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DVD Releases for August 19, 2008, Part II

August 18th, 2008

This is the week that Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour makes its debut on DVD and Blu-ray. This movie was a huge hit theatrically, so it will be interesting to see how well it sells on the home market. However, while it is certainly a very good deal, I'm not sure it is a real contender for DVD Pick of the Week. For that we have to look to Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles on either DVD or Blu-ray, but there are also a few other releases worth checking out. There are are plenty of other releases, so much so that we had to split this week's list into two. Look for part I here.

Married... with Children - The Complete Ninth Season - Buy from Amazon
This series lasted eleven seasons, and for most of that time is was great entertainment, as long as you had a high tolerance for humor that is not PC. Of the show's eleven season, only seasons seven and eleven were rather weak, however, it is clear by season nine that the show was winding down and its run was nearly over. But let's concentrate on the highlights.

  • Shoeway to Heaven
    Al and Jefferson discover vintage shoes that Al hid during the 70s that are now worth a bundle.
  • Driving Mr. Boondy
    Bud Bundy gets a job at the DMV, just in time for Al Bundy's driving test.
  • Business Suck & Business Still Sucks
    Al bans breast-feeding in the shoe store, so several new mothers protest in his store. On a side note, this episode marks an early appearance by Bob Rooney, one of my favorite of Al's friends. He made a number of appearances over the final three seasons of the show.
  • Dial B for Virgin
    Bud mans a Virgin hotline, but the B-story is the key here. Al and Peg try and rent a movie, which turns into one of the most quotable parts of the series. "How about this: Four Weddings and a Funeral" "That's kind of like five of the same thing, isn't it?" More than ten years later and I still remember that joke.
  • I Want My Psycho Dad: Part 1 & 2
    Who's that riding into the sun.
    Who's the man with the itchy gun.
    Who's the man who kills for fun !
    Al's favorite TV show, Psycho Dad gets cancelled, so the gang from NO MA'AM decide to protest, going all the way to Washington.
  • The Naked and the Dead, But Mostly the Naked
    The guys have to take their wives to the nudity bar to prove it's just a little harmless fun.
  • User Friendly
    Al tries to figure out what a light switch does and enlists the help of his friends to do so. Hijinks and pain ensues. I love seeing the gang of morons hurt themselves over and over again. It's like a Wile E Coyote cartoon.
  • Radio Free Trumaine
    Keri Russel guest stars in what was obviously an attempt at a spin-off that didn't pan out. I can't believe Top of the Heap made it but this show didn't.
On the downside, there are not one, but two Clips shows this season, Best of Bundy and My Favorite Married... Additionally, there are no extras on the 3-disc set, as well as no subtitles. There are play all buttons and proper chapter placements.

Married... with Children is nearing its end on the home market, and while The Complete Ninth Season is not among the best the show has to offer, it is still worth picking up for those who have been collecting the show thus far.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - Buy from Amazon
Frances McDormand stars as the titular Miss Pettigrew, a London governess who is fired from her job only to be hired by Delysia Lafosse, an American actress played by Amy Adams. The film opened with excellent reviews, as most critics agreed that it was highly entertaining, if a little light and fluffy at times, while the two leads both gave amazing performances. Extras on the DVD are on part with most limited releases, which is technically what this film was (although an opening theater count of more than 500 is very high for a limited release) with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and a couple making of featurettes. Certainly worth checking out, and worth picking up over just renting.

Nixon - Election Year Edition - DVD or Blu-ray
Anthony Hopkins stars as Richard Nixon in this political biopic. First release more than ten years ago, I think it is safe to say the movie is busted Oscar bait. Given the film's release date, the subject matter, etc., it is safe to say that this movie was made to win Oscars. But while it was up to that task, it is still worth checking out. The real question is whether this version is better than the previous DVD releases.

Extras on the 2-disc set include two audio commentary tracks with the director Oliver Stone; the first deals with the making of the movie while the second deals with the politics of the era. Over on Disc Two there are nearly an hour's worth of deleted scenes led by an intro by Oliver Stone, an hour long interview with Charlie Rose, and a 35 minute long documentary on Richard Nixon. Only the last feature is new to this edition, and this edition is missing the making of featurette found on the previous 2-disc release. The Blu-ray has no additional extras, and only the new documentary is presented in High Definition. That said, the price is only $2.00 more, or less than 10% premium, and that is well worth it for the upgrade.

While it might not be Oscar-worthy, Nixonis still a great movie that should be seen by more. That said, the extras on the DVD are not worth the upgrade from the previous release, but for those are looking to upgrade to High Definition, the Blu-ray is a great value.

Perry Mason: Season 3 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Awesome show, awful DVD releases. Season three was only 26 episodes long, so there is no legitimate reason to split the season into two volumes, and there's no reason to charge that much for 13 episodes.

Primo Levi's Journey - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the writer Primo Levi, and his return to his home town of Turin, Italy after being liberated from Auschwitz. Strong reviews were not enough to help the film secure an audience during its theatrical release, but even with just a making of featurette on the DVD, it is still worth checking out for most fans of the genre, picking up for many of them.

Prom Night - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Version, Unrated, or Blu-ray
One of the worst movies released this year. This is a remake in name only as this horror film shares almost nothing with the Canadian original. With that movie, the viewer was left guessing who the killer was and why they were killing their targets. Here you are told the who in why at the very beginning. (Hell, you are told in the trailer.) Without any mystery, what you are left with is a basic Teenage Slasher, and a very sub-standard example of one of those. Extras on the DVD include audio commentary track, making of featurette, deleted scenes, and outtakes. The Blu-ray has all of those extras (in standard definition), and a Picture-in-Picture track with storyboards of some of the kills, an online poll with one question, and downloadables, which consists of unrelated trailers. All in all the Blu-ray is better than the DVD, but not by as much as the price is greater. That said, I don't recommend even renting the movie, so it doesn't matter which format is better.

Quid Pro Quo - Buy from Amazon
The movie tackles the bizarre subculture of paralyzation fetishists, able-bodied people who want to be disabled. The is perhaps too bizarre, even for art house crowds, as it never found an audience theatrically. The DVD should do better, especially with better than expected extras (deleted scenes, audition tapes, documentary clips, etc.). However, those interesting should rent first.

Recount - Buy from Amazon
A Political TV movie about the Florida recount written and produced by Danny Strong. Some people reading this might be asking who Danny Strong is. He played Jonathan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among other roles. The film earned great reviews, and was even nominated for five Emmys (all for acting). Some have complained that the movie is biased, which is probably fair, so depending on which side of the political spectrum you hail from, this might be a must see, or another example of how biased Hollywood is. Extras include an audio commentary track, two interview featurettes between two of the actors and their real-life counterparts, and a featurette on the real 2000 story. Certainly worth picking up, for the right audience. On a side note, I find it scary as hell that nearly 8 years later America's voting system still hasn't been fixed. There might not be many hanging chads this time around, but there are still issues with no paper trail, faulty machines, even not enough machines. In 2004 stories about people have to wait 4, 6, even 8 hours to vote were not uncommon. In comparison, I have voted in every federal election, provincial election, even most municipal elections since I was first allowed. That's at least 10 election, and combined I haven't had to wait an hour to vote. I have no idea why this isn't a bigger issue down south.

The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The Scorpion King was a pretty bad movie. Early word says this direct-to-DVD sequel is worse. Extras on the DVD include a handful of featurettes on various subjects, deleted scenes, and some outtakes. The Blu-ray has no additional extras, and it costs more than 60% more. Not worth the upgrade. Then again, the movie is probably not worth renting, so it doesn't matter.

The Small Back Room - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
A British film from 1952 starring David Farrar as Sammy Rice, an explosives expert working during World War II. Normally he's testing the Allies latest ordnance, but his latest assignment has him checking out the latest Germany has to offer, a bomb that only goes off once someone picks it up, and which appears to be targeting children. An excellent film that builds on the characters found within. Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track, interview with the D.P., audio excerpts from director Michael Powell's autobiography, and a booklet with images and an essay. Worth picking up for fans of the genre or era in general, and especially for fans of Michael Powell.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 29th. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Star Trek - The Original Series - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
The original plan for this release was to re-master the original episodes, upgrade some of the special effects, and release the series in High Definition for the first time ever. Then Paramount decided to throw their lot with HD DVD dropping Blu-ray. This turned out to be a poor choice. The first season was release on a HD DVD / DVD combo set, but this time around everything that has HD DVD dependent has been dropped leaving just the DVD component. Is this still enough to warrant the upgrade?

That depends on how big of a Star Trek enthusiast you are. It is great being able to watch the show re-mastered and looking better than it has in... well, perhaps for ever. Considering the broadcast technology 40 years ago, it looks better than when it originally aired. And personally I like most of the upgrades to the special effects. I don't think they are too oppressive, nor to the conflict with the original feel of the show too much. That said, I know there are some that disagree with me and hate the changes. As for the extras, they include a lot of extras spread over a few of the discs. Starting with disc one, which includes more home video from Billy Blackburn, a featurette on the second season (especially the tribble episode), a featurette on the set design, interview with one of the writers (D.C. Fontana), and finally interviews with the newer cast & crew on their favorite moments. Disc five focuses on The Trouble with Tribbles episode and includes both The Animated Series episode and the anniversary episode from Deeo Space Nine. Disc five also includes two featurettes on the making of that latter episode, and the lasting impression tribbles have left. Finally, disc 8 has an interview with Leonard Nimoy discussing his hobby of photography, a featurette on the three main leads, and lastly, an interview with Nichelle Nichols.

Season Two of Star Trek - The Original Series is my favorite season out of franchise, not just the original series. The number of classic episodes found here include practically the entire 26-episode run. (Only Catspaw is really on the weak side, and even then it is still worth watching.) Extras are impressive for a series this old, but without the picture-in-picture features that were available on the HD DVD release, and will be available on the Blu-ray release, I have a hard time recommending the latest DVD release. Unless you are a hardcore Trekkie, wait for Blu-ray.

Street Kings - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film earned weak reviews and barely made a peep at the box office. On the other hand, the DVD is loaded with extras including an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and featurettes on the locations, the script, stunts, cast, etc. and a whole lot more. However, a strong DVD release and a weak movie is still hard to recommend. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray has no additional extras and costs a lot more to buy. However, since the movie is strictly a rental, it really doesn't matter.

Television Under the Swastika - Buy from Amazon
An hour-long documentary about the Nazi Germany's early use of Television, which was years ahead of all other nations. The film looks at how they Nazis were on the cutting edge of the technology, and how they used it for propaganda purposes, which is how it is being used today. It includes many original filmed clips that were shown on TV more than 70 years ago, which makes this DVD invaluable for historians, both of TV and of Nazis. Even the total lack of extras doesn't hurt its value too much, and it is still worth checking out, and worth buying over just renting.

Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A very pleasant surprise. When this show was first announced, many thought that basing a TV series on the Terminator franchise was a mistake, especially after Rise of the Machines disappointed. However, thanks in large part to Summer Glau's performance, the TV series was a hit right out of the gate. Now it is coming out on DVD and Blu-ray, both of which offer the same set of extras (trio of audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, audition tapes, making of featurette, outtakes, and more. A very strong collection of extras, which is important since the first season was only 9 episodes long. (Blame the writers' strike for that one, but at least they go a slice on the online pie, so it was worth it. I would have been cheesed had they gone on such a long strike without getting a good deal.) For fans of the show, it is a package that is worth picking up, but I'm not convinced the Blu-ray is worth the extra cash.

Transformers Animated - Season One - Buy from Amazon
The latest incarnation of the 25-year old franchise. I would still argue that the original is still the best, and while this version is not the worst, it does seem to be aimed at a younger demographic. Too young for most adult collectors.

Season two starts off where the movie ended, with the Autobots on Earth guarding the All-spark from the Decepticons. The All-spark had transformed into a key, which 8-year old Sari Sumdac keeps around her neck. Much of season two deals with 'Freak of the Weak' episodes; episodes where there are one-shot villains like Meltdown or Headmaster. However, there is also the ongoing plot where Megatron plots to rebuild his body so he can capture the Allspark and destroy the Autobots. It is these episodes that are best for long time fans of the show. Another highlight includes the latest version of the origins of the Dinobots. (By the way, what happened to Snarl and Sludge? For that matter, there seems to be a major decrease in the number of characters on this show as opposed to the past, at least a major decrease in the number of robots. There are too many humans.) Also, the episode introducing Blackarachnia it also very good, along with another flashback heavy episode, Thrill of the Hunt.

On the other hand, the show still has the troubles I mentioned previously, including the weak animation, as well as characters that are not as compelling as I remember those of Generation 1 to be.

Moving onto the extras, there are practically none with just an image gallery from season two, they don't even have the three-part pilot movie on this 2-disc set. There are also no subtitles, but there are proper chapter placements, as well as play all buttons.

Transformers Animated is a fine show for kids, but it doesn't live up to the original series. And as a kids show, the lack of extras is not surprising, but still disappointing. That said, Season One is worth buying for its target audience, while adult collectors while probably want to save their money for trying to find an original release of Jazz, mint in box. I know that's what I'm keeping my eyes open for.

Twenty-Four Eyes - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
A Japanese film about a teacher just starting her career in a small town in Japan. She is viewed as 'too modern' or 'too Western' by the adults, but is seen as much more through the eyes of her twelve students. The film was directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, who also adapted the novel it is based on, and this movie is arguably his best movie. (Although A Japanese Tragedy could give it a run for its money. That movie appears to be missing from the home market. Perhaps Criterion will be releasing it soon.) Extras on the DVD are a little light compared to most Criterion Collection releases with just an interview, a couple of trailers, and a booklet. Still worth checking out for most, picking up for fans of post-World War II Japanese cinema.

Wayside School - Season One - Buy from Amazon
The pilot 'movie' has already been released on DVD, but at the time I couldn't recommend buying it. Will this 2-disc set be worth it?

In the book, which comes with the first season DVD, there are 30 stories, each focusing on one of the students or teachers (or group in the case of the Three Erics, for instance). In the cartoon, there are far fewer students (and only 4 that are featured regularly) and the new kid, Todd, is clearly the star of the show. The absence of many of the students will disappoint fans of the novel, but the changes in a lot of the rest are much worse. That said, for most younger kids, this is a colorful, wacky cartoon that has enough going for it that is should entertain its target audience. But for adults watching with their kids, especially those who read the books when they were kids will be disappointed.

As for the extras, there are none. In fact, the movie that was previously released on DVD wasn't even included in this 2-disc set. Finally there are no subtitles, but there are play all buttons and proper chapter placements.

Overall, Wayside School - Season One should please its target audience, but the series doesn't live up to the book. This is hardly surprising. Additionally, while the DVD is devoid of extras, it is still a reasonable value for the money compared to most TV on DVD releases.

Wizard of Gore - Buy from Amazon
A remake of a 1970 horror film of the same name. This time around Crispin Glover plays Montag the Magnificent, a stage magician whose act consists of him brutally torturing and killing his volunteers from the crowd, only to have them reappear unharmed after the act is over. However, when a serial killer starts killing women using the same methods as Montag's act, the police start looking closer. While this is a horror remake that is going direct-to-DVD, it is much better than 90% of other such films, even those that earn theatrical releases. Additionally, the DVD is loaded with extras compared to most direct-to-DVD films, including an audio commentary track, making of featurette, featurette on the special effects, featurette on the Suicide Girls (if you don't know who they are, you probably don't care), deleted scenes, and more. Easily worth picking up for fans of the genre, worth renting for others.


Filed under: Video Releases, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, Prom Night, Street Kings, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, La Strada di Levi, Quid Pro Quo, Recount