Fat Albert's Easter Special DVD Review

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This review was originally written on August 2, 2011
Not Very Much Easter-Related, Very Little DVD Content

The Fat Albert's Easter Special DVD by UrbanWorks Entertainment contains just one episode, "The Fat Albert Easter Special", which aired on 4/3/1982 on CBS (according to the insert card), and has an exact runtime of 23:12. This so-called Easter Special really has very little to do with Easter. For a minute or two at the very beginning the kids are painting Easter eggs, and for a minute at the end they're eating hard-boiled Easter eggs, and that's all there is in the main story that's Easter-related. There's a Brown Hornet short (which the insert card says is entitled "Casnac") randomly inserted a few minutes into the episode as a way to eat up some of the special's short runtime, which is the most Easter-related part of the entire special, and it's a trippy adventure in outer space on a planet inhabited by Easter bunnies!

The main story is about the kids deciding to clean up Mudfoot's house and pay his bills, as a kindness for the Easter season. They could have decided to do these good deeds for Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, or just for no particular holiday reason at all. That they SAY it's for Easter is apparently all that's needed to make this an Easter special! Anyway, Rudy attempts to pull a practical joke, but it backfires causing Mudfoot to end up in the hospital. Naturally, Rudy feels bad, so do the rest of the kids. The kids want to visit Mudfoot, but the head nurse won't allow the teens into the hospital. I really can't imagine anyone looking at Fat Albert and thinking that he's a teenager when he's bigger and has a deeper voice than most adult males. Anyway, long story short, as expected, everything works out in the end and the kids are taught a valuable life lesson.

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The DVD includes "Special Features" that aren't very special. On the video portion of the disc is a "Find The Bunny" set-top game. It's a simple guessing game. There's a static screen featuring five of the Cosby Kids, and you have to guess behind which one the bunny is hiding. Since the same animation is played at the start of every game, you can't use that as a clue. In fact, you have NO clues. It's simply a matter of trying each one until you find him. Yes, the game lets you keep trying until you find him. So much for the game having any sort of challenge.

On the DVD-ROM portion of the disc, accessible in a computer, you'll find 3 Printable Coloring Pages (PDF files). The three uncolored drawings are of the whole gang, Mushmouth, and Russell. Neither of these add any sort of added-value to the special's woefully short runtime.

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The back of the case shows a photo of a live-action Bill Cosby segment, but you will not find that in the Easter Special. Since I was looking forward to seeing the live-action Bill Cosby segment, I'm rather annoyed that UrbanWorks would deceive customers like that.

Luckily, if you have any desire to see The Fat Albert Easter Special, it was re-released on DVD in 2009 by Classic Media under the actual on-screen title, The Fat Albert Easter Special, with two bonus episodes ("Junk Food" and "Millionaire Madness"), bringing the total runtime up to 64 minutes. Even though I only paid $2.50 for the UrbanWorks DVD (it was marked down several times), I don't feel like I got my money's worth. A 23 minute episode should not be released by itself, but rather included with a bunch of other episodes in a compilation or season set. The only reason it was released individually was as a cash-in for the Easter season, and that's not right, even though there are other companies that do it, too.

The Fall Guy: The Complete First Season DVD Review

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This review was originally written on April 8, 2008
Poor Paul Williams, Fox Removed Him AND His Music!

What I'm about to write is not only for The Fall Guy: The Complete First Season DVD, but it also applies to The Fall Guy: The Complete First Season, Vol. 1 DVD.

In the pilot movie, during the bar fight scene, you'll notice the band performing in the background is blurred out, and there's some strange editing going on. Fox was trying to hide the fact that they replaced and edited out Paul Williams singing the Patsy Cline hit "Crazy", and the acting scenes he had before and during the fight. Since all traces of Paul Williams were edited out, his name was removed from the guest star credits at the beginning of the movie, and the song credit for "Crazy" was edited out of the end credits.

There's no mention of music replacement on the back of the box, but in their review of the set, TVShowsOnDVD provided some information that may indicate lots more music replacements in the set:
Chris Cook dug up some information from NOMA Music and posted it to the Home Theater Forum. NOMA posted this on their website: "20th Century Fox home video release of "The Fall Guy" starring Lee Majors features eight new songs by Robert Allen, Octane Saints, Don Fisher and Matt King." This, coupled with the odd scene from the pilot, leads me to believe there were some music replacements on the set. (source)
I watched the DVD episode a little more and noticed more instances of music replacement, such as during the restaurant fight, and some score music removed before and after that scene. There are probably lots more, but it would take a lot of effort to compile a complete list.

I taped this episode many years ago in syndication, and although the quality of my copy sucks (it was before I had cable), I have to keep it because it's a more complete copy than what's on the DVD.

It makes me mad that not only did Fox not mention the music replacement on the packaging (reminds me of Anchor Bay with the Grounded For Life sets), AND edit out all of Paul Williams' acting scenes, but that they're charging more than usual for the set - even going so far as to split it into two volumes to make it more affordable - which I presumed was due to music rights, but now I can only assume that greed was the motive.

Dexter: The First Season DVD Review

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This review was originally written on April 8, 2008
Great Show, Poor DVDs, Advertised Content Hidden Online For PC Users Only

Showtime really messed up the bonus material on the Dexter: The First Season DVD set. A bunch of the material is available as online content, but there's NOTHING on the packaging that indicates this, or the fact that you need a PC to view it; you can't view the content on a Mac or Linux machine. You insert Disc 4 into your DVD-ROM drive and if it doesn't run automatically, you can either run start.exe or \bonus\Bonus.exe (the direct route), which compiles information about your computer to generate a unique ID that then grants you access to the Dexter Bonus Content site.

On this site you can enter a contest which expired in January 2008, get a coupon for $25 off a new subscription to Showtime, watch the first two episodes of The Tutors, download a 241MB demo of the "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Hard Evidence" game, download an excerpt from "Dexter in the Dark" by Jeff Lindsay in PDF format, and finally view "The Academy of Blood - A Killer Course" featurette (a 3 minute 20 second piece about a real-life blood splatter expert and not directly related to the series).

The featurette should have been on the video portion of the DVD itself (the two unrelated hour-long episodes of the "Brotherhood" series should never have been included), and the novel excerpt should have been on the DVD-ROM portion of the disc itself. There's no reason to force customers to view these materials online, where they are guaranteed to be taken down at some point in time. On top of that, putting the materials online excludes Mac and Linux users, who wouldn't otherwise be excluded if the materials were on the disc itself.

With the exception of stating that the Tutors episodes were "downloads" (technically Showtime only wants you to view them streaming, not download them), Showtime made no indication on the packing that any of these noted bonus materials were only accessible via online, much less that you need the disc and a DVD-ROM drive in a PC to trigger the access to the site.

Even more annoying is that there are several short cast and crew featurettes created for Dexter that were shown on Showtime On Demand (and probably many more that weren't shown) that should have been included on the DVD in place of the two hour-long Brotherhood episodes. (For the record, the "The Academy of Blood - A Killer Course" featurette was shown on Showtime On Demand back in 2006 where I recorded it in much better quality than the small online video.)

Plus there is a Target exclusive bonus disc that from what I've read contains the Paley Festival Q&A with the cast, which is about 1 hour long. Rather than pandering to the big box retailers, pander to the customers and include this instead of the Brotherhood episodes.

Shame on you Showtime!

Commando / The Marine Double Feature DVD Review

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This review was originally written on July 7, 2010
Avoid At All Costs! Inferior Video Formats, No Anamorphic Widescreen!

The other day I saw the Commando / The Marine Double Feature and several other titles in the "20th Century Fox 75th Anniversary Double Feature" series at BJ's Wholesale Club, each priced at $6.99. I was tempted to buy a few of them, but since they don't give any DVD specs (video format, languages, subtitles, extras) at all on the back, I did not want to take a chance getting ripped off in a major way. This is the first time I've seen a DVD release from a major studio that didn't give the DVD specs on the back of the case. I guess Fox didn't want you to know what you were buying until AFTER you opened the case and played the discs.

I decided that I'd chance it with just one selection and hope for the best. Unfortunately, I didn't get the best, I got the WORST!

Neither movie is 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. The Marine is 4:3 fullscreen, which is bad, but Commando is even worse - it's 4:3 LETTERBOX! The Commando disc was originally mastered and released in 1999 - OVER TEN YEARS AGO! Why haven't all of the studios destroyed their 4:3 letterbox masters (and the DVDs made from them) so they never see the light of day again? Fox should not keep putting this pathetic Commando disc, or any of their old 4:3 letterbox DVDs, out in new packagings.

Neither movie is inducive to viewing on a widescreen TV, with Commando being horrible to watch due to the movie image getting windowboxed (blackness on all four sides) since there's black bars in the video above and below the movie image, and the TV will add black bars on the sides due to the video being 4:3.

What makes all of this really sad is that widescreen masters of both films exist - and in theatrical and director's/unrated cuts, too. The Commando "Director's Cut" DVD is in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen and includes both the R-Rated Theatrical and Unrated versions of the film. The The Marine "Unrated" DVD is in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen and includes both the PG-13-Rated Theatrical and Unrated versions of the film. Both DVDs also have more extras than the discs included in this release.

I'm okay with only getting the theatrical versions of both films, and having practically no extras, but to not have both films in 16:9 anamorphic widescreen when those masters DO exist, is not acceptable.

I was tempted to buy the Mr. & Mrs. Smith/True Lies double feature (and maybe Garfield 1 & 2 as well), but after getting ripped off with cruddy letterbox and fullscreen versions, without any real bonus features, I certainly won't be buying any more titles in the collection.

By the way, some (all?) copies in the "20th Century Fox 75th Anniversary Double Feature" collection have a sticker on the front advertising a "limited edition movie poster". Unfortunately, this is NOT a freebie included in the case. You have visit the website listed on the back of the sticker and enter the code found on the back of the sticker. You can choose which poster you want, but you will need to pay $4.95 for shipping/handling ($11.95 for Canada). The posters are nice - various film icons atop the 20th Century Fox logo - but are not worth the price to some (like me). There's an insert card included in the case which shows the design of eight of the posters, so you can see what some of them look like without visiting the website.

COMMANDO
* Year: 1985
* Runtime: 1:30:08
* Video Format: 4:3 Letterbox
* DVD Production Date: February 22, 1999
* Region: 1
* Layers: 1
* Audio Languages: English, French
* Subtitle Languages: English, Spanish
* Extras: Theatrical Trailer

THE MARINE
* Year: 2006
* Runtime: 1:31:16
* Video Format: 4:3 Fullscreen.
* DVD Production Date: December 5, 2006
* Region: 1 (presumably)
* Layers: 2
* Audio Languages: English, French, Spanish
* Subtitle Languages: English, Spanish
* Extras: Making Of Featurette, Theatrical Trailer.

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Cartoon Crack-Ups DVD Review

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This review was originally written on May 5, 2005
New Voices Added To Flintstones Pilot

I bought the Cartoon Crack-Ups DVD primarily for the Flintstones pilot (the nice selection of episodes was just a bonus). Imagine how disappointed I was when I went to watch it and saw the following text on the screen: "New voices were added to this pilot for use on the DVD." I'd really like to know why. From what I've read, this pilot was released on Laserdisc with the original voices - Daws Butler as Fred and Barney, June Foray as Betty, and Jean Vander Pyl as Wilma (the only hold-over from that early test). Does the version on the Flintstones Season 1 box set also contain new voices? I wonder.