How to Spend $20

By David Mumpower

May 2, 2006

Has anyone seen the old woman? You know, the one who lives in a shoe?

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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. The unreleased studio (film and television) back-catalogue means that every week there's likely something for you.

For people who just loved Taxi and Bringing Down the House: Last Holiday (Widescreen)

First of all, of what exactly is Latifah queen? Is she the benevolent ruler of Chicago? The conquering hero of rap production? No, I would maintain she is the unjust despot of comedic misfires. Last Holiday is the tyrant's latest exercise in fish-out-of-water humor. Stop me if you have heard it before but in this film, she plays a working class woman who suddenly finds herself living a life of excess.

Before Eugene Levy can say, "You got me straight trippin', Boo", I should warn you (or is it comfort you?) that this is not Bringing Down the House. No, Steve Martin decided he would rather portray a bumbling detective than have anything to do with her royal highness this time out. Hell, this is not even Taxi. After a half hour of Latifah's hijinks on the Riviera, even Jimmy Fallon starts to look pretty good. Last Holiday is a re-make of the 1950 classic starring Alec Guinness but whereas the original has stood the test of time, the modern reimagining will be lucky to be remembered at this time next year.

For shut-ins who want to see United 93: Flight 93

Roughly three months before The Bourne Supremacy director Paul Greengrass broached this subject matter, the A & E cable channel did the same. Their version is cleverly timed to be available on home video at the same time when United 93's advertising has reached a fevered pitch. While the cable production is universally regarded as inferior to the masterful theatrical release, it is still a noteworthy, high quality cable movie. Flight 93 dutifully recounts the claustrophobic setting in which a group of travelers found themselves and their country under assault. They were given two options, one of which would have led to their death and the other which would have led to the deaths of hundreds more in addition to their own. Their selfless willingness to fight back proved to be the lone cause for optimism in a day of tragedy. Their story deserves to be told even if it is largely speculation. Some critics have argued it is too soon to re-enact the harrowing events and if you feel that way, such emotion is perfectly understandable. If not, both Flight 93 and United 93 are highly recommended.

For Big, Bad Wolf apologists: Hoodwinked (Full Frame)

When the Weinstein Brothers announced they were leaving the friendly confines of Miramax, a spate of productions were acquired and greenlighted for their new company. The first of these was Hoodwinked, a CGI fractured fairy tale about the he said/she said of the Little Red Riding Hood story. As is the case with most Weinstein purchases, the project demonstrated the perfect combination of frugality and marketing savvy. It was a surprise hit to such a degree that a sequel was announced within 72 hours of opening weekend. Hoodwinked wound up earning $51 million in domestic receipts, a fantastic performance for a title with a reported budget in the $15 million range. Basically, this movie is already in the black before it ever hits the DVD market, a perfect situation for a title certain to clean up on home video. Hoodwinked is by all accounts a mostly harmless Shrek wannabe and that makes it definitely worth a look for any parent seeking 75 minutes of solace from junior's onslaught.

For Fokkers fans seeking an acceptable substitute: The Family Stone (Widescreen)

The Family Stone commits three cardinal sins of casting. Two of them are featuring Dermot Mulroney and Sarah Jessica Parker. The third is wasting the immaculately talented Rachel McAdams by giving her a largely pointless subplot. What the obvious Meet the Parents clone does do well, though, is finish up strong. As was the case with National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, a series of silly, relatively pointless opportunities for comic shenanigans is redeemed by a touching celebration of family. Whereas the Chevy Chase moments took place in an attic and were in the middle of the movie, The Family Stone ends with a somber, bittersweet examination of the impact a single person may have on the lives of many. I found most of the film forgettable (to the point that I am struggling to remember particular details now), but the emotional impact of the ending has stayed with me.

For Astronomy and Geology majors: 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 4 (4-DVD Set)

In 1999, this aliens-live-among-us sitcom claimed two significant prizes at the Emmys. Kristen Johnston was named Outstanding Supporting Actress and John Lithgow won his third Outstanding Lead Actor award. This duplicated their unprecedented feat from 1997. While I maintain that Emmy voters always overrated the performances a bit, there is no disputing the fact that 3rd Rock From the Sun was sublimely cast. Even better, the sum somehow exceeded the whole of the parts. Season 4 is the 1999 year where 3rd Rock wound up with a total of seven Emmy nods. Even better, it includes hysterical guest starring work from Kathy Bates, Laurie Metcalf and (particularly) William Shatner. In hindsight, more people should have paid attention to Shatner's role as they could have been the ones to re-discover Denny Crane before David Kelley did. Shatner's three episodes are the show's high water mark, making this box set an interesting purchase choice in an otherwise dreary week of releases.

For new Texan Mario Williams instead of expected Texan Reggie Bush: King of the Hill: The Complete Sixth Season (3-DVD Set)

King of the Hill is the most underrated show on television. For years now, it has quietly filled its niche in the Fox Sunday lineup, never causing a stir with its genteel southern sense of humor. Unbeknownst to the body of its viewers, the Mike Judge property quietly bares its teeth with some regularity. Vicious assaults on the madness of modern living have taken on forms as simple as paintball, and the show is never extreme. Perhaps this is why it has been able to get away with so much over the past ten seasons. A program that does not celebrate its controversy never receives even a ripple of media attention. This is why Judge and co-creator Greg Daniels have been able to turn a science fair project into a meth lab in an episode without grabbing headlines. Sometimes, the lowest profile allows for the bravest output.

As an unabashed fan of the show no one talks about, I have no problem saying that I have seen every episode multiple times. There was a time in the fall when it would have been no exaggeration to state that my bedroom TiVo was almost entirely comprised of King of the Hill episodes. For this reason, I feel like I speak from a position of authority when I say that season six is King of the Hill's finest creative period. Storylines see Bobby Hill learn how to groin punch like no one's business, Dale Gribble experience the gay rodeo lifestyle of his father (a full five years before Brokeback Mountain) and Peggy Hill grifted by an I.Q. test charlatan.

What makes this box set a must-own, though, is the two part season finale, Returning Japanese. The story sees Hank Hill discover that his father has harbored a secret since the war. He fathered an illegitimate child while he was in Japan. They set out to make things right with the woman he left behind there as well as her son, Chunichiro. While the main plot is entertaining, it's Bobby's experience in the country which makes my heart sing. He discovers a neon-lit arcade where a beautiful girl teaches him the joys of Dance Dance Revolution. Their relationship is adorable. Their happy ending is the main reason I have had Returning Japanese I and II on my TiVo ever since the episode aired. King of the Hill broadcasts its 200th episode this Sunday. Out of all of those, the season six compilation includes the best ever, making it the easy choice for BOP DVD of the week. Once you understand what the phrase "Danzu" means, I am certain you will agree with me.


DVD Releases for the week of May 2, 2006:

3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 4 (4-DVD Set) (1998)
The Art of Bars (2005)
BTK Killer (2005)
Baby Doll (1956)
The Boston Strangler (2006)
Delicatessen (1991)
Eight Days a Week (1997)
End Game (2006)
The Fallen (2004)
The Family Stone (Full Frame) (2005)
The Family Stone (Widescreen) (2005)
Flight 93 (2006)
Hoodwinked (Full Frame) (2006)
Hoodwinked (Widescreen) (2006)
House of Grace (2006)
Judges (2005)
King of the Hill: The Complete Sixth Season (3-DVD Set) (2001)
Kokkuri (1997)
Last Holiday (Full Frame) (2006)
Last Holiday (Widescreen) (2006)
Life on Liberty Street (2004)
The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
Mystery Woman (2003)
Nathalie... (2003)
Night of the Iguana (1964)
Plan B (2001)
Robbing Peter (2004)
Second in Command (2006)
Steve Harvey: Don't Trip... He Ain't Through With Me Yet! (2006)
A Streetcar Named Desire (Special Edition) (1951)
Summer Night (1987)
Swarmed (2005)
Sweet Bird of Youth (1962)
Take a Chance (2006)
The Warrior (2001)
Water (1985)
Whirlygirl (2006)



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