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DVD Releases for May 12th, 2009 - Part I

May 12th, 2009

Thanks to last week's computer crash, and the overabundance of spotlight reviews, the rest of the list will be a lot shorter than usual. Unless the DVD is a contender for DVD Pick of the Week, it will only get a few sentences at most. As for the best of the best, I would go with Galaxy Quest, the Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition as my DVD Pick of the Week. Also worthy is Star Trek - Original Motion Picture Collection. A big list means we have to split it into two, and the second part can be found here

Black Sheep - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Part of the latest wave of Paramount movies coming out on Blu-ray. In the movie, Chris Farley played Mike Donnelly, the idiot brother of Al Donnelly, a politician running for governor of Washington. David Spade plays Steve Dodds, who is assigned to keep Mike Donnelly in check. I.E., his job is to make sure Mike is not such a big embarrassment that he costs his brother the election. This turns out to be too much to ask, but will fate present an opportunity for Mike to redeem himself?

Of course it will. It's that kind of movie. Granted, while an original plot is not the film's strong point, it is still quite funny. Certainly better than its reviews would otherwise indicate. Because it is the second time around for Chris Farley and David Spade, the chemistry is a little better, but perhaps the film doesn't feel as fresh. If you are a fan of Chris Farley, you will probably like Tommy Boy better, but this will be a close second of his four starring roles. And if you didn't like Chris Farley, stay away.

As for the Blu-ray presentation, there are no extras. None. The video is good, but not great, and the sound can be described the same. Theirs is nothing here that demands you spend $21.00 for this release. In fact, half that might be too much to ask for.

Black Sheep's Blu-ray debut is strictly a rental. The movie is for Chris Farley fans only, and the disc has nothing to set it apart.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 3 Mo' Divas, Action Hero Collection, Best of Europe - France, Best of Europe - Italy, Best of Europe - London & Beyond, Big, Black Sheep, CSI - Crime Scene Investigators - Season One, Fargo, Force 10 from Navarone, Funny Guy Collection, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, The Grudge, Handel - Semele, Jamiroquai - Live at Montreux 2003, Jock Collection, Licence to Kill, Living Landscapes - Earthscapes - Flowers & Gardens, Major League, The Man with the Golden Gun, Nature - American Eagle, Nature - In the Valley of the Wolves / Christmas in Yellowstone, Nature - Under Arctic Ice / Encountering Sea Monsters, North America's National Parks, Passengers, Personal Effects, Plague Town, Return to Forever - Returns - Live at Montreux, S.Darko - A Donnie Darko Tale, Scenic National Parks - Alaska and Hawaii, Scenic National Parks - The Best of the National Parks, Scenic National Parks - Great Train Rides, Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy - Uncensored!, Star Trek - Motion Picture Trilogy, Star Trek - The Original Motion Picture Collection, Taken, There's Something About Mary, Underworld 3 - Rise of the Lycans, Underworld Trilogy, War Hero Collection, Wayne's World, Wayne's World 2, and Without a Paddle
There are a lot of Blu-rays coming out this week; however, it's a matter of quantity over quality. Sure, there's some Star Trek films being releases, as well as some Bond movies, but for the most part, its shovelware. Taken is the only top-notch day release coming out this week.

CSI - Crime Scene Investigation - The Complete First Season - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
The screener is late. At least I hope it is late, because I really want to review this one.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Two-Disc DVD, or Blu-ray
I reviewed this movie last week, so there's no reason to go over the movie again this week. I'll just jump right into what makes the Blu-ray different.

There's not much. On disc one there's a timeline, which is basically scene selection that gives a bit of the themes in the movie as well. There are no additional extras on disc two, but they are presented in High Definition. Speaking of High Definition, this could be the best looking live action Blu-ray I've reviewed. I might have said the same thing about David Fincher's previous film. I don't know who he has in charge of the sound and audio, but they need a raise. Flawless.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a must have, and the Blu-ray is clearly the better deal over the Two-Disc DVD. Given the lack of substantive extras, but taking into account the visual nature of the movie, I would be willing to spend 20% to 30% more for the Blu-ray. It only costs 13% more. Grab it. Grab it now.

Dadnapped & Hatching Pete - Buy from Amazon
A double-shot DVD from Disney featuring two recently aired TV movies. The first is...

Dadnapped
Emily Osment stars as Melissa Morris, daughter of Neal Morris, the creator of the Trip Zoome franchise, a dentist obsessed kid spy. They are supposed to be going on vacation, but they make a side trip to a local Zoome Convention for all of the Fanboys. In fact, Neal is there to judge a contest for the biggest Zoome Fanboy, when one of the groups takes it a little too far and kidnaps him. Now it is up to Melissa to rescue her dad from his adoring fans. But when a second group of kidnappers nab them both, will his adoring fans be able to rescue them?

This is a Disney Channel TV movies, and that should temper expectations somewhat. Lowered expectations is key to enjoy this movie. It isn't bad, and the target audience should enjoy themselves, but there's not a lot of crossover appeal. Extras are limited to an extended ending and an animated comic book. There's also a code you can use to download a music video featuring Emily Osment.

Hatching Pete
Jason Dolley stars as Pete Ivey, who has floated through high school without ever really being noticed (his teachers don't even know his name). That changes when his best friend, Cleatis Poole, has to quit being the school mascot due to an allergy to the school outfit. Now the anonymity of the mascot allows him to shine, but since everyone still thinks Cleatis is in the outfit, it is Cleatis who gets the benefits of the newfound popularity. But how long can this charade be kept up?

Compared to Dadnapped, this is arguably the better movie, but it doesn't have as much action, and some might not find it as entertaining. I would say it is for a more mature audience (teens vs. 'tweens). The emotions felt more real and I think parents could watch this movie with their kids and be entertained, while with Dadnapped they would spend a lot of their time rolling their eyes at the goofy comedy. Extras on the DVD are limited to a featurette called Unmasking the Mascot, which is part making of featurette, but it also deals with mascots in general. It is better than I was expecting. Also included is a code to download a music video by Mitchel Musso.

Dadnapped thrives mostly thanks to Emily Osment's charm while the richer, deeper Hatching Pete should appeal to slightly older audiences. Extras for each movie are inline with most Disney Channel TV movies, and the DVD offers plenty bang for your buck.

The Dana Carvey Show - Buy from Amazon
I remember watching the pilot episode of this show. I don't remember much of it, but I remember Dana Carvey dressed up as Bill Clinton suckling several babies and a puppy. (Did I mention Bill Clinton had six nipples?) It was quite funny, but way too bizarre to last on TV. Had it been made today, it would have found a spot on Comedy Central.

Galaxy Quest - Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
I never got around to watching this movie for this review. I didn't need to, as I've seen it probably 10 times, if not more. It's one of my favorite movies and one I can sit down and watch over and over again. So without watching the DVD, here's my recollection of the plot.

Tim Allen stars as... well... as Captain Kirk, or at least as an actor who played a Captain Kirk-like character on a short lived TV series. Years later he still makes a living appearing at conventions with the rest of his cast (Alexander Dane, Tommy Webber, Fred Kwan, and Gwen DeMarco). At one such convention he overhears someone making fun of him and how his castmates hate him, so he takes it out on a Fanboy named Brandon. Shortly after he is approached by a group led by Mathesar who claims to be a representative of the Thermian race, who are in need of help. Thinking it’s a job, he agrees. Little does he know he will be transported up into space where he will be forced to deal with the evil alien Sarris. After he is returned to Earth, he tells his castmates, who of course don't believe him, but he convinces them to come with him this time, with one of the show's extras, Guy Fleegman, tagging along (after all, a job is a job). Now they are all stuck in space and have to help the Thermians defeat Sarris, despite the fact that they are all just actors and not real heroes.

I think I hit all the key points, and outside looking up the spelling for some of the names, I didn't have to research any of it. Like I said, I don't need to; I've seen the show that many times, and every time I see it I love it. Granted, I am a Star Trek nerd, so I get all of the in-jokes, but even casual fans will laugh here. Hell, even those who don't consider themselves to be fans of Star Trek will know enough of the show to get 90% of the inside jokes, and there are plenty of material here that focuses on the character and the movie world they inhabit. You could watch this movie without ever hearing about Star Trek, and you will still probably love it. And the replay value is so high, that it is an easy purchase. The only question is if it is worth the double dip.

Extras start off with an 18-minute long retrospective that includes interviews with most of the cast and much of the crew, as well as clips from the movie and behind-the-scenes footage. Very cool. Never Give Up, Never Surrender is a 23-minute featurette on the cast, and it is also a mixed of talking heads, behind-the-scenes, and clips from the movie. It's clear the cast loved making this movie. By Grabthat's Hammer spends 7 minutes on the special effects, which was a massive importance of the movie. The movie would not have worked as well if the special effects were not up to the level of a serious movie. Alien School is a 5-minute featurette on the Thermians, and how Enrico Colantoni helped create them. Actors in Space talks about the actors they play in the movie, and how the actors all know someone who fits at least one of those stereotypes. Sigourney Weaver Raps ... I'm not even going to describe this. There are several deleted scenes, some with intros. In total its runs about 12 minutes long. Finally, you can watch the movie translated into Thermian. I don't think there are many people who could sit through the whole think like that. Sadly, there is no real audio commentary track, but there are a ton of featurettes, so the DVD is definitely worth the upgrade.

If you've never seen Galaxy Quest, buy the Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition. If you have seen it and you don't own it yet, buy the Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition. If you own it on DVD already, buy the Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 5th. However, the screener arrived late, hence the delay with the review.

Grease - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
And I'll race, to feel the wind in my face
And I'll race, to feel alive
And I'll race, to feel like I own this place
And I'll race till I die.

Home Movies is such a great show.

Grease is the highest grossing live action musical of all time, and it tells the story of the love between good girl Sandy and greaser Danny who fell in love over the summer, but when the fall starts and they discover they are going to the same school, will their friends get in the way of true love? I know a lot of younger people reading this might be thinking, 'Isn't that the plot to High School Musical?' Yes. And it's similar to the plot to hundreds of other movies and books. Originality is not this movie's strong suit. In fact, it was marketed on nostalgia when it came out in 1978 (the film is set in the 1950s). And quite frankly, I think nostalgia is the only reason this movie is looked at fondly now.

What is supposed to be the big selling point on the film is the music, as well as the chemistry between Olivia Newton-John and greaser John Travolta. I hated both aspects. When you make a musical, make sure you hire people who can sing. This does not include John Travolta. Hearing him try and belt out "Grease Lightning" was embarrassing. Almost as embarrassing as watching him try to dance. Olivia Newton-John has a much better voice, but she's not a great actress. Also, if you are going to set a movie in High School, make sure your actors look like they could be in high school. John Travolta was the youngest of the principal cast members, and he looked like he was in his 30s.

At least there are plenty of extras on the Buy from Amazon, starting with an intro by the director, Randal Kleiser. He is joined by the choreographer, Patricia Birch, for the audio commentary. Next up are the Rydell Sing-Along tracks. The Time, The Place, The Motion is a 22-minute making of featurette. There are nearly a dozen deleted / extended / alternate scenes; however, they run a total of just 10 minutes, so there's no much here. There is a 15-minute featurette on the 2002 release party to celebrate the film's DVD debut. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John show up for a three-minute interview on the red carpet. The Moves Behind the Music talks about the dancing for 8 minutes, and Thunder Roadsters talks about the car for 5 minutes. There's another set of interviews, this time with John Travolta and the producer, Allan Carr, and finally Olivia Newton-John and another producer, Robert Stigwood. Extras wrap-up with a photo gallery and the trailer.

Essentially is it the Rockin' Rydell Edition, but without the option to get the Leather Jacket. Also, all of the extra are presented in standard definition, which further erodes the value. Additionally, the video is nothing special for High Definition, and the audio is weak for a musical. The audio on a music should blow you away, not make you say, 'Meh.'

"You know that ain't no shit
We'll be getting lotsa tit"

How did this movie become so popular? I fully admit that I'm in the minority here, but I hate this movie. I can't stand Grease; in fact, this movie is one of the reasons I dislike musicals in general. (People bursting out into music seems to fake. This is not something most of these characters would do.) If you already own the Rockin' Rydell Edition, there's little on the Blu-ray to entice a double-dip. Perhaps you can grab it on sale.

The Grudge 3 - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD sequel to The Grudge, which wasn't that good to begin with. Hard to judge this one, as there are no reviews, but it would be a shock if it was worth anything more than a rental.

High Hopes - a.k.a. Nice Guys - Buy from Amazon
Made in 2006 starring a bunch of people that you may or may not recognize (Lacey Chabert, Jennifer Finnigan, Jason Mewes, David Faustino, Andy Dick, Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo, etc.). Given the length of time between when it was made and when it is being dumped direct-to-DVD, it is probably a bad movie. However, I have found no reviews to confirm or deny that.

In Tranzit - Buy from Amazon
A post-World War II prison starring Vera Farmiga and John Malkovich, among others. It was made in 2006, but it is only getting a release now, which is a bad sign. Coming out direct-to-DVD is an even worse sign.

The Jeff Foxworthy Show - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
This is barely the same show as it was during season one with only Jeff Foxworthy and Haley Joel Osment remained in the cast. Season two is funnier, as it is more in touch with its roots, but it was too late for the show and it was cancelled for good at the end of the second season. Jeff Foxworthy's stand-up should enjoy the show enough to watch it, but I'm not convinced it needs to be purchased.

Lovejoy - The Complete Season Five - Buy from Amazon
This show remained fantastic throughout its run. However, it is a little expensive on a per minute basis compared to most TV on DVD. Then again, that's a common issue with imports.

Major League - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
This movie is 20 years old? Wow. That surprises me, as I didn't think it was that old. Hopefully the Blu-ray will also surprise, in a good way.

The film starts after the death of the owner of the Cleveland Indians. His widow, and former showgirl, takes over the teams, but she has plans to move the team to Miami. However, in order to move it, they have to show the league that they are not financially viable in Cleveland, so she has a plan to recruit some has-beens, some never-weres, and a general collection of freaks in hopes of driving away the fans. But when the team finds out about this, will it be the motivation they need to come together as a team and win it all? If you don't know the answer to that question, you haven't seen many sports movies. Yep, the plot is predictable, not only the baseball aspects, but also the romance between Jake and Lynn. Also, the cast is amazing. The film features early roles for Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, Dennis Haysbert, as well as veteran performances by Corbin Bernsen and James Gammon. We've seen all of these parts before, but the execution here is excellent.

As for the extras, things start with an audio commentary track with writer / director David S. Ward and producer Chris Chesser, who fill up the track with plenty of information and it is never dry. (On a side note, I like the original ending a little better. After all, she needed the attendance below 800,000, so she would have known if she was successful in that goal as soon as the game started and the attendance figures were in. At that point, she shouldn't care about winning or not. In fact, winning would have helped her sell the team to fans in Miami. .) There's a 23-minute retrospective featurette on the movie, a 14-minute featurette filled with real players talking about the movie, a 13-minute featurette on Bob Uecker (who is a highlight in the movie) and 96-second tour of Cerrano's locker. Finally, they have the alternate ending that was mentioned in the audio commentary track, including an intro by the filmmaker. It's a good selection, but none of it is new to the Blu-ray, nor is any of it presented in High Definition. Also, the High Definition transfer of the movie is nothing exciting. Then again, it has to compete with High Definition baseball you can watch on TV, and it is 20 years old.

Major League is a movie with surpring replay value, and fans will want it in their collection. Will they be willing to spend the $21 to get it on Blu-ray? I'm not sure. Possibly, but it is hard to be enthusiastic with my recommendation.

O Jerusalem - Buy from Amazon
A movie about the Israeli / Arab conflict, which is a topic that has been examined too often and is far too complex to fit in a 2-hour movie.

Passengers - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film struggled with critics and bombed at the box office. The DVD has an audio commentary track, a couple of making of featurettes, and some deleted scenes, while the Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled. However, it's worth a rental at most.

Penn & Teller - Bullshit! - Season Six - Buy from Amazon
Six season of this show, and since there's no overall plot, just standalone episodes, there's no reason not to jump right in.

  1. The War On Porn - A look at porn, and whether or not it is destructive.
    First a warning, or not. ... It depends on your perspective. There's a lot of nudity in this episode, but that shouldn't be a surprise given the topic. However, they tend to use it gratuitously, which is a problem. Then again, it is the only real problem. (On a side note, porn in a $13 billion industry, and that's just in the United States. Worldwide it is a nearly $100 billion industry. If porn were the great destroyer of lives as some in this episode portrayed it, the world would have come crashing down a long time ago. There's good porn and bad porn, just like there's good and bad in every entertainment industry.)
  2. New Age Medicine - A look at New Age Medicine, and whether or not it is effective.
    Why do they start with topless cheerleaders? Are these the women they auditioned for the porn episode but couldn't squeeze into that show? Minor issue, and it's the only problem here. One of the best episodes. (On a side note, I recognized that 'mystery woman' as soon as she mentioned that the creator of Therapeutic Touch' hates her. She is awesome. Too bad her study didn't have a real effect, as TT is still being used.)
  3. NASA - A look at NASA, and whether or not it should continue, or if private companies should take over space exploration.
    Major problem here. The guys keep talking on and on at how private industry can do space travel and make a profit at it, so NASA isn't necessary. Here's the problem, all these private industries are using technology and science developed by NASA (and other government funded programs worldwide). It's pretty easy to make a profit when someone else does all the R&D for you.
  4. Dolphins - Dolphins? Really?
    I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, "How can you attack dolphins? What kind of pricks are Penn and Teller?" But they are not attacking dolphins; they are attacking people who think dolphins have mystical, magical powers. My biggest complain, which they address at the start of the show, it is too easy a target.
  5. Sleep, Inc. - Insomnia is a big problem for a lot of people, and whenever there's a problem, there are people willing to sell snake oil at a huge profit.
    Good episode as far as the facts go. I like how in the end, they actually give some real advice on how to get to sleep. It's not just making fun of the bogus solutions offered by some.
  6. Being Green - Oh boy.
    The show starts out with the bullshit about the 'Global Cooling' that was apparently a big concern among scientists in the 1970s. They even mention that article in Time that every Climate Change denier seems fixated on. Here's the problem. It's bullshit. In the 1970s there were some scientists who though that the particulate matter being pushed into the sky was going to act as an umbrella blocking the sun's rays and causing a new ice age... in about 1000 years. It was talked about as a potential mitigating factor in climate change, not as the primary force. You start off a show with that, and it just shows you haven't done your research. If you haven't done your research, the rest of the show isn't worth watching.
  7. Sensitivity Training - What are the origins of sensitivity training and why is it so prominent?
    Penn and Teller seem to think the solution to people saying racist things is to toughen up. Here's a problem with that theory. The people who tend to say racist things tend to be racist. And it makes sense for companies to fire the racist people, who should be in the minority, rather than telling the majority of the workers to 'be less sensitive.' Strife in the workplace hurts productivity. It has nothing to do with free speech; it has everything to do with profit margins. And that goes double for entertainers like Don Imus who offend their potential audiences. It is perfectly acceptable to tell advertisers what their products are being associated with. Or is free speech only available for the offensive? Are the offended are not allowed to talk? Oh, and by the way, John Rocker insulted Asians and Indians, and both of those are races. So yes, what John Rocker said was racist. But wait, they didn't have that part of the quote on the air. Like Being Green, this is, at best, poor research. At worst, it is a lie through omission.
  8. Stranger Danger - Are we scaring our kids over trivial dangers.
    This show has an interesting premise, and one that should be looked at. But the execution is poor. Having the kid test the '5-second rule' was clearly not scientific and had little merit outside of being 'good TV'. At least I think that was the theory. I found these little bits rather dull. The general message, which is one shouldn't overreact to dangers, is a good one.
  9. World Peace - Mocking the idea and the crazy ways people think we can achieve world peace. With a little bit of time spend on the crazies on the other side.
    This episode is hit and miss. Making fun of people for what they describe as world peace is rather silly. After all, there's the technical definition (the absence of war) and then there's what people envisage what would happen if that was ever achieved (children dancing in the streets). They do have a point with trade. Trade is the biggest barrier to two countries going to war.
  10. The Good Ol'Days - A look back, and whether it was truly better than it was today.
    Another episode with mixed execution. On the one hand, nostalgia was once defined as a mental illness, and I agree. On the other hand, looking back at the good things about the past is just fine. Going to a Renaissance Fair and pretending to be a bar wench and eating pig that was roasted on an open spit could be fun for some. Trying to live in the past is a problem. Having an idealized perception of the past probably isn't, as long as you don't try and change the present to conform to the past.
Unfortunately, there are no extras on the 2-disc set, nor are there subtitles or proper chapter placement. There are play all buttons, but that's it for DVD authoring.

Penn & Teller - Bullshit! - Season Six is rather expensive on a per minute basis and there are no extras here as well. That said, it is a better season then some in the past and most episodes work, even if they all have at least some flaws. Only two or three have flaws that are so major that it destroys their overall message, and that's a good hit to miss ratio for a show like this.

Personal Effects - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A Direct-to-DVD release with a cast that should have earned it a theatrical release. The lack of reviews suggests it is probably not a good movie, but it is hard to tell if it is worth a rental or worthy skipping.

We are about halfway there, so look at the second part of the list here.


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Filed under: Video Releases, Taken, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans, Passengers, O Jerusalem, In Tranzit, The Grudge 3, High Hopes, Personal Effects, S. Darko