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Tuesday, July 29, 2014



DVD Releases for November 10th, 2009 - Part II

We are getting closer to the Thanksgiving long weekend and the official start of the holiday shopping season. Because of this, there are plenty of great releases coming out this week, including Up on a 4-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack, which is clearly DVD Pick of the Week material. Also a DVD Pick of the Week is Monsters, Inc. - 4-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack, while the late arriving Monsters vs. Aliens - Blu-ray earns an honorable mention. With a massive list of releases, including nearly a dozen spotlight reviews, we have once again needed to split the release report into two parts. The first part can be found here.

Sesame Street - 40 Years of Sunny Days - Buy from Amazon
A 2-disc, 5-hour DVD celebrating the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street, which is a show that many, many adults of today grew up on as kids. This special includes clips from the show, including many special guests that have appeared over the years, as well as never before seen behind-the-scenes footage. Definitely worth picking up if your kids are fans of the show, or if you yourself were a fan when you were a kid and you just want to reminisce.

SpongeBob SquarePants - Truth or Square - Buy from Amazon
The latest single disc release from this franchise that has become synonymous with double-dips. Given the past history of this show, it is safe to assume that every episode ever made will be released on DVD on average three times, or more. This time around the episodes contained within are...

  • Truth or Square - It's the eleventy-seventh anniversary of the Krusty Krab and SpongeBob can't wait to celebrate. At the same time, it's the tenth anniversary of the Patchy the Pirate's SpongeBob Fanclub and he's trying to get the real SpongeBob to appear on his show, along with some celebrities. Things don't go quite as planned (for either group) with the gang getting trapped in the freezer, so they spend their time trying to get out, but mostly reminiscing.
  • Porous Pockets - SpongeBob and Patrick find a massive pearl and they sell it for a small fortune. Will this money change SpongeBob? Of course it will.
  • Choir Boys - Squidward tries out with the Bikini Bottom Men's Choir and SpongeBob wants to come along.
  • Krusty Krushers - With a million dollar cash prize up for grabs, Krusty tricks SpongeBob and Patrick into wrestling the tag-team champions.
  • The Card - SpongeBob spends all of his money trying to get a rare animated, holographic, talking Mermaidman and Barnacleboy trading card. But while he fails to get one, Patrick finds one in the first pack he buys. However, Patrick has no idea of its worth, so it is up to SpongeBob to make sure he keeps it safe.
Like most recent single-disc DVD releases, this one is hit and miss. The first two episodes I would consider hits, the third one is a miss, while the last two start out well, but are not able to keep up the same pace. That said, the first episode is longer than the other four combined, so one could argue this is five hits and only one real miss. This is a better hit to miss ratio than the past few DVDs.

Extras include a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the special opening for the anniversary show, which used various animation techniques. There is also a karaoke version of a few of the songs featured in the episodes on this DVD.

SpongeBob SquarePants - Truth or Square is worth picking up if you are a fan of the show. However, it is also likely worth waiting to grab as part of the full season DVD release, which won't be too far away.

Spread - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Vanity project hardly begins to describe this Ashton Kutcher movie. This explains why it earned terrible reviews and bombed at the box office. Now it is coming out on a better than expected DVD while the Blu-ray has High Definition exclusive extras. Even so, both are worth avoiding. It really is a train wreck of a movie.

Star Wreck - Buy from Amazon
A parody of Star Trek made by fans of the show in Finland. Some claim that this installment is the most watched Finish film of all time, but since it is available to watch free from the Official Site that's not as impressive a claim, or for that matter, it might be impossible to confirm that claim. Fans of Star Trek will likely want to check it out and with extras that include a making-of featurette and outtakes it is worth picking up.

Subtle Seduction - Buy from Amazon
A thriller about an undercover cop trying to stop a black widow killer. Given the total lack of reviews, it is likely the most interesting part of this movie might be the casting of Buffie "The Body" Carruth. Having an actor billed as "The Body" on the cover makes the movie hard to take seriously.

Summer's Moon - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD horror film starring one of the cast of Twilight. I'm confident it is the last part that will interest people the most. But will it be enough?

Ashley Greene stars as the titular Summer whom we meet hitchhiking to the small town of Massey to find the father she never met. She has a brief run in with the law, but she is saved by the handsome handyman, Tom (Peter Mooney). After a couple of drinks, they share a night together, but the next morning he turns from prince charming to psycho, and not just a regular type of psycho, as it turns out he's got a garden in the basement where he not only grows plants, but keeps his garden angels -- women he's kidnapped. But this is a case of the nut not falling far from the tree and when his dad comes home, there will be one hell of a reunion.

This is a horror film with exactly one interesting idea, the concept of the human garden angels. However, this idea is never developed fully and is dropped halfway through the movie for a more conventional demented family plot. What you have instead is a very conventional movie with poor execution right from the start. Part of the problem is stupid characters; characters doing stupid things because they need to move the plot forward. We meet Summer hitchhiking and the first person we see pick her up turns out to be someone who only offers her a ride in exchange for sex. She's clearly not into this deal, so what does she do? She spends the night with the very next man that offers her a ride. It makes no sense. The big twist partway through the film is telegraphed almost from the beginning, while the ending is so abrupt that it felt like they forgot to film the real ending and just put out the movie as it was.

The only real extra on the DVD is a nine-minute behind-the-scenes / making of featurette.

Summer's Moon is a movie that is coming out mainly because of its tenuous connection to Twilight. This is not the first film I've reviewed where this is true, and it likely won't be the last. There's little here to set it apart from the crowded genre, while the DVD doesn't have enough extras to lift it to even the rental level.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 22nd of September. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Taxi - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
Thank goodness I got this review done this week, because it won't be that long until the final season comes out and I don't want to be a full season behind on the review.

We are up to season four of five. This is the first season without Jeff Conaway, whose character left to go to Hollywood at the end of season three. He does return for a guest spot this season, which is one of the highlight episodes of this season. Simka also returns partway through the season, which is great news for me, as I always liked her character, and her return is more permanent and her and Latka try to get married in a later episode. Other strong episodes include Vienna Waits where Alex and Elaine go on vacation together as platonic friends under the agreement that if one of them hooks up, the other won't get upset. Alex figures Elaine might get jealous over all the attention he receives, but it doesn't turn out that way. In Louie Goes Too Far, Louie spies on Elaine while she changes, but when he's caught, she gets him fired. The only way to get his job back is to convince Elaine that he's truly remorseful. Ernie Hudson has a guest spot as an up-and-coming boxer that Tony wants to train, but he has competition from The Syndicate, who are trying to steal him away.

Those are not the only hits, while there are a few of episodes I would say missed the mark. Overall I would say the hits outnumber the misses by a three to one ratio, which is an excellent ratio.

On the other hand, the only extras are episodic promos, which I don't consider real extras.

During its five year run, Taxi was nominated for 34 Emmys and 26 Golden Globes, and won 18 of the former and 5 of the later. There was not a single bad season during the show's entire run, and Season Four is no exception. Even without any real extras, it is still worth picking up.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 1st of September. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Season 8 - Buy from Amazon
The oldest of the late DVDs I have to review, which means I'm completely caught up. ... Until the next batch of late DVDs show up.

Long time fans of the show will notice major changes in the show this season right from the beginning. Literally from the very beginning, as the theme song has been changed and the opening credits incorporate some of the live action shots from the movie. There is also a major change in the tone of the show, which is now darker, while some of the more, how to put this, clownish villains are seen no more. A lot of the time is still spend dealing with Kang and Shredder, who are trying to get back in contact with Dimension X, but other villains are here as well. This includes Titanus, the leader of Highly Advanced Variety Of Creatures, a.k.a. H.A.V.O.C., which is the focus of a three-part story arc in the middle of the season.

The darker tone of the series takes a bit of getting used to, and the new theme song just isn't as catchy, but the overall quality is as good as most of the earlier seasons. On the other hand, at only 8 episodes this is the shortest season since the first one, and there are no extras on this single-disc DVD.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Season 8 is the first of the "Red Sky" seasons, which represented a darker tone for the show and a greater emphasis on action over humor. This is either a welcome change for those who preferred the darker tone of the original comic book, or the end of a show they followed for nearly a decade. The lack of extras on the DVD is disappointing, but it is hard to argue with that price.

The Three Stooges Collection - Volume 7 - 1952-1954 - Buy from Amazon
I don't have the screener to review yet, but it should arrive shortly. Since I'm completely caught up on all my late arrivals, I should be able to get to it as soon as it arrives.

Touched by an Angel - Inspiration Collection - Buy from Amazon: Holiday and Hope
They haven't finished releasing this show on full-season DVDs yet, but now they are coming out with Best Of DVDs? This is a bad sign for fans of the show, as it could mean they are giving up on full season sets. At the very least, they are dividing their focus and that will likely delay the release of the full season sets.

TV on DVD - Full Series Megasets - Buy from Amazon: Dawson's Creek, G.I.Joe - Real American Hero, Justice League, Lyrical Nanoha, Midsomer Murders - Barnaby's Casebook, and Show Me Yours
The TV on DVD Megasets this week include the retail release of G.I.Joe that was previously released direct from the website this summer. Also of note, I might get Dawson's Creek to review later on.

The Ugly Truth - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
An absolutely terrible movie, even by the low standards set by the genre. However, it still managed $88 million domestically and will cross $200 million worldwide shortly. Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray are good with deleted scenes, outtakes, and a couple of making-of featurettes, and select scene commentary, but that's only enough to lift it to the rental level. And it is only worth a rental if you are a hardcore fan of the genre.

The Untouchables - Season Three - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Great show. Weak DVD release. Won't be able to say if the particular episodes presented here are enough to overcome the weak DVD until the screener arrives.

Up - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Two-Disc DVD, or Blu-ray

Up is this week's featured DVD Review. Click here to read the review.

Watchmen - The Ultimate Cut - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This is the movie plus The Black Freighter integrated together with a few additional scenes not in the theatrical or director's cut. It also includes the Animated Comic Book version and enough extras to lift its running time to close to ten hours on four-disc DVD or three-disc Blu-ray. The fact that it is coming out so soon after the previous release does make it feel like a cash grab, but there's a lot of material here for just $31.

A Woman in Berlin - Buy from Amazon
A movie about the post-World War II occupation of Berlin by Russian forces and what one woman did to survive. Not an easy movie to watch, but it is worth watching. There appears to be no extras on the DVD, but it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Would Be Kings - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian TV mini-series that was a major player at the Gemini Awards last year is making its DVD debut in the United States this week. It's about two cops, that are also cousins, who have to deal with corruption that could threaten their jobs, and their family bonds. The biggest name in the film is Natasha Henstridge, who won a Gemini for her performance, but she's not the only reason to grab this DVD tomorrow.

Warning: These DVDs do not come out this week and made their home market debut on the 15th of September. However, the screeners arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

X-Men - Buy from Amazon: Volume Three and Volume Four
Trying to catch up on all the late reviews. This one is easier than most, because I've reviewed the first two volumes here. It also helps that the X-Men are arguably the most famous super hero team on all of comic book history, which further reduces the amount of background information I need to give on this 1990s cartoon. Instead, I can jump right into the highlight episodes.

Like the previous releases, volume three has a balance of one-off episodes and multi-story arcs. However, unlike volume one, the balance is shifted to the one-off stories. The 2-disc set does start out with a two-part story with the X-Men traveling to the Savage Land, a land ruled by cavemen and dinosaurs, including the mutant known as Sauron. The main story on this set, however, is The Dark Phoenix, a four-part story that follows up on The Phoenix Saga from volume two. These four episodes will be enough to convince fans of the show to buy this DVD. That said, there are also stand out episodes including Obsession, which has Archangel continuing his quest to destroy the immortal Apocalypse. Wolverine leans more about his past in Weapon X, Lies, and Video Tape, while an alternate timeline version of Wolverine and Storm must stop an assassin from killing Professor X in the past in One Man's Worth - Part 1 and 2.

The highlight of Volume Four is Beyond Good and Evil, which is a four-part story with the return of Apocalypse. Other strong episodes include Sanctuary, where Magneto constructs an orbiting space station as a home for mutants, but betrayal from within threatens his paradise. All of disc two are single episodes, but almost all are merely average. The season finale, Family Ties, is the best of the second disc. In that episode Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch and Magneto are lured to Wundagore valley separately, but when there they will learn of a powerful connection between the three. It is important to note that while there are not as many great episodes, almost all are worth checking out and most have enough replay value that the two-disc set is worth picking up.

There are no extras on either disc, but both have play all buttons, subtitles, and proper chapter placements.

While I wish X-Men Volume Three and Volume Four were loaded with extras, they are loaded with quality episodes. For fans of the show, or of the comic in general, both are worth picking up, and I look forward to reviewing the fifth and final series soon.

Xavier - Renegade Angel - Seasons 1 & 2 - Buy from Amazon
Made by the same people who created Wonder Showzen, but possibly even less accessible to the average viewer. If you didn't like Wonder Showzen, I think you can safely avoid this show. Even if you liked Wonder Showzen, start with a rental here.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2009-11-09

Movies 
 Up
 Monsters vs. Aliens
 Spread
 Subtle Seduction
 The Ugly Truth
 Watchmen
 Anonyma - Eine Frau in Berlin
 Would Be Kings