There is a chain of buzzwords—collector's edition, anniversary set, director's cut, unrated cut, extended version, digitally remastered, Digibook, etc.—that studios slap on DVD and Blu-ray cases to tempt you to buy the same movies over and over again. Some are worth the upgrade—especially if it is a first-time purchase of a movie you like—but many of those double dips are just the studio returning to the well one too many times. Read on and decide if you want to Skip or Double Dip this month.
Dazed and Confused
Director Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused has become a certified stoner classic since its release in 1993. The coming-of-age comedy about a group of teenagers during their last day of school in 1976 features a lot of then up-and-coming stars such as Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck, Jason London, Parker Posey, Joey Lauren Adams and more. The movie's tagline was "See it with a bud," and many have done just that on DVD. The movie just made its Blu-ray debut in August from Universal and now, two months later, the Criterion Collection has decided to smoke it with its own edition.
What's New?: The Universal Dazed leaves us confused with its lack of extras. All we get are some deleted scenes, a PSA warning us about marijuana and two retro PSAs that have nothing to do with the movie. The Criterion edition blows smoke around Universal's with even more deleted scenes, a commentary track by Linklater, original audition footage, a 46-minute retrospective documentary and the two-hour "Beer Bust at Moon Tower" collection of rare behind-the-scenes footage and video.
Skip or Double Dip?: We're sorry if you splurged on the weak Universal release. Put the Criterion version in your pipe and double dip it.
Beauty and the Beast
Disney's 1991 interpretation of the classic romance between a princess and a man transformed into a beast was a worldwide smash hit and became the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It ended up winning two Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song and has been available on DVD for years. The movie made its Blu-ray debut last October in a combo pack with the DVD and now, one year later, Disney is releasing the movie again in a Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy combo pack.
What's New?: The 2010 combo pack was loaded with extras, including an alternate opening, deleted scenes, a Celene Dion music video, an early presentation reel, "The Story Behind the Story," "Composing a Classic" and the exhaustive 157-minute behind-the-scenes feature "Beyond Beauty." The Blu-ray debut also had two interactive games, a look at the Broadway adaptation and a new music video by Jordan Sparks. The new combo pack contains the exact same set of extras. The only difference is that you get a disc of the movie in 3D, which is an absolutely stunning conversion, and a digital copy of the movie to play on portable devices.
Skip or Double Dip?: If you have a 3D setup at home, you'll want to double dip because Disney did a first-rate job. Plus you'll have a digital copy to put on portable devices for your kids, which might come in handy when you need to keep them occupied while away from the family room. If you don't have a 3D TV and don't need digital copies, skip it—you already have everything you need.
Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series
This jaw-dropping nature documentary series is arguably the most ambitious and best ever made and was one of the first releases to really showcase the improvement in picture quality that Blu-ray provides when it was released in 2007. The 11-episode series narrated by David Attenborough covers seven continents over five years with a total budget of $25 million and a runtime of 530 minutes. A few months later, also in 2007, Discovery put out an American version on DVD and Blu-ray with narration by Sigourney Weaver and a few minutes snipped from each episode for American TV. Now we have a limited edition and a special edition of Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series.
What's New?: The original 2007 BBC Blu-ray had no extras and the 2007 Discovery version only had a few mini-doc episodes. The new special edition has a 10-minute behind-the-scenes program for each episode, the lengthy "Planet Earth: The Future" documentary, commentary tracks on select episodes, some additional animal featurettes and a "Music Only" viewing option. The limited edition has all of the aforementioned extras but comes in a plastic globe that houses the discs.
Skip or Double Dip?: How green…with envy…are you? There is no difference in picture or sound quality between the original BBC Blu-rays and these two new editions. If you bought them again, it would be for the extensive extras or to display them in a globe. If you have an environmentalist or nature lover in your family, this might be an argument to double dip for the holidays.
The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season
It's official: zombies are the new vampires. With vampires beyond their saturation point on TV and the big screen, it was inevitable that filmmakers would start to revamp zombie mythology. AMC's The Walking Dead is about a small group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse led by police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) who escape Atlanta, Georgia and search for a place where they are not food. The first season was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 8, 2011. This month Starz/Anchor Bay decided to release a special edition of the first season and a limited edition in a tin case to coincide with the show's second season, which is currently airing on cable.
What's New?: The original release had some decent supplements, including "The Making of The Walking Dead," "Behind-the-Scenes Zombie Makeup Tips," a convention panel and extra footage. The new special edition has a self-serving "No More Room in Hell: The Walking Dead Phenomenon" that explores the show's extraordinary success, a black-and-white version of the pilot episode that would make George A. Romero grin, audio commentaries, more visual effects featurettes plus all the extras from the previous release. The limited edition has the same bonus features as the special edition except that it is encased in a collectible tin.
Skip or Double Dip?: Seeing the pilot in black and white is pretty cool for zombie connoisseurs, but is it worth buying the entire series again for that and a few more featurettes? Skip it and bury yourself in the original discs.