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DVD Releases for February 3, 2009 - Part III

February 3rd, 2009

Wow. That was... Due to technical difficulties, late deliveries, and some misfiled DVDs, this week's list is a little later than normal (but it's still Tuesday, so it's not technically late). It is also a lot larger than normal with a record number of Spotlight reviews (23 in all, or 30 if you count individual movies). There are also some very high quality releases including Zack and Miri Make a Porno on either DVD or Blu-ray. However, given the subject matter of that film, I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. The best release of the week is, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist on DVD or Blu-ray, but especially Blu-ray, which is worth the upgrade. That film is the DVD Pick of the Week. With a record number of spotlight reviews, it goes without saying that the list had to be split up this week, with the first part found here, while the second part can be found here. (First time I had to separate the list into three parts.)

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 13th of last month. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Tyler Perry's The Marriage Counselor - Buy from Amazon
The latest Tyler Perry play made its debut last January and it is about a marriage counselor and her list of clients, all of whom have problems in their marriage. However, the marriage that is in the most trouble could be her own.

I like watching plays on DVD. I own several and would buy quite a few more if they were ever released (Avenue Q, for instance). Not everyone feels this way, because this format is very different than movies or TV shows. The number of sets is very limited, you can't use camera angles or special effects to enhance the story telling, and it has to be very dialogue driven. All of this limits the style and the types of stories to the point where not all work on DVD as well as they do live. But I accept these limitations and judge each individual play on its own merits. I say this so you will know that when I say this is not a play I enjoyed watching, you know it's due to the merits. The writing it ham-fisted, the characters feel like one-dimensional stereotypes instead of real people. There is a 100% lack of subtlety in this movie that is infuriating. The swings from drama to humor are jarring and show an inability to write smooth transitions, or the inability to find the true voice for the story.

Extras on the DVD start and end with a 36-minute long interview featurette.

Tyler Perry is content to preach to the choir and if you are not in that choir, he's not interested in connecting with you. This is true with his movies, and it is true with his latest play. The Marriage Counselor will appeal to his fans, the rest need not apply.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 10th. However, the DVD screener arrived early and I was able to get the review done this week.

Wizards of Waverly Place - Supernaturally Stylin' - Buy from Amazon
Volume 2 of Wizards of Waverly Place hits the home market on the 10th. The series tells the story of a wizard named Alex Russo (Selena Gomez) who lives in New York city and has to deal with the usual problems growing up, as well as trying to keep her magic a secret. She is helped by her father, Jerry, a wizard who gave up his magic to marry her mother, Theresa, who is a little overprotective. She has the typical sibling rivalry with Justin, her older brother, while Max, the youngest, is there mostly for comic relief.

This single disc DVD includes four episodes starting with...

  • Credit Crunch - Alex is hired as an intern at a fashion magazine, but when her co-workers start stealing her ideas, she plans revenge. Meanwhile, because she is off working somewhere else, her family has to hire a replacement, Sara Paxton, and the boys immediately have a crush on her.
    On a side note, the spell they are taught this episode is the Freeze Frame spell, which you cast by saying, "Gielsjay-Timesday". I wonder how many of the show's target audience will get that joke. My guess is not a lot.
  • Smarty Pants - The wizard lesson involves wizard wear, items of magical clothing, including the speed shirt (super speed); night cap (instantly falls asleep); and smarty pants (makes you super smart). Of course Alex decides to wear the smarty pants to help her cheat at Quiz Bowl to beat her brother, but when she wears them too long, she has to deal with the side effects.
    The first episode of season two, and it introduces the character of Dean, who is Alex's crush this season.
  • Beware Wolf - Justin falls in love with a woman he meets over the internet, but she doesn't tell him she's a werewolf. She also doesn't tell him that if he kisses her, he'll become a werewolf as well.
    One of the few episodes that doesn't have Alex at the center of it, as she's mostly a supporting character there to make bad dog puns at Justin's expense.
  • Graphic Novel - Gigi steals Alex's diary, and plans to use it to embarrass her. However, Alex accidentally casts Literarium Terrarium and Gigi is sucked into Alex's fairytale land of knights on motorbikes.
    Ummm.... I know they wanted a look for the fairytale land that looks sort of like drawings, but they should can chosen a style that wasn't so difficult to watch. It truly is a major distraction on what was otherwise a good episode for the show.
The only extra on the DVD is Fashionsita Presto Chango!, which is a seven-and-a-half minute featurette on the fashions in the show.

Fans of Wizards of Waverly Place should enjoy the four episodes on Supernaturally Stylin' while the featurette on the fashion is on par with most single-disc DVD releases for Disney TV shows. I would prefer full season sets, but if you bought and enjoyed Wizard School, there's no reason to not get this one as well.

Xanadu - Buy from Amazon
A movie that is synonymous with camp. A bad movie with an extremely high budget for its day ($20 million) that has gained some cult appeal as the years have gone by.

Yentl - Two-Disc Directors Cut - Buy from Amazon
The Oscar-winning musical that was written by, directed by, and starred Barbra Streisand. The film won an Oscar for its music, and earned strong reviews, but I'm having zero luck finding any information on this release. Not even from the studio's official site. On a side note, for much of the weekend, Amazon had this DVD as the highest selling DVD release of the week. Even now it sits in second place. That doesn't seem likely.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno - By from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The latest from Kevin Smith was not his best movie, but it still had plenty of charm and became the biggest hit of his career (albeit by the slimmest of margins). I should be getting either the DVD or the Blu-ray to review, possibly both, and I will do a full spotlight review when the screener arrives. In the meantime, I will say there are a huge number of extras on this 2-disc set. In fact, there are almost as many deleted and extended scenes as there are in the movie itself, plus there's a nearly feature length making-of documentary, webisodes from the official site, fake PSAs called The More You Porno, and more. There is no audio commentary track, which is disappointing, but Kevin Smith said he would make one available for download in the future. For fans of the director, it is definitely worth picking up, and given the price difference, the Blu-ray is the better deal.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 27th of last month. However, the screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Zodiac - Director's Cut - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
I have already reviewed the DVD and HD DVD when they came out, so I feel little need to go over the quality of the movie, other than to say it is fantastic and it absolutely deserved to be seen by more people, and it would not have been outrageous if the film earned more nominations during Awards Season. (However, it came out too early in the year for that to have happened.)

I called the HD DVD potentially the best looking HD DVD I had ever reviewed, which is not a surprise since it was filmed with High Definition digital cameras so the transfer comes straight from a digital source. So I'm not at all upset that the Blu-ray has the exact same transfer. It looks amazing, and this is a movie that is very visual for a dramatic movie and the visuals are part of what draws you in. Additionally, the sound has been upgraded to a loseless codec, which will be enough to convince those with high end home theater equipment to upgrade to this format. As for extras, there are none that are new, but the 2-disc set has plenty to choose from (2 audio commentary tracks and three-and-a-half hours of featurettes on the movie and the real life events that inspired it).

Is Zodiac - Director's Cut worth the upgrade to Blu-ray? Yes, especially if you have the DVD already and can get the $10 mail-in rebate. If you don't have the movie yet, get it. You will be glad you did.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Zodiac, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Zack and Miri Make a Porno