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DVD Releases for February 24, 2009 - Part II

February 24th, 2009

Is it national drug dealer week and no one told me? I have four, count them, four spotlight reviews this week dealing with drug dealers. This includes The French Connection, which is making its debut on Blu-ray this week and is a clear contender for DVD Pick of the Week. The other main contender is Futurama - Into the Wild Green Yonder on either DVD or Blu-ray. I can't decide which is better, so both are awarded the DVD Pick of the Week. As is the case more often than not, this week's list of reviews has to be split into two with part two found here.

Hounddog - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Is the DVD coming out this week, or did the Blu-ray arrive last week? Don't know. What I do know is the screener(s) still haven't arrived, so the spotlight continues to be delayed.

Ironweed - Buy from Amazon
It has been more than 20 years since this movie was released in theaters, and this is the first time it has come out on DVD here. Hopefully it won't take another 20 years for the film to come out on a DVD that does it justice.

Jack Nicholson plays Francis Phelan and Meryl Streep plays Helen Archer, two Depression Era drifters. Francis used to be a baseball player, but alcohol destroyed his career, then he accidentally dropped his infant son while drunk, and he ran away from his family after that. Helen used to be a singer on the radio, but now she's a drunk like Francis. Traveling with his friend Rudy, who just learned he has cancer, we learn about his past and how he came to be who he is.

This film earned excellent reviews and Oscar nominations for both Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, and for good reason. However, while this is a fantastic movie, it is a terrible DVD. First of all, it's pan and scan. Pan and scan! At this point, it is not a minor thing to complain about when a movie is non-anamorphic widescreen. For it to be pan and scan is simply unacceptable. Additionally, the video quality is quite poor, even for a film that is 22 years old.

There are no real extras on the DVD, although there is an image gallery.

Simply put, Ironweed is a great movie but this is a terrible DVD. Rent it and wait for a remastered version to come out, one that looks more like it did in theaters.

Just Shoot Me - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
Just Shoot Me takes place at Blush, fashion magazine run by Jack Gallo. Also working there is his daughter, Maya Gallo, played by Laura San Giacomo, who considers herself above petty fashion concerns. Her co-workers include Nina Van Horn, a petty former model; Elliot DiMauro, a fashion photographer; and Dennis Finch, the sarcastic receptionist.

A strong ensemble comedy that plays to the strengths of the cast members, season three is arguably the season when the show really started to click. (Then again, season one doesn't count, since it only ran six episodes.) By the third season, the writers and the cast really knew the characters and the comedy was at its sharpest and freshest and there were a number of strong plots. (Elliot forgetting to pick up Maya at the dentist, Finch becoming paranoid after watching Psycho, Finch's newly divorced dad comes by and starts a relationship with Nina.) There are also several great guest spots, including Mark Hamill as himself, David Cross as Elliot's "slow" brother (possibly the best episode of the entire season, maybe even the entire series), and more. For fans of the show, this 3-disc set is certainly worth checking out.

Sadly, there are no extras on the 3-disc set. Nor are there subtitles or proper chapter placements. The only DVD authoring here are the play all buttons.

If you have been waiting for nearly five years since Just Shoot Me - Season One & Two came out, you should be happy this week, sort of. On the one hand, there are more than enough strong episodes during Season Three that the 3-disc set is worth picking up, but the total lack of extras is a drop-off from the first release. Even so, it is a solid rental, leaning towards a purchase.

The Lair - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
The second season of this gay vampire TV series hits DVD. It might appeal to its target audience, but the quality isn't high enough for crossover appeal.

The Last House on the Left - Buy from Amazon
With the remake just a couple of weeks away, there's no better time to release the original on a special edition DVD. Too bad that DVD came out in 2002.

The Librarian - Curse of the Judas Chalice - Buy from Amazon
A TV movie starring Noah Wyle as a globe-trotting, treasure hunting librarian. Huh? It's hard to tell if this is a spoof, or if the cheese is unintentional. The extras are light, but on par with the others and if you are a fan of the series, it is worth checking out.

The Mighty B! - We Got the Bee - Buy from Amazon
Amy Poehler co-created and provides the voice for the titular character, the 9-year old Bessie Kajolica Higgenbottom, the most ambitious Honeybee Scout member ever. She has more merit badges than any other Honeybee Scout in history, and she's determined to collect them all. She is joined by her brother, Ben; her dog, Happy; her best friend, Penny; and her imaginary friend, Finger.

The episodes on this DVD include...

  • We Got the Bee - Portia, Gwen, and Penny form a band (Pretty Pretty Princesses) and Bessie wants to join. Sadly, music is not one of her talents. That is until Rocky teaches her to play the drums.
  • So Happy Together - The Honeybee Scouts are putting on a Dog Show, and Portia's little Precious is the favorite to win. However, Bessie's determined to win, even though she only has one day to train her dog. ... but first she needs a dog to train.
  • Sweet Sixteenth - Bessie wants to ride The Punisher, the best roller coaster in the world, but she's 1/16th of an inch too short. She will do anything to grow that extra 1/16h of an inch. Anything.
  • Bee My Baby - Portia and Gwen con Bessie into babysitting Gwens younger brothers and sisters, including the baby, which she immediately loses.
  • Bee Afraid - Bessie is trying to earn her Happy Camper badge. She's tried to earn this badge before, but every time it gets dark she has to call her mother to take her home.
  • Artifical Unintelligence - The science fair is coming up, and Bessie decides to build a robot (after her atom smasher was deemed too unstable to enter). However, Portia decides to sabotage her creation.
  • Bat Mitzvah Crashers - Bessie and Penny have the time of their lives at Penny's neighbor's jungle-themed Bat Mitzvah, and not content to let it end, they decide to crash as many Bat Mitzvahs as they can.
  • Super Secret Weakness - Bessie starts looking for the one weakness for her Super Hero alter-ego, The Mighty Bee! It turns out it's zucchini.
Extras on the DVD start with a three-and-a-half minute preview of the series / behind-the-scenes featurette. There is also an original animatic for the episode Bat Mitzvah Crashers. Finally, there's a music video for "Running with the Rainbow Unicorn", which can be played with or without lyrics. There is no subtitles, nor are there proper chapter placements.

The character of Bessie Higgenbottom can be a little too enthusiastic at times, but while that might get on my nerves, kids in the target audience should enjoy the TV series. The Mighty B! - We Got the Bee is good value for the money, but I would prefer full season sets. Perhaps rent this one and wait to see if such DVDs will be released later on.

My Wife & Kids - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
A rather safe family sitcom starring Damon Wayans, who is about to destroy any comedic credibility he has by directing The Wayan Bros. Comedy. Good writing and good comedic timing help this TV series, but it doesn't stand out as one of the classics of the genre.

NFL Super Bowl XLIII - Pittsburgh Steelers Champions DVD - Buy from Amazon
For those who didn't know who won, there's a spoiler in the title. Good game, especially the ending, even if the refs blew the call on the final fumble.

Oliver Twist - Buy from Amazon
A BBC TV movie based on the classic Dickens tale. Sadly, it doesn't follow the source material closely enough for most fans of the story.

On the Other Hand, Death - A Donald Strachey Mystery - Buy from Amazon
The latest gay murder mystery from the Donald Strachey series of novels by Richard Stevenson. These have proven to be a tough sell to moviegoers, but they should please their target audience.

Painted Lady - Buy from Amazon
A TV mini-series from Britain starring Helen Mirren as an aging Blues singer whose neighbor is killed in a home invasion. She then decides to track down a painting that was stolen in hopes of finding the murders. The film earned strong reviews, but the DVD has no real extras. Even so, it is still worth checking out, and it is worth buying over just renting.

Pirates II - Stagnetti's Revenge - R-rated Version - DVD or Blu-ray
The original Pirates was reportedly the most expensive pornographic movie ever made and it earned what was then a record number of AVN awards, eleven in total. Clearly a sequel would be made. And it appears it is a worthy follow-up, as the movie scored 18 AVN nominations, winning 15 of them. Amazon only caries the R-rated DVD or Blu-ray, while there is a 4-Disc X-rated DVD and a 2-Disc R-rated Blu-ray available on other sites. If you are interested in the R-rated version, the Blu-ray is actually cheaper than the DVD.

Protégé - Buy from Amazon
The latest from Dragon Dynasty. This is a Chinese / Hong Kong co-production starring Daniel Wu as an undercover cop who has infiltrated a syndicate and has become close to the boss, and man called "The Banker" (played by Andy Lau). He has enough evidence to shut down The Banker, but the cops want him to find out who the Banker's boss is, so they can shut down the entire organization. However, will he get this evidence before he is corrupted by the easy money of the gangster lifestyle?

While most films from Dragon Dynasty are martial arts action movies, for the most part, this movie is a crime thriller that deals more with the inner workings of the Hong Kong drug trade and its effects on the people involved. (For instance, Daniel Wu's neighbor, Zhang Jing Chu, is a heroin addict with a 4-year old daughter). I've read a number of reviews compare the movie to Traffic and that's a great comparison for the film, and there's very little action. Great drama, but make sure you go in not expecting the typical martial arts action, otherwise you might be disappointed.

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with Bey Logan, obviously. It's a Dragon Dynasty release, therefore Bey Logan has to be involved. There is also a 15-minute long making-of featurette, which is in Mandarin with English subtitles. Or it could be Cantonese. It spends as much time on the drug trade as it does on the movie. There are also three interviews with actors Daniel Wu and Zhang Jing Chu, as well as with the producer Peter Chan. All combined, they run just over an hour.

Protégé is one of the best dramatic works I've reviewed from Dragon Dynasty, and the DVD has more than enough extras to lift it to a solid purchase. In fact, for fans of movies like Traffic, The Departed, or Infernal Affairs, this is a must-have.

The Red Green Show - 2001 Season - Buy from Amazon
I really hope they go back and release the earlier seasons they passed over the first time. As for this season, it has the return of Harold, but he's not in a position of authority, which helps the comedy greatly. The usual bits also are here: Handyman's Corner, Adventure Films, North of Forty, The Experts, etc. If you are a fan of the show, this DVD is worth picking up, even with the lack of extras.

S.I.S. - Special Investigation Section - Buy from Amazon
A TV movie that first aired on Spike TV last August and was originally intended to be a pilot for a new series. That didn't work out, and I can see why.

The movie focuses on the exploits of the Special Investigation Section of the LAPD, a branch of the police that go after the "worst of the worst" with little oversight. Here they are lead by Melville Atkinson (Matt Nable) and early in the movie they are tracking a psychopath named Vic, who is planning a daring daylight robbery of a jewelry store. Due to his loose cannon nature, Melville lets Vic get away, and gets a cop shot in the process. In comes Billy Beckett (Peter Stebbings) and the team is once again after Vic, who has a bigger heist planned.

This movie is just way too generic to work. It's a simple action movie that tries to be the next incarnation of The Shield, but it is nowhere near as good. The main bad guy is a true psychopath, which is supposed to make viewers want him busted, or killed; however, he's a messy psychopath, not one that looks capable of evading cops long enough to become a real threat. In other words, his character feels like a poorly written villain in a movie, and that kills suspension of disbelief. Without a solid grounding in reality, all the shootouts and car chases lose their appeal.

Additionally, there are no extras on the DVD.

S.I.S. - Special Investigation Section is a show that aims a little too high and at times takes itself a little too seriously. Without any extras on the DVD, it's worth no more than a rental, and that's only if you are interested in some mindless action.

Sex Drive - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film did better with critics than I was expecting, but it opened below the Mendoza Line and quickly exited theaters as one of the bigger bombs of the year. Extras are better than expected, including two versions of the film, audio commentary track on the R-rated version, a making-of featurette, and more. Adds up to a solid rental for those who are fans of teenage sex comedies, but there's no crossover appeal. As for the DVD / Blu-ray question, the latter only costs 30% more, which is a fair deal for this type of release.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 17th. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Still Waiting... - Buy from Amazon: R-rated or Unrated
A direct-to-DVD sequel to Waiting... The original wasn't a big hit, nor did it wow critics, but I liked it, for the most part. Will I like this one?

We are back at ShenaniganZ only a lot of the cast from the original movie have moved on. This time around the focus is on the manager, Dennis, played by John Michael Higgins. He's looking for a good night to get his sales numbers over the top, else he won't get his promotion to district manager. But knowing his staff won't care if he gets his promotion or not, he decides to tell them a little white lie: if they don't make the sales tonight, the corporate bosses will shut the restaurant down. His job is made a lot more difficult thanks to Ta Tas Wing Shake, which is stealing a lot of their business, and more than a few of their former staff. That's the main plot, but most of the movie focuses on the day-to-day life of the people who work in the two restaurants, and in that respect it is very similar to its predecessor.

So similar that several scenes felt like they were lifted directed from the first movie (crop dusting, for instance). A lot of the cast members from Waiting... didn't bother to sign up for this one (Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, and Emmanuelle Chriqui, among others) but it was clear that some of the characters were created to fill the void. For instance, Steve Howey plays Agnew, the head waiter who has a personality very similar to Monty; however, while Ryan Reynolds was smarmy, he was still charming. Agnew wasn't. In fact, he was a racist asshole and he was painful to watch. (Yes, I understand this was a set up for a cameo by Chi McBride, but by the time Bishop appeared to give Agnew a well-deserved smackdown, it was too late.) Speaking of cameos, this movie is filled with minor appearances from cast members of the first movie, including Vanessa Lengies and the aforementioned Chi McBride. The only cast member that returned to a really substantial part was Alanna Ubach. As for the newcomers, most ranged from annoying, offensively annoying, to completely nondescript. The only newcomer that I thought was a worthy addition was Tania Raymonde, as Amber, one of the new waitresses. Most of the rest of the new cast, the new bartender, the Ta-Ta girls, etc., I can't even remember their names, which shows they made zero impact on the movie.

Extras are better than most direct-to-DVD sequels starting with an audio commentary track with the director, Jeff Balis, and the writer, Rob McKittrick. For former spends his time talking about the making of the movie and how the low budget hurt. The latter spends his time mocking the movie for going direct-to-DVD when the original, which he directed, had a theatrical run. Oh, and farting into the mike. Up next is Sloppy Seconds, a seven-part, 46-minute long making-of featurette, which details just about every aspect of the movie. There are also 20 deleted / alternate / extended scenes, but they run just 21 minutes total, so most are insubstantial. There are three sections of outtakes running a total of six-and-a-half minutes. Overall it is a strong selection of extras, and does add some replay value to the DVD.

I liked Waiting... more than most critics did. This time around there are far fewer reviews, and the ones I've seen are even more negative. Still Waiting... copies the original too often, and it is weaker it nearly every regard from the writing on down. It is certainly not worth buying, and unless you were a huge fan of the first movie, it is not worth renting.

Strictly Sexual - Buy from Amazon
Amber Benson and Kristen Kerr star as two people who are bored of the dating scene and decide to hire two unemployed construction workers to be their 'boy-toys'. While this sounds like it could be crass, early buzz has it being a rather sweet film, and one that is worth checking out.

Summer Heights High - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A mockumentary TV series from Australia set in a high school following three self-absorbed characters. The show aired on HBO here, which explains why the 2-disc set is a little pricey on a per minute basis compared to other TV on DVD releases, and why the extras are light (deleted scenes and outtakes). Even so, it is worth checking out, but it is too close to call on the rental / purchase debate.

Ultimate Fighting Championship - Buy from Amazon: 89 - Bisping vs Leben or 90 - Silva vs Cote
Just a quick note that these two DVDs arrived today, but too late to get the review done in time. I will have the spotlight review done for next week.

The Universe - Collector's Edition Megaset - Buy from Amazon
A 14-disc megaset featuring the two seasons of The Universe, the lone season of The Planets, and How the Earth Was Made. There's a huge bang for your buck here, assuming you hadn't picked up the shows as they were previously released.

What Just Happened? - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A movie about the movie business. There have been a lot of movies like this, and too many fall for the same trap. I believe the correct term is "Inside Baseball." It's a satire that lacks the bite needed to score big laughs, and it deals with the minutia that most moviegoers don't pay attention to. Extras include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurette, making-of featurette, audition tapes, and more. The Blu-ray has no additional extras, but costs 60% more, which is simply too much for this type of release. Overall What Just Happened? is worth a rental, but for most people that's it.

Wonder Pets - Join the Circus - Buy from Amazon
The latest DVD release from this Nick Jr. series. Following the adventures of Linny the Guinea Pig, Turtle Tuck, and Ming-Ming Duckling as they travel the world rescuing animals in need. The episodes presented here include...
  • Join the Circus - The DVD starts with a double-length episode. With summer vacation, the three decide to take a vacation and join the circus. However, while Tuck and Ming-Ming love their new jobs, Linny misses being the Wonder Pets and saving animals.
  • Save the Rat Pack - The Wonder Pets are called in to help Blue Eyes, Sammy, and Dino and help them with their dance moves. The Wonder Pets in Las Vegas.
  • Fiddler Crab on the Roof - They group is summoned to Russia to save a fiddler crab who likes to play his fiddle on the roof, which is a dangerous place to be.
  • Save the Armadillo - The Wonder Pets go to the old West to help an armadillo, who thinks his town is haunted.
  • Save the Visitor - There's no animal to save this time around, as the Wonder Pets have to help an alien get back to his spaceship after his spaceship is scared away by a small puppy.
  • Save the Tree - The trio travel to the city to rescue a tree, which is trying to grow in a dirty, empty lot.
  • Save the Elephant - The Wonder Pets have save an elephant who has its trunk stuck in the mud.
Extras on the DVD are limited to a music video for "City Garden Rap".

Fans of The Wonder Pets will be happy with the latest DVD release, Join the Circus, as it continues to be a fun pre-school show with catchy music its audience can sing-along with. And at just $11, it's a good value as well.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Sex Drive, What Just Happened, Hounddog, On the Other Hand, Death: A Donald Strachey Mystery, Futurama - Into the Wild Green Yonder, Still Waiting...