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DVD Releases for August 25th, 2009 - Part II

August 25th, 2009

As is usual this time of year, TV on DVD dominates the list of this week's releases. This includes two of the three DVD Pick of the Week contenders: Samantha Who? - Season Two and NCIS - Season Six. The best High Definition release is Adventureland on Blu-ray, while all three are worth of the DVD Pick of the Week honors. It was a pretty busy week, especially in terms of spotlight reviews, and the list had to be split into two with the first part found here.

Life With Derek - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian TV series aimed at teens that airs on Disney Channel down south. It's about a blended family that has issues adapting to their new situation. It's a good show and has earned a few nomination / awards up here, which is rare for kids shows. Worth checking out and worth picking up over just renting.

NCIS - Season Six - Buy from Amazon
Schoomp.

Season six starts where season five ends, namely after the death of Director Jenny Shepard the new Director of NCIS, Leon Vance, who splits up the team and assigns Gibbs a new team. However, it turns out that this is not just the new guy trying to screw with alpha dog and trying to put his mark on the team. He assigned Gibbs three potential moles: Agents Michelle Lee from legal, Brent Langer from the FBI, and newcomer Daniel Keating from Cybercrime. This is the storyline that continues to creep up over the first several episodes, which is great as I like Liza Lapira and its always fun when she makes an appearance. (On a side note, she also had a recurring role on Dexter - Season Three and Dollhouse - Season One, both of which I also reviewed. It's like I'm stalker here through my reviews.) The second half includes the intro to the new team of NCIS - Los Angeles. Yes, a spin-off of a spin-off.

On a side note, after watching Legend part one and two, I am not overly optimistic. The new cast doesn't seem to have the same chemistry while the investigation is a little too technology oriented. It feels like Techno-babble for police procedural shows. I'll give the show a chance, but I don't think it will be as good as this one.

Extras on the six-disc set includes featurettes on various subjects starting with Bodies of Work, which spends 16 minutes talking about the bodies made for the series. Disc two has Pauley Perrette singing an acoustic version of "Fear", as well as a brief intro. Disc three has Starting with a Bang, a 10-minute featurette on the opening story arc that was setup at the end of season five. Disc four has no featurettes, but it has two audio commentary tracks. The first is on Broken Bird, which is a Ducky-centric episode, so it comes no surprise that the audio commentary track features the actor, David McCallum, as well as James Whitmore, Jr., who directed the episode. There is also an audio commentary track on Bounce with Michael Weatherly, as this is a DiNozzo-centric episode. Disc has an audio commentary track on Toxic with Pauley Perrette, whose character is the focus of that episode, and Sean Murray. This two have great chemistry together and this is my favorite audio commentary track. It also has a 9-minute long featurette called Horsin' Around, which focuses on the making of South by Southwest. On the final disc there are two featurettes, both of which deal with season six and feature cast and crew interviews.

NCIS remains one of my favorite shows on TV and the DVD release for Season Six has more than enough extras to rate a purchase. In fact, with three commentary tracks and six featurettes, it's a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Schoomp.

New Tricks - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A British TV series about a cold case squad run by three retired cops who are managed by a younger woman. Although in this case younger means she's in her 40s and not in her 60s like the others. An excellent show and one that I'm very glad is making its debut on DVD here. And even though it is an import and that means it is a little pricey and lacks extras, it is still worth picking up.

NFL - San Francisco 49ers - 5 Greatest Games - Super Bowl Victories - Buy from Amazon
It's rare for any two people to agree what the five greatest of anything is, which is a major problem for sets like this. However, by limiting the setting to Super Bowl wins, they seem to have really pissed off some fans. If I were a fan, I would be really happy about this set, as long as there were plans to release a second volume of non-championship games. I don't know if there is such a plan, but buying this five-disc set would certainly go a long way to making that happen.

One Tree Hill - Season Six - Buy from Amazon
A lot of TV on DVD releases this week. And a lot of them are for shows that have jumped the shark. Personally, I think this showed sucked to begin with, but even most hardcore fans of the first few seasons have given up on the show by now.

Rudo y Cursi - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Sibling rivalry in the world of professional soccer. There are plenty of clichés in this movie, but it still has enough charm to thrive. Extras include an in character audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making of featurette, and more. The Blu-ray is a little on the expensive side, but regardless which version you choose, it is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Samantha Who? - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Talk about a sophomore slump. So far this summer I've reviewed four shows that were cancelled after their second season. Sadly, this is among that list.

First a warning, when you hit play all on disc one, they place a 'Starter Kit', which is a way of getting new viewers caught up to speed on Season Two. However, and this is important so let me bold that... However, this includes spoilers for season two, so you might want to skip it. It's a good idea, but should have been spoiler free. Or at least spoiler free for season two.

Christina Applegate returns as the titular Samantha, who we meet at the beginning of season one having been the victim of a hit a run who was just coming out of a coma. She has completely lost her memories of her pre-coma life, which is good, because nearly everything she does remember is bad. Really bad. This season continues her trek trying to become a better person, but she hits a lot of bumps along the way. Like the time she fakes going to Africa for charity work (turns out she's scared of needles) and then there's a violent uprising in the town she's pretending to be in. Other major events of season two include trying to learn to dance again to help her mom win a trophy. (I recognize the dance moves in that video of hers. It's the same dance moves she used in that episode of Married... with Children episode where she vandalized the Tap Dance club's bus (misspelling 'Ha ha' in the process) and then she was forced to perform at the recital or be expelled. ... Dear lord, I'm a geek.) We also learn more about her relationship with Todd, including a major part happened just before she was run over. Speaking of being run over, we learn who did it and why. Thank god that was revealed before the series was cancelled, or there would have been hell to pay.

This is a great show and I'm shocked it was cancelled so soon. In two years Christina Applegate earned two Emmy nominations, two Golden Globe nominations, two Screen Actor Guild nominations. And the rest of the cast is amazing as well. Jean Smart and Kevin Dunn are great as her parents. Jennifer Esposito and Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls) were great as her two polar-opposite friends. And Tim Russ (Star Trek - Voyager) stole nearly every scene he was in as her stoic doorman. Not every storyline works; they could have dropped Seth as a character and I would have been fine with that. But overall I thought the series got better as the season went along.

The extras on this three-disc set are found on disc two... not sure why that is. There's also not much here, just some deleted scenes (with introductions explaining why they were cut) outtakes, a behind-the-scenes tour, and a look at the dancing from the season opener and how that episode came to be. Over on disc three there are three 'bonus' episodes of the show that were aired during its normal run, but were aired out of production order. So instead of putting them back where they belong, they just put them at the end. One of these episodes The Sister is arguably the best episode from season two. At least the series' run on DVD ends on a high note.

Samantha Who? should not have been cancelled after just two seasons. It's ratings were solid, especially for a show that had to deal with four scheduling changes in just two years, and it earned a lot of critical praise and more than a few major nominations. If you have season one on DVD, then buying Season Two is a no-brainer. If you've never seen the show, grab season one and season two. It's that funny.

Screwballs - Buy from Amazon
Another 1980s sex comedy coming out on DVD. Why are so many of these coming out recently? This is not a part of a trend, is it? They are not going to start remaking these, are they? I don't think I could handle it if they did, because most of these were terrible, and this film is no exception.

Scrubs - Season Eight - Buy from Amazon
I remember hearing the cast and crew of Scrubs complaining how NBC cancelled the show so abruptly. Granted, NBC has made a lot of stupid mistakes over the past few years, but was letting Scrubs go one of them?

Yes and no. Let's face it, the show had jumped the shark during season five or so, and the last two seasons on NBC were very weak in terms of quality, and weaker in terms of ratings. It had dropped out of the top 100 in the ratings. Can you really blame NBC for axing the show? Hell no. But there's a chance the series bounced back this season, right?

The season starts with the introduction of a new gaggle of interns for J.D. to herd. Some of are nondescript, some had potential, but some were absolutely painful to watch. Ed! Why would you create a character as annoying as Ed? He made the show nearly impossible to watch every time he was on the screen. At least he was only in a handful of episodes. Other early storylines are more interesting, like the appearances by Courtney Cox as the new Chief of Medicine. The Janitor and Ted find new relationships. Or first relationships. Old relationships bloom, again. But as most fans know, this is the last season for Zach Braff, Sarah Chalke, and just about everyone else in the cast. And because of that, a lot of this season is dedicated to wrapping up their storyline. I'm not sure it was entirely fulfilling, but it didn't feel too forced either.

On a side note, we know the real name of The Janitor. It's Neil Flynn. That was revealed when J.D. saw him in The Fugitive.

As for extras, they are amazing starting with audio commentary tracks on every episode with a variety of members of the cast and crew who sit down Bill Lawrence, who created the show. The rest of the extras are all on disc three, and these include the usual deleted scenes, alternate line readings, outtakes, as well as My Bahamas Vacation, the 20-minute look at the making of two-part My Soul on Fire. Finally there's the 12 webisodes called Scrubs Interns, which takes a look at the new characters from season eight.

Scrubs has hit a serious rough patch in terms of quality and ratings, but at least they were able to stabilize thing the quality issues this year. After a bumpy start, things picked up and the characters that were least interesting were either dropped or got less screen time, and the show steadily improved till the end. Overall, it still not as good as its peak early years, but Season Eight is still worth checking out, and if you have the previous seasons in your collection, there's no reason to stop now.

Sick Girl - Buy from Amazon
A young lady is trying to raise her younger brother after the death of their parents while her older brother is fighting in Iraq. Her struggles are made more difficult since she's a psychopath with the habit of killing those who annoy her. A low budget gore-fest that rises above the usual offerings from the genre while the DVD has enough extras to lift it to the purchase level for fans of such films.

Smallville - Season Eight - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Even the most hardcore fan of this show admit that this show has jumped the shark by season eight, and most are surprised that it is continuing to season nine. The fact is that while its ratings are off its peak, it loss less than 1% of its viewers from season seven to season eight, so making season nine is not a surprise. On the other hand, season nine will likely be its last, as it's moved to Friday nights, which is were most shows go to die. Extras on this DVD include two audio commentary tracks, a few featurettes, and deleted scenes from several episodes. This is solid value. The Blu-ray has no additional extras, but it only costs 40% more, which is a below average premium for High Definition TV on DVD release.

Sonny With a Chance - Sonny's Big Break - Buy from Amazon
One of the latest batch of Disney TV shows that debuted last year. It is one of two to make its DVD debut this week, but how does it compare with the average show aimed at the same target audience?

  • Sketchy Beginnings - In the series premiere we meet Sonny Munroe, played by Demi Lovato, a young lady from Wisconsin who made some funny web videos and caught the eye of a talent scout who cast her in the kids sketch comedy show, So Random. So she heads to Hollywood, but her transition to TV is a little rocky as she butts heads with Tawni Hart, who is used to being the queen bee of the show and is threatened by Sonny's addition to the show. Will Sonny be able to win her over?
  • West Coast Story - Sonny meets Chad Dylan Cooper, who stars on the rival MacKenzie Falls, and rival is the keyword here as the casts of So Random and MacKenzie Falls hate each other and are constantly fighting with MacKenzie Falls constantly coming out on top. However, now that Sonny is here, perhaps she can help heal the wounds. Or if that fails, help So Random win for once.
  • Cheater Girls - Sonny's grades are slipping and she's in danger of being forced to leave the show if she can't get her math scores up. But don't worry, Tawni has the perfect plan: Cheat. This won't end well.
  • Sonny at the Falls - After the rest of the cast of So Random diss her idea for a sketch, Chad Dylan Cooper invites Sonny to join the cast of MacKenzie Falls. But is he being genuinely nice, or does he have an evil scheme afloat? Even just four episodes in, that should be an easy question to answer.
  • Sonny in the Middle - The Bonus Episode for this DVD. It has Sonny buying Nico and Grady a gaming chair for their birthday. However, when they can't figure a way to share, they break up and each try and claim Sonny as their new best friend.
Other extras on the DVD include Demi Lovato's audition tape, as well as the faux season finale of MacKenzie Falls.

I would rate Sonny With a Chance in the middle third of most Disney shows, at least I think it has the potential to get there. Demi Lovato's performance feels a little too forced at times, but the writing doesn't help. Most of the cast are little more than stereotypes (The Queen Bee, the Funny Fat Guy, the Precocious Kid Genius, etc.). Also, I'm not sure if So Random is a parody of kids sketch shows like All That or if it is supposed to be taken seriously. If it is supposed to be funny on its own, they are not doing a good job so far. The five episodes on Sonny's Big Break do show signs of promise, but I'm not sold on the show.

The Suite Life on Deck - Anchors Away - Buy from Amazon
The spin-off of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody follows most of the cast from Tipton Hotel to the S.S. Tipton where they attend the Seven Seas High School. Most of the cast. Practically the only cast member of that show whose character didn't annoy the hell out of me, Ashley Tisdale, left for greener pastures.

The first DVD release for this show includes six episodes, although two of them are under the special features section. Things start with...

  • The Suite Life Sets Sail - London Tipton (Brenda Song) is tricked into coming on board the S.S. Tipton for what she thinks is a vacation, but it turns out her dad enrolled her in the Seven Seas High School because she'll be stuck on a ship and unable to skip classes as easily. Also joining Seven Seas High School is Zack and Cody; they would have to, or there wouldn't be a show. Other new class members include Bailey, a girl who is desperate to get out of her small hometown, but there were no spots open for girls, so she pretends to be a boy. How long do you think this charade will last?
  • Parrot Island - To protest being force to share a bunk with Bailey, London escapes by bribing the helicopter pilot to take her to Parrot Island, a private island paradise owned by her dad. However, it's no longer an island paradise, as he's cut down all of the trees and all of the parrots have left as a result. This also killed the tourist trade, which has made the residents very angry at Mr. Tipton and anyone associated with him. Like London. And Mr. Moseby. And everyone else.
  • The Kidney of the Sea - Zack has a crush on a wealthy passenger, Violet, but her snobbish boyfriend, Ashton, has plans to get rid of him. Additionally, London and Bailey get into a competition over who has the smarter pet, so Cody sets up a competition between the two.
  • Maddie on Deck - Ashley Tisdale returns! Maddie Fitzpatrick visits the S.S.Tipton while the ship is visiting the small kingdom of Linchtenstamp. However, while there, she accidentally accepts a marriage proposal to the prince of Linchtenstamp. Normally this would be a dream come true, but in this case the prince is only 8 years old. Now it is up to Zack to come to Maddie's rescue.
  • International Dateline - While at the school dance, Cody tries to impress Bailey, but messes up. However, he gets another chance when they cross the international date line and the day repeats itself. And again. And again. It's up to Cody to figure out how to stop the time loop, but will he be able to do that and get the girl at the same time.
  • Mulch Ado About Nothing - Bailey misses her hometown of Kettlecorn, Kansas, which is right by the big city, Kettlepot. To cheer her up, Cody plans a hoedown; however, her ex-boyfriend, Moose, comes to try and convince her to come back home. It's up to Cody to convince her to stay.
In addition to the two bonus episodes, this DVD has two featurettes. The first is an interview of Debby Ryan, who plays Bailey Pickett, by Dylan and Cole Sprouse, who play Zack and Cody. There is also a behind-the-scenes look of the premiere of the show.

The Suite Life on Deck is no worse than The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. This is not high praise; however, for fans of that show, Anchors Away is a good value compared to the previous DVD releases. In fact, there are more episodes on this DVD than most single-disc releases that Disney has put out in the past.

Sunshine Cleaning - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The first Indie hit of the year. And up till (500) Days of Summer, practically the only Indie hit of the year. The film earned good reviews, thanks in part to the lighthearted charm of the script and the performances of the cast. It's not groundbreaking material by any stretch of the imagination, but there's quite a bit here worth checking out. As for the extras, I'm disappointed. The DVD has an audio commentary track and a featurette on real life 'biohazard removal specialists.' The Blu-ray has this and the disc is BD-Live enabled. However, with no exclusives online, that's not enough for a 44% increase in price. This film rose from limited release to grab its share of mainstream success, and because of that I was expecting a better debut on the home market. It's still worth checking out for most and picking up for many, but I can't be more enthusiastic than that.

thirtysomething - Season One - Buy from Amazon
When this show first aired just over 20 years ago, it created quite a buzz and even created a new word. The series also won numerous Emmys, Golden Globes, guild awards, etc. That said, it never was able to grab the ratings to accompany the critical acclaim. Extras include audio commentary tracks on nine episodes and there's also an interview featurette with the show's creators. Worth picking up.

Trouble the Water - Buy from Amazon
The Oscar nominated documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. While it lost out to Man on Wire, it is still an amazing movie and worth picking up.

The Untouchables - Season Three - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
A TV series that ran for four seasons starting in 1959. In it Robert Stack starred as the incorruptible Eliot Ness, who battled the mob. This 4-disc set starts on a high note with The Troubleshooter, which features a guest appearance by Peter Falk. In the episode, he plays Nate Selko, a 'Troubleshooter' from New York who knows how to deal with those who get in their way, this includes those who refuse bribes. Another highlight of this set is The Matt Bass Scheme, which features another great guest performance, this time from Telly Savalas.

Not every episode on this DVD are hits, and there are a few misses. But by a few, I literally mean a few, as in three or four episodes out of sixteen and the hit to miss ratio is at least two to one, if not three to one. Granted, I don't think season three was as strong as the first two seasons (and it didn't earn any Emmy nominations this year despite winning two Emmys the first year and six nominations the first two years).

Sadly, there are no extras on this 4-disc set. Additionally, I'm not a fan of split-season releases. On the other hand, there are proper chapter placements, play all buttons, and subtitles.

On the one hand, The Untouchables has plenty of strong episodes on Season Three - Volume One. On the other hand, there are no extras here and the price is a little high on a per minute basis. If you bought the previous releases and were happy, there's little reason to stop here, but I think it rates a rental more than a purchase.

Wiseguy - Season One Buy from Amazon
An award-winning series about an undercover agent who helps bring down organized crime bosses, white supremacists, and other. This is not the first time the show has been released on DVD, but previous releases were 'volumes' that included one or two of the multi-episode story arcs per release. That wasn't a bad way to go, but I'm sure fans will be happy with the full season releases. They would have been happier if the old audio commentary tracks were included here, but I guess that's why it costs just $10.


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Filed under: Video Releases, Sunshine Cleaning, Rudo y Cursi, Trouble the Water, Adventureland