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DVD Releases for March 3rd, 2009

March 3rd, 2009

Kind of a slow week for DVD releases this week. ... Actually, there are 40 releases on this week's list, including 10 spotlight reviews, but compared to the last several weeks, it feels slow. (I didn't even have to split the column into two parts.) There are a few releases that are definitely worth picking up, but none that really rise to the level of a DVD Pick of the Week. Watchman - The Complete Motion Comic on DVD or Blu-ray and Wonder Woman on DVD, DVD + Digital Copy, or Blu-ray come the closest, but neither have enough extras to make it over the top.

7th Heaven - Season 8 - Buy from Amazon
After about five or six seasons, there were a lot of changes on this show every season. For instance, this was the last season with David Gallagher playing Simon Camden regularly (he became a recurring character for the last few seasons). These changes hurt the show, and the lack of extras hurt the DVDs, but if you have been collecting them so far, there's little reason to stop now.

Ace Ventura Jr. - Pet Detective - Buy from Amazon
Another sequel to a Jim Carrey movie that Carrey wisely decided to pass on. First it was Dumb and Dumber, which turned into Dumb and Dumberer, which earned awful reviews and struggled at the box office. Then it was The Mask, which turned into Son of the Mask, which earned even worse reviews and became one of the most expensive bombs of the millennium. Bruce Almighty became Evan Almighty, which was Oscar worthy compared to the other two films, but was just too expensive to break even. Now we have Ace Ventura, Jr. Taking over for Jim Carrey is Josh Flitter from Nancy Drew, and despite low expectations, this film is worse than expected. Even its target audience of young kids will not enjoy this one. Avoid it at all costs.

Air Bud - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
It has been 12 years since Air Bud was released, and since then the franchise has spawned four sequels, as well a four installments in the Buddies spin-off (including the upcoming theatrical release). I've reviewed two of the most recent of these films and I would describe them as painfully bad, so I was not looking forward to this movie. I did not see it when it first came out, and I assumed it would be better than the more recent releases, but I was still not looking forward to it.

Kevin Zegers stars as Josh Framm, a kid who has just moved to town, is starting a new school and is having trouble fitting in, isn't making friends, and can't get on the basketball team. The only thing going for him is a stray dog he finds, which he learns can play basketball. The boy and his dog bond, and even practice their basketball skills together, but when his abusive owner returns, will he have to give him up?

This movie earned weak reviews but became a hit with its target audience. It is a kids movie, and as such it should be judged accordingly, and as a kids movie, it isn't bad. It's solidly mediocre. Yeah, it's predictable and hardly thought provoking, but at least it doesn't treat the viewers like they were stupid. (Although the climatic finale in the court room comes close. It's like the writers ran out of ideas before they figured out how to end the movie.) Additionally, knowing that it was the dog that was performing all of the tricks and not special effects added to the overall enjoyment. I'm not saying it's a good movie, but it is watchable and should entertain the kids while parents won't be pulling their hair out.

(One a side note, it was directed by Charles Martin Smith, who is also a character actor. Even if you don't recognize the name, you will likely recognize the face. Charles Martin Smith also directed Trick or Treat, one of my favorite Halloween movies of all time; Boris and Natasha, which is a guilty pleasure of mine; as well as the pilot episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

Extras on the "Special Edition" include a Dog-U-Commentary, which is an audio commentary track featuring the voices of Buddy, Molly, and their five puppies. Ugh. I couldn't even get past the opening credits. Kids who love the Buddies movies might be able to sit through it, but not me. The DVD is packaged with a Buddy dog-tag, which is cute, but hardly worth the double-dip for.

The Air Bud franchise has long since worn out its welcome, and this Special Edition DVD is hardly special. That said, if you don't already have the movie on DVD and you have kids of the right age, or have nostalgic feelings over the film, it might be worth picking up. It is not worth the double-dip, and while most parents will get a bit bored now and then, it is more entertaining than a lot of kids movies.

Ashes of Time Redux - Buy from Amazon
Director Wong Kar-wai decided to take his martial arts masterpeice and recut it. Wow. That's a risk. However, it mostly paid off. (Granted, 80% positive is lower than 91% positive, but statistically speaking, the margin of error with 65 and 11 reviews creates a lot of overlap.) It's worth checking out if you liked the original version, or if you are a fan of the genre in general. And with two featurettes (a making-of documentary and a Q&A with Wong Kar-wai) it is worth purchasing over just renting.

Australia - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
An expensive Baz Luhrmann production that earned mixed reviews and went nowhere at the domestic box office. (It has earned nearly $150 million internationally, roughly three times what it made domestically.) Extras on the DVD include just a couple of deleted scenes, while the Blu-ray has the deleted scenes and a multi-part making-of featurette, but it does cost more than 50% more. Perhaps the film's "epic" scope and strong visuals will be enough to warrant an upgrade for some, but I can't really recommend it.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This movie had a very schizophrenic ad campaign. The singing and dancing Chihuahuas in the Aztec ruins drove me nuts. I hated it. On the other hand, the "Radical Chihuahuas" giving the "No Mas!" speech was rather good. So which way does the movie itself go?

The film has three sets of stars: The humans, the dogs, and the voices. The humans stars are Piper Perabo, as Rachel, the niece of uber-wealthy Viv. Rachel is an unmotivated young lady who gets roped into dog-sitting for her Aunt Viv, which means taking care of the spoiled Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore). Rachel and her two friends decide to head to Mexico for a little dancing, but when they get there, they accidentally lose Chloe. Now it is up to her, and Sam, the landscaper / romantic interest, and his dog, Papi to find her. Meanwhile, Chloe and her new friends, including a German Shepherd named Delgado are trying to find their way back to Beverly Hills, but the streets of Mexico are not a safe place, especially for a pampered Chihuahua who is used to being carried around in a purse.

So which ad is the movie like? Neither really. It's a comedy / adventure movie featuring a whole lot of talking animals in the lead. Fortunately in tone it is a lot more like the "No Mas" ad than the singing and dancing Chihuahua ad. Yes, it's cheesy, easily digestible entertainment that won't challenge anyone watching, but it's also fun and should entertain its target audience, even if the parents watching would rather be watching something a little more mature.

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary by the director, which is only available on the widescreen version of the movie. (In fact, the only way I could get the widescreen to play was to select the audio commentary. I'm sure there's a way to watch the film in widescreen without going through that, but I couldn't find it.) Other extras include Legend of the Chihuahua, a 3-minute short film on the Chihuahua; 3 deleted scenes with introductions by the director; and finally 3-minutes of outtakes.

Extras on the Blu-ray include all of the above extras, as well as some exclusives, starting with an additional seven deleted scenes. Also exclusive are the featurettes Pet Pals: The Voices Behind the Dogs, a nine-and-a-half-minute interview featurette on the voice cast; and Hitting Their Bark: On the Set with the Dogs of BHC, a 13-minute behind-the-scenes featurette with the animal actors. Additionally, the disc is BD-Live enabled with the usual slate of Disney interactive features (movie mail, movie rewards, etc.). Finally, while the video and audio are good, this is not a movie you will grab to show off your home entertainment system. Then again, it's a kids movie, so I don't think anyone is shocked at that fact.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua is not a great movie, but it had enough entertainment value to impress its young target demographic. The Blu-ray is a little pricey compared to the DVD, but there are a number of Blu-ray exclusives, and for some it might be worth the $8 more over on Amazon.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Australia, Beverly Hill Chihuahua, I've Loved You for So Long, In the Electric Mist, NFL Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers Champions, Stargate - Ark of Truth / Continuum, Watchmen - The Complete Motion Comic, and Wonder Woman
A terrible week for Blu-ray releases, both in terms of number of releases and the overall strength. The biggest seller will likely be a movie that flopped at the box office, while the biggest selling DVD could be a kids film that will do almost no business in High Definition. There are a couple of direct-to-DVD animated flicks of interest; however, they might have high percentages on Blu-ray, but low overall sales.

Chowder - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
A cartoon about a chef's apprentice and his quest to become the greatest chef in Marzipan City. It was created by C.H. Greenblatt, who worked as a storyboard artist for SpongeBob SquarePants, and it shows at times. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and if you like the undersea adventures of SpongeBob, you will likely also enjoy the over-exuberant adventures of Chowder. Also, if you are used to the lack of substantive extras on SpongeBob releases, the lack of real extras won't be a problem here. My only word of warning is it might be worth waiting to see if there will be a full season set coming out.

Dead in 3 Days - Buy from Amazon
Reportedly Austria's first Teenage Slasher movie; however, if you are a fan of this movie, you've seen it all before. It is probably best watched as a drinking game; take a shot every time you can name a movie that used that cliché before.

Doctor Who - The Key to Time - Buy from Amazon
Normally each season of Doctor Who was comprised of several stories, each of which lasted several episodes; however, season 16 was different, as it was one larger story. This season-long arc was divided up into six stories, which can be purchased separately: The Ribos Operation, The Pirate Planet, The Stones of Blood, The Androids of Tara, The Power of Kroll, and The Armageddon Factor. It is important to note that the Megaset is substantially cheaper, as in buy the four cheapest ones, get the two most expensive ones for free. And it is worth picking up.

E.R. - Season 10 - Buy from Amazon
I can't believe this show is ending after 15 years on TV. The strange thing is, its ratings are still strong, at least compared to the rest of NBC's lineup, averaging 22% more than the network's average. Seems like a big mistake and there's no reason to dump it now.

East of Eden - Buy from Amazon
A TV mini-series from 1981 that starred Jane Seymour. In fact, she won a Golden Globe for her performance of Cathy / Kate. It is based on the novel of the same name, which was written by John Steinbeck back in 1952 and was described by the author as his most important work. As for the DVD, the 3-disc set only has an interview with Jane Seymour, but considering the age of the source material, that's not bad.

Futurama - Into the Wild Green Yonder - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Just a quick update now that the Blu-ray has arrived. For those who missed last week's review, I awarded the DVD DVD Pick of the Week, and I believe most fans of the show will agree that this one is the best. (Although the RPG nerd in me liked Bender's Big Game a little bit more.)

Extras on the Blu-ray include all those that were on the DVD (audio commentary track, making-of featurette, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurette, a look at several of the 3-D models, PSAs, and more). Additionally, the audio commentary track is upgraded to a picture-in-picture track, but you can watch it as audio only, which is great news for those without Bonus View players, or those who don't like the prospect of watching 8 guys in a room talk about the movie. (Although it really does make keeping track of whom says what a lot easier.) Additionally, the color and clarity of the transfer is amazing. Yes, it's just a cartoon, but for many people, the transfer alone will be worth the upgrade, even at a 55% premium. It is just that good.

Also coming with the Blu-ray are four postcards. I don't know if they also come with the DVD, as I only received a screener, and not the final consumer product. But if they are Blu-ray exclusive, that's another reason to grab the High Definition version.

On a side note, apparently one of Leela's many mutations is a total lack of nipples. At one point in the movie Zapp Brannigan tries to capture Leela and Fry and says, "There's no escape, Leela. If you surrender, wave your shirt in the air." And she proceeds to start to remove her shirt... and she apparently doesn't have nipples. Oh don't look at me like that. I didn't notice the first time I watched the movie, and only checked it out because one of the participants on the audio commentary track mentioned it. I won't name names to protect the guilty.

I rated the Futurama - Into the Wild Green Yonder DVD as a DVD Pick of the Week, and while I'm not happy with the premium price on the Blu-ray it is still a great deal.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 24th of February. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Girlfriends - Season Six - Buy from Amazon
Season Five ended with a lot of changes including... and I'm assuming you watched the previous season, or you aren't interested in this one, so there are spoilers ahead... Maya trying to break-up her ex's wedding because she still loves him, Toni giving birth and deciding she doesn't need her husband, Lynn breaking up with her boyfriend and quitting her band, and Joan and William hooking up. So essentially everyone either began or ended a relationship at the end of last season, and this season there's just as much turmoil.

Maya and Darnell's Vegas wedding isn't full of bliss, and they quickly start fighting, and so do Lynn and her new fiancée, Jennifer. Toni decides to work things out with Todd, maybe. And Joan and William have troubles getting physical in their relationship. And William gets really interested in Lynn and Jennifer's relationship. To the point where even I think it's a little creepy. It's beyond creepy, but still very funny. Joan thinks about dumping her failing restaurant and going back into law, and instead hooks up with an older man. William decides to become an older man. And that's just on the first disc.

Not all of the storylines work equally as well, for instance Toni and Todd's fights lose their appeal very fast, as does Maya and Darnell marriage. On the other hand, Lynn and Jennifer's messed up relationship is entertaining and so is practically any storyline involving William. Also of note, episode three of disc three, The Game, is a pilot for the spin-off and only Joan makes an appearance in that episode, and even then she disappears after the opening credits.

Unfortunately, there are no extras on this 3-disc set, nor are there any subtitles. There are play-all buttons and proper chapter placements.

By Season Six, Girlfriends was starting to show its age. It's not as good as earlier seasons, but it is still strong and for fans of the show it is worth checking out. The total lack of extras hurt, but if you bought previous seasons, there's little reason to stop now.

The Hills - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
The latest season in this MTV Reality TV series follows the lives of four young ladies who live in Beverly Hills and I just can't stand the show. Reviewing Season Three was one of the most painful experiences of my career as a critic and I just can't bring myself to review this 3-disc set. I can't even open up the package, so instead I'm going to give it away during out next Box Office Prediction contest... stay tuned for that starting this Friday.

Hotel Babylon - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
It's been a while since Season 3 aired, but it looks like season 4 will be made. If you are a fan, grab this 3-disc set ASAP, because home market sales matter when it comes to getting TV shows renewed.

I've Loved You So Long - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film earned stellar reviews and even earned a couple of Golden Globe nominations. However, it wasn't able to parlay that into a wide expansion. Don't get me wrong, nearly $3 million for a foreign language film is good, but I was expecting it would do better. As for the extras on the DVD, they include an audio commentary track and some deleted scenes. There are no additional extras on the Blu-ray, while it costs 40% more. That's more than I'm willing to pay for shovelware like this, but others might disagree.

In Search of Lovecraft - Buy from Amazon
A reporter is sent to write a puff piece about a Lovecraft convention only to learn that the author's writings about great old ones were real. Not exactly an original take on the mythos. In fact, several writers of Lovecraftian horror used the same plot; a couple of them even started believing it themselves. That said, while it might not be original, it is effectively done and worth checking out for fans of the genre.

In the Electric Mist - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A direct-to-DVD movie starring Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Ned Beatty, and others. I was supposed to get a copy to review, but it is late. I'll get the spotlight review online ASAP, assuming it arrives.

The Inauguration of Barack Obama - A Moment in History - Buy from Amazon
I'm a political junkie, but even I've hit my limit on DVDs released for this historic election. It's too much, too soon.

Lake City - Buy from Amazon
Good cast. Terrible movie. Featureless DVD. Skip it.

My Two Dads - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Wow. It's been a long time since I've seen this show. In fact, I had to look up how old this show was. It debuted in 1987 and it only lasted three seasons, which means it's a minor miracle that it is coming out on DVD at all. The fact that the 4-disc set comes with a new interview with two of the stars, Staci Keanan and Greg Evigan, is a bonus. Worth checking out for those who barely remember the show, or have never seen it in the first place. And worth picking up for fans.

Nash Bridges - The Second Season - Buy from Amazon
A TV series that came about in part due to the success of Tin Cup, which featured both Don Johnson and Cheech Marin. This is the first full season of the series, as it started as a mid-season replacement. It is a solid crime mystery show that holds your attention while you are watching, but doesn't have the replay value to be among the top of the very, very crowded genre. Extras do include a few audio commentary tracks and the continuing of the Cast & Crew roundtable first seen on Season One. If you picked up season one, there's no reason not to grab this one as well. However, if you just rented the DVD debut, this 5-disc set is also just worth renting.

NHL - New York Islanders 10 Greatests Games - Buy from Amazon
I love these DVD releases from the NHL. Ten full games on a 10-disc set for just $37. How can you beat that price? I would love it if they released a 10-disc set for the Canucks, but they might have trouble finding 10 important games the Canucks won. (The fourth game here has the Islander completing the sweep against the Canucks in 1982 Stanley Cup final.)

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares - Complete Series One - Buy from Amazon
I love this show. On the other hand, my mom can't stand Gordon Ramsay. She hates how he swears so much, but he has good reason to. In this show, he travels around England and goes to struggling restaurants to help turn them around. He's abrasive, he's abusive, but he knows what he's doing and can change the fortunes of a restaurant. (I think the main of lessons he would give is to simplify the menus and don't try and be too fancy, especially when your customers just want tasty food at a reasonable price.) It is a British import, and that means the price is high and the extras are practically non-existent, but it is still worth checking out of most, picking up for many.

Real Time - Buy from Amazon
Jay Baruchel and Randy Quaid star in this Canadian movie about a gambling addict whose is drowning in debt, and the hitman sent to throw him an anchor. Since it is a Canadian movie, most people reading this have never heard of it, but it is worth checking out, even if there are no extras on the DVD>.

The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. - The Fifteen Years Later Affair - Buy from Amazon
A TV movie based on the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which ended its run 15 years earlier. That's a long time between the end of a series and a movie based on it. In 15 years a lot changes and it's hard for even the best such shows to remain fresh and relevant so many years later. And since this TV movie is more than 25 years old, it has even more difficulty remaining fresh and relevant today.

The story involves a plot by THRUSH to capture a nuclear device and use it to ransom money from the American government. With their leader recently escaped from jail, they demand the ransom be paid by Napoleon Solo, who retired from U.N.C.L.E. years ago. Also returned to active duty is another retired U.N.C.L.E. agent, Illya Kuryakin, played by David McCallum of N.C.I.S. The rest of the story has the requisite twists and turns, but does it have what it takes to please fans and neophytes?

Sadly, no. The appeal of the original show was the chemistry between the two lead actors, and most fans were likely looking forward to seeing the two team up again. However, it appears the movie was meant to be a pilot for a revival of the show, so instead of the two men teaming up, they are teamed up with two younger agents. (These younger agents were likely supposed to take over the franchise had this movie proven to be a big hit and spawn a TV series of their own.) Additionally, some of the humor was a little heavy on the camp, including the cameo by George Lazenby. It's not bad, but it is not up to the level of quality found in the show, especially the first season.

Additionally, there are no extras on the DVD, and at times the video quality is quite poor.

If you own the complete series of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., then picking up The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. - The Fifteen Years Later Affair on DVD makes a lot of sense. Otherwise, a rental will be enough.

Rick & Steve - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Rick & Steve is a stop-motion animated series set in the fictional town of West Lahunga Beach where are the residents are gay / lesbians. The show focuses on the lead couple, the smarter and committed Rick and beefier and dumber Steve, but also Chuck and Evan, an older man who is confined to a wheelchair and his boy-toy, as well as the lesbian couple Kirsten and Dana. In the first season Kirsten and Dana decide to have a baby and ask Rick and / or Steve to help them. Do to some confusion, the more aggressive of the two, Dana, is the one who gets pregnant, which turns out to be a bad idea. Season two starts off where season one ended, namely Dana about to give birth, which is a process that doesn't go smoothly. Other episodes in the second season deal with the ex-gay movement, coming out, the horrors of hetero-marriage, being too stereotypically gay, and there's even a spoof of The Wizard of Oz.

You will see this show compared to South Park a lot, and for good reason. It's intentionally un-P.C. and uses a lot of negative stereotypes about gays and lesbians as a way of deflating those stereotypes. It's a tightrope walk, because it is easy to come across as shocking for shocking's sake, and occasionally it does fall for that trap. But for the most part, it's quite witty and the music is fun. (The music is done by the same people who did Avenue Q.)

Extras on the DVD include seven bonus shorts running a total of 13 minutes. There are also interviews with seven of the cast members running just over 13 minutes. There's a 5-minute making-of featurette. (On a side note, I wonder how much it would cost to get those miniatures and props. Those would be cool souvenirs to have.) Finally, there's More Gay Crap, which is the name of the section and not some slight on the content found within.

Rick & Steve - Season Two is pretty short for a full season set, but considering the time involved in making stop-motion I'm not surprised that can't create more than 8 episodes a season. For fans of the show, it is hard to top that price and the DVD is worth checking out. For those who have never seen the show, but have high tolerance for un-P.C. comedy, it's worth checking out.

The Scarlett Johansson Collection - Buy from Amazon
Three movies starring Scarlett Johansson for less than $5 each. That's a great price, but I don't know if it is a great value, or just cheap. I'll do a spotlight review when the screener arrives.

Smurfs - True Blue Friends - Buy from Amazon
After releasing season one in two volumes, they are now releasing five random episodes from season two. This is not good news for fans of the show.

SpongBob SquarePants - SpongeBob vs. The Big One - Buy from Amazon
The latest single-disc release from this TV series. This time things are led by a double-length episode, for which the DVD is named, but there are plenty of other episodes as well.

  • SpongeBob vs. The Big One - After a tragic surfboarding accident, Sandy is marooned on a island all alone, Mr. Krabs is lost at sea, and SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward are stuck on an island. For the three, the only way back is to surf, but they don't know how and only one man can teach them, Jack Kahuna Laguna.
    The DVD starts off with a double-length episode, so there's high expectations here. Sadly, it can't live up to those expectations and overall this story is rather dull. SpongeBob can be a lot of things, silly, illogical, goofy, but dull shouldn't be one of them.
  • A Life in a Day - After being humiliated by the daredevil, Larry the Lobster, Patrick and SpongeBob decide to live life on the edge, just like Larry.
    Again, an episode that should be exciting is just dull, and an episode about living life to the fullest shouldn't be boring.
  • Sun Bleached - SpongeBob and Patrick can't get into Craig Mammelton's party, because they are just not tanned enough. So they decide to use a homemade tanning booth to get a tan, but after SpongeBob gets stuck in there too long, he becomes Sun Bleached.
    Zero for three. Hopefully things improve with...
  • Giant Squidward - Squidward is using Kelp Grow to help his kelp garden grow, but when Patrick uses it on Squidward's nose, as a good deed, Squidward reacts poorly. Now the only way to make his nose normal sized, is to make all of Squidward giant-sized.
    Finally an entertaining episode with a good mix of silly and humorous.
  • No Nose Knows - Patrick is upset because he's the only one he knows without a nose so he can't smell flowers, so he decides on rhinoplasty. At first he loves his new nose and all the smells he can experience, until he starts to experience bad smells.
    Better than the first three, but not as good as Giant Squidward.
  • Patty Caper - When the secret ingredient goes missing, SpongeBob has to figure out who stole it. And that's not going to be easy to do.
    One of the better episodes on the DVD, even if the ending was completely obvious, and completely illogical.
  • Plankton's Regular - Plankton finally gets a regular customer at the Chum Bucket, and Mr. Krabs won't stand for it. But when Mr. Krabs finds out that Nat, Plankton's regular customer, will only eat Chum Bucket chum, Mr. Krabs sets out to steal Plankton's recipe.
    A nice twist on the regular story, which adds to the appeal.
Extras include a 9-minute commentary by Plankton on SpongeBob vs. The Big One, which means it is just select scenes. It's set up like MST3K, and it's quite entertaining. There is also a music video for "Ridin' the Hook".

On the one hand, the episodes for SpongBob SquarePants - SpongeBob vs. The Big One are not as good as the previous release. On the other hand, the extras are better. I still would suggest renting this one and waiting for the full season set; however, if you are a fan of the single-disc DVDs, this is reasonably value for your money.

Stargate SG-1 - Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Both The Ark of Truth and Continuum being released together on DVD and Blu-ray. I like the price of the former, but the latter is too expensive.

Stiletto - Buy from Amazon
A revenge thriller starring a lot of people with recognizable names, but not a lot of star power.

Stana Katic stars as Raina, whom we meet early in the movie as she kills two heads of two crime families while they were negotiating in a sauna. We quickly learn from a flashback that she had a romantic relationship with one of her victims (Virgil Vadalos, played by Tom Berenger). However, despite having a 12" blade plunged into his stomach, Virgil survives thanks to the power of bad writing and gets his former lieutenant and a corrupt cop to track her down. In the meantime, Raina is cutting her way through white supremacists and helping a former prostitute, while we the audience are slowly let in on her motives.

On the one hand, the film has some appeal as a mindless revenge flick and those looking for some action and a way to spend 90-minutes of their life will likely enjoy this movie. On the other hand, anyone looking for originality or coherency should look elsewhere. At times Raina was portrayed as an unstoppable killing machine, and at other times she seemed like a complete amateur. And that stomach wound she inflicted on Virgil, sorry, but that was 100% fatal. Getting stabbed in the stomach is worse than getting stabbed in the chest, and he wasn't just stabbed, he was practically eviscerated. Some of the action scenes seemed gratuitous, especially the street race early in the movie. Stana Katic is a competent action star, and she does look good fighting, but that's not enough for me to recommend this movie.

As for extras on the DVD, there are none.

Stiletto is strictly a rental, and even then it is only for those looking for some low expectation theater.

Taken - PAL Format - Buy from Amazon
A word of warning, this is in PAL format, which means most TV / DVD players here will not be able to play it.

True Confessions of a Hollywood Starlet - Buy from Amazon
A TV movie starring Jojo as a teen starlet forced to live with her aunt after a recent trip to rehab. It's a lighthearted movie that pokes fun at some of the recent tabloid stories some child stars, and former child stars, have had to deal with. It's worth checking out, but I don't know if it has the replay value to warrant purchasing over renting, especially with no extras.

Warning: These DVDs do not come out this week and made their home market debut on the 24th. However, the DVD screeners arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Ultimate Fighting Championship - Buy from Amazon: 89 - Bisping vs Leben or 90 - Silva vs Cote
Two DVDs from the UFC, the first featuring the October 18, 2008 card from England, and the second featuring the October 25, 2008 fights from Rosemont, Illinois. Since this is a live sporting event, almost the entire review will be in white text to prevent unwanted spoilers, and I won't reveal who won the fights. I will say if they are stand up fights, submission fights, fast fights, slow fights, etc.

UFC - 89 - Bisping vs Leben
Eleven fights, including the headline middleweight bout between Michael Bisping and Chris Leben.

  1. Samy Schiavo vs. Per Eklund - Schiavo was very aggressive in this fight, but I think Eklund had better skill and techniques. Good stand up fighting at times, but like most UFC fights I've seen, submission attempts are the most used tactic.
  2. David Baron vs. Jim Miller - A lot of ground game here, which is the part of UFC I find the least interesting. Miller was the aggressor for nearly the entire match while Baron played strong defense.
  3. Terry Etim vs. Sam Stout - Two Muay Thai fighters, so there was a lot like a kickboxing match, which is a style I greatly prefer to the ground game. Etim had a serious reach advantage, but this is a very close fight. Best fight so far and closer than the judges scorecard.
  4. Jess Liaudin vs. David Bielkheden - Another fight with mostly ground game. The only thing I like less than an extended submission attempts, is ground and pound. Hitting a guy when he's on the ground is just not interesting to me.
  5. Shave Carwin vs. Neil Wain - Who set up this fight? Carwin had significant advantages in height, weight, and reach. And not just minor advantages. An eight-inch reach advantage is huge! Worst fight so far.
  6. Dan Hardy vs. Akihiro Gono - Both fighters are good stand up fighters, and since it was Hardy's first fight, he was aggressive, and Gono was willing to match punch for punch and kick for kick. New best fight of the night.
  7. Paul Kelly vs. Marcus Davis - A mixed fight, both in terms of stand up vs. ground game and in terms of aggressiveness.
  8. Paul Taylor vs. Chris Lytle - The fight starts out amazingly fast with both fighters throwing punches and landing kicks. They can't maintain that pace and there is a lot clutch and grab here, especially late in the rounds. Even so, a very entertaining fight.
  9. Sokoudjou vs. Luiz Cane - Two heavy hitters exchanging blows with both fighters showing a lot of aggression. Granted, the endurance does come into play as the fight wears on.
  10. Keith Jardine vs. Brandon Vera - Starts with ground and pound, but for most part, it's a good stand up fight.
  11. Michael Bisping vs. Chris Leben - The main event... which means there's 20 minutes of crap before the fight starts. I don't care about the pomp and ceremony. But when the fight starts, it's a strong stand up fight with good balance between the two fighters in skill and aggression. The night ends on a high note.
Extras on the second disc include a behind-the-scenes featurette, a preview of the main fight called Countdown, a featurette previewing the other fights on the card, and an 11-minute featurette on the weigh-ins. All told, its close to two hours of extras.

Eleven fights, more than half are entertaining, a few are a little dull in my eyes, but very few are ground-pounders, which is the style of UFC fighting I hate.

UFC - 90 - Silva vs Cote
The UFC event that took place on October 25, 2008 at Rosemont, Illinois. The main fight was the World Middleweight Champion bout between Anderson Silva vs Patrick Côté.

  1. Josh Burkman vs Pete Sell - Burkman was the more aggressive early on, but going out too fast could mean not enough left in the tank by the end of the fight. Good balanced fight with plenty of stand up action.
  2. Hermes Franca vs. Marcus Aurelio - Two fighters who like stand up and exchange blows. A lot of leg work here and while it is hard to knock a guy out with a leg kick, those do really add up. Another good stand up fight, for the most part, but not as balanced.
  3. Dan Miller vs. Matt Horwich - Ground pound and submissions, which I dislike, but at least the two fighters are aggressive.
  4. Spencer Fisher vs. Shannon Gugerty - A lot of grappling here with only a few stand up blows thrown.
  5. Thales Leites - Drew McFedries - Huh... It took me longer to type this (HTML code included) than the fight took.
  6. Sean Sherk vs. Tyson Griffin - Mix of stand up fighting and grappling. More the former than the latter, fortunately.
  7. Fabricio Werdum vs. Junior Dos Santas - They spend most of the early part of the fight feeling each other out, looking for the right range... and then its over with one solid hit. It's hard to call that really entertaining.
  8. Rich Clementi vs. Gray Maynard - Both fighters were very cautious early on, which is smart, but not as entertaining. Almost all action takes place on the ground.
  9. Thiago Alves vs. Josh Koscheck - A little cautious early on, but they get more aggressive as the match goes on. However, Koscheck took the fight on 2 weeks notice, and I don't think he had time to properly train, and that hurts his chances, and the entertainment value here.
  10. Anderson Silva vs. Patrick Côté - It's the main event, and you know what that means, more than 10 minutes of talking before the fight finally starts. When it does, there's not a lot of action. Both men are such good fighters that they are very, very cautious. And then one of them was injured. And it was an injury not related to the fight, at least as far as I can tell. Anti-climatic.
Extras include the usual package: 31-minutes behind-the-scenes, 41-minute countdown to the main event, 53 minutes of previews for the rest of the card, and 15 minutes of weigh-ins.

Of the ten fights, only three or four are really entertaining, while a couple end too fast, and one ends with a bizarre injury, which had almost nothing to do with the fight. The entertainment value is lower than the first DVD.

That said, these are the fourth and fifth UFC DVDs I've reviewed, and I would argue that they are better than the average with 89 - Bisping vs Leben superior to 90 - Silva vs Cote, but if you are fans of the sport, both are worth picking up.

The Village Barbershop - Buy from Amazon
A movie that had one of the worst openings ever, despite earning respectable reviews. (Normally 80% positive would be great, but with only five reviews, it's hard to say what score it would have earned had it been reviews by most mainstream critics.) It's worth checking out, but without any extras, start with a rental first.

Watchman - The Complete Motion Comic - DVD or Blu-ray
A semi-animated adaptation of the comic book coming out on DVD and Blu-ray just in time for the movie's release this Friday. On the plus side, this is a great story and one that fans of the comic will want to have in this format. On the other hand, the execution is a little flawed. For instance, the "semi-animated" nature doesn't quite work; it's better than previous attempts to animate comic book art, but it still doesn't quite look right. Also, it's an audio book presentation, which means all the voices are supplied by one person, including the female voices, and that is distracting. It would have been better to have multiple voices. Extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray are practically non-existent, but the Blu-ray does have a sneak peak at the upcoming movie and both have a sneak peak at the Wonder Woman release. Given the running time (nearly five-and-a-half hours) this is not a problem and it is definitely worth picking up.

Wildfire - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
Just a quick note that the final season of this ABC Family Channel series is coming out on DVD this week. The DVD screener is late, but I will try and get the spotlight review online A.S.A.P.

Wonder Woman - Buy from Amazon: DVD,

Filed under: Video Releases, Taken, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Australia, Il y a longtemps que je t'aime, Ashes of Time Redux, Lake City, The Village Barbershop, Stargate - Continuum, Stargate - The Ark of Truth, Futurama - Into the Wild Green Yonder