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Friday, Dec 18, 2009
The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season - Twentieth Century Fox [$49.98]

While it would be nice if the studio stepped up the DVD release schedule and gave us more Simpsons more often (at this rate, any Blu-ray release schedule will more than likely outlast the format), it’s safe to say that no other digital presentation is this concerned about giving each aesthetic cog in their multifaceted machine a chance to be heard. The Season 12 set continues in the tradition. Each of the brilliant 21 episodes offered is peppered with commentary tracks, outtakes, deleted scenes, animatics, and other added content that really explains the entire Simpsons process. From who pitches what idea to how some sequences get completely rewritten, the men and women as part of the process are more than happy to share their experience. Clearly, they love what they are working on.


And so do we. Sure, the naysayers love to argue about which portions of the Simpsons’ protracted popularity are better than others, but said grousing is never really a question of quality. It’s more like nostalgia wrapped in a need to play contrarian to the current cultural whims (call it “Armond White Syndrome”). If The Simpsons: Season 12 were representative of any other series, the messageboards would be lighting up with unqualified praise. It’s just impossible for any TV show to maintain such a high level of hilarity - and yet, surreal or not, stepping outside the typical suburban family dynamic the show started with, this ‘version’ is still a satiric gem. It even acknowledges the constant criticism by giving the show’s leading cynic, Comic Book Guy, his own love story themed installment…and calling it “Worst Episode Ever”.


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Thursday, Dec 17, 2009
Designing Women: The Complete First Season - Shout! Factory [$44.99]

Return to the best television show of the ‘80s and early ‘90s with the first season of Designing Women DVD. Brilliantly cast, the show centers around the ladies of Sugarbakers, an interior design firm in Atlanta, Georgia. Dixie Carter plays Julia Sugarbaker, a sophisticated widow from old money. Delta Burke is her younger sister, Suzanne, an ex- beauty queen and ex-wife of many pageants and several husbands. Annie Potts plays Mary Jo Shively, a divorced mother of two and suburban everywoman, while Jean Smart plays Charlene Frazier, a poor girl from Arkansas who’s moving up in the world.


“Delightful” is the word that best describes Designing Women. Somehow this show manages to be simultaneously a fresh breath of feminism and the last gasp of the New South. For who can fail to take delight in a show that is as tough, smart and warm hearted as the women that it portrays? The special feature is a cast reunion from 2006, which is quite good especially when the actors start ignoring the moderator and head off on their own conversation.


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Thursday, Dec 17, 2009
Haunted Histories Collection - The History Channel - A&E Home Video [$24.95]

Know a fan of the occult? Have a niece who is enthralled with Twilight and needs some background info? Does your neighbor think the ‘hood is haunted? Get this set for anyone who likes the haunted, or expects, in the afterlife, to come back and haunt a few folks on his list… This set covers everything macabre from Halloween to zombies to voodoo secrets. With ghost stories, haunting histories and profiles on our favorite mystical creatures, this will make a great gift for the ghoul-bitten.


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Thursday, Dec 17, 2009
Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro The Complete First and Second Season - Disney [$59.99 each]

Disney is offering an opportunity for post-modern munchkins to dig on what the older members of the clan clamored for back five decades ago. As part of the company’s exclusive metal box Walt Disney Treasures collection, Zorro: The Complete First Season (1957-58) and Complete Second Season (1958 - 59) arrive completely remastered, restored, and presented over 12 separate DVDs. In addition, the set also includes the four one hour specials created when rights issues halted production during the height of the series’ popularity. As nostalgia, it’s a knock-out, a wholesome slice of pre-cynic spectacle where the House of Mouse’s patented production value is draped onto a collection of continuing story arcs involving cautionary tale tenets like greed, disloyalty, and underhandedness.


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Walt Disney Treasures: Zorro The Complete First and Second Season

Thanks to Disney’s attention to detail, the desire to preserve their heritage for future generations to enjoy, these limited edition box sets are like stepping back in time and witnessing the series premiere as it originally aired. Film critic and company expert Leonard Maltin is on hand to guide us through the experience (does this man ever age?) and the hour long specials, while padded in places, are solid attempts to keep the Zorro franchise moving forward. Williams would go on to yet another iconic series when Irwin Allen hired him to play John Robinson in his sensational sci-fi schlock-fest Lost in Space. But this is where the actor first found major mainstream success - and for a couple of years, America was indeed mesmerized by his character’s combination of swashbuckling and savoir-faire. Slice a “Z” into a piece of paper (or some other object) nowadays and you’re bound to get more than a few dumbfounded looks. In 1957, however, everyone knew the mark of Zorro. Thankfully, the House of Mouse is giving us a chance to experience this hero’s magic all over again.


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Wednesday, Dec 16, 2009
Mystery Science Theater 3000: XV - Shout! Factory [$59.99]

Shout! Factory has released Volume XV of their bravura box sets with Mystery Science Theatre 3000: XV. This time around we are treated to surefire classics like The Girl in Lovers Lane (two drifters land in a small town and stir up some powerful hormones), Zombie Nightmare (voodoo and body building meet the living dead) and the immortal Racket Girls (spinsters put on unflattering togs and grapple like your grandma). Also included is one of the best episodes from the first season of the series, The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy. As Mexican macabre goes, it’s all flashbacks and K. Gordon Murray mandated exposition. But as an example of what Weinstein contributed to the mix, it’s eye-opening, especially when you toss in the Scrapbook bonus features which trace the show’s seminal UHF roots. An inspired addition to the DVD library of any Mystery Science Theater fan.


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