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DVD Releases for July 29, 2008 - Part II

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 I can be found here.

Parking Wars - Best of Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
Good show, bad DVD release. This single-disc release only has 8 episodes from the first season, plus a little more than an episode's worth of deleted scenes. And while they are good episodes and worth checking out, I just wish they released a full season set with more extras. Call it a sold rental, leaning to a purchase.

Phineas and Ferb - The Fast and the Phineas - Buy from Amazon
A Disney Channel series that made its debut on TV just this past February and is now making its debut on DVD this week.

The show focuses on two stepbrothers, Phineas and Ferb, who have to find eventful ways of spending their summer vacation. Joining them on their plans are Isabella, the leader of local Fireside Scout Girls troop who has a crush on Phineas, and Perry the Platypus, who is the boy's pet and a secret agent. Their nemeses are Candace, the boys' sister, and Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, a mad scientists bent on ruling the world, or destroying the world, or not exactly the world, but the tri-state area.

Episodes on this DVD include...

  • One Good Scare Ought to Do It - Part I & II
    A two-parter with Phineas trying to cure Isabella's hiccups by building the scariest haunted house ever. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz plans to light the sun on fire. Actually, that was the plan of Professor Destructicon, who was recently arrested before being able to carry out his fiendish plan.
  • The Fast and the Pheneas
    Pheneas & Ferb trick out their mom's car and enter it into a race. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz plans to deflate all the tires in the tri-state area. And you thought setting fire to sun was a dumb idea.
  • Lawn Gnome Beach Party of Terror
    Pheneas & Ferb create a beach in their backyard, and Candace actually has fun. But when she doesn't try and call her mom every 5 minutes trying to get the pair into trouble, her mom becomes suspicious and comes home from the spa early potentially ruining her fun. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz plans to steal all of the lawn gnomes in the tri-state area to get revenge for a childhood trauma.
  • Are You My Mummy?
    Pheneas & Ferb try to find a mummy at the local theater, but thanks to stale gum and toilet paper, they mistakenly find Candace instead. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz tries to... I'm not sure. But it involved magnetic wood.
  • Flop Starz
    Candace tries to become the next big thing in reality TV music acts, while Pheneas & Ferb just want to be a one-hit wonder. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz turns his office building into a giant robot.
  • Raging Bully
    Pheneas runs afoul of the school bully, Buford. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz plans revenge for all the years of bad birthday parties he has suffered through by inventing a machine that will hypnotize people into celebrating his birthday.
  • Lights, Candace, Action!
    Candace is hired to replace a temperamental actress in a movie adaptation of The Princess Sensibilities, but is horrified to learn Pheneas & Ferb have been hired to co-direct and are changing her beloved novel into mindless monster movie. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz is doing, well, nothing, which is suspicious, so Perry the Platypus is sent in to investigate.
  • It's About Time! - Part I & II
    A trip to the museum sends Candace, Pheneas & Ferb back in time, and it is up to Isabella and her Fireside Scout Girls troop to save them. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz finds a new nemesis, which is awkward for Perry the Platypus.
The episodes show a remarkable similarity between them, with each following the same basic set up. Pheneas & Ferb get an inspiration on how to spend their day, Candace tries to catch them in the act and prove to her mom what they are doing. Meanwhile, Dr. Doofenshmirtz has a new scheme, but Perry the Platypus stops it, and at the same time accidentally destroys all of the evidence Candace is looking for. However, where there is definite pattern, the show works and there's a lot of creativity that can involved in this set up and the energy really helps sell the show. Even when the jokes are predictable, like when they used a photo of Ashley Tisdale to represent a "digitally enhanced picture of Candace." It was an obvious joke and I saw it coming for a mile (Ashley Tisdale provides the voice for Candace) but I still laughed.

Extras are on par with most similar releases and include the pitch pilot for the show, which is basically a storyboard with narration from one of the creatures, Dan Povenmire. At just under 22 minutes, it runs the length of a two-part episode. However, the episode in question, Rollercoaster, was not included on the DVD. Shame. There are also four games, each of which are basically hit the right arrow button on your remote at the right time. Nothing too special, but they are a fun diversion.

Additionally, there is a play all button, subtitles, but no proper chapter placements. In fact, each 11-minute episode is just one chapter. Granted, since the shows are only 11 minutes long, only one chapter is needed.

Phineas and Ferb is a fun new cartoon on the Disney Channel that is making its DVD debut on the 29th. While I vastly prefer full season sets to best of DVDs, this is very unlikely for a Disney Channel DVD and The Fast and the Phineas offer good value for the money. Worth picking up for fans of the show while it is worth checking out for kids who haven't seen it yet.

Privilege - Buy from Amazon
A film from 1967 about a fascist government that used the celebrity power of a pop star to help control its citizens. ... It was made in 1967, but it is more relevant today. Sadly, it is mostly forgotten and its debut on DVD is rather light on extras (there's a short film, image galleries, and a booklet). That said, it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Robin Hood - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
A re-telling of the Robin Hood myth that feels too modern. It's reminiscent of The Tudors, which I reviewed here and the modernization of the tone hurts. It's hard to get into a show about a group of people running around in tights when they are talking like they just stepped out of the 21st century. Even so, the show has a lot of fans and they should be happy with the 5-disc set.

Robin of Sherwood: The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
The second Robin Hood TV series coming out on DVD this week. This one is vastly superior. Sadly the show only ran for three series and 24 episodes in its native Britain, but while fans will be left wanting more, this is not a bad thing. As for the DVD, this 10-disc set is packed. That's right, it's 10 discs and they are full of extras including audio commentary tracks on more than half of the episodes, several retrospectives, archival behind-the-scenes featurette, outtakes, featurettes on the score, and a lot more. Easily worth picking up, and a contender for the DVD Pick of the Week, even at a price that may seen high for a TV on DVD release. It is worth every cent.

Shine a Light - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A combination documentary / concert film, as directed by Martin Scorsese. This is both good and bad.

If I had one complaint about this movie, it is that they should have picked documentary or concert film and not tried to do both. As a documentary, it was woefully inadequate with just a 10-minute look into the making of the concert where Martin Scorsese and the members of the Rolling Stones tried to figure out cameras, the set, the lights, etc., as well as plenty of interview clips cut between performances. Sometimes cut into performances. We don't learn a whole lot from these interviews, some of which are archival, some original, and they are certainly not enlightening enough to interrupt a song for. On the other hand, the movie works a lot better as a concert film and hardcore fans will love this DVD. Even more casual fans will find the 2-hour running time sail right by.

As for the extras, there are light for a documentary, but on par for a concert film. The most special feature on the DVD are the four additional songs. There is also a 15-minute featurette that includes more interview clips, as well as some rehearsal footage. Certainly worth checking out.

As for the Blu-ray, there are no additional extras, but the concert looks and sounds great. It does cost 50% more, but for hardcore fans of the band that have a top-notch home theater system it could be worth the upgrade.

I can't quite believe Miley Cyrus kicked the Rolling Stones' asses at the box office. There's something strange about that. She's likely to do the same on the home market, but at least Shine a Light will get a head start and both the DVD and the Blu-ray are worth picking up, but the latter is for more hardcore fans with higher end home theater systems.

Stargate - Continuum - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The second direct-to-DVD movie based on the popular TV series. I reviewed the first one here and I was happy with the show and the extras. Will this one be able to impress me as well?

First a note: I only have the DVD. In fact, I only have a DVD screener, not the full DVD. If the Blu-ray shows up later, I will update this review.

The movie starts with the team watching the extraction process for the last of the Goa'uld System Lords. They think. There was an issue with clones, but they think they got the last of them. The last of Ba'al, the System Lord in question, warns that his death will set off a doomsday device put in place by the real Ba'al. They dismiss his claims, but something starts to go terribly wrong and only three members of the team are able to get back to SG-1, or at least where, and possibly when SG-1 should be. Yes, it is a time travel story and there are a few inconsistencies. Or more than a few. For instance, we see as the extraction takes place, the events in pre-World War II where Ba'al, the real Ba'al, intercepts the Stargate before it reaches America, therefore preventing the creation of the SG-1 team that thwarted him in the end. But these events seem to be taking place parallel to the events of modern day, which doesn't make sense. Why would it take time for the changes in the timeline to catch up to modern time? Even so, I was willing to suspend disbelief and did find the story very engaging.

As for extras on the DVD, things start with an audio commentary track with executive producer and writer Brad Wright and Director Martin Wood. A very strong track with plenty of information and little in the way of dead spots. There is also a hefty making-of featurette that runs over 22 minutes that deals with every aspect of making the movie, from the initial script to building the sets, to the shoot in the arctic, and the special effects, etc. (On a side note, a lot of people complained about the special effects in the show, but to most direct-to-DVD / TV movies, there's nothing to complain about. Sure, they are not up to the level of a major motion picture, but the budget isn't $100 million either. It had an estimated $7 million budget.) There is also a 22 minute featurette on the filming in the arctic, which is interesting to watch, but I kept asking myself, "Why? Isn't this what special effects is for?" The final featurette runs just over 9 minutes and is on time travel. Here astrophysicist Jaymie Matthews talks about time travel, the reality, the theoretical, and the science fiction.

As I said before, I don't have the Blu-ray, yet. So I can't compare it with the DVD. However, there appears to be no additional extras on the Blu-ray, while the price is 60% more.

Stargate - Continuum continues the franchise much in the same way Ark of Truth did. It wraps up a storyline or two, but didn't wrap up the series. It should more than satisfy the fans of the show, while not completely confusing newcomers. Extras add to the overall value and the DVD is certainly worth adding to your collection if you are already a fan. If you are not, you should be.

Surfwise: The Amazing True Odyssey of the Poskowitz Family - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the Poskowitz family and their insane patriarch. (If you refuse to eat the skin of the apple because you once saw an ape eat an apple without eating the skin, you are no longer a unique individualist blazing his own path. You are nuts.) On the other hand, the film did earn perfect reviews and the DVD is loaded with extras (audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, etc.) and for anyone who wants their family to appear to be more normal, it is worth picking up.

Tai Chi Master - Buy from Amazon
Tai Chi? Isn't that what old people do in the park? That's hardly the vision one gets when they think of kung fu action. However, the movie explores the not to real life creation of Tai Chi, and its very real combat potential... aided by a lot of wire work.

Jet Li and Chin Siu-Ho star as two Buddhists monks who are thrown out of the monastery after numerous infractions for the rules and are forced to go out into the real world for the first time since childhood. However, Junbao is not comfortable with the world and wants to maintain his Buddhist traditions while Tienbo wants to use his martial arts training to gain power and wealth. Because of this, they split up with Junbao helping the repressed and Tienbo joining the brutal regime's army, thus setting up the inevitable showdown.

The film is an action film, and there several top-notch fight scenes, including many with Michelle Yeoh, who can more than hold her own. However, the movie also has a lot more humor than I was expecting (including some that is rather broad and slapsticky). There's a high degree of wire work, most of which enhances the fight scenes, even if it is a little obvious at times. The film's reviews are barely over the overall positive level, although it is important to note that this DVD has the original Hong Kong cut and not the previous, butchered video release, (which was released under the name, Twin Warriors). This version is certainly worth checking out for fans of Jet Li, < A HREF=>Michelle Yeoh, or Hong Kong action films in general.

Moving onto the extras, this is a Dragon Dynasty film, and you know what that means... Bey Logan! Yes, Bey Logan sits down for an audio commentary track that is up to his usual standards as he explores practically every aspect of the film. The next extra is an interview with one of the stars, Chin Siu-Ho, which is done in the stand style of Dragon Dynasty releases, i.e. a mix of interview clips and scenes from the movie. Next up is a featurette on Tai Chi hosted by Winnie Wong, which also features interview clips mixed with scenes from the movie, but looks at the development of the art, and the city of its origin. Finally, there are two more featurettes each featuring interviews with Brett Ratner and Elvis Mitchell (filmed separately). In the first they talk about the director, Yuen Woo-ping, and in the second they talk about Jet Li and < A HREF=>Michelle Yeoh. In total these four featurettes run just over an hour and are as strong as most Dragon Dynasty releases.

Tai Chi does not have a reputation stateside as a powerhouse martial art school, but hopefully this won't prevent people from checking out Tai Chi Master, which is an excellent example of Hong Kong cinema. Additionally, the number of extras on the DVD are more than enough to lift it past the rental level and to the purchase level.

Tiny Toon Adventures - Season 1 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
I know what you are thinking, "Volume 1! Noooooo!" Calm down, the show was an after-school cartoon, which means season one had 65 episodes, so breaking them into volumes makes sense and the 4-disc set is loaded with cartoons and the first season was not split just as a cash grab. Sadly, there are not as many extras on the DVD as I would like with just a retrospective featurette. However, it is interesting to watch and the DVD is still worth picking up.

Two Fat Ladies - Buy from Amazon
A cooking show about two ladies who are overweight cooking the food that made them that way. ... Okay, put down the keyboard, there's no reason to write hate mail, if you've seen the show you know there's no sense of calorie control here. The amount of lard they use in their cooking can increase your waistline just watching the show. Just thinking about their cooking is giving me chest pains. That said, while my diet prevents me from eating 90% of what they make, it is still a very entertaining show and worth checking out, even if it is just for the scenery of the British countryside. Extras include a recipe book (smart idea), and a biographical featurette on Jennifer Paterson, who died at the age of 71 after living a full, and colorful life. Certainly worth picking up.

Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection - Buy from Amazon
Good news, this 5-disc set includes 10 movies that are new to DVD. No double-dipping here. Bad news, there are 10 movies crammed on 5 discs. Even so, there was room for some extras, including a retrospective and several interviews. Certainly worth checking out for fans of the era, and at $35 for 10 movies, worth picking up over just renting.

WarGames - The Dead Code - Buy from Amazon
The second direct-to-DVD sequel to a movie that's more than 20 years old that is coming out this week. WarGames, on the one hand, was a better movie and a bigger hit. On the other hand, it didn't end in a way that screamed sequel, which probably explains why this movie feels like a remake. This explains the weak reviews, while the DVD has just an audio commentary track and a making-of featurette. Nothing too special. On the other hand, the original WarGames is getting a 25th Anniversary Edition that is something special and includes extras like and audio commentary track, retrospective, featurettes on hacking, NORAD, and even Tic-Tac-Toe. Easily worth picking up, even if you have the previous release.

Witchblade - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A short-run TV series that was canceled not because of low ratings as much as because of health problems by its star. Fans of the show have been waiting for a long time for this show to come out on DVD, and they should be happy with the 7-disc set, which includes a couple of featurettes some of the original casting tapes. Worth picking up for fans, worth renting for those who didn't see it the first time around.

The Wizards of Waverly Place - Wizard School - Buy from Amazon
The second Disney Channel series making its DVD debut this week.

The Wizards of Waverly Place stars Selena Gomez, who is also known as Mikayla on Hannah Montana. Here she plays Alex Russo, a 14-year old wizard who tends to overuse and abuse her powers, so she is sent to Wiz Tech, much to the chagrin of her older brother, Justin, the more mature and responsible wizard. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The DVD debut has three or four episodes, depending on how you count the 2-part episode that leads off the DVD. The episodes are...

  • Wizard School - Part I and II
    After a magical mishap, Alex is sent to summer school at the Wiz Tech. There, instead of her being the cool kid and Justin being the nerdy kid, his prowess with magic makes him the popular one and he's even brought in to play 12-ball and could prove to be the most powerful wizard there. However, one of his teachers, Dr. Evilini, is evil, and have a plan to use his powers for ...... well... evil.
    Those who dislike the show might call Wiz Tech a blatant rip-off of Harry Potter, however, calling it a parody might be a more accurate way to describe it. It certainly is more generous. It's a good way to start off the DVD and certainly helps get people into the series, although the parody is a little goofy at times, and the laugh track is a little too obnoxious. Additionally, the B-stories with Max, the youngest of the three siblings, are not as entertaining.
  • Curb Your Dragon
    While shopping online on the World Wide Wiz Web, Alex and Justin find a dragon seller who has a dragon charmed to look like a dog. However, like one shopping on the real web, it's buying beware and when their dragon goes missing, they have to figure a way of getting it back, all while keeping its true nature hidden.
    A solid episode that is not burdened by a weak B-story. In fact, there is no B-story.
  • Disenchanted Evening
    Alex gets in trouble for using magic as a shortcut, again, but then she meets a boy from her school who is allowed to use magic all of the time. It turns out that he has placed a charm on his parents so he can do what he wants, and then does the same to Alex's parents.
    A case of 'be careful what you wish for' type of episode, which I can't imagine are uncommon in this show. (However, I haven't seen enough episodes to confirm that.) But it is pulled off well. In fact, none of the episodes are weak on this DVD.
(Strangely, while Jennifer Stone appears in the credits, she doesn't appear in any of these episodes.)

As for the extras, there is a single 9-minute featurette featuring the three kids talking about their hobbies, what they do when they are not working, what music they are listening to, etc. Not very in-depth, but typical of many Disney channel DVD releases. (Strangely, Jake T. Austin, who plays the youngest brother is into classic rock from the 70s, which is also my favorite genre. I mention this because Josh Flitter, who played the youngest lead in Nancy Drew was also really into 70s classic rock. I don't know who's responsible for this, but it could be evidence that the next generation is going to have really good taste in music.) There is also a play all button and subtitles, but no proper chapter placements. In fact, there are no chapter placements at all and each episode is a single chapter. That's lazy DVD authoring.

The Wizards of Waverly Place can be thought of as a Sabrina for the next generation and has become a big hit with its target demographic, 'tween girls. If you are one, and you have one in your household, then odds are you will be buying this DVD. I would prefer if they skipped the single disc releases and went right for full season sets, but this is Disney, so we know that's not going to happen and what you get here is on par with their typical release.


Filed under: Video Releases, Shine a Light, Outfoxed - Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, Surfwise, Stargate - Continuum