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DVD Releases for May 6, 2008

May 6th, 2008

A slow week for top-of-the-line releases and there are no first-run, wide releases that look even remotely interesting enough to buy. There are a few limited releases and older releases to fill the gap. It was also a slow week for spotlight reviews, but that gave me a chance to completely catch up to all the screeners that arrived late. ... That is until the next batch of late arrivals show up. As for the best of the best, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Buy from Amazon is high on that list, except technically it was released a couple of weeks ago. Teeth - Buy from Amazon also impressed, but the extras are a little too light. For the DVD Pick of the Week, I'm going with The Passion of Greg the Bunny: Best of the Film Parodies - Volume 2.

2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films - Buy from Amazon
This series is slowly growing at the box office, which is great news for fans of short films. All ten nominated short films are here, but there are no extras. Still, it is worth checking out for most, picking up for many, especially those who are fans of short films and want to see more released on the home market.

The 4400 - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
The fourth and final season of this Sci-Fi show. The series started when 4400 people who were abducted by aliens over the years and then returned to Earth, for reasons unknown. As for why the show is not returning, we do know the answers. (A combination of weak ratings and the writers' strike did it in.) Because the show was canceled rather unexpectedly, the creators didn't have time to wrap up all of the storylines, but there's always hope that a TV movie or two will be made to tie up all of the loose ends. The only way that will happen is if the DVD sales are strong, so fans of the show know what they need to do.

African American Lives 2 - Buy from Amazon
A four-part series from PBS that takes a look at the lives of a dozen African-Americans, tracing their heritage from today to as far back as records will allow, and thanks to DNA, even farther.

Many of the people profiled are from the entertainment industry with athletes, actors, comics, and singers, as well as authors, radio personalities, and even one lady who was chosen as part of a contest. I would have liked to see more professionals profiled and less entertainers: business leaders, doctors, scientists, etc. (For instance, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson would have been a perfect person to profile, since he works at PBS. A little cross-promotion never hurts.) The media makes it seem that the only way for an African-American to succeed is to be a singer, actor, or athlete, so it bugs me shows aimed directly at this audience perpetuate this myth. Perhaps I'm overstating the problem thanks to an overdeveloped sense of liberal guilt, and maybe this isn't an issue with the target audience. But it is something I felt the need to bring up.

Episode 1 - The Road Home
There was mass migration in the earlier part of the 20th century from the south to the north to escape institutionalized racism that was rampant. This episode looks at some of the specific reasons that drove some families north, from the lack of educational opportunities to horrible miscarriages of justice.

Episode 2 - A Way Out of No Way
A look at the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves, but not all slaves were freed by the Civil War, not were all African-Americans slaves at the start of the Civil War. Here we find out that not only were African-American lives changed by the Civil War, but many of the people profiled have direct forebears who fought in the war. However, we also learn that emancipation was not the end of the struggle, but just another step.

Episode 3 - We Come from People
A look at the link to slavery, which includes some very shocking revelations (which I won't reveal here). As the host, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. states, our view of slavery is overly simplistic and this program certainly was the most educational, at least for me.

Episode 4 - The Past is Another Country
Using DNA, they are able to trace these people's lineage all the way to Africa... or Europe, as the case might be. I've seen the same technology used in the program, The Journey of Man, which I highly recommend. Because I've seen what it can do, I was not as wowed the second time around, but it is still a fascinating episode.

There are no extras on this DVD. I would have loved to see an update or two on some of the stories uncovered, but I'm not surprised there are none.

African American Lives 2 looks at the pasts of 12 African-Americans and what their families went through to get to where they are now. Easily worth checking out for anyone in the target audience, or people who are just fascinated by genealogy. However, without any extras, for most a rental will suffice.

'Allo 'Allo! - Complete Series Eight - Buy from Amazon
Overall this was a great show, but by series eight it was clearly past its prime. In fact, I can see a lot of fans giving this series a pass when it comes out on DVD this week.

Asssscat! - Buy from Amazon
From the people who brought us Upright Citizens Brigade. This DVD features the game they developed to hone one's improv skill. The setup is simple, they take the first suggestion from the audience and have a monologist run with the idea. Afterwards, the 8 improv artists create a series of skits that are loosely associated with the story told by the monologist. Given the success of this show, which has been running for 10 years now, one would expect a lot of laughs here. That's not really the case.

That is not to say the show is weak, it is just below expectations and sadly average. Unfortunately, improv as a comedic genre is very, very difficult to get right and tends to amplify any weakness in the performers. Scripted shows can at least filter out certain problems. Some bits sound funny at first, but can't be turned into a fully formed idea. Others work, but without refinement can go on a bit too long. (Granted, over-thinking the comedy can become a problem, which is why improv is so appealing to so many in the first place.) I've mentioned in a previous review that there are few things I find less funny that bad improv. In fact, I find bad improv to be physically painful to watch. That was not the case here, but the hour-long program wasn't as funny as the series was.

Extras on the DVD include a 30-minute Bonus Round, which includes more monologues and skits, just like the main feature. The hit to miss ratio is actually a little better, which was surprising. Additional extras include an audio commentary track on the main feature, which goes into the history of the show, the rules of the show, improv tips, etc. (Like sometimes saying the most logical thing is the funniest thing to say. Taking a bizarre concept and trying to ground it in reality can be a lot funnier than taking a bizarre concept and adding more and more bizarre aspects to it.) Next up is an interview with the four members who talk about the history of the show, where the name came from, a old horror movie called The Entity that is not based on real life events, no matter what the producers of that movie claim. Monologous Interruptus shows what can happen when an audience member becomes part of the act. We Love Our Audiences gives more face time to the audience while The ASSSSCAT Theme is a rather pointless loop of the theme song.

Fans of The Upright Citizens Brigade will certainly want to check out Asssscat!, as it presents more of the troupe's trademark humor and there are certainly enough extras to warrant purchasing for those who enjoyed the hour-long show. However, it is not as strong as the TV series and I would recommend renting first.

Avatar the Last Airbender - Book 3 Fire - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
Wait for the full book set to be released. They are the better deal.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Buy from Amazon
This film earned excellent reviews, opened with a per theater average in the mid-$30,000 range, but then just couldn't maintain that momentum as it expanded, nor did it become a major player during Awards Season like many expected. It's hard to dissect the film and figure out why this was.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke star as two bothers, Andy and Hank, who are both in deep financial trouble for different reasons. Andy has been embezzling money to support a drug habit and wants to run away to Rio with his wife, while Hank is behind in his child support payments and wants to run away... also with Andy's wife. Andy, who is clearly the Alpha personality here, comes up with a plan to get them the money they need to get back on track. They will rob a Mom & Pop jewelry store. Specifically, their Mom & Pop's jewelry store. Things go horribly wrong and we watch the pieces fall where they may.

The movie was described as a melodrama by the director, which may have hurt the film at the box office. Melodramatic is an insult, but the origins of the word, 'melodrama' is not derogatory. Essentially in a drama the characters drive the plot, but in a melodrama the plot drives the characters, and this is certainly the case here. Most of the time spent examining, and re-examining what led to the robbery at the beginning and the fallout, with the characters not getting as much time for character development as they would have in a straight up drama. However, this is not an insult or in anyway a slight against the performances, which were uniformly amazing. Of the awards we track on this site, it was only able to earn a couple of Independent Spirit Award nominations, but the whole cast could have been nominated, especially for SAG, which has a category for ensemble casts. It just slipped through the cracks, hopefully that won't happen again on the home market.

Extras on the DVD are on par with most limited releases with an audio commentary track featuring Sidney Lumet, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Ethan Hawke. The three men maintain a brisk pace and balance information and entertainment very well. It does tend to lean more to the former than the latter, but it is never dull and is certainly worth listening to. Directed by Sidney Lumet: How the Devil Was Made is a making-of featurette that runs just over 24 minutes. It is very in-depth and not in the least bit fluff. It even gets into digital vs. film, as Sidney Lumet has made the transition into the new technology and here he explains why. ... I'm not sure I trust his scientific explanation of energy, but I do agree with his assessment of High Definition digital filmmaking. The technology gives a director better control and it is less cumbersome, which allows the director to get closer to his subjects. While there are only two extras on the DVD, both have very high replay value.

This DVD came out a couple weeks ago, but the screener arrived late so this is the first opportunity to do a full spotlight review on it, and I'm glad I got that chance. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is one of the best movies from last year on every level: the writing, the directing, the acting. Extras add to the overall experience and bring enough replay value that it is certainly worth purchasing over just renting and I can be very enthusiastic with that recommendation.

Bella - Buy from Amazon
This Mexican / American co-production did very well during its opening, especially given its theater count. It was even able to expand somewhat while earning nearly $8 million at the box office. On the other hand, the reviews were mixed and the DVD only has limited extras. (Audio commentary track, making-of featurette, and another featurette on trying to find a distributor.) It's worth a rental for its target audience, but for most that will be enough.

Bewitched - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
The first season of the show after Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as Darrin Stevens and for many fans, that enough of a reason to stop collecting the series right now. This is not a good reason to stop buying the DVD releases. A much better reason for not buying this season is the lack of freshness. Pretty much everything that needed to be done with the concept had been done and you get a real sense of déjà vu this time around. The show was supposed to end after season five, and really it should have ended. Season six is not the worst season they made, but it is clear by this time than the show was on its way out.

Big Ideas for a Small Planet - Season Two - Preview
couple of weeks ago, Season 1 of Big Ideas for a Small Planet. Now the second season is playing on TV and we have a preview of the new episodes.

Already aired was Gen Y and Food, while upcoming episodes deal with Fashion, Gadgets, Transport, and others. Each episode presents three ideas that are helping change the environment for the better. Some of these ideas are pretty big and far into the future, like the folding, electric car seen in Transport, and seem a little out there. Other ideas, like the idea of schools growing their own food for the cafeteria, can be done right now. In fact, everyone should trying a grow a little bit of food for themselves, as well as buy locally grown foods. Eating local food not only helps the environment, it helps the local economy, it saves you money, and it is healthier for you. It's truly a win-win situation. (Actually, a win-win-win-win situation.)

One thing that caught my eye was from the Gadget episode when they profile a young lady, Elizabeth Redmond. She is trying to invent a flooring system that uses piezoelectric materials to produce electricity whenever you walk on it. She admits the technology is a long way from being sold, however, I immediately thought that it would be easier to put this technology in your shoes rather than in the sidewalk. You could walk and charge your iPod, cell phone, laptop battery, etc. at the same time. I think this would be very easy to do and it would certainly take less work to get it into the marketplace.

Big Ideas for a Small Planet is currently airing every Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. on the Sundance Channel. This week Fashion is airing while over the next few weeks we have Recycle, Grow that is about adding and improving green spaces where we live, Transport, and others. It is certainly worth checking out, and fans of the show should check out Season 1 on DVD.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: The Devil's Own, First Sunday, Helvetica, Motley Crue: Carnival of Sins, Om Shanti Om, P.S., I Love You, Saawariya, Shall We Dance?, and Twister
Not much in the way of first run releases, but we do have not one, but two Bollywood films coming out on Blu-ray this week. One a side note, Twister is also coming out on a Two-Disc Special Edition DVD, but even with no additional extras, and none presented in High Definition, the Blu-ray is still worth the extra $4 in price.

The Business of Being Born - Buy from Amazon
A film that tries to argue that midwives are better than doctors and that the home is a better place to deliver a child than a hospital. The film argues that, because profit is more important than patient care, the medical industry is pushing expensive and unnecessary procedures on expectant mothers that actually harm both the mother and the child. Maybe it's because I live in a country where health care is not seen as a for-profit business that I've never seen these issues. I would put forth the theory that having a for-profit health care system is the root cause of the high infant mortality rate, and not the decline in midwives. Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but I consider this a major flaw in the reasoning presented, which hurts the effectiveness of the documentary. The extras on the DVD are a light with some follow-up interviews and a behind-the-scenes featurette. Adds up to a rental, but nothing more.

The Car - Buy from Amazon
Made six years before Christine was made, or the original book was written. However, looking at it today, it feels like a pale imitation of the latter work. Not surprisingly, there are no extras on the DVD and only the camp value warrants a rental.

Crossing Jordan - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
A good show that in the end had trouble remaining on a regular spot in the schedule to attract fans. This was partially due to network issues, which is something nearly every show has to put up with at one point during its run. It also had to due with Jill Hennessy's pregnancies, which is a rather unique problem. While not every season had a full compliment of episodes, it was able to maintain a rather high quality level throughout its six-year run. As for the DVD release, there are audio commentary tracks on several episodes, deleted scenes, and interviews with the creators and with Jill Hennessy. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show and checking out for those who never got a chance to watch it while it was on TV.

Dans Paris - Buy from Amazon
A foreign language import that only earned respectable reviews and predictably wasn't able to find an audience during its limited release. Extras are limited to a deleted scene and a short film that was also made by the director. Fans of French cinema should check it out, but for most and rental will be enough.

Delirious - Buy from Amazon
Strong reviews and a good cast couldn't help this film find an audience during its limited release run. However, the home market is more promising and the DVD has an audio commentary track, making-of featurette, interview with the director and the star, and more. Worth checking out. In fact, worth picking up.

First Sunday - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of a number of January releases that opened to terrible reviews. However, this one still managed to find an audience theatrically. Extras on the DVD include the ubiquitous audio commentary track, making-of featurette, deleted scenes, outtakes, etc. The Blu-ray also has a pop-up trivia track, but it doesn't use the technology very well and it isn't worth the nearly 60% increase in the price. For that matter, I can't recommend buying either edition of the movie, I can't even recommend renting, so the differences in the formats is immaterial.

Grizzly Rage - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a quartet of kids terrorized by a killer grizzly bear. However, it's quite clear from watching the movie that at no time were any of the actors on the set at the same time as the bear and they clearly didn't have the budget for the FX to fake it. It's hard to make a "When Animals Attack!" movie when you never seen the animal attack. Additionally, if you are going into the movie hoping to see Kate Todd naked, forget it, it's not that type of low budget horror movie. This movie is completely skippable. Not even worth watching free on TV.

HD DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: None
That's right, there are no HD DVD releases this week. For that matter, there are only two coming out next week and four for rest of the month of May.

Hollywood Dreams - Buy from Amazon
I reviewed this film when it came out last year and I did not like it and I was not alone in this opinion. I found the lead character instantly annoying, so annoying that just seeing the name of the movie on this week's list made me cringe a little. The DVD has an audio commentary track and a making-of featurette, which makes it worth checking out for fans of writer / director Henry Jaglom, but most can safely skip this DVD.

Hottie & the Nottie - Buy from Amazon
It's a movie starring Paris Hilton, and it sucks. These are not unrelated. Additionally, the movie bombed at the box office earning a per theater average of just $231 during its opening weekend, and really, it's not like it deserved to make more. Add in a DVD with no extras, and there's no reason to spend any time or money watching this movie. In fact, you should probably have stopped reading this review already.

How to Cook Your Life - Buy from Amazon
A movie that combines food and philosophy. The film came out last October, but while it earned reasonably good reviews, it was never able to find an audience. (I hypothesized that this might have been the result of the rather shallow philosophy being presented.) Those that are into the New Age philosophy might want to give the DVD a rental, but that's all they will need to do here.

I'm Not There - Buy from Amazon
Definitely not your typical biopic.

The first authorized biography of Bob Dylan, this is hardly a typical entry into this genre. In the film, six actors play different aspects of Bob Dylan's life, his persona, his career. There is a true diversity in these actors, who include a 11-year old black actor named Marcus Carl Franklin making his theatrical debut, to Richard Gere, and even Cate Blanchett all playing the same role. Given the subject, and the style, this film had Awards Season buzz thrust upon it from the very beginning and this built up the expectations to a point where they were simply too high to sustain. That is not to say it did poorly with the critics as 77% positive is better than most films can dream of, but it was lower than expectations and that hurt it with award voters. It wasn't shut out, and did earn a number of nominations and a few wins, mostly for Cate Blanchett's performance.

The bouncing back-and-fourth between different times of the musician's life give the film a style that drew in a lot of moviegoers, but also turned off many. In fact, it may have turned off more than it drew in. At times the movie seems confused; I can guarantee that even some of Bob Dylan's biggest fans will come away not understanding all the movie is trying to say. I think the voiceover is there to help alleviate some of these issues, but a stronger narrative would have been better. Those looking for an experimental film, a film made for the sake of art should be happy. Those looking to learn more about the life of Bob Dylan will likely walk away deeply disappointed.

Extras on the 2-disc set are also mixed. On disc one we have an audio commentary track with writer / director Todd Haynes who provides a wealth of information, including facts on Bob Dylan's life that probably should have been included in the biography. There are also four essays on the characters, how the film was made, how it differs from a typical biopic, etc.

Over on disc two there are a number of sections starting off with Trailer Gallery. Normally I don't consider trailers to be real special features on the DVD, however, this one includes several unreleased trailers that used the Subterranean Homesick Blues motif and are worth checking out. From the Edit Room includes audition tapes, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, and a short behind-the-scenes tribute to Heath Ledger, who tragically died shortly after making this film. A Look Back starts with a very short featurette on the Red Carpet premiere, Making the Soundtrack runs 21 minutes and it is exactly what it sounds like, while A Conversation with Todd Haynes is equally self-explanatory and twice as long. Finally, Dylanography contains several more essays on the movie and the man, as well as a image gallery.

I'm Not There is more of an art house film than a traditional biopic. Those looking for some experimental filmmaking will be happy, while those looking to learn more about Bob Dylan will be disappointed. But even the latter group should give the DVD a rental.

Love's Unfolding Dream - Buy from Amazon
The seventh in a series of TV movies based on the books by Janette Oke. This one stars Scout Taylor-Compton as Belinda Tyler, a woman who is torn between her desire to become a doctor and the love of a man. (On a side note, if your man doesn't want you to become a doctor, you dump him. There is no conflict here.) The movies aim for wholesome family entertainment, but falls short of the books. Additional, there are no extras and that further limits the value to a rental for all but the most hardcore fans of the books of movies.

Military Intelligence And You! - Buy from Amazon
A spoof of military training videos with a political point of view. It starts off very funny, but overstays its welcome. Lack of extras also hurts its overall value, but it is still worth a rental.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Buy from Amazon
Trying to turn a TV series into a movie is a risking proposition. But when the TV series is making fun of movies, it should be easier. However, while the film earned good reviews, it never went anywhere at the box office. Part of the problem is with the target film, This Island Earth, which is not an abomination like most targeted films, and is in fact merely dull. Also, the pace of jokes were cut back in the movie from the TV series because they were worried large crowds laughing would make hearing the dialogue too difficult. Since there never were any large crowds, this was not a problem. The movie was originally released on DVD almost exactly a decade ago, but has long since gone out of print. This current release is merely a re-issuing of the old, featureless DVD, but for most fans of the show, they are just happy they can finally get another chance to buy the movie on DVD. Perhaps strong sales here will convince whoever is in charge to release more Film Crew DVDs.

Over Her Dead Body - Buy from Amazon
Not the worst movie to come out this year, but it's close. Actually, to be fair there have been plenty of films released this year that have earned single-digit Tomatometer scores, but that hardly excuses this film. The film bombed theatrically, but it is still surprising that there are no special features on the DVD. No amount of extras would have been enough to lift the DVD to the purchase level, or even to a rental, but it would have been nice if the studio would have at least tried.

P.S. I Love You - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A romance starring Hilary Swank as Holly and Gerard Butler as her dead husband, Gerry. In the film, Gerry dies suddenly but leaves his wife with letters that are to be sent to her every month to help her get over her loss. I think they were aiming for romantic and touching, but ended up schmaltzy instead. In fact, it's worse than schmaltzy; it's terminally overloaded with clichés. Granted, the genre isn't known for originality, but this movie is particularly bad. The movie never really caught on with audiences, but I was still expecting more in terms of extras. There's some deleted scenes, and interview featurette, and a final featurette called Snaps. None have any real replay value. Even for fans of this type of movie, it is worth no more than a rental. And for the rest of us, it is safely skippable. As for the Blu-ray, there are no additional extras, and half of what is present is in standard definition. Not worth the extra money.

The Passion of Greg the Bunny: Best of the Film Parodies - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
The second group of parodies featuring the cast of puppets from Greg the Bunny. This time around they make fun of films like Freaky Friday, Blue Velvet, and others, while they extras on the DVD are phenomenal and include audio commentary tracks, making-of featurettes, a reunion of the TV series, and much more. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Saawariya - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The first Bollywood film with major studio backing, unfortunately, it was released the same day as Om Shanti Om, which became one of the biggest Bollywood hits in a long time. It also wasn't helped by reviews that were only mixed. That said, mixed reviews are better than bad reviews and enough to make the film worth checking out, especially for fans of the genre. On the other hand, extras on the DVD and Blu-ray are light enough that for most a rental will suffice.

Sam & Max - Freelance Police - The Complete Animated Series - Buy from Amazon
Sam, a dog, and Max, a rabbit, are two freelance police that take on the cases the regular police can't. Cases that involve demon possessed refrigerators, molemen bent on world conquest, killer robots, invading aliens, and others. The series only lasted one season, but it built up a cult following while it was on and these fans have been waiting a long while to get it on DVD. So I guess the extra two months for the review isn't too bad.

This series was based on an underground comic that was certainly surreal and dark. The resulting cartoon lost some of the darker elements, but held on to the surreal edge. It is definitely a show that kids can watch and is no more violent than most TV cartoons... Okay, it's a little more violent than most. ... A lot more violent, but in a cartoony way. Most of the episodes are divided into two 10-minute episodes that parody a large number of films, most of which will appeal more to adults than kids, which is why it earned such a cult following. Granted, the show is toned down for TV, which annoyed some of the hardcore, old school fans, but let's be realistic, there was no way they would be able to do the most extreme things on a kids show. But they still kept the surreal nature from the comic strip, which should please most fans.

On a side note, if I were to describe the show to someone who had never seen the show, I saw call it The Tick, but on acid.

Extras on the three-disc set are almost entirely limited to the third disc. There is an Easter Egg on disc one, but I leave it up to the viewer to find. (It is very easy to do so.) Over on disc three there are a few bonus shorts that run a total of six minutes, but most are seen as part of the episodes. There is an interview with the creator of the duo, Steve Purcell, a look at the games, concept art, and a few PC extras like the series bible and playable game demo.

Sam & Max - Freelance Police - The Complete Animated Series is a show made for adults, that was marketed to kids. Fans of the comic should have a great time here, as will fans of similar shows like The Tick, or indeed the Adult Swim lineup. I would have liked to have an audio track or two here, but the extras presented are better than most cartoons have and the overall value is a solid purchase.

Senior Skip Day - Buy from Amazon: R-rated or Unrated
The film stars Gary Lundy, who I last saw in Burning Annie. I liked that film, but this movie is strictly an endeavor in low expectations theater. Here he plays a kid who accidentally blabs the time and location of the biggest party of the year to the principal of the school: on senior skip day and at the principal's house. This makes him the most hated man in school. He plays this character very well and has the charm to pull off some of the more difficult parts of his role. Additionally, Larry Miller, who plays the principal, is nearly perfect in a role he has played a lot in his career. Granted, there's not a lot new here, but they do it well. That said, the real drawing power for films like this is the nudity. Let's face facts here, these films are made as an excuse to show breasts, and movie delivers, but only the bare minimum (pun intended). The Unrated Label is pure marketing and there's nothing here that I can't see on network TV up here in Canada. Overall the movie is better than most in its genre, but not strong enough to be called a classic. It is worth checking out for fans of this type of film, but a rental will do for most of these people.

Serial Mom - Buy from Amazon
One of John Waters' more commercially marketable films, it earned strong reviews but nevertheless failed to make an impact at the box office when it was first released. This DVD release has enough extras (two audio commentary tracks and a few making-of featurettes), and is much better than the one released nearly a decade ago.

Shall We Dance? - Blu-ray Edition - Buy from Amazon
The latest Disney catalogue Blu-ray release. Well, technically it's a Miramax release, but that's one of Disney's labels.

Richard Gere stars as John Clark, a middle-aged man who seems to have it all. A great job, a loving wife, two great kids, etc. He's just missing something. He thinks he finds it one day riding the train home from work when he sees Pauline standing in the window of a dance hall and that sets off an itch that he doesn't quite know how to scratch.

Shall We Dance? was a remake of a Japanese film of the same name. That movie earned outstanding reviews and made nearly $10 million at the box office, which is a huge amount for a foreign language import. This movie earned only mediocre reviews and while it opened with more than the original made in total, he wasn't as big of a hit as many were expecting. Part of the problem was translating the film to our culture. In Japan, ballroom dancing is just not socially acceptable and if the main character was caught, he would lose face, which is a much bigger deal than it is here. In this version, it was changed to Richard Gere having to deal with admitting one is not happy with their life while Stanley Tucci deals with how dancing is not considered a masculine hobby. Overall, this is a better movie than its Tomatometer score would indicate and if you have never seen the original, is is a great film. It can't live up to the original, but that's a tall order and shouldn't prevent someone from watching this version.

As for the extras, there is an audio commentary track, deleted / alternate scenes, making of featurette, featurette on the music, and more. However, none of this is new compared to the DVD and nothing in High Definition. Sadly, this is an all too common occurrence for a catalogue release.

Simply put, Shall We Dance? is a good movie that was the remake of a great movie. Its Blu-ray debut is a typical catalogue release that doesn't do enough with the technology to be worth the $20 to upgrade. That said, it is one of a number of new releases from Disney that come with a $10 mail-in rebate for those that own the movie on DVD and $10 is the perfect price for the upgrade. As for those who have never seen it before, they should check it out, while most of those who do will want to add it to their Blu-ray collection.

Speed Racer the Next Generation - The Beginning - Buy from Amazon
With the movie about to open this Friday, there's no better time to release the pilot 'movie' for the TV series on DVD. Too bad this 'movie' isn't better. Or at least not completely bad. Maybe it will develop some redeeming qualities later on, but right now the writing is bad and the animation is worse. Skip it.

Teeth - Buy from Amazon
This movie earned great reviews and opened reasonably well in limited release. However, it was never able to really expand and at its widest it was only playing in a mere 16 theaters. What can explain this performance, and will this hurt the DVD?

Jess Weixler stars as Dawn, a young high school student who is the most active member of the school's abstinence organization, The Promise. When her boyfriend, who is also a member of The Promise, won't take no for an answer, she learns she is the living embodiment of the Vagina Dentata myth. Already a stranger to her own body thanks to years of sexual repression, she now has to deal with a strange mutation, which soon starts building up quite a body count.

I think I've figured out why this movie struggled at the box office. First of all, what genre is it? Is it a horror film, a comedy, a horror comedy, a dark comedy? It certainly has a sense of humor to the film, but calling it a straight-up comedy is not 100% accurate. It is either a dark comedy or a horror comedy, neither of which are genres that do exceptionally well at the box office, especially in limited release. Secondly, it also deals with a subject matter that is very difficult to market. Dealing with sexuality, especially female sexuality is not something that is common in entertainment today. Any film that does deal with it in a frank, if not a 100% realistic manner, is bound to have troubles reaching a mainstream audience. That said, this is a film that should be seen by more.

Moving onto the extras, they are better than average for a limited release and start with an audio commentary track with the writer / director, Mitchell Lichtenstein. There are too many dead spots in this track for it to be completely effective and I think it would have benefited greatly if Jess Weixler and some of the other cast had joined him. Other extras include a handful of deleted scenes, also with optional audio commentary, and a nearly 30-minute behind-the-scenes / making of featurette.

Teeth is a movie that didn't find the audience that it deserved. Fortunately, the DVD has all of the usual features for a limited release and is worth picking up over just renting.

The Tomorrow Show With Tom Snyder - John, Paul, Tom & Ringo - Buy from Amazon
A 2-disc set featuring three complete episodes from The Tomorrow Show where Tom Snyder interviews three of the members of The Beatles, including the last interview John Lennon would give on TV.

John Lennon Tribute
Original Broadcast Date: April 25th, 1975
Rebroadcast: December 9th, 1980
This is an historically significant interview as it was recorded just before John Lennon's self imposed media blackout and it is the last TV interview he did. Sadly, it is memorable for almost entirely that reason alone. Tom Snyder was not a particularly good interviewer and I rarely got the sense he was probing for deep insight; in fact, more than once I got the impression that he wasn't actually paying attention to what John Lennon was saying. There are some interesting topics discussed, including the perils of fame, why the Beatles broke up, his immigration status and others. But overall it is just average. After the John Lennon interview, Tom Snyder interviews Lisa Robinson, who was the last person to interview John Lennon, and music producer Jack Douglas, who produced his last album.

Paul & Linda McCartney Interview
Original Broadcast Date: December 20th, 1979
The weakest of the three interviews, as Tom Snyder seemed more interested in the new technology that made the satellite interview possible than his two subjects, Paul & Linda McCartney. Topics include the possibility of a Beatles Reunions (Paul says there is none), The Wings, why Linda is in the band (she doesn't have an answer), home life, etc. There's very little energy here, and Paul and Linda have trouble even pretending to be fully engaged.

Ringo Starr Interview
Original Broadcast Date: November 25th, 1981
Much better than the last interview, with Ringo Starr being interviewed live, and poolside, there's more energy in Tom Synder's delivery and more engagement between the two (or three when Barbara Bach joins in partway through). They talk about his new record (and even show a clip from his music video), the last time he talked to John Lennon, how being 40 is different than what he thought it would be like, etc. The interview is only roughly 20 minutes long and the rest of the episode is taken up with an interview with Angie Dickinson.

There are no extras on this 2-disc set.

Tom Snyder's informal, conversational style of interviewing is better than some out there, especially those with pre-approved questions meant only to promote the interviewee's latest movie, album, etc. However, while this style should help get more personal details out of his subjects, these three interviews don't highlight that. John, Paul, Tom & Ringo doesn't have the energy to entice non-Beatles fans, and ever hardcore fans will be frustrated with much of the interviews here. For fans of the musicians, it is worth checking out, but even for those, a rental will suffice.

Zombies Anonymous - Buy from Amazon
A spoof of the zombie genre. In this world, zombies become second class citizens and are discriminated against and even beaten. To fight for their rights, they eventually form a terrorist organization. This is a movie that would have normally slipped under my radar during a busy week, but it is worth checking out, especially for those who like social commentary to go with the horror.


Filed under: Video Releases, Shall We Dance?, P.S. I Love You, First Sunday, Bella, Over Her Dead Body, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, I'm Not There, Om Shanti Om, Saawariya, Wie man sein leben kocht, Teeth, Hollywood Dreams, Delirious, The Business of Being Born, Dans Paris, The Hottie and the Nottie, 2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films