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Tibby’s Bowl Online Entertainment Magazine » THE MONEY PIT - 12/16/2005
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THE MONEY PIT - 12/16/2005

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (December 16, 2005 at 10:39 pm)

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The second annual IGN FilmForce Holiday Havoc just keeps rolling along. You have been checking them out, right? Right? Do it!

The mystery of “Who Shot Mr. Burns” is resolved as the seventh season of The Simpsons (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP) hits DVD, which also features the shooting of the Radioactive Man film, Lisa’s vegetarian conversion, Troy McClure’s courtship of Selma (“I love you, Dr. Zaius!”), Homer becoming Smithers, and much more. By now, you pretty much know the bonus features on these sets include audio commentaries on every episode, deleted scenes, an intro from Matt Groening, illustrated commentary, galleries, and a few easter eggs.

When word came down that Family Guy would be returning to the air with new episodes after being cancelled a few years back, my reaction was decidedly mixed. I loved Family Guy, but as with anything great that returns after a substantial break, there’s a fear that the spark will be gone, and the result will be less than pleasant. Well, that it would suck, really. Amazingly – and thankfully – that was not the case, and it’s like they literally picked right back up where they left off. In fact, in the 13 episodes featured in the new Family Guy: Volume 3 (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP), I can’t really name any stinkers. Oh, and even better, they’re all uncensored, with some containing additional footage cut by the network. Bonus features include audio commentaries (one of which, honestly, sports James Woods), a featurette on the show’s popularity, deleted scenes animatics, multi-angle table reads, storyboard/animatic comparisons, and a featurette on the show’s music.

It was a long time coming, but if you’re picking up the 3rd volume of Family Guy (technically the show’s 4th season), you’ll want to snag a copy of Family Guy: The Official Episode Guide (Harper, $18.95 SRP), which is packed with synopses and trivia about the show’s first 3 seasons (done in a similar style to the Simpsons episode guides.

Though I was largely unimpressed with the largely improvised Anchorman, I completely dug the similarly made 40-Year-Old Virgin (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP), starring Steve Carell as the titular man-child. More intimate with his game console than the female form, his friends decide that it’s high time he got to know the opposite sex, so they conspire to get him… acquainted. I could dance around the word “laid” all night. The “Unrated” DVD features 17 additional minutes that, thankfully, never feel like padding, plus additional deleted footage and a dinner between co-star Seth Rogan and adult film star Stormy Daniels. Both the regular and unrated editions feature deleted footage, multiple audio commentaries, a gag reel, featurettes, and more.

The remarkable thing about Degrassi: The Next Generation is that it managed to update a groundbreaking concept - of attempting to portray high school life in a realistic fashion - and push the boundary even further, without seeming salacious or unrealistic (i.e. any WB show or The OC). That it also treated the original Degrassi as canon – bringing many of the actors back as their original characters – was also a delightful plus. Before you dig into the next generation, though, pick up the complete collection of the original Degrassi Junior High (WGBH, Not Rated, $99.95 SRP), featuring all 42 episodes from all 3 seasons, plus new documentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more. Once you’ve done that, you’ll next want to catch up on the complete first season of The Next Generation (Funimation, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP) – featuring extended director’s cuts, deleted scenes, bloopers, and more – so you can fully enjoy longtime-Degrassi fanatic Kevin Smith’s dream come true, as he brings Jason Mewes along to star in a 3-episode arc that finds the geek auteur north of the border to film a movie in which their alter-egos must go back to high school. Jay & Silent Bob Do Degrassi: The Next Generation (Funimation, Not Rated, DVD-$24.98 SRP) contains those episodes, plus commentary, additional footage, bloopers, an interview with Smith, and more.

As flawed as it is – and it’s not even comparable to his best – there’s still a macabre fun to Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm (Miramax, Rated PG-13, DVD-$29.99 SRP), which stars Heath Ledger and Matt Damon as the titular brothers, who travel the German countryside conning towns into paying them to rid their area of spirits and witches. Wouldn’t you know it, they inevitably are forced to confront a legitimate supernatural force deep in a haunted wood. Just check it out… Keep your expectations in check and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. Bonus features include an audio commentary with Gilliam, deleted scenes with optional commentary, and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Mad Max may have brought Mel Gibson to audiences, but it was Peter Weir’s drama about the real-life disaster that was Australia’s WWII battle of Gallipoli (Paramount, Rated PG, DVD-$14.98 SRP) that proved the young Aussie could act. The new special edition features an in-depth 6 part making-of documentary and the original theatrical trailer.

If you only know Elton John from his hits – or from the pabulum that represented nearly all of his 80’s and 90’s work – than you’ll find much of his early catalogue a revelation. If you think I’m wrong, check out the new 2-disc deluxe edition of his and lyricist Bernie Taupin’s autobiographical opus Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy (Island, $29.98 SRP). Completely remastered, it charts the John’s & Taupin’s ascendancy from obscurity to stardom, from journeymen musicians to rock & roll legends. In addition to the original album and 4 bonus tracks, the second disc contains the 1975 “Midsummer Music” performance of the entire album at London’s Wembley Stadium (a start-to-finish play with energy to spare). Also available is special collector’s edition of his latest album, Peachtree Road (Rocket, $19.98 SRP) (which, like Songs from the West Coast, is a refreshing return his 70’s roots), featuring a trio of bonus tracks from the stage musical version of Billy Elliott, plus a bonus DVD shot live in Atlanta, 2004. Both are highly recommended.

Based on Frank Miller’s noir-heavy comic series, Sin City tells a batch of interwoven tales all linked to the corrupt, decadent pit that is Basin City. Crooked cops, sexy dames, violent sociopaths, tough-as-nails strongmen, and more come together in an unforgettable mix of grit and grim, brought to dark life by an all-star cast that includes Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood, Jessica Alba, and Mickey Rourke. You’re free to feel just a little bit screwed if you picked up the original lackluster release a few months back, because here’s the deluxe special edition – Recut-Extended-Remastered (Miramax, Not Rated, DVD-$39.99 SRP) – wherein co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Miller revisit the film with an expanded cut and 2 discs worth of goodies, including audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, bloopers, and trailers. Also included is a pocket-sized edition of the Sin City graphic novel The Hard Goodbye. See… that’ll teach you to be patient.

Billy Bob Thornton continues the crotchety trend started with Bad Santa and Friday Night Lights by assuming the role of caustic little league coach Morris Buttermaker in the quite enjoyable remake of The Bad News Bears (Paramount, Rated PG-13, DVD-$29.95 SRP) - a role made famous by Walter Matthau in the 1976 original - who somehow manages to whip a raucous group of misfit kids into a successful team. Bonus features include an audio commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, outtakes, deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer.

The late 60’s and early 70’s were full of iconic rock & roll concerts – the era closing with The Band’s The Last Waltz. One of those documents was filmed as part of Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour in the US, with guests Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge. Always a livewire, Cocker was amped to the max during a setlist that included classic renditions of “Feelin’ Alright” and “With a Little Help from My Friends.” A remastered 2-disc deluxe edition of the soundtrack is now out (A&M, $29.98 SRP), along with a remastered edition of the film itself (Universal Music, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP).

Next in an ever-expanding web of diminishing returns, the dim-witted former-henchman-turned-cook from The Emperor’s New Groove (voiced by Patrick Warburton) gets a groove of his own in Kronk’s New Groove (Walt Disney, Rated G, DVD-$29.99 SRP), as he worries about looking good for his father’s impending visit, which is compounded by the return of the sly enchantress Yzma. Despite my distaste for these cheapquels, Patrick Warburton’s performance as Kronk makes this thing worth watching. You lone noteworthy bonus feature is a making-of featurette.

The greatest disappointment of the CG-animated Valiant (Walt Disney, Rated G, DVD-$29.99 SRP) – which focuses on a flock of carrier pigeons during WWII – is that is squanders a simply amazing voice cast with a by-the-numbers script and mediocre design and animation. That voice cast includes Ewan McGregor, Ricky Gervais, John Cleese, Tim Curry, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent… The mind boggles at what a classic would have been wrought were this but a better flick. As far as bonus features, all you’ve got are bloopers.

It was during the 5th season of The Dukes of Hazzard (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) that contract negotiations with stars Tom Wopat and John Schneider broke down, leading to their replacement with the ersatz Duke cousins, Coy and Vance. Suffice to say, people were not happy with the low-rent good ol’ boys, and those pesky contract negotiations were quickly resolved before the end of the season, leading to the return of Bo & Luke, Bonus features this go-round include a reunion of the show’s stunt team and a visit to Ben Jones’ (Cooter) Hazzard shrine.

A true historical document, Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book (Abrams, $24.95 SRP) gets a 10 ¾ anniversary edition with a new introduction from Terry Jones and Brian Froud, a brand new section, and even a bonus DVD. The perfect companion piece, naturally, is Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Letters (Abrams, $19.95 SRP).

In an age of dwindling shelf space in bricks & mortar retailers, record companies are allowing more and more titles from artists’ back catalogues to go out of print. As a way to compensate for the loss of many of those titles – and to fill consumers’ eternal desire for quick & easy greatest hits collections – Universal Music initiated their line of 2-disc Gold releases, which feature not only the standard hits, but also album cuts and rarities. Their like a box-set, lite. The latest artists to get the Gold treatment are Pete Townshend, Cat Stevens, Buddy Holly, the Neville Brothers, and a collection of Southern Rock greats (Universal, $19.98 SRP each). If you want a nice overview at a reasonable price, these can’t be beat.

Of course, there is another option for those of you still keen on full albums, and that’s the 3-disc Chronicles releases (Universal Music, $29.98 SRP each), which contain a trio of an artist’s albums in one complete package. Recently, I’ve checked out their releases for The Moody Blues (featuring Days of Future Passed, In Search of the Lost Chord, & On the Threshold of a Dream) and Elton John (Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection, & Madman Across the Water. And since the holidays are still in full swing, they’ve also got a Merry Christmas Chronicles, with over 40 holiday classics.

Messrs. Crockett & Tubbs return with the second trend-setting season of Miami Vice (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP), which again shelled out the big-bucks to ensure that every single bit of original music was cleared – no easy feat when the bands include U2 and The Who. Considering the cost, it’s no surprise that all you’re getting is just the 22 episodes and no bonus features.

Mystery writer Jessica Fletcher returns like a grim reaper to the lives of her closest friends in the complete second season of Murder She Wrote (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP). With the trail of corpses she’s left behind her, I’m still stunned that anyone would give her the time of day. Not even Tom Bosley could see through her genial façade.

Longtime West Wing fans tend to agree that the show hit its nadir during the scattered, unfocused 5th season (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$59.95 SRP). In fact, in a season marked by a whole lot of “huh,” the only thing that really sparked were the guest appearances by John Goodman and Glenn Close. It would take another year before the show started to click again. Bonus features include a pair of documentaries profiling both President Bartlett and Martin Sheen, A breakdown of the episode “Gaza,” a trio of audio commentaries, and unaired scenes.

Just when I was going to give up hope of it ever coming out, we finally get the second Gargoyles release, collecting the first half (26 episodes) of the lengthy second season (Walt Disney, Not Rated, DVD-$39.95 SRP). Bonus features include episode introductions from creator Greg Weisman, audio commentaries, and “The Gathering of the Cast & Crew” featurette.

It seems any American dynasty with an offbeat job can get their family a camera and a series commitment, and such is the case of the Evangelistas, whose lives are the focus of Family Bonds (HBO, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP). They’re not morticians – as you might have guessed from the title, they’re a family of bail bondsmen. I eagerly await when a series is greenlit focusing on the lives of a family of attention-seekers. The 2-disc complete first season set features all 10 episodes, plus commentary, featurettes, and a photo gallery.

This week’s soundtrack round-up features Patrick Doyle’s score for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Warner, $18.98 SRP) – which also contains the flick’s songs from the ball – and Alexandre Desplat’s score for Syriana (RCA Red Seal, $18.98 SRP).

Am I wrong for liking Gilmore Girls (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$59.95 SRP)? I think it must be a combination of the snappy writing and the actors that make this a show that, while not appointment viewing, is always refreshing when I catch it. The 5th season meant a whole lot of good for Lorelai (the success of the Dragonfly Inn) and a whole lot of hurt for Rory (college, boys, and a career plan in flames). Bonus features include an audio commentary and featurettes on the 100th episode.

Nobody did low-budget like Roger Corman, as you will experience most viscerally with a quartet of re-released Corman “classics” replete with special edition bells & whistles, including commentaries, retrospective featurettes, and trailers. The films in question are Death Race 2000 (with David Carradine), Big Bad Mama (Shatner, people), Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (The Ramones!), and Dinocroc (Buena Vista, Rated R/PG, DVD-$19.99 SRP each).



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