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DVD Releases for April 28th, 2009 - Part II

April 28th, 2009

We are about to enter the summer blockbuster season, which is great for box office numbers, not so good for the home market. In fact, it is arguably the weakest time of the year for DVD sales. Looking at this week's list, that's not a huge surprise. There are no first run releases that are must haves, nor are there are lot of smaller releases to pick up the slack. The clear DVD Pick of the Week is Star Trek - The Original Series - Season One - Blu-ray, which is better than the previous HD DVD release. Also worth picking up is One-Eyed Monster on DVD, but that has a more limited target audience. While there's not a lot on the top, there's plenty of bulk, so much so we need a second page, which you are reading now. The first one, on the other hand, can be found here.

One-Eyed Monster - Buy from Amazon
A horror comedy starring, among others, Amber Benson and Ron Jeremy. Ron Jeremy stars as himself, a porn star making a movie at a remote cabin when he is hit by a weird alien beam. He dies a short time later while filming, but part of him lives on. ... Yes, that part. No, it's not Oscar-worthy, but it is funny, and the DVD is loaded with extras (audio commentary track, behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes, interviews, outtakes, and more). It is worth checking out for most, assuming you can handle the premise, and worth picking up for fans of the genre.

Psychos in Love - Buy from Amazon
A story of what happens when two serial killers meet and fall in love. And then meet a cannibal in need of meat. Obviously not Oscar-worthy material, and it is mostly forgotten, even by fans of 1980s films of the horror comedy genre, but it is worth checking out for said fans.

Pulling - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A British TV series about a trio of U.K. gals who are on the pull. Called the "anti-Friends" by some, it is a very funny show for those looking for comedy based on women acting like the worst stereotypes of single men. Extras are light and the price is high, but this is common for imports. With that, the DVD is likely worth renting before you try buying.

Shaolin Against Wu Tang - Buy from Amazon
A 3-disc set that contains 10 martial arts movies, featuring the competing styles of Shaolin and Wu Tang.

  • Duel of the Tough
    Buddhism scriptures are stolen by the Taoist, scriptures that will prove Buddhism is the one true faith. Now it is up to a wise-cracking warrior and a woman that supposed to be in drag (she doesn't look like a man in the slightest) to recover them.
  • Shaolin Mystagogue
    The Chings have replaced the Mings as rulers of China, and are trying to wipe out the final remaining Ming forces, and their dangerous vases. (On a side note, early in the movie a man on horseback said, "Thank god you have sharp eyes, or else." I swear to god, the first time I saw that I thought the horse was speaking. The dubbing is really that bad.)
  • Shaolin Death Squad
    The Prime Minister kills an advisor to the king, who once opposed his appointment. And now it is up to his daughter, and a few allies, to uncover the plot and save the rule of the king.
  • Wu Tang Magic Kick
    Not entirely sure what happens in this movie, as the sound quality is so low that half the time I couldn't understand what the people are saying. The film starts with a bunch of thugs terrorizing some locals before some of them try to stop them and their leader. Pretty standard stuff. There might be a more in-depth plot, but I couldn't tell thanks to the poor sound quality. ("I've never caused you any problems. Why are you doing this?" "Mumble, mumble, mumble.")
  • Fight for Survival
    The Tao Mao (?) Classic book is under risk of being stolen, so the ten kung fu masters arrive at the temple to check on the book. But it's a trick, and they've come steal it!
  • Unbeaten 28
    And evil gang leader kills the head of the Wu Tang Clan and almost all his followers. But his son survived and he is the key in rebuilding the temple and exacting revenge.
  • Shaolin vs. Wu Tang
    Two friends are both masters of their respective fields of martial arts, one Shaolin and the other Wu Tang. But their friendship is put to the test due to the rivalry of masters. Two notes about this movie. Firstly, it has subtitles that can't be turned off, but the movie is still dubbed in English. Secondly, it is the best film in this collection.
  • Shaolin vs. Lama
    Yu Ting in search of a teacher, but every master he finds he is able to defeat, and how can he learn from a master who can't defeat him. But when he finds a master he can not defeat, the master refuses to take him on as a teacher. That is until he proves himself by rescuing a girl from the gang run by a rival lama. That's lama, as in Tibetan Guru, not Llama, which would have been awesome. As it is, its still one of the better movies on the DVD.
  • Shaolin Against Lama
    ... Running out of movie titles, I guess. The Black Faction wants to take over all of martial arts, but the Shoalin monks stand in their way. Meanwhile, the prince tries to find out who killed his father.
  • Undaunted Wu Tang
    I've seen this movie, but it was called Fearless. This version isn't nearly as good. (It's set in the same time and place, the plot is less clear.)
There are no extras on the 3-disc set, but that's no surprise. The video quality ranges from weak to unacceptable, as is the audio quality. This is also no real surprise given the age and type of movie. It's not like low budget Kung Fu films of the late 1970s / early 1980s are generally considered movie treasures that require remastering to be appreciated.

Of the ten films on the Shaolin Against Wu Tang DVD, three, maybe four are worth checking out, unless you are a really hardcore fan of low budget martial arts movies of the era. Those who are fans of the genre in general, but prefer high quality work should stay away. For those who are hardcore fans, that price is hard to beat, and it might be cheaper to buy the DVD than find and rent the movies individually.

The She-Beast - Buy from Amazon
An Italian horror film from 1965 that is selling strangely well, at least according to Amazon. The movie is about a witch who was killed by villagers hundreds of years ago, but who swore revenge against the villagers' descendents. And she gets her chance when she possesses a bride. More of a horror comedy than a straight horror, and only mildly effective.

Spectacular Spider-Man - Volume 4 - Buy from Amazon
Another single-disc release for this franchise. Like the past two, the screener is late here. I will get to it A.S.A.P. after it arrives.

Spin City - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Like the first season, the screener for the second season is a little late. Hopefully it will arrive this week, along with the many other screeners that are late. In the meantime, this was a great show during its run, especially the Jennifer Esposito era, which ran for just a season and a half starting halfway through this season. Not really an era, but I remember this part of the series the most fondly.

Star Trek - The Original Series - Season One - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Three. I own this series three times. I bought the DVD. I reviewed the HD DVD. And now I have the Blu-ray. Because I've reviewed this set in the past, I don't need to go into too much detail, as I've talked about the episodes before (although last time I focused on special features more than the episodes themselves). This time around I want to focus on what makes the Blu-ray version better than the HD DVD version. Now a lot of people are thinking that won't be much; a lot of people are thinking this will be shovelware. But it's not.

Much of the extras remain, although the Starfleet Access has been automated, thank goodness, and are now more standard Picture-in-Picture tracks. Some of the extras have been trimmed, like the preview for the Star Trek MMO, which has been stuck in development hell for the past couple years anyway, so it is rather pointless to hype a game that will likely never come out. Other extras, like some of the Okuda trivia tracks are gone, as is the 2-hour History Channel special, Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier, which is a bigger loss. (I guess if you take the content from nine flipper discs and squeeze them onto seven discs, you are bound to lose something.) There are some new extras, including BD-Live on disc seven. So far there's plenty of text-based information on the cast, character, ships, etc., as well as a trio of short video clips you can download in Standard or High Definition. The site also promises more coming after the Blu-ray hits shelves tomorrow, and with two more seasons coming out,

The biggest surprise comes in the video and audio department. I was expecting an identical transfer, as most Red to Blu releases I've reviewed have had. However, both the video and the audio have been noticeably improved. Before my screener arrived, I had heard that there were improvements, but I figured they would be minor. They are not. They are clearly detectable immediately. There is also a new 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and plenty of other options.

There is one other video feature that has to be mentioned. As I mentioned in my previous review, they redid the special effects, and while many will like the new and improved look, many others will be horrified that they messed with their beloved show. For these people, there's the option to watch the episodes with the original special effects.

Star Trek - The Original Series - Season One has about a dozen episodes that are rightfully considered classics of the Sci-Fi genre. Fans who have bought the series on DVD, and HD DVD, will definitely want to buy it again on Blu-ray. Even if they don't currently own Blu-ray, this set is a great reason to make the leap to High Definition.

Stranded - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the events that were the basis for Alive. This film earned excellent reviews, and a DGA nomination, but the difficult subject matter kept it from finding a wider audience. That's a shame, because it is worth checking out, and with a 50-minute making-of featurette, it is worth buying over just renting.

UFO Hunters - The Complete Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Why is this on the History Channel? What do UFOs have to do with history? At least this show isn't as stupid as Ghost Hunters.

The Uninvited - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Just a quick note to begin, still no Blu-ray. Sometimes the review copy Blu-rays are not shipped until the day they are released, which is annoying, but what can I do?

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 scriptwriter. 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.

The Waltons - Season Nine - Buy from Amazon
Nine seasons into the show's DVD run and I've long since run out of things to say. I will mention that I hate flipper discs and I can't quite believe that these DVDs are selling so well. (Amazon has them ranked number four for the week.)

What Doesn't Kill You - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film opened to good reviews, but not great reviews, back in December and went nowhere at the box office. (Possibly literally, as we have no box office data.) Now it is being released on a DVD with better than expected extras (audio commentary track, making-of featurette, and deleted scenes) and hopefully it will be able to find an audience on the home market. It's at least worth a rental. As for the Blu-ray, it is BD-Live capable, but there's no unique features yet and its price-tag is more than 50% higher than the DVD. Can't recommend it, as it is not the kind of film than benefits from High Definition enough for that price.

While She Was Out - Buy from Amazon
Kim Basinger stars as a battered wife who goes out late one night and is harassed by a gang led by Lukas Haas. The film opened in limited release and earned weak reviews, as critics complained that the film was a by-the-numbers revenge flick with little to set it apart. (It was written and directed by a woman, Susan Montford, which is a rarity for the genre.) Extras include an audio commentary track and a making-of featurette, but it adds up to just a rental.

Wilco - Ashes of American Flags - Buy from Amazon
A concert DVD featuring Wilco's recent tour of smaller southern venues. Should please fans of the alternative country band.

X-Men - Buy from Amazon: Volume 1 and Volume 2
Hugh Jackman should wake up every day and thank the creators of this animated series, because this show clearly was an inspiration for the movies. In fact, the beginning of the series with Jubilee exploring Professor Xavier's School is very reminiscent of Wolverine doing the same in X-Men.

During the first couple of seasons, most of the shows were part of multi-part story arcs, while the entirety of the first two-disc set deals with the Night of the Sentinels story and Senator Kelly's attempt to stop the mutant threat as he sees it. Professor X and the X-Men are trying to stop him by showing everyone that mutants are humans too, while Magneto is trying to win the war by crushing the non-mutants. Other key events of Season One include the Wolverine vs. Sabertooth rivalry, which takes several episodes to play out. The X-Men visit Genosha, which advertises itself as a island paradise that is friendly to Mutants, but that turns out to be more marketing hype than reality. The first season also has introductions to Juggernaut, Colossus, Bishop, Apocalypse, Angel, and many others. Season One ends with the wrapping up of the Night of the Sentinels storyline, but Volume 1 continues with three more episodes. I'm not sure why, but this could mean the series will be released in four volumes in total, not five. Should save money in the end.

(On a side note, before the series began, it was hyped with the promise that one of the X-Men dies. Of course after a brand new character was introduced, Morph, everyone knew this guy was going to die right away. It felt cheap, but the rest of the series was good enough that I don't hold it against them.)

Volume 2 is roughly season two, although the wedding that started season two is at the end of volume one. The first half of volume two deals with the Time Travel story featuring not only Bishop, but Cable. (On a side note, I met the guy who created Cable. I would like to say something nice about him, but I don't feel like lying.) Professor X and Magneto are stuck in the Savage land, Rogue looks for the cure for Mutations, while the series finale is the multi-part Dark Phoenix saga. Quite frankly, I think they handled it a lot better in this cartoon than they did in the movie.

Sadly, there are no extras on either DVD, but they do have play all buttons, proper chapter placements, and subtitles.

This incarnation of X-Men is arguably the best animated adaptation of the comic book, and the first two volumes clearly have the best episodes. (After the Dark Phoenix Saga, there were no more major story lines and each episode was a standalone episode.) Even without extras, fans of the show, or of the comics in general, will want to pick it up.


Filed under: Video Releases, The Uninvited, Stranded: I've Come from a Plane that Crashed on the Mountains, While She Was Out, What Doesn't Kill You