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DVD Releases for February 5, 2008 - Part II

February 4th, 2008

The second half of this week's list, the first of which can be found here.

King of California - Buy from Amazon
A smaller film that opened in limited release, and opened reasonably well. However, as soon as it tried to expand, it collapsed. Was this a product of its reviews, or is this a undiscovered treasure?

(First a note, while this movie came out on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, I only have the DVD screener to review. However, there are no additional features on either high definition release.)

Since the movie starts close to the end with Miranda talking about key elements of the movie, it's hard to decide what is a spoiler and what is not. But I'll try to avoid anything that isn't mentioned in the trailer.

The film stars Michael Douglas and Evan Rachel Wood as Charlie and Miranda, a father and daughter who are reunited after Charlie spent the last two years in a mental institute. While there he researched and became convinced he found the location of a cache of Spanish doubloons, but using 17th century directions could prove difficult in the modern world, which is a major theme in the movie and it culminated in the discovery that the treasure is buried under a Costco.

On a side note, I don't see why Miranda wasn't more excited by the early discovery of the doubloon. She was having trouble making enough money, and a single doubloon is worth hundreds, even if you just melt it down for gold. The prospect of some extra cash should have been something to cheer her up, even if they didn't find anything else.

As for the extras, the back of the box only shows two extras, a making of featurette and some outtakes. However, the main extra is an audio commentary track with the writer-director Mike Cahill, production designer Dan Bishop, director of photography Jim Whitaker, and first assistant director Richard L. Fox. This is a good track with very few dead spots detailing a lot of the challenges of making a low-budget movie. Worth listening to. There is also a 10-minute making of featurette that has a little bit of overlap, but not so much you are overwhelmed by déjà vu. And finally there are just under 5 minutes of outtakes.

Michael Douglas is great in this movie; his performance along makes the movie worth checking out, as does the father daughter relationship. Throw in the treasure hunting, which manifests in an almost magical way adds up to a great film. Extras are on par, or better than most limited releases and the DVD is worth checking out. It is not the kind of film that needs to be seen in High Definition, and without additional features, I can't really recommend the Blu-Ray or HD-DVD, but the DVD is worth adding to your collection.

Legion of Super Heroes Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Good show, but this DVD has just 4 episodes with a total running time of under 90 minutes. Usually the TV on DVD releases for D.C. Comics are better than this.

Love & Basketball - Movie & Music Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is just the movie plus the soundtrack. Since both have been released separately, odds are if you don't have either, you don't want to buy them as a package. And if you already have one, this is not a good deal.

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection - Volume 10.2 - Buy from Amazon
The original Volume 10 had Godzilla vs. Megalon, which they don't have the rights to. So they are replacing the set with Giant Gila Monster, which is available separately at for those who have the original volume 10. And if you do, hold on to it; it's a collector's item now.

Niagara Motel - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian movie starring a large cast that doesn't quite have enough material. The end result is only mixed with enough positives to be worth checking out, but enough negatives to be worth just a rental.

Perfect Strangers - The Complete First and Second Seasons - Buy from Amazon
I'm not entirely sure how the show survived 8 years on TV. The humor was extremely limited with most jokes revolving around the strange costumes of Mypos, the fictional island nation Balki Bartokomous. Granted, the chemistry between the two leads was great, but the show just had a sitcomy feel that made it feel like low expectation entertainment. That said, there are a lot of people who are apparently eagerly anticipating this release and will snap it up tomorrow, even though there are no real extras on the 4-disc set.

Rosemary & Thyme - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A British mystery series that gives equal time to the English garden as it does to murder. The massive 9-disc set includes interviews with Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris, as well as a series of text based extras, but it is rather high on a price-per-minute basis.

Route 66 - Season 1 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Great show, sub-standard DVD release. In fact, volume 1 had weaker picture quality than the syndicated versions seen on TV. Add in no extras and it is really hard to be enthusiastic about this release. I would suggest waiting for another studio to take a stab at it, but that's not going to happen, at least not in Region 1. Those with region-free players could get lucky later on.

Sex and Breakfast - Buy from Amazon
There are many things a film that delves into sex can be that will hurt its chances of finding a mainstream audience. Offensive, exploitive, pornographic, etc. Dull is not at the top of that list, but that's this film's biggest weakness.

In the film, two couples (Macaulay Culkin & Alexis Dziena and Kuno Becker & Eliza Dushku) are both experiencing relationship problems. To fix these problems, they decide to go to group sex therapy and are matched up with each other. What happens for the next hour and seventeen minutes is mostly people talking, not even talking, but complaining about their lives. The problem is, none of these talented actors are given anything interesting to say. There are no deep insights into sex, or for that matter, breakfast, and it not even photographed effectively. Too many close-ups hurt the cinematic feel. The sex scenes also lack any cinematic feel, and somehow are even less engrossing.

In addition, there are no extras on the DVD.

Sex and Breakfast takes a group of talented actors, gives them one-dimensional characters, a lot of dialogue that isn't engaging, and makes them stand in front of a mostly static camera in hopes that something interesting will come from this. It doesn't happen. And in the end, I can't recommend even renting the DVD.

Slings & Arrows - The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
Amazing show that should be in every DVD collection. However, all three seasons have already been released on DVD and while there is a bonus disc, it isn't worth the $42 Amazon is charging (which is substantially less than the list price). If you don't own the series yet, buy it and buy it now. If you do, I can't recommend upgrading, but it is worth a rental.

Snow Buddies - Buy from Amazon
Air Bud first came out a decade ago and despite earning weak reviews, it became a surprise hit. So much so that the franchise spawned four sequels and then a spin-off, Air Buddies. This is the sequel to that spin-off, and it is clear that the franchise has lost whatever spark it may have had in the beginning.

Granted, I am not in the target audience, but I've seen enough kids' movies to know when one works and when one does not. And this one does not work. I've mentioned it before, and I'll probably have to mention it again, but kids are young, they are not stupid. Writing a kids' movie as if your target audience as single-digit IQs is destined to fail.

There are numerous problems with this movie. The writing is nearly universally bad right from the heavy-handed introductions to the puppies and especially the dialogue for them. The acting was shockingly bad at times, even for a kids' movie it wasn't even adequate. The film never builds any drama, even with the dog-sledding and the inherent danger involved in it. And why did the villain have a French accent? And more importantly, why did that French accent come and go?

This film just didn't work on any level.

Extras were surprisingly strong, at least in terms of numbers, however, none of them add to the experience; some are actually painful to sit through. ... Only the featurette on the visual effects wasn't painful to watch, but it was a little on the dull side. On the other hand, the audio commentary with the puppies, the 'Bloopers', which are faked mistakes by the puppies, a music video by Mitchel Musso of Hannah Montana, and the documentary are just not worth sitting through.

I found this movie excruciating to sit through, and while I'm not in the target audience, I can safely say that Snow Buddies is not worth a rental even for those who are in the target audience, there are just too many other options out there.

Soul Food - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
The longest running African-American drama on primetime TV. It ran for five seasons, or four seasons, depending on how you look at it. Let's clarify that first.

First of all, while the box says The Third Season, this 5-disc set contains 20 episodes starting from Tonight at Noon to Falling from Grace, which means it has seasons three and four. However, it is not all of seasons three and four as there have been some scenes cut and some music has been changed. (Further proof that if you are making a TV series now, you better clear all of the music rights for DVD from the very start. And if they want too much money, find an Indie band who is looking for a big break.)

Jumping into season three, I felt a little lost for quite some time. There are quite a few characters and quite a few relationships, both past and present, to deal with, not to mention for than a few storylines running through the show. It took me a few episodes to get caught up, partially due to the sheer number of threads here. However, it didn't help that more than a couple threads felt like they were pulled from a soap opera; most didn't, but some did. And when one of these did show up, it did distract from the better areas of the show.

Since the show was first on cable, they can deal with subjects that are a little risqué for network TV and there is even some nudity, but nothing that feels gratuitous or exploitive. At least not in my opinion.

Sadly, there are no extras on this 5-disc set, nor are there any subtitles. However, they do have a play all button as well as proper chapter placements.

Fans of the show will be happy to see it continue its run on DVD. They will also be happy to be able to collect the two short seasons as one DVD. On the other hand, they will not be happy with the cuts made or the music substitutions, but I think for most fans this won't prevent them from picking up the DVD tomorrow.

Tammy Triple Feature - Buy from Amazon
All three Tammy films starring Debbie Reynolds. Fans will be happy to be able to pick up this 3-disc set, but they would have been happier if the DVDs had substantial extras.

The Ten Commandments - Buy from Amazon
Last year there were certain groups were worried that a big-budget film was an attack on their religion,. I figured this anxiety was misplaced; after all, a movie can't destroy your faith, not if you had real faith to begin with. However, this movie changed my mind. It's the story of the ten commandments told in such a dull manner with digital animation so poor, it will make you doubt the existence of a just and loving god. Okay, it's not that bad, but it certainly is terrible. (I can't get over how amateurish the animation his. Easily worse than any other feature-length movie I've ever seen.) Not even the most receptive audience will be satisfied here and those thinking about grabbing the DVD should pick up The Prince of Egypt on DVD instead. And if you must have digital animation, grab a VeggieTales DVD instead.

Third Watch - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
An amazing show that never really seemed to earn the ratings it should have. That said, it has a very dedicated fanbase that has been eagerly anticipating this DVD for a long time now, but while many will snap up the 6-disc release tomorrow, many will be disappointed that the show isn't being given its due. There are no audio commentary tracks and the previously announced deleted scenes were pulled at the last minute. There is still a retrospective with the cast and crew and some outtakes, but there should be more. The show is strong enough that even without a large selection of supplements, it is still worth picking up over just renting and one can always hope things will be better for season two.

Tootsie - 25th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
An amazing move coming out on DVD that is merely average. There's no audio commentary count but there is a retrospective that is over an hour long while there are also some deleted scenes and Dustin Hoffman's screen test. If you don't have the movie already, it is worth picking up, but I would have liked a bigger package.

Turok - Son of Stone - Buy from Amazon
Turok first appeared in comics more than 50 years ago, and has since made appearances in videos games, and now a feature-length animated movie.

A direct-to-DVD animated movie, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you can tell that the film doesn't represent the A-game of animation. Some scenes look good, especially the background art, other times the animation doesn't feel as fluid as it should. However, the biggest faults come from the writing, which is a little too simplistic for a show aimed at adults, and I can't image a show with this much is aimed at kids. Combined with the numerous plot holes (for instance, how many bullets did Chichak have? The shot, the gunpowder, and the wadding take up a lot of room. Where was he keeping it all?

There are two extras on the DVD, an audio commentary track and a featurette on the comic book history of Turok and how it was turned into an animated movie. The audio commentary track doesn't have a lot of dead spots, but neither does it have a lot of insightful information give. On the other hand, the featurette does provide more and more in-depth information. Both are worth checking out, but there's limited replay value.

If you are a fan of Turok, especially the old-school version from the 1950s, then Turok - Son of Stone is worth checking out. However, it doesn't have the replay value or enough extras to require purchasing over just renting.

Twitches Too - Buy from Amazon
Twitches Too is the sequel to Disney's TV movie, Twitches. The movie starts immediately after the first movie with Camryn and Alex trying to figure out how to use their powers when their home of Coventry appears to be under attack again by their evil uncle Thantos.

The film has all of the ingredients of the first film and comes together well. (However, like the first movie, those who are fans of the book will apparently be disappointed.) Judging the film based on its origins as a TV movie and its target audience of 'tween girls and it comes across rather well. It has enough drama, enough action, and a magical feel to it. And the special effects are not bad, for a Disney TV movie, that is. Those who are not young girls and are looking for a big movie will find the jokes corny, the plot predictable, and the special effects wanting.

As for the extras, they do are merely on par with the average Disney Channel original movie. Things start off with a behind the scenes that run close to 7 minutes, but it is mostly fluff. There is also an alternate ending, which is less of alternate ending than it is a preview of a potential sequel.

Overall Twitches Too should please most of those who like the original. But anyone outside the target demographic should avoid it, as there is almost no crossover appeal.

Weirdsville - Buy from Amazon
A comedy from Canada that tries its best to navigate that fine line between quirky funny and just plain quirky. And for the most part, it succeeds. Worth checking out for most fans of Indie films, worth picking up for many.

The Whitest Kids U' Know - Buy from Amazon
A sketch comedy show that creates strong emotions, strong but mixed. It's a love it or hate it type of show, and frankly I'm in the latter group here.

Wire in the Blood - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
A British TV series featuring Robson Green as Dr. Tony Hill, a clinical psychiatrist who helps the police profile dangerous criminals. An excellent series, however, this four-disc set has only four 90-minute episodes at a rather hefty price. This is common for imports, but noteworthy nonetheless. You have to be a hardcore fan to be willing to put down that amount of money.


Filed under: Video Releases, The Ten Commandments, The King of California, Weirdsville, Sex and Breakfast