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DVD Releases for May 27, 2008

May 27th, 2008

There's a small section of big-name first run releases this week, but that doesn't mean there's little to buy. In fact, there are several DVDs that were contenders for DVD Pick of the week including some TV on DVD releases (Absolutely Fabulous - Absolutely Everything - Buy from Amazon and Degrassi The Next Generation - Season 6 - Buy from Amazon), classic cinema (The Thief of Bagdad - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon), foreign cinema (Come Drink With Me - Buy from Amazon and Heroes of the East - Buy from Amazon), as well as a collection of short films (The H.P. Lovecraft Collection - Volume 1 - Cool Air, Volume 2 - Dreams of Cthulhu, Volume 3 - Out of Mind, and Volume 4 - Pickman's Model). It would be nearly impossible to name just one of these releases as the DVD Pick of the Week, but The Thief of Bagdad - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon would likely please the most people.

Absolutely Fabulous - Absolutely Everything - Buy from Amazon
One of the greatest television shows to ever come out of Britain. The show starred Jennifer Saunders as Eddy, and Joanna Lumley as Patsy, who are two... I don't even know what to call them. I believe they worked in the fashion industry, but the term "work" is too strong of a word for what they did. What they did was chain-smoke, binge-drink, and do way too much partying, much to the dismay of Saffron, Eddy's daughter, (played by Julia Sawalha, who has never gotten the recognition I thought she deserved). If you don't have the show on DVD yet, you should and now there's no better time to get it... at least until the next box set comes out. British TV was always ahead of the curve when it came to the home market, but one of the problems with that is the number of double-dips. They release box sets right away and as soon as there's a new special, there's a new box set. And hopefully there will more specials and more releases. Easily worth picking up, and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

All Hat - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian film starring Luke Kirby as Ray Dokes, an ex-con returning to his home in rural Ontario who meets up with a friend who raises racehorses. There he butt heads with a local land baron, and his ex-flame. Reviews were weak and it struggled at the box office. Extras on the DVD are light with just some deleted scenes and a behind the scenes featurette. It's hard to rate it above a rental, and even that might be too generous.

Blu-ray Releases: Buy from Amazon: Dragon Ball Z - Dead Zone/World's Strongest, Dragon Tiger Gate, Rambo - First Blood Part II, Rambo III, Rambo (Part Four), Rambo - Box Set, and Strauss: Die Fledermaus
The best selling DVD of the week is also the best selling Blu-ray of the week and that should help the format's sales ratios. However, the only big name Blu-rays this week are from that franchise, and the lack of depth will hurt sales overall.

Cassandra's Dream - Buy from Amazon
The latest from Woody Allen was only able to earn mixed reviews and was never able to find a audience during its short theatrical run. A few years ago Woody Allen made what was arguably his best film in many, many years. However, his two most recent works have only been average, which likely took its toll on this film's box office. And its box office took its toll on the DVD as there are no extra features. Still, it is worth checking out, but unless you are a hardcore Woody Allen, a rental will be enough. (Hopefully Vicky Cristina Barcelona will be a return to form for the auteur. Early word is encouraging.)

Cleaner - Buy from Amazon
This movie has an amazing cast, so it's troubling to see it dumped direct-to-DVD. This is a bad omen for the movie, an omen confirmed by the reviews. The movie isn't terrible, it just doesn't do enough with its premise and there's nothing here that truly stands out. Add in extras that are also just functional (audio commentary and deleted scenes), and this DVD screams rental.

The Color Honeymooners Collection 3 - Buy from Amazon
Not as good as the original Honeymooners, as there was almost no way to re-create the chemistry of the original cast. However, it is still a great show, as is practically anything with Jackie Gleason and Art Carney in it. Sadly, there are no extras on this 3-disc set, but it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Cory in the House - Newt & Improved Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is the second DVD release for the Disney channel spin-off of That's So Raven. The star of the show is now Cory, Raven's younger brother, who moves to Washington, D.C. after his father gets a job at the White House as the cook to the President. But far from being political, the show focuses on Cory's schemes, most of which instantly backfire, and how his two friends, Newt and Meena, try and help him out.

The four episodes on the DVD include...

  • The Presidential Seal: While Cory is trying to impress a girl, he accidentally spills ink on the presidential seal in the Oval Office. So he enlists the help of Meena, who tries to use a Bahavian stain remover, and Newt, who goes in search of a replacement... A live seal.
    Goofy filled with lots of physical humor that which can be predictable at times, which puts it on par with most episodes on this DVD.
  • Through the Roof: The trio has to come up with a new song for the band before their next gig, which is that night. However, Meena is called away to help Sophie and her troupe of Sunshine Girls. While Cory and Newt attempt to write a song, events that are too unbelievable even for this show leave Cory stuck in the ceiling. ... Or the floor. It depends on your perspective.
    I would call this the weakest of the four episodes on this DVD, but not by a huge margin. There are not enough jokes and the big set up failed to work for me.
  • Lip Service: Cory and Newt ask out the Ashleys, but for some reason Newt refuses to kiss his date. Also, Sophie and chef Victor compete in a series of games and Sophie has to learn how to be a good winner.
    An episode with some actual depth to it. Strange. Also one of the better episodes, even if the b-story is a little predictable.
  • Peace, Love & Misunderstanding: Cory starts hanging out with Saruza, a new girl from Dubinia. However, it turns out Dubinia and Bahavia are rivals and Meena and Saruza instantly hate each other. (Something to do with stolen figs.) Can Cory use his wits and charm to get these two to work past hundreds of earns of mutual animosity?
    Despite the predictable nature of the show (it's a Disney show, of course they will become friends in the end), the show works and it arguably the best of the bunch. It is also the only show without Newt, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence. (The actor was off filming Minutemen, which is reviewed below.)
Moving onto the extras... Usually the extras on these DVDs are rather, well, fluffy. Interesting for the target audience, but have little to no substance. This time around, there is a featurette called Breakin' Down Cory in the House, which is a rather substantial making of featurette. It clocks in at just under 13 minutes, and while adults won't learn much about how TV shows are made, the target audience just might.

Overall I'm sure fans of Cory in the House will like what they get on Newt & Improved Edition. And as much as I prefer full season sets, I've given up on that dream when it comes to Disney shows. For the target audience, it is worth picking up, but there's no crossover appeal.

Darfur Now - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the genocide in Darfur and six people who are trying to stop it. A powerful subject, but the film doesn't quite live up to it. (It's not bad, but not strong enough to survive the limited release market.) It should perform better on the home market, especially with extra that include a short intro, an audio commentary track, and more than 30 minutes of deleted scenes. Worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Dario Argento Box Set - Buy from Amazon
Dario Argento is one of the masters of the Giallo school of Italian filmmaking. The genre gets its name from the color of the novels on which the style is based, and it that way can be compared to pulp fiction here. However, they tend to be a lot more violent and excessive in their nature. This 5-disc box set contains 5 films that range in age from just over 25 years old to just a few years old and include some of the best and the weakest from his career. (Many have mentioned that his later works simply haven't lived up to his early films.) Given the price, there should be at least three of the movies that are worth picking up for the box set to be worth it. And for most fans of the genre in general or the director in particular, this is true.

Degrassi The Next Generation - Season 6 - Buy from Amazon
One of the longest running TV shows ever. Degrassi has been on Canadian TV in one form or other for more than a dozen seasons starting over 25 years ago. And this longevity is no fluke, as it is arguably the most realistic look at high school life ever. Additionally, this is arguably the show's best season (it certainly had one of its best showings at the Gemini Awards, the Canadian equivalent to the Emmys). Not only did it keep up its high standards for the episodes, the 4-disc set has plenty of special features including extended episodes, outtakes, auditions, etc. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week, and if you are a fellow Canuck, it is your patriotic duty to buy it. Perhaps convince some distributor to try their luck with other Canadian shows.

Dragon Ball Z - Season Five - Perfect and Imperfect Cell Sagas - Buy from Amazon
The latest DVD release for this long running Anime series. However, the bigger news this week is the Blu-ray release of Dragon Ball Z - Dead Zone/World's Strongest. However, that Blu-ray is not two movies, as the name implies, but two double-length episodes and they only have a total running time of 105 minutes. That's a little too high for TV on DVD releases.

Dragon Dynasty - Double Shot - Buy from Amazon: Come Drink With Me and Heroes of the East
This week we have not one, but two classics from the Shaw Brothers hit the home market, and those who are long-time readers of this column will know, this is quite a treat.

Come Drink With Me - Come Drink With Me
A government official is captured and held by a gang and they will kill him if the governor doesn't release their leader. They feel the governor will have no choice as their hostage is the governor's son. Instead of releasing him, the governor sends is daughter, Golden Swallow as played by Pei-pei Cheng, to rescue her brother and capture the gang members. Along the way, she must battle the gang's many masters (Smiling Tiger, Jade Faced Tiger, and others) but has help from Drunken Cat, played by Hua Yueh.

The movie is more than 40 years old and was groundbreaking, as it was one of the first films from the area with a female lead as a kung fu master. I love seeing strong female characters in movies, which is something we don't see enough in Hollywood. It would be intriguing just for this aspect, but this is also an incredibly well done movie. Not only are the fighting scenes great, and they are, but the cinematography is arguably better. I can't get over how beautiful this movie looks and the technical filmmaking is equally impressive. Several sources call this movie an inspiration for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and I can see how.

As for the extras, it's a Dragon Dynasty DVD, so you can guess what features are to be found here. Things start with an audio commentary track featuring Bey Logan, who is joined by the star Pei-pei Cheng. Like all tracks featuring Bey Logan, this one is informative, entertaining, and there's almost never dead air. (I think the longest gap in either of the two speaking is maybe 15 seconds. Maybe.) The rest of the features are interviews with Tsui Hark, who talks about the director, King Hu, who passed away more than a decade ago. The other interviews are with the two stars, Cheng Pei-pei and Yueh Hua, and the Hong Kong cinema expert, Bey Logan, all separate. Combined these four interviews run more than an hour and there is definite replay value to be found.

Heroes of the East - Heroes of the East
Ho Tao is the son of a Hong Kong business man who is dreading the arrival of Kung Zi, the Japanese woman that he is arranged to marry. He only met her as a child, and apparently she didn't make a great impression, but one look at her and he's in love, at least he is till he starts to get to know her. She is a strong-willed woman from Japan who does quite get some of the Chinese culture, like when she wears white to her wedding. (White is the color of death in Chinese culture. Red is the color for weddings.) This clash intensifies when they become competitive in their martial arts prowess and after insulting her traditions, Kung Zi returns to Japan. In order to get his wife to return, Ho Tao challenges her to a martial arts contest. (It kind of makes sense in the context of the movie.) However, the message is misinterpreted as an insult to all of the Japanese martial artists, so the masters of various forms of combat come to regain their honor.

Like the film above, this is an excellent movie for many of the same reasons. Not only are the fight scenes fantastic (the varied forms adds a lot to the movie), the camera work is fantastic. Every frame looks artistic, just like Come Drink With Me. (The weapons especially are made to look almost magical in the way they shine.) Also like that movie, this movie does combine the action and comedy, and I always find these films work better with some humor.

Moving onto the extras, things again start with an audio commentary track featuring Bey Logan. (He mentions he watches way too many movies. I know the feeling.) Next up is a retrospective on the movie, which is also done by Bey Logan. It runs 36 minutes and is a mixture of talking heads and clips from the movie, however, there's a bit of overlap between this and the audio commentary track. Next there is a 22-minute interview with the lead actor, Gordon Liu, which is the same mix of talking head and clips from the movie. Finally, there's a featurette hosted by Kea Wong, who has been featured on other Dragon Dynasty DVDs. Here she sees, and participates in, a number of training exercises with various weapons that were seen in the movie. All combined, the three featurettes run nearly an hour and a half.

Both Come Drink With Me and Heroes of the East would be excellent additions to the DVD collections of any martial arts fans. Not only are they terrific movies, but the DVDs put together by Dragon Dynasty feature plenty of extras that match the quantity with the quality. I can highly recommend both.

Grace is Gone - Buy from Amazon
John Cusack stars as Stanley Philipps, a man who was discharged from the army because of bad eyesight, much to his dismay. But he and his two daughters have to deal with their mother being away and serving in Iraq. He believes in the mission and thinks the government is right to be there, but that doesn't lessen the blow when he is informed that she died combat. And the only thing worse than hearing that news is knowing that he has to tell his two daughters. When he first tries, he finds himself unable to and instead takes the girls on a road trip to Enchanted Gardens. But his eldest daughter, who is wise beyond her years, quickly figures out something is wrong.

This is a movie that came out perhaps a little too early. No movie that has dealt with the current war in Iraq or the war on terror has done particularly well at the box office and that could be because the political climate is not right. Despite the record unpopularity of the war, moviegoers just don't want to be reminded of what is happening over there. To make matters worse, this film deals with possible the most depressing subject one could in a war picture, the loss of a loved one and the effects that has on the spouse and kids. On the plus side, the film features amazing performances by both John Cusack and newcomer Shelan O'Keefe, who shows amazing potential. (Her coming of age story was a welcome addition to the movie.) I would say it is worth checking out just to see those two performances; however, your enjoyment of the movie will depend greatly on your tolerance for weepy drama and the number of Kleenex on has on hand.

When it originally hit theaters, the film earned only average reviews and never made much of an impact at the box office. This explains why the DVD has so few extras, the longest of which is only 7 minutes long. A Conversation on Grace is the typical making of featurette that employs a mixture of talking head, clips from the film, and the rare behind-the-scenes footage. Next up is The Inspiration for Grace is Gone is from The Week in the Pentagon and discusses a real life story of loss in the military. Finally, there's Profile of TAPS, which is the military program that was setup to help survivors deal with the loss of a loved one.

Grace is Gone only earned reviews that were average and not up to the level needed to survive during its limited release. It should perform better on the home market, but the DVD is likely only worth a rental for most people. Had the DVD had more substantial extras, I could have been more enthusiastic in my recommendation.

Gunsmoke - The Second Season - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Continuing their 20-year plan to release this series on DVD, the second volume of the second season is coming out on DVD this week. It's a great show, but the DVD treatment is terrible and even some the most forgiving fan will grumble about the split seasons and the lack of quality extras.

The H.P. Lovecraft Collection - Buy from Amazon: Volume 1 - Cool Air, Volume 2 - Dreams of Cthulhu, Volume 3 - Out of Mind, and Volume 4 - Pickman's Model
Four volumes of short films based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Much of Lovecraft's stories are unfilmable, especially in the feature-length format, however, they excel in the short film genre. These four volumes present more than a dozen stories of Lovecraft adapted for the screen (one story has more than one version here). The length of the films varies from under 2 minutes to over 40 minutes, while the extras include some making of featurettes, audio commentary tracks, etc. I can easily recommend these DVDs for fans of short films, horror films, H.P. Lovecraft, etc. Hopefully the market for such films will grow and more will be made.

HD DVD releases - Buy from Amazon: P.S., I Love You and Twister
Just the two releases, both of which have already come out on Blu-ray. These are the last two HD DVDs Amazon has coming out till Disco Pigs comes out at the end of June. And that film appears to be the last HD DVD release they have scheduled to come out.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
This is the 2002 version of the show and not the 1980s original. Many considered this version to be better than the original, so it's a shame it only lasted a season and a half. Extras are excellent, especially for this type of show, and it is easily worth picking up for fans.

Holocaust - Buy from Amazon
This Emmy winning mini-series is celebrating its 30 anniversary with a three-disc DVD set. However, while the mini-series itself is amazing, there appears to be no extras on the DVD, which is a shame. It is still worth picking up, but I can't be as enthusiastic as I would like to be.

The Invaders - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A TV series from over 40 years ago about a man, David Vincent played by Roy Thinnes, who realizes aliens from a dying planet are invading. Worse yet, they know he is, and they know where he is and he has to go on the run. Created by Larry Cohen, who also made The Fugitive, this series shares some of the same flow. It is not as well known as The Fugitive is, but it is just as good. This 5-disc set has all 17 episodes from the first season, include the extended pilot, which is a real find for fans of the show. If you haven't seen the show, check it out, there's a good chance you will become a fan.

Jackass Presents - Mat Hoffman's Tribute to Evel Knievel - Buy from Amazon
This special starts with Johnny Knoxville doing an interview with Mat Hoffman describing some of the stunts his done in the past. He ends one story with, "In retrospect I probably could've put more thought into it." ... That could be the motto of the show.

I've reviewed several Jackass releases so far, and for the most part I've complained that the hit to miss ratio is way too low to be worthy of recommendation, however the parts that I liked the most were the stunts, and this special is filled with just stunts. (There are a few breaks with some of the daredevils talking about their recollections of Evel Knievel, and what he meant to them.) Paradoxically, the show feels really short at a mere 47 minutes, but does tend to drag at times. This is especially true when Trigger Gumm attempted to break the jumping distance record, retaking it after Robbie Maddison broke it earlier this year. The special ends as every Jackass special should, with Johnny Knoxville hurting himself.

While the main feature is only 47 minutes long, the combined extras on the DVD are longer. Things start with a retrospective on Mat Hoffman's career that runs 18 minutes Bonus footage has more Thoughts on Evel Knievel that were not in the show (6 minutes), as well as some behind-the-scenes footage (15 minutes). There's shorter bits with Travis Pastrana, Scott Palmer, Jolene Vanvugt, and of course Johnny Knoxville hurting himself, because you can't see enough of that. Combined they run about 9 minutes long. The final featurette is about the Evel tattoos that several people received during the days they spent filming the special. The DVD gets serious talking about Stephen Murray nearly fatal crash last year that left him a quadriplegic. The final extras include a photo gallery and three music videos.

Jackass Presents - Mat Hoffman's Tribute to Evel Knievel is not as action packed as one of Evel's specials, but it is entertaining for the most part. However, even with extras that are longer than the main feature, there's not enough bang for your buck here and I can only recommend a rental for all but the most hard core fans.

The Lather Effect - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD film that the filmmakers describe as an homage to The Big Chill. That's certainly one way to describe it.

The film starts out with the camera surveying the aftermath of a 80s theme party and we get hit with the first of a huge number of classic 80s songs, "Dancing With Myself" by Billy Idle. (I have that song in heavy rotation on my MP3 list, and that's not the only song from this soundtrack where that's true. I mention this because I'm right in the age group that this movie is aimed at.) The night before one of the characters, Valinda who is played by Connie Britton, threw a massive party because her parents are selling her childhood home and the aftermath brings up several issues that have been brewing for 20 some odd years. Other issues have arrived in the many years since some of these people last saw each other.

As I mentioned, I'm right in the target age for this movie, however, I found it hard to connect with these people. I just couldn't connect to the characters. I agree with Will, high school sucks and I simply don't get the fascination with looking back. Perhaps if the movie was a little more original and didn't feel like it was borrowing bits and pieces from the collective works of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe I could have gotten into it. But as it is, it feels like a near miss.

On the other hand, the extras are certainly better than most direct-to-DVD films have and they include an audio commentary track (with a 5-minute intro talking about the origins of the film), a 16-minute making of featurette, 20 minutes of deleted scenes, The Cameron Effect is a 7-minute featurette how Cameron Crowe influenced writer / director Sarah Kelly. The Importance of being an Earnest P.A. runs just under 5 minutes and talks about being a production assistant, which is how Sarah Kelly got her start in the movie business.

The Lather Effect is a movie about a group of 30-somethings who are too old to fit into the delayed adulthood genre, but too young to have a mid-life crisis. I can see what they were going for, but the filmmakers missed their mark. They came close enough that I can recommend renting to those who grew up in the 80s and are looking for a hit of nostalgia, but even with better than expected extras, a rental is all that's needed.

Lipstick Jungle - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Based on a novel by Candace Bushnell, who also wrote the novel that was the basis of Sex and the City. So there was a lot of pressure on this series, pressure that I don't think it was able to handle. Granted, it was able to last to a second season, but the strike-shortened season didn't leave a lot of competition in that regard and the second season order is just the remaining 6 episodes that were supposed to be part of the first season. With only 7 episodes on this 2-disc set, there should be lots of extras to entice viewers to give it a try, but there are only some deleted scenes. Frankly, that's not enough for even a rental.

Minutemen - Buy from Amazon
The latest Disney TV movie to make its debut on DVD. This one stars Jason Dolley, who is also in Cory in the House, which is also coming out on DVD this week. Must be a coincidence.

Jason Dolley stars as Virgil Fox, a kid on his first day of high school. His two best friends are Derek Beaugard (Steven R. McQueen) and Stephanie Jameson (Chelsea Staub), and they have bigs plans for high school life. But when Virgil sticks up for a child prodigy (Charlie Tuttle played by Luke Benward) being picked on by the football team, his first day of high school becomes his most embarrassing day ever. Flash-forward three years latter and Derek and Stephanie are dating while Virgil and Charlie are social outcasts, but one of Charlie's latest inventions could change that. A time machine. They enlist the help of mechanical genius, and fellow out cast, Zeke Thompson (Nicholas Braun), as well as Charlie's overly perky, but endearing stalker, Jeanette Pachelewski (Kara Crane), and form the Minutemen, a group dedicated to protecting their fellow students from those embarrassing moments that can ruin high school life forever.

It a wish-granter story using time travel instead of a genie. Anyone familiar with these stories will know almost exactly how it turns out. We are first presented with problems our heroes wish to fix, we see them fix these problem, we see unintended consequences creep in, we see their 'wishmaster' finally turn on them, and then they have to change everything back. However, they learn a valuably lessen in the meantime and figure out that they should be grateful for how their lives turned out and you have to take the embarrassing moments along with the good. And no, I don't consider that a spoiler. So yes, the movie is rather predictable, and it does borrow from a few other time travel shows, but it is better than most Disney channel TV movies.

Anyone who has read my reviews of other Disney channel TV movies will know what to expect in terms of extras, as this DVD has the same standard package including an extended ending. Basically, it runs just over a minute and adds nothing to the show other than to set up possible sequel. I don't know if it earned high enough ratings to warrant a sequel, but they set one up like they always do. Next up is a music video for "Run It Back Again" by Corbin Bleu of High School Musical fame. Finally, there's a making of featurette that runs close to 10 minutes; it's not a 10-minute film school like I've seen on some DVDs, but it's not as purely fluff either. It is actually better than most such featurettes you see on these DVDs and has more re-play value that I was expecting.

Minutemen ran on TV this past January and as far as I can gather, it earned praise from its target audience. There's not much additional on the DVD, but it is still worth checking out. Call it a solid rental, leaning to a purchase.

Pokemon Movie - The Rise of Darkrai - Buy from Amazon
They still make Pokemon movies?

Rambo - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Special Edition DVD, or Blu-ray
After Sylvester Stallone successfully revived Rocky in 2006, the expectations for this movie started to go up. Way up. Sadly, its reviews were weak while its box office was also unable to live up to expectations. That is not to say it is a terrible movie or that it bombed, in fact, in both cases it was better than average for January releases this year. As for the home market options, the regular DVD is okay, if you are only interested in a rental. The Special Edition DVD has the audio commentary track found above, plus a ton of featurettes on various subjects, deleted scenes and a digital copy. (I really hope digital copies become the norm.) Finally, the Blu-ray has all of the extras the Special Edition has, plus a Picture-in-Picture commentary with Sylvester Stallone, and it's only a buck more on Amazon. Excellent deal and its little wonder that the number one selling DVD on Amazon at the moment. For most fans of the franchise, it is worth checking out. And while it is not as good as the original, the Special Edition DVD or the Blu-ray are worth the price.

Rambo - Buy from Amazon: The Complete Collector's Set - DVD or Trilogy Box Set - Blu-ray
Coming out this week are two box sets from Rambo franchise: All four films on DVD or just the first three on Blu-ray. Don't ask why the fourth film isn't part of the Blu-ray box set, 'cause I don't know. Also coming out this week and the second and third films on Blu-ray, but not the first, which was released last year. The DVD box set is a good deal if you don't have any of the movies on the special edition DVDs yet, however, the Blu-ray box set doesn't offer any real savings. Personally, I would stick with First blood and ignore the other two.

Rawhide - Season Three - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Great show, terrible DVD treatment. I hate how these seasons are being split into two volumes, and I'm not the only one.

Shelter - Buy from Amazon
A gay themed movie about a young man trying to balance his family needs and his growing feelings for his best-friends brother. Reviews were merely average and that's not good enough to survive the harsh limited release market, especially for one with a niche market. However, this weakness might explain the lack of extras on the DVD; granted an audio commentary track and a making of featurette is not bad for a limited release. Call it a solid rental / weak purchase.

The Thief of Bagdad - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
An amazing and multi-Oscar winning film from 1940 and is arguably one of the best re-telling of the Arabian Nights stories ever put on the big screen. (Although I have a soft spot Ray Harryhausen's Sinbad films.) The movie has influenced many, many filmmakers over the years, two of which are Coppola and Scorsese who provide one of the two audio commentary tracks on this 2-disc set. Other extras include a 30-minute featurette on the special effects, which includes interviews with Ray Harryhausen. There's audio interviews, image galleries, etc. There's a feature-length propaganda piece done in United Kingdom to support their war effort. Finally, there's a booklet that comes with the DVD that contains various essays on the movie and its influence. An absolutely amazing movie that is still having an effect on the films that are made today. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Three Stooges Collection - Volume 2: 1937-1939 - Buy from Amazon
Fans of the comedy troupe were ecstatic when volume one came out, and they will be equally thrilled that volume two is being releases so soon afterward. Most of these shorts are in the public domain, so they have been released over and over again, but rarely have they looked this good. The only real negative here is the total lack of extras. Most fans would have been willing to spend a bit more for audio commentary tracks, historical featurettes, etc. (The Golden Collection is a great template to follow here.) That said, the pros clearly outnumber the cons and it is worth picking up for even the more casual fans out there.

The Walker - Buy from Amazon
The Walker stars Woodey Harrelson as Carter Page III, a high priced escort working in Washington, D.C.. The film's reviews were only mixed, with is usually fatal when it comes to limited releases. This was certainly the case here. It should perform better on the home market, but only because it would be practically impossible not to and not due to an overabundance of extras. (The only special feature on the DVD is a short promotional piece.) Still, it is worth checking out, even if a rental will suffice for most people.

What Would Jesus Buy? - Buy from Amazon
Given the subject of this movie, it might have made sense to delay the DVD release till this November. The movie is about Reverend Billy and his tour of the United States warning of the danger of the Shopocalypse, which is a lot more relevant during the Christmas shopping season, which starts sometime in... well, it probably started sometime last week. The film earned respectable reviews, but not great reviews with many complaining that it took itself too seriously for its own good. Likewise, it started out well in limited release, but couldn't maintain its opening weekend momentum as it tries to expand. Extras include plenty of additional footage and it is certainly worth checking out, even if a rental will suffice.


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Filed under: Video Releases, P.S. I Love You, Rambo, Cassandra's Dream, What Would Jesus Buy?, Shelter, Darfur Now, The Walker, Grace Is Gone, All Hat, Minutemen, Cleaner