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DVD Releases for November 3rd, 2009 - Part II

November 2nd, 2009

Another week with a large selection of great releases, including several contenders for DVD Pick of the Week. (There are also more than a few releases that could have been contenders, but the screeners still have not yet arrived. I fear they will all arrive on the same day and the sheer number of them will cause my head to explode.) The best new release this week is Food, Inc. on either DVD or Blu-ray. Classic releases like North By Northwest on Blu-ray and It's a Wonderful Life on Blu-ray are must haves, as is the James Bond Blu-ray Box Set. Despite there being more than a dozen releases this week where I'm still waiting for the screener to arrive, the list as still too long to fit on one page. The second part can be found here.

NFL - America's Game - Pittsburgh Steelers - The Story of Six Championships - Buy from Amazon
Pittsburgh Steelers now have the most Super Bowl wins of any team in league history at six. According to the image, there are six discs in this DVD, which suggests that there are six full games. However, the technical specs say there are two discs with a total running time of less than six hours. If there are six full games, then this is a must have for fans of the team. Otherwise, I would be tempted to limit it to a rental.

Night Watcher - Buy from Amazon
A suspense / horror film coming out direct-to-DVD the Tuesday after Halloween. That's not a good sign.

Allison Tyler stars as Angelia, a college student whose mother recently committed suicide. While in group therapy she meets Brian (Zack Stewart) who also is dealing with a recent suicide of a parent, his father. They connect immediately and are in the process of helping each other move on when they receive video tapes showing their parents in the days before they committed suicide. Someone was stalking them. And when more apparent suicides of their friends and family turn up, it is clear something is wrong and they have to figure it out before whoever is behind this comes after them.

Like I said, this is a suspense / horror film coming out direct-to-DVD the Tuesday after Halloween, so expectations are quite low. If the studio had any real faith in the movie, they would have released it before Halloween hoping to grab a few Halloween horror movie night rentals. With that in mind, the movie isn't as bad as I feared. It's still not good, as there are some serious plot holes in the movie. (For instance, it's hard to fake a suicide, especially how it is seen in the movie. If you knock a guy unconscious and stick him inside a running car in a garage, the autopsy is going to show the blow to his head. And an autopsy would be standard in a suicide.) The pacing is a little slow, while there are not as many scares as a movie like this should have. Fans of the genre might enjoy it, as long as you go in knowing that it is a suspense / horror and not torture porn or a teenage slasher. But even here, there's not enough replay value to warrant purchasing over just renting.

The only extras are some deleted scenes with audio commentary by the director, Will Gordh. There are eight of them with a total running time just under 21 minutes, most of which were cut for pacing reasons.

Night Watcher is a movie that is worth checking out for fans of the genre, barely, and the DVD is only worth a rental.

North By Northwest - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
It's the 50th anniversary of this Hitchcock classic. This movie is one of the best of Alfred Hitchcock's career, of Cary Grant's career, of the genre, etc. It's just one of the best movies of all time. The 50th anniversary edition has an audio commentary track, a feature-length documentary on Cary Grant, a 40-minute making of featurette, an hour-long featurette on Alfred Hitchcock, a 25-minute retrospective, and finally an image gallery and trailer collection. The Blu-ray does not have any exclusive content and it does cost quite a bit more than the DVD in percentage terms, but that's because it has been released several times on DVD already. The target audience here is not people buying the movie for the first time who are trying to decide if they want the DVD or the Blu-ray; it's people who own the DVD and are trying to decide if they should upgrade to High Definition. It's worth the upgrade. It's never looked better on the home market. It's possible that it didn't look this good during its original theatrical run.

Not Forgotten - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Simon Baker and Paz Vega star as parents whose daughter is kidnapped. The film earned forgettable reviews and it is really only noteworthy for its Blu-ray releases, which according to Amazon came out last month. Regardless of when it came out, it is currently $1 less than the DVD.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Live - Buy from Amazon
Nearly nine hours on three discs, which sounds like a lot of material, but there's a nine-disc collection out as well, which does cost more, but it is worth it.

The Rockford Files - Movie Collection - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
The first four in a series of eight TV movies based on the iconic 1970s Private Eye starring James Garner. These are not as good as the original TV series, but still fun to watch. The price is high for TV on DVD, but not bad for TV movies, but it would have been nice to release all eight movies in one set.

Spin City - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
A great show that I really enjoyed when it first aired and I've enjoyed reviewing the previous two season. I hope to enjoy reviewing this season, if / when it arrives. I will say this season is arguably the movie stable of the show's six year run, as there were no major cast changes between seasons two and three. Although one could argue that this was the first full season for Jennifer Esposito, who joined the cast part way through season two. It was also the only full season for Jennifer Esposito, who left at the end of this season.

Star Wars - The Clone Wars - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I've repeatedly said skip the single-disc releases from this series and wait for the full season set. Well, this week that's exactly what comes out. The 22-episode set includes director's cuts for seven episodes, making of featurettes for all 22 episodes, and more. The Blu-ray does have one exclusive extra, The Jedi Temple Archives and only costs $5 more. Easily worth picking up, and worth paying extra for High Definition.

StarQuest - The Odyssey - Buy from Amazon
A low budget, direct-to-DVD, Sci-fi adventure movie. It shares a name with Dean R. Koontz's first novel, but there appears to be no other connection between the two.

Superman - The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon: Buy from Amazon
This is the 1988 animated series that was made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of Superman, although it actually has a lot in common with the 1986 retconning of the character that including removing Superboy from the history, as well as changing Lex Luthor from mad scientist bent on revenge against Superman to a evil corporate executive bent on world domination. While the show didn't last long, it does have its fans, while the 2-disc set has a featurette on Lex Luthor. Call it a solid rental for fans of comic books in general and a purchase for fans of Superman in particular.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This movie underperformed, both with critics and at the box office. However, it is neither a terrible movie, nor a massive bomb. It was just solidly mediocre. The DVD has plenty of extras, include two audio commentary track and several making of featurettes, while the Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled and costs less than 10% more than the DVD. Worth picking up, and worth paying extra for High Definition.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Season 7 - Buy from Amazon
The DVD is late, but I will review it as soon as possible after it arrives.

Terminator Salvation - The Machinima Series - Buy from Amazon
A series created using the animated elements of the video game that original aired online. Because the animation comes from a video game, the quality is not great, but those interested in the back story of Blair Williams might want to check it out.

TV on DVD - Full Series Megasets - Buy from Amazon: Fraggle Rock, The Shield, and Witchblade - Blu-ray
Just the three releases, two of which I was supposed to get screeners to review, but they are late.

Walt Disney Treasures - Zorro - Buy from Amazon: Season One and Season Two
Guy Williams stars as Don Diego de la Vega who has spent the past three years studying in Spain but was recently summoned back to California due to some unspecified troubles. When he arrives with his mute manservant, Bernardo, he learns California is under the brutal rule, while a man by the name of Capitán Monastario is using is position of power to become the richest man in all of California. In order to avoid the suspicion of the Capitán, Don Diego decides to use a new persona, that of a studious man who has no interest in swordsmanship, but who dons a mask and calls himself Zorro. Bernado meanwhile pretends to be deaf as well as mute, so he can spy on those who would plot again Zorro. With his new personas to keep him out of trouble, Don Diego acts as a masked avenger who rights all the wrongs and protects those to weak to protect themselves.

Season One lasts 39 episodes and includes three major storylines, the first of has Zorro battling against Capitán Monastario. After his defeat, Zorro must move on to stop Magistrado Galindo, who plans to rule all of California, while the season ends with Zorro matching wits with the Eagle, who was the power behind Magistrado Galindo.

Extras on this 6-disc set start with an introduction by Leonard Maltin, while the rest of the bonus features are found on disc six. This includes the first two of the hour long specials that appeared on Walt Disney Presents in 1960. The Life and Legend of Zorro is a 12-minute featurette on the creation of the character and its many incarnations in popular culture, especially the creation of this show. Finally, there's a short excerpt from the Fourth Anniversary of the Mickey Mouse Club TV show with Walt Disney discussing Zorro, which at the time had not yet aired on TV.

Season Two doesn't follow the same format, but there are more stories, most of which are a few to several episodes long. The first of these pits Zorro against bandits that were targeting supply ships that were heading into Monterey, the colonial capital. Don Diego and Bernardo stay in Monterey and Don Diego gets into a rivalry over the affections of Ana María Verdugo. Annette Funicello guest stars as Anita Cabrillo, a young girl who comes into Los Angeles to reunite with her rich father, only no one has heard of him. (This part was written for Annette Funicello as her 16th birthday gift, because she had a crush on Guy Williams.)

Extras on Season Two start with the second two hour-long movies first seen on Walt Disney Presents in 1961. Behind the Mask is an eight-minute featurette on Guy Williams, the actor who played Zorro. Finally, there's A Trip to the Archieves, which is an 11-minute featurette at some of the props from the show, as well as some of the merchandise made that are considered collector's items now.

Both DVDs have play all buttons, subtitles, and proper chapter placements.

The character of Zorro was first created by Johnston McCulley back in 1919 and was an immediate hit with the public and was first adapted for the big screen just a year later. In the years since then, more than a dozen movies have been made featuring the character, as well as more than few TV shows, and this should come as no surprise, as the character is a near perfect example cinematic, swashbuckling hero. Walt Disney Treasures - Zorro - Season One and Season Two are worth picking up, especially if you grew up on the show, but also if you are a fan of the character in general.

Where God Left His Shoes - Buy from Amazon
John Leguizamo stars as a father who desperately needs to find a job just before Christmas in order to get his family out of a shelter and into an apartment in a housing project. The film earned good reviews, but went nowhere at the box office. The DVD should perform better, and even with no extras, it is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Will Ferrell - You're Welcome, America. A Final Night with George W. Bush - Buy from Amazon
Will Ferrell does a Broadway show as the now former President of the Unites States. The showed earned good reviews and those who missed it during its run, or its showing on HBO, then this DVD is worth picking up. Extras include Will Ferrell as George Bush interviewing himself, which is worth the purchase price right there.

Wolverine and the X-Men - Beginning of the End - Buy from Amazon
I've been saying all along that you should skip these single disc releases and wait for the full season set. Well, the Full Season Set comes out this week. Like too many other releases on this week's list, it is late, but I hope to get to the spotlight review soon.

Warning: This DVD / Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 20th. However, the screeners arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Wrong Turn 3 - Left for Dead - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of several late reviews that I needed to get to this week. This is not the one I as looking forward to the most.

The film follows up on the first two films, which focuses on the rampant killing of random teenagers who happen to stumble into their territory. In this installment, the victims are a group of prisoners that were being transported to a new prison. However, there are a few twists. Firstly, one of the guards is on his last day on the job before he retires; granted, he's retiring to go back to school, but it is still a massive cliché. Secondly, one of the prisoners is planning a prison break on the trip. Thirdly, one of the other prisoners is an undercover agent trying to find out who is in on the break, and who his partners are on the outside. Oh yeah, there are also a group of teenagers on vacation that we meet in the beginning, but they are mostly there to be quick victims. Mostly.

There's a card game called Grave Robbers from Outer Space that is a parody of B-movie horror films. You play characters like "The Baby Sitter", travel to locations like "The Cabin in the Woods", and get attacked by monsters like a "Masked Stalker". All of these are master clichés. I bring up this game, because one of the cards is called, "We've Seen Your Breasts, Now You Must Die!" In this movie, one of the teenage victims takes her top off early in the movie, and literally a minute later she is attacked and killed. In the card game, this is obviously meant as a joke. Here I'm not so sure. With Wrong Turn 3, I think the filmmakers were serious, which is terrible news, as clichés abound in this movie. However, this wouldn't be a terminal flaw, if the movie provided enough kills to please genre fans. It starts out well with a few quick kills in the first seven minutes, but then it slows down and the plot takes over. The plot isn't bad, and if the film was "Serial Killers vs. Inbred Mutants, who will kill off the other side first?", I could recommend the movie to fans of the genre. But there are not enough kills, the kills we see are not inventive (and there are some terrible CG effects), and the Mutants are barely side characters in the film.

Looking at the extras on the DVD and Blu-ray, there's not much to talk about. There's a three-part making featurette and two deleted scenes that run less than 90 seconds combined. There are no additional extras on the Blu-ray, nor are their presented in High Definition. Speaking of High Definition, neither the video nor the audio is anything special. In fact, cheap looking CG effects look even worse in High Definition. The only good new is the Blu-ray actually costs less than the DVD on

With the release of Wrong Turn 3 - Left for Dead it is clear that the franchise has simply ran out of steam and neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray are worth picking up, even for fans of the genre. You would have to be a hardcore fan of the franchise to even bother renting this film.

WWE - Survivor Series Anthology - Buy from Amazon: Volume 1 and Volume 2
Not a fan of the sport, but these DVDs usually sell very well, so I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention them. However, since I haven't seen a wrestling match on TV in about 2 decades, all I can do is mention it, because I have no insight to offer.


Filed under: Video Releases, The Taking of Pelham 123, Food, Inc., Where God Left His Shoes, Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead, Starquest: The Odyssey