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Holiday DVDs

Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com DVD Columnist
Tuesday, December 7, 2004; 12:00 PM

Wondering which version of "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" to give as a gift? Curious about which bonus features on the "Seinfeld" DVD are worth watching?

Jen Chaney, movies editor and DVD columnist for washingtonpost.com, was online Tuesday, Dec. 7, at Noon ET to answer questions and upcoming DVD releases and the box sets worth purchasing this holiday season.

Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church star in Alexander Payne's "Sideways." (Copyright Fox Searchlight Pictures)

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Jen Chaney: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm hear to talk about DVDs in general and hopefully provide some guidance to those of you looking for holiday gift ideas. Let's get started, kids.


Lorton, Va.: Any word on the "Kill Bill" Collector's Set?
Also I'm beginning to see a lot of cartoon series on DVD, from the good days of Saturday morning cartoons. More of a comment than a question. Thanks!

Jen Chaney: I have not heard anything definitive but I've read that Tarantino wants to release both volumes of "Kill Bill" in a massive box set with more extras than the measly bonus features that appeared on the first two. I think it will happen, just don't know when. I'll keep my ears open for a release date.
I've seen a few 'toons, but not as many as I'd like. Why isn't "Captain Caveman" on DVD? Or the Laff-a-Lympics? Inquiring arrested adolescents want to know!


Washington, D.C.: Can you please recommend some good seafaring movies other than "Pirates of The Caribbean" and "Master and Commander"?

Thanks for taking my question.

Jen Chaney: Hi, D.C. Have you ever seen "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"? A special edition of that came out earlier this year, so that may be worth checking out. The 1935 version of "Mutiny on the Bounty" with Clark Gable also is on DVD. And it's not on DVD yet, but Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic" might interest you, too. It comes out in Washington theaters on Christmas Day.


Rainsville, Ala.: "Ironweed"...
Why hasn't it come out on DVD yet and do you have any knowledge about when it might do so?
It is one of my all time favorite movies and I cannot understand what the hold-up is.
Looking forward to seeing "Maria Full of Grace" in the next few days. Delighted us folks out here in the hinterland are getting to see it.

Jen Chaney: I'm not sure why it's not out yet. Maybe the studio (I think it would be Columbia Tristar) doesn't think there's enough demand. Or perhaps they're working on a special edition, or holding "Ironweed" back to package it with a Jack Nicholson collection or something. Honestly, I'm not sure. Sorry I can't be more helpful on this.
As for "Maria Full of Grace," I missed that in theaters earlier this year so I'm really looking forward to seeing it as well. That's one of the great things about DVD: It allows smaller films to circulate to the towns the studios skipped over during the theatrical release.


McLean, Va.: I recently watched the non-extended versions of all three LOT DVDs (over a period of 2 weeks!) Are the extended versions worth the extra money and is there a deal somewhere if you buy all three extended versions together?

Jen Chaney: I guess it depends on how much you like the films. If you're a big fan, then I think they are worth the money. I just got the extended "Return of the King" so I haven't delved into it yet, but New Line does a really lovely job with these releases. If you're a casual fan, the longer versions of the movies and all the special features on the extended versions can verge on overkill. But if you're really into it, you'll love every minute. New Line is putting out the whole extended trilogy in one box. I haven't done price comparisons to see which is more cost-efficient. I'm guessing you may save a buck or two by buying all in one batch but probably not much more than that. If someone knows otherwise, please chime in.


Washington, D.C.: Assuming one enjoyed the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" trilogies equally, which DVD set would make the better gift, in terms of the quality of extras?

Jen Chaney: Man, that's a tough call. Both are great. I think I liked the features on "Star Wars" more, but -- like many people who have been quite vocal in these discussions before -- was disappointed that the original theatrical versions were not included. Honestly, though, you can't go wrong either way. Maybe you should draw a name out of a hat...?


Hackensack, N.J.: Speaking of childhood cartoon favorites, I remember the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" special being longer as a child. More specifically, I remember Snoopy skating on a pond by himself, which is no longer in the 30 minute version that's currently aired on TV. Does this ring any bells?

Jen Chaney: Yes! The networks edit things out of the "Charlie Brown" specials. They also edited out most of Lucy's rant after Snoopy kisses her in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." ("I touched dog lips! Blech! Uck!") I've never watched the DVDs so I don't know if those include the full specials, but I would guess they do. I still have my fading VHS tapes of the shows from when they aired back in the '80s. No, I don't throw away anything...


Arlington, Va.: Do you think there will be direct to DVD shows produced intentionally for a few of the cult shows? (Yes, I have my favorite cult show that did not last.)

Jen Chaney: I think that if a studio thinks it will sell, anything is possible.
Please share, Arlington. What was your favorite cult show?


Alexandria, Va.: Please send source for assistance in making a choice for a video recorder.

Thank you.

Jen Chaney: I'd say check Consumer Reports or Web sites like cnet.com. They review the different models and features for VCRs, DVD players, etc. Also, take a look in The Post's business section, which often reviews those sorts of things as well. You probably won't find as much info on VCRs as you will on DVD players since those seem to be less popular as a new buy.


Fairfax Station, Va.: Can't you go to videoeta.com to find out when your favorite movie is being released on video?

Jen Chaney: You can, but I'm not sure the site has info for every single movie and TV show that's out there. It's a good resource, though, so thanks for mentioning it.


Gen X gift: Remember "Live Aid," the 1985 trans-continental rock concert that raised $$$ for African aid? Think Madonna, Queen, David Bowie, The Stones, etc. It's just out on DVD and I hear it's great.

Jen Chaney: Of course, I remember Live Aid. In fact, I reviewed the DVD a few weeks ago. (You can read all about it here.)
It is great, but be forewarned that not everything is here. Led Zeppelin's performance is absent, for example, and a lot of the artists featured only do part of their sets. Still, it's four discs worth and a lot of the performances are fantastic. I'm glad that I still have my more completist videotapes from Live Aid day on MTV (did I mention I never throw away anything?)


Washington, D.C.: Any word on a DVD release for one of the funniest, and most criminally mistreated shows in recent memory, "Andy Richter Controls the Universe?"

Jen Chaney: I actually know someone who wrote for that show. Haven't heard anything about a DVD release, but it's always possible. If "Freaks and Geeks" and "Greg the Bunny" can make it to DVD, maybe "Andy" can, too. Keep checking tvshowsondvd.com, which is a fantastic site for keeping up with the latest TV releases.


Washington, D.C.: Hi, looking for a DVD for three girls ages 10-14, that they won't watch once and put away. Any good ideas? Thank you!

Jen Chaney: Hmmm, that's a tough age. Right around 12 and 13 is when they enter their "That's so lame" phase. I'm not sure if it's too mature for the ones at the younger end of that spectrum, but how about "Mean Girls"? I thought that movie was really funny and I'm guessing they'd relate to it. The special features aren't terribly substantial, though. Or how about "Freaks and Geeks" or "My So-Called Life"? Those are both fantastic TV shows that were unjustly canceled, and ones that preteen and teens can appreciate. "Freaks" also has tons of extras on it, a guarantee they'll have plenty to watch.


Six Feet Under: Do you know if Season 3 will be available soon?

Jen Chaney: Don't know when season three is coming, but I'm guessing they'll time it to the start of season five, which I think happens later this year. That show is incredibly addictive, so I completely understand your eagerness to get the third season ASAP.


Germantown, Md.: I bought the LOTR Return of the King wide screen DVD. The sticker attached says it comes with 2 discs, 3 in- depth programs, 6 featurettes "and more"; I just saw that a box set is coming out Dec. 14th thats in a blue box. What is the difference between these two releases? Amazon is selling the blue edition for the same price I bought the single box. Thanks!

Jen Chaney: The different is this: The two-disc set is the first release of the film, which includes the version of the movie that was shown in theaters. The one that comes out next Tuesday is the extended edition, which has tons of other bonus features and includes a longer version of the movie with 50 minutes of material added back in. New Line has done this with every "Lord of the Rings" movie: Put out a two-disc version first, then an extended a few months later. If you're not a major fan of the movies, you may not care to have the extended version. As I said earlier, though, they are very nicely done.


Rockville, Md.: Any word on the 13 Going on 30 collector set? Do you think it would be good gift for my little cousin. She's 12 and adores Jenifer Garner.

Jen Chaney: A special edition of the movie was released earlier this year. Is that the one you mean? If your cousin really likes Jennifer Garner, she might like it. Personally, I hated that movie. I thought they got all the '80s references all wrong, which made me really angry. But your cousin, for obvious reasons, probably won't pick up on that.


Charlie Brown, etc.: We've got the "Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Great Pumpkin" DVDs, and I assure you that they are the complete versions. I think on TV they cut out some of musical sequences with Schroeder and the dancing theatrical troupe, too.

If I can make an obscure recommendation: All three seasons of the obscure British espionage series "The Sandbaggers," 20 episodes total, are available on DVD. It's really smart stuff, far more LeCarre than Fleming.

Jen Chaney: The Charlie Brown dance sequence should never be cut for time. That's an abomination in my book. I'm relieved to hear the DVDs are more complete.
Haven't seen "The Sandbaggers," but thanks for the tip. I always like an obscure recommendation.


Owings Mills, Md.: Do you know if the American Pie series is going to be released any time as a box set?

Jen Chaney: Haven't heard anything about that, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. Of course, you'll have to decide whether you want the unrated or rated versions of the movies when the time comes. Maybe there will even be a director's cut with extended, never-before-seen Stifler moments. Ah, the imagination runs wild ...


Bethesda, Md.: Any chance that NYPD Blue will continue to release DVD sets? They seemed to have stalled after releasing season 2. Just when we were getting to know Bobby!

Also, MTV had a show about 10 years ago called The State. Michael Ian Black (Ed, every single VH1 special produced on the last 4 years) and Tom Lennon (Reno 911) started on this show. I hear rumors that the old episodes of the State will be released on disc soon. Any truth to this? It would make a phenomenal gift to my brother

Jen Chaney: I haven't heard anything about subsequent "NYPD Blue" releases. Not sure how the first two sold, but if they didn't perform well that may be the hold-up.
Yes, I do remember "The State." As a matter of fact, I have a videotape of some really funny sketches from the show. As far as I know, it's not coming to DVD but that would be excellent news if it were. I'd love to see a clearer version of The Puddin' Sketch. And speaking of "Ed," I wish that were coming out on DVD, too, but so far no dice.


Bethesda, Md.: Is there any news on release of the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies on DVD? My wife is a big fan and none of these movies is available.

Jen Chaney: That's strange. I don't have specifics on it, but I can't imagine these won't be available in the near future. I'm sure a lot of people would love to have them.


North Carolina: Do you have any idea how long it will take for a DVD of "The Five People You Meet In Heaven" to come on the market? (It was just on TV this past week). Is there a general rule for how long it takes direct to TV movies to be sold as DVDs?

Jen Chaney: I don't know if there's a specific rule. It took several months for HBO's "Angels in America" to make it to DVD. In general, a three or four-month turnaround time sounds about right.


Ann Arbor, Mich.: Hi Jen! A comment.

The thing to remember with LotR is that the theatrical releases (the non-extended versions) are Peter Jackson's "ideal." Those were the versions he intended to be "definitive."

I'm deeply grateful that we fans can have BOTH the definitive and the extended versions!

Jen Chaney: That's true. It's also nice that people can choose which one they want. I suspect -- actually, I know for a fact -- that a lot of the hardcore fans wind up buying both. The extended ones are hard for Hobbit-lovers to resist.


Washington, D.C.: Hey -- here's a shameless plug: the Pee-wee Herman Christmas DVD is good, as are the two box sets that were just released.

Jen Chaney: I mentioned "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" in my DVD holiday guide. I loved that show and I'm sure it will be lots of fun to revisit.


Star Wars made me sick: It made me ill watching Empire Strikes Back on DVD to see they had edited one movie to include Hayden Christensen as a ghost to allude to the next movie. How completely pathetic.

Jen Chaney: It wouldn't be a DVD chat without at least one "Star Wars" complaint. Thank you, dear reader, for helping us meet our quota.


Portland, Ore.: Is Amazon.com the least expensive place to buy DVDs? Or do you have another suggestion?

Jen Chaney: Amazon's pretty good, as is Best Buy, especially if you want to buy the DVD immediately instead of waiting for it to be delivered. Target and Circuit City often have good deals, too.


Radford, Va.: Why hasn't there been yet a letter-boxed DVD of MOONSTRUCK. I saw it on TCM the other night, and as I remembered it's SO much better looking. Are they trying to get rid of the 25,000,000 chopped editions or what. I'm sure lots of us still love that movie in spite of Cher's bad hair (or maybe because?).

Jen Chaney: "Moonstruck" is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's a good thing I didn't happen upon it the other night because I would have gotten sucked in for the rest of the evening. I have the pretty basic DVD version and agree that it deserves a better treatment. It would be an ideal movie to spruce up for a Valentine's Day release, just in case any studio folks are listening.


VCR is dying in Fairfax: Now you can transfer VHS to either DVDs or VDD. Some DVDs can be copied down to VHS or VCDs or mini-DVDs. The digital age is upon us. Why fast forward or rewind when you can access content digitally? Much simpler.

Jen Chaney: You're preaching to the choir, my friend. Though I still won't throw away all of my videotapes. Because as I've made clear (say it with me now) ... I never throw anything away.


Alexandria, Va.: I recently purchased the two sets of Pee-wee's Playhouse. These shows are far better than even I remember them being! However, after I purchased them, I read that new sets with extras (the current sets are bare bones), including Paul Reuben's commentary, will be released next year. I wish I had know about this before buying the sets. Any other current sets that I should be wary of?

Jen Chaney: I haven't read that, but I hate it when that happens. This sort of thing occurs a lot more often as studios repackage their products and put out special editions, etc. There will be a story on this phenomenon in The Post's Sunday Arts section this week, as a matter of fact. I can't think of specific future examples at the moment. The best I can tell you is be wary of any DVDs that don't have many extras on them. If it seems oddly bare bones, that's often a hint that something bigger is coming later.


San Jose, Calif.: Jen,
Where can I get a DVD of the Terps' 2004 ACC championship victory? I know that the ACC made a video, but I was looking for one dedicated to the Terps. Any ideas?

Terp in CA

Jen Chaney: I'm running over, but I'll try to take a few more of your questions. Of course, I feel compelled to answer this Maryland basketball query. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to this. Try looking on the University of Maryland athletic site (I think it's umterps.com). There might be info there. (And if you find out anything, let me know!)


Detroit, Mich.: I loved the film "Master and Commander" and would like to give the DVD as a gift. However, the DVD in the rental stores had no extra features on it. Do you know if there will be a DVD release of the film with extra features?

Jen Chaney: There's a two-disc collector's edition that has lots of features on it. It should be easy enough to find. Scroll to the bottom of this column to read my review of that version.


Re: TV shows not on DVD.: Believe it or not, I would buy a DVD of "The Greatest American Hero" in a heartbeat.

Jen Chaney: Believe it or not, it's not just you. I'm sure many people would. If "Punky Brewster" and "Too Close For Comfort" can be on DVD, surely William Katt and Connie Selleca deserve some love.


Washington, D.C.: I just did a search to see where I could buy LOTR trilogy DVD box set (extended version would be great) but only came up with UK-based web sites. I'm a little out of the loop on your column so apologies if you've addressed the question previously of where to purchase this set online. Thanks for any help!;

Jen Chaney: Go on amazon.com. You should find it there. It doesn't come out until next Tuesday, if that helps.


Re: The State: Over on the groups website they say MTV is working on releasing the entire series on DVD.

Jen Chaney: That's right, I got an e-mail about that recently. Thanks for reminding me. We'll see what happens, but that sounds promising.


Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: A note for the Andy Richter fan- the entire series is being re-run in High Definition on HDNET. They look great in HD- much better than they did in their first release. Since HD DVDs are still a long way off, getting HD satellite TV is the best way to see them.

Jen Chaney: I love that you guys are full of tips. Thank you, Logan Circle.


Virginia: NewsRadio? When?

Jen Chaney: It was supposed to come out this year, but it was delayed. Now the release date is TBA. Hopefully it will come sometime in 2005.


Cincinnati, Ohio: I loved season two of "The Wire," but never saw season one. Is the dvd set worth buying?

Also, I just rented and watched the BBC series, "The Office." I know I'm late to the party but, man, what a great show. Will you buy me the DVDs for Christmas?

Jen Chaney: If you have On Demand, you might want to see if you can catch the episodes there instead. There aren't many extras on the season one set and it's a little on the expensive side (list price is around $100).
Unfortunately, I can't give it to you as a Christmas gift since I'm already planning to buy "The Office" for you. Truly a great show, though the Christmas party was a bit of a disappointment.
I've gone nearly a half-hour over time, so I should depart. But thank you so much for all of your questions and my apologies to those I wasn't able to address. Keep your eyes peeled for more CD and DVD recommendations in this Friday's Weekend section of The Post and, as always, here on post.com where my column appears every Tuesday. Happy holidays and good luck with all of your DVD shopping.


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