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DVD Releases for October 14, 2008 - Part I

October 15th, 2008

The DVD Release Report finally comes out this week after a couple of delays. At least it is worth the wait as one of the most anticipated films of the year, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, comes out on both Two-Disc Collector's Edition and Blu-ray. This release is clearly the DVD Pick of the Week, on either format, while there are so many other releases that the list had to split into two. You can find the second part here.

4 Month, 3 Weeks, 2 Days - Buy from Amazon
One of the best-reviewed movies of the year, it also picked up a couple of nominations, although it was shut out in major awards. Shame. Given the reviews, this DVD is worth picking up, even without getting into the extras. This is good, because there are not that many extras, just a interview with the director and the lead actress. However, for a Foreign Language import, this is not unusual.

Adventures of Robin Hood - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This is the 1955 British TV series, and not the 1938 movie of the same name. Since it is the second season, this should be obvious, but Amazon has the wrong date. There are no extras on the 3-disc set, but you can't complain about that price. $11 for 39 episodes! That's fantastic.

Alfred Hitchcock - Buy from Amazon: Notorious, Rebecca, and Spellbound or Premiere Collection
Three more movies by Alfred Hitchcock, as well as an 8-disc collector's set with 8 films. This is mostly early works, running from The Lodger in 1927 to The Paradine Case in 1947. Most of these are not among the auteur's best known films, but they are all worth checking out. Add in plenty of extras and they are easily worth picking up, and get the Premiere Collection over the individual releases.

Back to You - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
After starring as Dr. Fraiser Crane for close to 500 episodes in two shows, Kelsey Grammer's latest lasted show lasted just 17 episodes, 3 of which never aired. I wouldn't call it a bad show, but it is too typically sitcomish, for lack of a better word. Fans will be happy to get all 17 episodes on DVD, but with just a handful of featurettes, and no audio commentary tracks, I can't recommend it to newcomers. There's not enough replay value here to bother with a short run series.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: The Alps, American Gangster, Casino, Constantine, Coral Reef Adventure, Cosmic Voyages / Destiny in Space, Dolphins, Eastern Promises, Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag, The Gangster - 3-Movie Collection, Great Expectations, HD Moods - Aquarium, HD Moods - Flowers, HD Moods - Mountains, HD Moods - Tropical Beaches, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Jewel of the Nile, Living Sea, Mongol - Plus Digital Copy, Mystery of the Nile, Poltergeist, Romancing the Stone, Space Station / Mission to Mir Imax, Standard Operating Procedure, Stuck, The Ultimate Matrix Collection, War, Inc., and Warren Miller: Playground
Another strong week for Blu-ray releases, including the best selling Blu-ray of the week, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. But also of interest is The Matrix making its debut on Blu-ray.

Chaplin - 15th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
I wonder if this is coming out to take advantage of Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, both of which also star Robert Downey, Jr.. I don't care why it is coming out, I'm just glad it is. I don't want to get into details, because the screener is on its way and I hope to do Spotlight Review next week. I will say that the extras include several featurettes, including home movies from Chaplin himself, and it is worth picking up over just renting.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Eighth Season - Buy from Amazon
This is the final full season with the star, William L. Petersen. I'm not sure how well the show, or the actor, will survive after the split, but I think the show has a better chance of thriving. As for this 5-disc set, there are two audio commentary tracks, a handful of featurettes, and a bonus episode of Without a Trace. I remember previous seasons having more special features than that. Additionally, it's six or seven episodes shorter than previous seasons, but the DVD costs about the same amount. True, this is not a unique situation this year and a lot of strike-shortened DVDs are going for the same price, but I feel the need to point it out when it happens, every time it happens.

Dance of the Dead - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD horror film about zombies who attack the prom, and the only people who can save the day are those who couldn't get a date. Yes, it does have a strong comedic edge to it, and one that works. Additionally, the extras are better than expected for most direct-to-DVD films with an audio commentary track, deleted and extended scenes, making-of featurette, and a short film previously made by the filmmakers. It's worth checking out. In fact, it is worth picking up over just renting. It is also coming out in a Box Set with seven other movies, but of those eight total, this one and The Substitute are the only two worth picking up.

The Edge of Heaven - Buy from Amazon
A Turkish / German co-production, which makes a lot of sense, because there is a huge Turkish population in Germany. The film earned excellent reviews and did extremely well for a foreign language film. Extras on the DVD include video diaries by the writer / director, Fatih Akin. While this is not a lot, it is more than many foreign language films have and it doesn't stop me from giving it a solid buy rating.

Icons of Horror - Hammer Films - Buy from Amazon
A 2-disc, 4-movie set that includes classic horror movies from the Hammer studio in the United Kingdom. There are four films in this set, The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, Scream of Fear, and The Gorgon. Of these films, three of them feature horror icon Christopher Lee, and the one that doesn't, The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, is the weakest of the four. The best of the four is arguably Scream of Fear, which is a great psychological horror movie. Sadly, there are no extras on this 2-disc set, but these movies have not looked this good in a long, long time, and for fans of the genre in general, or the studio specifically, it is worth picking up.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition, Two-Disc Collector's Edition, or Blu-ray
It's been nearly 20 years since the previous film and fans of the franchise were looking forward to the film with equal parts excitement and trepidation. I don't think anyone was expecting it to be as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark, but there were still very high expectations. And I think it lives up to them.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has an excellent mix of action and humor, while presenting enough that is familiar to fans of the franchise that they will feel at home. There are a few places where suspension of disbelief is stretched, like when Indiana Jones survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator. Although I had a thought that maybe drinking from the Holy Grail in The Last Crusade partially protected him from such harm. Also, there were some complaints that there was a feeling of "been there, done that," although it is a tough balancing act trying to add something new while pleasing all of the old fans. The final complaint I heard was, perhaps due to Ford's age, the balance between humor and action was tilted a little more to the humor this time around. However, it is very important to note that these three complaints, even when combined, are not enough to prevent me from offering a hearty recommendation.

At the moment I only have the Two-Disc Collector's Edition, but I expect the Single-Disc Edition is simply just the first disc. If so, it is not worth picking up, as there are only two featurettes in terms of extras: The Return of a Legend and Pre-Production. The former runs just under 18 minutes and talks about the franchise and how the fourth film came into being. The latter runs just under 12 minutes and deals with pre-visualization (which is the digital version of storyboards), as well as other pre-production jobs like costumes and stunt training. They are fun to watch, but too short for the only extras on the DVD.

Disc two of the Two-Disc Collector's Edition starts with a massive production diary, and by massive I mean it is nearly as long as the movie itself. I've reviewed movies that are shorter than this and it is incredible extensive. There's a series of shorter featurettes on specific aspects on the making of the movie: Warrior Makeup (five and a half minutes), the making of The Crystal Skulls (ten minutes), Iconic Props (10 minutes), The Effects of Indy (23 minutes), and Adventures in Post-Production (13 minutes). There is also a 4-minute featurette on the team that helped make the movie, from director Steven Spielberg to the head grip. Finally, you can check out the pre-visualization sequences for three scenes, as well as trailers, gallery, etc.

I don't have the Blu-ray yet, but I will update this review when that screener arrives. However, given the relative prices, the Blu-ray is the better deal, even if there are no additional extras.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was one of the most eagerly-anticipated releases of the year, and I'm happy to report that except for a couple minor complaints, it lived up to high expectations. It is certainly worth buying, either on Two-Disc Collector's Edition or Blu-ray, and I would certainly recommend the latter over the former.

Also coming out tomorrow is the Franchise Collection, which is a good deal if you really want all four movies but don't have any of them on DVD yet. However, I don't think there's that many people out there who fall into that category.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 30th of September. However, the Blu-ray screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Iron Man - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
This is the third time this movie has appeared on this DVD Release Report. There's no need to go over the quality of the movie or the extras that were ported over from the DVD. We just need to deal with what sets the Blu-ray apart.

The video here is just fantastic and is among the best live action High Definition transfers I've seen. It captures the grittiness of the first half of the movie, but really shines during the second half when the red and gold Iron Man comes out. Additionally, there is a BD-Live trivia quiz on the disc where you can watch clips and answer questions, and even submit your own. It's not much over the DVD, but at least it pushes the technology further.

As we learned over the weekend, Iron Man became the highest selling Blu-ray of all time, and it did it in just two days. There's a reason for this. Not only is the movie fantastic, but the transfer is amazing, and there is even an extra feature that takes advantage of the Profile 2.0 players. It is easily worth paying extra money, and it only costs $1 more on Amazon. This is a movie that is not only worth picking up on Blu-ray if you have made the leap to High Definition. It is worth making the leap to High Definition for.

Warning: These DVDs do not come out this week and made their home market debut on the 19th of August. However, the screeners arrived very late, hence the delay in the review.

Legendary Performances - Buy from Amazon: Marty Robbins and Tammy Wynette
While watching these two DVDs I was reminded of a song by The Dixie Chicks:

Now they sound tired,
but they don't sound Haggard
They've got money,
but they don't have Cash

They don't make country music like this anymore.

Legendary Performances - Marty Robbins - Buy from Amazon
This DVD contains 15 songs performed by Marty Robbins on various TV shows over the course of 22 years and includes early hits like "Knee Deep in the Blues" and "Singing the Blues", as well as latter hits like "Ribbon of Darkness" and "A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)". And of course it contains his biggest hit, "El Paso", as well as the follow-up, "El Paso City." The oldest of these performances are more than 50 years old, but the sound and audio is better than I was expecting. Additionally, there are two extras, a short clip of Mary Robbin's induction into the Country Hall of Fame, and a 40-minute interview from early in 1982.

Legendary Performances - Tammy Wynette - Buy from Amazon
This DVD collection includes 15 performances by Tammy Wynette from various TV appearances over a 14-year period. This includes four duets with George Jones, including three that were recorded after their divorce was finalized. I think we can assume the divorce was fairly amicable. The DVD also includes her biggest hit, "Stand By Your Man", which I can't take seriously after hearing Minnie Driver butcher the song in Goldeneye. (Although it is fun singing the song in a Russian accent.) Additionally, there are a couple of short interviews from the 80s, a TV news clip about her fifth, and final marriage to George Richey, and a clip of her induction into the Country Hall of Fame in 1998. Combined the extras run roughly 20 minutes.

(On a side note, I knew there was no way in Hades they would include the song, but I really wanted to hear Tammy Wynette perform "Justified and Ancient" with KLF, also known as The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (aka The JAMs). That would have been so cool, and confused the hell out of country music fans.

For fans of Country Music, old school County Music, these two DVDs are a great value. The only real complaint is the length, as each DVD only has about 40 minutes of music, and for fans that's not enough. They are definitely worth picking up, but they will leave fans wanting more.

Liberty's Kids - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A PBS series from 2002 to 2003 about a group of kids living in the time of the American Revolution, starting at the Boston Tea Party to the writing of the constitution. This is an excellent program, going for a very reasonable price on a per minute basis. The extras, on the other hand, are light with just a few short bits with Benjamin Franklin doing the LNN, the Liberty News Network. I think a featurette on the making of the show would have really added value to the DVD, but what we get is still worth picking up over just renting.

Life with Derek - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian TV series about two divorcees who get married and the effects that it has on the two families, mainly the two oldest kids. It's a good show that has won awards in its native Canada, but I find Derek to be so completely annoying that I just can't take it when he's on the screen. All 13 first season episodes are included on this 2-disc set, as well as a number of extras that include interviews, behind-the-scenes, and more. For fans of the show, it is easily worth picking up. In fact, I'm tempted to pick it up to encourage other studios to release kids shows on Full-Season sets. (I will get Kim Possible on DVD.)

Lil'Bush - Resident of the United States - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
I can't believe this show lasted more than one season. I would be more surprised if it lasted one more season, but it hasn�t been officially canceled yet. However, the fact that they are releasing this DVD before season three is even announced is a really bad sign.

The show is political satire, which is a sub-genre that is incredibly hard to get right, and this show doesn't come close. Like I mentioned when I reviewed Season One, there's very little to like about this show. I thought the animation looked cheap, I thought the voice acting was weak (especially for Lil' Bush), and worst of all, the writing wasn't sharp, which is the worst sin satire can commit. George W. Bush is such an easy target, his approval and disapproval ratings are near all-time lows, not just for his presidency, but since political polling began. But instead of nailing its target with laser precision, the juvenile attempts at lowbrow humor actually makes the real 'Dubya' look good by comparison. Maybe that's the point. Maybe this is a right-wing ploy to make George W. Bush look good. In that case, good job, but why?

Extras on disc one include short web clips, a viral video, and commentary on the episode Big Pharma, none of which have any real replay value. Extras on disc two include commentary tracks on all episodes, but there's very little information or entertainment here. Too many dead spots and too little information.

Combining political satire and lowbrow humor can work, it really can. It just doesn't work with this show. Lil'Bush - Resident of the United States doesn't even show much improvement from Season One to Season Two and watching these 10 episodes feels more like a chore than entertainment. I can't even recommend renting.

Little Einsteins - The Christmas Wish - Buy from Amazon
No Christmas before Halloween. And while we are at it, no Halloween before Labor Day.

Moving on to the individual episodes.

  • Show and Tell - Annie, Leo, June, and Quincy are on their way to school and they are excited because it is show and tell, but Big Jet comes along and steals all of their favorite things, so the four of them, and Rocket, have to get them back before school starts.
  • The Christmas Wish - Leo tells his three friends a story about a Christmas Wish Box, and just as he finishes, Santa comes and brings them each a Wish Box of their own, each of them, except for Annie. So the friends go and look for her Wish Box, which must have fallen off of Santa's sleigh. Of course, they all use up their wishes looking for Annie's Wish Box, which doesn't seem very efficient.
  • The Wind-Up Toy Prince - June tells the story of the Toy Prince, which used to dance for all of the sad toys, that was till the Mouse King stole his wind-up key. And now it is up to the four friends, and Rocket, to rescue the Toy Prince and defeat the Mouse King.
  • The Northern Night Light - While visiting Lapland, the Little Einsteins meet a herd of reindeer. However, one of the baby reindeer wanders off and it is up to the gang to find it before it is too late.
Extras on the DVD include a pop-up trivia track for all four episodes, which adds a lot of information to the show while not killing the entertainment.

This is a repetitive show, and not just in the overall format, but there are a few lines that are heard in nearly every episode. "I can not believe it!" Flying super fast. "Mission Completion." Etc. At least the music is usually different each episode. Speaking of which, the music on this DVD is the best out of the few DVDs I've reviewed and all four songs are great. Although I miss "Funeral March of a Marionette." For fans of Little Einsteins - The Christmas Wish is worth picking up, but wait till after Halloween to get it. We can't reward premature Christmas celebration.

Long Way Down - Buy from Amazon
Just a quick note that this DVD is coming out this week. I hope to get a screener soon and I will have a spotlight review up ASAP.

Love Comes Softly - Buy from Amazon: Volume One and Volume Two
A series of TV movie Westerns starring Katherine Heigl as a woman living in the 1890s. Most of the movies are just average, but engaging. Lack of extras limit the value to more hardcore fans, but the low cost of the two volumes helps.

Lovejoy - Christmas Specials - Buy from Amazon
It's too early for Christmas, but I'll make an exception for Lovejoy. This single-disc release has two Christmas specials from the long-running British TV series and the price is either very high for TV on DVD, or very low for imported TV movies, depending on how you look at things.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 23rd of September. However, the Blu-ray screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Madagascar - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
This is the second time this film has come out on the home market. It first debuted on DVD back in 2005, and now it is coming out in High Definition. Since I have already discussed the film's DVD release, there's little reason to go in-depth into the quality of the movie (it is solid if a little average) or the extras that appeared on the DVD (and there's a lot) but instead concentrate on the what's new.

What's new is the High Definition Transfer, which is among the best I've seen, which is not that surprising since it is coming from a digital source. Almost all of the best looking Blu-rays I've seen have been digitally animated movies, because going from a fully digital source has its advantages. Granted, this movie is not as strong as Ratatouille's, but it is still fantastic. As for the Blu-ray Exclusive extras, there is only one, a Pop-Up Trivia Track. The trivia track balances information and entertainment, and it has enough pop-ups to not feel sparse. As a Blu-ray exclusive, I can't complain. As the only Blu-ray exclusive, I'm a little disappointed. At the very least they could have include a preview for Madagascar II.

When Paramount / Dreamworks went HD DVD exclusive, Madagascar was one of the big selling points. However, it never made it to High Definition before Warner Bros. chose Blu-ray, and effectively ended the format war. It took about a year longer than I was expecting, but the Blu-ray is worth the wait and worth picking up.

Mongol - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the biggest hits in terms of limited releases that came out this past summer; although $5 million it much more than most limited releases earn, it is still not the massive breakout hit we should see at least over the summer. It is an excellent movie, but the DVD and the Blu-ray are completely devoid of extras. They both come with digital copies of the movie, which is worth a few bucks, but as for an audio commentary track, making-of featurette, or information on the real history of Genghis Khan, we get nothing.

Naruto Uncut Box Set - Volume 10 - Buy from Amazon
What's up with the guy with the strange eyes? Rock Lee? He needs to cut back on the caffeine.

Nash Bridges - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Don Johnson's return to TV after Miami Vice. He plays a police inspector with Cheech Marin playing his partner. It was a fun show that didn't take itself too seriously. However, a word of warning, it was a mid-season replacement the first year out, so there were only 8 episodes in season one. That's so few that it might have been a smart idea to instead include them in the second season DVD release. Extras are a little light compared to contemporary shows with just two interview featurettes (one with Don Johnson and the other with the writers), but for fans it is worth picking up. For those who have not seen the show, it is worth renting, and perhaps you will become a fan.

The New World - The Extended Cut + Digital Copy - Buy from Amazon
Terence Malick hasn't made a lot of movies over his career, but he has developed a strong following. Maybe strong isn't the right word. He has fans that are devoted to his filmmaking, but their numbers are not large, and he hasn't had a box office hit, ever. His biggest hit made just over $36 million at the box office on a budget of $52 million. This movie was not only a step down at the box office, but also a step back with critics, but it is still worth checking out. As for the DVD, this is an extended edition that runs nearly 3 hours -- up from the 2-and-a-half hour cut original cut, or the two-and-a-quarter hour theatrical cut. However, there are no additionally extras, so if you have the original release, hang on to that as well.

NFL Greatest Games Series - Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowls - Buy from Amazon
Fans who are interested on spending money on sports DVDs like this are interested in full games, not highlights. Good job providing what the fans want. Also coming out this week is a 2-disc DVD on the Browns, but that has a documentary on the history, as well as one game.

One Touch of Venus - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a man who kisses a mannequin and she comes alive. Yep, it's the original Mannequin, but it is a far better movie. It would have to be. Now this movie is mostly unknown, but it should be seen by more. At least give it a rental.

The Partridge Family - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
I would like to read reviews written about the show when it first aired. I've seen a lot of critics review the DVD releases and they mostly love the show, and I want to know if this is the result of nostalgia, or if I'm missing something.

I think it is nostalgia.

The Partridge Family was a sitcom from the early 1970s about a family band that toured in their wildly painted bus. However, while this was the basis of the show, for the most part it was just your typical family sitcom from the 70s that has a lot in common with its contemporaries like The Brady Bunch (including the oppressive laugh track). The 1970s was a decade that created some of the best sitcoms to ever appear on American TV, including All in the Family, Maude, and to a lesser extent, Happy Days. (Don't get me wrong, Happy Days was a great show, but it doesn't have the social impact of the other two I mentioned.)

It's not all bad, and the season starts off relatively well with This Male Chauvinist Piggy Went to Market, which is a typical battle of the sexes episode, but it is handled well. (On a side note, I agree with Keith, cooking a single dish is a hell of a lot easier than fixing a flat tire. Housework is tough not because of any one task, it's tough because of all of the tasks one has to do every day, pretty much simultaneously.) The season also ends on a high note with Me and My Shadow where the family gets into a bet with a mystery writer on whether or not they can avoid being found by him. If after 24 hours, he doesn't know where they are, he has to donate $25,000 to their favorite charity. However, most of the rest of the episodes in between feel like filler.

Also, there are no extras on the 3-disc set, nor are there any subtitles. But there are proper chapter placements and play-all buttons.

Season Three is the penultimate season of The Partridge Family, and it is still fondly remembered by many fans nearly 25 years after its run ended. I'm not entirely sure why, since it is not that memorable a show. Thoroughly average is how I would describe it, and that's if I'm trying to be generous. Additionally, this 3-disc set is almost as bare bones as you can be and it is hard to be enthusiastic recommending it, even to fans. Even for most a rental will be enough to get the hit of nostalgia they crave.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Matrix Reloaded, Madagascar, The Matrix Revolutions, Constantine, Eastern Promises, Mongol, 4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile, Auf der anderen Seite, War, Inc., Standard Operating Procedure, American Gangster