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DVD Releases for February 10, 2009 - Part II

February 10th, 2009

One of the busier weeks in the past several weeks, but there's little in the way of top-notch releases. The biggest box office hit was Nights in Rodanthe, which struggled to become a mid-level hit. The best release in my opinion is My Name is Bruce on Blu-ray, but only if you are a Bruce Campbell Fanboy. I am, and I'm awarding it the DVD Pick of the Week. While there were not as many top-notch releases, there were still more than enough bulk to force this column to be split into two. The second part can be found here.

Melrose Place - Season Five - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
One of a wave of primetime soap operas from the 1990s that dominated TV at the time. I hate soap operas in general, and I hated this show in particular. I can barely watch it to review it. This is a spin-off of 90210, and with an older cast of characters, and therefore a more older audience, the writers were freer to tackle riskier topics. They could have used this freedom to tackle important issues, instead salacious was the keyword of the series. (In fact, the season starts with someone crawling out of a shallow grave. A very shallow grave. On a side note, if you kill someone, check their pulse before you bury them.) There are so many overlapping story lines, most involving who is sleeping with whom, that it is difficult to keep track of. It is also difficult to keep track of all of the cast changes. This is the last season with half of the main cast, including Alison Parker, Kimberly Shaw, and Jo Reynolds, as well as Sydney Andrews, who joined season two. It is also the first season for Kyle and Taylor McBride, as well as a few more cast. I think the massive change in cast members was a sign that the show was running out of steam. I haven't seen enough episodes of this season compared to the series as a whole, but from what I have seen, it was better than this.

On a side note, the video quality was shockingly bad at times. The show isn't that old, so it shouldn't look this bad.

Extras? There are no extras, unless you count the ad for Season Five - Volume Two, which I don't. There are also no subtitles or play all buttons, but there are proper chapter placements.

I can imagine a lot of fans of Melrose Place giving Season Five - Volume One a pass. Not only has the quality of the episodes gone done, but also there are no extras on this DVD, and they've split the season into two volumes.

Miracle at St. Anna - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The DVD arrived this week, and I can do a more comprehensive comparison between it and the Blu-ray this week.

The movie stars in 1983 in New York City with Hector Negron, a postal worker / veteran of World War II. One day at work a man comes up to his window asking for a 20 cent stamp. He calls him Rodolfo, and shoots him dead with a WWII era German Luger. While the cops and a reporter try and figure out what happened and why, we flash back nearly 40 years previously to when he was part of the Buffalo Soldiers trying to fight the Nazis and push their way through Italy.

Miracle at St. Anna is Spike Lee's follow-up to Inside Man, his biggest box office hit, and some might say his best non-documentary since Malcolm X, or perhaps even Do the Right Thing. It was also his first war movie, so there was a lot of interest in this film. However, it earned weak reviews and never found an audience theatrically. Now we ask, was this a tragedy, or was this the natural outcome for this movie? Sadly it's more of the latter than the former. The heart of the story, what happened in Italy during World War II was great. The beginning and end in 1980s was emotionally manipulative, overdone and completely lacks any subtleties. If this part of the movie was gone, I can almost guarantee the film would have earned higher reviews and made more at the box office. It starts the film on the wrong foot, and pads its already impressive running time.

The are no extras on the DVD. None.

This means the extras on the Blu-ray version that I talked about last week, are all Blu-ray exclusives. These start with a 17-minute discussion with Spike Lee and James McBride, who wrote the book this film was based on, as well as several black soldiers from World War II. There is also a 20-minute discussion of the real live history of Division 92, the Buffalo Soldiers. Finally, there are nine deleted scenes with a total running time of 21 minutes. That's not a lot of extras, and none push the technology, but any exclusives are better than none.

I don't think it would have taken a whole lot to make Miracle at St. Anna a fine movie, just trimming the prologue and the epilogue would have gone a long way to solving a lot of the film's problems. It is still worth checking out, but for most the DVD or Blu-ray are only worth renting. If you are interested in buying, the Blu-ray is the better deal.

My Name is Bruce - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Fanboys rejoice! There are few actors that generate a Fanboy Effect more than Bruce Campbell, and this movie is a celebration of that. That said, if you are not a Fanboy, then you will likely not enjoy the movie, and it's clear that most critics are not fans. If you are a fan, you will love the DVD and the Blu-ray, as they are loaded with extras. This includes an audio commentary track with the star, an hour-long making-of featurette, a couple of short behind-the-scenes featurettes, a making-of featurette for Cave Alien 2 (the movie-within-a-movie), trailer for Cave Alien 2, an "exposé" on the "real" Bruce Campbell, a comic book, and more. Easily worth picking up, and even though the Blu-ray has no additional extras, it is worth paying the extra money for. And if you are a really, really big fan of his, check out Terminal Invasion.

Naruto Uncut Box Set - Volume 12 - Buy from Amazon
It's been a long time since I was a regular consumer of Anime, but I have it under good authority that this TV series rivals Dragon Ball for total number of episodes, at least for a show that has been translated into English for the North American market. And that's a lot of episodes. This one is about 220 episodes while Dragon Ball has 500 or so, but Naruto could come close to matching that in the end. Also available as a Special Edition.

Nights in Rodanthe - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A romantic drama starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. The film didn't connect with critics, but it topped limited expectations. As for the extras, there are none on the DVD, but the Blu-ray has deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, and a music video. Plus, it's BD-Live enabled. Adds up to a rental for fans of the genre or the two leads, but the rest can skip it.

Otto; Or, Up with Dead People - Buy from Amazon
This movie might be too weird to describe. It's a Horror / Comedy / Drama about a gay zombie who is trying to remember his life, while dealing with a filmmaker who is trying to make a political documentary. The reviews were mixed, but if you want to watch a Horror / Comedy / Drama / gay / zombie political film, this might be your only choice. And with an audio commentary track and deleted scenes, the extras are better than expected.

Phineas and Ferb - The Daze of Summer - Buy from Amazon
Volume two presents ten more shorts from this Disney channel cartoon. The series stars Phineas and Ferb, as two brothers in a blended family. Every day of summer they look for a new way to spend their time, which involves building giant water parks, fight medieval battles, and more. Along the way, their sister, Candace, tries to convince their mom that the two of them are up to no good.

The shorts included on this DVD are...

  • Jerk De Soleil - Bummed that the circus is canceled due to an allergy attack, the boys and their friends decide to create a circus of their own. Meanwhile, Candace has her own allergy attack, which has mixed results.
  • Toy to the World - With the disappointing sales of Shimmy Jimmy toy ("He's a real wild monkey, he can swing and dance." "Better watch what he's throwing, he ain't wearing no pants.") The boys decide to invent their own toy: The Perry the Platypus Inaction Figure. (That idea's been taken.) Meanwhile, Candace gets a job selling these toys, and she has to dress up as one, much to her embarrassment. ("Fantastic! You look like number one." "I feel like number two."
  • A Hard Day's Knight - The family takes a vacation to England to visit their father's parents, and while they are there they learn of the tale of the black knight. So of course they decide to hold a medieval contest, with the hand of fair maiden Candace as the prize. But after getting accidentally locked in the tower, she manages to re-enact the legend of the black knight. "None shall pass!" ... Wrong black knight.
  • I, Brobot - With more blueprints, models, and schematics than time, Phineas and Ferb decide to create a robot army to do their inventing. This causes Candace major panic attack. Wouldn't you, if you were in her shoes?
  • It's a Mud, Mud, Mud, Mud World - Candace is having trouble parallel parking, so Phineas and Ferb decide to help boost her confidence, they build her a monster truck, complete with mud park in the back yard.
  • The Ballad of Badbeard - While out camping with their grandparents on their mother's side, they hear the legend of the Badbeard Lake ("Why do they call it Badbeard Lake?" "Well, it's a body of water surrounded by land.") and the pirate it is named after. While hiking, they decide to hunt for the pirate's treasure. Meanwhile, Candace accidentally comes into contact with the orange moss, which gives her a truly psychedelic trip, and she 'imagines' that Perry the Platypus is a secret agent.
  • Greece Lightning - Phineas and Ferb decide to hold a chariot race between them, Buford and Baljeet (Bulford: "Hey, you! You're going down" Baljeet: "But we're on the same team." Bulford: "Then you're going down with me.") Isabella and the Fireside Girls, and finally, there's Candace, who is an unwilling participant in the race. Meanwhile, Perry is out to stop Doofenshmirtz's latest scheme, which is a plan to rid the world of all platypuses. He plans to do this by creating a giant robot version of the platypus's greatest enemy, man! ("Are those slacks new? They make you look slimmer.")
  • Leave the Busting to Us - Sick of her mother never catching on to Phineas and Ferb, Candace calls the TV show, "Bust Em!" to catch her brothers. But even the professionals are no match for Phineas and Ferb.
  • Unfair Science Fair & Unfair Science Fair Redux - Two stories set on the same day and with the same events, but two different angles. The first has Pineas and Ferb helping Baljeet build his science fair project to avoid getting the lowest grade of his life, an A minus. His project? A portal to Mars. The second story shows what happens when Candace jumps through that portal and gets stuck on the other side.
The only extra on the DVD is The Googolplex Mall Science Fair, but this extra has three mini-games to play, which should entertain the target audience.

(On a side note, when they sing about giving a monkey a shower in the theme song, it appears they are washing an orangutan, which is an ape, not a monkey.)

Phineas and Ferb is the best Disney channel series on right now, and my third favorite Disney channel cartoon of all time. (Only Kim Possible and Filmore are better.) While I would much rather have full season sets, The Daze of Summer is still excellent value for the money and it is easily worth picking up.

Pretty Woman - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
The latest catalog title from Disney hitting the world of High Definition. This is one of the highest-grossing romantic comedies of all time, and so I have a difficult time imagining that many fans of the genre are not aware of the basic plot of the film, at the very least. But, for those who don't...

Richard Gere plays Edward Lewis, a business mogul who specializes in buying struggling companies and selling the parts for a large profit. Julia Roberts plays Vivian Ward, a prostitute that he meets while trying to get directions. One thing leads to another, and they live happily ever after. No, that's not a spoiler. At least not for anyone familiar with the genre.

The film earned good reviews, but not great reviews. Then again, 62% positive is practically Oscar-caliber compared to the average romantic comedy out there. In fact, Julia Roberts earned her second Oscar nomination for playing Vivian Ward. Yes, it's schmaltzy at times, and it is predictable, but the two leads have plenty of charm together, and there are a lot of great actors backing them up as well.

Extras on the Blu-ray are identical to the 15th Anniversary Special Edition with audio commentary, outtakes, music video, making-of featurette, tour of the locations, etc. Of the featurettes, the longest is just 9 minutes in length, which is hardly a heavyweight extra, and none of them are presented in High Definition. Also, the audio and video quality is just average, which is common for Disney catalog releases.

Pretty Woman is a light and charming romantic comedy that is coming out on Blu-ray this week. On the one hand, I wish they would have waited a year and given the film a 20th Anniversary edition, complete with new extras. As it is, it is likely only worth grabbing if you have the DVD and can take advantage of the $10 mail-in rebate.

Red Mist - Buy from Amazon
A.K.A. Freakdog, which is a more unique name, but probably a lot harder to market. This is the latest film from Paddy Breathnach, who previous films include Shrooms and Blow Dry. The film tells the story of a group of arrogant doctors who pull a prank on the janitor, a prank that leaves him in a coma. One of the doctors gives him a cocktail of untested drugs to try and bring him out of it, but it gives him the power to take over bodies, and he uses this power for revenge. It's a simple story, and while the movie isn't great, it is an effective way to spend an evening, should you decide to rent it.

The Ride of Their Lives - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the history of NASCAR from the beginnings growing out of the moonshine era to the modern day. The 93-minute program talks mostly about the legends of the sport, Petty, Earnhardt. Gordon, etc. But it also talks a lot about the tragedies, as a lot of stars died while they major players in the sport, including race track crashes, plane crashes, and health problems. They also touch on racism and sexism that was in the sport and that NASCAR has tried hard to eliminate. I like how they were not trying to avoid subjects like that, as they could have just been 100% hero-worship. That said, I'm not a fan of the sport before I watched the movie, and this program didn't change my mind.

Extras on the DVD include a number of shorter featurettes on the evolution of the sport, the dynasties of racing, and more. Overall it runs just over 75 minutes, which is plenty of extras on a release like this.

For fans of NASCAR racing, The Ride of Their Lives is a great DVD to pick up, but the crossover appeal is limited.

Shaun the Sheep - Back in the Ba-a-ath - Buy from Amazon
The Nick Park stop-motion animated kids show that is great for adults as well. Since the show is nearly dialogue free, it has to rely on more visual humor, but that is not a problem for the talented writers and animators. There are no real extras on the DVD, and the running time is just over 50 minutes, but for many, it will still be worth picking up.

Simon & Simon - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Private Investigator shows dominated the airwaves of the 80s as much as Police Procedural shows dominate the TVs today. This show ran for 8 years, mostly right after Magnum P.I., which helped it in the ratings. Speaking of which, the second season starts with a crossover episode with that show, and that episode is also included in this 6-disc set. On the other hand, that is the only special feature. (Normally I don't count bonus episodes as special features, but crossover episodes are the exception.)

Simon of the Desert - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Luis Bunuel tended to throw barbs at organized religion in his movies; however, this film is a surprisingly reverent. I say surprisingly because the main character is a Stylitist, which is someone who sits on a column because they think it puts them closer to god. These people are clearly nuts and deserve to be mocked. The movie is excellent, but the extras are weak for a Criterion Collection (hour-long featurette on the director and a seven-minute interview with the lead actress). Also coming out this week is Exterminating Angel, which is a Luis Bunuel film from a few years earlier and it is a much more surreal film, from one of the masters of surrealism.

Soul Men - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Another movie coming out on Blu-ray and DVD where I only have one version, and it seems very unlikely I will be getting this movie in High Definition.

Bernie Mac and Samuel L. Jackson star as Floyd and Louis, two former backup singers who formed the Real Deal behind soul legend Marcus Hooks. After Marcus Hooks left them for a massively successful solo career, they tried to make it on their own; however, that didn't work out and they haven't been together in 30 years. That changes when Marcus Hooks passes on, and they are asked to re-unite for the tribute concert. It is a long trip from Los Angeles to New York City, and it's not like these two are on speaking terms.

This is a film that I was hoping would do really well, but it only managed mixed reviews and bombed at the box office. It really deserved to do better in terms of ticket sales, but it is hard to argue with its Tomatometer Score. The film does feature some great performances, as well as a good mix of humor and heart; however, there's not a lot here that stands out as fresh or original. It's a story we've seen before, and well the execution is good, it's not so good that you forget you've seen it before.

Extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary track with the director, Malcolm Lee, and the two writers, Matthew Stone and Rob Ramsey. It's a good track filled with plenty of information. It's not overly praising of the movie; in fact, they do complain about a few bits they wish they got right, and a few times that the studio interfered. There are also a few featurettes including Soul Men on the making of the movie, another on the cast, and a third on the director. These three run a combined 20 minutes. Next up are two tributes to Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes, who both tragically passed on after making this movie. These are obviously bittersweet to watch, but I'm very glad they are here. Wrapping up the extras are a featurette on the recording of "Boogie Ain't Nuttin'" and a featurette of Bernie Mac entertaining the extras between shots.

Like I said previously, I do not have the Blu-ray to review, but apparently there are no additionally extras, but at just 20% more, that's not a bad price to pay.

Soul Men is a movie that deserved to be seen by more. It's not a great movie, but it is entertaining enough that it is worth checking out. Add in extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray that are better than expected given its short theatrical run, and I think it is worth buying over renting.

Street Fighter - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
With The Legend of Chun-Li coming out, now is the perfect time to release this movie on a special edition DVD and Blu-ray that are loaded with extras (audio commentary track, making of featurette, deleted scenes, storyboards, etc.). Sadly, this movie is so bad, that it could hurt the upcoming film's box office potential, and I say that as a fan. Speaking of which, also coming out this week is Van Damme Four-Feature Film Set. It doesn't have his best films, but that's a price that is hard to beat.

Tales from the Darkside - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A horror anthology from the 1980s. Anthology programs have been popular on TV for as long as TV has been around. However, they seem to have fallen in popularity recently, because there hasn't been a successful series like this for a while. (And by successful, I mean it has lasted more than two seasons.) This one lasted four seasons starting with the pilot, Trick or Treat, in 1983, and that means the episodes here are nearly 25 years old. Fortunately, they are not really showing their age too much. (I think this is due to the fact that the series used mood and not special effects.)

That said, not every episode is a hit. In fact, only about one in three really connects during the first season, with about half being just average. That does mean there are more hits than true misses (like Djinn, No Chaser, which has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a Genie). While most of the episodes on this 3-disc set are worth checking out, the show never lives up to the greats of the genre like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Perhaps I've seen too many similar shows, because I thought they were a little too predictable at times, but still mostly effective.

Extras on the three disc set are limited to an audio commentary track by series creator, George A. Romero, on the pilot episode. While not technically a special feature, but this is a great series to play 'Spot the guest star." Because it's an anthology series, it survives on guest shots, and practically every episode there's at least one time where you can say, "Hey, I know that guy."

For fans that haven't seen the episodes in 20 or more years, Tales from the Darkside - Season One is a real treat. I would have liked a little more in terms of special features, but it is still good value for the money.

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
One of the more bizarre shows from the Adult Swim lineup; however, it tries too hard to be bizarre and not enough to be funny. If you haven't seen the show, but like the strangest aspects of Hunger Teen Aqua Force, for instance, than give it a rental. For most people, it's not worth that.

The Universe of Keith Haring - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about New Wave artist, Keith Haring. The film earned mixed reviews and went nowhere at the box office, but with lots of extra interviews, the DVD should perform better.

Veggie Tales - Abe & the Amazing Promise - Buy from Amazon
While it might not have made a lot of noise theatrically, this franchise it sill a bit hit on the home market. Also coming out this week are Dave and the Giant Pickle, Josh and the Big Wall, and Rack, Shack, and Benny.

W. - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A biography of now former president, George W. Bush. Since it was filmed by Oliver Stone a lot of people were expecting a hatchet job, complete character assassination. However, it was surprisingly compassionate painting the 43rd president and someone who was happiest being the owner of the Texas Rangers, but was forced into politics to fulfill a family tradition, and he was just way over his head. It's worth checking out, but for most it lacks replay value. Extras start with an audio commentary track, as well as a featurette on the Bush family, but that's it. I was expecting more, even with the film's box office struggles.

Way of War - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Just have the DVD, won't be getting the Blu-ray to compare. Not that I would want to watch the movie again, even in High Definition.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as David Wolfe, a member of the Special Forces who goes on an important mission in Afghanistan, but stumbles into a government conspiracy. Now he has to make it back to Washington, D.C. to tell the truth, but he has his own government trying to stop him. What transpires over the next 90 minutes is supposed to be a tense thriller, as we flash between the action in Washington, and what caused the mess before. It is supposed to be a tense thriller, but it doesn't get there.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. once won an Oscar. I mention this because after watching movies like this, one could forget this simple fact. Granted, this one is not as bad as some of his other direct-to-DVD releases, but it never rises above dull either.

There are not extras, and the subtitles are badly out of sync.

Way of War is a thriller without enough action or suspense to succeed. There's not enough replay value to warrant buying either the DVD or the Blu-ray. In fact, unless you are a fan of Cuba Gooding, Jr., it is probably not even worth renting.

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 secret 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 he 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 lone featurettes 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.


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Filed under: Video Releases, Nights in Rodanthe, W., Soul Men, Miracle at St. Anna, My Name is Bruce, Otto; Or, Up with Dead People, The Universe of Keith Haring