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Wednesday, July 23, 2014



DVD Releases for June 30th, 2009

Summer blockbuster might fill multiplexes at the moment, but the home market releases are terrible. None of the first run releases are that worthy, and there are few limited release, catalogue titles, and TV on DVD to back them up. The best of the best all came from that last category with Eureka - Season 3.0, The IT Crowd - The Complete Second Season, Parker Lewis Can't Lose - Season One, and Stargate - Atlantis - Season Five all being in consideration for DVD Pick of the Week. I can't decide which one deserves the title the most, and while four releases are a bit much to be called DVD Pick of the Week, I'm going to call them all co-winners.

12 Rounds - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
First a quick note, I only have the DVD; in fact, I only have the DVD-R screener, and not the final retail product. I might be getting the Blu-ray later, but that seems unlikely.

Professional wrestler John Cena stars as Danny Fisher, a cop who, mostly by fluke, managed to run into and capture Miles Jackson, a master criminal. However, in the process, Miles' girlfriend is killed and he vows revenge. A year later, he escapes from prison, kidnaps Danny's girlfriend and forces him to take part in a series of 12 deadly tasks in order to secure her release. What follows is a pretty standard action movie, but is it at least entertaining?

A lot of reviewing movies is expectations. You must control your expectations, because sometimes if you think you will hate a movie, you will hate that movie regardless of the quality. Other times, having low expectations helps. This is one of those times. I'm not going to call this a high quality movie, because it's not, but it does have high energy, and it is fun in an 'empty calorie entertainment' kind of way. I don't think John Cena has the charisma to be a leading man, even in these action films; he's no Dwayne Johnson, for instance, and compared to most big-budget releases, the action is a little tame. But even so, if you are looking for a way to waste a Saturday afternoon, this is not a bad choice.

Extras on the DVD include two audio commentary tracks, the first with Renny Harlin, who is rather dull in his delivery, and the second with John Cena and Daniel Kunka, the writer. These two have a lot more energy and that helps the track movie by a lot smoother. Both tracks can only be heard on the Unrated version. There is a ten-minute featurette on the stunts, and there are five minutes of outtakes and two alternate endings, both with two audio commentary tracks.

Apparently the Blu-ray has a few more featurettes and is BD-Live enabled, all for 30% more, which is a good price.

Big, loud, and dumb... but fun. That's probably the best way to describe 12 Rounds and that adds up to a solid rental for fans of the genre. Those who really want to buy, the Blu-ray appears to be the better deal over the DVD, but I'm forced to make that call not having access to the Blu-ray.

The Betrayed - Buy from Amazon
The movie starts with a cop coming across an accident scene where a car appears to have been forced off the road. There's no one inside, but there's a kids seat in the back. We then cut to Melissa George, who has been captured by an unknown person who claims her husband is part of an international heroin smuggling syndicate. However, he recently turned on their mutual boss and stole $40 million. Now she has to help get the money back in the next 12 hours, or her and her son will be killed.

A single-location suspense film where the claustrophobic feel should help build tension. But for a suspense movie, there's a surprising lack of... well... suspense. The movie is rather straightforward with no real twists that will surprise many who see the movie. There are two main 'twists' that stood for being obvious from a mile away that I can talk about. Firstly, it was clear from the first time we hear it that the song the husband sings with his son is the key to getting the money transferred. Also, as soon as we learn the husband killed the kidnapper's family, I knew he was paid to by their mutual boss. It just so obvious they way they are brought up in the movie and when they big 'reveal' finally happened, it was anti-climatic. This is a shame, as there are some good performances here, including Melissa George, but she deserves to give this performance in a better movie.

There are no extras on the DVD. None.

The Betrayed is the kind of movie that wants to build up the tension, but releases it too early and too often by giving away too much. Add in zero extras on the DVD and it is impossible for me to recommend buying. On the other hand, a rental is not out of the question.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 12 Rounds, Barbra Streisand: Live in Concert 2006, Chopin: La Dame aux Camelias, Do the Right Thing, Flawless, How the Earth was Made, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and Friends: 70th Birthday Concert, Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience, Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk, Moretti: Caravaggio, Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, Tan Dun: Marco Polo - An Opera Within an Opera, Ted Nugent: Motor City Mayhem - 6,000th Concert, Toyko!, Transmorphers: Fall of Man, Two Lovers, and Wagner: Die Walkure (St. Clair Ring Cycle Part 2)
Terrible selection of Blu-ray releases this week with not a single first-run release that matched expectations at the box office. Right now 12 Rounds is the best seller, which is a sad statement to make.

Blue Murder - Set 4 - Buy from Amazon
Caroline Quentin returns as DCI Janine Lewis in this British mystery series. A great show, but that's expensive for just six episodes. And it's not like each episode is a 90-minute TV movie, they are only 45 minutes long. Too much on a per minute basis, and I can only recommend a rental.

British Cinema: Renown Pictures Crime & Noir - Buy from Amazon
Six movies crammed onto two discs. There are some fine films here, and it is hard to beat that price, but I would rather pay more to get more.

Dark Streets - Buy from Amazon
This film opened to weak reviews and went nowhere at the box office. The DVD will sell better, mainly because it couldn't sell worse. On a side note, some sources have it coming out tomorrow, while Amazon says it came out last week.

Dinosaur King - Volcanic Panic - Buy from Amazon
Practically a remake of Pokemon, right down to most of the voice cast. It's not a bad show, but it costs too much for a single-disc release.

Do the Right Thing - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of Spike Lee's earliest films, and still one of his best. The 20th anniversary DVD has all of the substantial extras from the previous special edition ported over (only the music video is missing) plus a new audio commentary track (to go with the old one) a retrospective and more. That's plenty to encourage double-dipping. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray has no substantial exclusives, but it is BD-Live enabled, and it only costs $19 on Amazon. That's a solid deal for a catalogue release, and worth the upgrade.

Eastbound & Down - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Danny McBride can be a funny guy, but he's been playing the same role far too many times in his short career. In the past two years he's been in eight movies and played one character. Okay, maybe that's not being completely fair, but he's in real danger of typecasting himself out of a career. As for this release, extras are a little light, and the price is high considering the season is only six episodes long. Even so, fans of his might want to pick it up, or at least rent it.

The Education of Charlie Banks - Buy from Amazon
The first film directed by rocker Fred Durst, although it didn't get to theaters till after The Longshots. Reviews were only mixed and it never found an audience during its short theatrical run. It's worth checking out, but for most a rental will be enough.

Entourage - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
One of the few genuinely funny bits in Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy was Four Years of Entourage in Ten Seconds. It's true that this show has become too stale and predictable by this point and it is in danger of become a self-parody. That said, it is the number one selling DVD according to Amazon, so there are obviously plenty of fans out there. If you are among them, the extras consist of audio commentary tracks on three of the twelve episodes, and a making of featurette. That's not a lot, but enough to warrant a purchase over a rental for many fans.

Eureka - Season 3.0 - Buy from Amazon
A lot of people are complaining about this season being split into two volumes for its DVD release. However, compared to season two, this 2-disc set is actually cheaper on a per minute basis. And it is loaded with extras with audio commentary tracks on most episodes and a featurette. Worth picking up. Easily worth picking up and even a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The IT Crowd - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
A British sitcom about a dysfunctional IT department at a large firm. An incredibly funny show, but there are only six episodes on this DVD, which makes the price per minute rather high for TV on DVD. This is not uncommon for imports, and the extras (commentary track, behind-the-scenes, outtakes) are enough to make it worth purchasing.

Jonas Brothers - The 3D Concert Experience - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD, Two-Disc DVD, or Three-Disc Blu-ray
I reviewed this Blu-ray last week, and I don't have much new to add this week.

A concert film showcasing the Burning Up Tour, as well as some documentary / behind-the-scenes aspects of the Jonas Brothers' life on tour. Joe, Nick, and Kevin might be heartthrobs to millions of 'Tweens, but do they have what it takes to win over this critic?

I went into reviewing this Blu-ray with the same mindset that I had when I reviewed the Best of Both Worlds Blu-ray. I was not expecting to be won over by the music, but I was more interested in judging this concert based on the energy and stage presence of the band. After all, I'm not part of the target audience here, and if you are not, then you have probably moved onto the next review. And if you are part of the target audience and love The Jonas Brothers, you don't care what I think about the movie. I was won over by Miley Cyrus; granted, her music is definitely pop, and that's not my usual musical choice, but it is well crafted pop, and her enthusiasm is infectious. This is not the case here. A lot of the critics complained that the music was rather generic sounding, and quite frankly I agree. Having just finished watching the movie one and a half times (once in 3D, and partially in 2D and on DVD to compare video and audio quality) and have to say that if I heard these songs on the radio right now I wouldn't be able to identify them. For the most part, they could have been playing the same song over and over again and I just didn't notice. The highlight of the concert for me was Taylor Swift; it's not a good sign when the special guest outshines the main act.

As for the documentary segments, they could have been completely removed and it would have improved the overall show. Totally superfluous.

I only have the Three-Disc Blu-ray, but I'm 90% sure I can figure out what's on the other versions.

The Single-Disc DVD has two bonus songs, "Love Bug" and "Shelf", as well as a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

The Two-Disc DVD has those extras, while the second disc is a digital copy of the movie.

The Three-Disc Blu-ray has all of those extras on the Blu-ray disc, and includes the Two-Disc DVD version of the movie. (The DVD version is only in 2D version. However, I think the only way to get the 3D version is to buy the Blu-ray.) Technically speaking, the audio was great, but that was too be expected since it was a concert film and it relies to heavily on the sound. As for the video, the 2D version looks a whole lot better than the 3D version, but that's just a result of the 3D technology. Some of the behind-the-scenes shots feel like they were not shot in true High Definition, but that could have been an editorial choice and not the fault of the transfer. As for the 3D effects, there were some shots that I will admit were really cool (including the drumstick throwing), but I'm still not a huge fan of the technology. Most of the time it feels like it is just a gimmick, and not intergral to the storytelling, not that there's a lot of storytelling in this type of movie. Finally, it is BD-Live enabled with the usual suite of extras (Movie Mail, Movie Chat, etc.) Comparing prices, it only costs 13% more to get the film in High Definition, which is a very, very reasonable upgrade for what you get. In fact, if you have not yet upgraded to High Definition, it might be worth buying the Blu-ray now, to avoid the extra cost of double-dipping when you do.

Jonas Brothers - The 3D Concert Experience is for fans only and won't win over any new converts. That said, the Three-Disc Blu-ray is likely worth picking up for such fans.

Kaidan - Buy from Amazon
A Japanese horror film about a curse created when a husband accidentally kills his wife and then runs off with one of her students. It was directed by Hideo Nakata, who directed Ringu, but this is not one of his best films. Worth checking out for fans of the genre, but a rental will be enough.

The Lucille Ball Specials - Buy from Amazon
The first of a planned series of DVD releases featuring TV specials from Lucille Ball. This one has Lucy Gets Lucky and Three for Two, both from 1975. Extras include interviews, outtakes, and more, and the DVD is worth picking up for fans of the comedienne.

MonsterQuest - Season Three - Set One - Buy from Amazon
What does this show have to do with history? Why is the History Channel showing it? A lame show that tries to look for evidence of the abominable snowman, among other make believe creatures, and pass it odd as science instead of insanity. Throw in a price that is way too high on a per minute basis, and it is skippable.

Monster X Strikes Back - Buy from Amazon
The latest from director Minoru Kawasaki, who brought us The Calamari Wrestler and Executive Koala. I have no idea what this movie is about, but it's a Blind Buy for me.

Nostradamus 2012 - Buy from Amazon
Nothing is going to happen on December 21st, 2012. Actually, a lot is going to happen on December 21st, 2012; it's a big planet, after all, and there should be plenty of noteworthy events that occur that day. But the End of the World won't be one of them.

Parker Lewis Can't Lose - Season One - Buy from Amazon
I remember this show as a sort-of TV adaptation of Ferris Bueller's Day Off, at least that's the kind of vibe is was giving off. This is ironic since Ferris Bueller's Day Off was actually turned into a TV series the same year, but it was terrible and quickly cancelled. That's not to say this show was a ratings phenomenon, and it likely lasted three seasons thanks in part to Fox's willingness to stick with shows longer than the established networks were at the time. (Oh boy, has that ever changed.) Extras include audio commentary tracks on 7 of the 25 episodes, as well as a meaty 30-minute featurette on the history of the show. Easily worth picking up, even if you don't remember the show from when it first aired.

Pedro - Buy from Amazon
A biopic about AIDS activist and reality TV star, Pedro Zamora. The story is compelling, but it feels like a TV movie too often.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 23rd. However, the screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Pink Panther 2 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The Blu-ray arrived this week, but not the DVD, which likely won't arrive at all. But was it worth the wait?

No. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Steve Martin returns as Inspector Jacques Clouseau, who this time teams up with an international 'dream team' of police inspectors to catch The Tornado, a master criminal stealing some of the most priceless artifacts in the world, including the Pink Panther Diamond. He teams up with Jeno Reno and Emily Mortimer, who return from the first film, while he ruffles the feathers of his international cohorts, Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina, Aishwarya Rai, etc. while in search of The Tornado.

It's a thin, thin plot, but that's not what makes this movie practically unwatchable. Two things do that. Firstly, Steve Martin's accent is so bad that I couldn't understand what he was saying without the subtitles on. I know, at times it is intentionally unintelligible, but it was that way for most of the movie. And his is not the only accent in the movie I found troubling. I couldn't imagine seeing this movie in the theaters without the aid of subtitles. Even with subtitles I found the very sound of Steve Martin's accent grating and by the end wanted to turn the sound off, just to see if the movie would be more pleasant that way. ... It is.

Secondly, whoever made this movie doesn't know the first thing about humor. The essence of humor, as described my Isaac Asimov, is setting up one expectation, then delivering on another. If you can see all of the jokes coming a mile away, and they are delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, they lose their effectiveness. Case in point, the group is driving up to the home of Avellaneda, a Spanish master criminal forced to live in exile in the Italian countryside. Inspector Clouseau goes on and on about this poor man's fate and how it shows that crime does not pay. So of course they pull up to a massive mansion. It was painfully obvious this was going to be the punch line, and to make matters worse, the set up took so long that it killed whatever little humor was left in the joke. And this is just one example of dozens similar problems I could mention.

This could have the worst quality to cast ratio of any movie I've reviewed. The cast is amazing, but by the time they are all introduced, I actively hated this movie.

It also struggled at the box office, which explains why the Blu-ray itself does not have a lot of extras on it. There are three-and-a-half minutes of outtakes, an eight-minute make of featurette, a fourteen-minute featurette on the cast, and a trivia game. Individually they are not bad, but combined they are not enough for a first run release like this.

There are two other discs in this release, the third one being a digital copy of the movie, and the second being a collection of 27 Pink Panther shorts. When I saw this, I flipped out. I was prepared to recommend this movie based on this disc alone... Then I saw it was a DVD. Had it been in High Definition with a good transfer, it would have been worth the price of the package by itself. As it is, you can buy these elsewhere without the horrible movie tagging along.

Speaking of High Definition, how's the audio and video on this Blu-ray? Better than the quality of the movie, but still just average for the format. There's nothing here that makes you want to put it on to show off your home theater system, while my rear speakers were underutilized.

Pink Panther 2 earned some of the worst reviews of the year, and some of the worst reviews of Steve Martin's career. Going into this movie, I thought to myself, 'It can't be that bad, can it?' It's worse. The only redeeming quality of the Blu-ray is the bonus disc of shorts, but buying the Cartoon Collection, or the massive Ultimate Collection is the better deal.

Princess Protection Program - Buy from Amazon
The movie stars Selena Gomez (Wizards of Waverly Place) and Demi Lovato (Camp Rock). The latter plays Princess Rosalinda Marie Montoya Fiore, who is about to become the queen of Costa Luna. However, General Magnus Kane of neighboring Costa Estrella decides that since she is too young to be a leader, the two countries should united under one rule. His rule of course. That's where Major Mason comes in. He's an agent of the Princess Protection Program, which jumps into action whenever royalty is threatened. (Or if the name is accurate, only with female royalty is threatened. Princes have to deal with danger on their own, I guess.) He whisks her away, but her mother is captured. Now Rosalinda must live as a regular teenager named Rosie in order to avoid detection, much to the horror of Major Mason's daughter, Carter (played by Selena Gomez). Can Rosalinda fit in with the common teenager? Will Carter and Rosie get along? Will Carter get the guy of her dreams? Will Rosie clash with the snobs at school? Will her secret be exposed? Will she ever return home and take her place on the royal thrown?

If you've seen many Disney TV movies, you can answer all of these questions, and more. Okay, originality is not this film's strong suit, then again, this is true of nearly every Disney TV movie made, so condemning it on that point seems a little harsh. I do think stars Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato have good chemistry together, and that adds a lot to the overall value of the movie. Also of note, Demi Lovato's acting in this movie is a step above her performance in Camp Rock, which I reviewed previously. Then again, here she is acting along side Selena Gomez, who has a lot more screen presence than whichever Jonas Brother was playing the male lead in that movie. (Quite frankly, I don't which Jonas brother is which, nor do I care to learn.) Overall, this isn't the best Disney TV movie I've seen, but it is probably in the top third. (Better than Camp Rock, but not as good as Cadet Kell, for instance.) If you are a fan of either of the two leads or of the genre in general, it is worth checking out.

But if you saw it when it debuted on TV on Friday, is it worth buying? That's where the extras come in. There are four main selling points. Firstly, there's the extended ending, which is basically a huge setup for a sequel, and there will be a sequel, as the movie was watched by 8.5 million people, making it the third highest rated Disney TV movie ever. (Only Camp Rock and High School Musical 2 beat it.) Secondly, there's a seven-and-a-half minute long behind-the-scenes featurette called Royal and Loyal BFFs, which highlights the chemistry between Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. A Royal Reality talks to a real-life princess, and more of the cast and crew. Finally, there's a music video for "One and the Same", which is a duet by Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. It's actually better than I was expecting. Certainly better than most Disney stars who are given a chance to sing. Then again, far too many Disney stars are given a chance to sing.

While I'm not part of the target audience ('Tween girls) I'm quite confident in saying that Princess Protection Program should please those who are. If you saw it on TV and liked it, the DVD has enough extras for this type of release that it is worth picking up. If you missed it, give it a rental.

Sea Beast - Buy from Amazon
I think this is coming out this week because Parker Lewis Can't Lose - Season One is coming out on DVD as well. (Corin Nemec stars in both, if you didn't catch the connection.) Also starring in this movie is Miriam McDonald of Degrassi, which is the only reason I'm mentioning the film. To be fair, the film is earning better reviews than many made for Sci-Fi Channel movies, but the cover art screams Jaws rip-off, which will keep most people away. Unless they are into bad Jaws rip-off, in which case this is a better choice than most.

Secret Diary of a Call Girl - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
I liked the first season, but the screener for season two has not yet arrived, so I can't compare the two. Hopefully if will arrive soon, and hopefully it will be worth the wait.

Stargate - Atlantis - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
On the one hand, it sucks that this show is ending. On the other hand, at least it didn't last beyond its 'Best before date'. Also, while the show is ending, the franchise is not. If you have been collecting the series up to this point, there's no point in stopping now. If not, wait a few months till the complete series comes out before jumping in. Hopefully that collection will be worth the price.

Street Fighter - The Legend of Chun-Li - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I may or may not be receiving a copy of this movie to review. If I do, I would rather wait till it arrives to do a full spotlight review. But in case I don't... Street Fighter - The Legend of Chun-Li earned some of the worst reviews of the year and managed to be one of the biggest bombs as well. It performed even worse than the original, which very few people were expecting. Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making of featurette, and an animated comic book, which is much better than expected. The Blu-ray has all of these, plus a digital copy of the movie. I don't know if that's enough to be worth the upgrade. Then again, I would only recommend renting, and that's only if you enjoy 'so bad they are good' type movies.

They Call Me Bruce - Buy from Amazon
A cult classic martial arts comedy from the early 1980s that most people today have probably never heard of. (Although its box office numbers are stronger than I would have expected.) It's a B-movie, but it is worth checking out for fans of martial arts comedies.

Tokyo! - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Three directors create three stories set in the titular city. Reviews were strong, but not strong enough to thrive in limited release. Extras on both the DVD and the Blu-ray are comprised of extensive interviews / behind-the-scenes footage, while the movie is the same price on Amazon, regardless of format. Worth picking up, and the Blu-ray is obviously the better deal.

Trailer Park Boys - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
All seven seasons of this award-winning Canadian TV series presented on a 13-disc DVD with cool packaging. I don't think it includes the movie, but everything else is here and it is worth picking up if you don't have the series yet.

Tunnel Rats - Buy from Amazon
An Uwe Boll movie that isn't an adaptation of a video game. Even more surprising, reports are it doesn't completely suck. In fact, some are calling it the best Uwe Boll movie ever, and they don't mean that as an insult. Overall there are some positive reviews to go with the negative ones, but for those few willing to give the man one more chance, this isn't a bad place to start.

Two Lovers - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This movie will likely be remember as the movie Joaquin Phoenix was promoting when he snapped. I still don't know if his behavior was part of an elaborate publicity scheme, or genuine craziness. Or perhaps it is something in-between. As for the movie itself, it did earn excellent reviews and just over $3 million at the box office, which is strong for a limited release coming out in February. Extras include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and two making of featurettes. That's also strong for a limited release, and it is worth picking up over just renting. Unfortunately, at 40% more and with no additional extras, I can't recommend the Blu-ray, unless you have abandoned the DVD format.

White Sox Memories - The Greatest Momements In Chicago White Sox History - Buy from Amazon
The team has been around in one form or another for roughly 115 years, yet their 'Best of...' release is only 110 minutes long. This should leave fans wondering how much they had to cut out to keep it under two hours. Or for those haters out there... How did they manage to pad it out to nearly two hours? I vastly prefer full games to highlight reels like this, but for a franchise that lasted this long, this is only possible for limited scope releases. For instance, championship season DVDs.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2009-06-29

Movies 
 12 Rounds
 Flawless
 Transmorphers: Fall of Man
 Dark Streets
 The Education of Charlie Banks
 Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience
 Kaidan
 The Pink Panther 2
 Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
 Tokyo!
 Two Lovers