On DVD, the Leaders of the Pack
Friday, December 29, 2006
Perhaps the most amazing thing about DVDs is simply the sheer number of them released each week. Classic movies, obscure television shows, documentaries, concert films and any other genre you can think of, mainstream or offbeat, has a steady stream of representatives. It can be bewildering trying to keep up.
That being said, here is one slightly bewildered DVD watcher's opinion on the best ones to cross his desk in 2006.
1. "Beavis and Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection." With 10 discs totaling more than 13 hours of features, this set is overload for the casual fan. But for those who appreciate the show's mix of goofy subversiveness, silly stupidity and music video commentary that's often more insightful than your average critic's, this is nirvana. It contains three previously released volumes with selections from show creator Judge plus the single disc "Beavis & Butt-Head Do America: Special Collector's Edition." There are 122 episodes included, plus enough bonus material to make you break out the air guitar in celebration.
2. "James Bond Ultimate Collection ," Vols. 1-4. Another set for the devoted fan. Each of the four volumes has a mix of Bonds old and new, plus more bonus features than Q had clever gadgets. Along with quantity, the extras are also quality. Included are new commentaries from Roger Moore on the films he starred in and featurettes that are actually interesting.
3. "Tales of the Rat Fink." This is one of the most entertaining documentaries you can find. It tells the story of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, who influenced everything from car design to comics to the omnipresence of sloganed T-shirts. Animated cars, with voices provided by such big names as John Goodman, Ann-Margret, Jay Leno, Matt Groening, Tom Wolfe and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, help tell the story. It's a must for car buffs, but, thanks to its lively approach and Roth's rise from a regular guy to influential style-setter, its appeal is far broader. It's fascinating and, in a way, empowering.
4. "Lost: The Complete Second Season." If you don't watch this show, you should, and this can help baptize you into its intricate web of relationships and mysterious happenings. If you do watch this show, there are plenty of bonus features, such as "Lost Connections," exploring how the characters are linked; commentary tracks; featurettes; deleted scenes; and hidden extras to keep you pushing the button -- the play button, that is.
5. "The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection." This five-disc set traces the Pink Panther's evolution from its humble beginnings as a show-stealing animated piece designed to run behind a movie's title credits to Oscar-winning short to Saturday morning television staple. It's hours of fun appealing to adults and kids alike.
6. "Valley of the Dolls -- Special Edition" and " Beyond the Valley of the Dolls." Camp classics released at the same time just naturally go together. "Valley of the Dolls" stars Patty Duke, Barbara Parkins and Sharon Tate as aspiring starlets who let Hollywood go to their heads and includes such extras as commentary from Parkins and E!'s Ted Casablanca. "Beyond," the 1970 parody directed by Russ Meyer and written by fledgling film critic Roger Ebert, is laden with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll and includes commentary by Ebert.
7. "Lady & the Tramp." This special edition of the 50-year-old Disney charmer contains such extras as never-before-seen deleted scenes, a Disney dogs trivia game, a "virtual puppy" you can play with via DVD-ROM, the original 1943 storyboard version of the film, a behind-the-scenes featurette and more.
8. "Saturday Night Live: The Complete First Season." Not a themed clip job but all 24 episodes from the then-revolutionary sketch show, complete with the funniest moments and the ones that bombed. Hosts that year included George Carlin, Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor (brilliant!) and Elliott Gould, and musical performers included Simon & Garfunkel, Abba and Patti Smith. Extras include the screen tests of the cast (Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman and Gilda Radner).
9. "The Dick Cavett Show: Comic Legends." This collection of episodes from Cavett's talk show features some of the biggest names in comedy. Among those appearing in the four-disc set are Woody Allen, Jerry Lewis, Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, the Smothers Brothers, Bill Cosby, Jack Benny, Bob Hope and George Burns. The talk, as was so often the case on Cavett's show, is a fine blend of entertaining and informative.
10. "Greg the Bunny: Best of the Film Parodies.""Easy Rider," "Natural Born Killers," "Pulp Fiction," "Ed Wood," "Eraserhead" and more -- with puppets! Twisted and dysfunctional puppets that definitely aren't for children. Edgy, intelligent and hilarious. And loaded with extras, including a commentary for each short.