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DVD and Blu-ray Releases for January 12th, 2010

January 11th, 2010

As it is usually true at this time of year, there are very few major releases hitting the home market this week. Most of the films on this week's list that opened wide were critics and / or box office disappointments, but at least there are a number of smaller films to pick up the slack. This includes Big Fan, which features what should be a star making performance by Patton Oswald, but the DVD isn't exactly loaded with extras. That's not an issue with Moon, as both the DVD and the Blu-ray are loaded with extras. The best release of the week is arguably The Hurt Locker and both its DVD and Blu-ray are Pick of the Week material. However, it is likely that it will be joined by Transformers - Season 2 - Volume 2, once the screener arrives.

10 Things I Hate About You - 10th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The DVD and the Blu-ray came out last week; however, the Blu-ray didn't arrive on time, so it wasn't included in the original review. That situation has been rectified, and I can update my review.

As expected, there are no additional extras on the Blu-ray compared to the DVD. At least the 35-minute making-of featurette / retrospective is presented in High Definition. As for the High Definition presentation of the film itself, it was mixed. There were some issues, especially in the beginning credits, which did not look sharp. However, it did improve after that and for most of the movie there are no real issues. Granted, it never becomes one of the best-looking Blu-rays I've reviewed, but it is a relatively low budget title here. (Its production budget was only $13 million back in 1999.) Likewise, the sound is good, for the type of film. The dialogue is clear, but very front heavy in terms of speaker usage. Even the music, which is an important part of the movie, rarely adds to the atmospheric use of the speakers.

That brings us to the price, which is $19.99. On the one hand, this is quite a bit more than the DVD, which includes a digital copy of the movie, while the Blu-ray doesn't. On the other hand, $19.99 is a solid price for a catalogue release, especially one that has improvements over the older release. So if you ignore the DVD that was released last week, this Blu-ray is an excellent value.

10 Things I Hate About You - The Series - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
While the TV show makes its home market debut this week, I reviewed it last week. That review can be found here.

Amreeka - Buy from Amazon
This Canadian co-production tells the story of the immigrant experience in a post 9/11 world. It earned excellent reviews and picked up a trio of Indepdent Spirit Award nominations, among other awards. Despite the quality and the film's strong start in limited release, it failed to capitalize at the box office. Granted, earning more than $600,000 in limited release isn't a bad total, but it deserved more. Hopefully it will get it on the home market and even though the DVD release had no extras, it's still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Becker - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
Ted Danson stars as the titular Becker, a misanthropic doctor, in this show that ran for an impressive six seasons. Granted, that's nothing compared to Cheers, his previous TV series, but that unfair comparison aside, it was a good show. Was season three one of the better seasons? I won't be able to say for sure until the screener arrives.

Big Fan - Buy from Amazon
Patton Oswalt gets his first starring role in a dramatic film playing a football-obsessed fan who meets his idol, only for the interaction to turn violent and send his life into turmoil. Since I've been a fan of Oswalt and this movie was written and directed by Robert D. Siegel, who previously made The Wrestler, I had high hopes for this film. Critically, it delivered. At the box office... not so much. Extras on the DVD include some interviews and deleted scenes. I would have loved an audio commentary track with the director and the star, but it's still worth buying.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 8 1/2, Billy Jack, The Brothers Bloom, The Burning Plain, Cliffhanger, Fame, Halloween II, The Hurt Locker, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, IMAX: Volcanos of the Deep Sea, In the Loop, Last Action Hero, The Matrix, Moon, Post Grad, and The Simpsons - Season 20
Not a great selection of Blu-ray releases this week. Sure, there are a few I'm interested it, but they are mostly smaller films like The Brothers Bloom, Moon, and The Hurt Locker.

Breaking Point - Buy from Amazon
Practically a direct-to-DVD release. It stars Armand Assante, Tom Berenger, Busta Rhymes, and others, but the reviews are disastrous. The term "generic" seems to be a favorite of the critics. So unless you are a hardcore fan of these actors, you can safely give this film a pass.

Brothers at War - Buy from Amazon
A number of films about the Iraq War have come out, but few are this personal. Director Jake Rademacher tells the story of his two brothers, who were serving at the time. However, the film only received mixed reviews, perhaps because it was too personal and not objective enough. Extras on the DVD include deleted scenes / additional footage, and it is worth checking out.

The Brothers Bloom - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I've been looking forward to seeing this movie for a long time, as I'm a sucker for conmen movies and the director's first movie, Brick was amazing. It was delayed a few times and when it finally did come out, its reviews were good, but not great, and certainly not up to its potential. (One of its earlier release dates had it coming out during the heart of Awards Season, which might have built up expectations too much.) Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track and some deleted scenes, while the Blu-ray appears to have no additional extras, while it costs a lot more. Currently it costs 72% more over on Amazon.com, which is unacceptably high. However, the manufacturer's list price is 75% higher, so you can't blame the retailer here. (Sometimes the DVD is discounted a lot more than the Blu-ray, which is a shame.) It is still worth picking up, but unless you have abandoned DVD for Blu-ray, it is not worth paying more for High Definition.

Bugs Bunny's Cupid Capers - Buy from Amazon
The next Looney Tunes release I want to see announced is a chronological collection. This would mean there would be a lot of double-dips, but I would be willing to pay to make sure I got them all.

The Burning Plain - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film opened in limited release with weak reviews and never really found an audience theatrically. To make matters worse, there appear to be no extras on either the DVD or the Blu-ray. At least it only costs $1 more to grab the High Definition edition, but really, a rental will be enough for most people.

By the People: The Election of Barack Obama - Buy from Amazon
A political documentary about the historic election of Barack Obama. Since he earned the nickname, "No Drama Obama," there are times this film is not as compelling as it could be. Also, it doesn't pay enough attention to the other campaigns, which means it doesn't tell the whole story. Still, worth checking out and the extras are impressive (audio commentary, deleted scenes, and more). Call it a solid rental, leaning toward a purchase.

Departures - Buy from Amazon
The Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film opened with reviews that were good, but not great at 71% positive. (They have since risen by ten percentage points.) Likewise, it opened reasonably well at the box office, but was not a huge hit. Was it the best? Probably not. Is it worth checking out? Certainly. The only extra is an interview with the director, Yojiro Takita, so start with a rental first unless you are a fan of his or of Japanese cinema in general.

Downloading Nancy - Buy from Amazon
I remember hearing some good buzz about this movie before its release, mostly about Maria Bello's performance. However, while some of the critics did praise her performance, it was practically the only part of the movie they liked. Add in a DVD with no real extras, and it is hard to recommend renting. For most, this is safely skippable.

E.R. - Season 12 - Buy from Amazon
12 years. That's amazing. It would be more amazing if The Simpsons wasn't releasing its 20th season this week, but it is still pretty cool. After 12 years on the air, it's hard to come up with things to talk about. It is the first season in a long time without Ming-Na or Sherry Stringfield. This is also the season that Kat Dennings had a recurring part in as Zoe Butler. That might be enough for me to buy this six-disc set.

Fame - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This remake attempted to reboot the franchise that started with the movie, Fame, in 1980 and lasted for six years on TV. However, this film barely made more than the original did at the box office, despite nearly 30 years of inflation to help it. One look at the reviews explains why it struggled at the box office, while its release date certainly didn't help. Given its box office struggles, its lackluster home market releases are also not surprising and both formats only have some deleted scenes, music video, etc. If you are a fan of the genre, then maybe it is worth a rental. But that's as enthusiastic as I am willing to go. Also coming out is Season Two of the TV show, which is the better deal.

Halloween 2 - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical DVD, Unrated DVD, or Unrated Blu-ray
The previous installment of this franchise earned weak reviews, but still managed to be a relatively strong performer at the box office, especially when compared to its production budget. The sequel earned weaker reviews and struggled more at the box office. That said, it will likely show a profit sooner rather than later, thanks mostly to its sub-$20 million production budget. There are a lot of extras presented here, including an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, outtakes, etc. However, unless you are a hardcore fan of the franchise, it's still only worth a rental. If you are planning on buying, the Blu-ray does has some exclusive features, and only costs 25% more.

The House on Sorority Row - Buy from Amazon
With the remake coming out in September, I was expecting this DVD to be released earlier. However, it was delayed until now. (Strangely, Sorority Row's home market debut was also delayed and now comes out at the end of February.) Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track, storyboard comparison, and a look at the proposed alternate ending. Not bad and worth checking out for fans of the genre.

The Hurt Locker - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the best-reviewed movies of the year. One of the few limited releases to have some legitimate measure of mainstream success. And one of the major players this Awards Season. The only way this release won't be a contender for Pick of the Week is if they screw up the home market versions. Fortunately, that is not the case. The DVD has an audio commentary track, behind-the-scenes featurette, and a Q&A session. The Q&A session is audio only, but as you listen there is a slideshow of production stills. The Blu-ray has no additional extras and costs 36% more, which is a little higher than I would like for a release like this. Word is it shines in High Definition, but without a screener I can't say for sure. That said, both are of nearly equal value.

I Can Do Bad All By Myself - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
It's a Tyler Perry movie. At this point there's little that needs to be added to that statement. This is arguably the best movie he has directed, but if you don't like his style or choice of subject matter, that won't change here. Both formats only have a trio of featurettes in terms of extras, while it costs most than 40% more to make the jump to High Definition. That's too much to ask, especially for a film that doesn't need to be in High Definition to be appreciated. Also coming out this week is Tyler Perry's House of Payne - Volume Five.

In the Loop - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Political satire about the build-up to the Iraq War. The film earned incredible reviews and did very well during its opening; however, it couldn't maintain that momentum as it expanded. This is not entirely shocking, as it is a tough genre to sell. The DVD and the Blu-ray only has a behind-the-scenes documentary and some deleted scenes, while the Blu-ray costs more than 50% more. Unless you've given up on DVDs, it isn't worth the price to upgrade to High Definition. That said, it is worth buying on DVD.

Kathy Griffin: She'll Cut a Bitch - Buy from Amazon
So apparently Kathy Griffin has been banned from ever appearing on CNN again after swearing while on a live feed, again. Quite frankly, I think she should become a news anchor on the channel and CNN should fire whomever thought it was a wise idea to threaten to take back her paycheck if she swore again, because you know that was going to backfire.

Like Stars on Earth - Buy from Amazon
An Indian film about a child's struggles with learning. Most people just think he's slow, but he has great artistic talent. Overall the film earned generally good reviews, but not enthusiastically good reviews. (You see a lot of seven out of ten scores.) Many point to the combination of live action and animation as a positive aspect to the film, as it helps add a sense of wonder to the film and by most reports it is worth checking out. I would start with a rental, unless you are a large fan of Indian movies or inspirational films about kids overcoming low expectations placed in them by others.

Make It or Break It - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
The world of ultra-competitive gymnastics is the focus of this ABC Family series, which made its debut on TV last summer. It hits the home market this week and I reviewed the two-disc set here.

Moon - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Sam Rockwell stars in this science fiction suspense movie set on the Moon. Rockwell plays the only person on a moonbase / automated mining facility. However, as his three-year contract nears its end, he begins to see things he can't explain. But he doesn't know if there's something out there, or something wrong with him. After all, three years is a long time to spend all alone. The film earned stunning reviews and did very well in limited release, although it wasn't able to expand wide enough to challenge for a spot in the top ten. It did well enough that the studio is releasing it on a loaded DVD / Blu-ray. Both formats have two audio commentary tracks, two making-of featurettes, two Q&A sessions, and a short film from the co-writer / director, Duncan Jones. The Blu-ray has no additional extras, but costs 30% more, which is a little on the high end of expectations, but still acceptable. Regardless, both formats are worth picking up, and both are contenders for Pick of the Week.

Nun of That - Buy from Amazon
If that name doesn't make you stop and take notice, the DVD cover will, which features a bad-ass nun with a gun. Sarah Nicklin stars as Sister Wrath, a nun with a quick temper. When she discovers corruption in the church, her temper gets the best of her and she is thrown out and later killed by the mob. However, that's not the end of her, as she is resurrected and recruited by the Order of the Black Habit, a heavenly hit squad that deal out divine retribution to those deemed worthy. Obviously this is not a movie for everyone. Some might think it is too controversial, others might think it is merely trying too hard to be controversial. That said, most of the reviews I've read online have been positive, and if you are into exploitation flicks, this is one to check out.

Post Grad - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Alexis Bledel stars as a recent college grad who has trouble getting her adult life going due to the recession. The film has a number of great comedic stars, but critics complained that they were let down by the script, which was uninspired. The film's box office performance was even worse, missing the top ten during its opening weekend before quickly disappearing. There are a number of extras on the DVD and Blu-ray, including deleted / alternate scenes, outtakes, and a handful of featurettes. However, with a Tomatometer Score of less than 10%, it is hard to recommend renting, and impossible to recommend buying.

Pretty Ugly People - Buy from Amazon
Missi Pyle stars as Lucy, a woman who underwent gastric bypass surgery and is now skinny. She decides to have a reunion of sorts with her old college friends to show off, but it doesn't go as planned. There are not a lot of reviews online, but the few I found (1, 2, 3, 4) are mostly positive. Mostly, but not always. The film has a massive cast with a lot of talent and it appears to be worth checking out, but start with a rental.

The Riverman - Buy from Amazon
Based on the real life events that also inspired Silence of the Lambs. In the movie, Bruce Greenwood plays a University Criminology professor who interviews Ted Bundy in the hopes of learning more about serial killers, so he can help the FBI catch the Green River killer. The film earned good reviews and at the time was the highest rated A&E original movie in a number of demographics. If you enjoy the genre, then it is worth checking out.

Robin Hood - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
A great show, at least for the first two seasons. After that, the actress that played Maid Marian, Lucy Griffiths, left and the show never recovered. There was talk of making a fourth season of the show, but that talk has ended, so for a lot of fans there's little point in picking up this 5-disc set. Had the show continued and recovered, then it would have been useful to buy this season for continuity's sake.

Route 66 - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
Part road trip, part social commentary. After season two, George Maharis left the show and was replaced by Glenn Corbett, which is not a change that pleased many people. I wish they would stop releasing volumes then complete seasons. It seems designed to annoy fans.

The Simpsons - Season 20 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
20 years. That's amazing. I will see how it stacks up to seasons past when the screener arrives. However, since it won't ship until Tuesday, I won't get to it until the weekend, at the earliest.

Top Gear - Buy from Amazon: Season 11 and Season 12
Two more seasons of this worldwide phenomenon that features some of the greatest cars ever made and some of the strangest competitions between said cars and also between cars and man. If you are a car aficionado, then this show is a must see. And if you are already a fan, you've likely already pre-ordered these DVDs.

Transformers - Season 2 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
One of my favorite cartoons from the 1980s. Hell, it's still one of my favorite cartoons of all time. Does this 4-disc set bring enough to be worth picking up? Won't know until the screener arrives. However, not only will we be getting a screener, we should be getting a copy to give away, so keep checking our weekly Box Office Prediction Contests for that.

Tru Loved - Buy from Amazon
A story of a young girl in high school who moves with her two moms from the liberal big city to a smaller, more conservative town in California. Its reviews were weak, with most critics complaining that it was a little too preachy and heavy-handed. That said, even with mixed reviews, it deserved to do better than it did at the box office.

Wrong Turn at Tahoe - Buy from Amazon
This DVD was released in mid-November, but for rental only. Now it is coming out for sale and hopefully my screener will arrive soon. Given the lack of substantial reviews, and the presence of Cuba Gooding, Jr., I'm not exactly hopeful about its quality. That said, I remain open minded.

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Filed under: Video Releases, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Halloween 2, The Hurt Locker, Post Grad, Moon, The Brothers Bloom, In the Loop, Okuribito, Amreeka, Brothers at War, Big Fan, The Burning Plain, Downloading Nancy, Tru Loved, Fame, Pretty Ugly People, The Riverman, Wrong Turn at Tahoe