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DVD Releases for April 21st, 2009 - Part II

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.

My Own Worst Enemy - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
I was really looking forward to this series, which had a cool premise and an even cooler star. In it, Christian Slater plays a man with a split personality, one of which is a secret agent, and the other who is not. Problems start to occur when the boundary between the personalities start to break down, and he switches at the worst time. It goes without say that his "normal" personality is unfit to be a secret agent, which has dire consequences. However, his secret agent personality is also unfit for his "normal" life. I like that premise, but the show was canceled before I had a chance to watch a single episode. Oh well, that's what TV on DVD is for. I haven't seen any reviews of the DVD, but this one is a blind buy for me.

Notorious - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD, Two-Disc DVD or Blu-ray
A BioPic of rapper Christopher "Biggie" Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G. The film started out amazingly well, earning $20 million in just 1,600 theaters during its opening weekend, but then its mixed reviews caught up with it, and it collapsed quickly, earning less than $20 million during the rest of its run. The Single-Disc DVD has two audio commentary tracks, while the Two-Disc DVD also has deleted scenes, and more than a half-a-dozen featurettes, including ones on the making of the movie, the music, and more. I don't have details on the Blu-ray, but at just $1.50 more, it would be nearly impossible for it to not be worth the extra money. That said, unless you are a real fan of the rapper, the movie is likely only worth a rental.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 5th of May. However, the DVD screener arrived early and I was able to get the review done this week.

A Plumm Summer - Buy from Amazon
This family film opened in limited release this time last year, earned very weak reviews, and completely bombed at the box office. So with that, I went into this movie with very low expectations.

A Plumm Summer is inspired by real life events and tells the story of the events of one summer in Montana and focuses on the lives of two brothers, Elliott and Rocky. Rocky, the younger brother is obsessed with all things Froggy Doo, Froggy Doo being part of the most popular kids show in Montana, the Happy Herb and Froggy Doo show. However, while making a public appearance, Froggy Doo is frog-napped and held for ransom. When the FBI is called in and can't crack the case, Elliott and Rocky, along with Haley Dubois, a new girl in town, try to solve it themselves. The movie is also a coming of age movie with Elliot having to deal with his first crush, an alcoholic father, and a mother who has had enough.

A lot of critics compared this movie to the family films of the 1970s, and this can be taken as both a compliment and a criticism. On the one hand, the film does have an old-fashion charm to it. On the other hand, films made today are a lot sharper than this one is. The story also feels old-fashion, and not in a good way. Maudlin is one word used to describe it, and I can't disagree with that assessment. Some of the acting was also suspect, which is not surprising given the inexperience of the three main actors. Finally, I think the filmmakers should have decided to go with a light-hearted "Hardy Boys" mystery regarding the missing puppet, or a dysfunctional family drama, and not both. Trying to do too much hurt the film's effectiveness in both directions.

Extras are much better than expected given the film's box office challenges, starting with an audio commentary track with writer / director Caroline Zelder and writer / producer Frank Antonelli. There are also 4 minutes of outtakes, three deleted scenes with a total running time of 2:24, a behind-the-scenes look set to music, and finally a 6-minute featurette on the red carpet premiere.

Nostalgia. I think nostalgia is the key selling feature for A Plumm Summer. If you grew-up on family films from the 1970s and have kids in the right demographic, this movie might be worth checking out, but rent it.

The Poker Club - Buy from Amazon
Poker is not a cinematic activity, because the only drama comes from not knowing what the next card can bring. Seeing someone get a runner-runner straight to beat a set of aces is only dramatic if you know the screenwriter didn't script it that way. ... Fortunately there's little Poker in this movie. It's actually a story of four friends who kill a burglar who breaks into their house during their weekly Poker game, and instead of calling the cops, they try and cover it up. DVD includes an audio commentary track it is worth giving a rental for fans of the genre.

Rhoda - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A great show that was nominated for 17 Emmys (winning two of them) and 10 Golden Globes (winning one). However, reports are that the audio and video quality is worse than syndicated TV. On the one hand, I can't support substandard DVD releases like this. On the other hand, for fans of the show, this might be as good as it gets. I would suggest writing a polite letter to the Shout! Factory (which usually does great work, by the way) and ask what happened? See what kind of answer they give.

Ron White - Behavioral Problems - Buy from Amazon
Same review as last week, as there's no reason to change my original opinion.

Ron White is arguably best known for being part of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. He is also arguably to most mature of the four acts, and by that I mean his material is more risqué than that of Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall, and he is just more mature than Larry the Cable Guy. In this 70-minute stand-up concert, he talks about various subjects from his wife, the joy of not cheating on your wife, his recent drug arrest, his USO tour experience, how to pay for the war, and much more. Most of the jokes work, not all, but most. And I don't want to insult his character, but I think he was a little drunk during the performance; I could tell because he messed up a couple of the jokes, but he seemed to take it all in stride.

Extras are limited to four bits that "didn't make the cut." They run a total of 14 minutes, and half of the them are worthy to be included in the show.

Ron White - Behavioral Problems is arguably a better value than You Can't Fix Stupid, but not as good as Tater Salad. Total running time is 85 minutes, which is good value compared to most stand-up concert DVDs and for fans it is at least worth renting, while most will want to add it to their collection.

Sin City - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
I can't believe it's been four years since the first movie was made. I can't believe we have to wait another year for the sequel. This is not the first time it has been released on the home market, but it is the first time it has come out on Blu-ray, so I will be spending less time on the quality of the movie, and more time on the Blu-ray presentation.

Sin City is an adaptation of Frank Miller's lauded graphic novel. A lot of people say that there are four stories in this movie, but that's not really true. Let's face it, The Customer is Always Right isn't a story, it's the ending of a story. The other stories are That Yellow Bastard, which focuses on Hartigan, a cop dealing with corruption while trying to take down a child molester. The Hard Goodbye follows Marv has he tries to exact a little revenge after the only woman who every showed him any kindness is murdered. Finally, in The Big Fat Kill, the prostitutes of Old Town have to deal with the mob after a cop is killed there. This movie is visually stunning, but that's not the only positive about the movie. The stories are amazing, and the switching between stories adds to the Film Noir feel. The film earned very strong reviews, and I think it's better than its Tomatometer Score indicates. If it is not in your movie collection, and you don't mind the violence, then it should be. The only question is if this Blu-ray is worth the upgrade.

It is most comparable to the 2-Disc DVD and includes both the theatrical release of the movie, and the recut release. The recut release takes the individual stories and un-intertwines them so you can watch them individually. It also adds a few more scenes back into the mix, but not as much as advertised. (More than half of the 20 minutes of extra running time is credits for the four stories.) On disc one there are two audio commentary tracks, the first with Robert Rodriguez & Frank Miller and the other with Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino (although the latter is not there from the start). Finally, there is a third track with audience reactions recorded in Austin, Texas. I'm not sure the value of this track, but it is certainly unique. The other ported over extras include Kill' Em Good: Interactive Comic Book, which is much better than most DVD games. How it Went Down is a 6-minute featurette on how Robert Rodriguez convinced Frank Miller to make his movie. Special Guest Director runs 7 minutes and talks about how Quentin Tarantino got involved. A Hard Top wit ha Decent Engine is a seven-and-a-half minute featurette on the cars of the movie. Booze, Broads, and Guns spends eleven minutes on the props. Making the Monsters is on the make-up (9 minutes) and Trench Coats & Fishnets is about the costumes (7.5 minutes). Robert Rodriguez gives us nearly an hour of additional featurettes on the filmmaking process, mostly. There is his famous 15-minute film school, the entire movie as it was shoot (green screen) and sped up, and finally there's a look at one long take done for the movie to show how digital filming allows you to film everything, including the director dealing with the actors, while using film you are very limited in the amount of film you can shoot at a time. There's a live performance by Bruce Willis and a finally 10-minute cooking school (Sin City Breakfast Tacos). It's funny; I've been on Weightwatchers for going on two years now, and as I was watching him do the recipe, I was counting the points, which is something that has become a habit of mine whenever I see someone cooking, even if it's on TV. (Two cups of flour at 9 points a cup, plus a quarter cup of butter at 3 points a tablespoon, plus a potato at one point per 2.5 ounces...) That is until he got to the frying the corn tortillas in corn oil. It was at this point that I knew I was never going to make these. Sadly, all of these featurettes are presented in Standard Definition.

So far I've only talked about special features that were on the 2-Disc DVD. So what's new? Cine-Explore. Those who have read my reviews for a long time know how much I like Pixar's use of Cine-Explore; however, the version on this Blu-ray could possibly be the best single special feature I've seen. It takes the movie, and compares it to the panels in the original graphic novels. Not only that, but the movie switches back and forth between the final movie, and the green screen footage that was originally shot. Finally, and this is what puts it over the top in my mind, it's not static. You don't just have the movie with a box in one corner for the comic book and a box in another corner for the green screen. They took the time to make the various elements move; at certain points one is given more focus over the other. It's not just what is presented, but how. It has more than enough style to compete with the movie, and fans of the movie know how much style that is. This feature turns an awesome two-disc set into a must-have.

Buy Sin City - 2-Disc Blu-ray. The movie is fantastic, regardless which version you choose. The extras that were ported over from the DVD are great, even if they are in Standard Definition. The Blu-ray looks and sounds amazing, and it has one of the coolest special features I've seen. It is a must-have, and clearly the DVD Pick of the Week.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 31st of March. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Spectacular! - Buy from Amazon
A TV movie musical that was clearly aiming for the same target audience as High School Musical. I've reviewed all three of those movies, (plus Camp Rock and American Mall) so how does this one compare?

Nolan Gerard Funk stars as Nikko Alexander, the lead singer in a rock band who gets dumped when his showboating attitude piss off his bands mates one time too many. Desperate for a new gig, he is approached by Courtney (played by Tammin Sursok) who is the head of "Spectacular!", a show choir band from their school. What is show choir? ... I had no idea before watching this movie, but it appears to be where a group of students sing and dance to old songs while wearing themed costumes. It's like show tunes, only not as cool. At first Nikko's reaction is the same as mine ("Is this real?") but he decides to join up, because otherwise it would be a really short movie. (Actually, he joins up to get money to make a demo.) Now he's in a heated competition with the rival "Ta Da", lead by Tammi (played by Victoria Justice from Zoey 101) and Royce (Simon Curtis) who used to be the lead singer of "Spectacular!" till Tammi stole him away. Add in romantic entanglements, and you have all the needed elements for a successful story, right?

Not quite. There are a couple of issues, most notably the music. It is a musical, so the music is arguably the most important part of the movie, but it is just too generic to stand out. More than once I thought, "Didn't we just hear this song?" In fact, the writing in general and the human drama here are just not compelling. Granted, I'm not in the target demographic, but I was still expecting something with more depth than this. Nothing here stands out as particularly bad, but nothing really stands out as particularly good either. Solidly mediocre.

There are a large number of extras, but they are mostly rather short. Victoria Justice hosts a video diary, but it's only 2 minutes and 23 seconds long, which is not long enough to get into the behind-the-scenes of the film. What's here is worth checking out, but I wish it were longer. The Top Five Things you Need to be a Show Choir Superstar is even shorter at just over a minute. There are two versions each for the "Everything Can Change" and "For the First Time" music video (Regular or Karaoke) There's a second behind-the-scenes featurette, but it is roughly the same length as the first, and finally there's a dance tutorial.

Spectacular! simply can't live up to its name. As a 'Tween oriented musical, it also can't live up to its direct competition. On the other hand, if you are in the target audience, the DVD is probably worth checking out, but give it a rental first.

Squidbillies - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
One of the few Adult Swim shows that I never got into because it is just too weird. And Adult Swim is noted for being weird, so this show has to really work hard to come across as "too weird." Extras are not bad with a handful of featurettes and if you are a fan of the show it is worth picking up. However, I am not a fan.

Tiny Toon Adventures - Season 1 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
The first of a new wave of Looney Tunes cartoons from the 1990s. Not as good as Pinky and the Brain or Animaniacs, but still damn funny, both for kids and for adults who grew up on Bugs Bunny. I'm not happy they split the season into two volumes, and I would like more extras, but this 4-disc set is still worth picking up.

Top Gear - Season 10 - Buy from Amazon
A very cool TV series from the U.K. featuring three men who review cars, talk about cars, and even convert cars and turn them into the ideal machines for specific goals, including making a boat, or driving across Africa for 24 hours. Sadly, the episodes have been chopped, the music as been changed, and there are no extras. It's worthwhile show, but I can't recommend buying this DVD.

UFC 92 - The Ultimate 2008 - Buy from Amazon
Might be getting a screener for this release, but I might not. I don't know much about the fights on this DVD, but I do know a UFC even in Montreal over the weekend broke attendance records, so the sport is growing in popularity and that should help sales of the DVD.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 28th. However, the DVD screener arrived early and I was able to get the review done this week.

The Uninvited - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Just a quick note to begin, at the moment I only have the DVD, but I hope the Blu-ray will arrive in time for next week's column.

The film starts with Anna in a therapy session talking about a recurring dream about the day her mother died. She's frustrated that she can't remember what happened that night, but her therapist informs her that he thinks she's recovered enough that she can go home. When she gets home, she finds out her father is dating her mother's former nurse. But when the ghost of her mother warns her about Rachel, her and her sister do some digging and start to believe Rachel had something to do with their mother's death. Further investigation leads them to believe their mother wasn't her first victim, but now the two sisters are worried they will be her next.

A remake of a South Korea horror movie, this film seems like a lot of standard horror movie plot points glued together by a disinterested script writer. The viewers are given some creepy images (including yet another ghost kid) but not many genuine scares, while the big reveal didn't shake things up enough to lift the film above mediocrity. There are some good points in the movie, including the performances by Emily Browning and Arielle Kebbel, but there's not enough here to warrant watching the movie more than once. Even with a surprise twist that is clearly meant to encourage the viewer to re-watch the movie to look for clues, it doesn't have replay value.

As for the DVD extras, there are four deleted scenes with a total of less than 6 minutes, an alternate ending that was wisely passed over, and finally a 19-minute making of-featurette. This is weaker than expected. Granted, the movie wasn't a box office hit, but it didn't bomb either, and there should have been an audio commentary track, or something more here.

I don't have the Blu-ray yet, so I can't tell if it is worth the upgrade, but there appears to be no additional extras and a 40% higher price tag on

The Uninvited is a by-the-numbers remake of a South Korean horror film and there's little to help it stand out. There are not enough extras on the DVD, and no exclusives on the Blu-ray, which leaves this movie as just a rental.

Voyage of the Damned - Buy from Amazon
Just a quick note: I should be receiving this DVD screener shortly, and I will write a spotlight review as soon as I can when it does arrive.

Wolverine and the X-Men - Heroes Return Trilogy - Buy from Amazon
Some are calling this the best animated adaptation of the X-Men ever. I won't be able to judge for myself till the DVD screener arrives. However, at $10 for three episodes, it better be awesome, and loaded with extras. We will see once it arrives.

The Wrestler - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
First a quick note: I only have the DVD and I may or may not be getting the Blu-ray later on. I will of course update the review if and when it arrives.

Mickey Rourke stars as Robin Ramzinski, or as he is known to his fans, Randy "The Ram" Robinson. In the 1980s, he was a massively popular professional wrestler and his battle with "The Ayatollah" is still considered a legendary bout. However, that was 20 years ago and time hasn't been kind to him. He's still fighting, but for much smaller crowds and for a lot less money, so much so that even with a day job, he has trouble paying his rent. But the lure of the attention is too much for him, until he has a heart attack, which forces him to quit the business. The rest of his life is rather lonely; his daughter refuses to talk to him, and the only non-wrestler he has regular contact with is a stripper named Pam, with whom he has a lot in common. They are both getting too old to do their jobs, and neither knows what to do once they move on. When Randy "The Ram" gets once last chance to re-live his glory days with a 20th Anniversary match, will he be willing to risk his life for one last taste of glory?

If you've seen many films about aging superstars that are past their prime, you won't be surprised by the answer. But this is not a movie that needs surprises to draw you in; it is all about the emotional depth. And for a movie about professional wrestling, this movie has amazing emotional depth. I hate to admit it, but this film slipped under my radar early in Awards Season, because I didn't think a movie about a professional wrestler would interest art house cinema aficionados and would be passed over by Award Season voters. I started to change my tune when I started reading the reviews. Review after review heaped praise on Mickey Rourke, and even the few negative reviews that I've seen praised his work. And they are not kidding. He is the heart and soul of this movie. And that's not to insult Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachael Wood, both of whom shine, but this is Rourke's movie. I'm also very impressed with the direction in this movie. Seeing the camera follow him to his first day behind the deli counter and how it mimics his walk to the wrestling ring was brilliant. And even thought you know that Randy "The Ram" Robinson is walking to his death when he climbs into the ring one last time, you understand why he's doing it.

(On a side note... landlords are not allowed to lock you out of your place and keep your stuff. This is the third movie I've reviewed recently where this happened. If this happens in real life, don't try to break in to get your stuff, just call the cops. Hell, just say you are going to call the cops, which should be enough assuming your landlord knows the law.)

While the movie is nearly flawless, the extras are weak. There's no audio commentary track, no deleted scenes or outtakes, but there is a 43-minute long featurette called Within the Ring that details the making of the movie from the earliest development to the shooting. It also talks a lot about the real wrestlers who appear in the movie. It's a great featurette, but it's practically all there is. (There is also a music video.)

I don't know if there are any exclusives on the Blu-ray, but it does cost a lot more than the DVD, 50% more than the DVD, so hopefully there are.

On the one hand, The Wrestler is an incredible movie and it deserved its box office and Awards Season success. On the other hand, the DVD is rather light in terms of extras, and I have to think a special edition is in the works. Definitely give this one a rental, but it might be wise to wait for the special edition.

X-Men Trilogy Box Set - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
The first two movies in this franchise were both amazing. The third film was not, but it is still entertaining. Now all three are collected into one massive, 9-disc Blu-ray set. Each movie is presented on its own 2-disc set with a ton of extras, and each movie also has digital copies on their own discs. If you don't have the films on Blu-ray yet, this is certainly worth picking up. You can also purchase the three films separately, but the box set is like buying two and getting the third for half price.


Filed under: Video Releases, X-Men: The Last Stand, X2, Sin City, Notorious, The Uninvited, The Wrestler, A Plumm Summer