7/31/07 Edition -- The AISLE SEAT BLOG Is Now Online!

Aisle Seat Summer Sizzler
POPEYE, HD-DVD & Blu Ray Discs, and Sharks!

This is one of those great weeks when not only do we have a good amount of discs to cover, but a staggering amount of high-quality titles at that, spread across both standard-definition and high-definition formats. Basically there’s something for pretty much everyone, from a celebration of Elvis to a slew of new offerings in HD and the debut of the Korean monster epic “The Host” -- plus a certain, highly anticipated boxed-set starring a decidedly animated sailor.

This Week’s Aisle Seat TOP 5 Discs

POPEYE THE SAILOR, Volume 1: 1933-38 (Warner, 4 Discs). THE LOWDOWN: Long-awaited box-set from Warner Home Video gives Popeye fans what they’ve been waiting for: a proper, breathtakingly remastered set of the earliest (and finest) cartoons from the Max Fleischer Studio starring Segar’s famous, spinach-eating sailor. Some 60 shorts are contained on four platters, each offering miraculously clean -- and uncut -- presentations of some of Popeye’s most satisfying adventures, from his debut in a Betty Boop cartoon to two lengthy, full-color, two-reeler extravaganzas (“Popeye Meets Sinbad the Sailor” and “Popeye Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves”). DVD FEATURES: Copious audio commentaries and numerous new documentaries place these shorts in the proper context of animation history, while extra bonus shorts from Fleischer’s earlier “Inkwell” cartoons are also on-hand. Visually, Popeye fans may not believe how incredible the shorts look, especially given past, unauthorized DVD sets from a myriad of public-domain labels over the years. Bravo to Warner on all fronts here. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Popeye fans, your ship has at long last arrived. Splendidly packaged, boasted by a generous assortment of extras, and with transfers that have to be seen to be believed, this is an absolutely essential box-set that classic animation fans will love. Obviously, highly recommended!

BLUE WATER, WHITE DEATH (***, 99 mins., 1971, G; MGM). THE LOWDOWN: Acclaimed documentary about the worldwide hunt to find and film (for the first time) a Great White Shark washes ashore on DVD at long last. MGM’s Special Edition of this 1971 Peter Gimbel-James Lipscomb production features astounding underwater photography in full widescreen, following a band of explorers journeying to find the elusive shark including Ron and Valerie Taylor, whose efforts here would lead to their involvement in a little movie named “Jaws” just a few years later. Although there are Discovery Channel documentaries being produced weekly that essentially accomplish the same things as “Blue Water...”, the movie was the first of its kind for shark exploration and still feels remarkably fresh. What’s more, the wide Techniscope cinematography is rendered here in its full aspect ratio for the first time since the movie’s original release. DVD FEATURES: This being a Cinema Center Films release (part of the CBS library), I’m not quite sure how MGM landed the rights to “Blue Water, White Death,” but regardless, the studio has provided a truly satisfying special edition. Commentary from Ron and Valerie Taylor and fellow crew members Rodney Fox and Stan Waterman further detail the remarkable journey they, Gimbel, and the other “shark hunters” undertook to produce the film and land what turned out to be some still-remarkable footage with the Great White in the movie’s exciting climax. They also raise pertinent issues about the over-hunting of both sharks and whales, which the film even hinted at back at the time, making it as educational as it is entertaining. A new featurette includes fresh interviews with surviving crew members, reflecting on the film’s impact. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Seeing that “Jaws” is as close to a personal favorite as there is, I was riveted by “Blue Water, White Death.” MGM’s Special Edition DVD was timed to coincide with this week’s 20th Anniversary of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” (the studio has also issued “Mission of the Shark” and “Peter Benchley’s Creature” as well), and comes packed with superb extras and a crisp 16:9 (2.35) transfer. Highly recommended...and remember to see it, before you go swimming!

THE MUPPET SHOW: Complete Season 2 (24 Episodes, Disney). THE LOWDOWN: It took a  little while longer than a lot of “Muppet” fans expected, but Disney’s Second Season DVD presentation of “The Muppet Show” will prove to be another essential purchase for Jim Henson fans when it hits stores next week. This four-disc set includes the series’ second grouping of 24 episodes, with eclectic guests ranging from Don Knotts, Milton Berle and Zero Mostel to Rudolf Nureyev, Steve Martin, John Cleese and Peter Sellers. It’s more classic Muppetmania that the whole family can enjoy. DVD FEATURES: Though a bit lighter on special features this time out, Disney’s DVD nevertheless offers solid transfers and mono soundtracks. The lone major extra is a 1974 ABC Valentine’s Day special starring the Muppets, one which predated the series and served as a template for what was to come. Fascinating stuff. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: While one hopes Disney will turn out subsequent “Muppet Show” sets in a more rapid succession, you can’t fault the studio for releasing another fine DVD presentation here. The 1974 special is a real treat to watch, though hopefully Season 3 will offer more in the way of commentaries and behind-the-scenes material.

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS: Collector’s Edition (***, 119 mins., 1978, PG; MGM/Fox). THE LOWDOWN: Philip Kaufman’s acclaimed remake of the ‘50s Don Siegel sci-fi classic hasn’t aged as well as its predecessor: between the unrelentingly ‘70s bleak ending and commentary on the “Me” generation, you also get Leonard Nimoy as a Bay Area shrink who succumbs to the latest invasion of the Pod People. Still, while I feel there’s a tendency to over-rate Kaufman’s version, it’s nevertheless a compelling, intelligently presented version of the Jack Finney tale, with Donald Sutherland starring as a health inspector who begins to wonder what’s going on with the body-switching paranoia overcoming the region. DVD FEATURES: A double-disc set from MGM issued to coincide with the release of the upcoming (and troubled) Nicole Kidman-Daniel Craig version of “The Invasion,” this “Body Snatchers” set boasts a commentary from Kaufman, a half-hour documentary on the production (featuring new interviews with Kaufman, writer W.D. Richter, Sutherland and others), featurettes on sound design and cinematography, plus the original trailer. The new 16:9 (1.85) transfer is exceptionally crisp while effective 2.0 Dolby Stereo sound boasts Denny Zeitlin’s creepy orchestral score. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Sci-fi and “Body Snatchers” fans will love the new transfer, while the added supplements make this one of the year’s better catalog re-issues. Recommended!

THE HOST: HD-DVD and Blu Ray versions (**½, 119 mins. 2006, R; Magnolia). THE LOWDOWN: Korea’s humongous box-office smash is a mostly entertaining but highly uneven monster tale involving a family that finds itself in the middle of an international catastrophe caused by a scientist dumping toxic chemicals down the sink. Those liquids cause a rather large lizard-like creature to cause all kinds of trouble along the banks of Seoul’s Han River, including the kidnapping of hero Kang-ho Song’s daughter. With impressive special effects backing the action, “The Host” satisfies when it concentrates on monster mayhem, but loses its footing when it opts to focus on a tedious subplot involving a faux-virus and political cover-up -- not to mention some weirdly jarring comical interludes. Even worse, the downbeat ending adds a needlessly sour taste to the material. HD-DVD and BLU RAY FEATURES: Magnolia’s high-definition versions of “The Host” look absolutely stunning, brilliantly showing off the creature design and effective action sequences executed by director Joon-ho Bong. DTS-HD sound is offered on both versions, along with an uncompressed PCM soundtrack on the Blu Ray side, while extras include deleted scenes (including some discarded special effects), Making Of featurettes, interviews, and a commentary track. Impressive indeed. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: “The Host” is a schizophrenic film that might have benefitted from some cutting, especially in its mid-section. When it stays glued to the monster, though, it’s great fun, and Magnolia’s HD offerings are sensational in terms of picture clarity and sound. The movie might’ve ultimately just missed the mark, but it’s nevertheless well worth viewing in spite of its flaws.

 Goodies: New on Blu Ray and HD-DVD from Paramount

Plenty of HD-DVD and Blu Ray titles are also on the docket this week...

DISTURBIA: DVD, HD-DVD and Blu Ray (***, 104 mins., 2007, PG-13; Dreamworks/Paramount). THE LOWDOWN: This is clearly shaping up to be quite the year for Shia LaBeouf, the young star who recently signed onto star in “Indiana Jones 4" and also top-lined the summer blockbuster “Transformers.” Prior to both of those career-defining moments, LaBeouf starred in “Disturbia,” the spring sleeper hit which managed to gross nearly $80 million at the box-office. Director D.J. Caruso’s youthful homage to “Rear Window” sports LaBeouf as a troubled high schooler sentenced to summer-time home confinement after punching out his Spanish teacher (he had a good reason). LaBeouf’s boredom is accentuated after his mom (Carrie-Ann Moss) cancels his Xbox Live account and prevents him from downloading iTunes. Turning to the neighborhood around him, LaBeouf finds a new ally in sexy Sarah Roemer and mysterious goings-on in the home of David Morse, including a car that matches the description of a vehicle wanted in connection with a missing girl... DVD/HD-DVD/BLU RAY FEATURES: Dreamworks and Paramount have pulled out all the stops for their Special Edition of “Disturbia.” All versions (standard-definition and HD) include commentary with LaBeouf, Roemer and Caruso, plus deleted scenes, bloopers, a music video and Making Of. For HD viewers, most of these extras are all in high-definition as well, while the vivid 1080p HD transfers are naturally superior to the standard DVD’s 16:9 (1.85) appearance. On the audio side, the standard DVD offers 5.1 Dolby Digital sound while the HD versions receive both 6.1 DTS and 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: A little slow to get going but highly entertaining in the end, “Disturbia” is a tense, exciting juvenile thriller with an excellent performance from LaBeouf. Well worth a summer rental.

SHOOTER: HD-DVD and Blu Ray (**½, 125 mins., 2007, R; Paramount). THE LOWDOWN: Mark Wahlberg essays a former Marine sniper thrust back into action when Colonel Danny Glover explains that there's a plot afoot to assassinate the President. Things, however, aren't what they seem once Wahlberg is double- crossed and set up for the event. Director Antoine Fuqua's decidedly "old school" action romp is overlong but highly watchable, fueled by effective action sequences and good work from the cast. HIGH DEFINITION DVD FEATURES: Paramount's HD-DVD and Blu Ray discs include nifty high-definition 1080p transfers, Dolby Digital 5.1 (Blu Ray) and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 (HD-DVD only) soundtracks, and a number of extras, including a commentary by Fuqua, seven deleted scenes, two featurettes, and the original trailer in HD. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: It may not be worth a purchase, or a second viewing, but “Shooter” provides more than passable summer-time video fare. Paramount’s high-definition transfers are spectacular on both formats, so no matter which way you go, visually you’ll be in for a treat.

New HD-DVDs From Universal

STREETS OF FIRE: HD-DVD (***, 93 mins., 1984, PG; Universal). THE LOWDOWN: Highly stylized, comic-book fantasy from director Walter Hill functions comfortably as a companion piece to the equally surreal “The Warriors.” In a faux-‘50s rundown metropolis, Michael Pare is recruited to find singer (and ex-flame) Diane Lane, who’s been kidnapped by a group of tough guys lead by Willem Dafoe. Rick Moranis essays Lane’s obnoxious manager and Amy Madigan is the tough girl with a good heart who helps out Pare. “Streets of Fire” bombed in theaters but has garnered a solid cult following over the years, both for its visual trappings (the film even opens with a title card stating “another time...another place”) and its music, including a number of original songs written by the likes of Jim Steinman, Stevie Nicks, Bob Seger and others. Engaging performances (be on the lookout for Bill Paxton, Elizabeth Daily, Ed Begley, Jr. and “Warriors” alumni Deborah Van Valkenburgh and Lynne Thigpen) and crisp action sequences make this one of Hill’s most satisfying films. HD-DVD FEATURES: Universal’s 1080p, VC-1 encoded high-definition transfer is a huge upgrade on prior DVDs, none of which were even 16:9 enhanced! The lighting, colors and texture of Andrew Laszlo’s cinematography are finally given justice in this fully satisfying transfer, while the 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus sound packs a really strong punch. The only disappointment is that no extras are included of any kind. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: It’s all style, but “Streets of Fire” is a rockin’ good time that finally gets a chance to be seen in a format that does justice to its original visual design. Great fun, especially if you find the ‘80s soundtrack appealing.

THE BOURNE IDENTITY: HD-DVD (***½, 119 mins., 2002, PG-13; Universal). THE LOWDOWN: Taut, exciting, thrilling adaptation of the Robert Ludlum book hits high-definition just in time to coincide with the release of the third entry in the series, “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Doug Liman’s original film is a good deal more satisfying than the Paul Greengrass-directed “Bourne Supremacy,” sporting Matt Damon as Ludlum’s hero, a wonderful supporting cast (Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, Franka Potente), and flavorful international shooting with Oliver Wood deftly handling the cinematography chores. HD-DVD FEATURES: With a sterling new 1080p, VC-1 encoded HD transfer, Universal’s HD-DVD of the original “Bourne Identity” wisely includes all the supplements from a myriad of previous standard-definition discs: deleted and alternate scenes, an alternate opening and ending, numerous featurettes and commentary comprise a strong supplemental package with interactive “U Control” picture-in-picture content also on-hand. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus sound also packs a potent sonic punch. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: It took a bit of time but the wait was worth it for the first “Bourne” to hit HD-DVD. The excellent array of supplements enrich a presentation that’s already top-notch in every regard. Highly recommended!

NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS: HD-DVD (*½, 107 mins., 2000, PG-13; Universal). THE LOWDOWN: Atrocious sequel to one of Eddie Murphy’s biggest (and most amiable) box-office hits is a vulgar recycling of the original’s gags, and also one of the star’s worst films...at least until this year’s “Norbit” was released. Janet Jackson supplies the requisite romantic interest to Murphy’s shenanigans, but it’s all downhill from the opening credits. HD-DVD FEATURES: Universal’s 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer is strong and soundtracks include full 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus sound. Extras are carried over from past DVD editions and include commentary with director Peter Segal, deleted scenes, outtakes, and other interviews and storyboards. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Universal’s HD-DVD presentation is top-notch, but “The Klumps” is a dismal waste of time, best left for Murphy completists only.

IN GOOD COMPANY: HD-DVD (***, 119 mins., 2004, PG-13; Universal). THE LOWDOWN: Pleasant little comedy-drama with Dennis Quaid as an executive who not only has to deal with a new, younger boss (Topher Grace) but also the fact that said higher-up is now dating his daughter (Scarlett Johansson). Writer-director Paul Weitz’s film offers excellent performances across the board and an incisive script that only loses its footing near the end. HD-DVD FEATURES: Though not a film you’ll be reaching for to show off the benefits of high definition, “In Good Company” boasts a fine VC-1 encoded, 1080p transfer. The Dolby Digital Plus sound is just right, and extras include commentary from Weitz and Grace, deleted scenes, and Making Of featurettes. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: I’m not sure if “In Good Company” demands a purchase, but it’s a perfectly “nice” film well worth taking in. Universal’s HD-DVD edition is strong across the board, offering a superior presentation of the film to the standard-definition version currently on the market.

SCENT OF A WOMAN: HD-DVD (***½, 157 mins., 1992, R; Universal). THE LOWDOWN: Brilliantly acted showcase for Al Pacino, who deservedly copped an Oscar for his role of a blind, bitter army colonel who hires a prep school student (Chris O’Donnell) to cart him around New York City. Martin Brest’s acclaimed film allows Pacino to open up with one of his most memorable performances, perfectly balancing the comedic and dramatic requirements of Bo Goldman’s terrific script. Even the formulaic “court room” finale works splendidly, with Pacino taking on the administration of the stuffy “Baa-rd School.” HD-DVD FEATURES: A top-notch 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus sound replicate the theatrical experience perfectly. Sadly, no extras are on-hand. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: “Scent of a Woman” is a great movie, a splendid coming-of-age tale and vehicle for Pacino all at the same time. Despite its lack of extras, Universal’s HD-DVD comes strongly recommended.

New on Blu Ray Disc from Sony

THE FIFTH ELEMENT: Blu Ray (***½, 126 mins., 1997, PG-13; Sony). THE LOWDOWN: Bruce Willis is an intergalactic taxi driver, Milla Jovovich is a Ronald McDonald-haired outer-space goddess who holds the key to the galaxy, and Gary Oldman does a Russ Perot accent in this inventive sci-fi fantasy, pure eye candy courtesy of writer-director Luc Besson. It doesn't matter that the plot is recycled out of a number of genre films -- that's part of the point of Besson's tongue-in-cheek script, which makes just enough sense to hang all of his outlandish and simply spectacular visuals on. Speaking of which... BLU RAY FEATURES: Sony’s second go-round for “The Fifth Element” on Blu Ray corrects the studio’s first, botched BD release from last year (viewers should note the packaging is identical save the 2007 copyright and notice about the Dolby TrueHD sound). The newly remastered 1080p transfer is spectacular and the 5.1 PCM and Dolby TrueHD sound (new to this re-issue) are both exceptionally strong. Sadly the special features remain weak -- just a trivia track is contained on the supplemental side, which comes as disappointing given the excellent “Ultimate” Edition Sony released on standard-definition DVD not that long ago. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: One of the more entertaining fantasies of the ‘90s finally gets its due in high-definition thanks to a new Sony mastering -- one that makes amends for the previous Blu Ray release (viewers who have the older disc can arrange for an exchange by emailing consumer@sphecustomersupport.sony.com)

PERFECT STRANGER: Blu Ray (*½, 109 mins., 2007, R; Sony). THE LOWDOWN: Unbelievably nutty suspense-thriller with Halle Berry as a newspaper columnist who sets out to confirm that advertising mogul Bruce Willis murdered her friend, who told Berry of her affair with the married executive prior to her grizzly demise. James Foley’s film is glossy but completely insane, with Berry trying to hold it together as a dogged reporter and Willis sleepwalking his way through a thankless role that offers no pay off at the end (perhaps a sizeable check and the opportunity to smooch Berry convinced Bruno to participate?). Speaking of which, the movie goes even more haywire in its final moments than you’d anticipate, unconvincingly introducing a “twist” that only the film’s fragmented flashbacks (poorly incorporated into the Todd Komarincki script) make any hint towards. BLU RAY FEATURES: Sony’s dynamic 1080p transfer is sterling, as is the 5.1 PCM sound, while extras are limited to a brief Making Of featurette. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: The spectacular transfer and glitzy NYC settings, combined with a script that just gets nuttier and nuttier (I didn’t even mention Giovanni Ribisi’s creepy sidekick), could make “Perfect Stranger” a camp favorite as the years pass. Chances are, though, that the movie will just fade away into another failed vehicle for its Oscar-winning star. (Available August 21st)

IMMORTAL BELOVED: Blu Ray (**½, 121 mins., 1994, R; Sony). THE LOWDOWN: Elegantly produced but trashy “bio-pic” of Ludwig von Beethoven (Gary Oldman) and the women (Isabella Rosselini, Valeria Golino among them) who could have possibly been his mysterious “Immortal Beloved” has never inspired favorable comparisons to Milos Forman’s “Amadeus,” but this oddball effort from director Bernard Rose (“Candyman”) is nevertheless a visually stimulating piece. Oldman gives an effective performance as the icy cold Beethoven, seen in flashbacks as a composer confidant (Jeroen Krabbe) spearheads an investigation into his memoirs. Gorgeous musical performances (by Sir Georg Solti and the London Symphony) of the maestro’s works are basically the highlight of the show, along with spellbinding cinematography from Peter Suschitzky, but the movie’s story (also penned by Rose) is a fanciful, uneven, and highly melodramatic tale that apparently bares little relation to reality. BLU RAY FEATURES: Sony’s Blu Ray release includes an opulent 1080p transfer with 5.1 Dolby TrueHD sound that enhances the film’s most abundant asset. No extras are included, but the presentation is sublime. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: “Immortal Beloved” is certainly no classic, but this 1994 production from Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions is nevertheless worth a view for its music and cinematography, along with Oldman’s scenery-chewing performance. (Available August 21st)

ARE WE DONE YET?: Blu Ray (**, 92 mins., 2007, PG; Sony). THE LOWDOWN: Low-rent sequel to the 2005 surprise hit “Are We There Yet?” is actually a credited remake of “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” (no joke!), with Ice Cube bringing his new wife Nia Long and her wacky kids to the country, where his efforts to build a beautiful home are thwarted by crazy contractor John C. McGinley. Predictable shenanigans make this one for kids only. BLU RAY FEATURES: Sony’s 1080p transfer is just as crisp as you would anticipate, the 5.1 PCM sound is just fine, while extras include a blooper reel and two featurettes. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Loud and obnoxious, but at least passable fare for undemanding youngsters, “Are We Done Yet?” proves that Ice Cube is no Cary Grant. But we all knew that, right? (available August 7th).

HOSTEL (*½, 94 mins., 2005, Unrated; Sony). THE LOWDOWN: Eli Roth’s sadistic thriller hits Blu Ray in a no-frills edition with a fine 1080p transfer and 5.1 uncompressed PCM sound. The movie isn’t my cup of tea but fans will enjoy seeing every disgusting torture sequence in high-definition and booming audio. (Release date pending)

The King Is Back: Elvis Memorial Releases

Elvis passed away some 30 years ago on August 16th, 1977, and to mark the occasion, a number of studios are releasing brand-new box-sets and Special Editions in conjunction with the event.

Warner Home Video has a number of new releases on-hand, including 2-disc deluxe editions of Elvis classics “Jailhouse Rock” and “Viva Las Vegas,” remastered presentations of concert videos “Elvis, That’s The Way It Is” and “This is Elvis,” plus a six-disc box-set, ELVIS: THE HOLLYWOOD COLLECTION, offering a slate of Presley films previously unavailable on DVD.

Warner sent us copies of two of the films from that collection, GIRL HAPPY and KISSING COUSINS,and both look top-notch in their new 16:9 widescreen transfers. “Girl Happy” is the better film of the duo, offering an engaging plot that basically gives you Elvis in a “Beach Party” film (Shelley Fabares co-stars), while “Kissing Cousins” is likewise good, formulaic fun in the Presley cinematic tradition. Viewers should note that the movies are available individually in addition to their box-set packaging, and also contain their original theatrical versions (with a song restored to each film that had been excised in re-issues).

Not to be outdone, MGM and Paramount are also celebrating Presley’s cinematic career with new box-sets.

MGM’s ELVIS: MGM MOVIE LEGENDS COLLECTION sports four previously released Presley pictures: 1961's FOLLOW THAT DREAM, 1962's KID GALAHAD (co-starring Charles Bronson), the 1966 effort FRANKIE AND JOHNNY, along with the terrible (but hilarious) 1967 musical adventure CLAMBAKE with Fabares and Bill Bixby. All discs seem to be identical to their previous DVD releases sans new slim-case packaging, with transfers either in 16:9 widescreen or 4:3 letterboxed format.

Paramount, meanwhile, offers some eight Elvis favorites in their ELVIS: LIGHTS! CAMERA! ELVIS! COLLECTION.

The lushly-packaged box-set offers double-feature pairings of KING CREOLE and G.I. BLUES, BLUE HAWAII and ROUSTABOUT, GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! and FUN IN ACAPULCO, plus PARADISE, HAWAIIAN STYLE and EASY COME, EASY GO.

As Presley sets go the Paramount effort is one of the best, with every film appearing in 16:9 widescreen and remixed 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks, plus their original mono mixes. Extras include trailers on most features.

Finally, MGM has also issued Don Coscarelli’s 2003 cult favorite BUBBA HO-TEP in a deluxe package, reprising the earlier DVD edition (loaded with extras) and adding fresh packaging that includes a mini-replica of the King’s jacket.

New TV on DVD

THE FUGITIVE: Season 1, Vol. 1 (15 Episodes, Paramount). THE LOWDOWN: “Fugitive” fans can rejoice now that the classic ‘60s David Janssen series is poised to hit DVD at long last. Paramount’s inaugural DVD box-set only includes the first half (15 episodes) of its original 1963-64 season, but the transfers and soundtracks have been fully remastered for Paramount’s four-disc set (which does offer episode disclaimers for changed music and possible editorial alterations from their original broadcast run). Highly recommended for series fans!

DYNASTY: Complete Season 2 (22 Episodes, Paramount). THE LOWDOWN: More craziness with the Carringtons as Joan Collins shows up as the ever-scheming Alexis and Heather Locklear likewise joins the cast, fresh from her run on “T.J. Hooker.” With the addition of Collins and Locklear, “Dynasty” soon took off in the ratings for ABC, and Paramount’s six-disc box-set offers all 22 second-season episodes in solid full-screen transfers and mono sound.

HOME IMPROVEMENT: Complete Season 7 (25 Episodes, Disney). THE LOWDOWN: Tim Allen and his clan are back for the next-to-last season of the long-running ABC sitcom. Disney’s latest DVD box-set offers the complete 7th season (1997-98) of “Home Improvement” in another package that will satisfy series fans, the set including unedited episodes and brand-new bloopers that aficionados will enjoy. The full-screen transfers and 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks are all fine.

EIGHT SIMPLE RULES: Complete Season 1 (28 Episodes, Disney). THE LOWDOWN: First season of the successful ABC sitcom that was cut short by the untimely passing of its star, John Ritter, who essays a family man trying to cope with his two growing teenage daughters. “Eight Simple Rules” is anything groundbreaking but it’s an effective (if formulaic) TV sitcom that enabled Ritter to have his first real small-screen success since the end of “Three’s Company.” Disney’s DVD includes 16:9 (1.78) transfers with 5.1 audio and a blooper reel.

HARVEY BIRDMAN, Attorney At Law: Volume 3 (159 mins., Warner). THE LOWDOWN: Irreverent and entertaining Cartoon Network series finished its run earlier this year and completes its series of DVD releases with this third (and final) volume, offering nearly three hours worth of wacky 15-minute episodes. The humor is dry and a little of “Harvey” tends to go a long way (like “Space Ghost: Coast to Coast,” the series is best viewed in small doses), but when it clicks it’s as entertaining as anything on the Cartoon Network airwaves. Warner’s DVD edition sports a number of special features including deleted scenes and other goodies. A must for fans!

SUPER FRIENDS: The Legendary Super Powers Show (179 mins., Warner). THE LOWDOWN: Before Bruce Timm and his cohorts “reinvented” DC Comics small-screen animation, the powers-at-be tried to reinvigorate the “Super Friends” brand with this 1984, short-lived series. Redubbed “The Legendary Super Powers Show,” this later “Super Friends” spin-off boasts Adam West returning to voice Batman and Casey Kasem as Robin, plus introduces villainous Darkseid and hero Firestorm. Warner’s two-disc compilation of the series includes a number of special features, including five commentaries, a featurette on the merchandising of the “Super Friends,” and a segment looking at how the series predated the cultural diversity era of animation (or so it claims). Recommended for “Super Friends” fans, with the last incarnation of the series -- “Galactic Heroes” -- due out this fall on DVD.

Also New On DVD

THE DARWIN AWARDS (94 mins., 2006, R; Fox): Indie comedy, starring Joseph Fiennes and Winona Ryder, focuses on an award ceremony that honors people who accidentally kill themselves. A load of cameos try and make this Finn Taylor piece work, with Fox’s DVD offering a Making Of, interviews, a 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 sound.

BRIAN REGAN: STANDING UP (42 mins., 2007; Paramount)
THE AMAZING JOHNATHAN: WRONG ON EVERY LEVEL (42 mins., 2007; Paramount): A pair of Comedy Central stand-up concert videos coming to DVD from Paramount, both “Brian Regan: Standing Up” and “The Amazing Johnathan: Wrong on Every Level” include uncensored language tracks and bonus Comedy Central specials. Recommended for fans of either act.

NEXT TIME: 300 Hits Hard in High Definition! Until then, don't forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards, check out the new Aisle Seat Blog, and direct any emails to the link above

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