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Thursday, August 21, 2014



DVD Releases for January 6, 2009

The new year starts off like most on the home market, rather weak. There are few first run releases coming out this week, most of which are terrible. We do have one top-notch release though, Duckman - Season Three and Four, which is clearly the DVD Pick of the Week.

The Alphabet Killer - Buy from Amazon
Eliza Dushku made five movies this year, of which only one made more than $1 million at the box office, and none earned strong reviews. I think she has a lot of talent, and I do like some of the roles she has chosen, but her box office luck has been poor. This film started out well at the box office, earning $11,000 in one theater during its opening weekend, and then went nowhere after that. It should have done better, but it is a genre that doesn't do well in limited release. Add in two audio commentary tracks and a making-of featurette, and the DVD is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong - Buy from Amazon
The latest in a long series of Direct-to-DVD movies based on the popular doll line. This movie stars Sammi Hanratty as the titular character, a new girl in school who has to deal with the "Mean Bees," a clique of girls who decide to bully her. Fans of the toys should be excited about this movie, but there appears to be little effort to bring the movie to a wider audience.

Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations - Collection 3 - Buy from Amazon
A food show / travelogue; this show follows Anthony Bourdain as he travels around the world to places where the tourists never go and eats the food the regular folk dine on. Great show, but the DVD sets have been very bare bones so far.

Babylon A.D. - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD, Two-Disc DVD, or Blu-ray
It is rare for a movie to be so bad that the director will come out and say you shouldn't watch it. This is one such movie. One could argue that it is just a case of sour grapes, as the studio had a lot of control over the final product, but the Tomatometer score backs him up. This is a movie that should be avoided at all costs, and in all formats.

Bangkok Dangerous - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD, Two-Disc DVD, or Blu-ray
The Pang brothers remake their Thai hitman movie from 1999. The orignal didn't exactly wow critics, but it is Oscar-worthy when compared to this pile of filmmaking. A movie this bad should be skipped no matter what extras are on the DVD, and there are not enough here to be worth discussing. No matter which format you are interested in, this release is skippable.

Battlestar Galactica - Season 4.0 - Buy from Amazon
Good news: This show keeps getting better. Bad news: They keep splitting the seasons into two volumes. More bad news: This 4-disc set has a high price per minute compared to most TV on DVD releases. Great news: There are so many extras that it is still worth picking up. All ten episodes have commentary tracks and deleted scenes, plus there are video blogs, featurettes on the evolution of the characters, the Cylons, the music, and short previews of the final 10 episodes in the series. Certainly worth buyin. My only concern is the likelihood of a full-series set coming out on Blu-ray in time for Christmas next year. It might be worth saving your money for that.

Behind Enemy Lines - Colombia - Buy from Amazon
The first film in the franchise was rather bad. The second was even worse. So how bad is this one going to be? Not sure, as there are almost no reviews online. That is a really bad sign.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: The Absolute Best of Ghost Hunters, Babylon A.D., Bangkok Dangerous, Butterfly on the Wheel, Dexter - Season One, Disaster Movie, Friday Night Lights, Hard Gun, Hitcher, The Last Emperor, The Last Legion, Miss Potter, Opium and the Kung Fu Master, Pineapple Express, Righteous Kill, and The Wackness
Quite a few Blu-ray releases this week, including some prime releases like Pineapple Express, Dexter - Season One, and the latest Criterion Collection release, The Last Emperor.

Disaster Movie - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the worst movies ever made. This movie is so bad that it made Kim Kardashian's performance stand out. I'm not saying her physical attributes are one of the best parts of the movie. I'm saying her acting is one of the best parts of the movie. Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray are weak with an audio commentary, sing-along feature, and featurettes. However, this is a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible movie and should be avoided by all people who have any of the five normal senses.

Doctor Who - Buy from Amazon: Episode 27 - War Machines and Episode 118 - Four to Doomsday
Episode 27 - War Machines has the good doctor in modern day London, at least modern for the time of the show (the 1960s) trying to stop the War Machines. In Episode 118 - Four to Doomsday the TARDIS materializes inside an advanced Urbankan spaceship, which just happens to be headed to Earth. But are these aliens friendly or not? The former is the better story, but both will be worth checking out for fans of the show, and picking up for many.

Duckman - Season Three and Four - Buy from Amazon
This is an update from last week's review, which is so long I don't feel the need, or desire, to reprint it here. So instead I will just jump right into the highlights, and lowlights, for the fourth and final season of Duckman.

  • Dammit, Hollywood - After going to see a movie called Lickity Split's Oily Adventure, Duckman is so angry that is travels to Hollywood to complain to the studio boss. Meanwhile, the studio boss is fired and as his last act, he puts Duckman in charge as an attempt to ruin the studio. However, Duckman vows not to let the power go to his head and to actually make quality movies. Yeah right. Not among the very best the series has to offer, and this basic premise is reused later in the season.
  • Aged Heat 2 - Women in Heat - Duckman is arrested and sent to prison for killing Fluffy and Uranus, again, but due to a bureaucratic snafu, he is sent to a woman's prison. At first he is happy, until the crocked warden forces him to wear a red dress and dance for rich men. Then he becomes very, very happy. You get your down down, and you thrust your pelvis, Huh! You thrust your pelvis, Huh! You thrust your pelvis, Huh! One of the best from any season.
  • All About Elliot - Duckman and Cornfed hire an intern, played by Chris Elliott, who is a little too nice to Duckman to not be up to something nefarious. But what?
  • Bonfire of the Panties - Duckman has gone so long without a date that Cornfed and Charles & Mambo are getting worried that he's about to snap, so they brew up some love potion to get him some action and relieve the tension. But when he replicates the formula, he begins to abuse his power. That is, until he meets Courtney Thorne-Smith.
  • A Trophied Duck - After being given the Lifetime Underachievement Award, Duckman sets out to prove he isn't the worst Private Investigator ever. Fortunately, he has the perfect opportunity when Cornfed is kidnapped and it is up to him to rescue his partner.
  • Bev Takes a Holiday - As Aunt Bev leaves to become a congresswoman, Duckman starts to see a woman who looks just like Beatrice, Duckman's deceased wife. But who is this mystery woman? This is a good episode on its own, but watching the full series it seems like this is the point where the show jumped the shark. The addition of the new character seemed to change the balance of the show.
  • Haunted Society Plumbers - Another jump the shark moment. Too many obvious parodies that have nothing to do with the basic set-up of the show.
  • Ebony, Baby - Another spoof, this time of Blaxploitation films. I know, I just complained about these, but in this episode Duckman is still a private investigator and not a plumber. It makes sense as part of the show, it works as a parody of Blaxploitation flicks, and it's funny. (I especially love Ice-T's cameo appearance.)
  • Vuuck, as in Duck - Duckman inherits a AAA Baseball team, and while he starts out with good intentions, he is quickly seduced by the trappings around the sport and loses sight of its simple pleasures. A good episode on its own, but too much like Dammit, Hollywood to be a classic. However, it is better than Dammit, Hollywood.
  • My Feral Lady - Duckman's looking to find someone to spend the rest of his life with when he meets Terry Duke Tetzloff, who is running a Mail Order Bride business. However, his new wife is a little... untamed. Duckman and Cornfed's efforts to civilize her make this one of the best episodes this season.
  • How to Suck in Business Without Really Trying - Duckman sells his name and image rights to Viacom in exchange for $1,000, which is a decision that he almost immediately regrets. This episode tackles media consolidation, as well as hype-based marketing, and while it gets a little heavy-handed at times, it is still effective.
  • Where No Duck has Gone Before - A parody of Star Trek that has practically nothing to do with the general setup of the show, but it is still one of the funniest episodes made. I've already watched the episode three times for this review, and there's little doubt I will watch it many times in the future.
About a third of the fourth season episodes are hits, with most of the rest still worth checking out. (For instance, Das Sub, the Law & Order / Inspirational Teacher combo.) The is a better hit to miss ration than most shows have; yeah, itís a lot lower than season three, but that's hardly a valid complaint. It just shows how amazingly strong season three was.

Extras on this DVD are all on the seventh disc starting with a 16-minute featurette featuring the creator and the voice of Cornfed talking about the creation of the show over the Pitch Pilot, which is presented mostly without sound and in various stages of animation (final, rough, storyboard, etc.). There are just over a minute of pencil tests, and finally 3-minutes of storyboards from the pilot.

Given the price of this seven-disc set, if it had just season three or season four, it would be worth picking up. Combined, Duckman - Season Three and Four is easily the DVD Pick of the Week.

Eden Lake - Buy from Amazon
A British horror film about a group of kids terrorizing a husband and wife while there are at a lake. (Apparently this is part of a new genre called Hoodie Horror.) The film earned amazing reviews, but like most horror films that opened in limited release, it flopped. It should perform a lot better on the home market, and with extras that include an audio commentary track and a making-of featurette, for fans of gritty horror it is worth picking up.

Frisky Dingo - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
A TV series with humor so dry, they might not intend for people to laugh. This season has the alien Killface battling his superhero arch-nemesis Awesome X in the most competitive arena around: Presidential Politics. If you liked the first season, and are a fan of political humor, then this DVD is a must-have. On the other hand, there are practically no extras on the single-disc set, which is disappointing compared to most Adult Swim releases.

Ghost Writer - Buy from Amazon
A film starring Alan Cumming, David Boreanaz, Carrie Fisher, Jane Lynch, Rachelle Lefevre, Anne Heche, and more. Why have I never heard of this movie? It looks like it is being mostly ignored by critics, so I don't feel left out. After doing a bit of research, I still can't seem to find out if there are any extras, but a lot of critics seem to think the movie has cult movie potential. Certainly worth checking out.

Hard Gun - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I think this is a film from 2001 called Nuk Leng Klong Yao. If it is, it's one of his earlier roles and one where he plays a villain. That alone should be enough for fans of martial arts movies to check it out, but give it a rental first.

IMAX Ultimate Collection - Buy from Amazon
A massive 20-disc collection of IMAX documentaries... for just $82.00. Awesome. Granted, a lot of these films are not feature-length, but this is still an amazing deal.

The Legend of Sorrow Creek - Buy from Amazon
An ultra low-budget Canadian horror film about the allegedly most haunted place in America. Haven't found much information on the movie, but check out the official site.

Mannix - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
The first thing I noticed about this season was the loss of Intertect. I liked the use of computers in helping solve the crimes, and the interplay between Mike Connors, as Joe Mannix, and Joseph Campanella, as his superior, Lew Wickersham. That said, the addition of Gail Fisher as Peggy Fair, his secretary and widow of a cop, was a great addition to the show. I'm not surprised she was nominated for so many Emmys and Golden Globes, nor am I surprised she won a few of them.

This is a very violent show, especially for its time, but the violence is not a crutch, as the writing is excellent with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Although, more than once I was able to guess the final plot twist a little too early in the episode for it to feel satisfying. Then again, I watch a lot of these shows, and not just for review purposes, so I might have seen more recent shows that have 'borrowed' from this one. It's a show that draws you in more than most private investigator / police procedural shows thanks to a combination of the writing and the acting, and both are just as good as the first season.

On the other hand, this 6-disc set has no special features. Nor does it have any subtitles, but it does have proper chapter placements, and play-all buttons.

Mannix - Season Two is a hard release to recommend. On the one hand, the show is great. On the other hand, after a surprisingly strong first season DVD, the second is completely devoid of extras. It is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many, but I can't be as enthusiastic about the recommendation as I would like.

Michael Powell Double Feature (Age of Consent, Stairway to Heaven) - Buy from Amazon
Two films directed by Michael Powell. Age of Consent stars James Mason as an elderly artist and Helen Mirren as his new, young muse. Stairway to Heaven stars David Niven as a pilot of a doomed British bomber in World War II who, due to a mix-up in heaven, might be spared. Individually they are great, combined this 2-disc set is easily worth picking up.

Netherbeast Incorporated - Buy from Amazon
Many are calling this film a combination of Office Space and Shaun of the Dead. The movie focuses on a telephone company called Berm-Tech Industries, a company that just happens to be run by Vampires. However, the boss comes down with a form of Alzheimers and the company starts hiring humans as well. Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track, a short film, as well as several making-of / behind-the-scenes featurettes. Certainly worth checking out, and for fans of horror comedy, it is worth picking up.

Ni Hao, Kai-Lan - Celebrate With Kai-Lan - Buy from Amazon
The cartoon features the adventures Kai-lan, a 5-year old Chinese-American girl, and her animal friends, Rintoo, a emo tiger; Tolee, a koala bear who is obsessed pandas; Hoho, a monkey and the youngest of Kai-lan's friends; and finally Lulu, a rhinoceros that can fly with the aid of a balloon tied to her horn.

The episodes on this DVD are...

  • Happy Chinese new Year! - Kai-Lan and her friends celebrate Chinese New Year and get to carry the dragon in the parade. However, Rintoo doesn't want to be in the middle, so he stops. Can he learn the value of teamwork in time to get to the parade?
  • Safari Pals - Kai-Lan and her pals go on a safari and meet up with Stompy, and elephant. However, Rintoo becomes jealous because Stompy is bigger, louder, etc. and becomes all mopey, again. Can Kai-Lan help him get over it?
  • Kai-Lan's Campout - Kai-Lan and her pals camp out in the backyard in her ladybug tent. However, Tolee brings his panda bear toy and doesn't want to share. Can Kai-Lan teach him the value of sharing?
  • Tolee's Rhyme Time - Kai-Lan convinced Tolee to sing a rhyming song in the music show. But when coming up with rhymes becomes too hard, he quits. Can Kai-Lan teach him the value of hard work?
There are no extras on the DVD. And there are no subtitles, nor are there any proper chapter placements, but there is a play-all button.

Each episode in this series uses to interactivity to help kids learn a little Mandarin, learn about the Chinese culture, while teaching various lessons to the kids about dealing with jealousy, teamwork, sharing, etc. If you have a pre-school kid who likes the show, then Celebrate With Kai-Lan is worth checking out. And if you thought Super Special Days was worth picking up, then so is this DVD, as it offers the same level of value. It offers the same level of value as most Nick, Jr. DVD releases do.

Pineapple Express - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Edtition, Single-Disc DVD, 2-Disc DVD + Digital Copy, or Blu-ray
The last of the summer hits to reach the home market; granted, it did miss expectations at the box office, but was still very profitable thanks to its low production budget. Additionally, while its reviews were good, they were not great. Fortunately, the home market releases are excellent, for the most part. Single-Disc DVD is good for those who just want to rent the movie and it's not devoid of extras. However, the 2-Disc DVD + Digital Copy is absolutely loaded with extras, including audio commentary tracks, deleted / extended / alternate scenes, making-of featurettes, etc. As for the Blu-ray, it has all of the above extras, mostly in High Definition, plus the disc is BD-Live enabled. It's not the kind of movie you will use to show off your home entertainment system, but it only costs $5 more than the DVD, so it is worth the premium.

Ping Pong Playa - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of about a dozen limited releases to come out over the summer that were thought to have what it takes to grab some mainstream success. However, it earned good reviews, but not great reviews, and it went nowhere at the box office. Fortunately, the DVD and the Blu-ray have strong extras including audio commentary track, featurettes, and more. Strangely, Amazon.com has the Blu-ray coming out of in February, and not this week. Certainly worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

The Plot to Kill Hitler - Buy from Amazon
The success of Valkyrie has resulted in a mini-flood of similar films / documentaries hitting the home market.

Postal - The Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon
Why?

Righteous Kill - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
When this movie was first announced, there was a lot of interest, as it would be the first time Robert De Niro and Al Pacino would be acting side-by-side in a movie together. (They have acted in the same movie together previously, but never sharing so much of the screen time.) However, while there was a lot of interest in the film before it was made, the final product killed that interest. It wasn't a complete flop at the box office, at least not compared to many of its fellow September releases, but the extras on the DVD include just an audio commentary track and two making-of featurettes. The Blu-ray has no additional extras, but it is BD-Live enabled. Overall, it's nearly impossible to rate this as a rental, and purchasing is completely out of the question. It is safely skippable for most people. Even fans of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino will be better served seeing them separately in two good movies than together in one bad movie.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A TV series from the U.K. that is based on the memoires of an unknown call girl. The show stars Billie Piper, who is best known for singing "Because We Want To" and hitting number one on the U.K. charts. (I'm joking, she's best known for being the companion on the latest revival of Doctor Who.) She is excellent in this role and it is worth checking out, but the lack of extras hurt. At least give it a rental.

Warning: This film does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 13th. However, the Blu-ray screener arrived early and I was able to get the review done this week.

Swing Vote - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
First a quick note, I only have the Blu-ray at the moment and can not directly compare it to the DVD.

Swing Vote stars Kevin Costner and newcomer Madeline Carroll as father and daughter, although their dynamic is a little reversed with her basically raising her father, who has lost his way. The film starts on election day with Molly trying to convince her father to vote. However, he loses his job that day and instead of picking her up and driving her to the polling place so she can watch him exercise his civic duty, he gets drunk at the bar. But instead of letting him miss the election, she sneaks into the polling place to vote for him, but an electronic error means his vote didn't count, and according to New Mexico law, he has the right to recast his vote in a timely manner. None of this would really matter, except his vote would break the deadlock for New Mexico, which would break the deadlock for the presidential election.

In short, he gets to decide the next president of the United States.

As I mentioned last week when talking about An American Carol, there are two pitfalls that most political satire falls for. One is putting the politics ahead of the comedy, the other is trying to please both sides by being "fair and balanced." An American Carol fell for the former, while Swing Vote fell for the latter. It's not a terrible movie, but it is just so mediocre. The family drama between HREF=http://www.the-numbers.com/people/KCOST.php>Kevin Costner and Madeline Carroll is the best part of the movie, while the comedy is lightweight and the politics is less than convincing. It is worth checking out, but it doesn't have the replay value necessary for a purchase over a rental.

I don't think it would be unfair to say this movie bombed at the box office, so there's no surprise that the extras on the Blu-ray are a little on the light side. There's an audio commentary track with the director / co-writer and his writing partner. It's a rather standard track that doesn't really stand out compared to the others I listen to while I review movies. Next up are ten-and-a-half minutes of deleted scenes, also with optional audio commentary track, a 13-minute making-of featurette, and finally a music video.

Swing Vote is the epitome of a rental. Not a terrible movie, but not a good one either, and the extras are only average. The overall package doesn't have the replay value needed for a purchase over a rental, and when it comes to renting, neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray seem to have a solid advantage over the other.

Transformers Animated - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Season Two carries on where Season One left off. Namely, and this is major spoilage here... Set in future after the great Autobot and Decepticons war with the Autobots victorious and the Decepticons thought to have been destroyed. As too was the Allspark, the weapon used to defeat the Decepticons. However, it turns out the Allspark was just lost, while the Decepticons were lying in wait to capture the Allspark and continue their war. After the initial attack was thwarted the Autobots and the Decepticons crash to Earth. Throughout the first season we see the creation of the Dinobots, the rebuilding of Megatron, and the return of Starscream and more. Season two we have Sari's father kidnapped by Megatron and forced to do his bidding, the return of Starscream, the arrival of the Elite Guard on Earth, the death of Starscream, the creation of the Contructobots, the return of Starscream, the creation of Wreck-Gar (Voiced by Weird Al Yankovic), the death of Starscream, the return of Blackarachnia, the return of Starscream... Starscream is like Wile E. Coyote in this season. Never wins, but never gives up, but this does help with moving the plot forward.

Speaking of plot, this continues to be a well-written show, for the most part. (The human villains tend to be mostly comedic relief.) And while it is not as good as the original, it is better than Energon and for fans of Generation 1, there are more than enough cameos to keep you interested.

All of the extras appear on disc one, including audio commentary tracks on 19 and 20 (episode 20 is the one with a guest role by Weird Al Yankovic). The audio commentary tracks are filled with hardcore Transformers nerds. Fortunately they are working to make the show cool, otherwise they could be a danger to the general population. There are also two short animated bits, and an image / bio gallery.

I'm kind of bummed that Jazz wasn't featured more prominently on this season, but besides that, Season Two of Transformers Animated should please fans of the show, and while it is not as good as Generation 1 or Beast Wars, it is still worth picking up for fans of the 25-year old franchise.

Tripping the Rift - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
A spoof of Sci-Fi shows that went for the cheap laughs far too often. I don't think there's enough value to warrant purchasing over renting, and renting is only for a limited target audience.

The Tudors - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
A show that is perfect for those who want historical dramas that have little to do with history and feel more like a teenage soap opera. There are some that claim the more outrageous historical inaccuracies have been toned down this time, but to me it feels like too little, too late. Add in special features that are rather light (two insubstantial featurettes and two bonus episodes for unrelated shows) and it is hard to recommend renting this DVD, while buying is completely unnecessary. On a side note, the studio has set up a site to help you figure out where you fit on the hierarchy during the time of the Tudors. You can go here and check it out. I like how the only people lower than beggars are thieves, and actors. How times have changed.

The Wackness - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Just a quick note that this movie is coming out tomorrow on DVD and Blu-ray, but the screeners are late.

The Waltons - Season 8 - Buy from Amazon
The penultimate season of this series, which was a little too old-fashioned for my tastes. Also, by this time it is starting to run out of steam with a lot of the original cast members no longer on the show for various reasons. Finally, there are no extras, but that's no change from the beginning. If you are a fan and have been collecting the show on DVD from the beginning, there's little reason to stop now. Equally, if you are not and have not, there's no reason to change now.

- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2009-01-06

Movies 
 The Alphabet Killer
 An American Girl: Chrissa Stands Strong
 Babylon A.D.
 Bangkok Dangerous
 Friday Night Lights
 The Hitcher
 The Last Legion
 Miss Potter
 Disaster Movie
 Eden Lake
 The Pineapple Express
 Ping Pong Playa
 Postal
 Righteous Kill
 Swing Vote
 The Wackness