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DVD Releases for June 3, 2008

June 3rd, 2008

This was a bad week for big movies, with not a single first run release is even worth rating a solid purchase, never mind being a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. There were a few other contenders for the title, including Dirty Harry Collection on DVD or Blu-ray. However, I found it impossible to decide which format was the better deal. Had the Blu-ray provided anything more than High Definition, or been a more reasonable price compared to the DVD, it would have been an easier choice. One of them is the DVD Pick of the Week, I just don't know which one. On a side note, there is an immense flood of Blu-ray releases, including a few I thought were coming out previously.

The Andromeda Strain Miniseries - Buy from Amazon
Andromeda Strain was originally a book by Michael Crichton which was turned into a movie in the 1970s. That film earned respectable reviews, but many complained that it's pace was too slow to be engaging. This time around, the TV mini-series moves at a faster pace and has a grander scope, but again it only opened to mixed critical reports. As for the DVD, there are a few extras here, but nothing too special and nothing that lifts it past the rental level.

The Animation Show - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
A collection of animated shorts featured in The Animation Show's theatrical program. This DVD presents 16 animated shorts, plus an intro by Beavis and Butt-head.

There are a number of different styles here, including mixtures of live action and animation as seen in City Paradise, 3D animation as seen in Astronauts, stop-motion animation as seen in Game Over, to more traditional animation as seen in most of the rest. Some tell traditional stories with dialogue, others are more experimental in nature. I recognized the names of very few of the artists here. Mike Judge and Bill Plympton were the two whose work I've seen the most of. But for most of this 100-minute running time I was pleasantly surprised.

The surreal City Paradise and Everything Will Be Okay are tempered by the more subdued Astronauts. Bill Plympton brought his manic energy to Guide Dog and Shuteye Hotel while things get political with Learn Self Defense. I was also suitably impressed by the puppetry of Tyger. Three-quarters of the shorts presented here have solid replay value and that is an excellent hit to miss ratio for this type of collection.

Special features on the DVD include interviews with three of the artists and an animatic of Abigail. There's also the introduction to The Maxx, which is cool, but not really an extra. Perhaps it is being used to build interest for a possible DVD release. Finally, there are DVD-ROM test-based interviews with more artists.

For fans of The Animation Show, or animated shorts in general, Volume 3 is an excellent value for their collection. The extras are not overwhelming, and I would have liked an audio commentary or two, but they are still enough to lift the DVD to a solid rental.

The Beast - Special Extended Edition - Buy from Amazon
Watching this movie one would be forgiven for considering it a shameless rip-off of Jaws. However, there's a reason for that: it was written by the same person who wrote the book Jaws was based on. While that explains the less than fresh feeling, it doesn't excuse it. As for the 'Extended Edition' label, that's not entirely accurate either. This is just the full movie, and not the chopped up version that was released last year. Unless you are a hardcore fan of When Animals Attack films, this is a rental, at most.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Aeon Flux, Babel, Battle for Britain, Bee Movie, Black Rain, Black Snake Moan, Blades of Glory, A Bridge Too Far, Cloverfield, Coming to America, Disturbia, Dirty Harry Collection, Dirty Harry, Dreamgirls, The Eye, Face/Off, Failure to Launch, Fearless Planet, Final Days of Planet Earth, Flag of Our Fathers, Four Brothers, Freedom Writers, Hustle & Flow, The Italian Job, Lara Croft - Tomb Raider, The Longest Day, The Mancurian Candidate, Meet the Spartans, Mission: Impossible: Collection, Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible: II, Mission: Impossible: III, Nacho Libre, Next, Norbit, Patton, Payback, Poseidon Adventure, Recruit, Reds, Sahara, The Sand Pebbles, Semi-Pro, The Shooter, Signs, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Sleepy Hollow, There Will Be Blood, Trading Places, U2 - Rattle & Hum, The Untouchables, The Warriors, We Were Soldiers, Weeds - Season Three, Weeds - Three Season Collection, and World Trade Center
An absolutely HUGE list of Blu-rays coming out this week, which include the first major push by Paramount since they left the format last year. In this list there are films that were scheduled to come out before Paramount pulled the plug, and those that will removed from shelves when they did. So while not all are truly new to the format, for anyone who got into Blu-ray after August, this is the first time for them to get many these movies on Blu-ray.

Boarding Gate - Buy from Amazon
This film earned weak reviews but opened with a per theater average of more than $10,000. However, it collapsed in its second weekend of release and lasted in theaters barely a month. The film does feature an amazing performance by Asia Argento who really needs to pick better roles. Sure, she can pick challenging roles, but she needs to be roles in better movies. As for the DVD, the lack of extras limits its value to a rental.

CHiPs - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
A show that is still popular today, but mostly thanks to the blinding effect of nostalgia. I know there are a lot of people who loved this show in their youth and can't wait to add this 4-disc set to their collection, but for those who have never seen the show before, most won't get the appeal. I don't get the appeal and saw more than a few episodes as a kid.

City Slickers - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
A absolutely wonderful movie, but only an average DVD. The extras include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and a trio of featurettes. It's not a lot, but it's a lot more than the previous DVDs had. If you don't have this movie in your DVD collection, now is a great time to add it. Even if you already have the DVD in your collection, this one is worth the upgrade.

Cloverfield - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
One of this week's batch of Paramount movies coming out on Blu-ray. Since I've already reviewed the DVD, there's little reason to spend much time on the movie and I'll skip right to whether or not it is worth upgrading.

The video quality is... well... kind of blurry, but the movie is supposed to be the POV done with a consumer level camera, so it is supposed to look blurry at times. At it's sharpest, it is sharper than the DVD, but this is not the movie to pop in your player to show off your home theater system. As for the extras, there's only one new feature on the Blu-ray, Special Investigation Mode. This is a picture-in-picture feature done 'in character' of the U.S. Military and it shows 'facts' about the movie as if it were real and not facts about the making of the movie. Fun, but not a whole lot of replay value. Then again, the price is only 25% more.

If you were one of the people wise enough to wait when the DVD came out hoping the Blu-ray would come out sooner than later, smart move because now is a great time to pick it up and it costs only 25% more than the DVD. Even paying $20 to upgrade is not a bad deal and I don't feel too bad recommending the DVD in April.

Control - Buy from Amazon
A biopic of Ian Curtis, who was the lead singer of Joy Division, who were an influential band from the 1970s. The film earned excellent reviews and started off well in limited release but never really managed to expand. Perhaps not enough people know about Joy Division to be interested in a movie about their lead singer, but that's a shame.

This is an excellent portrayal of a troubled young man who was on the cusp of stardom when tragedy strikes. Granted, this is not a unique storyline when it comes to biopics, especially for entertainers, but usually this is caused by self-destructive behavior including drugs and alcohol. Here Ian Curtis was diagnosed with epilepsy and this lead to his depression, both of which got worse as the band got bigger. The film does nothing to glamorize his life or the music industry and the performances of the leads are just amazing. It didn't make much of a noise here during Awards Season, but it earned a lot more in its native United Kingdom, which was well deserved.

While the movie didn't crack $1 million domestically, Miriam didn't skimp on the DVD. Extras start with an audio commentary track with director Anton Corbijn, who tilts the track to information and not entertainment. It is not dull, but it is straightforward and is worth listening to. Next up is a 23-minute long making-of featurette that features interviews with the director, the screenwriter, much of the cast, as well as clips from the movie and behind-the-scenes footage. Again, this is very solid and certainly worth checking out. Anton Corbijn sits down for a 13-minute interview that deals with how he came to be a fan of the band and his connections with Ian Curtis and how that helped him craft the movie. This is followed by three extended musical performances and three music videos and the DVD ends with images and trailers.

I'm a child of the 80s and, while I was a fan of New Order (I believe it was the video for "True Faith" that convinced me the format could be an art, and not just an advertisement), I'll admit Joy Division was before my time. That said, Control should be fascinating even for those who have never heard of the band. Add in better than expected extras, and the DVD is an easy and enthusiastic recommendation.

The Cry - Buy from Amazon
A thriller about a women who drowned her kids in the 16th century and has been haunting women and killing kids for the past 500 years. Now she's in New York City taking a string of new victims. This is an interesting set-up, but the film never really builds on its premise. It's not a bad movie, but too generic to stand out. A lack of any really substantive extras seals the DVD's fate as just a rental.

Dante's Cove - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
A show aimed at gay men with a supernatural twist. It doesn't make much of an effort for crossover appeal. However, it has far too many soap opera aspects and that's a much bigger obstacle for me.

Dead Zone - The Final Season - Buy from Amazon
I admit, I've not been following this series for the past two seasons. Ever since I've started doing spotlight reviews, I've been reviewing so many DVDs that I don't have the time to watch the DVDs I buy. (And I watch almost no TV outside of the NHL and CFL). That is not to say I don't buy DVDs, I just don't have the time to watch as many as I buy. Most fans will agree the show was losing steam, but it should have lasted at least one more season to wrap up all of the loose threads. Perhaps a TV movie is in the works. Extras include two featurettes, which is enough to lift it past the rental and to the solid purchase level.

Dirty Harry - Collection - DVD or Blu-ray
One of the most iconic movie cops of all time; the franchise began nearly 40 years ago with the amazing Dirty Harry and ended nearly 20 year later with The Dead Pool. It has been 20 years since Dead Pool, and while the films have not aged perfectly, they still pack a punch. Fans should be happy to be able to get the films in one big box set, either on DVD or Blu-ray. Which one is better? Sadly, they both have the exact same extras, which is still a huge amount. There are audio commentary tracks on all of the movies, a feature-length documentary on Clint Eastwood, making-of featurettes, and a lot more. Easily worth the price of the DVD, and that's before we get into the physical extras like the replica wallet, booklet, and more. As for the Blu-ray, there are no additional extras, and while the audio and video is better than on the DVD, it is limited by the source material. Also, the price of the Blu-rays is high compared to the DVD: $90 to $56. $18 per movie is still cheap for the format, but if it had been $75 in total, or had some Blu-ray exclusive extras, I would have been a lot more enthusiastic about recommending the package. The movies are also coming out individually, but there are extras you can only get in the box sets, so they are by far the better deal.

Doctor Who - Buy from Amazon: Episode 52: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode 62: The Sea Devils, and Episode 131: Warriors of the Deep
Three more Doctor Who episodes are coming out on DVD this week. This week the good doctor does battle, first with the Silurians, then with the Sea Devils, and then with the Silurians and the Sea Devils. None of these are among the best the show has to offer, but they are solid nonetheless. Additionally, there are more than enough extras to warrant purchasing over just renting. Also coming out this week is the Megaset - Volume 1.

The Eye - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition, Double-Disc Special Edition, or Blu-ray
Not one of the worst films of the year, but certainly closer to the bottom than to the top. It's closer to the bottom than to the middle. Its box office was only marginally below expectations while the DVD is light. There are several featurettes and some deleted scenes, but they are all rather short and unsatisfying. Call it a rental, at most.

Flawless - Buy from Amazon
This movie opened in 35 theaters, which is more than most limit releases, but only managed 60% positive reviews, which is lower than most limited releases need to survive. In the end it was able to reach $1 million, which is a fair amount, all things considered. As for the DVD, there are better extras than most limited releases with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and interviews. Worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Houdini - Buy from Amazon
Tony Curtis stars in this biopic as Harry Houdini, the legendary escape artist. For fans of the entertainer, there are just too many liberties take with his real-life story, which is a shame since they really didn't need to change a thing to be engaging.

The Incredible Hulk - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon: Season 3 and Season 4
With The Incredible Hulk just around the corner, there's no better time to release another season of the series from the 70s on DVD. However, I'm a little concerned about them releasing the last two full seasons this week. It would make more sense to release one of them this week, and the final full season (and half season) when The Incredible Hulk comes out on DVD. Unless they think the film will bomb and the market for Hulk merchandise will take a hit, which is not a vote of confidence for the movie. Fans of the show, and there are many, should be happy with the DVDs, even if the extras are light (one featurette on each DVD plus tickets to the upcoming movie).

The Machine Girl - Buy from Amazon
When Ami's brother and his friend are killed by schoolyard bullies, she takes revenge. But when it turns out those bullies have ties to the Yakuza, she left beaten and missing an arm. Faster than you can say homemade cybernetics, she's fitted with a gun arm and is joined by several allies to take down the Yakuza. Fans of extreme Japanese cinema should be excited to get this movie, and even with just a single making of featurette, it is worth buying over just renting.

Mama's Boy - Buy from Amazon
I'd like to say I'm shocked that the latest Jon Heder movie is being dumped direct-to-DVD, but I'm not. His career has been in decline since Napoleon Dynamite and it was just a matter of time before he could no longer sell the same tired character to moviegoers. I just wish he didn't drag Sarah Chalke down with him (she was the main reason I was even remotely interested in the movie). After several release date changes, the film hits the home market this week with a thud. Extras are limited to an audio commentary track and some deleted scenes, but that doesn't even lift the movie to the rental level.

Mandingo - Buy from Amazon
This movie was shocking when it was first released, partially for the brutal depiction of slavery, partially for the level of nudity, but especially the interracial relationships. Reviews were overwhelmingly negative when it first came out with a lot of critics complaining that the movie felt exploitive while now it is considered a camp classic by many. Others feel this is an unfair depiction of the movie as it does talk about a brutal aspect of American history and does do it with honesty. Its worth checking out, mostly out of curiosity, but rent it first.

Mannix - The First Season - Buy from Amazon
While this show lasted eight seasons and has more than its share of fans, many of them will not be quite as familiar with the Intertect focused season one. It is still a very good P.I. show that was surprisingly violent for its time, while the 6-disc set includes numerous extras like new and vintage interviews. Worth picking up.

Meerkat Manor - The Story Begins - Buy from Amazon
The movie that helped launch the TV series from Animal Planet. Most fans agree that Sean Astin is a better narrator than Whoopi Goldberg, but it is still worth checking out for fans of the show.

Meet the Spartans - Buy from Amazon: PG-13 Rated, Unrated, or Blu-ray
One of the worst movies of the year. One of the worst movies of all time. The DVD has better than average extras, but it is still not worth buying. It is not worth renting. It is not worth seeing for free. It is not worth writing about. In fact, you probably wasted too much time on the movie by reading this review.

NFL - New York Giants - The Road to Super Bowl XLII - Buy from Amazon
One of the most shocking Super Bowl upsets in a long time, this DVD includes all three playoff games for the New York Giants, and a fourth disc of season highlights. Great buy for fans of the Giants and an even better 'gift' to piss off fans of the New England Patriots.

The Onion Movie - Buy from Amazon
When a movie gets dumped direct-to-DVD, it's rarely a good sign. When it takes three years to be dumped direct-to-DVD, well, I think you can figure out what that means. The Onion Movie seemed like a great idea at the time as The Onion is one of the best sources of satire on the net. However, the movie is a mess and even the most diehard fans should avoid this DVD. On the other hand, The Onion News Network is actually quite funny and I recommend watching that.

The Recruit - Blu-Ray - Buy from Amazon
The latest Disney catalogue Blu-ray release hits the home market this week. This one stars Al Pacino and Colin Farrell as a CIA recruit and the person he recruits to find a mole in the CIA training program. The filmed opened with mixed reviews, did well for a January release, but was only a midlevel hit at best. Now it is coming out on Blu-ray, but is it worth the upgrade?

I can't say I was too enthusiastic about the Blu-ray release. It looks good, but not among the best I've seen, and the extras on the original DVD were weak and they aren't improved here. The audio commentary track is the best extra here and it matches the director, Roger Donaldson, and one of the stars, Colin Farrell. The chat is informative, but still entertaining, and Colin Farrell tends to use language that needs to be bleeped on occasion. Or frequently. Or nearly non-stop at times. Next up are five deleted scenes, with optional audio commentary. They run 6 and a half minutes and were mostly cut for pacing reasons. Finally, there's a 16-minute featurette on the CIA training program. It's interesting, but lacks replay value.

The Recruit is an average film that aimed for suspenseful but missed. (I like the first half of the film that focused on the training, but I guessed the surprise twist as soon as the real mission started.) The original DVD that was release a few years back was below average, and the Blu-ray is not substantially better. It's hard to be enthusiastic about it, but it least it comes with the $10 mail-in rebate, which does drop the price to a very reasonable $14, with Amazon's discount, but it is still just an average movie.

The Red Violin - Buy from Amazon
An amazing film from Canada that won an Oscar and cleaned up at the Genie awards. This version of the DVD isn't overloaded with extras, but with an audio commentary track and two featurettes, it is better than previous releases and it is worth picking up.

Remember the Daze - Buy from Amazon
A movie that follows a group of students on the final day of school in the year 1999. Movies set on the last day of school are hardly unique (think Dazed and Confused, Can't Hardly Wait, and many others). So it takes something special for a movie like this to stand out. It doesn't.

There's no real plot; the movie just follows the exploits of several groups of characters over the course of the day. So the movie is character driven, but while there are plenty of characters, two dozen or so, none of them stand out. In fact, I just finished watching the movie and I couldn't give you more than half a dozen names, and I would have a hard time matching them to the right character. There are some good actors in the movie, but they are not given enough material to work with and while there are a few interesting characters and a few interesting scenes, as a whole, the movie just didn't hold my attention.

There is only on extra feature on the DVD and that is an 11-minute making of / behind-the-scenes featurette. It's not bad and worth checking out.

Remember the Daze aims high, falls short. I wanted to like this film, and was intrigued by some of the characters and some of the plots, but for the most part I was never drawn into the movie. Additionally, the DVD lacks the extras needed to boost its value past a rental, and even that is being generous. Unless you are desperate for a dose of high school, it is safely skippable.

Rescue Me - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
Great show. Denis Leary's character makes it difficult to watch, but rewarding for those who do. Extras on the 4 disc set include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes, outtakes, featurettes on different aspects of the show (making of, guest stars, etc.) and real-life (stories from real firemen and tools of the trade). Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Semi-Pro - Buy from Amazon: Single-Dics R-rated DVD. Two-Disc Unrated DVD, or Two-Disc Blu-ray
Proof that even the most reliable stars can push their schtick too far. It's like they took all the parts detractors hate about the typical Will Ferrell film and decided to make a movie that focuses only on those parts, combining it with every sports cliché they could cram into the movie. There are a ton of extras, but most are hard to sit through the first time and on average they have no more replay value than the movie (practically none). As for the Blu-ray, it has all of the extras from the DVD, as well as a version of Pong. It's not much, but the Blu-ray only costs $5 more, which is reasonable for the upgrade to high definition. That said, the movie itself is not worth buying, and even renting might be more than most people need.

Signs - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
The second Disney catalogue Blu-ray release of the week. Like the others, there's little reason to go over the movie in great detail, but considering how close the Blu-ray is to the DVD, there's little need to spend much time of the Blu-ray features either.

This is M. Night Shyamalan's third movie, and while it earned strong reviews, I was less impressed. The ending just ruined the movie for me, as there are many problems. For instance, Morgan Hess wasn't saved by his asthma, because it was his asthma that got him caught in the first place. Also, Merrill's habit of swinging at every pitch didn't really help here, because it takes no great skill to hit a glass of water. Also, the wife's dying message didn't really make sense till after they figured out water burned the aliens and at first was interpreted as just hitting the alien with the bat, which is such an obvious thing to do that it wasn't useful advice. For that matter, the fact that the aliens were burned by water was just plain stupid. If they are burned by water, why invade a planet that has water on 70% of its surface? What happens if it rains? Hell, even on a cloudless day, there's still water in the atmosphere. There's a great set-up here, but the ending ruined the movie for me.

As for the Blu-ray release, it is typical of many Disney catalogue titles as there are no additional extras on the DVD and none of them are presented in High Definition. At least the movie itself benefits more from the High Definition treatment and there were enough extras on the original DVD, which places it over some other Blu-rays that are coming out this week.

Many consider Signs to be the last great movie M. Night Shyamalan has made. Personally, I was less than impressed. However, if you have the old DVD, the mail-in rebate drops the price to just $14, which makes the Blu-ray worth it in this case.

The Skull - Buy from Amazon
Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee star in this horror film that was based on a short story by Robert Bloch, who previously wrote Psycho. Sort of a forgotten gem, although it is not quite forgotten and not entirely a gem. It is worth checking out, especially for fans of horror from the era.

Student Bodies - Buy from Amazon
This is the spoof of teenage slashers from 1981 and not the Canadian TV series from the late 1990s (although I'd like to see that show come out on DVD as well). This film bombed when it first came out, but it has since developed a cult following, despite what the critics think. For fans of modern horror comedies, it is worth checking out, but keep your expectations in check.

Those Daring Young Men In Their Jaunty Jalopies - Buy from Amazon
The sequel to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, this movie features a cross-country road race. It's an ensemble comedy that is mostly forgotten. Those who liked the original will probably get a kick out of this movie, but it's worth just a rental for most people.

Twisted: A Balloonamentary - Buy from Amazon
A fun, lighthearted documentary about the art of balloon twisting and how it has affected the lives of the several people. The film earned a number of fans during its film festival run, and is coming out on DVD after a short, short theatrical run. Extras include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, the pitch film, instructions on how to make a balloon dog, and more. Worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Villa Rides - Buy from Amazon
Yul Brynner stars as Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa, in this 1965 film. It is now a mostly forgotten film, and for mostly good reasons. There were problems with the script and the resulting biopic has little to do with reality. The changes were made to pacify its star, but it did little for the entertainment value. Worth checking out for those who remember the movie, but be prepared to be disappointed, as nostalgia has a way of messing with your perceptions.

Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights - Hollywood to the Heartland - Buy from Amazon
I think this movie failed at the box office because the name was too short. Seriously, the film had a number of obstacles, including reviews that were only mixed and too low for a limited release and it opened in way too many theaters for a concert film. (Who does Vince Vaughn think he is? Miley Cyrus?) For fans of stand up, it is an interesting look at four aspiring comedians and their travels across the country and it is worth checking out. In fact, for these fans, it is worth picking up because there's plenty of extras including two audio commentary tracks, nearly an hour of deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes, and more. Impressive indeed.

Weeds - Season Three - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The critically acclaimed and award-winning drama starts its fourth season in two weeks, which is enough time to buy the DVD and watch all 15 episodes to get caught up. And if you have extra time, you can watch 8 of those episodes with audio commentary tracks, 7 episodes with trivia tracks, a trio of featurettes, outtakes, and more. And if you have the Blu-ray edition, there is even a game to play. And since the Blu-ray has an MSRP of a penny less, it is easily the better choice and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Wonder Pets - Save the Nursery Rhymes - Buy from Amazon
The latest in a line of DVD releases from the popular pre-school show Wonder Pets. This DVD collection has 8 11-minute shorts, less than half of which have anything to do with Nursery Rhymes, but should entertain their target audiences for hours on end while those songs of theirs burrow into the heads of unsuspecting adults killing brain cells used to store useful information like birth dates and the names of relatives. Extras are nearly non-existent with just musical clips from show and an ad for an upcoming cartoon series. The bang-for-your-buck is a little low, and its value depend greatly on how often your kids want to watch this show, and if it would be simpler just to watch it on TV.


Filed under: Video Releases, Mission: Impossible III, Bee Movie, Blades of Glory, The Italian Job, Dreamgirls, Norbit, Failure to Launch, Disturbia, Nacho Libre, Cloverfield, Four Brothers, World Trade Center, Sahara, The Manchurian Candidate, Shooter, There Will Be Blood, Meet the Spartans, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Freedom Writers, Babel, Flags of Our Fathers, Semi-Pro, The Eye, Hustle & Flow, Next, Black Snake Moan, Flawless, Control, Vince Vaughn's Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights - Hollywood to the Heartland, Boarding Gate, The Cry, Twisted: A Balloonamentary, The Onion Movie, Remember the Daze, Mama's Boy, Aeon Flux