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DVD Releases for April 21st, 2009 - Part I

April 21st, 2009

Not much in the way of first run releases this week, but we do have more Awards Season players coming out on the home market. However, if you want the best of the best, you have to look to Sin City - 2-Disc Blu-ray. This week's list was a little too big to fit on one page, so the second part can be found here.

America Betrayed - Buy from Amazon
The first of several DVDs on this week's list where the screener is late. I hope to get to the spotlight reviews in a timely fashion, but that depends heavily on when they arrive.

Arctic Tale - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Just a quick note that the Blu-ray screener did arrive, today, but I won't be able to get to the spotlight review till next week. In the meantime, you can read the previous reviews.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Arctic Tale, The Arrival, Blu-ray Action Bundle - Volume 2, Blu-ray Action Bundle - Volume 3, Blu-ray Comic Book Bundle - Volume 3, Blu-ray Comedy Bundle - Volume 4, Blu-ray Comic Book Hero Bundle, Blu-ray Cult Classic Bundle, Blu-ray Epic Movie Bundle, Blu-ray Jason Statham Bundle, Blu-ray Michael Douglas Bundle, Blu-ray War Bundle - Volume 4, Caught in the Act, Frost/Nixon, Gary Moore & Friends: One Night in Dublin - A Tribute to Phil Lynott, Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth & Sea - Special Edition, Hellraiser, Josh Groban - Awake Live, The Last Word, Notorious, The Showdown, Sin City, Styx & the Contemporary Youth Orchestra of Cleveland: One with Everything, Wages of Fear, X-Men Trilogy Box Set, X-Men, X2 - X-Men United, and X-Men 3 - The Last Stand
A mixed week for Blu-ray releases, as there are a lot, but many are three-disc bundles that are not that great deals. Additionally, there are no first run releases that scream "Must have!" but there are some other releases worth picking up. This includes the X-Men Trilogy Box Set, but the best of the best is the Sin City two-disc set.

Britney Spears - The Return of an Angel - Buy from Amazon
An hour-long documentary about the rise, fall, and subsequent rebirth of Britney Spears. It would be an interesting story, except most of her problems seem self-inflicted.

The Burrowers - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD horror movie... There are so many similar releases that come out each week, and most are garbage. So I went into the movie with low expectations. Let's hope the movie beats them.

Set in 1879 in the Dakota Territories, the film starts with an attack on a homestead, purportedly by Indians. In addition to the deaths, several people are missing, including the would-be fiancée of Fergus Coffey. He, and several other men, decide to ride into Indian territory to try and rescue them, but meet up with the army led by Henry Victor, a man who is determined to hunt down the Indian tribe, his way. But they learn they are not dealing with hostile Indians, but something the Indians call Burrowers. Henry Victor's still determined to do things his way, so they depart ways, but will these few men find the Burrowers? And what will happen if they do?

Like I said, I had low expectations going into this movie, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality in every single aspect of the movie. First of all, it looks great, much better than its $7 million production budget; more than once I thought a scene was there to show off the landscape as much as advance the story (but more on that later). The film also does a lot with its horror / western hybrid genre, combining elements of both, while using the 1879 date to its advantage. The characters, and the actors are all great. Then we come to the story, which is a little light. It's a group of men riding on horses looking for what attacked the people they care about. It's not complicated, but it has all the elements you need. The scares come from the slowly building suspense, which is a nice change of pace from glut of torture porn that we are seeing today. Additionally, the creature design is very well done, both in terms of the special effects, and the mythology that surrounds them. (Their lifecycle reminds me of cicada, while their physical appearance reminds me of burrowing insects like wetas.) They feel like they could be something that could exist in that environment and not just some movie creation. My only minor complaint would be the pacing, which can be described as either deliberate, if you like the movie, or meandering, if you do not. But to emphasize, that is a minor complaint.

Extras, on the other hand, are a little disappointing with just an audio commentary track and two short making-of featurettes. The audio commentary track features the writer / director, JT Petty, and actor Karl Geary (who plays Fergus Coffey). Both men are quite active and there's a good balance between information and entertainment. The first featurette is a general making-of film that runs 6-minutes long, while the second is specifically on the monsters in the movie, and it runs just under 5 minutes long. (On a side note, audio commentary tracks are special features, and should be listed there in the menu. Do not stick them under Setup.) What we get is good, but after watching the movie, I was hoping for more.

So far the reviews for The Burrowers are mixed, but while I understand some of the complaints regarding the film's pacing, it is better than a 57% average would indicate. With extras that are on par with most direct-to-DVD releases, the DVD is worth checking out, and worth buying for fans of the genre over just renting.

Caprica - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD pilot movie to the Battlestar Galactica spin-off. Battlestar Galactica recently ended, and it is hard to tell if this series will be good enough to follow in its footsteps, but early buzz is encouraging. Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and short video blogs. I don't know if it is worth buying. On the other hand, as it is very likely it will be released with the first season DVD set, and it will likely be a much better deal.

Dallas - Season 11 - Buy from Amazon
I have nothing to say about this DVD (except that I hate flipper discs). After 11 releases, I've run of out things to say.

Forever - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, which is where many, many artists are buried, including Jim Morrison. This film opened in September of 2007, but despite earning amazing reviews, it went nowhere at the box office. Perhaps this is why it had taken this long to come out on DVD. It's worth checking out for most, and with a 30-minute interview with the filmmaker, it is worth buying over just renting.

Freakazoid! - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
Season two of this series continues to follow the adventures of Dexter Douglas, better known to super villains as Freakazoid. An excellent show that won a couple Daytime Emmys, and fans should be happy the series is continuing its run on DVD. Extras are better than most similar releases, and should please both target audiences: Kids who weren't around when the show first aired & adults who grew up on the show.

Frost/Nixon - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
From the beginning, this film has a lot of Awards Season buzz going for it, but in the end, despite earning stunning reviews, it was shut out of the major awards going zero for fifteen. (This is hardly an insult, as 15 major nominations is a track record most films would kill for.) Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with Ron Howard, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, a look at the actual interviews and how closely the movie matches then, and more. Definitely worth checking out, and worth picking up over just renting.

Glass - A Portrait of Philip Glass in Twelve Parts - Buy from Amazon
Usually when it comes to limited releases I require a Tomatometer score of 80% positive before I figure the movie has a strong chance at surviving. This film opened with a Tomatometer score of 79% positive ... and it didn't survive. (I'm sure the 1% difference was immaterial here, it's just a coincidence.) For fans of Philip Glass, this movie is worth checking out, and with more than 3 hours of bonus material on this 2-disc set, it is worth picking up over just renting. Others might be put off by the obvious hero worship, but it is still worth checking out.

Hawaii Five-O - Season 6 - Buy from Amazon
D'oh! This 6-disc set just arrived today and it comes out tomorrow. However, I just won't be able to get to it in time for this week's column. Next week. I'll get to it by next week unless I'm flooded with April 28th releases.

Hellraiser - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
It hasn't been that long since the 20th anniversary edition was released on DVD, but now it is coming out on Blu-ray. These movies may have been relegated to direct-to-DVD releases recently, but the franchise started out strong compared to most other films its genre. You can either buy the movie on its own on Blu-ray, or as part of a box set, which includes the movie on Blu-ray and on DVD, as well as the first sequel on DVD. Not sure why they mixed the formats like that, but it does hurt the overall value, as fans will likely be forced to double-dip later on.

House of the Sleeping Beauties - Buy from Amazon
When I talked about this film's limited release back in November, I mentioned there was no official site, no reviews, no buzz. We now have some reviews, and they are not good. Add in a DVD that is devoid of extras, and there's no reason to buy, and very little reason to rent.

How About You - Buy from Amazon
This film opened with reviews that were good, but not great. And its opening per theater average was likewise good, but not great. And while it lasted in theaters a lot longer than most limited releases, it was never able to expand significantly. It is worth checking out, but with a featureless DVD, a rental will be enough for most people.

iCarly - Season 1 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
The second half of season one is hitting the home market this week. Normally I hate split season sets, because usually it is just an excuse to charge more. However, this show will likely only run for two-and-a-half seasons (till they reach the 65 episodes necessary for syndication) so it makes more sense to release the show in five volumes, rather than have a half-length set in the end.

The 12 episodes on this 2-disc set are...

  • iAm Your Biggest Fan - iCarly has a fan, or should that be a stalker. At first being the center of Mandy's world is flattering, until she starts showing up wherever Carly, Sam, and Freddie go. Now they have to figure out a way to get her to leave them alone.
  • iHeart Art - Carly manages to convince Spencer's idol, Harry Joyner, to come over and critique his work, but this good deed turns sour when Harry Joyner insults Spencer, causing him to quit the art world and become... a dental assistant. Meanwhile, Freddie bets Sam that she can't insult him for a full week, and it's killing her.
  • iHate Sam's Boyfriend - Sam has her first boyfriend, Jonah, but their relationship is interfering with the making of iCarly. Worse still, when Carly confronts Jonah over this problem, he tries to kiss her.
  • iDon't Want to Fight - When Carly and Sam try to do something nice for each other, they end up in a major, major fight and Freddie is stuck in the middle.
  • iPromote Tech-Foots - iCarly gets their first sponsor, Daka shoes. But when the Tech-Foots turn out to be completely disasters, their fans turn on them, and they have to figure out a way to get out of their contract.
  • iGot Detention - It's the night of the 50th show, but Sam get detention and might have to miss it. That is until they decide to shoot the 50th show in detention.
  • iStakeout - The cops show up at Carly and Spencer's loft, not to arrest Sam, as everyone assumes, but to stake out the convenience store across the way, because they suspect the shop owner of piracy. However, one of the cops is Stuart "Spanky" Staimbler, a bully from Spencer's past.
  • iCarly Saves TV - A famous TV producer sees iCarly and decides its just what he needs to save his career. Well, maybe not just what he needs, as he has a few minor changes to help "improve" it. On a side note, the "crappy" TV series on this episode shares something in common with iCarly, an oppressive laugh track. Tone it down, guys, it hurts the show. (One last note, this episode is extended, running about 4 minutes longer than the rest, but I don't know what was added or taken away.)
  • iMight Switch Schools - Carly is approached by Briarwood Prep and is offered a full scholarship there, assuming she passes the interview process. However, Sam and Freddie don't want her to leave, so they have plans to make sure she doesn't, and it involves a mini golf course.
  • iFence - Freddie desperately wants to hang out with some non-females, so he decides to tag along with Spencer while goes to his fencing class. But once there, Freddie discovers he has a natural fencing talent, much to the dismay of his over-protective mother.
  • iWin a Date - Carly, Freddie, and Sam try and get a date for their friend Gibby with Shannon, but Shannon wants to date Freddie, and Freddie wants to date Carly and Rueben wants to date Sam. Who's Rueben? He's Gibby's friend who talks like a freak. (Sam should have gone with her gut instinct and punched him in the mouth.)
  • iHave a Love Sick Teacher - Miss Ackerman gets dumped by her boyfriend, so she takes it out on her students by overloading them with homework. That is until she starts dating Spencer, but when he wants to break up with her, the kids could be in for even more trouble.
Extras on the two-disc set includes nine behind-the-scene clips on disc one, most of which are just over minute long. Over on disc two there is a 3-minute featurette on the "slimed" photoshoot. There is also a bonus episode, the pilot for True Jackson, VP. The show isn't bad, but I don't think it is as good as iCarly, and it has an even more oppressive laugh track.

iCarly is a fun show for its target audience, and while I would turn down the laugh track I can still enjoy it while watching. The 2-disc set for Season 1 - Volume 2 has better extras than many similar releases, and it is worth picking up for fans.

Into the Blue 2 - The Reef - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD sequel to a movie that was quite terrible to begin with. But is this movie a hidden treasure, or is it destined to sink?

The film starts with two cases being dumped overboard from a boat, and then we see what happens to the captain of that boat when he loses his cargo. Flash to the next day and we see the lives of two divers / treasure hunters, Sebastian and Dani, who run a company that charters boats and take tourists out diving. They are hired by Carlton and Azra to help look for the San Cristobal, a ship lost in 1623 with treasure worth millions today. It is also the ship Sebastian is obsessed with and has been trying to find for four years. However, after their first real tangible find, Carlton confesses, they are not looking for the San Cristobal, but for more recently lost cargo, and if he doesn't deliver in a week, his life could be in danger, and so will the lives of Sebastian and Dani. But is this cargo simply lost contraband smuggled in from Iraq, or something much more dangerous?

Into the Blue 2 is practically a remake of the original, as there's no continuing story between the two films. So if you've never seen Into the Blue, you won't get lost here, and given that film's box office numbers, I would assume most people reading this have never seen the first movie. That's the good news. The bad news is, nearly everything about this movie is weak. The writing is thin, the characters uninteresting, the acting is rather wooden, the underwater scenes can be beautiful, but they are mostly boring. Even the opening credits look cheap. Nothing here suggests it is anything more than a TV movie. It's not even a TV movie, as it could have been successfully turned into an episode of an hour-long TV drama had they cut out the fat (like the beach volleyball game, or the wet T-shirt contest). It's not offensively bad, but it is thoroughly dull for the most part, and the minor amount of action in the end does not do enough to alleviate the boredom.

Moving onto the extras, there are two featurettes and a music video. Total running time of just over 20 minutes, and not nearly enough of it is worth watching.

Into the Blue 2 - The Reef is the epitome of the unnecessary sequel. I guess if you are a huge fan of underwater movies in general, or the original in particular, then the DVD isn't a total waste of time, but that very, very tepid praise is not enough for me to recommend renting to the general public.

A Jihad for Love - Buy from Amazon
I mentioned this documentary back in March when it came out in Canada, but now it is available in the United States. A DVD screener should be on its way, and I hope to do a full spotlight review when it does. In the meantime, the reviews were good, but not great, and it couldn't maintain a strong start in limited release. Should be worth checking out, but I'm not sure if it is a purchase or a rental.

Kicking the Dog - Buy from Amazon
A comedy about a group of friends spending one last summer together before they have to grow up, which will inevitably lead to them going their separate ways. I've only seen one review, and it's negative. Then again, it's not overly negative, and the DVD might be worth a rental to some reading this.

Laid to Rest - Buy from Amazon
A typical example of the "Man in a Mask Chasing Pretty Lady" sub-genre of Teenage Slasher film. It's typical, but effective, and it is worth checking out for fans of the genre.

The Last Word - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Winona Ryder and Wes Bentley star in this direct-to-DVD romance. He plays a man who writes other people's suicide notes, and she plays the sister of one of his recent clients. The film has earned some good reviews, while the DVD does have extras in the form of deleted scenes. It's worth a rental for most, especially if you are a fan of the two leads (or Ray Romano who has a part in the film).

The Life of Ryan - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A Reality TV series focusing on the life of professional skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, who turned pro in 2003 and has won countless tournament since then. His credentials as a skateboarder are undeniable, but how is he as a Reality TV star?

I do not follow skateboarding as a sport at all. I know who Tony Hawk is, but off the top of my head, I could only name one other skateboarder, Rob Dyrdek, and that is only because I've reviewed Rob & Big. I was hoping for a show similar in tone to that one, but what I got was close to The Hills with skateboarding. Too much of the show deals Ryan Sheckler's personal life: his parents' divorce, the relationship issues in his group of friends, trying to find the perfect mansion, etc. all while whining about minor problems, as if his life as a millionaire sucks so bad. Rob Dyrdek and Christopher "Big Black" Boykin know they have an awesome life, and they enjoy it, and that show is enjoyable as a result. This show... not so much. Ryan Sheckler does not have the charisma to carry a show like this. I wasn't drawn in by his personal life, and I'm not a big enough fan of the sport to deal with the drama.

Additionally, the extras on the 3-disc set are very slim with just seven-and-a-half minutes of skating videos.

The Life of Ryan is not the soul-crushing variety of Reality TV, but it just isn't compelling enough for me to enjoy either. And with a 3-disc set that is nearly devoid of special features, it's hard to rate The Complete Series as even a rental.

Mulligans - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian gay drama about two college friends who travel together to one of their homes, but an indiscretion could tear the family apart. Reviews are non-existent, but it did earn a couple of Film Festival Awards, and was nominated for a couple of Leos (think Golden Globes, but for B.C., Canada). Could be worth checking out for the target audience, but with no buzz, I don't know if it is worth buying, or just renting.

Next up is My Own Worst Enemy, and plenty more on the second part of this week's column, which can be found here.


Filed under: Video Releases, X-Men: The Last Stand, X2, Sin City, Notorious, Frost/Nixon, A Jihad for Love, How About You, Forever, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts, Das Haus der schlafenden Schönen, Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea, Arctic Tale