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DVD Releases for March 31st, 2009 - Part I

March 30th, 2009

It's a big list this week with nearly 50 DVDs here (including a few that are late reviews). This includes this year's big Oscar winner, Slumdog Millionaire, which is coming out on DVD and Blu-ray. Also coming out this week is two foreign language thrillers: Tell No One on DVD and Blu-ray, and Timecrimes on DVD. All three are worth picking up. In fact, all three are DVD Picks of the Week. With so many releases, it comes as no surprise that this week's list has to be split into two, with the second part found here.

Adventures of Robin Hood - Complete 3rd Season - Buy from Amazon
The penultimate season of this British TV series from the late 1950s. This 3-disc set has no extras, but it costs just $13.49 for 39 episodes. It's hard to beat that deal.

After Dark Horrorfest - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
I was supposed to receive this film festival to review, but the screeners are late. I can say that you can buy the 8-disc set above, or individually. It is cheaper to buy them individually: Autopsy, Broken, The Butterfly Effect 3, Dying Breed, From Within, Perkins 14, Slaughter, and Voices. Hopefully the screeners will arrive soon and I will be able to say which of these movies are worth owning, which are worth renting, and which are worth skipping entirely.

Baby Einstein - World Music - Buy from Amazon
The latest in a long line of Baby Einstein releases. These can be useful if they are used by parents as a way of interacting with their children, but not if they are used as babysitters.

Warning: This Blu-ray / DVD Combo-Pack does not come out on Tuesday, but makes its home market debut on the Sunday. Because it straddles two release dates, I'm including it both on this week's list and next week's list.

Bedtime Stories - Buy from Amazon: DVD, DVD + Digital Copy, or Blu-ray / DVD Combo
This is the second time Disney has released the Blu-ray / DVD Combo ahead of the DVD release. Hopefully it will work better than with Bolt, because apparently retailer confusion meant the Bolt DVD came out at the same time as the Blu-ray in a lot of places. It's hard to tell if the plan worked if most retailers didn't follow the plan. But that's not important here...

Bedtime Stories starts in 1974 with Marty Bronson narrating the story of the hotel he ran and his life with his two kids, Wendy and Skeeter. Sadly, while he was a great father, he wasn't a good businessman and he was bought out by Barry Nottingham on the condition that, if Skeeter showed promise, he would give him a chance to run the place when he grew up. Flash forward 25 years and Skeeter is working as a handyman in the hotel and still waiting for his chance to lead. However, he is passed over for promotion for Kendall, who is dating Mr. Nottingham's daughter, Violet (played by Teresa Palmer). At this time he is also asked to baby-sit his niece and nephew while his sister looks for a job in Arizona. In order to get the kids to go to bed, he tells them a bedtime story, and the next day it comes true, sort of. He figures the next night he can use his stories to get ahead in life, but that's when he figures out that it's the kids that control the power, not him.

This is a Disney kids movie released on Christmas day that stars Adam Sandler and is directed by Adam Shankman, who previously made Cheaper By the Dozen 2 and The Pacifier. I wasn't expecting Oscar caliber entertainment here, just lighthearted fluffy entertainment aimed at kids. And that's exactly what this film is. It's the kind of movie that by the time it's over, you will have forgotten most of it. I certainly have, which makes it hard to write this review. It's disposable entertainment that should generate enough laughs in its young target audience, but most adults will not want to sit through it more than once.

Extras on the DVD consist of a 4-minute featurette on the special effects, a five-and-a-half-minute featurette on the child actors in the movie, a 4-minute featurette on Bugsy, seven minutes of outtakes, and 10 minutes of deleted scenes. Total running time for the extras is just 30 minutes and 30 seconds. That's not a whole lot to offer.

The DVD + Digital Copy includes all of those extras, plus a digital copy of the movie. Blu-ray / DVD Combo has all of those extras, and has them in high definition. Additionally, the Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled with the usual set of Disney extras (movie mail, movie chat, movie rewards, etc.). Also, it comes with a digital copy of the movie and a DVD copy of the movie. And, it comes out 2 days earlier than the other editions.

Bedtime Stories is fluff that should entertain younger kids, but unless you are in that demo, or have kids in that demo, you can safely give this movie a pass. If you are interested in watching the movie, the extras are rather light, but the Blu-ray / DVD Combo is arguably the best deal.

The Bielski Brothers - Jerusalem in the Woods - Buy from Amazon
It's strange that this DVD is coming out this week as Defiance, which is based on the same events, doesn't come out on DVD or Blu-ray until June. Releasing them closer together would have been better for synergy.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: The Adventures of Pinocchio, An American in Paris, Amor, Vida de Mi Vida: Zarzuelas by Palcido Domingo and Ana Maria Martinez, Bedtime Stories (with DVD and Digital Copy), Chris Botti in Boston, Chronicles of Riddick, Chronicles of Riddick and Pitch Black, Dragonball Z - Broly Triple Shot, Fantasia: Live in Tokyo, La Fille Mal Gardee, Ghosts of Mars, Gigi, Handel - Admeto, Ichi the Killer, Jeff Beck - Performing this Week - Live at Ronnie Scott's, John Adams - Doctor Atomic, LCD/Plasma Ultimate HD Experience: Africa, Marley & Me, The Matrix 10th Anniversary Edition, National Geographic: Journey to the Edge of the Universe, National Geographic: Kingdom of the Blue Whale, The One, Paul Rodgers - Live in Glasgow, Pitch Black, Sarah Michelle Gellar Collection (Suburban Girl/ The Air I Breathe), Serenity Travel Series Volume One, Seven Pounds, Shigurui - Death Frenzy Complete Box Set, Slumdog Millionaire, South Pacific, Tell No One, Two Eyes of Evil, UFC - Best of 2008, and Way of War
Not a stellar list of Blu-rays this week. Sure there's Slumdog Millionaire, which won a ton of Oscars, and Tell No One, which was the highest-grossing foreign language film of the year. But after that, there's little that excites me.

California Dreams - Seasons 1 & 2 - Buy from Amazon
A show aimed at teens from the 1990s. Like Saved By the Bell, but with a pop band hook. No, it wasn't very good. Better than Saved By the Bell, but that's not saying much. Extras include a reunion featurette, and a way to watch the songs separately from the TV series. If you liked this show as a kid, it might be worth renting for the hit of nostalgia, but that's it.

A Cat in the Brain - Buy from Amazon
Some claim this is the bloodiest movie ever made. It tells the story of a horror director who is being stalked by a serial killer that is using the director's movies as inspiration for his own series of killings. Or is he? Perhaps the director is just being driven mad from his own films. Fans of Giallo, or more specifically, people who think Giallo is too restrained, should definitely check out this more. Most other people will be turned off by the level of gore. As for this 2-disc DVD, it is loaded with extras and it is worth picking up for fans of the movie.

Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales - Buy from Amazon
The latest historical documentary by Terry Jones. This one looks at the life of Geoffrey Chaucer and fans of Medieval Lives and Barbarians will want to pick it up. And while you are at it, grab the Terry Jones Collection as well.

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

Craig Ferguson - A Wee Bit o' Revolution - Buy from Amazon
The first of two stand-up concert DVDs on this week's list, although this one was released last week, and the DVD arrived a tad late. (Actually, it arrived on the Monday, but I was having technical problems with Amazon.com, so I wasn't able to get to it in time.) If you want an ultrashort review of this DVD, I can sum it up with... I laughed more here than watching Jim Gaffigan's King Baby, and I thought that DVD was worth picking up, so obviously I can recommend this one. However, I should probably give more details than that.

Craig Ferguson is best know here as the host of a late, late night talk show, which is called The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. But he first came to prominence with the role of Nigel Wick in The Drew Carey Show. Before that he was a stand-up comedian and an actor in a number of lesser-known TV shows and movies. (He was Confidence in the episode Confidence & Paranoia of Red Dwarf. I had no idea that was Craig Ferguson, until I started doing research for this review.) I've seen his style of stand-up described as "confessional," which is a great word to use. It's very personal and he talks about being Scottish, being in rehab, his marriage and his divorce, his first encounter with drugs and rock'n'roll, his second encounter with drugs and rock'n'roll, etc. He also talks about his career and how it started with his obsession with Sean Connery, how he landed his job on The Drew Carey Show, and a lot more. Most bits work, and even the ones that don't at least generate a chuckle or two, and the 80-minute special is worth checking out.

Most stand-up concert DVDs are devoid of special features, but this is not the case here. There is in 16-minute interview with Craig Ferguson talking about why he became an American citizen, politics, his comedy, etc. There is also Craig Ferguson's speech at Faneuil Hall, which was given the day he became an American citizen, and it runs just under 8 minutes. It's not as much as the other stand-up concert DVDs I reviewed this week, but its hit to miss ratio is a whole lot better.

This is Craig Ferguson's first stand-up concert special, so it is impossible just to compare it to a previous special and say if it is better or worse. It is funny and I can certainly recommend A Wee Bit o' Revolution as a solid purchase for all fans of stand-up, especially those who watch his late night talk show. And if you've never seen his show, check it out, you might become a fan.

Cthulhu - Buy from Amazon
A horror film based on the works of H.P.Lovecraft. A horror film that earned mixed reviews and opened in limited release. There's no way this movie was going to be a big hit, and with a decidedly niche target audience, its task was even harder. It should find a more receptive audience on the home market, even if the DVD is practically devoid of extras (there's an image gallery and the trailer) but I can't recommend a blind buy. Rent first.

Dragon Ball Z - Broly Triple Feature - DVD or Blu-ray
Another Dragonball triple-shot coming out in advance of the upcoming theatrical release, and by triple shot I mean three double-length episodes. That's not a whole lot of product for the price. On the other hand, the Blu-ray is clearly the better deal.

Evolve - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A TV series about evolution that looks at the development of one aspect of animals each episode. The first episode deals with eyes, another with skin, another with flight, communication, etc. This helps break down a very complex topic into segments that are easier to digest. Definitely worth checking out.

The Fugitive - Season Two - Volume Two - Buy from Amazon
The latest 4-disc set from this award-winning, iconic series. This season was the show's best in terms of ratings and there are a number of great episodes on this DVD.

This includes Corner of Hell where Lt. Philip Gerard becomes the pursued after chasing Richard Kimble into moonshine country and is framed for attacking and nearly killing a woman. Nice bit of irony. Nicest Fella You'd Ever Want to Meet has Kimble dealing with a corrupt cop who killed a prisoner, and Kimble is the only witness. While hiding out in the in the episode May God Have Mercy, Kimble meets a man who holds him responsible for the death of his daughter, who was a patient of his back before the trial. There are a couple of episodes with similarities. For instance, there are two episodes dealing with Kimble's alleged death and two dealing with hitchhikers, but these are only curiosities, not major issues.

Due to its nature (anthology-like show with a lot of one-shot roles) there are a ton of guest stars, mostly character actors or those who were not terribly famous at the time. Actors like Robert Duvall, Angie Dickinson, Tom Skerritt, Dabney Coleman, and Pat Hingle. And that's all just on the first disc. Bruce Dern, Harry Dean Stanton, Jack Klugman, Telly Savalas, Edward Asner, Norman Fell, and James Doohan made appearances on this 4-disc set. It's a huge list and adds to the enjoyment here.

Sadly, there are no extras on the DVD, nor are there subtitles. But there are play all buttons and proper chapter placements. In fact, I would recommend skipping the first chapter of every episode, because it is a spoiler / teaser.

Of the 15 episodes on this 4-disc set, all of them are worth checking out, and the vast majority have replay value. The Fugitive - Season Two - Volume Two is worth picking up for fans of the show. And the series is worth checking out if you've never seen it before.

G.P.S. - The Movie - Buy from Amazon
That's a terrible name for a movie. The film is about Geocaching, which is a treasure hunting game that uses GPS devices. Only in the movie the innocent game turns deadly. I haven't seen many reviews, and the ones I have seen were mixed. That said, the DVD is better than expected with a lot of featurettes as extras, and it is worth checking out for fans of Indie horror.

Goosebumps - Buy from Amazon: Return of the Mummy and The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
Two more releases from R.L.Stine. These are quite popular with their target demographic; however, they are too short to be movies, and too pricey for TV on DVD.

Handy Manny - Manny's Green Team - Buy from Amazon
In time for Earth Day, Disney is releasing an environmentally themed collection of five episodes from their popular Handy Manny TV series. This includes an episode that hasn't yet aired on American TV, as well as some extras.

Starting the list of episodes is...

  • Saving the Turtles - Manny and the tools set out to build a bike path in the park, but they need to protect the Turtle without harming the trees.
  • Manny Goes Solar - Mr. Kumar wants Manny to hang his new sign, but there's no electrical connections on the roof, so they have to find another way to power the sign.
  • Science Fair - The elementary school has a broken air conditioner, but an accident causes the destruction of two science fair projects, and the tools have to help repair the damage.
  • Light Work - Manny is asked to work on Mrs. Portillo's chandelier, but by the time they get there it's past dark, making it harder to do the work.
  • Blommin' Tools - Jackie needs her window shutter fixed and then they need to build a flower box for her new flowers.
Extras on the DVD include a game called Livin' La Vida Verde, which is an environmental trivia game. There are also tips you can print out on your computer.

Handy Manny - Manny's Green Team is a solid release from this show. Only a couple of the shows really fit in the with the overall theme, but they all should entertain the kids. Also, the educational game is enough added value that if you were happy with previous Handy Manny DVDs, then this one is also worth picking up.

Hannah Montana - Keeping It Real - Buy from Amazon
This is the fifth volume from this TV series, and at this point fans should know what to expect, while those who are not fans have already skipped to the next release. So let's get right into the show.
  • The Test of My Love - Miley meets a cute boy and goes on a date with him... and his parents. If that wasn't bad enough, his parents are prejudiced against, as they put it, "... Genuine country bumpkin." The B-story here has Lola Luftnagle, a.k.a. Lilly Truscott a.k.a. Emily Osment, replacing Hannah Montana at a charity event.
  • Don't Stop 'Til You Get the Phone - Miley Stewart is desperate to get her hands on a new Z-Phone, and she's willing to do anything to get it, including selling an embarrassing picture of Hannah Montana to a tabloid to get it. However, when she realizes that picture includes her wearing her Miley necklace, she needs to get it back. And the only way to get it back is to get an even better photo of another celebrity, namely guest star Dwayne Johnson.
  • Yet Another Side of Me - Hannah Montana meets her idol, pop star Isis, who tells her that if she wants to remain relevant, she has to change her look to adapt with the times. But her attempts to be edgy don't go as well as planed.
  • We're All on the Date Together - Ray Romano starts this episode with a self-depreciating guest shot, but the real guest star of the episode is Corbin Bleu from High School Musical, who places the winning bid in a charity auction for a date with Hannah. However, Donny Osmond (lot of guest stars in this episode) gets her to agree to double the amount raised by also going on a date with Rico. (I find that character so annoying.)
  • And as a bonus...

  • Ready, Set, Don't Drive - This is the first episode from season three, which has Miley failing her driving test due to a distracting smell. So she decides to dress up as Hannah Montana to pass it, but this plan backfires, big time.
Extras on the DVD include not only the bonus episode, but also a 4-minute featurette called Miley's Makeover that talks about her new look. Additionally, the DVD comes with a code for $7.50 in movie money to check out Hannah Montana the Movie, which opens in roughly two weeks.

Hannah Montana - Keeping It Real is on par with most of the previous single-disc releases. I vastly prefer full season sets, and with the release of Season One last fall, it is very likely Season Two and Season Three will eventually be released on DVD, and will likely be better deals. That said, if you are planning on watching Hannah Montana the Movie when it comes out in theaters and can take advantage of the coupon here, the cost is just over $1 per episode, which is a hard price to beat. Worth picking up.

Holding Trevor - Buy from Amazon
Gay cinema has been strong presence in theaters for long enough that one doesn't have to settle for bad gay cinema. This explains why this movie bombed at the box office. There are too many other options that are worth watching to bother with this one.

Hope & Faith - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
I may or may not be getting this DVD to review later on, but in case it doesn't... The TV series stars Faith Ford and Kelly Ripa as two sisters with polar opposite personalities. It's typical sitcom fair that works as lowered expectation entertainment. Extras are better than expected with audio commentary tracks, a making-of featurette, and audition tapes.

In Plain Sight - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Mary McCormack stars as Mary Shannon, a U.S. Marshall in this cable TV series. The film earned good reviews; however, there are so many similar shows like this on TV, that it is hard to recommend this one over one of its rivals, as it doesn't have a real hook for it to stand out.

The IT Crowd - The Complete Season One - Buy from Amazon
A British series about three people working in the IT department of a large corporation. The original is quite funny, and popular enough to get an American remake, but after the pilot was picked up, it was canceled before any further episodes could be made. At least you can import this show, but beware, it is expensive on a per minute basis.

Jeff Beck - Performing This Week - Live at Ronnie Scott's - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Great concert and one that apperantly shines on High Definition, but according to Amazon, the Blu-ray release has been canceled. Hopefully that is just an error, or at the very most a temporary situation.

Jim Gaffigan - King Baby - Buy from Amazon
Jim Gaffigan's follow-up to Beyond the Pale, which most fans of stand up would agree was his best act up to that point. (Yes, it was his first DVD, but his sixth CD.) Career best is a tough act to follow,

The 70-minute act starts off with a common theme in his act, i.e., him talking to himself as if he was a member of the audience. The voice he uses is kind of irritating, as he admits early on, but it does have some of the best jokes. Other topics include bowling, being lazy, foods that are bad for you (he is obsessed with bacon). (He would love This is Why You are Fat.) ... I'm amazed he has the energy to stand up during his routine. Overall the comedy here is ... how to put this... non-controversial. Making fun of camping isn't going to offend a lot of people. His quick jabs at vegetarians are about as edgy as it gets. (Well, that's not entirely true. His bits about circumcision and religion in general might tweak some.) On the other hand, he is funny.

There are a lot of extras on the DVD starting with three episodes of Pale Force. The first two are only a few minutes long, while the Christmas Special is twice that. There are four short bits called Our Massive Planet that run a total of seven-and-a-half minutes. There are a couple of short interviews, the first a faux interview that runs six-and-a-half minutes and the second for XM Unmasked that runs close to 27 minutes. There's a 10 minutes behind-the-scenes from The Sexy Tour in Atlanta. There are 11 minutes of bumpers from The Sexy Tour, and another 10 minutes from Beyond the Pale. That's a lot of material, but the average quality is quite low. There's a lot of repetition, especially in the bumpers, which shows the same logo over and over again.

Jim Gaffigan - King Baby should please fans of stand up in general and of him in particular. Additionally, there's enough replay value in the extras in total that the DVD is worth picking up over just renting.

Killer at Large - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the epidemic of obesity and how the solution is a little more complex than to eat less and exercise more. (Yes, eating less and exercising more is important, but the problem is more complex than that.) Did you know that people are not born with the ability to tell when they are full? That's why babies eat till they puke. You have to be trained as a kid to eat a nutritional diet, and if you are not, it is nearly impossible to retrain yourself as an adult. (And you can get into real trouble if you eat no-calorie sweeteners as a kid.) Getting a poor night's sleep can result in weight gain. Weight gain can lead to trouble sleeping. Documentarian Steven Greenstreet tackles a lot of areas in this film, perhaps too many, as the movie can lose focus from time to time. Extras on the DVD are amazing with two audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, a 45-minute educational version, and more. Worth checking out for most, picking up for many. On a side note, another similar documentary came out earlier this year called Fat Head that tried to show that a high-fat diet can lead to weight loss. Here's the problem, the filmmaker, Tom Naughton, cut his caloric intake while DOUBLING the amount of exercise he did. No wonder he lost weight. I just hope people are not fooled by his experience and think they can eat a fatty diet and magically lose weight.

To travel over to the second part of the list, click here.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Marley & Me, Slumdog Millionaire, Bedtime Stories, Seven Pounds, The Chronicles of Riddick, Ne le dis à personne, Los Cronocrímenes, Holding Trevor, Cthulhu, Suburban Girl, The Air I Breathe