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THE MONEY PIT - 05/19/2006

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (May 19, 2006 at 9:18 pm)

The weekend’s here. You’ve just been paid, and it’s burning a hole in your pocket. What’s a pop culture geek to do? In hopes of steering you in the right direction to blow some of that hard-earned cash, it’s time for The Money Pit – your spotlight on the things you didn’t even know you wanted…

Is it too much to hope that eventually we’ll get the entire 10-season run of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on DVD? At least we get another step closer with the release of the 9th MST Collection (Rhino, Not Rated, DVD-$59.95 SRP), featuring 4 episodes that reach all the way back to the show’s very first season. The flicks features this go-round are Women of the Prehistoric Planet (Show #104), Wild Rebels (#207), The Sinister Urge (#613), and The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (#812). Whew! Is it too much to ask that we eventually get Laserblast (#701), so I can finally throw out my VHS tapes? Or, for that matter, more bonus material, such as the full MST Scrapbook, or some of these workprints that have been floating around? Or, heck, even – perish forbid – new episodes released directly to DVD? Come on, Rhino, step up!

If you’re going to present a colorized version of the film, kudos to Legend Films for doing it the right way, by also presenting a fully cleaned and restored version of the original black & white film. So far, they’ve given the treatment to many B-classics, including Plan 9 From Outer Space and Reefer Madness. Best of all, though, they’ve enlisted MST3K vet Mike Nelson to provide commentaries for the pics. The latest flick getting the treatment is Roger Corman’s original killer plant opus, Little Shop of Horrors (Legend Films ,Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP), starring Jack Nicholson in one of his first film roles. If you order now directly from Legend, you even get the disc signed by Nelson… So what are you waiting for?

With a young nephew and my own inherent, powerful, and sometimes embarrassing sense of nostalgia, I was jazzed to hear that Little Golden Books (Random House, $2.99 SRP each) were making a triumphant return to aid in the burgeoning reading skills of young minds keen to learn from their favorite characters. Not only are they re-releasing classic titles that I grew up with (including a personal fave, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree), plus Little Golden Book versions of modern classics like Pixar’s Toy Story 2 and Finding Nemo, featuring beautiful stylized artwork that harkens back to the original production design. I can’t wait for my nephew to dive into them, and to get his first does of being read a story at bedtime.

I don’t know how I feel about the recent trend towards reinserting deleted footage in films and re-releasing them on DVD as “Unrated Extended Editions,” but I guess it really all comes down to the film and the footage. Leave it to Disney to jump on the bandwagon, though, with a trio of new extended editions – Con Air, Crimson Tide, and Enemy of the State (Touchstone/Hollywood, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP each). Con Air is bare bones, but both Enemy and Crimson contain behind-the-scenes featurettes.

As powerful as his music continues to be, there’s nothing like seeing a performer as incendiary as Marvin Gaye perform live – which is just what you get in the career-encompassing Marvin Gaye: The Real Thing In Performance 1964-1981 (Hip-O/Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP). From his 1964 appearance on American Bandstand to his final concert film in Belgium shortly before his untimely death, this is a great compilation of a too-short life.

While comparisons to Mary Poppins may be giving it a little too much credit next to that classic, Nanny McPhee (Universal, Rated PG, DVD-$29.98 SRP) is an affable, enjoyable family flick about a recently widowed single father (Colin Firth) whose very naughty children are whipped back into shape by the mysterious appearance of one Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson). Bonus materials include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a gag reel.

If American Graffiti was the first flick to make wall-to-wall oldies a viable soundtrack to a film, and it was in that spirit that Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill made the music just as much a character in his film about a group of thirty-somethings reuniting after the death of their 60’s-era college friend. As such, the soundtrack was packed with Motown hits, and it spawned music collections of the same vein, playing off the cache of the film – which have now been re-released as the 3-disc Music Inspired By The Big Chill (Motown, $29.98 SRP), containing 33 Motown hits not featured in the film.

It was during the second season of Grounded for Life (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP) that the series started to top-load the comedy and the guest stars, feeling slightly more secure after dodging cancellation in its first season. Those guest stars include Stephen Root, Vincent Pastore, Valerie Perrine, Danny Masterson, Natasha Lyonne, and Ashton Kutcher. In fact, Kutcher also provides a new interview for this set, which includes additional cast interviews, a featurette on Kevin Corrigon, and bloopers.

What’s unique about the newest incarnation of The Producers (Universal, Rated PG-13, DVD-$29.98 SRP) is that it’s a musical film about the mounting of a Broadway disaster which is adapted from a Broadway musical that was adapted from the a film. To go into the flick expecting to see a literal translation of the Mel Brooks-penned movie-cum-Broadway hit is to be a bit disconcerted, as the musical film is really its own beast, reinventing the source material yet again – but with the comforting, enjoyable presence of both Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the leads of Broadway vet Max Bialystock and pie-eyed producer-wannabe Leo Bloom. The DVD features deleted musical numbers (including the “Why’d they cut that?” tour-de-force “King of Broadway”), outtakes, an audio commentary from director Susan Stroman, and analysis of the “I Wanna Be A Producer” scene.

Feeling in a literary mood this weekend but too lazy to pick up a book? Fret not, as you can dive into a collection of six George Bernard Shaw classics from the BBC via The Shaw Collection (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP). The 6-disc set features Arms and the Man, The Devil’s Disciple, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, Pygmalion, Heartbreak House, and The Millionairess. In addition, the set also contains four Shaw plays (The Man of Destiny, You Can Never Tell, Androcles and the Lion, and The Apple Cart), plus a pair of documentaries and a collection of audio excerpts from Shaw’s talks.

And speaking of non labor-intensive ways to partake of classic literature, how about unabridged Ernest Hemingway novels on CD? Donald Sutherland is the reader on The Old Man and the Sea (Simon and Schuster Audio, $20.00 SRP), Campbell Scott reveals For Whom The Bell Tolls (Simon and Schuster Audio, $49.95 SRP), and John Slattery is all over A Farewell To Arms (Simon and Schuster Audio, $39.95 SRP).

The cops of Hill Street station return in the complete second season of Hill Street Blues (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP). Building on the innovation of its first season, this year brings increased tensions to the station house, with many a surprise in store. Watching this set makes me want the equally-memorable St. Elsewhere on DVD post-haste. The 3-disc set features all 18 episodes, a pair of commentaries, four featurettes, and a much-appreciated gag reel.

I’ve tried and tried, but for the life of me I can’t understand why Napoleon Dynamite (Fox, Rated PG, DVD-$26.98 SRP) is as popular as it has become since its release. Admittedly, it’s a quirky, picaresque slice of high school life as surreal alienation, but it gets buried in its own oddball affectations. Still, it has its fans, and if you count yourself amongst them you’ll be happy with the new 2-disc special edition, featuring commentaries, deleted/extended scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, audition clips, promos, and more.

It was only a matter of time before someone finally used Art Asylum’s MiniMates to make a short film a la the LEGO epics, and first trip down that path is the 9-minute short X-Men: Darktide (Diamond Select, $18.00 SRP), featuring our merry Mutants, Magneto, and the menace of the Sentinels. If that weren’t enough, each set contains not only the DVD, but also 4 MiniMates – Wolverine, Cyclops, Magneto, and Juggernaut.

As the box copy mentions, That Girl (Shout! Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) really was a groundbreaker that set the stage for shows like Mary Tyler Moore and Murphy Brown. Debuting in 1966, Marlo Thomas started as a young, independent working girl pursuing her dream of being an actor in the Big Apple, and the show itself is a funny time capsule of the changing times. The 5-disc complete first season features all 30 episodes, plus the original pilot, a featurette with Marlo Thomas, promos, commentaries, and more.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – in the age of iTunes and shrinking shelf space as more and more brick and mortar stores fold and move into the digital ages, many record companies are finding new and better ways to present their catalogue artists, and that includes revamping the traditional “Greatest Hits” CD. Gone are the 10-20 track overview of only the well-known tunes, replaced by more in-depth releases featuring hits, album cuts, and rarities. Universal Music has gone the right direction with their single disc “Definitive” and 2-disc “Gold” collections, highlighting classic artists with remastered sound and concise presentation. The latest “Definitive” collection titles include Jerry Lee Lewis, Brenda Lee, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Rick James, and Buddy Holly (Universal Music, $13.98 SRP each), while Joe Cocker, Conway Twitty, Statler Brothers, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, and an “80s” get the 2-disc “Gold” treatment (Universal Music, $19.98 SRP each).

Its politics are unforgivable, but there’s no denying the incredible filmmaking skill evident in Leni Riefenstahl’s legendary Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will (Synapse, Not Rated, DVD-$34.95 SRP), which chronicles the rise of the Nazi Party via its propagandist centerpiece – the 1934 Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg. The new DVD edition features a remastered print, plus the Riefenstahl short film Day of Freedom and audio commentary by historian Dr. Anthony Santoro.

Even while facing stiff competition from cable nets like Discovery, The Learning Channel, The History Channel and their ilk, PBS continues to crank out a whole slew of fascinating documentaries, all of which are available on DVD (PBS, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP each). The latest to come down the pike include cracking the enigmatic feline in Understanding Cats, the search for the elusive Arctic Passage, determining if we’re alone in Exploring Space: The Quest For Life, journey from the Rockies to the Grand Canyon and eventually into Mexico’s California gulf in Wild River: The Colorado, a profile of a pioneer marine explorer in Teddy Tucker: Adventure Is My Life, and an in-depth look at a killer via Malaria: Fever Wars.

Essential Hollywood (Sony Classical, $24.98 SRP) certainly lives up to its title, featuring 2-discs worth of classic Hollywood themes, completely remastered. The 27 tracks contain everything from King Kong and Gone With The Wind to Star Wars and The Pink Panther – with stops at Casablanca, Citizen Kane, High Noon, Psycho, and more.

There’s not much you can say when faced by a world that would actually produce ABBA: The Movie (Universal Music, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP). Considering it was the 70’s, though, it’s at least marginally understandable, seeing as how this was also the decade that birthed the Pet Rock, Disco, and HR Pufnstuf. Oh, and it was directed by Lasse Hallstrom. If that’s not enough ABBA overload, tip the scales with the 3-disc ABBA: Chronicles collection (Polar/Universal Music, $29.98 SRP), which collects their debut album ABBA, Arrival, and the soundtrack to ABBA: The Movie.

Comments: 1 Comment

THE MONEY PIT - 05/12/2006

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (May 12, 2006 at 9:14 pm)

You ever have one of those weeks where you can feel a clock ticking and changes afoot? Well, it’s certainly been a week like that here, as the winds of change are not exactly blowing fair – but the show must go on, right?

While rights issues are still holding up a full season-by-season release of the legendary Phil Silvers Show (aka Sgt. Bilko), Paramount has gone above and beyond the call of duty in assembling a stopgap 3-disc set that is an absolute must-have purchase for any comedy fan. Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show 50th Anniversary Edition (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$39.95 SRP) contains 18 remastered episodes, plus a truckload of rare bonus materials that will delight Bilko aficionados, including the lost pilot, the original opening titles, audio commentaries (from Larry Storch, Dick Van Dyke, George Kennedy, Allan Melvin, and Mickey Freeman), Emmy highlights, guest appearances (on The Ed Sullivan Show, Dick Cavett, and more), Nick @ Nite promos with Dan Aykroyd & Phil Hartman (who also provides episode intros), audio of the Friars Club Stag Roast of Humphrey Bogart, and more. Here’s hoping we eventually get those season sets – but until then, Christmas has come early.

If you want to find out more about Bilko, check out Mickey Freeman’s memoir about his time on the show playing one of Bilko’s right-hand soldiers, Private Zimmerman, in Bilko: Behind the Lines With Phil Silvers (Virgin, $17.95 SRP). It’s a wonderful glimpse at a slice of TV history, and a loving portrait of one of the greatest comedians who ever delivered a line.

It’s no shock that I’m a Scrubs fan (I’ve waxed poetic about it before, and the fact that I’ve done the Scrubs blog with the crew must have been a hint to that effect), and I’m quite happy that we’ve gotten a speedy release of the show’s 3rd season (Buena Vista, Not Rated, DVD-$39.99 SRP). While not as groundbreaking or fresh as the first 2 seasons (just by virtue of familiarity), the characters really come to the fore in this season, as Turk & Carla march towards their trip down the aisle, Dr. Cox deals with fatherhood, and J.D. marks the passing of his father (originally played by John Ritter). Also of note is the pitch-perfect guest run of Michael J. Fox as an OCD-suffering doctor who makes a huge impression on the young interns, particularly Elliott. The 3-disc set is packed with bonus materials, including commentaries, deleted scenes, a gaggle of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a gag reel, and more.

Oh, Irwin Allen… You truly were a genius. If there’s one thing I can thank the completely unnecessary remake The Poseidon for, it’s that we’ve finally got a 2-disc remastered special edition of the original classic, The Poseidon Adventure (Fox, Rated PG, DVD-$19.98 SRP). Imagine a giant tsunami overturning the Love Boat, and you’ve got the premise of this addictive disaster flick. Even better, we get an audio commentary with director Ronald Neame, an audio commentary with some of the cast (Pamela Sue Martin, Stella Stevens, & Carol Lynley), the AMC Backstory spotlight on the film, 9 brand-new behind-the-scenes and retrospective featurettes, trailers, and more. And because you can’t have enough disaster, Irwin Allen’s follow-up, The Towering Inferno (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP) is also getting the 2-disc treatment, featuring commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, extended/deleted scenes, the AMC Backstory, original making-of featurettes, the NATO presentation reel, a 1977 interview with Allen, trailers, and more.

If you’re in the mood for high adventure after that Irwin Allen disaster-a-thon, pick up a copy of one of the greatest Duck tales ever written by comics legend Carl Barks – it’s called “In Ancient Persia,” and it finds Donald Duck and nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie smack dab in the middle of a plot to resurrect the long-dead inhabitants of that desert kingdom. You can find the story in this month’s Donald Duck and Friends #339 (Gemstone, $2.95 SRP). Give it a read.

From the first moment I popped in my original Comedy Central screener tape 10 years ago, I absolutely dug Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP). I had never seen the money-saving squigglevision animation technique before, and once I realized it wouldn’t give me seizures, I was able to concentrate on just want a comedic gem the largely improvised interplay between Katz, his son Ben (Jon Benjamin) and the gaggle of desperately-in-need-of-help comedians (up-and-comers like Ray Romano, Joy Behar, David Cross, and Louis CK) proved to be. This first collection features the 6 episodes comprising the first season, plus audio commentaries, Short Attention Span Theater shorts, “The Biography of Dr. Katz,” and the squigglevision short “Shrinkwrapped.”

If you’re still one of the poor, unfortunate souls intimidated by the season sets of Rocky & Bullwinkle, then you can get a very nice sampling of Jay Ward’s legendary cartoon via the single-disc The Best of Rocky & Bullwinkle: Volume 1 & The Best of Boris & Natasha: Volume 1 (Classic Media, Not Rated, DVD-$12.98 SRP each).

I haven’t decided yet whether I think Steven Spielberg’s latest grasp for legitimacy as an “important filmmaker” is a well-crafted drama or an overwrought cry for respect. I admire [Munich] (Universal, Rated R, DVD-$29.98 SRP) for its attempt to look at a very difficult subject matter – the alleged actions taken by the Israelis to avenge the murder of their Olympic athletes by terrorists during the 1972 Munich games. I honestly wish that Spielberg would realize that he can still make enjoyable films in-between his “important” ones. The feature-laden 2-disc collector’s edition is impossible to find, while the single-disc edition only contains a brief intro from Spielberg.

Eight Days a Week (Warner Bros., Rated R, DVD-$19.98 SRP) is one of those tiny little comedies that can’t help but endear themselves, and the fact that it’s got a gorgeous young Keri Russell as the object of its lead character’s desire is no small part of that appeal, I admit. That lead character is nerdy Peter (Josh Schaefer), who longs to be more than “just friends” with his next-door neighbor (Russell), and hatches a plot to camp out on the sidewalk in front of her house until she comes around, giving him the chance to observe his eccentric neighborhood and neighbors as the summer days pass by.

How many of you out there are old enough to remember just what a colossal hit Dinosaurs (Walt Disney, Not Rated, DVD-$39.99 SRP) was when it began airing on ABC in the early 90’s? When the Jurassic Sinclair clan was must-see TV, and Baby Sinclair’s cry of “Not the mama!” was a national catchphrase, a latter day “Where’s the beef?” Well, it was, and if you watch the episodes contained on the 4-disc set collecting the first and second seasons, you’ll see why – the show is still funny, and the Jim Henson Creature Shop’s costume work is simply amazing. Bonus features include a look into the making of the show, bonus clips, and designer/writer/director Kirk Thatcher’s original designs for the dinosaurs.

As the show winds to a close, as far as new episodes are concerned, on DVD we’re getting the sixth season of West Wing (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$59.98 SRP), which finds the Bartlett administration entering its last year and the race to replace hit heating up between Alan Alda’s Republican Vinick and Jimmy Smits’ Democratic Santos. Which is not to say that Martin Sheen’s Bartlett administration has run out of any of the usual dramatic steam – far from it, in fact, as the campaign reenergized what had been a flagging, once-great show. The 6-disc set features audio commentary on a trio of episodes and a spotlight on C.J. Cregg’s rise from press secretary to Chief of Staff.

Nobody does mix collections like Time Life, and you’ll see I’m right with the single-disc collections Disco Fever: Boogie Wonderland, We Got The Funk, Irie Boogie Hits: Dancehall, and Barry Williams Presents One-Hit Wonders of the 70’s (Time Life, $18.98 SRP each). They’re retro-rific.

It may be coming to an end (much like Happy Days before it), but you can relive the glory days of That 70’s Show with the complete fourth season (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP). Eric and Donna break up (and she hooks up with Kelso’s brother), Kelso & Jackie continue their dating dance, Hyde’s father blows town, and Kitty decides it’s time to redecorate the basement. The 4-disc set features all 27 episodes, plus select-episode commentary, a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a 4-minute retrospective of the season.

There’s something inherently compelling in the teaming of Robert De Niro and Jean Reno, and Ronin (MGM/UA, Rated R, DVD-$24.96 SRP) captures it to a “t” in a high-octane story involving top flight mercenaries who must learn to trust each other when a seemingly routine Mafia job becomes too hot to handle. The new 2-disc special edition features an audio commentary with John Frankenheimer, an alternate ending, vintage interviews with the cast, a making-of documentary, and five behind-the-scenes featurettes.

It had to come eventually – with the 6th season of The Andy Griffith Show (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$38.99 SRP), a legendary comedy finally met its match, and its name was Color. With the introduction of the spectrum to Mayberry, it seems like all of the charm and skillful writing was sucked out of that quirky corner of North Carolina. Even though he had departed as a regular at the end of season 5, Don Knotts did make a handful of much-appreciated guest spots over the course of the year, ensuring that Barney Fife would live on… Even if Knotts’ film career would eventually fizzle.

You take the good, you take the bad, you take ‘em both and then you have the first & second seasons of The Facts of Life (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$39.95 SRP). The truncated first season (it spun out of Diff’rent Strokes halfway through the year) was a mess – too many characters (the dorm was filled with a gaggle of extraneous girls, including the soon-to-be-jettisoned Molly Ringwald) and too little focus on any of them, with the only saving grace being the great Charlotte Rae as housemother Edna Garrett. It was during the second season – after a cast cull left just Tootie, Blair, Natalie and newcomer badgirl Jo – that the show began to hit its marks. The 4-disc set features the 29 episodes from both seasons, plus a pair of retrospective featurettes.

It’s simplistic to be dismissive of Life Goes On (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) as just “the show with that Down syndrome actor”… in fact, it’s also insulting. The show itself was about so much more than the challenges that faced Corky (Chris Burke) as a Down syndrome kid – they were the challenges that face any kid growing up. Simple as that. The 6-disc set features all 22 first season episodes, plus audio commentary on the pilot, screen tests, and a gag reel.

Okay, so – admittedly – Barry Manilow isn’t exactly the epitome of cool. In fact, he’s never been cool. Unfortunately, he has managed to craft songs which lodge themselves in the brain of anyone who listens to them, slowly driving them mad. Those tunes include “Copacabana,” “Mandy,” and “I Write the Songs,” and they’re all features on a trio of Manilow remasters, complete with bonus tracks – Barry Manilow II, Even Now, & Tryin’ To Get the Feeling (Arista/Legacy, $11.98 SRP each). Just try and get them out of your head.

When Sarah Ruttinger (Jennifer Aniston) returns home with her new fiancé (Mark Ruffalo), she begins to unravel a tangled web of rumors and innuendo that point to a far different past for her seemingly sedate, upscale family (including matriarch Shirley MacLaine) than she suspects. Rumor Has It (Warner Bros., Rated PG-13, DVD-$28.98 SRP) is the rare light comedy that I can actually enjoy, buoyed by a snappy script and even snappier performances (particularly the still-wonderful Aniston). Who knew director Rob Reiner still had it in him? Sadly, bonus materials are limited to the theatrical trailer.

Five seasons in and they’re still thanking us for being a friend with the still-funny 5th season of The Golden Girls (Buena Vista, Not Rated, DVD-$39.99 SRP), which features audio commentaries with stars Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Betty White.

Another pair of Showtime’s unfortunately lackluster high-concept mini-series Masters of Horror (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$16.98 SRP each) hits DVD, this time featuring the efforts of Mick Garris (“Chocolate”) and Don Coscarelli (“Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”). Of the two, I’d have to give the edge to Mick Garris, a sentimental favorite ever since his adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand. Both discs are loaded with bonus features, including commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, interviews, and more.

Comments: None

THE MONEY PIT - 05/05/2006

Posted by Ken in Shopping Guides (May 5, 2006 at 12:41 am)

The weeks go flying by, and it’s with great alarm that I note we’re already to May. Where has this year gone? Why does it seem like it should still be January? Why is the sky blue? Why ask why?

When Red Dwarf began coming out on DVD, I bemoaned the fact that they were being released at the rate of only two series per year – which meant it would take four years for the entire eight series run to finally make it out. Well, here we are, four years later, and I’m holding Red Dwarf: Series 8 (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$44.98 SRP) in my hands… well, metaphorically. Right now, obviously, I’m typing. Stop being so literal. Either way, the final series is out, and with the film still in limbo, this may be the last adventures of Lister, Rimmer, Cat, Kryten, and Kochanski that we’ll ever see. In addition to the 8 regular episodes, the 3-part premiere, “Back in the Red,” is also presented as a feature length film. As far as bonus features go, you’ve got the usual cast commentaries on every ep, a massive documentary encompassing the entire 8th series, the RD episode of Comedy Connections, deleted scenes, music cues, smeg-ups, trailers, the children in need sketch, easter eggs, and more. So, Doug… Where’s the film?

I think the fourth season of 3rd Rock From the Sun (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) is my favorite of all, and it can be summed up in 2 words – William Shatner. The great one steps in to personify the heretofore unseen alien leader, The Big Giant Head, and can you think of a better choice? This is also the season whose premiere resolves Phil Hartman’s guest role in the preceding season, after he kidnapped Harry. The 4-disc set features all 24 episodes, plus a featurette spotlight on Jane Curtain and bloopers.

I was happy to hear of Fox’s recent coming to the senses on the future of King of the Hill, renewing it for another season instead of letting a great series die due to their nonsensical apathy towards it. While you’re waiting for the new season to begin in the Fall, dig into the complete 6th season (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP). From Ren-Faire’s to naked grilling, it’s all here courtesy of the Hill clan’s Texan misadventures. One thing, tho – where are the bonus features, Fox? These sets should be as feature-laden as the Simpsons sets

There’s an electricity to the art of comics legend Jack Kirby, which is why I get such a kick out of every volume of The Collected Jack Kirby Collector (Twomorrows, $24.95 SRP) from Twomorrows Publishing, the fifth volume of which is now available. Packed with rare art and copious articles, it’s a must-have for and fan of “The King.”

It’s hard to believe that such a ground-breaking, beloved series as I Love Lucy only lasted an all-too-brief 6 seasons (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$38.99 SRP). I suppose it’s a testament to just how well-crafted the series was that, 50 years later, it’s still just as beloved – if not more so. The final DVD set features all 27 fully remastered episodes across 4 discs, plus the 1956 Christmas special, lost scenes, audio commentaries, bloopers, original commercials and promo spots, and much more.

Just in time for the release of I Love Lucy’s final season, Warners has pulled the only three films starring Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz from their vaults and packaged them together in the Lucy & Desi Collection (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP). Newly remastered and sparkling, those flicks are The Long, Long Trailer, Forever Darling, and Too Many Girls. It’s still odd to see the pair in their prime in glorious color, and the films themselves are fun romantic comedies of the period, if not the laugh-fests of the couple’s sitcom. The set includes vintage cartoons, shorts, and the original theatrical trailers, plus a vintage behind-the-scenes segment for Forever Darling.

If you’re looking to stage a unique mini-marathon this weekend with a decidedly southern flair, how about a run of big screen Tennessee Williams classics, fully restored by the fine folks at Warners and loaded with bonus features? Leading the pack is the much-desired 2-disc special edition of A Streetcar Named Desire (Warner Bros., Rated PG, DVD-$26.98 SRP), featuring an audio commentary (with Karl Malden and film historians Rudy Behlmer & Jeff Young), outtakes, Marlon Brando’s Screen-test, a feature-length profile of director Elia Kazan, 5 new documentaries (“A Streetcar on Broadway,” “A Streetcar in Hollywood,” “Censorship & Desire,” “North and the Music of the South,” and “An Actor named Brando”), and a trailer gallery. Rounding out your simmering marathon are Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Night of the Iguana, Sweet Bird of Youth, and The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$19.98 SRP each). The discs feature commentary (on Cat), new documentaries, vintage featurettes, and trailers. Get a cool glass of lemonade, a piece of cake, and depend on the kindness of cinema.

With Memorial Day fast approaching, now’s the time to stock up on all of the war films currently hitting stores, including the extended cut of Brian DePalma’s Sean Penn-Michael J. Fox Vietnam flick Casualties of War (MGM/UA, Rated R, DVD-$19.94 SRP), which includes an interview with Fox and a new making-of documentary, and the director’s cut of John Woo’s Windtalkers (MGM/UA, Rated R, DVD-$19.94 SRP) – featuring audio commentary from Woo & producer Terence Chang, audio commentary from Nicholas Cage & Christian Slater, and audio commentary from Roger Willie and Navajo Code talker advisor Albert Smith.

Crikey, I thought Saw was hard to stomach, but it looks like The Wizard of Oz next to Eli Roth’s Hostel (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$28.95 SRP), a sadistic little romp about a pair of American backpackers who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong people doing very, very wrong things… So very, very wrong. This is not a flick for the faint of heart… or the faint of anything, really. The DVD features a quartet of audio commentaries, a multi-art behind-the-scenes featurette, and a multi-angle feature on one of the scenes.

Sir David Attenborough’s incredible series of nature programs continues with a look at the immense world of the invertebrates in Life In the Undergrowth (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$34.98 SRP). Bugs, beetles, worms, spiders, centipedes, and more all get the spotlight, as the cameras capture breathtaking footage that left my mouth agape through most of the 4 hour program.

At the time Kate & Allie (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$29.98 SRP) premiered, it was still groundbreaking to do a show featuring a pair of divorced women sharing a house in New York City with their three kids… Even if there was no shenanigans going on. It helped that it was Jane Curtain and Susan Saint James, and that the writing was mostly snappy. A mid-season replacement, the single-disc first season contains all 6 episodes, plus a conversation with Susan Saint James and Bill Persky, a gag reel, and a bonus episode from the second season.

If your anticipation is building for the big screen adaptation of Dan Brown’s controversial best-seller The Da Vinci Code, you can pass the time listening to Hans Zimmer’s score album (Decca, $18.98 SRP) and contemplating if there’s anything hidden within the notes.

If the seasonal Friends box sets are a little too intimidating, you can now get snack-sized themed single-discs, each one focusing on a cornerstone of the Friends mythos and containing 5-6 episodes. The first three training wheels releases are The One With All The Birthdays, The One With All The Weddings, and The One With All The Babies (Warner Bros., Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP each). Surprisingly, they’ve even put a single audio commentary on both Weddings and Babies, pulled from the box sets.

Remember – when in doubt, always, always, ALWAYS just Leave It To Beaver (Universal, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP). Never, ever trust Eddie Haskell… that’s just not smart. The complete second season features 39 classic Cleaver kerfuffles. Even though there’s no bonus materials, it’s nice just to have these episodes uncut.

The whine and cheese returns with the complete second season of Fran Drescher as The Nanny (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$39.95 SRP). The 3-disc set features all 26 episodes, but nary a bonus feature.

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Joe Corey’s PARTY FAVORS - 5/2006

Posted by Ken in Party Favors (May 1, 2006 at 12:44 am)

CARAMABA, MEXICO - Last month I decided to grasp the dream. I snuck over the border into Mexico and am now earning the big bucks shoving worms into tequila bottles.

The best part of the job is that any worms that won’t fit in the bottle go into my lunchbox. And I get to huff all the fumes I want all day. Don’t call my house on Sunday morning.

Why do you insist on staying in America when you can live down here in Mexico and enjoy the cheap life? And the water is so tasty. The only draw back is they can’t make a good Chalupa.


God bless Steven Colbert for not pussing out when he addressed President Bush and the National Press. He tore into the state of the nation and defended the Truth to their faces. The major media outlets downplayed Colbert’s biting moment in favor of W. and his double doing a Leno sketch. Did we expect their balls to fall after they got a spanking from Mr. Truthiness? Did we expect W. to realize that we’re not buying his marketeers and truly act for the benefit of America?

What a Fantasyland concept. They’re there to serve their corporate owners and the people that paid to put those rubber chickens on the plate.

At least for a few minutes on a Saturday night, W and the elite press learned that we’re onto their asses and Colbert is our pitbull. They’re all on notice!

Colbert really needs to run for Senator from New York.


I feel bad that David Lee Roth has now become a radio legend as the man who crashed and burned in the wake of Howard Stern’s elevation to satellite radio. He deserves better. This man was once a hero to a nation of kids who wanted to live the debauchery that he professed.

Sure most of us would have looked stupid is assless pants, but who wouldn’t look better with a couple blond groupies wrapped around our bodies? How many boys decided that it’s OK to nail your instructor after hearing “Hot for Teacher?” Every week, I pick up the paper and find out about another 14 year old boy nailing his former-Hooters waitress English teacher. That’s the power of Van Halen.

Being a morning DJ should be beneath David Lee Roth. You know that during his Van Halen days, he had contempt for Morning Zoo flunkees. And there he was as the voice that tried to wake up New York City to get them ready for the shower.

What is wrong with our world? What drove him to take this job - besides a couple million dollars? If anything David is a TV kinda guy with is weird world bouncing across the screen. Why did he do it?

Would Diamond Dave become a greeter at Wal-Mart? Cause that’s what he was. Actually he was worse. Before he went on the air, I compared his new job to a hooker working the men’s rooms at the Vince Lombardi reststop on the Jersey Turnpike. Both of them were servicing commuters for four hours a day. Granted David was earning more than $20 a pop for oral action across the tri-state area. But both him and the hooker had sore jaws at the end of the day.

I don’t want my childhood demonic hero to punch the clock. If he’s awake at 4 a.m., it’s because he’s getting his second wind - and the next round of hotties are coming up the elevator to his Penthouse pleasure palace. I don’t want David Lee Roth waking up before me. I want a hero in my life. I don’t want to know that the Man could turn DLR into a monkey.

I didn’t mind finding out that he was working with the EMTs in NYC. He came from a medical family. But for him to hold down a real job that has a desk and chair, was sad. Here was a man who once roamed football stadiums while belting out “Unchained.” But David proved he could be shackled down by beancounters in suits.

I’m happy he got fired. Because it has freed him to become David Lee Roth or at least the fantasy we’ve nurtured in our mind the first time we saw him belt out “Runnin’ With the Devil.” I’ve always lived with the dream that someday a limo will pull into my driveway and Diamond Dave tells me to get inside. There’s an adventure around the corner. If he was still a morning DJ, he’d have to tell us that I’d be back by 10 p.m. cause he’s got an early bedtime. Now we’re staying out until our passports expire or our dates graduate high school.

Cheer up, Diamond David. You didn’t lose a job. You retained your luster.


I’m a fan of E!’s “The Soup.” It makes up for the fact that “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” isn’t on Friday nights. Joel McHale and company do the job that David Spade thinks he’s doing. Is there a reason why David Spade’s name hasn’t been attached to the words “forcefully removed from his rectum?”


Wes Anderson’s American Express ad is funnier than “Life Aquatic.” Actually his jacket is funnier than “Life Aquatic.”


During the Full Frame Documentary film festival, I ended up perched in the second balcony watching “Al Franken: God Spoke” directed by Chris Hegedus and Nick Doob. I’m not sure how close to “release” the film, but since no one warned me not to review it, I’m gonna do it.

First off, this project was shot on video and they used a video projector. So is it really a film or just big TV? Let’s just call it a video. I’m getting sick of these videos being called films when they’re basically TV specials. In the harsh reality, this was a TV special about Al Franken.

The show starts with Al’s book career gaining heat and his notorious moment with Bill O’Reilly on CSpan. In the midst of a book panel, the two get extra nasty on air. This sets up the big villain of the piece as O’Reilly. The Fox News personality makes an easy target with his self righteous “I’m looking out for the little man” attitude. It should be noted that O’Reilly was looking out for a female co-worker when he wanted to rub a falafel between her legs. Real family values guy, that O’Reilly.

Al’s journey seems rather ambling as he goes on a book tour and faces off with Ann Coulter. The nice part about seeing Ann projected 30 feet high is to see that massive Adam’s apple on her neck. She wouldn’t cut it as a drag queen. I wonder if she was one of those hermaphrodite kids and her parents had her male parts sliced off since they thought it would give ‘em a girl. And she’s too damn skinny. I’ve seen crack whores that have better figures. How can she talk about living the good life in America when she’s pretty much skin, bones and cigarettes?

Franken gets hired to be one of the personalities of Air America, a liberal radio network. As a viewer, you’d be better watching HBO’s “Left of the Dial” which gives a gritty and ugly picture of the early days including a lot of strange money problems. In “God Spoke,” these problems are skated over. But we do follow Franken as he covers the 2004 conventions and promises the defeat of President George W. Bush. It’s hard to feel “up” for this part of the show since we all know the inevitable outcome. The big thrust of this part is Al reaffirming his faith in the outlook of the late Senator Paul Wellstone. Days before the election of 2002, Wellstone had died in a plane crash while running for reelection in Minnesota. The GOP pundits attacked a memorial for Wellstone and lied about Sen. Trent Lott being booed off the stage - an event that never happened. But as we now know in America, the truth doesn’t matter. The first person to lie gets to shape the truth. And thus Republican Norm Coleman snagged Wellstone’s seat. Coleman becomes the third enemy of Franken in the film. The two don’t even get close to each other. Franken sneers when they are within eyesight of each other.

This last part of the show deals with Franken deciding that he might go back to Minnesota and run against Coleman. And then the movie ends. It just ends without much of an ending since nothing is completely declared. The movie is incomplete. Sure it’s easy to see this as cinema verite that needs no real plot. We’re getting a portrait of Franken. But they follow him for almost three years through a variety of pursuits. It needs to end on a harder statement than “I’m thinking of running for the senate.” Maybe this TV show won’t be done until 2008 when Franken gets into the arena.

If anything this documentary on Franken will serve as a primer for Minnesota democrats wondering who the hell this guy is. Is he Minnesota Nice? They will see that he’s a man who has had some really bad haircuts over the past few decades. But the incomplete nature of the “Spoke” will find it hard to find a real audience outside of his readers and listeners. I can imagine showing this to my mom and having her ask, “It’s over?” when the DVD turns off. This is all dough and no cookie.

The show has fun moments like when Al finally meets Henry Kissenger. Of course he must do Henry to Henry. And there’s a great exchange with Sean Hannity. All of Franken’s interactions with right wing pundits prove my basic point - the truth doesn’t matter if you can lie good enough before the other guy tells the truth.

There’s a blown moment in the film when Al has dinner with former Vice President Mondale. The old politico tells Al that running for public office will get nasty and they’ll tear into his past. I really wanted Al to just say, “I was on SNL in the 70s. What can’t they link to me?” His opponents can say is that he did loads of cocaine off Buck Henry’s glasses while doing perverted things to Drew Barrymore. And America would say, “We figured that out for ourselves.” As long as Al isn’t caught with Winona Ryder and a falafel, he has little to worry about. He should be more embarrassed by his old haircuts than his activities.


I’ve become hooked on “King of Cars.” This is another reality show on A&E about Towbin Dodge in Las Vegas. I like the fact that the show mainly focuses on a Saturday at the lot instead of giving us way too much personal looks into the sales staff. It’s good to see how car dealers work since sooner or later we all have to deal with these slick haired weasels.

I wish A&E would actually run Chopper’s weekly infommerical. We need to get the complete experience.


I just saw the package for the HD-DVD of “Goodfellas” and the movie is listed as being 1.78:1. Oddly enough there’s no warning that this film is not being presented in it’s original theatrical aspect ratio. When we ran the movie back at the theater. there was no 1.78 plate in the projector. We had a 1.85:1 plate and lens - because that’s what this movie was supposed to be run at.

And yet wasn’t it Martin Scorsese bitching about how movies should be letterboxed to their proper ratios? That we should see these movies exactly as the filmmakers had framed them? That we shouldn’t watch films that have been modified to fit a TV screen?

Seems that was merely a bunch of BS from the man who was supposed to be a priest. I had faith that Marty would defend the black bars to the bitter end. But was I wrong. Some of us are willing to put our ass on the line while the generals (or the directors in this case) drink their fancy wines and chuckle at the daily numbers.

No matter what Marty wants to say at this point is worthless. He has allowed his film to be formated to fit a TV. Granted it’s the Widescreen TV, but that isn’t the same as a Widescreen Theatrical screen (unless you have a crummy movie theater - which isn’t that rare). Let’s face the simple fact - Marty has allowed himself to become an industry bitch.

You wanna know why “Goodfellas” didn’t win the Oscar? Cause we knew Marty would sell us out to the man. Sometimes you dish out the payback before the check is cut. Hope you enjoy your Lifetime Bride’s Maid Oscar, Marty.


The sixth and final season of “I Love Lucy” has come out on DVD. This was the diamond of sit-coms. And luckily Paramount has made sure the DVDs sparkle. Each season has plenty of odd extras including the original animated openings, outtakes and Lucy’s radio show “My Favorite Husband.” For members of the cult of Lucy, the treatment of their favorite redhead on DVD was stellar.

However Paramount really screwed up when they first introduced the show to the shiny discs. Back in the summer of 2002, they decided that instead of offering season sets, they’d put them out as single DVDs.

They were only offering 4 episodes per individual DVD for $15 SRP. So in order to get all of the first season, you had to buy 9 DVDs and pay $135. Ouch. Of course this was from the company that was charging $20 for 2 original Star Trek episodes on DVD. Luckily fans of Lucy weren’t going to take it and Paramount changed their approach and went with seasons set at a lower price. This sixth season is being sold by Amazon for under $27.

Now you might be wonder what I’m doing watching “I Love Lucy.” Well the answer is simple the power of Fred Mertz compels me. William Frawley makes that show go down so fine. The man was just a genius of comic timing and gruff exterior. So what if the show was about Lucy and Desi. In truth, it was all about Fred having to put up with two high profile and high maintenance tenants.

And if you’re a fan of Fred, you’ll probably want to know that Sgt. Bilko boxset comes out this month. This is the Phil Silvers’ TV series and not that crappy Steve Martin movie. Part of Phil’s military unit is Sam the Butcher from “the Brady Bunch” and Eric Von Zipper from the “Beach Party” movies. We’ll talk more about this collection next week. Now it’s time to watch more Fred.


Did you know that there are now more washed up reality “stars” than unemployed prime time actors?

I’m not talking actors who had bit parts or appear as background extras. I’m talking about actors who had their names in the opening credits on prime time shows. In less than a decade, the Reality boom has made 1,000s of “normal” people stars for a few weeks. Just think how many kids appeared on “Real World” and “Road Rules” on MTV. That’s several hundred kids who are now doing what?

A few of these reality “stars” have been able to sustain their career by hitting the circuit - doing Surreal Life and other lame “superstars of reality” shows. I guess if you can look real playing Poker, there’s money there. There’s always cash in porn. That might be the next stop for many of these people - a hardcore Big Brother House. When you have no greater talent than being “real,” it shouldn’t be too hard to have sex to sustain a barely there career. It hasn’t hurt Paris Hilton.


Did Brett Meisner really do a rewrite of “Snakes on a Plane?” I’ve yet to get confirmation that he’s scribbled anything about Samuel L Jackson cussing about reptiles. But I have to wonder.

This is the only film I’m going to see in the theater this summer. Actually that’s a lie. My plans are to see “Snakes on a Plane” at the Starlite Drive in Durham, NC. This is a movie that must be experienced beneath the stars and through a scratchy little speaker hanging off my El Camino’s rearview mirror.

There’s no guarentee that the film will play at the Starlite. But I’m already writing my Congressman demanding he insure it happens. We’re talking culture here. Joe Bob Briggs would probably agree that Snakes in a Drive In is the way to go.

And speaking of Joe Bob Briggs, if you only buy two books about movie this year, let them be “Profoundly Erotic: Sexy Movies that Changed History” and “Profoundly Disturbing: The Shocking Movies that Changed History.” These are perfect gifts for a friend who loves movies and long bathroom breaks. His behind the scenes details on “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS” are things you won’t read in film school. Plus there’s lots of pictures.

Joe Bob knows how to get you excited about seeing a film - especially compared to certain critics who use their intellectual discourse to suck the joy out of a movie. I hope Joe Bob gets to see “Snakes on a Plane” at a drive-in and not a google-plex.

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