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DVD Releases for September 1st, 2009

August 31st, 2009

It's the calm before the storm on the home market. There's not a lot of TV on DVD releases this week, but that's temporary, while the summer blockbusters will start flooding the market in just two weeks. From that week till the end of the year, there will be a major blockbuster release coming out practically every week. As for this week, the list of top tier releases is not particularly strong, but there are a trio of DVD Pick of the Week contenders. These include Earth on Blu-ray, Supernatural - Season Four on DVD or Blu-ray, and Degrassi - The Next Generation - Season 8 on DVD. Each one has their draws and weaknesses, but all three are worthy of the title.

Ben 10 - Alien Force - Volume 4 - Buy from Amazon
Good show. Hate these single-disc releases.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Braveheart, CSI - Season Nine, Earth, Fire and Ice, The Girl Next Door - Unrated, Gladiator, Heroes - Season Three, High Crimes, M*A*S*H, Monster, Over British Columbia, State of Play, Sugar, Supernatural - Season Four, and Terry Fator - Live from Las Vegas
An interesting mix of Blu-ray releases including some first run releases, some limited releases, some catalogue releases, and some TV on DVD releases. There are several Blu-ray releases coming out this week that are very interesting and will very likely end up in my collection; however, there are none here that look like they will be huge sellers for the format.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 25th of August. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Boot Camp - Buy from Amazon
This film was made in 2007 but was only released in select markets last year and it final made its debut here last week. Sitting on a studio shelf somewhere for two years before being dumped direct-to-DVD is never a good sign. Perhaps it will be an undiscovered gem.

Mila Kunis stars as Sophie, a 'wild child' who is having trouble dealing with her new step-father, a conservative politician who is using a 'tough on crime' platform. After embarrassing him at a party, he, along with her mother decides to ship her off to a tough love boot camp called Advanced Serenity Achievement Program, ASAP, which is run by Dr. Norman Hail. He claims his program will help turn around at-risk teenagers thanks to his psychological training, but if he has any real experience in the field, it is likely from the other side. With a mentally unstable head, and 'counselors' that seem to have been hired based on their high level of sadism and propensity to be sexual predators, Sophie is in a lot of trouble. However, her boyfriend, Ben, came to the island pretending to be drug addict to help her escape. But since they are basically marooned on an island, that might be more difficult than he thought.

Like I said, the movie was originally made for 2007 bu tdelayed a couple years before eventually going direct-to-DVD, and for many people that's enough to assume it's going to suck. The good news is, it doesn't suck. There are some good performances, includes from Mila Kunis and Gregory Edward Smith. That said, the film is both overdone and underwritten. The film claims to be 'based on real life events', but that's a meaningless marketing phrase and the events feel overly dramatized. Meanwhile, several of the supporting characters are underwritten and one-dimensional. Overall it is worth checking out, but it lacks replay value.

There are absolutely no extras on the DVD.

Boot Camp is better than the average direct-to-DVD and those looking for an 'abuse of power' thriller should check it out. On the other hand, the movie itself lacks replay value and the DVD has no extras, which leaves it at the rental level.

Bring It On - Fight to the Finish - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The third direct-to-DVD sequel to Bring It On, which was a fun film that didn't take itself seriously, which is what helped it earn so many fans. This film, which stars Christina Milian likely won't live up to the original, but there are no reviews that I could find to confirm that. Also coming out this week is the All-Star Collection, which has three of the five films from the franchise.

Brothers and Sisters - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
Season three of this family drama had a lot of changes, but that's the bread and butter for these types of shows. Kitty Walker wrote a book about life on the campaign trail and her family, which meant she had to quit Robert McCallister's staff, which might put a strain on their marriage. There's trouble at Ojai foods prompting Sarah and Saul to quit, which gives more power to Holly, who was William Walker's mistress for many years. Speaking of infidelity, we learned last season that Rebecca wasn't a member of the Walker clan, which opened the way for her to start a relationship with Justin, but this year we learn that William Walker did have an illegitimate child, and Holly wants to connect him first, for her own nefarious reasons.

I think I got all the major early storylines. Wait, Kevin's boss suggested he went back into the closet. I don't want to discuss too many of the mid-to-late season storylines, to avoid spoilers, but I will say only about half worked for me. I liked Kevin's storyline, as well as anything dealing with Nora Walker, the matriarch of the family. That said, anything dealing with Ojai foods or the search for the illegitimate son of William Walker was simply not interesting. I think the thread that ties those two storylines together is Holly, and I really don't like that character. I find her unsympathetic. Being the 'other woman', she has the right to not be happy with her situation, but she often acts as if she's the wronged party. I find that so aggravating.

Extras on the six disc set include deleted scenes, lots of deleted scenes that are spread throughout. Disc one also has the 13-minute featurette on trip the cast and crew took to Ojai to see how a family run winery works. In-Between Scenes is found on disc two, and it's a look at the cast between takes. Mothers of Brothers and Sisters has the cast and crew talking about their moms and how they compare to Nora. This is my favorite of the featurettes here. There are also audio commentary tracks on three episodes, while the extras wrap up with five minutes of outtakes.

Brothers and Sisters has an impressive cast that at times feels a little too cumbersome and not all the storylines were able to hold my attention. That said, for the most part Season Three is still quality TV and there's more than enough extras on the six-disc set to lift its value to a solid purchase.

Clatterford - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Clatterford, or as it is known in its native U.K., Jam & Jerusalem, was created by Jennifer Saunders and stars Dawn French. For a lot of people that's enough to buy the 2-disc set. It's more down to Earth than some of the humor these two have made in the past, but just as funny. The lack of extras hurt and the price is a little high on a per minute basis compared to most TV on DVD releases, but these are issues that are common to imports.

CSI - Season Nine - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I'm supposed to be getting a screener for this show. I'm not sure if it will be the DVD, the Blu-ray, or both, but I will review it ASAP after it arrives.

Degrassi - The Next Generation - Season 8 - Buy from Amazon
Wow. Most shows aimed at kids only last 65 episodes, as when they reach that point, it usually makes more economic sense to syndicate the episodes rather than make more. However, this season the show reached 165 episodes. The show is beginning its ninth season early in October, and it shows no sign of slowing down; in fact, it continues to win awards. Extras include outtakes, deleted scenes, webisodes, podcasts, etc. and it is worth picking up for fans of the show, and it is the patriotic duty for all Canadians to buy this DVD.

Desperate Housewives - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
Jump the Shark doesn't even begin to describe what happened to this show.

The season begins where season four ends, which is five years after most of the events of season four. I still can't believe that the writers decided to skip ahead five years in the middle of the show's run. That's the biggest cop-out a writer can take. 'We've come up with too many storylines and we don't know how to resolve half of them. What do we do now?' 'Jump ahead five years and ignore the ones we don't have resolutions for.' 'Brilliant. No wait, isn't that a betrayal of our loyal fans who have tuned in week after week in anticipation of finding out what happens?' 'Uhhhh...'

In season five we find out Gabrielle has had a couple of kids, but is not dealing well with her lack of social standing. Susan is dating a young man in secret, Edie moves back and has a new husband, Bree's catering business has taken off but that's causing some problems at home, and more. However, as I was watching the season, the thought that crept into my head over and over again was, 'I wonder what they will do to drop all of these storylines and start from scratch, again.' To be fair, some of the storylines were interesting, like Lynette trying to connect with her teenage son by pretending to be a 16-year old girl online. You can pretty much guess how that ends. (On a side note, if I were in that situation, I would have broken it off by 'confessing' that I lied about my age and claim I was only 12. I think he would break it off very fast in that case.) On the other hand, I really dislike Edie as a character, and that doesn't change this season. Bree's marriage to Orson always felt like a cold business arrangement, so when it starts to go south, it had little emotional impact for me.

Extras on the seven-disc set start with an audio commentary track on the season opener, which is one of just two tracks out of 24 episodes. The rest of the extras are on disc seven, and they include outtakes, deleted scenes, creator Marc Cherry talking about his favorite scenes. There's an eleven-minute behind-the-scenes look at the table read for an episode, which includes the cast and crew talking about the importance of this process. (On a side note, for some reason one of the participants of the table read has their face blurred out. I wonder why.) There is a 21-minute look at the 100th episode of the series, which of course aired this season. So Very Teri looks at Teri Hatcher and her talent for physical comedy. Overall it's a good selection of extras and inline with most concurrent releases.

Having the show jump ahead five years and disrupting so many storylines that will never be satisfactorily resolved as a result in a cheap ploy by the writers. It's almost as bad as writing off a season as being a dream sequence. That said, I was never a fan of Desperate Housewives, so perhaps my judgment is biased in that regard. If you are a fan, then Season Five packs enough into the seven-disc set that it is worth picking up.

Doctor Who - Buy from Amazon: Episode 88 - The Deadly Assassin, Episode 94 - Image of the Fendahl, or Episode 150 - Delta and the Bannermen
Three more releases from the longest running Sci-fi series ever. The first two, which feature Tom Baker as the Doctor, are far superior to the third, which features Sylvester McCoy, who was the seventh and final Doctor, until the show was revived in 2005. Like most DVD releases from the franchise, these are expensive on a per minute basis, but loaded with extras. It's almost better to look at them as series of TV movies and not a TV series in that regard. Even so, for fans they are (mostly) worth picking up. (Delta is an exception for the more casual fan.)

Earth - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
First a note, I only have the Blu-ray, but since that version comes with the DVD, it's pretty easy to tell what each version has and which one is the better deal.

Earth is a recut of the BBC TV nature documentary, Planet Earth, which won numerous awards and became of the biggest hits on High Definition. For the movie, the original mini-series was cut from 11 hours to 90 minutes focusing on three families of animals: Polar Bears, Elephants, and Humpback whales. If you've never seen Planet Earth, then this film is amazing, not so much for its educational value, but for the sheer beauty of the cinematography. Sure, we do learn a lot of interesting facts and trivia, but this is the kind of movie you watch so you can say, 'Oh my god! That shark! It's flying! AAAAAHHHHHHH!' That is an awesome scene to watch. You see a great white shark attack a seal in slow motion, and it has such power behind it that it is able to completely leap out of the water. If you have a phobia of sharks, that sight will convince you to never go in the ocean again. Even if your on a boat, the thought of a great white jumping that high will make you curl up in fetal position and whimper. (In reality, you are more likely to die from eating shark than getting eaten by a shark.)

On the other hand, if you own Planet Earth on Blu-ray, I'm not sure if it is worth picking up. It might still be, as it is nice to be able to sit down and watch a 90-minute version that touches on so many topics instead of watching the 11 hour-long installments of the TV version. It's a tough call.

There is only one extras on the DVD, but it is a substantial 43-minute making of featurette and worth checking out.

The Blu-ray has this featurette, which is presented in High Definition, as well as a number of additionally extras. Things starts with Filmmaker Annotations, which is essentially a picture-in-picture / pop-up trivia track. It adds tremendous replay value to the movie. Finally, there's something called Living Menu, which has among other things, videos from different parts of the world that you can explore. As for the film's High Definition presentation, it is nearly flawless. It is quite possibly the best looking Blu-ray I have seen. It is absolutely the kind of film you can put into your machine to show off your home theater system. Blu-ray does cost nearly 60% more than the DVD; however, it includes the DVD, so it is clearly the better deal.

If you own a Blu-ray player, Earth on Blu-ray is an absolute must have. If you don't have a Blu-ray player, this is the kind of movie that can make you consider buying one.

Earth Day - Buy from Amazon
A horror / comedy about a group of eco-warriors being stalked by an unknown killer on the anniversary of their leader's death. I can't find any reviews, but it's written and directed by someone called Mister Ooh-La-La, so how can you go wrong?

The Game - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
The spin-off Girlfriends had its backdoor pilot aired during the Sixth Season of that series, which I reviewed here.

The show follows Tia Mowry, who plays Melanie Barnett, the girlfriend of professional football player, Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall). She gives up a spot at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to study near him, much to the dismay of her parents. She has to deal with the other wives of the other players, the politics of professional sports, all while juggling a relationship and her academic career. There's a lot of potential to be mined here, so how well does the show do reaching it? Not very well, I'm afraid to say. The writing here is quite lazy at times with mostly typical sitcom hijinx. Also, the chemistry seems off from the pilot as they replaced Jennifer Baxter with Brittany Daniel, and the latter's version of Kelly is more Queen Bee than I can handle and I much preferred the actress that was in the pilot. There also seemed to be too many gratuitous guest shots season one, which makes it seem like the writers knew they needed more to keep the audiences attention.

On the other hand, the 3-disc set does have better than expected extras starting with the original pilot, as well as a short interview with the creator, Mara Brock Akil. Over on disc two, she sits down for commentary tracks on three episodes, while the third disc has an even shorter interview with the creator.

The Game was recently cancelled by CW, but there's a chance BET will pick up the show for the fall. However, I think the DVD sales will go a long way in determining whether or not the network decides to give the show a shot. For fans who want to see the show continue, this makes Season One a must have, and there's enough extras that the DVD is worth picking up for fans. However, those hoping it would have the same high quality as its predecessor, Girlfriends, will likely be disappointed.

HD DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: DTS-HD Master Audio Music collection
Yes. According to Amazon.com there is an HD DVD release coming out this week. Granted, it is merely a collection of previous HD DVD releases collected into one box set, but it is still strange that it is coming out.

Heroes - Season Three - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I really hope they turn this show around in season four. If not, there will be no season five, it's as simple as that. As for the show's home market releases this week, both the DVD and the Blu-ray are loaded with extras, including audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, outtakes, several featurettes, etc. The Blu-ray has exclusives including picture-in-picture commentary tracks, BD Live extras, and a sneak peak at season four. If you are still a fan of the show, it is easily worth picking up; however, I can imagine a lot of fans of the first season of the show have given up and moved on by now.

Impact - Buy from Amazon
A TV mini-series about a rogue asteroid that hits the moon causing its orbit to become unstable causing it to crash into the Earth. But thanks to the power of bad writing, a group of scientists save the day. This slice of science fiction is less accurate than Star Wars when it comes to the basics of how the universe works. That said, it does have some entertainment value, but for most a rental will be enough.

Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie - Limited Edition with Pooh Plush - Buy from Amazon
I believe this is coming out this week, although Amazon seems to think otherwise. In fact, Amazon doesn't even have a release date for this DVD, which explains why it isn't selling well on their site.

This film is a direct-to-DVD sequel to Pooh's Heffalump Movie, which earned surprisingly strong reviews, but struggled at the box office. This movie focuses on Lumpy's first Halloween and all of the problems that ensue, including Pooh eating all of the candy. (Who didn't see that coming?) Roo and Lumpy decide to head off and catch the Gabloon, which would grant them a wish, which they will use to get all the candy they could want. Like most direct-to-DVD sequels, Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie doesn't live up to its predecessor. It lacks the charm needed to entertain adults, but younger kids should still have fun. Extras on the DVD include a game you can play on the DVD, two games you play in real life using the DVD, and help to organize a Pooh Halloween Party. The only feature new from the 2005 DVD is the plush toy of Pooh dressed as Tigger. It's super cute, but I don't think it's worth $30 to upgrade for. On the other hand, if your kids are fans of the franchise and they haven't seen this movie yet, and you think the Plush toy is worth as much as the DVD, then now is a good time to pick it up.

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares - Complete Series Two - The Original U.K. Series - Buy from Amazon
I love this show. Gordon Ramsay knows what it takes to get a restaurant back into shape, and he's not afraid to use a bit of 'salty' language when explaining it. Although the next restaurant he needs to save could be his own. Apparently the global economic downturn has really hurt his business, which makes sense given the situation. I think when your financial situation takes a hit, the first thing you cut back on is eating out. As for this 3-disc set, the lack of extras hurts, but it is still worth checking out for most, and picking up for many.

Rescue Me - Season Five - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Good show, but I hate splitting the season into two volumes. Sure, season five was 22 episodes and not 13, but selling them 11 at a time seems like a cash grab. Extras include outtakes, deleted scenes, a featurette on the stunts, and more, but the price per minute is a little high.

Rob Dydrek's Fantasy Factory - Season One - Buy from Amazon
In many ways this is a sequel / spin-off to Rob & Big, MTV's reality TV series looking in on the like of Rob Dydrek and Christopher "Big Black" Boykin. At the end of that series, "Big" learned that he was going to be a father, so he left to concentrate on that, while Rob Dydrek was on his own. Since a lot of the charm of the previous show was the chemistry between Rob and Big, how will this show fair?

On the one hand, Rob Dydrek is just as crazy and immature as he was in the previous show. In fact, I think he stop maturing at age 13. He is still getting into stupid situations, like installing a zip line inside his warehouse / corporate headquarters. Or taunting Drama about having a man crush in Timmy the Crash Test Dummy. (Drama does get some revenge later on.) On the other hand, the show isn't as good as Rob & Big, as none of the side cast of this show are as good as "Big Black", and without "Big Black", Rob sometimes acts out a little too much. Instead of being goofy, it feels like he's picky on Drama too much, for instance. Overall it's okay, but nothing more.

Extras on the 2-disc set include audio commentary tracks on all 12 episodes that include Rob Dydrek, Chanel (his rapping receptionist), and four others. That's a lot of people, and the tracks can get a little chaotic at times. Hard to follow. Over on disc two we find two clips shows, one that has the behind-the-scenes and the other is a 'Best of' for deleted scenes. Finally, there are over a dozen other deleted scenes that didn't make it into the clips show.

Rob Dydrek's Fantasy Factory is not as good as Rob & Big was, but it's better than Life of Ryan, for instance. There's more than enough hijinx in Season One for fans of the first show to want to check it out, but I miss seeing Rob and "Big Black" hang out. Extras are strong, and the 2-disc set is worth picking up for fans of the show.

Shaun the Sheep - Little Sheep of Horrors - Buy from Amazon
The latest DVD release from this stop motion animated series from the folks that brought us Wallace and Gromit, among other shows.

Sin Nombre - Buy from Amazon
The film opened with excellent reviews and managed to earn more than $2.5 million at the box office despite never playing in more than 100 theaters during any one weekend. Extras include an audio commentary track plus some deleted scenes, which is better than a lot of limited releases, and enough to lift it to a solid purchase.

State of Play - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
At one time, Russell Crowe was seen by many as potentially one of the biggest box office stars around. However, after his performance in Gladiator in 2000 and A Beautiful Mind the following year, Master and Commander missed expectations, and he's never regained the same clout. State of Play is a perfect example, as the film was able to wow critics, but moviegoers were mostly indifferent. It should be a bigger hit on the home market, but the DVD only has a making of featurette and two deleted scenes to entice customers. On the other hand, the Blu-ray has a picture-in-picture track and the disc is BD-Live enabled, but it does cost more than 60% more than the DVD, and it's hard to argue it's worth that much more to make the lead to high definition.

Sugar - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I was supposed to review this movie, but the screener is late. I'll get to it if / when it arrives. Given the reviews, I really look forward to watching it.

Supernatural - Season Four - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A consistently strong show that balances the 'Freak of the Week' episodes with those that advance the overall mythology. Extras on the DVD include audio commentary tracks on three episodes, a featurette on the mythology, deleted scenes, and outtakes. The Blu-ray has these extras but no exclusives. It also only costs 40% more than the DVD, which is inline with this type of release and worth the upgrade. Regardless of which format you choose, this is a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection - Buy from Amazon: Horror, Murder Mysteries, and Science Fiction
Great movies at a great price, assuming you don't already own them on DVD. However, they are released on DVD, so if you are a fan of a particular genre, odds are you own at least one of the films in each collection, which lowers the overall value.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Season 8 - Buy from Amazon
One of several DVDs on this week's list that I'm supposed to review, but the screener is late.

Tennessee - Buy from Amazon
Mariah Carey continues to try and build an acting career. She still hasn't been able to star in a movie that earned good reviews, but at least this movie is better than Glitter was.

Terry Fator - Live from Las Vegas - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Terry Fator is a ventriloquist and an impressionist, which are among the genres of stand-up I like the least. (Prop Comics and Shock Comics probably comes out on the bottom.) Because of this, it comes as no surprise to me that I've never heard of this comic before writing this list. That said, the DVD is selling very well and with two audio commentary tracks and a featurette, it is a great value for his fans and easily worth picking up and the Blu-ray is the better deal, even without exclusives.

Transformers - More Than Meets The Eye - Buy from Amazon
Skip it. The first season has been released on DVD, so there's no reason to grab this single disc release. The same goes for G.I.Joe - The M.A.S.S. Device.

Two and a Half Men - Season Six - Buy from Amazon
Typical sitcom that doesn't do anything to push the envelop of the genre, but it has built a massive fanbase making it one of the biggest hits on TV and Charlie Sheen on of the highest paid actors on TV. Extras on the 4-disc set include two interview featurettes and some outtakes. Not a huge list, but enough for fans.

Unwigged and Unplugged Live Concert DVD - Buy from Amazon
Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, a.k.a. Spinal Tap, a.k.a. The Folksmen, are in concert playing the hits of these two very divergent musical genres. For fans of either band, this DVD is worth checking out. If you are a fan of both bands, then this DVD is a must have.


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Filed under: Video Releases, State of Play, Monster, Earth, The Girl Next Door, Sin Nombre, Sugar, Tennessee, Bring It On: Fight to the Finish