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DVD Releases for July 29, 2008 - Part I

July 29th, 2008

Another slow week without a single first run release that was a must have, or even a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. Granted, many will find Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay worth picking up, but it is not a top-notch release. There are also a couple of special edition releases that are easily worth picking up: Dark City - Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray and WarGames - 25th Anniversary Edition. But the best of the best, and the DVD Pick of the Week is Stargate - Continuum - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray. But I am also giving an honorable mention to Two Fat Ladies - Buy from Amazon. On a side note, it is another week where we had to split the list into two due to the size. Part II can be found here.

Alice Upside Down - Buy from Amazon
Alyson Stoner of Cheaper by the Dozen and other works (she was a featured dancer in a few Missy Elliot music videos) plays Alice McKinley, a girl who is having trouble adjusting to her new school, a change that is made worse because it comes so soon after the death of her mother. This is a kids movie, but it is a good kids movie, one that doesn't talk down to its target audience. Add in very strong performances by its leads, including Alyson Stoner, and it is worth checking out. Add in a trio of featurettes, and it is likely worth picking up for most of its target audience, especially those who have read the books the movie is based on.

Avatar the Last Airbender - Book 3 Fire - Volume 4 - Buy from Amazon
Skip this single-disc DVD and wait for the full season DVD. It's worth the wait, and if you can't wait, rent it.

Baldwin Hill - Season One - Buy from Amazon
As longtime readers have probably figured out by now, there are few things I hate more than reality TV. This show is even worse than most reality TV shows because it is a copy of The Hills. Which was a Spin-off of Laguna Beach. Which was a reality TV twist on The O.C. This show is so far removed from any trace of creativity... but it is still better than most of its predecessors.

The show takes a look at the lives of a dozen rich African-American teenagers from Baldwin Hills, which is an affluent, predominantly African-American district in Los Angeles. There are a diverse group of personalities here (the comic, the athlete, the entrepreneur, etc.), but sadly they didn't bring enough to keep me interested. They are less vapid and more interesting than the people on The Hills, but not by enough that I want to hear about their love life. When the people involved are boring, so is the resulting love triangle. Hell, they could have a love dodecahedron and it still wouldn't be interested enough to carry a show. Personality conflicts between two people who barely have personalities is likewise uninteresting to me.

Special features on disc one consist of two features with a running time of just over 15 minutes. While Disc two has three extras, 26 minutes of casting tapes, 23 minutes of cast interviews, and 12 minutes of interviews with the creators. This is more than enough to avoid feeling barren, but not so much that one can say it is a selling point. The 2-disc set also has play all buttons, but no subtitles and doesn't have proper chapter placements.

If you are looking for an African-American take on reality shows like The Hills or Laguna Beach, then Baldwin Hill - Season One is a great DVD for you. However, while I don't think the show is as soul crushing as its MTV counterparts, it is still not a show I derive any pleasure from watching.

The Band's Visit - Buy form Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Wow. A foreign language import coming out on DVD... and Blu-ray. I think it is safe to say the format is mainstream and it is too late to be considered an early adopter if you don't already have a Blu-ray collection going. (It is still cutting edge, but at least somewhat mainstream.) As for this DVD, while the movie is amazing and made a few million at the box office, there is only one behind-the-scenes featurette as an extra. Very disappointing. The Blu-ray has no additional extras, and Amazon doesn't even have it up for sale yet. Very strange.

Beverly Hills 90210 - The Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Season five. We are halfway done the series. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. Wait... What? They are making a new Beverly Hills 90210? Nooooooo!

This is a season of change for Beverly Hills 90210. It is the first season without Shannen Doherty and the first with Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. It is also the last with Gabrielle Carteris and Luke Perry. (The latter did return after a couple of years.) The season also includes a wide variety of story arcs including such topics as drugs, politics, business dealings going south, relationship troubles, racial tension, past-life regression, mental illness, suicide and even murder! Sadly, the show can't stand up to the weight of the storylines and they go from mildly interesting, to a little bit silly, to over-the-top melodramatic. Well before the season ends, I could no longer care.

On a side note, where have they been storing the masters for this show? The video quality is terrible for a show that is barely more than a decade old. At times it looks no better than the syndicated versions.

Extras on the 8-disc set are nonexistent. I was never overly impressed by the extras on the past Beverly Hills 90210 DVD releases, but it is still disappointing. Additionally, there are no play all buttons, but at least there are proper chapter placements and subtitles.

Moving into its Fifth Season, Beverly Hills 90210 is still selling strong on DVD. However, the studio has run out extras and this 8-disc set is devoid of special features. I don't think this will be enough to stop many fans from buying theDVD, but there will be very few that will be happy with the situation.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Blu-rayThe Band's Visit, Bears, Beer League / The Big White, Beowulf, The Big White, Cecila Baroli/Bryn Terfel: At Glyndebourne, Clear and Present Danger, Dark City - Director's Cut, Doomsday, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Hotel Babylon - Series 1, Human Body: Pushing the Limits, The Hunt for Red October, The Last Sentinel/Final Days of Planet Earth, The Lost Boys, The Lost Boys - The Tribe, Mortuary, Never Back Down, Patriot Games, Perhaps Love, Salvage, Salvage/Mortuary, Sci-Fi Bundle, Shine a Light, Stargate - Continuum, Stargaze HD: Universal Beauty, The Sum of All Fears, Swan Lake, The Tiger Blade, Top Gun, Vengeance, and Wolves
Big week for Blu-ray releases; in fact, it is the second wave for Paramount releases after coming back to Blu-ray, which includes a number of interesting releases. Some of these include catalog releases, some of more recent, including one day-and-date release. But the big releases include Dark City and The Lost Boys.

Centennial - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A massive mini-series from 1978 based on the Western novel. The movie ran 12 episodes and more than 20 hours and cost $25 million to make, and now it is making its debut on this 6-disc DVD. There's a HUGE number of people looking forward to this release, and even with just a single retrospective featurette, it is still worth picking up.

Cocaine Cowboys 2 - Hustlin' With The Godmother - Buy from Amazon
A sequel to Cocaine Cowboys, this time looking at Griselda Blanco through one of her lieutenants, Charles Cosby. The first documentary didn't earn great reviews, and it looks like this one will be no different. Extras include an audio commentary track, making of featurette, and more, but it's not a whole lot and for most a rental will be enough.

The Cool School - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the L.A. art scene in Ferus that developed after World War II and its place in the history of modern art. The film earned nearly perfect reviews, but failed to attract an audience during its theatrical run. The DVD should perform better, and even with just three featurettes, it will be worth checking out for many, picking up for some.

Dark City - Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A film from 1998 that never found an audience theatrically but found a dedicated audience on the home market. A large enough audience that it is getting a special edition DVD, and Blu-ray this week. The film is a combination of science fiction and Film Noir that is sure to please many who see it. While both the DVD and Blu-ray are upgrades from the previous release, they are not huge upgrades as the Platinum Series was really well done. Given the visual nature of the movie, the Blu-ray is the better, but it does cost 60% more than the DVD.

Dark Shadows - The Beginning - Volume 5 - Buy from Amazon
If my math is correct, this is the second last volume before the introduction of Barnabas Collins, and those episodes have already been released on DVD. Fans of the show who were unfamiliar with the pre-Barnabas era have been delighted to be able to collect the earlier episodes, and should be thrilled that the releases are nearing completion. Add in the interview segments, and this 4-disc DVD is worth picking up.

Doomsday - Unrated - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Dystopias have been part of cinema for a long, long time, dating back at least as far as 1927 and Fritz Lang's Metropolis. It's been a part of cinema, and fiction in general, for so long, that one has to really do something with the genre to stand out. Doomsday does not. It feels like a collection of parts from other, better films that is not even well executed. That said, it is at least moderately entertaining and fans should be happy with the release. The DVD has an audio commentary track, a making of featurette, a featurette on the futuristic look of the movie, and another featurette on the special effect in the film. The Blu-ray has all of the above extras, but jammed into a Picture-in-Picture track. PiP is a nice feature, but studios should give viewers a choice to watch them separately. Additionally, the Blu-ray is more than 50% more expensive than the DVD. If you were a really big fan of Doomsday, then the home market release is worth picking up. However, for most a rental will be enough.

Freakazoid - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A Saturday morning cartoon series that attracted many fans who were, well, "too old for cartoons." (On a side note, there's no such thing as too old for cartoons.) So despite strong ratings, they canceled the show. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But finally fans of the show can buy it on DVD and they should be happy with the 3-disc set, as the extras show the studio understands the target audience are adult collectors. Extras include audio commentary tracks on three episodes, a collection of the original promos, and a featurette. Worth checking out if you have never seen the show, worth picking up for fans.

Girlfriends - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon
A casualty of the writers' strike, this show's 8th season turned out to be its last, and it ended without a real finale. However, while fans wait for a possible TV movie that will give the series the send-off it deserves, they can at least watch season 4 on DVD.

Season 4 starts with three of the four ladies in happy relationships, although that doesn't last. Joan's relationship is in jeopardy when she meets the man who could be her soul mate, Toni's marriage to Todd could be in trouble when she learns he's not as rich as she assumed, and Lynn's relationship with her poet boyfriend could be in trouble because... well... because he's just as crazy as she is. Relationships play an important role in season four story arcs with all five main characters have their share of drama (including the still divorced Maya and the only male of the group, William). Not all of these stories are particularly interesting. In fact, there's more comedy mined from Lynn and William's short marriage that Toni and Todd's marriage, which is a story arc that lasts all season long. (Although the latter does generate a lot more drama.) There are also a lot of changes in jobs, family relations, the return of "the Lesbians" (a.k.a. Williams' sister and her partner), and more this season, which is perfect for fans of the show.

On the other hand, the 3-disc set has no special features, which is less than ideal. The are play all buttons and proper chapter placements, but no subtitles.

Girlfriends maintained its high quality level during Season 4 and for those who purchased the previous seasons there's no reason to stop now. That said, the lack of extras is disappointing and while I still recommend purchasing, I can't be enthusiastic about it.

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay - Buy from Amazon: Unrated, Unrated 2-Disc Edition, or Blu-ray
Huh. It appears they are not releasing the theatrical release on the home market, only several versions of the Unrated version. Makes sense, as very few who are interested in this movie will want to tamer of the two versions. In fact, I used that as the basis for my original box office prediction, which turned out to be on the low side, to say the least. I assumed fans would wait to see the movie on the Unrated DVD and would skip the theatrical release altogether. But plenty saw the movie in theaters, and despite the fact that this movie is not as good as the first movie was, many will want to add it to their collection. The question is what version to get. The regular DVD is loaded with extras including two audio commentary tracks, a making-of featurette, a PSA with George Bush, and a Choose Your Own adventure version of the movie. Basically at certain times in the movie you get to choose how the scene plays out and depending on what you choose, you can see some of the 27 deleted / extended scenes. Very fun. The Unrated 2-Disc Edition includes the above extras and the digital copy. While the Blu-ray has all of the above features, in High Definition, as well as the digital copy. The most expensive version, the Blu-ray costs just over 30% more than the least expensive version, the single disc DVD, which is not a bad price for the upgrade to high definition. Compared to the Unrated 2-Disc Edition, the Blu-ray is less than 10% more money. If you watched the first movie and thought it was worth a rental, then so is Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. If you like White Castle enough to buy it, then you will want to buy Guantanamo Bay, and the Blu-ray offers the best deal. Speaking of Blu-ray, Harold & Kumar go to White Castle is making its Blu-ray debut this week, at a price that is standard for catalog releases. Not sure it is worth $20.00 for the upgrade and I would have been a lot happier to recommend it if it was part of a package deal.

The Hills - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
This show is described as a guilty pleasure by most fans. However, I get no pleasure watching it.

As I have mentioned early in this week's report, I hate reality TV, and while this show is not among the most soul-crushing of the genre, it is close. The most soul-crushing of the genre are the ones where average people do humiliating things for a tiny amount of money. This is the second most soul-crushing type of reality TV series, the one where they take a bunch of people who are nowhere near interesting enough to appear on TV, and follow them around with a bunch of cameras. The four leads, Lauren, Kelly, Heidi, and Whitney, simply don't have the charisma to carry a TV series, and their lives are rather boring as well. (Perhaps that's why MTV keeps setting things up. Yes, this is a reality TV series that doesn't have a whole lot of reality.) Plots this season including new jobs, breakups, internet rumors, hooking back up, moving in together, potential marriages, and more. I'm sure fans of the show couldn't turn away, but I couldn't wait till the season ended.

Extras on the 4-disc set are found on the fourth disc and start with just over 40 minutes of deleted scenes, which is equivalent to two whole episodes. There are also nearly 40 minutes of interviews with the four leads and the four also sit down to do commentary on select scenes, but not all together. Again, it's close to 40 minutes in length in total. There is an 8-part, 46-minute series called Fashion: The Live and finally a bizarre 2-minute scene of the show done in virtual life.

If I had friends that were this annoying, I would have stopped being their friends a long time ago. That said, I am not the target audience for The Hills, and if you like the show and bought the previous seasons, there's no reason to change with Season Three. Personally, I can't wait for this trend to end and for networks to stop having so many reality TV series on and for MTV to go back to playing music every once and a while.

Inglorious Bastards - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD or 3-Disc Special Edtion
Many of you have probably heard the name Inglorious Bastards recently. That's because it is Quentin Tarantino's next movie as the auteur is remaking this 1970s Italian World War II film, which itself felt like a shameless rip-off of The Dirty Dozen. It's not a bad movie, but it's reputation as a cult classic is a bit exaggerated. That said, it is still worth checking out. As for the two releases, the Single-Disc DVD has an audio commentary track and an interview while the 3-Disc Special Edtion has that, a nearly feature-length making-of featurette, a tour of some of the locations, and finally a CD with four of the original songs from the soundtrack. The 3-Disc Special Edtion is almost exactly 50% more and the two additional discs don't offer a lot more than you could find on many single-disc releases. Even so, it is likely worth the extra cost for fans of the movie, while others should give it a rental first.

Law & Order - Special Victims Unit - The Seventh Year - Buy from Amazon
Great show, weak DVD releases. Also, it is not a show that has a lot of replay value, because once you know who did it, it's not as interesting to watch. The curse of all police procedural shows.

The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A direct-to-DVD sequel to a film that came out more than 20 years ago. And it is not like The Lost Boys was a huge hit when it first came out. Granted, it is one of the best vampire movies out there, but it was not a big hit theatrically. However, it earned its audience on the home market. Now, The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe is trying to do the same. ... I don't think it's going to work. So far the reviews have been nearly universally bad. Granted, not everyone is eviscerating the film, but when calling the movie mediocre feels like a compliment, there are problems. The main problem here is it feels like a remake and not a sequel. Extras include a couple of featurettes, an alternate ending, and a few music videos. The Blu-ray adds nothing more at 40% more money. Can't recommend buying either, but a rental might not be a bad idea. Also coming out this week is The Lost Boys on Blu-ray, which is worth picking up, even though there are no additional extras to be found.

Mardi Gras: Made in China - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the plastic beads used in Mardi Gras to get women to flash their breasts. Turns out they are made in China (what isn't) and the filmmakers travel there to see what the factory workers think of how the products they spend so much time working on are used in the States. That's not the only thing the film talks about, but it is the hook used to get into a discussion on globalization. The film didn't earn great reviews, but it is still worth checking out. Add in an audio commentary track and some extra scenes, and it is worth picking up over just renting.

Marigold - Buy from Amazon
One of the latest Hollywood attempts to do Bollywood. These rarely go well, and this one is no different. It is really hard to describe the appeal of Bollywood films, but you know it when it is missing. And it is missing here. Additionally, the extras are weak with just a making-of featurette and for most a rental will be enough. More than enough. The term, "skippable" comes to mind.

Masters of Horror - Season Two Box Set - Buy from Amazon
All 11 episodes from the second and last season of the horror anthology show, sold in a cool plastic skull. At least I think it is cool; not everyone seems to agree. I do have some concerns with how well the DVDs will be protected, but that's another matter altogether. Also, I doubt the Blu-ray release is far behind, which might be worth waiting for if you are a fan of the show. (I thought this was coming out last week, but I made a mistake. Still, it's better than missing it the week it does come out.)

Naruto The Movie 2: Legend of the Stone of Gelel - Buy from Amazon
I know almost nothing about this show other than I've played the fighting game with my nephew. Or to be more accurate, he beat me senseless while playing the fighting game. However, it seems to be very popular, so I thought I'd mention it.

Never Back Down - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I described this film as Bloodsport meets The O.C., and I stand by that description. In fact, it might be too generous for the film. As for the DVD, it is better than I would have predicted given its short theatrical run and includes an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, a featurette on Mixed Martial Arts, a few more on training for the fights, choreographing the fights, etc. And the Blu-ray offers all of that and a multi-angle look at some of the fights, and for a dollar less than the DVD. If you liked the movie, it is worth picking up, but for the rest of us, it is worth a rental, at the most.

Outfoxed - Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism - Buy from Amazon
Wow. The timing on this release is amazing. Just recently Scott McClellan admitted the White House sent talking points to Fox News commentators, so this release is very aptly timed. Granted, this documentary is about as balanced as Fox News, but it is hard to dispute the evidence they provide. This new DVD release includes updates on new attacks, including going after Obama for being a secret Muslim, an attack that was debunked well before Fox stopped talking about it. (On a side note, I recently read a poll where 1% of Americans thought Obama was Jewish. I think I'll start a rumor that he is Hindi and later start one that says he's Buddhist, just so the five major religions are covered.) Overall the documentary is very convincing for anyone except the most hardcore conservatives, and those people will never see it anyway. For everyone else it is at least worth a rental, while the farther to the left you lean, the more likely the DVD is worth a purchase.


Filed under: Video Releases, Beowulf, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, Never Back Down, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Doomsday, Bikur Ha-Tizmoret, Artie Lange's Beer League, Outfoxed - Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, Mardi Gras: Made in China, Marigold, The Big White, Stargate - Continuum, Lost Boys: The Tribe, The Cool School