98 SRP), featuring the remastered original album, 6 bonus tracks, and over a dozen live tracks from the Festival Express tour of Canada in 1970. Priceless.

Much like the disastrous Ocean’s 12, Be Cool (MGM/UA, Rated PG-13, DVD-$27.98 SRP) – the sequel to the thoroughly enjoyable Get Shorty – tries just too damn hard to be hipper than the room, and winds up being a flat, uninspired mess that’s less than the sum of its impressive parts – including the addition of Vince Vaughn, Uma Thurman, Steven Tyler, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre 3000, and The Rock to returning castmembers Danny DeVito and John Travolta as smooth criminal Chili Palmer, who decides to make inroads into the music industry this go round. Whither the humor? Bonus features include a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, featurettes on the cast and John & Uma’s dance sequence, a music video, and a gag reel.

Call him the king of mellow, but I’ve always dug the easygoing folksy pop of John Denver, and I’m complete unapologetic about it. Right from his debut album, Rhymes & Reasons (RCA/Legacy, $11.98 SRP) – which featured his version of his “Leaving On a Jet Plane” and has been remastered with bonus tracks – you could sense the expert grasp of songcraft already at play. For an overview of the hits that came fast and furious in the early 70’s, check out the remastered John Denver’s Greatest Hits (RCA/Legacy, $11.98 SRP), which also contains a trio of bonus tracks. And if you want to learn more about Denver, check out the documentary A Song’s Best Friend: John Denver Remembered (RCA/Legacy, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP), containing 4 bonus live performances. Granted, I’m still not thanking anyone for being a country boy… Which I most certainly am not.

Instead of giving fans the season set they know they want, MGM instead opts to release just the pilot for the SG-1 spin-off, Stargate: Atlantis (MGM/UA, Not Rated, DVD-$25.98 SRP). At least they provided an audio commentary with director Martin Wood & actor Joe Flanigan, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a sneak peek at the upcoming second season.

There were many, many things to dislike about the last few big screen Batman outings, but the one element I enjoyed right from the get-go was Danny Elfman’s iconic main theme. Sadly, anything approaching that kind of sweepingly majestic – and readily identifiable – piece is missing from the score to Batman Begins (Warner Sunset Records, $18.98 SRP), co-composed by Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard. Even more disappointing, the score is nothing more than sonic wallpaper, more fitting for a Merchant Ivory Bat-pic than that of the Caped Crusader’s long-awaited cinematic comeback. What I wouldn’t give for a solid duh duh duh duuuuhhh, DUH DUH!

No one would describe The Eagles as being an edgy rock group, but their easy-going SoCal rock has its place in the musical pantheon… And I dig it. That’s why I can watch the 2-disc DVD documenting their Farewell Tour: Live From Melbourne (Rhino, Not Rated, DVD-$29.99 SRP) and walk away with a peaceful, easy feeling.

Since it means nice presentations at bargain prices of catalogue titles that would be hard-pressed to justify regular releases, I’m all for MGM’s ongoing series of “Midnight Movies” double feature DVDs (MGM/UA, $14.95 SRP each), featuring two flicks for the price of one. Their latest batch includes a pair of stock car racing films featuring Annette Funicello, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian – Fireball 500 & Thunder Alley; the sci-fi cult “classics” Morons From Outer Space & Alien From LA (still the fodder of one of MST3K’s finest episodes); and the Corman-esque biker-exploitation schlock The Mini-Skirt Mob & Chrome and Hot Leather. Glorious cheese!

In the “It Had To Happen Eventually” department (which is closely associated with the “Don’t Give Up The Ghost” department), the short-lived Highlander: The Raven spin-off (Anchor Bay/Davis-Anderson, Not Rated, DVD-$89.98 SRP) featured a female Immortal, Amanda Derieux, fighting the good fight against evil Immortals and the conflicts within. The 9-disc set features all 22 episodes, plus audio commentaries, cast & crew interviews, a blooper reel, and a photo gallery.

Comments: None

THE MONEY PIT - 06/10/2005

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (June 10, 2005 at 10:34 pm)

A month from now, I’ll be stressing myself out trying to get ready to fly out to this year’s mega-nerve-wracking San Diego Comicon. Where has this year gone?

One of the people I hope to finally meet in person at this year’s con (I’ve had plenty of near-misses) is Don Rosa. Of the creators that could possibly lay claim to inheriting the mantle of the late Carl Barks (creator of Scrooge McDuck and comicbook storyteller extraordinaire), I feel Rosa has the most impressive claim, based solely on the incredible quality of the Duck tales he’s produced over the last 15+ years. His epic Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck will be hitting shelves soon, but the latest issue of Uncle Scrooge - #342 (Gemstone, $6.95 SRP) – features Scrooge, Donald, and nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie tracking down the fabled treasury of the Knights Templar – a massive treasure secreted out of continental Europe and hidden on the property of the last Templar Treasurer, a member of the Clan McDuck. Keep in mind, this story was crafted before the Da Vinci Code ever hit shelves. It’s a grand adventure, and proves that the same magic Barks was able to conjure with the Disney Ducks (a magic that enthralled and inspired such fans as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas) is still alive and well in the works of Don Rosa. Highly recommended.

It wasn’t the derailment that many made it out to be, but the fourth season of The Sopranos was not up to the level of excellence exemplified by the previous 3 outings of HBO’s landmark show about “family”. Thankfully, things were back on track for the fifth season (HBO, Not Rated, DVD-$99.98 SRP), as Tony dealt with his disintegrating marriage to Carmela, the rising threat of Johnny Sack, and his nephew’s singing fiancée. Speaking of which, I love the fact that the writers were able to deal with the fiancée’s fate without dropping the ball – which is no small feat for most shows. The 4-disc set features five audio commentaries (with directors Peter Bogdanovich, Steve Buscemi, Mike Figgis, and Rodrigo Garcia, plus one from Drea de Matteo).

While you’re waiting to pick up Don Rosa’s Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck, do yourself a favor and grab the latest volume of The Complete Peanuts (Fantagraphics, $28.95 SRP), this time covering 1955-1956. Featuring an introduction by Mat Groening, the series remains the finest reprint of a comic strip I’ve ever laid eyes on. Where’s my Pogo, people?

While the overall quality of Frasier was still head-and-shoulders above the competition during its 11-year run, that should not be interpreted that all was perfect during that lengthy tenure. It was during the show’s fifth season (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$38.99 SRP) that the cracks began to show, and the non-stop farce and Niles-Daphne back-and-forth began to get a bit tired (which would not fully wear out its welcome until season 6). Still, the “Frasier Crane Day” episode is worth the price of admission.

Though roundly maligned by most critics – and believe me, it’s no masterpiece – the love that director/star Kevin Spacey had for his subject matter in his Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea (Lions Gate, Rated PG-13, DVD-$27.98 SRP) is palpable. Also undeniable is Spacey’s amazing ability to recreate Darin’s tunes (I heartily recommend the soundtrack album for the film, featuring Spacey). Where the film really suffers is it’s ability to really peg Darin down as a character – it creates the broad strokes, but never seems to lock in. Bonus features on the disc include a commentary with Spacey, a making-of featurette, and cast & crew interviews.

But by golly, there’s more TV-on-DVD! In fact, based on the tremendous wave of TV-on-DVD releases hitting this week, I’ve decided – in my too-tired-to-be-terribly-creative way – to dub it the “TV-on-DVD Perfect Storm.” Maybe it will catch on… Mostly it won’t. Either way, there’s a ton of titles tempting buyers this week. For comics fans, there’s the very first season of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP) - featuring a retrospective documentary, commentary on the pilot, the original pilot presentation, interviews with Dean Cain & Terry Hatcher, and a behind-the-scenes featurette – as well as the third (and final) season of Wonder Woman (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP), with a new documentary and an audio commentary with Lynda Carter on the episode “My Teenage Idol Is Missing.” Comedy fans can pick up the 6th (and final) season of Sanford & Son (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$29.95 SRP) – be sure to pick up the version with the limited edition scrapbook; the complete 2nd season of Home Improvement (Touchstone, Not Rated, DVD-$49.99 SRP), featuring a 2nd season gag reel; the complete 4th season of King of Queens (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$39.95 SRP); and the 2nd season of the Ted Knight comedy Too Close for Comfort (Rhino, Not Rated, DVD-$39.95 SRP), featuring audio commentaries on four episodes and a cast reunion. If drama floats your boat – particularly the classic kind – there’s the complete first season of Dragnet 1967 (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP), featuring an audio CD with an episode of the original radio show; or the first 2 seasons of Jack Klugman’s pre-CSI crusading coroner, Quincy, M.E. (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP); and Richard Dean Anderson’s miracle-working geek in the 2nd season of MacGyver (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$38.99 SRP). For a combination of both comedy and drama, pick up the complete first season of Denis Leary’s brilliant fireman dramedy Rescue Me (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$49.95 SRP), featuring commentary on the first and last eps, 4 behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, a peek at season 2, and bloopers. And finally, if you have fond memories of when you were actually interested in the mythology that eventually devoured The X-Files, be sure to pick up the first volume collecting those episodes from the first 3 seasons, The X-Files: Abduction (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP), which contains commentaries on selected episodes and the first part of a brand new mega-documentary, “Threads of Mythology.”

In 1972, Marc Bolan was the king of rock n’ roll. In 5 years, he was dead – but not without leaving behind a clutch of enduring tracks. Bolan was such a big star, in fact, that ex-Beatle Ringo Starr decided to make a documentary/concert film for the newly-minted Apple Films – a film that has been largely lost since it’s original release until the footage was recently found and remastered. That film, Born To Boogie (Sanctuary, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP), is a rare document of Bolan and his band, T-Rex, at their peak – even if the Fellini-esque film is a bit on the odd side, the music is worth the price of admission. The 2-disc DVD set contains 2 unedited concerts, a feature length documentary, unused footage, new interviews, a look at the restoration, and much more. A companion CD is also available (Sanctuary, $19.98 SRP), and worth picking up as well.

It’s strange when you first hear its premise, but Johnny Cash’s Ridin’ The Rails (Rhino, Not Rated, DVD-$14.99 SRP) – in which the legend waxes poetic in song and story about the old time railroads – is a fun piece of TV history (yes, it was originally a network special). Featuring over a dozen songs (from “Casey
Jones” to “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”) and bonus outtakes, it’s worth taking a gander at.

Time (and quantities) are running out on Sideshow Toy’s the Second Chance offering of their limited edition Sauron’s Mace scaled replica ($75.00 SRP). As always, there’s some choice items that enter into their Second Chance listings – so if there’s anything you might have missed out on, head over there quick and you just might get lucky.

As the impending disaster of his turn as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther remake approaches, I prefer to remember Steve Martin in better times, which includes the 15th Anniversary special edition of his remake of Father of the Bride (Touchstone, Rated PG, DVD-$19.99 SRP). Martin plays befuddled daddy George Banks, who has trouble letting go of his soon-to-marry daughter when she announces her impending nuptials. Throw a daft wedding planner into the mix (played by the always-insane Martin Short) and you have a recipe something at least amusing, and in this case quite funny. The DVD features a making-of featurette, Steve Martin & Martin Short interviewing each other, and an audio commentary with writer/director Charles Shyer.

In the documentary Gray Matter (Docurama, Not Rated, DVD-$26.95 SRP), filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Brother’s Keeper) chronicles the burial of over 700 preserved brains removed from handicapped children as part of the Nazi’s eugenics program – an tragedy performed under the supervision of Dr. Heinrich Gross, known as the “Austrian Dr. Mengele”). Berlinger tracks down Gross – who rose to prominence in post-war Austrian society despite his past – and tries to piece together the darker side of science. The DVD features commentary with Berlinger and a timeline of events.

I’m not entirely sure what prompted the release of not one, but three director’s cuts from out of the Disney/Miramax vaults, but it seems someone, somewhere, deemed that a demand was there. I guess. Of the three, director Billy Bob Thornton’s 2-disc extended edition of Sling Blade (Miramax, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP) is the most palatable, mainly because I liked that film in the first place. Bonus features include a Billy Bob commentary, and nearly a dozen interviews and featurettes with Billy Bob and the cast & crew. The other two extended flicks come from the Jerry Bruckheimer catalogue – Gone in 60 Seconds and Coyote Ugly (Touchstone, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP each) – and really, they’re no better nor worse for their added running times. What you’ll probably be picking these up for, if you’re so inclined, are the bonus features, including additional scenes, featurettes, interviews, and music videos.

Who knew that watching the videos contained on The Pretenders: Greatest Hits and INXS – What You Need: The Video Hits Collection (Rhino, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP) would be such a disturbing time warp. Music wise, I always preferred Chrissie Hynde’s punk to the hair-pop of INXS, but hey – to each his own. The INXS disc features 20 videos, but the Pretenders disc contains 19 videos plus a 45-minute documentary.

If you take DVD releases as an indicator, then the British Invasion never really ended, as more and more releases from across the pond make their way over. Let’s start with the latest pair of releases featuring the good doctor – Doctor Who, of course. Packed with enough bonus materials to intimidate a Dalek, we get The Leisure Hive from the Tom Baker years, and Ghost Light from Sylvester McCoy’s tenure (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP each). Also available are the complete third series of Monarch of the Glen (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP) and the complete series 1-3 of Good Neighbors (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP). Monarch features an interview with Susan Hampshire, while Neighbors contains the 1977 Christmas special, plus interviews with the cast, crew, and celeb fans.

Yeah, I can’t think of a single person who would claim that Star Trek: Insurrection (Paramount, Rated PG, DVD-$19.99 SRP) was the finest hour for the Next Generation cast. In fact, I‘d be hard-pressed to find anyone who even considered it to be a decent outing. Regardless, the 2-disc collector’s editions of the Trek films continue with the release of the Gilbert & Sullivan-fueled flick, which also has the distinction to be the first of these deluxe editions to lack an audio commentary (I guess no one wanted to take credit for it). The second disc features the usual raft of featurettes on the production & special effects, plus a spotlight on Michael Westmore’s aliens, the beautiful alien women of Trek, the original production featurette (ported over from the old DVD release), trailers, and galleries.

It’s hard to approach any entry in the “Chucky” franchise with any expectation of cinematic brilliance, as you can tell the filmmakers see the continued murderous escapades of the possessed plaything as pure farce, full of one-liners and visual gags. In the latest entry, Seed of Chucky (Universal, Not Rated, $29.98 SRP) Jennifer Tilly (who must be stuck in Chucky purgatory) plays herself in addition to Chucky’s equally murderous girl-toy Tiffany, who’s resurrected along with her boyfriend by their… Oh, whatever. Like the story matters. You know it doesn’t – you go to see a doll drinking, cussing, and killing, which is why you’ll probably want to pick up the extended unrated edition, featuring exclusive bonus materials. Oh, the shame.

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