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DVD Releases for July 14th, 2009

July 13th, 2009

It's that time of year when TV on DVD releases dominate the list of top-notch releases That's not to say there are no first run releases, but none of them are worth anything more than a rental. As for contenders for DVD Pick of the Week, there are three: Mad Men - Season Two on DVD or Blu-ray, Leverage - Season 1 on DVD, and The State - The Complete Series on DVD. Mad Men - Season Two is the best, and the Blu-ray is the better deal, but they are all worthy of the DVD Pick of the Week.

1,001 Classic Commercials - Buy from Amazon
If you assume each commercial is 30 seconds long, then that means there are more than eight hours of them on this 3-disc set. That's a lot of material for a $15 list price. Then again, you are paying to watch commercials. You are paying to watch commercials, many of which are for products that don't exist anymore. I guess the nostalgia could be worth it, but I can't recommend it.

12 - Buy from Amazon
A Russian remake of the courtroom thriller, 12 Angry Men. That movie is rightfully considered one of the best of all time, so how well does this one stack up?

The plot to both movies is the essence of simplicity. Twelve jurors are assigned to a case that looks open and shut: young Chechen boy is on trial for the murder of his stepfather. They are led into a makeshift jury room because of renovations, and they at first just want to vote the boy guilty and go home. But one juror decides they should at least discuss his fate, and over the next two hours we see these 12 men argue about the facts, as well as airing their own personal biases.

It's a simple plot, but it's an effective story. It's not as good as the original is, but no one was expecting that. There are a few issues that I think hurt the film. For instance, one of the jurors is amazingly, and openly racist. How did he get on a jury? Speaking of the jury, having an all-male jury strikes me as odd. It would have made sense in 1957, but not 2007. Also, personally I don't know a lot about the Chechen conflict so some of the cultural aspects of the movie probably don't hit has hard as they otherwise would. (Apparently there are some characters that are "based on" real life Russians, which would add another level to the movie that I just don't get.) That said, this is still an excellent movie and worth checking out. The writing is great, but not as good as the original. For instance, some of the arguments given would not have convinced me to change my vote. The acting is great, but it's only in Russian with English subtitles, which is the way I prefer to watch foreign language films, but it is an impediment when judging acting at times, especially for a dialogue-heavy film like this.

While the movie is good, the DVD is not. There are no extras.

12 was nominated for an Oscar last year, but it took a year for the movie to come out in theaters here. By that time the publicity had died down and it wasn't able to go anywhere at the box office. This could explain why the DVD is devoid of special features, but it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

2008-2009 NBA Champions - Los Angeles Lakers - Buy from Amazon
Real fans want full games, and are willing to pay for them.

Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations - Collection Four - Buy from Amazon
This is a great show and Anthony Bourdain is a great host. He is able to both sell the food and the locations equally. That said, the DVD releases are weak. In the age of TiVo and DVR burners, it is hard to recommend sets like this.

Bardelys The Magnificent - Monte Cristo - Buy from Amazon
For a long time, Bardelys The Magnificent was thought to be lost. So for it to be coming out on DVD is fantastic news for fans of early cinema. Unfortunately, I am woefully out of my depth when it comes to this topic, and can't add much insight. But it is a release that is worth mentioning.

Bewitched - The Complete Eighth Season - Buy from Amazon
The eighth and final season of this long-running fantasy sitcom finally hits the home market. By this point the show was well past its "best before" date and some of the storylines were being repeated, but if you bought the previous seven seasons, there's no really good reason to stop now.

Bleach Uncut Box Set - Volume 3 - The Rescue Buy from Amazon: - Regular Edition or Limited Collector's Edition with Hollow Mask
A very popular Anime series that has been bouncing in and out of the top ten for the week, at least on Amazon.com. I doubt it will chart overall, as Amazon's clientele tend to lean younger and more into anime than the population overall.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: The Black Crowes - Warpaint Live, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon / Curse of the Golden Flower / House of Flying Daggers Trilogy, The Edge of Love, Explicit Ills, For All Mankind - Criterion Collection, A Haunting - Twilight of Evil, The Haunting in Connecticut, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, Mad Men - Season Two, National Geographic - Great White Odyssey, New Morning - The Paris Concert - Autour du Blues, New Morning - The Paris Concert - Jose Feliciano Band, New Morning - The Paris Concert - Mike Stern Band, New Morning - The Paris Concert - Stanley Jordan Trio, New Morning - The Paris Concert - Yellowjackets, Shark Week - The Great Bites Collection, The Towering Inferno, and Wild Pacific
Another slow week for Blu-ray releases. The best-selling Blu-ray is Mad Men - Season Two, which is also the most enticing for me. The Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon / Curse of the Golden Flower / House of Flying Daggers Trilogy is interesting, but it is only a good deal if you want all three movies and don't have any on Blu-ray yet. Otherwise, it costs too much.

Celtic Thunder - Take Me Home - Buy from Amazon
Don't know much about the band, but this DVD is selling unusually well on Amazon. In fact, it's third place for the week at the moment.

Cheap Trick - Every Trick In The Book - Buy from Amazon
I love this band, and I remember their music videos... barely. I remember they were cool, but it has been too long since I've seen them to know if they have aged well. I might have to pick this DVD up to make sure my memories are accurate. And for the hit of nostalgia.

The Color of Magic - Buy from Amazon
An adaptation of the first two novels of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. That might be enough for a blind buy for me. The series has been made in to several TV movies in Britain and it is more popular there than it is here, with audiences and with critics, but fans of the novels should definitely check it out.

Dakota Skye - Buy from Amazon
Eileen April Boylan stars as the title character, a young girl with a super power. She can know the truth of any lie told. That would be awesome, especially if you were a professional poker player. ("You can't bluff me!") But she considers it a curse. The film has played in a number of film festivals, but I haven't found much in the way of reviews / publicity online. Too bad... looks like it has promise.

E.R. - Season 11 - Buy from Amazon
I still can't believe NBC canceled this show. It was still getting great ratings, and this is a network that doesn't have a whole lot of shows that can make that claim.

The Edge of Love - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller lead the cast, and according to a lot of the critics their performances are a major draw for this movie. Unfortunately, according to a lot of critics, they are the only major draw for this movie, as the story fails them. Extras include a commentary track, interviews, and outtakes on both versions, which is only enough for a rental for most people.

Explicit Ills - Buy from Amazon: DVD, DVD + Digital Copy, or Blu-ray
This film earned mixed reviews, opened quite well, but went nowhere at the box office. This could explain why the extras are so weak (just some deleted scenes and a PSA) but the Blu-ray is substantially cheaper than either DVD release and if you have the option, it is worth picking up.

For All Mankind - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
An excellent documentary on the moon landings that is making its debut on Blu-ray this week. There are no extras that are exclusive to the high definition release, but it is worth spending the extra 25%.

G.I.Joe - Season 1.1 - Buy from Amazon
One of the iconic cartoons from the 1980s. Practically every guy I know growing up was either a huge fan of this show or of Transformers. Rarely did any kid like both. I was a fan of the latter, but I was still very interested in seeing how well this show aged over the past couple of decades.

G.I.Joe is an elite military squad of highly trained men and women, mostly men, whose job it is to battle the forces of evil, led by the terrorist organization known as Cobra, who in turn are led by the supremely incompetent Cobra Commander. This 4-disc set has the two TV "mini-series" that started its run, as well as the TV movie, which was later broken up into five parts, for the series, and the next seven episodes from the regular series. The first two mini-series, The M.A.S.S. Device and The Revenge of Cobra, are so similar that the latter could be considered a remake of the former. The overall plot in both has G.I.Joe and Cobra traveling the world looking for parts for a superweapon, but there are even specific plot points that are repeated (Duke being captured, being forced to fight, etc.). This repetitiveness also comes up in the animation, which feels weak at times, but was on par with most Saturday morning cartoons that aired during the 1980s. There are too many characters, which was designed to sell toys, but meant a lot were reduced to simple hooks without any real depth to their characters. (For instance, Shipwreck is a sailor, complete with pet parrot. Spirit is Native American and speaks in halted cadence that was a bad stereotype back in the days of the Lone Ranger. While they have hooks, they don't have personalities.) Some of the action scenes are well done, but I still think I was correct in preferring Transformers.

On a side note, Cobra Commander is clearly the main influence behind Dr. Drakken, The Monarch, Heinz Doofenshmirtz, and countless other comedically inept super-villains. After watching the first DVD release, I was left with one question. Who would follow this guy? Hell, why is G.I.Joe even fighting this guy? You know he's going to screw it up on his own. Just sit back and enjoy the show.

Looking at the extras on the 4-disc set, there are a number of them. First of all, the two mini-series and the TV movie can be watched seamlessly, which is a nice touch. Also, the first three discs have a three-part interview with the writer, Ron Friedman. He has a lot of information on the show, but he's a little too easy with the praise. Over on disc four, there are a trio of "Knowing is half the battle" PSAs and there are also three vintage commercials, but the quality here is sketchy. There is a nine-minute presentation from 1963 about the original toyline, and finally a printable script. That's more than enough to satisfy fans of the show.

Watching G.I.Joe for the first time in roughly 20 years, I was left with the same impression I had before the DVD arrived. It's not a bad show for what it is, but it is weaker than Transformers in every regard, right down to the theme song. The extras on the 4-disc Season 1.1 should please fans, and the only question is whether they want to buy this DVD, spend a little more and grab the Complete Series at the end of the month, or wait till the box set comes out in retail form. I would wait.

Grey Gardens - Buy from Amazon
An HBO movie starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore as high society mother and daughter who rejected Park Avenue and moved to their Long Island home. It wouldn't be a particularly compelling story, expect they are Kennedys. Reviews are amazing with most praise going to the two leads, and if you are interested in the Kennedy family, it's worth checking out.

The Haunting in Connecticut - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD, Unrated Two-Disc Edition, or Blu-ray
I hate it when studios advertise a horror movie as "based on real life events" when it is so clearly not. However, usually this helps sell tickets, even when the movie in question is terrible, which is the case here. Personally, I think the movie is skippable, as do most critics, so the details of the home market release are moot. That said, if you are interested in buying the movie, the Unrated Two-Disc Edition is clearly the better deal over the Single-Disc DVD with a lot more extras, including two audio commentary tracks, as well as several featurettes trying to convince us it is all real. (Stop insulting my intelligence.) The Blu-ray has no exclusives, but doesn't cost a whole lot more either.

Horsemen - Buy from Amazon
Dennis Quaid leads an impressive cast in this movie. Sadly, the reviews are only mixed and it went nowhere at the box office. The DVD does have an audio commentary track and it is worth renting, but for most, that will be enough.

I Can't Think Straight / The World Unseen - Buy from Amazon
Two films with lesbian themes being released on one DVD. Neither earned good reviews and the price is too high to be considered a deal. Worth a rental, on the other hand.

Joe Schmo 2 - Buy from Amazon
A fake Reality TV series where only one person involved isn't an actor who is in on the joke. I don't like Reality TV and the genre really deserves a good spoofing, and this show does it about as well as most that attempt to take down the genre.

Journey to the Moon - The 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 - Buy from Amazon
It's been 40 years since we landed on the moon. Aren't we supposed to have permanent moon bases by now? Moon bases that harvest sunlight for energy, and then beam that energy to the Earth. That would solve a lot of problems down here.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 16th of June. However, the Blu-ray screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Kickboxer - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as Kurt Sloane, the brother and sort of trainer of Eric Sloane, who is a champion kickboxer. Finding no competition in the United States, the pair travel to Thailand where Eric will challenge Tong Po. However, upon seeing Tong Po and other Thai kickboxers, Kurt wants him to drop out of the fight. This turns out to be good advice, but Eric ignores him and he is crippled in the ring. Now Kurt wants revenge and tries to find a trainer. None will take him till he meets Xian Chow. What follows is a mix of training montages, romantic entanglements, gang warfare, and fight scenes. It's not Citizen Kane, but does it deliver what it promises?

In a word, yes. This movie is exactly what it advertises, a martial arts action movie with a story of revenge... Light on the story. Having Kurt getting involved with his teacher's niece and dealing with a gang that has been threatening her is as close to character development as you will get. It is also as much as you need. There's enough humor to break up the movie, and overall the number of clichés is kept to an acceptable level.

Unfortunately, there are no extras on the Blu-ray, so let's move right into the technical presentation, which is mixed. This is a low budget movie from 1989; that's 20 years ago. Some critics have complained about the look of the movie and the overuse of DVNR, and while I'm not happy with every scene, it does look better than the movie ever has on the home market. Some scenes look fantastic, especially given the age and low-budget nature of the movie. The sound is only a little better that the video with almost nothing coming out of my rear speakers. Is it one of the better Blu-ray I've reviewed? No. But it also costs half as much as most Blu-rays I've reviewed, and taking that into account, I'm happy enough with the sound and video.

Gummy bears! Gummy bears! Sprinkles! Sprinkles! ... If you don't get that reference, don't feel bad.

Kickboxer has Jean-Claude Van Damme at his prime. This might not mean a lot for most people, but for his fans, this Blu-ray is worth the $13 to pick up. I would have loved some extras and a better transfer, but the price is right.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 23rd of June. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Legend of the Bog - Buy from Amazon
Vinnie Jones stars in this Irish horror film. At least that's how it is being marketed. The reality is different.

The film does start with Vinnie Jones setting up a trap and fighting what we assume is the "bog body" we learn about on the back of the DVD box. We then jump to an academic setting with Professor David Wallace talking about "bog bodies," which are mummified remains found in the bogs of Ireland. We are told that there are different theories to why these people were killed and buried in the bog thousands of years ago. They could have been put there as a sacrifice to the gods, or as punishment. Professor David Wallace decides to go up to the bogs with Saiorse Reilly to do some surveying and learn more, but we get the feeling he is more interested in her than studying. Meanwhile, two young ladies are traveling in the same countryside when they run out of gas. It is clear that they need to leave the area, but it is not clear why. Finally, an aggressive American real estate developer is dealing with a problem at one of her housing sites. It turns out the workers dug up a "bog body" and wanted to talk to her before calling the cops. She instead insists they get rid of the body to avoid any more delays and then heads back to Dublin with her taxi cab driver. The three groups all become stuck thanks to car troubles and find their way to Mr. Hunter's cabin in the woods. In the meantime, the body dug up has mystically returned to life and has been killing a few random people along the way before it too finds its way to the woods where our cast is holed up. This is when the inevitable happens.

This movie is about 90 minutes long, and for most of that running time, I thought to myself, "When is this really going to start?" It felt structured like a teenage slasher flick with a big bad guy and plenty of characters / victims introduced, but we spend too much time where not enough happens. Sure, we do learn some of the background elements of these characters, almost all of which turn out to be lies told to cover for some past misdeeds that these characters are supposed to be punished for, but for the most part the dialogue is uninteresting and not particularly skillfully delivered. Although to be fair to the actors, they have very little to worth with. Also, the "big bad guy" is not scary. At all. He's just a big guy mumbling in what was supposed to Gaelic. Maybe if he looked like he had just crawled out of a bog, it would have been scary, but that would have required a budget. There were a few kills in the movie, mostly off screen, and none were particularly scary or gruesome.

The are no extras on the DVD.

Legend of the Bog is a misfire from start to finish. I can't recommend the DVD for even a rental; in fact, I can't recommend watching this one on TV for free.

Leverage - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
This show stars Timothy Hutton as Nate Ford, a former insurance investigator whose own company refused to pay for the medical treatment of his son, resulting in his death. Now Ford is a drunk, but he is given a chance at redemption when he is hired to lead a team of thieves, whom he had personal knowledge of from his previous career. There's Eliot Spencer, the muscle with training in martial arts and a distaste for guns; Alec Hardison, a computer nerd / hacker, but a suave geek; and Parker, a cat burglar and obviously the least mentally stable of the group, and that's saying a lot. He is hired to help steal back secret airplane designs from a rival company, but when he is double-crossed, the team decides to stick together and get revenge. However, since their mark knows them, they recruit Sophie Devereaux, an art thief / failed actress to help them accomplish their goal. Obviously since this is a TV series and not a movie, while they go into the job thinking this is just a one time team-up, they have so much fun doing what they love and doing it for the right reason, that they decide to make it their full-time jobs.

Given the subject matter the show deals with, not to mention the cast, I was expecting to love this show. I love heist shows, I love con artist shows, I love Timothy Hutton as an actor. However, I was not impressed by the pilot. Didn't like it at all. Had I just caught it on TV, I would not have watched episode two. However, since I'm a critic, that's not an option. Fortunately, it turns out the pilot is by far the weakest episode on this 4-disc set. It reminds me of Babylon 5. The pilot episode had to introduce too many characters and give too much background information, while at the same time having a full plot. Because of this, it felt rushed and crowded and didn't have the right pace. Once the characters were set, the episodes had a much more natural pace to them. The cast interactions are great (I especially loved Parker in rehab) and the cons hit the balance between believability and outrageous you need to be intriguing.

On a side note, in one episode, Alec Hardison oversleeps and misses work, which turns out to be a major problem as the rest of the team are on a plane trip to the Cayman islands and they learn... doesn't matter. Too big of a spoiler. But it turns out he overslept because he was up really, really late playing World of Warcraft. At the time I was watching this episode, it was 3:00 a.m. and was also playing World of Warcraft. Strange coincidence. Other trivia, one of the guards in that episode was Jeremy Roenick, an NHL player, while in The Juror #6 Job the group is watching a bunch of football games, but they are CFL not NFL, including two games with the B.C. Lions. No wonder the Lions are off to a slow start this season. They are playing two games at once.

Extras on the 4-disc set include audio commentary tracks on all 13 episodes with a mix of participants. There are also deleted scenes on all four discs from most of the shows. (A lot of these are more extended than deleted with just a few seconds of additional material present. However, I would rather see the whole scene to give context than just 13 seconds of seemingly random dialogue.) Disc four has a few behind-the-scenes featurettes, a featurette showing the cast when they learned the show was renewed, and a short film by Beth Riesgraf (who plays Parker) that is just too weird to spoil here. You have to watch it for yourself.

On the other hand, there are no subtitles, no play-all buttons, and no opening credits, so no need for proper chapter placements. Subtitles should be legally mandatory under the "Americans with Disabilities Act" and play-all buttons should be a breeze to put in. Minor complaints overall.

Leverage is an excellent show and if you saw the pilot and decided to skip the series, give it another chance and rent Season 1. If you watched it on TV, buy this 4-disc set. It is worth it. In fact, it is worth a blind buy, as it is that good.

Love Ain't Suppose to Hurt II - The Wedding - Buy from Amazon
A movie aimed at African American churchgoers. This is a niche market of a niche market, but one that has more than a few films reaching it in the past year. It's not at the saturation level, but it is also not under-served.

Mad Men - Season Two - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the best shows on TV right now, Mad Men tells the story of the men and women of Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency, an ad agency in the 1960s, which was a time of massive change, which is not a time ad agencies tend do well in. Not knowing where times are going makes it hard to figure out what customers want to see. This upheaval is also seen in the private lives of the large cast, as well as their careers.

Don and Betty Draper have problems in their marriage, Peggy Olson's career and personal life intercede, Pete Campbell... ambition gets the best of him. I'm not sure ambition is the right word. What would you call it when you try and blackmail your boss? The tone this season is subtly different than the first. It seems to move in a slower pace with massive changes coming. It adds to the replay value, because you want to go back and see what you missed the first time. The show was one of the big winners at last year's Emmys, and I suspect it will be the big winner in the Fall.

As for extras on the DVD... Wow! There are audio commentary tracks on every episode, two audio commentary tracks per episode. And quite frankly, each episode could be watched three times and still be enjoyable. Other extras on the first disc include a music sampler, which is basically an ad for the soundtrack. There is also the first part of the Birth of an Independent Woman featurette, and two short Time Capsule featurettes on the 1960s. Disc two has the second Birth of an Independent Woman featurette and another featurette on the style of the time. There are also four Time Capsules. There are three more Time Capsules on disc three. Finally, on disc four, there are four more Time Capsules. While these are relatively short (most are just a few minutes) they are fascinating.

The Blu-ray has no exclusive extras, sort of. The Time Capsule featurettes are a lot more interactive on Blu-ray, and include text and audio not found on the DVD. Also, The video and audio is great, although as a dialogue-heavy show, my rear speakers do not get much of a workout. Finally, there's the price. The Blu-ray only costs $31 on Amazon at the moment, which is an amazing deal for High Definition, and only 27% more than the DVD.

One of the best TV shows on air right now, the DVD and the Blu-ray are loaded with extras, and the Blu-ray has enough extras to be easily worth the upgrade. Mad Men - Season Two is a must-have, and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Michael Jackson - The Trial and Triumph of the King of Pop - Buy from Amazon
This feels so ghoulish coming out right now and quite frankly, I hit Michael Jackson overload less than 24 hours after his death. The media sure know how to take a story, almost any story, and beat it into the ground.

The New Kids on the Block - Hangin' Tough - Live - Buy from Amazon
Oh dear god, no!

Ni Hao Kai-Lan - Great Trip to China! - Buy from Amazon
The latest DVD release for this kids show, which is designed to help kids learn about the Chinese culture, and maybe pick of a few words in Mandarin. Like the previous DVD releases, this one is a collection of several episodes, but unlike most of the previous releases, this one starts with a multi-episode arc, Kai-Lan's Trip to China.

In this episode, Kai-Lan is invited by her great aunt to travel to China and she, Ye Ye, Rintoo, Tolee, and Hoho get to go with her. After a plane trip, they get to experience new things, like dragon kites and different food, but not everyone is happy about this. In fact, several of her friends are scared of new things. But the highlight of the trip isn't food or kites, but pandas, much to the delight of Tolee.

The other two episodes are Rain or Shine and The Ant Playground. The first has Kai-Lan wanting to play outside, but when it starts to rain, they have to figure out what to do. They can't fly a kite in the rain, but there has to be something they can do for fun. In The Ant Playground Kai-Lan help the ants build a playground, but the tire swing they build is just too big. How can they fix it?

The only extra on the DVD is a music video for "We're Going to China", which is just a short clip from the first episode. Hardly a special feature.

If your kids are fans of Ni Hao Kai-Lan and enjoyed the previous DVD releases, Great Trip to China! should please them. Or make their heart feel super happy. I would like some extras on the DVD, but at $11, it's good value for what you get.

Peyton Place - Part Two - Buy from Amazon
A prime time soap opera from the 1960s that broke boundaries and was shocking... at the time. Now it feels quaint. At least it is a well-made prime time soap opera and it holds up in that regard.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 7th. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Power Rangers RPM - Volume 1 - Start Your Engines - Buy from Amazon
The latest Power Rangers series to make it to the United States, and possibly the last for a while. In the near future, a powerful computer virus / A.I., Venjix, takes over all computer communications, manufacturing, and defenses, and creates an unstoppable robotic army. The remnants of humanity are trapped inside the doomed city of Corinth (a.k.a. Boston). There to defend the city are the Power Rangers team. Scott Truman, a.k.a. Red Ranger, is the leader and his teammates are Summer Landsdown and Flynn McAllistair, both of whom we meet in the opening scenes while committing acts of bravery. In the first episode we see two guys, Dillon and Ziggy, who are trapped on the outside and form an uneasy alliance to get back to the city. Dillon is a man who can't remember his past while Ziggy is running from his the gang he used to work for. The two join up with the Power Rangers in the early episodes, Dillon due to his raw natural talents, and Ziggy because he needed to keep it from Tenaya 7, one of the Gynoids created by the Venjix A.I. to defeat the Power Rangers. This first of likely four DVD releases shows how the early battles focused a lot on whether the team can trust the mysterious Dillon, and Dillion's trust issues with regards to Dr. K, the unseen head of Power Rangers.

I've reviewed a number of Power Rangers shows in the past, and the best way to judge them in my opinion is to compare villains. And this show is lacking at times. Venjix is a computer A.I. and is therefore not active in the battles. He / It has two generals, General Shifter and General Crunch, but both are almost never involved in the battles themselves. That leaves Tenaya 7 to do all of the heavy lifting; at least she's a compelling character, especially compared to the other villains here. Compared to past villains, she's in the top third. (Although seeing her detached hand beat up the Power Rangers is too corny to take seriously.)

There are no extras on this DVD release, but at least they have a play all button, subtitles, and proper chapter placement. It seems getting all three on a TV on DVD release is getting rare.

For fans of the Power Rangers franchise, RPM has all of the action and explosions one would expect. I miss the special features that were found in previous releases, but Volume 1 - Start Your Engines is still good value for the money.

[REC] - Buy from Amazon
It's about time! This is an amazing horror movie from Spain. This DVD is worth picking up, even with extras that are light (just a simple making-of featurette). On a side note, I can't help but think that this DVD would have been a much bigger seller if it had come out on when the remake was released in theaters.

The State - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The State is a sketch comedy show that aired on MTV during the mid-1990s. This was when MTV still played some music, and most of its shows weren't painfully bad. It was a good time to be alive. The State starred Kerri Kenney-Silver, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, Ken Marino, Joe Lo Truglio, and a handful of others that are not in our database. Since this show, many of these people have worked together again and again in such shows as Viva Variety and Reno 911!, as well as movies like Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten. With so many projects under their belts, the troupe has built a large following and for them picking up this 5-disc set is a no-brainer, but what about the rest who haven't seen any of these shows?

Reviewing sketch comedy is hard., especially one where the members tried so hard to not create recurring characters. They average about a dozen skits per episode, which means each one is only about 90 seconds long on average. Which means it takes about as much time to describe the sketch as it does to watch it, and I can't accurately describe it, without totally destroying it. Their sense of humor leans to the absurd; in fact, a recurring theme is taking something ridiculous, pretending it was real, and seeing how people would react. In this way, the show is very similar to Kids in the Hall, but with more musical references thrown in. (The show was on MTV, so this is not a shock.) Speaking of musical references, a lot of the music was cut for the DVD release and replaced with a rather generic soundtrack. Obviously for fans of the show, this is not good news, but I'm not sure how neophytes will react. I don't know if the music was integral to the humor or not. Nor do I know if the songs were classics, or if most people watching today would not even recognize the songs being played. For the most part, the humor has aged well. There are some pop-culture references that I only vaguely recognize (MTV Sports?!?). Overall, The State is better than most sketch comedy shows, maybe not as good as Kids in the Hall, but close.

Extras on the five-disc set start with audio commentary tracks on all 24 episodes featuring all eleven members of the comedy troupe, but not all at once. This is probably for the best, as I think having that many people in the room at once would be unmanageable. Also on the first four discs are interviews, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and outtakes. If this were a four-disc set, it would be worth picking up. But it's a five-disc set, and over on disc five you can find the pilot, which is mostly the same as what you see on the first DVD. There are also more than 40 sketches that didn't air during the show, which is close to four episodes of total material. There are some vintage promos and several appearances by the group on other MTV shows.

For fans of The State, The Complete Series is something they have been waiting for for a long time. There are some issues regarding music replacement, but besides that, this is a top-notch DVD release. I prefer Viva Variety, but this is still easily worth picking up, and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Tracey Takes On... Complete Seasons 3 & 4 - Buy from Amazon
This 4-disc set marks the end of the road for Tracey Takes On.... Of course, Tracey Ullman has a new show already, so fans are not deprived of her comedy. Extras include lots of deleted scenes, and it is worth picking up for her fans.

Van Wilder - Freshman Year - Buy from Amazon: R-Rated or Unrated
The latest installment of the Van Wilder franchise is a direct-to-DVD sequel... Oh boy.

To be a little more accurate, it is a direct-to-DVD prequel starring Jonathan Bennett as the titular Van Wilder. The movie starts with him giving a graduation speech before heading off to college, which he imagines will be an endless parade of loose women and wild parties. Instead when he gets there, he finds a tyrannical military man in charge that has instituted draconian rules eliminating partying and sex. There's no way Van Wilder will stand for this. So with the help of his two cohorts, and his dog, he decides to fight the power and return the fun to Coolidge College.

The original movie earned reviews that were quite terrible, but I enjoyed the movie, as Ryan Reynolds has the necessary charm to pull off a movie like this. He has the ability to play characters that walk the very fine line between charming and slimy. His Van Wilder was someone who was not above using his charms to get what he needs, but would always go to bat to help one of his friends. I figured that this movie would be, at best, a humorous time-waster with a charming lead. I wasn't expecting award-worthy, but I was willing to give it a chance. I was even willing to forgive the avalanche of clichés that I knew was coming. I assumed it would feel like a remake of the original more than a real prequel, and I was willing to forgive that. I was willing to forgive a lot, as long as the film made me laugh.

It didn't.

First of all, Jonathan Bennett doesn't have half the charm of Ryan Reynolds, and without that, this movie was never going to go anywhere. Taking the place of Tara Reid is Kristin Cavallari of The Hills, who fares better than Jonathan Bennett in comparison to the original, but not by enough. Most of the rest of the cast were completely forgettable and brought nothing to the movie. This was truly a zero laugh film.

Extras on the R-Rated DVD include several featurettes and some outtakes. The first featurette is called Creating a Legend, which is overstating things. Going Balls Out: Colossus is a just-under-three-minute featurette on the dog actor, which even at that short running time is too long. Coolidge College: Orientation Video is just over three minutes and it has the cast in character talking about the college life. It too overstays its welcome. Decatur is nine minutes long and it is a parody of The Hills. Teacher's Pets is two and a half minutes long and it is about all of the women in the movie. Finally, there are seven minutes of outtakes.

Over on the Unrated edition, all of the above extras are present, as well as a few exclusives. These include an audio commentary track with the director and a few members of the cast. Van's Party Supplies is 4 minutes long and it is about the props used in the movie, which were mostly sex toys and bongs. Pranks 101 is a four-minute featurette on some of the pranks the cast used to play. The biggest selling feature of the film is the Unrated label, and it earns it. However, while it has more nudity, it doesn't have any additional laughs.

Sometimes low expectations are just not enough. Van Wilder - Freshman Year is a humorless affair and I can't recommend renting either version of the movie. The Unrated version is the better deal than the R-Rated version, but both are infinitely skippable.

The Wiggles Go Bananas! - Buy from Amazon
How slow is it on the top of the charts? This release managed to get into the top ten for the week and kids shows almost never finish that high.

WWE - Allied Powers - The World's Greatest Tag Teams - Buy from Amazon
A three-disc, nine-hour DVD about the greatest tag teams in WWE history. These tend to be very popular selling DVDs overall, but lag on Amazon. The opposite of Anime. I prefer Anime.

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Filed under: Video Releases, The Haunting in Connecticut, House of Flying Daggers, Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia, I Can't Think Straight, The Edge of Love, Explicit Ills, The World Unseen, Van Wilder: Freshman Year, The Horsemen, Love Ain't Suppose to Hurt II - The Wedding, [Rec], 12