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DVD Releases for September 16, 2008 - Part II

September 15th, 2008

We have a big list this week with more than 50 releases. This includes very few top-notch, first run releases, but that weakness is counterbalanced by the strength in the TV on DVD department, including a few contenders for DVD Pick of the Week like Duckman - Season One & Two and Pushing Daisies - Season One on DVD or Blu-ray. If I were to choose just one release this week, it would be the former; however, I think the latter has a better chance at mainstream appeal. As I previously said, this is a huge list this week, so much so that it had to be split into two parts. Part one can be found here.

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains - Buy from Amazon
This is a movie that came out on 1982, but it is making its home market debut this week, which is not as surprising as it sounds, since it never really got a proper release in the first place. Test screenings for the film were terrible. For the past 25 years the film has been only seen on TV, but rarely, and the occasional showing in an art house theater. However, in that time, the film has developed a huge cult following. The movie is a mockumentary about the sudden rise of a punk band called Fabulous Stains. This all-female group make it big after their lead singer, Corinne "Third Degree" Burns performs in a see-through top and a spiked, two-toned hairdo, which is enough for the local media hype to catapult her and her band into the spotlight. The quality of the film is ... well ... it's a personal matter. There are fans who have been counting the days since they first heard of the film's DVD release. Then there are others who will watch the film and hate it. Hate it with a passion. Most will simply shrug their shoulders and move on. As for the DVD, it only has two audio commentary tracks, although this is more than many would have expected. The first is with the director, Lou Adler, and the other with two of the stars, Diane Lane and Laura Dern. The polarizing effect of the film means it is not a movie you can blind-buy, but I would recommend watching it, especially if you are a fan of the music from that era.

The Love Guru - Buy from Amazon: DVD, DVD + Digital Copy, or Blu-ray
First a quick note, I did not yet receive the Blu-ray version of the movie, so I will not be able to review the exact details of the High Definition release. It should arrive this week and I will have the full review of it by next Monday.

Mike Myers stars as Guru Pitka, the second best Guru in the world, next to Deepak Chopra. He finds his path to become number one by helping Jane Bullard, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the only Canadian hockey team that sucks more than the Vancouver Canucks. (We better not spend $20 million signing Mats Sundin to a 2-year contract. It will be Mark Messier all over again.) ... Back to the movie... He has to help the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup by helping team star, Darren Roanoke, reconcile with his estranged wife, Prudence, who is currently with his rival, the goaltender Jacques Grande. However complicated this plot might seem, it is completely superfluous.

I admit it, I liked this movie, but not in the way a respectable critic such as myself should judge a film... Okay, you can stop laughing at me for calling myself a respectable critic. This is not a movie in the traditional sense of the word. This can be more accurately described as a collection of goofy jokes and short spoofs of Bollywood mixed with more cameos than I could keep track of. This is a movie that does not need a plot (in fact, the plot bogs it down at times), but if you are willing to accept that this is a goofy, lowbrow film that delights in insulting people, then you might laugh at the jokes as much as Guru Pitka laughs at his jokes. To emphasize, the jokes are so lowbrow that at times you are not laughing at the joke so much as laughing at the audacity of the joke.

On the other hand, the extras on the DVD are not particularly strong, starting with a 10-minute making-of featurette. One Hellava Elephant is a 6-minute featurette on the fake elephant used on the movie. Hockey Training for Actors is exactly what it sounds like and runs 8 minutes. The rest of the extras are deleted / alternate scenes (13 minutes), outtakes (4 minutes), alternative lines for Jay and Trent (5 minutes); and finally more outtakes / alternative lines (10 minutes). It's not a bad selection of extras, but there's nothing here that really stands out.

The Love Guru will not be remembered as a great movie, but I thought Mike Myers had an infectious charm as the Guru Pitka and his enthusiasm for the lowbrow humor was enough for the film to be entertaining. That said, I am in the minority here so I would suggest renting first.

Made of Honor - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the worst reviewed films of the summer; it's not terrible, but it is terribly predictable. However, this is a common fault in romantic comedies and fans of the genre might be a little more forgiving than critics in general were. Extras on the DVD are limited to an audio commentary track, while the Blu-ray has that, some outtakes, and two featurettes. That said, while the Blu-ray is worth paying extra for, for most people it is not worth more than a rental.

My Little Pony Live - The World's Biggest Tea Party - Buy from Amazon
A live concert featuring the singing and dancing ponies, as well as a few more mythical animals, like a Pegasus, unicorn, and a dragon. This franchise started as a toy line more than 25 years ago, and except for a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it has been going strong ever since. It spawned a TV series, a movie, a direct-to-DVD line, and now a live show, which started in 2006. Here Pinkie Pie wants everyone to attend a massive Tea Party and enlists the help of Sweetberry the baker, Sew-and-So the dress maker, Thistle Whistle the Pegasus, and others to help, while singing and dancing along the way.

First of a all, I must admit that I am a tad outside the target demographic for this show, by about 30 years. The show is aimed at pre-school girls (although there are a few boys in the audience) and while I'm not going to rush out and grab additional My Little Pony releases, it is clear that its target audience should have a great time with this concert. The audience members looked completely enthralled by the show. Granted, some of the interactive nature, and some of the sheer spectacle, of the live show is lost on DVD, but kids should still have fun singing alone, and parents will likely get a hit of nostalgia as well.

Extras on the DVD include five extra songs presented in sing-along form.

If your kids are fans of the latest incarnation of My Little Pony Live and have enjoyed some of the previous direct-to-DVD releases, then The World's Biggest Tea Party is worth checking out. Extras are limited, but chances are your kids will want to watch it enough that it is worth picking up over just renting.

Never Cry Werewolf - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian direct-to-DVD release that was picked up by the Sci-Fi channel earlier this year. The film stars Nina Dobrev from Degrassi: The Next Generation, as a horror film enthusiast who thinks her neighbor is a werewolf. So she gathers the help of washed out TV star, Redd Tucker played by Kevin Sorbo, to battle the menace. Sound familiar? It should, as it is practically a remake of Fright Night, but with werewolves instead of vampires. Like that movie, this one is a horror comedy, but despite its unrated nature, it doesn't have the scares to work as the former, nor does the humor work enough for the latter. It is essentially low expectations theater; it's worth checking out for fans of the genre, but even this it is worth no more than a rental.

Noise - Buy from Amazon
Tim Robbins plays David Owen, a man sick of what has become of New York City and decides to do something about it, so he dresses up as a superhero to battle noise pollution. ... Huh? The film earned mixed reviews while never finding an audience theatrically. Extras on the DVD are better than expected with an audio commentary track, behind-the-scenes, and interviews with the cast & crew. Worth checking out, but for most a rental will suffice.

Pirates of the Caribbean - Trilogy Box Set - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Disney is re-releasing their biggest franchise ever in a new box set, or should I say in a new box. ... Seriously. It's identical to the previously released DVDs, only with a new box to keep them in and there is zero reason to upgrade.

That said, this is one of the best franchises that has been released on Blu-ray. Granted, only the first film is really good, while the other two were significantly weaker. (They were unable to capture the same spirit the second time around. Too often, action scenes went on too long and it felt the filmmakers were forcing the issue by trying to top the previous film(s).) But overall it is still an entertaining story and there's plenty of replay value here.

Additionally, it would be hard to find a trilogy that has benefited more from the High Definition treatment. Not only are the audio and video top-notch, but the extras are also amazing, both in terms of quantity and quality. This 6-disc box set includes a lot of the usual features, like deleted scenes, making-of featurettes... several hours of making-of featurettes, outtakes, enough deleted scenes to make another movie, image galleries and a whole lot more. Additionally, each Blu-ray release has something that could only be done on the new format. Curse of the Black Pearl has Scoundrels of the Sea, which is pop-up trivia track with an interactive twist to it. Dead Man's Chest has Liar's Dice, which was the game the pirates played in the movie and is a fun strategy game with a lot of video clips to enliven the play. (Although I would like it better if you could play against more than one pirate at a time, as the more dice being rolled each round, the harder it is to play.) > At World's End has Enter the Maelstrom, which is a massive branching making-of featurette focused on the climatic battle from that movie.

Additionally, the three releases have more than a dozen Easter Eggs spread over the box set (all on the second disc of each movie's release). Good luck hunting them down.

On the one hand, Pirates of the Caribbean - Blu-ray Trilogy Box Set is an amazing collection and is easily worth the money for those who waited on purchasing the Blu-rays when they first came out (or indeed recently entered the High Definition market). On the other hand, there is absolutely no reason to upgrade and the price difference between this set and buying the three movies individually is minimal (about 10% after Amazon's discount) so if you weren't interested before, you probably won't be interested now.

Private Practice - Season One - Buy from Amazon
The first season of this show was cut short thanks to the writers' strike, leaving just nine episodes on this 3-disc set. Sadly, while the seasons is about 60% shorter than the average, the price is just 30% less. Hopefully the quality will be enough to make it worth it.

Kate Walsh stars as Dr. Addison Montgomery in this Grey's Anatomy spin-off. Her character decided she needed a new direction after being passed over for a promotion, so she headed to Los Angeles to be part of the Oceanside Wellness Clinic where they practice a different kind of medicine. Instead of dealing with 20 people a day, she will deal with one patient. ... Which gives her a lot more free time for sex. This is a common theme for the show, and I think it is a selling point for the target audience, but for me it got a little too "soap opera" for my taste. This is a shame, because the cast on this show is great, not just Kate Walsh, but also Amy Brenneman, Taye Diggs, KaDee Strickland, and the others. Granted, it does get better as the season progresses, but it certainly starts on a very slow pace. That said, even in the end I still found some of the interpersonal relationships a little eye-rolling at times, while the medical mystery angle presented isn't as good as House, for instance.

Extras on the 3-disc set do help balance out the short season somewhat. They start with audio commentary tracks on three of the episodes, including the series premiere and the season finale. The participants are a mix of cast and crew and the informational level varies. (For instance, I don't think Taye Diggs and Chris Lowell imparted any real information, but they kept the energy up and were entertaining.) Other extras include a 32-minute featurette on Kate Walsh that deals with her entertainment career, which spans 40 years (she wrote and directed her first play at age 10). There's also a 14-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as 8 deleted scenes from 6 episodes that run just over 9 minutes. Finally, there are roughly three and a half minutes of outtake.

One last note, there are subtitles, a play all button, but since there are no opening credits of any substance (just a title flashed on the screen for a few seconds) proper chapter placements are not an issue.) Occasionally there are 'Previously on...' segments, but you can skip those.

The writers' strike meant Private Practice's debut season didn't go as planned. However, there are still some issues with Season One that are not the result of any labor action. For instance, the slow start. That said, fans of Grey's Anatomy should check out this season, and the extras lift its value past a rental to the purchase level.

Proteus - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel, who through the late 19th and early 20th century catalogued and painted thousands of sea creatures. It is a fascinating topic, but the film earned reviews that were merely mixed and never went anywhere at the box office. It is still worth checking out, but a rental will be enough for most.

Pucca - Spooky Sooga Village - Buy from Amazon
The further adventures of Pucca, and 11-year old girl, and Garu, the 12-year old ninja she is in love with. This single-disc release has a Halloween theme and has a charm that is simply infectious, and despite the fact that I am way too old to be in the target audience, I love this show. Even with no real extras, it is still worth picking up, and so it the Christmas themed Secret Samurai Santa, which comes out in just over a month from now.

Pushing Daisies - Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Arguably the best new show from the 2007 fall season. It stars Lee Pace as Ned, a man who can bring people back from the dead, but for only 2 minutes. If he lets them stay alive any longer, someone else must die in their place. There are other rules as well, but it is not a confusing part of the show. In fact, it is written so well that is almost seems natural, not supernatural. (It was written by the same person who created Dead Like Me, so there's no surprise that it is awesome.) Extras on the DVD are rather light with just 40 minutes of featurettes on the third disc, while the strike-shortened season leads to a price-per-minute that is a little higher than most full-season TV on DVD releases. As for the Blu-ray, there appears to be no additional extras. However, this is such a visual show that it practically demands to be seen in High Definition and is worth the money to upgrade. However, if there were some additional extras, like audio commentary tracks, it could have been worthy of the DVD Pick of the Week.

Rape of Europa - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the systematic theft and destruction of priceless artwork by the Nazis during World War II. It is a powerful film and was even nominated by the WGA for Best Documentary. However, it never found an audience theatrically, and the DVD appears to be devoid of extras. Even so, it is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

The Red Green Show - 2000 Season - Buy from Amazon
The long-running Canadian TV show focuses on the exploits of the members of the Possum Lodge, a group of men dedicated to doing all sorts of manly things, as long as your definition of manly is synonymous with stupid. (Duct tape plays heavily in nearly all aspects of the show.) Even though the show had been on the air for a decade at this point, it still feels very fresh, but with Harold missing from a number of episodes, it is not at its peak. Even so, it is still worth picking up.

Risky Business - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This is the movie that made me hate Tom Cruise. In the movie he wrecks his father's Porsche, which is an unforgivable crime. On a serious note, this is a Special Edition release, but the extras on the DVD are rather light, with just an audio commentary track, a documentary featurette, and an alternate ending. I can't justify upgrading, as that set of extras is below average for a first run release. On the other hand, the Blu-ray has a picture-in-picture commentary track, and it only costs $5 more than the DVD version, which is worth the upgrade.

Rocko's Modern Life - Best Of - Buy from Amazon: Volume One and Volume Two
No, no, no! This is an awesome show and I've been waiting for a long time for it to reach DVD. However, I guess I'm going to have to wait longer for full-seasons sets. And I will wait for full season sets.

Seinfeld - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Just a quick note... Season one of this series only lasted 5 episodes, which is why they packed it in with season two when it was first released. Not sure why they are releasing it separately now.

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
The third season of this variety show was the last, but it wasn't canceled because it lost its touch. In fact, it found its voice. As the Vietnam War raged on, the show became more political, which led to clashes with the network censors. The show was eventually canceled at the end of the third season despite previously being renewed for another year, which led to a successful wrongful dismissal lawsuit. However, all of that behind-the-scene intrigue didn't affect the quality of the show, much to the delight of fans who can finally complete their collection this week, complete and uncensored. Additionally, the extras on the 4-disc set are amazing with a featurette on the overall show, interviews with tons of the guest stars, and more. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show, and if you have never seen it, it is worth checking out. The odds are you will become a fan of the show.

Snow Angels - Buy from Amazon
This limited release opened with good reviews, but not great reviews, and never found an audience during its theatrical run. Now that is it coming out on DVD, it should do marginally better, but with absolutely no extras on this flipper disc, a rental will be enough for most people.

South of Nowhere - Buy from Amazon: Season 1 and Season 2
Part of the CreatSpace program, which means Amazon will burn these DVDs on demand. As for the show itself, it is a show aimed at teenagers, but it is not a teenage soap opera like O.C., but more like Degrassi: The Next Generations and deals with difficult topics like lesbianism. The show earned great reviews, but it is ending at the end of the third season, much to the dismay of fans.

Speed Racer - Buy from Amazon - DVD or Blu-ray
One of the biggest bombs of the summer. This film cost $120 million to make, but made $44 million domestically and barely more than that internationally. There's little hope that the film will recover its costs now, especially with a DVD that has just two featurettes and a digital copy of the film. The Blu-ray also has a video game version of the film, but that's it for exclusive extras. I was expecting more, but the movie is so visual that seeing it on High Definition is a must. However, for most people, seeing it once will be enough.

Star Trek - Alternate Realities - Buy from Amazon
They've already release individual episodes, full-season sets, full-series megasets, and finally a complete franchise MEGA-ULTRA-AWESOME SET! Now they are back to episode releases, this time as themed sets. They've previously released sets on Time Travel, the Borg, and on the various captains. Now we have alternate realities, which includes the mirror universe, first seen in Mirror, Mirror in the original series. This 5-disc set has 20 episodes spanning all 5 shows, but the extras are limited and so is the target demographic. This set is for fans of the show who are willing to spend money to own the show, but don't have the previous full season releases. Granted, given the price of the full-season releases, that's probably quite a few people.

Torchwood - Season Two - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A British Sci-fi series about a government agency that deals with extraterrestrial and supernatural threats. Think X-Files, but with cool British accents. A top-notch show at a top-notch price. Actually, it costs more than most full-season sets and it only runs 13 episodes long. Extras include a comprehensive featurette on the lead character, making-of featurettes on each episode, deleted / extended scenes, and outtakes. It is an amazing show, and it is worth paying that price to pick up. However, that price it a little too much for it to win the DVD Pick of the Week, even taking into account the import nature of the show.

Will & Grace - Season Eight - Buy from Amazon
Groundbreaking show that started off strong, but had lost a lot of steam by season eight. That said, the extras are reasonable for this type of release, and the price is good, so if you have been buying the show up to now, there's no reason to stop before you complete your collection. Speaking of complete collections, The Complete Series Megaset is also coming out this week. Personally, I would have released it a little closer to Christmas to take advantage of the holiday shopping season.

Young @ Heart - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about a senior citizen Rock 'n' Roll cover band. The film earned amazing reviews and it has the best box office of a non-IMAX documentary of the year. (Not counting Shine a Light, which is mostly a concert film.) Sadly, while the movie is worth seeing, the DVD doesn't make a strong case for purchasing with just a bonus music performance and some deleted / extended scenes.


Filed under: Video Releases, Made of Honor, Speed Racer, The Love Guru, Young @ Heart, Snow Angels, Kabluey, Proteus, Noise, The Rape of Europe