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DVD Releases for September 23, 2008 - Part II

September 23rd, 2008

Aaaahhhhhh! POP! ... That sound you just heard was my head exploding. This week we had a new record for spotlight reviews, and with TV on DVD kicking into high gear and summer blockbusters starting to come out soon, I don't think it will slow down. (Additionally, I have close to a dozen DVDs that arrived late, and I was only able to get to less than half of them for this week. So look for another huge batch next week.) As for the quality releases, there were a few that caught my eye, but none more than The Godfather Trilogy on Blu-ray. Sure, it doesn't push the high definition format, but this is the best these films have looked in decades and any film buff will want to have them in their collection. Meanwhile, last week's release of Duckman - Season One and Two also deserves to be awarded the DVD Pick of the Week. While there are not as many releases this week as last, there are so many spotlight reviews that the list had to be split into to. Part II can be found here.

iCarly - Season One - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
A TV series starring Miranda Cosgrove (of The School of Rock) as Carly Shay, who we meet as she enters the principal's office to be punished for spreading pictures with the head of their English teacher (Mindy Sterling of Austin Powers) photocopied onto the body of a rhinoceros. Her punishment is video taping all of the entrants for the school talent show with the help of her friend, Sam (played by Jennette McCurdy, who has had guest shots in about a dozen TV shows) and her next door neighbor, Freddie (Nathan Kress). However, she and Sam are caught on camera bad-mouthing some of the entrants, and one of the teachers, which is then uploaded on the internet. But while they freak out about their punishment, they become internet celebrities, hence the birth of iCarly, their internet TV show.

On a side note, this show is apparently the first scripted show to feature kid-created content. (They show a lot of videos that kids send in.) Not sure if this is entirely true, nor am I sure it is that much of a selling point.

Episodes on this 2-disc set include...

  • iPilot - which I mentioned above, so there's not need to go over it again.
  • iWant More Viewers
    The trio look for ways to increase the number of views for iCarly, so the split into two groups and let the iCarly viewers vote. On a side note, Sam and Freddie are fighting, so Carly squirts them with a water bottle to get them to stop. This is the same method I use on my nephew to get him to do his math homework. It's effective, and funny.
  • iHatch Chicks
    Carly and Sam are grouped together for a science project and decide to hatch some chicks, which they decide to film for iCarly.
  • iDream of Dance
    Something about Scottish Highland Dancing, which I think is just an excuse to have an episode featuring men in kilts.
  • iLike Jake
    Jake, the cute guy in school, breaks-up with his girlfriend, and all of the girls want to date him.
  • iWanna Stay with Spencer
    Carly's grandfather wants to get custody of Carly while her father is stationed overseas. However, she wants to stay with her older brother, Spencer.
  • iNevel
    The trio try to get their site reviewed by Nevel, who has the final word on cool on the internet.
  • iScream on Halloween
    It's the Halloween show and the trio film iCarly in a haunted apartment.
  • iSpy a Mean Teacher
    The trio decide to follow around Ms. Briggs (a.k.a. Mindy Sterling) to see if she is mean outside of school as well. But what they learn might be too much for them to handle.
  • iWill Date Freddie
    There's a new feature on iCarly where they can talk directly to the fans, and one of them wants to date Freddie. And of course Carly and Sam decide to spy on them during their date. (At least Carly has the decency to feel guilty while doing it.)
  • iWant a World Record
    The trio go for a world-record longest webcast, which is only 24 hours and 8 minutes, which doesn't seem that long to me.
  • iRue the Day
    Nevel returns to get his revenge because Carly refused to kiss him last time, so he hacks the iCarly website. Will they get control back in time to feature the Plain White T's on their site?
  • iPromise Not to Tell
    Sam does something nice, which causes no end of trouble for Carly and Freddie as they try to fix it.
I've reviewed a lot of kids shows in the past few years, so while I am not part of this show's target audience, I can still tell when a show like this is working, and when it is not. For the most part this show works. Miranda Cosgrove is great as the lead, and the writing is good. Some of the supporting characters are more annoying than entertaining, and that laugh track is a little too enthusiastic, but it is still better than average for a kids show.

Extras start with a music video for "Leave it All to Me" and a making of said music video. Next up are 10 behind-the-scene clips. Most run about 1 to 2 minutes long, but sadly there is no play all button to watch them all as one 14-minute chunk. There are no subtitles, no proper chapter placements (in fact, each episode is only one chapter). But there are play all buttons. As for splitting the season into two volumes, most kids shows only last 65 episodes, because that's how many you need to syndicate the show. Therefore, you have two full seasons of 26 episodes, and a half season of 13. Splitting the DVD releases into five 13-episode volumes instead of two full seasons and one half season makes sense. Hell, I'm just happy they are not releasing a bunch of 4-episode best-of DVDs.

iCarly has proven to be a serious hit for Nickelodeon, and Miranda Cosgrove could become the latest teen star. The DVD release for Season One - Volume One has better extras than most kids shows, and the fact that it is not a "Best Of" release alone makes it worth picking up for fans. Hopefully full season sets will become standard, and before long I will get Kim Possible full season releases on DVD.

Leatherheads - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Take the romantic comedy and add in a sports story and what do you get? Lots of clichés. However, if you add in a charming cast, the final result is still worth checking out. Lets face it, most romantic comedies don't earn better than 50% positive reviews, so for fans of the genre, this is a much better than average film. That said, it didn't live up to expectations at the box office, so I wasn't expecting a great DVD. Fortunately the extras are better than many first-run releases with an audio commentary track by star / director George Clooney, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, a featurette on George Clooney's pranks, a featurette on the football scenes, and more. The Blu-ray has all of that, but it includes a Picture-in-Picture version of the extras, although it does cost 50% more. Leatherheads is worth checking out for most, picking up for fans of the genre, but it is too close to call for the Blu-ray.

The Love Guru - Buy from Amazon: DVD, DVD + Digital Copy, or Blu-ray
Hat trick!

Yes, for the third week in a row, we have The Love Guru on the DVD Release Report. This time, however, we are just dealing with the Blu-ray release and what's new compared to the DVD.

Nothing.

How many times is this going to happen?

Granted, the movie looks great, but as a lowbrow comedy, this is not the kind of film that you are going to break out to show off your home theater system. (Also, the sound mixing does nothing to show off what High Definition can do at all. But again, comedies are rarely known for sound editing.) At least the extras are all presented in High Definition, which is more than some Blu-ray discs have to offer, and it only costs about 25% more for the Blu-ray over the DVD + Digital Copy. However, it is still hard to recommend the upgrade, and it is certainly impossible to be enthusiastic about it.

Mother of Tears - Buy from Amazon
Dario Argento ends his Three Mothers trilogy on a rather low note. It's hard to image it is the same franchise as the amazing Suspiria.

The film starts with a coffin being accidentally unearthed somewhere in Italy. On top of the coffin in an urn with strange markings, that immediately interest the Monsignor, and after he examines its contents, he seals it and sends it to an expert at the Art Museum of Rome, Michael Pierce, to confirm his suspicions about its origins. However, two assistants of his, Giselle Mares and Sarah Mandy open it first, and all hell breaks loose. Almost literally. There's a wave of violence, 52 suicides in 2 days, mothers killing their babies, people beating up each other, and at least one guy totally beating the crap out of a car. It is now up to Sarah Mandy to figure out what is going on and stop the Mother of Tears.

Dario Argento created some groundbreaking films early in his career, and as influenced countless filmmakers. However, lately his films have lost whatever it was that made his earlier films so special. The story starts out reasonably well, maybe a little confusing, but it isn't able to stay clear. It gets more muddled and the ending is just awful. (You can't set up the main villain that much and then defeat them that easily. Major Spoiler: Sarah used the spear to rip the talisman (a.k.a. the red sweater of death) off The Mother of Tears and burn it. That's it. Burn the shirt and the main source of evil is rendered powerless and the building collapses. I couldn't believe that's all it took. Another problem with the film was the acting, some of which was simply terrible (including the main witch). This might be due to the multinational cast, including some that might have been struggling with English as a second language. But whatever the reason, throughout the movie, there were scenes with acting bad enough that I couldn't become involved in the movie. Also, a lot of the gory special effects were equally bad. I think the main draw here is blood and breasts, of which there were roughly equal parts, but the former was not particularly well done, while the latter in no way compensates.

On a side note, why is it that all of the witches wore too much eye make-up?

Extras on the DVD include a 33-minute making-of featurette and an 8-minute interview with the director.

A lot of people were hoping that with Mother of Tears Dario Argento would return to the old form that he showed with Suspiria. That wasn't the case. In fact, the film is worse than its reivews would otherwise indicate, at least in my mind. I can't recommend the DVD for anything more than a rental, and that's only if you are a Dario Argento fan who must see how the Three Mothers trilogy ends.

NFL: History of the Dallas Cowboys - Buy from Amazon
There are few professional sports teams that generate a more polarized feeling than the Cowboys, as you either love them, or hate, hate, hate them. (On a side note, The New York Yankees are probably the most hated team around while the New York Rangers are my personal most hated team). The Cowboys generate a similar feeling of disgust among non-fans, and this makes this 2-disc set either a great gift for fans, or a terrible gift for haters. Or a great gift to piss off haters.

Oppenheimer - Buy from Amazon
A TV miniseries starring Sam Waterson as Robert Oppenheimer, or as he was known to his friends, "The destroyer of worlds." The film earned generally good reviews, and even a few nominations, but nearly 30 years after it first aired, most people have forgotten it. The only extra on the 3-disc set is an interview with Robert Oppenheimer by Edward R. Murrow from 1954, but it is certainly worth checking out, as is the DVD as a whole.

Pathology - Buy from Amazon
This movie took forever to reach theaters, and when it finally did, it bombed. Granted, it is not a great movie, but it is not nearly as bad as its box office performance would indicate. I don't want to get into too much detail on this release this week, because I should be getting a copy to review shortly (and hopefully a couple more for contests). Yes, I know I've said that a lot lately, but this time of year shipping tends to hit a bottleneck with all of the releases coming out. So a short review: Worth checking out, but it is on the line between rental and purchase.

Peanuts Holiday Collection - Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
A 3-disc set containing what are arguably the three best Peanuts holiday specials: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. If you have them previously, this is not worth the upgrade. But if not, it is a great deal, and the replay value here is huge.

Princess Bride - Buy from Amazon
One of my favorite movies of all time, but they've released it on DVD so many times that it is becoming insulting. On the other hand, this is part of a program to raise awareness to combat Breast Cancer.

Reno 911 - Miami - Unrated More Busted Than Ever Edition - Buy from Amazon
Great show, but this is an unnecessary release, especially since they've released all of the seasons on full-season sets.

Rob & Big - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
Rob Dyrdrek and Christopher "Big Black" Boykin are back with 15 more episodes that take a look at them doing... whatever it is that they do. I reviewed the first release when it came out earlier this year, and I was pleasantly surprised. This is not a high quality show, per se, but these two have a charm that can carry the show.

This season they deal with a lot of weirdness, most of which is self-inflicted. The season starts when them finding... a floater in the pool. And for the first episode they deal with the aftermath. (Which includes getting a net gun, which Rob swears he will only use on someone he catches trying to take a dump in his pool. He lied.) They take Mini to a horse show. They try to break records in the fields of skating and eating. Put a wig on Meaty. Rob wears a fat suit to see what it's like to be a big man. Try to set up Rob on a date, head to Vegas to celebrate Drama's 21st birthday, celebrate Meaty's birthday, deal with a ghost, and more. This is not Masterpiece Theater, but it is entertaining.

On a side note, the FBI and the CIA may use polygraph tests, but they have never caught a double agent with one of them. It is only useful to catch dumb criminals, who are pretty easy to bust anyway. Professional liars have no reason to worry about it. (On the other hand, I saw an episode of America's Dumbest Criminals where two cops used a photocopier, alligator clips, and a colander to convince a criminal that they had a foolproof lie detector. I want that show on DVD.)

Extras on the 3-disc set and very impressive with audio commentary tracks on all 15 episodes. These include five of the on-screen talent, plus a couple of producers, and definitely lean heavily towards the entertainment side of the information / entertainment scale. The rest of the extras can be found on disc 3, starting with The Best, Worst, and Unused is a 20-minute clip show, but most of these clips we've already seen, so its value is limited. There are also 33 deleted scenes that run just over 86 minutes, which is roughly 4 episodes worth of material.

For fans of Rob & Big the Season 3 DVD is a great buy. Even those who are lukewarm on Reality TV should find something to like with this buddy comedy brand of the television genre.

Run, Fat Boy, Run - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I was looking forward to this movie for a long time, mainly because it stars Simon Pegg. However, the reviews were merely average with many critics complaining that it was too predictable. However, while it might be predictable, it is not nearly as bad as its box office result would indicate. In fact, if you liked Simon Pegg's previous films, you will likely find at least something to enjoy here. Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a practical joke. The Blu-ray has no additional features, but only costs 30% more, which is acceptable for this type of release. Certainly worth a rental for most, I would rate Run, Fat Boy, Run as a purchase.

Samantha Who? - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Christina Applegate plays Samantha, a women who was run over by a hit-and-run and was in a coma for 8 days. When she wakes she has retrograde amnesia, and has completely forgotten who she is. And when she starts learning who she it, it is not pretty.

Samantha now has to navigate her new life with all the obstacles from her old life, like her parents (Jean Smart and Kevin Dunn) whom she hasn't spoken with in two years. Or her best friend (Jennifer Esposito) who is itching for Old Samantha to come out and play. Her old boyfriend (Barry Watson), whom she had a tumultuous relationship with. Finally there's here best friend... from grade seven (Melissa McCarthy from The Gilmore Girls) who uses the amnesia to get back into her life, and Frank... the doorman (played by Tim Russ, who is also in iCarly, which I reviewed above).

The writing is strong, and the cast is great. At times, because she's lost so many memories, Samantha is like a child, and Christina Applegate plays that part perfectly. I especially the chemistry between Samantha and Tuvok the Doorman, I mean Frank the doorman.

Extras on the 2-disc set, on the other hand, are light with just an audio commentary track on the first episode, a very short selection of outtakes, and seven deleted scenes, with optional introductions. They do have subtitles, play all buttons, while the opening credits are so short you don't need proper chapter placements.

Samantha Who? started last fall and despite the season being ended early by the writers' strike, Season One doesn't lose its momentum partway through. Extras on the 2-disc set are light, but overall it is still a great value and worth picking up over just renting.

Schoolhouse Rock - Election Collection - Buy from Amazon
A series of animated shorts on a number of political or semi-political topics. The Complete Collection has already been released on DVD, so this set is only for those who are interested in politics, but not the myriad of other topics.

The DVD is broken up into three parts: The Campaign, Our History, and How Government Works.

  • The Campaign - Deals with issues politicians might campaign on, like...
    Energy, Taxes, Wall Street, The Debt and the Electoral College. Sadly they skipped cosmetics on swine, the cost of haircuts, and whether or not Hawaii is considered too exotic to be American, all of which have been raised by political pundits this election cycle. Of this group, Energy Blue is my personal favorite, although the Pro-Tax song, Tax Man Max is a nice break from all of the anti-tax sentiment. I have no problem with paying taxes; I consider them clubhouse dues to be a member of your country. Complaining about waste is reasonable, but calling taxes "theft" is not.
  • Our History - Deals with the history of America, including...
    Three songs about the revolution, how America is a nation of inventors, and the great melting pot. This is the weakest of the three sections and none of the songs are among the best Schoolhouse Rock has to offer, at least in my opinion.
  • How Government Works - Deals with the inner workings of the Government, starting with...
    The Constitution, as well as the three branches of government, how a bill becomes law, and the Suffragettes movement. This part contains I'm Just a Bill, which is easily the most famous song on this DVD, and the second most famous ever made, behind just Conjunction Junction.The Preamble is also one of the better songs, and I particularly like the part about, "(promoting) the general Welfare...", which is part of the constitution that seems to be ignored.
There are also two versions of the Election Minute, but that's it as far as extras go.

Schoolhouse Rock - Election Collection is a great collection of shorts, however, this single-disc DVD has the same list price as the 2-disc Complete Collection, so it is very hard to recommend this one over the other.

Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King - Buy from Amazon
Another direct-to-DVD release for the popular franchise. Although I prefer the old-school "Man in a Rubber Mask" episodes, these remain popular to this day.

Sex and the City - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition, 2-Disc Special Edition, or Blu-ray
One of the bigger hits of the summer, and one of the most surprising. Granted, the film was based on a massively popular TV series, but analysts were still blown-away by its opening night box office. Then the Fangirl Effect kicked in and the rest of its run was mostly as anticipated. This is the number one selling DVD of the week. In fact, according to Amazon, it has four of the top ten releases. And even though the reviews were just average, there's little question that fans of the series will want to buy the movie over just renting it. The real question is which version. The Single-Disc Edition only has an audio commentary track and it is only good for renting. The 2-Disc Special Edition has the above features, plus interviews, alternate scenes with commentary, and featurettes on the fashion and the theme song. Also, it comes with a digital copy of the movie for portable devices. Finally, the Blu-ray has all of the above features, as well as two additional featurettes. This doesn't push the limited of Blu-ray, but it is a nice bonus, and it only costs $1 more. Worth picking up, and worth spending extra for High Definition.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 16th. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Star Trek - Alternate Realities - Buy from Amazon
The latest theme DVD release from the Star Trek franchise. This 5-disc set contained 20 episodes stretching across all 5 TV shows, starting with Mirror, Mirror from The Original Series, which is an excellent episode. In fact, a lot of these episodes are excellent. But not all are.

There are four groups of episodes starting with....

Mirror Universe:

  • The Original Series - Mirror, Mirror - A transporter accident sends the crew of the Enterprise into a mirror universe, one that is ruled by fear.
  • Deep Space Nine - Crossover - The Mirror Universe returns when Kira and Bashear have troubles in the wormhole, which is the new transporter malfunction.
  • Deep Space Nine - Through the Looking Glass - After the events of Crossover, Sisko is kidnapped and forced into the Mirror Universe to help continue the rebellion Kira and Bashear started previously.
  • Deep Space Nine - Shattered Mirror - This time Jake Sisko goes into the Mirror Universe to be with the counterpart to his late mother, and Sisko follows him.
  • Enterprise - In a Mirror Darkly - Part I & II - Set entirely in the Mirror Universe, which is the best part of these episodes. Archer mutanies in order to steal a ship from the future and use it to form his own Empire.
Parallel Dimensions:
  • The Original Series - The Alternative Factor - Captain Kirk meets a man named Lazarus who is being chased... by a man named Lazarus, his anti-matter doppelganger. But because they come from parallel dimensions, they threaten to destroy the universe.
  • The Next Generation - Parallels - Worf returns to the Enterprise from a tournament when things start changing, minor things at first, and only he can tell the difference. How can he figure out what is happening if only he can tell there is something to investigate.
Twisted Realities:
  • The Original Series - The Enemy Within - A transporter accident-- Shut that damn thing down! It's dangerous!... moving on... A transporter accident causes Kirk to be split into two, his good half and a bad half.
  • The Original Series - Tournabout Intruder - Kirk and a woman from his past switch bodies, and the woman uses Kirk's body to take over the Enterprise.
  • The Next Generation - Frame of Mind - Riker is flashing between a play he is acting in, and an insane asylum, and he doesn't know which reality is real.
  • Voyager - Shattered - Voyager becomes broken through time and only Chakotay can travel through the different time frames.
Alternate Lives:
  • The Next Generation - Yesterday's Enterprise - The Enterprise encounters a previous version of itself from an alternate timeline where they have been at war for 20 years. It is also the return of Tasha Yar.
  • The Next Generation - The Inner Light - Captain Picard is hit by a beam from a probe and it is taken to strange planet and a new life where he lives a simple life.
  • Deep Space Nine - The Visitor - Benjamin Sisko is zapped and sucked into subspace dimension, and his son spends the rest of his life trying to get him back.
  • Voyager - Before and After - Kes travels backward through time, but if she travels too far, she will cease to exist.
  • Voyager - Timeless - Chakotay and Kim have to fix the timeline to prevent the ship from crashing into an ice planet.
  • Voyager - Course: Oblivion - The crew and the ship starts to disintegrate and they need to figure out why this is happening, and how to stop it.
  • Enterprise - E2 - Archer encounters an alternate timeline Enterprise filled with the descendants of the original Enterprise.
  • Enterprise - Twilight - Archer is injured and can no longer form long-term memories, and T'Pol must take care of him, for 12 years.
The hit and miss ratio on these episodes varies depending on the series the episodes are from. Only one of The Original Series shows is not top notch, while The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine are equally strong in the episodes they are represented by here. However, the two later shows are much weaker.

Extras include a 19-minute featurette on the Mirror Universe, split over two parts. It shows how it started on The Original Series and why it became popular (Spock's goatee) and how it was brought back in Deep Space Nine and how it became so popular the second time around (Kira in a rubber outfit). Parallel Universe is a 7-minute featurette on the two Parallel Universe episode from Star Trek. Twisted Realities runs just under 13 minutes and deals with the four episodes in this category. Alternate Lives is a two-part featurette on this group of episodes, which runs 25 minutes in total. There are also commentary tracks on five episodes, one per disc.

Wow. Long review. Clearly I am not over my Star Trek addiction. That said, it is hard to recommend Star Trek - Alternate Realities despite the high quality of the shows presented here, at least most of the shows presented here. Every show here has been released on DVD, at least three times (full season sets, full series sets, and a full franchise set) but there are plenty of extras on this 5-disc set, and the price-per-minute is a lot more reasonable than the previously released sets. I'm going to call it a solid rental, leaning to a purchase, depending on how many of these episodes you own on DVD already, and how big of a Trekkie you are.

Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat - Buy from Amazon
A horror / comedy starring Bruce Campbell and David Carradine. The film is about a vampire rebellion over the "Right to Bite" after the lord of the vampires instructs his followers to only eat synthetic blood. The film's Western feel adds to he genre mish-mash, and fans of the genre should find plenty to entertain them. Extras on the DVD are better than expected for a low-budget film from 1990 with an audio commentary track and interview with the main stars. Overall it is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

This American Life - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
I reviewed this release when it was a Borders exclusive release, but this week it is coming out everywhere. Brief recap... Excellent show, no extras, still worth picking up over just renting.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 2nd. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

The Transformers - 2 Disc Special Edition with Transforming Packaging - Buy from Amazon
This is the fourth version of this movie I've reviewed now. ... I think. I admit I may have lost track. This is just the 2-Disc edition with a fancy case. How fancy? It transforms.

Okay, calling it a 'transforming' case might be overstating matters. You just slide out the legs, put the feet into place, and slide out the arms, but it does stand in the end. It is not terribly stable, and I wouldn't leave it in that form on a table that it likely to be bumped, but it is cool looking, sort of. I get the value of this version of the DVD depends heavily on how much of a Tranformers nerd you are. However, if you are a really big nerd like me, you likely complained about how Michael Bay destroyed the very soul of a childhood classic. At least it doesn't cost any more than the ordinary packaging.

Two and a Half Men - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
One of the highest-rated shows on TV and its star, Charlie Sheen, is the highest paid star on TV. However, to me it feels too much like a typical sitcom. Yes, it is well made, but it is not unique enough for my tastes. Extras are better than last season with audio commentary tracks, outtakes, and interviews. Worth checking out for fans of the show, and worth picking up over just renting.

The Unforeseen - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the ecological impact of the American Dream. An excellent movie that never found an audience theatrically. The DVD includes an audio commentary track, and it is certainly worth checking out, and worth buying over just renting.

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! A Tale of Tails - Buy from Amazon
An animated kids show for pre-school kids that has become amazingly popular. This single-disc release includes 90 minutes of show, plus a feature that allows you to listen to all of the songs in a row. It's a good value for fans of the show, especially since the replay value is so high.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Transformers, Sex and the City, The Love Guru, Leatherheads, Run, Fatboy, Run, Pathology, The Unforeseen, La terza madre