How to Spend $20

By Ash Wakeman

October 21, 2004

Olan Mills does good work.

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Taking a look ahead at the week's DVD releases is always dicey for your wallet. Nearly every week, there's a disc that would fit nicely into any size collection. When it comes time to decide what to buy, there are really two determining factors: how much you love the content and the quality of the extra features on the disc.

As a result, decisions will be totally subjective (I bought the DVD release of Cabin Boy because it was one of the finest movies ever made, it didn't matter that it had no extra features; I'm still holding out for an eight-disc collector's edition of Grosse Pointe Blank). The massive unreleased studio (film and television) back-catalogue means that every week there's likely something for every film fan.

Les' duties as the Treasurer of the North American Clay Aiken Fan Club have taken him out of town this week for their annual convention. As such, I'll be your host for this edition of the indispensable guide to what to spend your hard-earned cash on. Keep living the dream, Les, I hope you have a wonderful time.

For people who like the feeling of angora: Ed Wood Special Edition (1994)

My number one choice for the week is a quirky biopic of an even quirkier director, and one of Tim Burton's best. Despite the comedy to be had at the expense of the bunch of oddballs it depicts, the film is crafted with great care and what seems to be genuine affection for Ed Wood and his band of Z-list misfits. It will be interesting to see if these feelings are captured in the extra features, which include commentary from director Burton and Martin Landau (who won a well-deserved Supporting Oscar for his portrayal of a tragically comic, aging Bela Lugosi). All of the cast members give strong performances, especially Johnny Depp as Wood himself and a deliciously dry Bill Murray as Bunny Breckinridge. Keep an eye out for the legendary George "The Animal" Steele as the equally legendary Tor Johnson. Other features include the usual deleted scenes and trailers as well as three featurettes.

For really obsessive reality TV show fans: Dark Queen (2004)

Tian Kitchen, who finished sixth in Britain's The Amazing Race 4, stars as a mild-mannered scientist who, through meddling around with DNA, becomes an evil supervillian. And to think some people insist that meddling with DNA is a good idea! To be honest, I'm not really recommending this film or anything. Details are hard to come by and I have no idea about features, but you just have to check out the trailer. It really has to be seen to be believed.

For people who like movies based on old cartoons that feature a sarcastic, over-weight, computer-generated cat, voiced by Bill Murray and getting up to all kinds of mischief: Garfield: The Movie (2004)

I’m not going to say bad things about this movie. I don’t like the comic. I’m not really a cat person. I haven’t seen the film. I don’t intend to see the film. I’m kind of thinking I’m not really the target audience. It’s a film; some people saw it, some of them even liked it. Now it’s being released on DVD and those of you that really liked it can buy it and watch it over and over again. That’s the way it works. OK?

For people who really like their Mummy: Van Helsing (2004)

For me, this movie was one of the year’s biggest disappointments and the DVD release only rates a rental at best. Anyone who has listened to the commentaries on Stephen Sommers' previous films will know that he has a lot of enthusiasm for his craft, a great respect for the source material and a genuine desire to entertain his audience. But these elements and a watchable cast failed to come together in a memorable film. I have a sneaking suspicion that somewhere at the back of his closet, Sommers has a big pile of old report cards that all say the same thing: "Tries too hard." It's a
shame, really, as on paper it’s the kind of popcorn blockbuster I love. The DVD has the usual features, though nothing out of the ordinary, which suggests there may be a special edition in the future (the special editions of both the Mummy and the Mummy Returns where absolutely packed with goodies). However, Van Helsing is also being released as an “Ultimate Edition”, which includes a couple of extra features, plus copies of the three classic monster films that inspired it: Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Wolf Man (1941). While checking out the details of these editions, I also noticed that “Sexy Adventures of Van Helsing” was released on DVD last week. That’s got to be one of the least imaginative real title/porn title variants I’ve ever seen.

For people who didn’t think Spider-Man 2 was the best comic book film this year: The Sexy Adventures of Hellboy 3 Disc Director’s Cut (2004)

The following sentence will probably guarantee that Les will never let me near his column again but...Spider-Man 2 really didn’t do much for me. I thought it was a rather cool computer-animated fight on a train wrapped up in a rather dull Dawson’s Creek-esque soap opera. I’ll take the assorted freaks and geeks of the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence any day. Guillermo del Toro’s take on Mike Mignola’s cult comic-book hero suited me just fine and while I’m not always a fan of Director’s Cuts, this is one movie that left me eager for more. Spanning three discs, this edition really seems to be packed with a lot of features, including lots of concept art from Mignola and an “interactive director's notebook”. I have no idea what that is, but it sounds good.

This edition is also available with an exclusive limited edition Hellboy sculpture that you’ll be able to buy on eBay for next to nothing in a few months if you don’t feel like paying 25 bucks for it today.

For 44% of likely voters according to latest Gallup polls: Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry (2004)

It was really tempting to call this “The Sexy Adventures of John Kerry”, but the BOP mailbag would have imploded under the strain. Regardless of my stance on Kerry as a man or the 2004 US presidential race in general, is this really what politics are coming to? Seeing a film like this one released weeks before the election just makes me cringe. I hope we don’t get “Going to Oxford: The Long Hair of Tony Blair” next year. It might be a fantastic documentary and it is most likely very moving, but releasing it at this time lowers it to the level of propaganda regardless of any merit it might have. The only redeeming feature is the cover, which looks like John Kerry is doing a stand-up comedy routine in front of a bunch of happy smiling faces. That would have made the debates a bit more interesting.

Because Kim Hollis told me to and you always do what Kim says if you know what’s good for you: Arrested Development - Season 1 (2003)

Jason Bateman (of Teen Wolf Too, sure to be in the top ten of our '80s countdown, fame) stars as Michael Bluth, who must take care of his extended dysfunctional family when his father goes to prison. I’m just reading off the press release here; I’ve never seen a single episode. I think it’s about to start in the UK so I might try and catch it. For a TV show, it’s bursting at the seams with extras, including commentaries and a previously unseen extended pilot, which should please the fans. DVD has often been described as a medium for fans of film, but I find the bulk of my DVD budget going towards collecting quality TV shows without having to worry about adverts or getting confused because you missed an episode.

If Arrested Development isn’t your thing, other TV box sets released this week include Stargate Season 7 and Xena Series 5. That’s Stargate Series 7 and Xena Series 5. Firefly didn’t even make it past a dozen episodes. Bitter? Oh yeah.

For people who like to see giant radioactive lizards fight evil robotic versions of themselves - and let's face it, who doesn’t?: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

It’s the big G’s 50th birthday and as a present they’re re-releasing several of his greatest hits. While not really regarded as one of the best Godzilla films, I’m picking this one from the selection because of the mentioned mutant-on-robot action that really made my day when I saw it as a young lad. You can keep your giant moths and smog monsters; I’ll pick someone taking on a mechanical version of themselves any day.

It's not something I’m qualified to talk about, but I just thought I’d note that there is a Criterion release of the cult 1959 French horror film Eyes Without a Face. Like me, I’m guessing a lot of people were disappointed to find out this wasn’t the Billy Idol biopic we’ve been waiting for (surely James Marster’s only shot at an Academy Award), but it sounds right up Chris Hyde’s alley so I thought I’d give it a mention.

October 19, 2004

Alexander the Great (1955)
Arrested Development: Season One (3-DVD Set) (2003)
As Tears Go By (1988)
Baptism of Blood (1996)
Batman: The Animated Series: Secrets of the Caped Crusader (1992)
Bionicle 2: Legends of Metru Nui (2004)
A Cinderella Story (Full Frame) (2004)
A Cinderella Story (Widescreen) (2004)
Conquest of Space (1955)
Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Legacy Collection (1954)
D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)
Dark Queen (2004)
Ed Wood (Special Edition) (1994)
Explorers (1985)
Eyes Without a Face (Criterion Edition) (1959)
Fat Girl (Criterion Edition) (2001)
Fire in the Sky (1993)
Garfield: The Movie (2004)
Ghost Watcher (2002)
Ghosts of Edendale (2003)
Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Godzilla vs. Hidorah (1972)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry (2004)
Greg the Bunny (2002)
Happy Together (1997)
The Healer (2002)
Hellboy (3-Disc Director's Cut) (2004)
Helter Skelter (2004)
The Hole (2003)
Intermezzo (1939)
Intermission (2003)
Justice League: The Brave and the Bold (2002)
Love Me If You Dare (2004)
Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (1998)
Pursuit (1972)
The Return (2003)
Ruby Gentry (1952)
Shiner (2004)
Since You Went Away (1944)
A Slipping Down Life (2004)<
Stargate SG-1: Season Seven (5-DVD Set) (2003)
Van Helsing (Full Frame) (2004)
Van Helsing (Widescreen) (2004)
The Young in Heart (1938)



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