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DVD Releases for May 5th, 2009 - Part II

May 5th, 2009

The last of the Best Picture Oscar Nominees hits the home market this week. And while the Blu-ray arrived late, the Two-Disc DVD of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is worthy of the DVD Pick of the Week. On the other hand, no other release on this week's list came close to be a contender for that title, and overall it was a rather slow week. Still not so slow that I didn't have to split this week's column into two parts, with the second part found here.

Imagination Movers - Warehouse Mouse Edition - Buy from Amazon
A new series from Disney Channel aimed at preschool kids. This is the first DVD release for the show, at least the Disney incarnation. The band consists of Rich, Scott, Dave, and Smitty, who are the proprietors of Imagination Movers, who help people who are in need of imaginative solutions. The single-disc DVD presents four episodes, including...
  • Bucket of Trouble - The guys are having trouble getting customers, so they decide to make a commercial, but when Rich gets a bucket stuck on his foot they guys have to try and get it off, with the help of Nina who works in the office next door.
  • The Tooth Hurts - The Warehouse Mouse has a cavity, which is the perfect excuse for some lessons in dental hygiene. However, the real problem comes when they try to convince him he needs to see an animal doctor to get it fixed.
  • Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Mouse - They guys are looking forward to watching All About Burros, but their TV set is broken and even Dave can't repair it. But the repair they call to fix it is scared of mice, which is a problem the Imagination Solvers can fix.
  • Finders Key-Pers - Knit Knots is locked out of his office, so he and Nina come by the Imagination Movers to help him find them, as he is convinced he left his key at their place.
The show is bright and colorful, and its full of high energy music. Also, it's not as repetitive as many other shows aimed at the same target audience. You hear a few of the same songs every episode, like the brainstorming song, but there are new songs each episode as well.

The only extra on the DVD is a bonus episode for Special Agent Oso, a digital animated series about a Special Agent Stuffed Bear that helps kids in need.

Of the two Disney Channel releases coming out this week, I think Imagination Movers is the better of the two. It's less repetitive of the two, but it is equally bright and full of songs. Warehouse Mouse Edition doesn't have any interactive extras, but the bonus episode of Special Agent Oso does lift the DVD to the purchase level if you have kids in the target audience.

Incendiary - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Michelle Williams stars as a wife and mother whose husband and son are killed by a suicide bomber while she was with her lover. In order to overcome the guilt, she throws herself into finding out more about the attack, only to discover the police don't want her to know the truth. The reviews are mostly negative with critics praising some of the performances, but savaging the script. There are no real extras, so unless you are a fan of some of the cast, this DVD is safely skippable.

Jake & The Fatman - Second Season - Buy from Amazon
A fun series from the 1980s that is perhaps a little too stuck in the era to translate to today. At least they didn't split the season into two volumes.

Jon and Kate Plus Ei8ht - Season Four - The Wedding, Volume One - Buy from Amazon
Reality TV about people who are not nearly interesting enough to be on TV. Splitting the season into two volumes is just another reason to say, 'Skip it.'

Just Another Love Story - Buy from Amazon
A Danish thriller about a crime scene photographer who causes an accident that causes a woman to be hospitalized with amnesia, and other injuries. While visiting her in the hospital, her family mistakenly thinks he's her boyfriend, an error he doesn't correct. And later decides he has to do whatever it takes to make sure no one finds out. The film earned good reviews, but never found an audience stateside. Even with a DVD that is devoid of real extras, it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Last Chance Harvey - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Given this film's release date, it seems fair to call it Oscar bait. However, the film's reviews, while good, were not up to the level needed to be a major player during awards season. It is certainly worth checking out, especially for fans of Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson. Extras include an audio commentary track and a making of featurette, which is on par with most limited release and enough to lift this DVD from a solid rental to a purchase. The Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled, but it costs 40% more. I'm not sure if it is worth the premium. Close, but too close to call.

The Last Templar - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian TV mini-series starring Mira Sorvino as a professor that gets mixed up with a mystery involving the Knights of Templar. This group was featured heavily in a number of recent movies, including The Da Vinci Code sequel. The best thing you can say about it is that it doesn't take itself so seriously that it ruins the entertainment value.

Lipstick Jungle - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
This show was cancelled after just two season and 20 episodes, and I'm not that surprised. Quite frankly, I may have reviewed the first season of this show, or it might have been Cashmere Mafia, but when two shows can not distinguish themselves like that, you know one will not make it. (In this case, both died rather quickly.) If you were a fan of the show, and evidently there were not many, it might be worth picking up, but I have a hard time recommending getting involved in a short-lived TV series like this.

Look - Buy from Amazon
So that's what those weird postcards were about. I kept getting postcards telling me that I had been caught on film 200 times that day. (On a side note, no I wasn't. I telecommute to work, so unless there's traffic cameras in the hallway between my office and the bathroom, I'm not being photographed at all in the average day.) I assumed it was advertising an upcoming movie, but I didn't know which one. Reviews just missed the overall positive level, while there are enough extras the DVD (making of featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes) that is worth a rental for most, picking up for fans of experimental cinema.

Love Takes Wing - Buy from Amazon
The latest in the series of TV Westerns based on the novels by Janette Oke and aimed at a Christian audience. There are a large number of fans for these movies, but I'm not one of them. Schmaltzy is how I would describe them.

McLeod's Daughters - The Complete Eighth Season - Buy from Amazon
One of several TV shows that are making their final appearance on the home market (barring a special edition / full series release). This Australian series was set on a ranch that was run by two sisters, who started the series hating each other before learning to work together. The series has won plenty of Logie Awards over the years (think Emmys but for Australia) and has quite a fanbase here. Ratings fizzled the last two seasons, but if you have collected the previous seven seasons on DVD, there's no reason to stop now.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - Mickey's Big Splash - Buy from Amazon
The latest single-disc DVD release from a Disney Channel series. I've seen so many of these, it's getting to the point where I can review these in my sleep. That's not an insult, as the consistent quality is a selling point here.

  • Donald's Ducks - Goofy's duckie buddies need to get somewhere warm before winter arrives, and it is up the gang to help them get there. Well, it's up to the gang, and the Mouseketools, and you.
  • Pluto's Bubble Bath - Mickey and Minnie are getting ready for a tea party, but Pluto's been playing in the garden and got all covered in mud. Now Mickey and Minnie need to clean him up before the guests arrive.
  • Mickey Goes Fishing - Goofy goes on a trip and leaves his kitten with Mickey. However, Mr. Pettibone is a finicky eater and the kitten will only eat Big Red Gooey fish, and the box Goofy gives them is empty. So it's up to you to help Mickey find these very, very, very rare fish.
  • Pete's Beach Blanket Luau - It's a hot, hot day and Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto are looking for ways to keep cool when they are invited to a Beach Blanket Luau by Pete. But first we have to help get the party started.
This show has a very standard format. We learn about the problem, we are given four tools, we use the tools to solve the problem. (On a side note, some of the tools are completely messed up. An elephant in a bikini? That makes about as much sense as a giant marshmallow.) The repetitive nature likely helps kids feel they are a part of the show, but it is a little harder for critics like me to get through it. Also, not all kids shows of this genre (the 'Ask and Pause' genre) are as repetitive as this. Still it is colorful enough and has more than enough singing to draw in kids.

Extras consider of Fun in the Sun, which is a set of three mini-games. They are pretty short, but on par with more similar Disney channel releases.

If you are a fan of the show, or more likely have kids that are, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - Mickey's Big Splash is as good a value as the previous releases with four episodes, one of which has not yet aired, and three shorts games. If you bought the previous DVDs, this one is also worth adding to your collection.

Mythbusters - Collection 4 - Buy from Amazon
Awesome show. One of my favorites. That said, I would suggest spending a bit more cash to buy the full season sets direct from Discovery instead of these collections.

October Road - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
A short-run TV series that was recently cancelled getting its final DVD release this week. But was it a tragedy that it wasn't picked up for a third season, or was it inevitable that it would end this soon?

Bryan Greenberg stars as Nick Garrett, a man who left his girlfriend and his hometown to travel in Europe saying he'd be back in just a few weeks. A decade later, he has returned as a successful writer. His novel "Turtle on a Snare Drum", which was recently turned into a movie, is obviously based on the lives of his friends back home, and not all of these characters are exactly shown in the best of light. However, when he does come home, he finds out everything has changed. His girlfriend (Laura Prepon) has a kid, some his friends are married, their marriages have problems, etc. As the back of the DVD case says, "Can you ever really go home again?"

It's not a bad show, per say, but unfortunately it never really gets beyond that shallow question. The set up is not particularly original, and neither of many of the characters. (I would like to see more writers on TV actually writing, instead of just dealing with writer's block.) The plots ranged from overly sentimental, to downright soapy.

Extras on the 3-disc set are rather limited with 3 minutes of outtakes, a 6-minute behind-the-scene featurette, and... and this is awesome, a post series wrap-up. I may have not liked the TV series, but I love this extra. Road's End - The Final Chapter is a 10 minute featurette that wraps up some of the storylines. When I heard about this extra, I was expecting a ten-minute interview with the creator / writers saying what would have happened. But they actually wrote and filmed a small section that first deals with the immediate end of the series, and then flash-forward seven years later. To tell you how it all ended. I wish all short-run shows had this.

I am not a fan of October Road. I don't like the setup, which I thought was unoriginal, I don't like the writing, which I thought was borderline soap opera, and there are not enough extras on the 3-Disc Season Two DVD. On the other hand, Road's End - The Final Chapter makes this DVD a must have for fans of the show.

A Plumm Summer - Buy from Amazon
The 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 be 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, 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-minute of outtakes, three deleted scenes with a total running time of 2:24, a behind-the-scenes look set to music, and finally 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.

Shooting Star - Buy from Amazon
Torrey DeVitto of One Tree Hill fame stars as a Hollywood Diva who escapes from rehab to a small town in Utah where she isn't recognized by anyone. I can't find any reviews under this name, or its original, Heber Holiday. But it did win some awards at some Mormon film festivals.

Smother - Buy from Amazon
Diane Keaton continues her downward trend at the box office starring in this film, which may or may not have ever playing theatrically. (We don't have any box office numbers for it.) The reviews were not that bad, but with no extras, it is worth no more than a rental.

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection - Buy from Amazon: American Musicals, Broadway Musicals, John Wayne Westerns, Western Adventures, World War II- Battlefront Europe, and World War II- Battlefront Europe
The next wave of 2-disc, 4-movie DVDs from TCM. Not a bad deal if you are only interested in the movies, not extras, and you don't have most of them on DVD already.

That Girl - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
The fifth and final season of this sitcom. It was groundbreaking when it first came out, now it seems positively old-fashioned, but in a good way. Today a TV show about a single woman living on her own and not with a husband or a father is common, but without the charm of Marlo Thomas, that would not be the case. No Marlo Thomas, No Maude. No Maude, no Mary Tyler Moore. No Mary Tyler Moore, well, you get the picture. Great show. My only concern for those who haven't been buying the TV series so far is the high chance of there being an full series set coming out sooner rather than later.

Twilight - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
The Blu-ray finally comes out in all stores after weeks of being a Best Buy / Target exclusive. Don't know how this will affect Blu-ray sales. Pretty sure it won't be possible. Also coming out as a Gift Set with physical extras like postcards and certificates and the like.

The Uninvited - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The Blu-ray arrived this week, so here is a quick update from last week's review. I don't need to go into the quality of the film or into details on the extras, I'll just jump right into the differences between the DVD and the Blu-ray.

There's almost none. There are no additional extra features (Strike One) the sound and audio are only average for High Definition (Strike Two) and it costs 55% more on Amazon (Strike Three). The DVD is only worth a rental, and there's nothing about the Blu-ray that lifts it above that level.

Wendy and Lucy - Buy from Amazon
Michelle Williams stars as the titular Wendy, a woman who traveling to a summer job, and potentially a new life, when her car breaks down in a small town. The film earned strong reviews and a couple Independent Spirit Award Nominations, but it was never able to find an audience. (That said, it did earn a lot more than its $200,000 production budget.) Extras on the DVD are limited to five experimental short films from the director, but it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Will & Grace - Best Of - Buy from Amazon: Friends and Foes and Love and Marriage
Two 2-disc DVDs from the long-running TV series. There are a lot of fans of this show; however, they most likely have these episodes on DVD, either as part of full season sets, or as part of the full series Megaset.


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Filed under: Video Releases, Twilight, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Uninvited, Last Chance Harvey, Wendy and Lucy, A Plumm Summer, Kaerlighed Pa Film, Look, Incendiary, Shooting Star, Smother