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DVD Releases for October 21, 2008 - Part I

October 21st, 2008

The number of DVDs reaching my door is increasing each week (so are the number of ones that are late, or so it would seem). However, while there was a wide selection, the choice for DVD Pick of the Week was easy: Looney Tunes - Golden Collections - Volume 6. ... And James Bond - Blu-ray Uber Collection, as well as Casino Royale on Blu-ray. One last note, as has happened more often than not, this week's list is split into two. The second part can be seen here.

According to Jim - Season One - Buy from Amazon
When people complain about the mediocre nature of sitcoms, they often bring up this show. It's the kind of show you can watch for 30 minutes, and then 30 seconds after the end credits roll you can't remember what it was about. That's okay for low energy entertainment, of which I am not a fan, but it seriously limited its replay value, which is key for TV on DVD. Additionally, the 4-disc set has no extras, which further limits its appeal. Frankly, I would recommend that even fans would be better off catching random episodes in syndication.

Anaconda 3 - Offspring - Buy from Amazon
The first movie was but was a surprise hit at the box office. The second film was even worse (much worse than its reviews would indicate) and struggled at the box office. Now the latest sequel is going direct-to-DVD (and so will Anaconda 4: Trail of Blood). The level of "When Animals Attack" campy fun has diminished to the point where even fans of the genre will not rate this film highly, but there's still enough cheese here to warrant a rental.

Ben 10 - Alien Force - Season One - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Ben 10 was a cartoon about a boy who has the ability to turn into one of ten forms thanks to an alien artifact called the Omnitrix. Alien Force takes place 5 years after the events of the first series with Ben, Gwen, and the rest a little wiser. Not only have the characters aged, but the show is also going for a older target demographic, which should please most fans. I'm not happy they are releasing single disc volumes, and the extras are absent, but it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Birds of America - Buy from Amazon
A dysfunctional family dramedy starring Matthew Perry, Ben Foster, and Ginnifer Goodwin. After seeing Matthew Perry in Numb, I was looking forward to seeing this movie. Perhaps my expectations were too high.

Matthew Perry stars as Morrie Tanager, a man trying to deal with a life that didn't turn out as well as he had hoped. His wife stands by him, but he spends much of his time having to clean up messes made by his depressed brother and his flaky sister. In essence, its an Indie flick that tries to get by by stuffing the movie with as much quirkiness as possible, which is a flaw that far too many Independent comedies have. But without a foundation of compelling characters, I just couldn't get into the movie.

There are no extras on the DVD.

Birds of America was deeply disappointing, especially after seeing Matthew Perry in Numb not too long ago. The quirk to character ratio is way off and I can't even recommend renting, unless you are a really big fan of one of the principal actors.

Blood+ - Volume Three - Buy from Amazon
Just a quick note that this DVD is coming out this week. I hope to receive the screener this week and get the spotlight review done for next week.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Africas Super Seven, America the Beautiful, The Breed, Casino Royale, The Complete Massage Pack, Diary of the Dead, Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed, The F Word, Funny Games, Halloween, Holiday Favorites with the Wonderland Carolers, Incredible Hulk, James Bond - Die Another Day, James Bond - Dr. No, James Bond - For Your Eyes Only, James Bond - From Russia with Love, James Bond - Live and Let Die, James Bond - Thunderball, James Bond - Three Pack - Volume One, James Bond - Three Pack - Volume Two, James Bond - Six Pack, Ocean Origins, Red Desert, Shrooms, Space or Dream of Life - Music Experience in 3-Dimensional sound Reality, Spatial Dynamics - Music Experience in 3-Dimensional Sound Reality, The Strangers, Sweeney Todd, The Woods Have Eyes, and Yule Log-Christmas By the Fireplace
An excellent collection of Blu-ray releases this week that includes blockbusters like The Incredible Hulk, as well as classic franchises like James Bond making their debut on DVD. I don't expect any of the releases here to live up to Iron Man's record-setting debut, but the overall sales should be strong nonetheless.

Casino Royale - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The re-booting of the James Bond franchise went better than almost anyone could have imagined, and it showed at the box office. And with Quantum of Solace coming out in a -- What the hell does that name mean? Sorry, it's just been bugging me for a while. With Quantum of Solace coming out in a few weeks, they are re-releasing Casino Royale on a special edition DVD and Blu-ray. The DVD has a flood of new featurettes, while the Blu-ray has Picture-in-Picture, a trivia Game, and it is BD-Live enabled. I can't really recommend upgrading to the DVD, but heartly suggest upgrading to the Blu-ray. In fact, it is a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Casino Royale - Buy from Amazon
Also coming out this week is the original Casino Royale, which was done as a spoof in 1967. Granted, the reviews were and are terrible, but I don't think it is as bad as its reputation suggests. Additionally, the 40th anniversary edition DVD is loaded with extras including an audio commentary track, making-of featurettes, featurettes on all the cast, the history, etc. Easily worth picking up for fans of the franchise who are looking to laugh at some of the absurdities found within, and there's a lot of them. (And I say this as a man who owns the complete collection, twice over.)

Christmas Releases - Buy from Amazon: All I Want for Christmas, A Grandpa for Christmas, Holiday Favorites with the Wonderland Carolers (Blu-ray), Holiday Favorites with the Wonderland Carolers (DVD), My Little Pony - A Very Minty Christmas, Santa Claus - The Movie, and Yule Log - Christmas By the Fireplace (Blu-ray)
I give up. Obviously Christmas season has officially begun, and did so the day after Labor Day, and there's no sense in fighting it, so here's a list of some of the Christmas DVDs, and Blu-rays, that are coming out this week.

Comedy Central Salutes George W. Bush - Buy from Amazon
After 8 years of Bush, I don't want to hear his name again, unless he's being investigated for crimes committed by his administration. And I don't think I'm alone. That said, Comedy Central thought it would be a good idea to release a DVD celebrating the end of his administration with a few episodes of Comedy Central shows, as well as a few shorter bits. These include...
  • South Park - Mystery of the Urinal Deuce
    Someone does a number two in the urinal and Cartman thinks it is a conspiracy, just like 9/11
    The DVD starts out great with this episode and it does a great job of mocking the 9/11 conspiracy theories, but I couldn't help but notice that George W. Bush was only a minor part of the show. Also, the "Hardly Boys" bit grew old fast. A little subtlety would have helped a lot here.
  • Lil’ Bush - Iraq/First Kiss
    The first episode(s) of Lil' Bush: Resident of the United States. The first part has Lil' Bush and his cronies traveling to Iraq to find a father's day gift for his dad, and the second has Lil' Cheney having an affair with Mrs. Bush.
    I hate this show, but at least these two half-episodes are not the worst I've reviewed.
  • That's My Bush - An Aborted Dinner Date
    The pilot episode from this series, which lasted just 8 episodes. Here Laura planned a dinner with George, but George keeps forgetting. Meanwhile, his fraternity brothers show up to enforce a promise George made while drunk many, many years ago.
    Not so much satire of George W. Bush, but a parody of the family sitcom, complete with the dumb husband, the smart wife, the wacky neighbors, etc. Sadly, while the "live studio audience" whoops and hollers, I didn't find many of the jokes funny. I think it was the lack of a political edge that hurt the show the most.
  • Root of All Evil - Paris Hilton vs. Dick Cheney
    The final full episode and it isn't even about George Bush. I guess they ran out of material
    I have mixed opinions on this show. On the one hand, I believe Dick Cheney is evil, while Paris Hilton is only mildly annoying. After all, she has no direct influence on my life. Additionally, I believe Patton Oswald is one of the funniest stand-up comics, but Greg Giraldo is merely annoying. (I particularly love Patton Oswald's one-word closing statement.)
That's it for the full episodes, but there are also four short bits...
  • Last Laughs Squad
    An animated short that has Lewis Black, D.L. Hughley, and Dave Attell exploring George W. Bush's ass (I wish I was joking).
  • Last Laughs
    Three stand up routines featuring Lewis Black, Greg Giraldo, and Patton Oswald. The first and the last are funny, but too short, and censured.
  • Mind of Mencia
    A short skit with George W. Bush celebrating his 10th anniversary as president of Iraq. Not that funny, but at least it's short.
  • Comedy Central Presents
    Frank Caliendo doing an impression of George W. Bush. Don't find him funny.
Of the four episodes, only two have replay value. And of the short bits, again only two have replay value. That's a hit / miss ratio that is too low to recommend Comedy Central Salutes George W. Bush for a purchase. Perhaps its worth a rental, but I would suggest grabbing South Park Season Ten and Root of All Evil Season One instead.

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

Deception - Buy from Amazon
Deception opened last April, and was one of three thrillers to open that month. None of these movies were bit hits, but this film was the weakest of the three.

Ewan McGregor stars as Jonathan McQuarry, a shy accountant who lives a lonely life, until he meets Wyatt Rose, a lawyer for a firm he is auditing. They start up a friendship and Wyatt introduces Jonathan to "The List", which is a group for professionals looking to have one-night stands with other professionals, with no strings attached. In fact, they are not even supposed to give each other their names. However, Jonathan breaks the rules with a woman and falls for her, but then he learns that Wyatt is not all that he claims to be.

Deception earned terrible reviews when it first opened, and it is hard to argue with most of the complaints. The plot involved too many twists, which stretched the gamut from preposterous to ludicrous, while moving too slowly to entice people in. On the other hand, while I get the feeling the filmmakers were aiming for erotic, given the whole section of the movie dedicated to the "sexual awakening" of Jonathan McQuarry, but it too was unsuccessful in this area. So we have an erotic thriller that is sadly neither, with surprise twists that were telegraphed in advance, and strained credibility.

On the other hand, the extras on the DVD were better than expected given its poor performance at the box office. Things start with an audio commentary track with the director, Marcel Langenegger, who spends most of the track telling the listener exactly what is happening on screen with just a little insight into his process. Next up is an 18-minute making-of featurette, a 10-minute featurette on the sex club, and finally two deleted scenes and an alternate ending. None of the extras have a lot of replay value, but then again, neither does the movie.

I'm not entirely sure where Deception went wrong, but it did. It could have used a tightening of the script to speed up the plot, close a plot hole or two, and generally polish up the dialogue. That might not have been enough, but as it is, it is hard to recommend the movie, even for just a rental.

Dynasty - Season Three - Volume Two - Buy from Amazon
I don't like soap operas, nighttime or otherwise, and I certainly hate splitting TV on DVD releases into two volumes per season. Add in zero extras, and there's little reason for me to be excited about this DVD.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the worst movies of the year, both in terms of how well it was made and the research used to back it up. Preys upon those who don't understand the definition of the word, "science," while inciting hate upon those who do. (It tries to link evolution and the Nazi genocide.) Saying, "skip it" is simply not enough in this case, but that's the lowest rating I have.

Family Guy - Buy from Amazon: Volume Six, Freakin' Sweet Party Pack, or Complete Collection - Stewie Head Packaging
You have to give credit to Seth McFarlane; he sure knows how to get the most money out of his franchise. This week three DVDs are coming out, the first being Volume Six, which continues the chronological releasing of the show, minus Blue Harvest, which is sold separately. Also coming out this week are two more "complete collections" that include everything previously put out. However, this is not the first complete collection released, so to entice fans to buy the complete series, again, he's releasing it with Stewie Head Packaging, and people are buying it. I'm not sure I can recommend doing that, but continuing with individual volumes it still worth it.

Flight of the Red Balloon - Buy from Amazon
A remake of a short film from 1956, Le Ballon Rouge. It's not as good as the original was, but it is still a great film and it is worth checking out. Sadly there are no extras, so I would start with a rental and decide if the replay value of the movie is enough for a purchase.

Go Diego Go! - It's a Bug's World - Buy from Amazon
Fans of the show know what to expect with these DVDs: Four episodes, but not much in the way of extras. So instead of chatting, let's get right to it.
  • It's A Bugs' World!
    Diego and his friend shrink down to the size of bugs to watch the whirligig beetle dance contest, but one of the contestants is missing. So it is up to Diego to find her, with your help.
  • Alicia and the Whitetail to the Rescue!
    Alicia and an injured Whitetail Deer help a baby Whitetail Deer who was hurt in a rockslide. On a side note, monkeys with bubbles? And was anyone else creeped out by the growing antlers?
  • Diego the Hero!
    Alicia was out trying to rescue some penguins, but her boat was trapped in ice and now Diego needs to rescue her.
  • Whistling Willie Finds a Buddy
    Diego and Baby Jaguar have to help Whistling Willie return home through the rainforest, but Willie's never been in the rainforest, and he's a little scared.
The only extra on the DVD is a image gallery that has information on some of the bugs seen in the show.

Go Diego Go! is a very interactive show, and for fans of the program, It's a Bug's World is certainly worth checking out. Since it is a kids show, the replay value warrants purchasing over just renting.

Gunnin' for that #1 Spot - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about 8 High School basketball players trying to become the number one ranked player just in time for College recruitment. The film earned good reviews, but went nowhere at the box office. The DVD is coming out this week, but the Blu-ray isn't being released till mid-November, which is odd.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 7th of October. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

The Happening - Buy from Amazon
The latest from M. Night Shyamalan, who first became known to most people with the incredible The Sixth Sense. It's been downhill from then on.

The movie starts out in Central Park with two women sitting on a bench, one of whom notices people acting stangely (although while she describes it, we don't see most of it). Suddenly her friend kills herself. A few blocks away a few construction men are telling jokes when one of their colleagues falls from the top of the building, a tragic event that is followed shortly by another falling death, and then another, and then a dozen more. Something is happening... I would go further into the plot, but this suspense movie doesn't work well enough to bother. It's an interesting idea that is impeded by poor execution on nearly every level of filmmaking, including, and especially, the dialogue. The dialogue was so bad and the delivery so forced that I cringed at times when I was supposed to be drawn further into the story. And these are not bad actors, so I have to wonder if it was the directing that was the problem. It could be that M. Night Shyamalan has become so convinced of his own genius, that it is impossible for him to tell when his films work, and when they don't.

And this film just doesn't work.

Extras on the DVD are mixed with no audio commentary track, but a lot of other features. Things start with 15 minutes of deleted scenes, with an introduction by M. Night Shyamalan. The Hard Cut has M. Night Shyamalan talking about one of the scenes that he thought was shocking. Personally, I thought it was telegraphed and completely obvious. I Hear You Whispering is a 4-minute featurette on Mrs. Jones, who was played by Betty Buckley. The Happening - Visions of The Happening: A Making Of... Who named this featurette? Outside of the weird name, there's nothing that really sets this 12-minute making-of featurette apart. A Day for Night is a 7-minute making of featurette on one day in the filming of the movie. Elements of a Scene in another making-of featurette, which deals with one of the most complicated scenes to shoot. It was one of the better scenes in the movie; there was no dialogue. Finally, there are 3-minutes of outtakes.

After The Village and Lady in the Water, expectations for The Happening were low. But after watching this movie, they were not low enough. It's a mess, and quite frankly, I hesitate to recommend even just renting the movie. It's strictly for hardcore fans of M. Night Shyamalan, and even then make sure you have The Sixth Sense as a backup.

The Incredible Hulk - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
The fifth and final season of this comic book TV series finally hits the home market. It is arguably the best live action comic book series of all time. Granted, after watching this top ten list, I realize most such shows sucked. This is one of the few shows that had drama, action, and still holds up over these years. Also coming out this week is The Complete Series megaset, but it is not that much cheaper than individual seasons.

The Incredible Hulk - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition, 3-Disc Collector's Edition, or Blu-ray
Just a quick note, I only have the 3-Disc Collector's Edition and I can't get into specifics with the Single-Disc Edition or the Blu-ray. I assume the former is just the first disc of the version I have, while the latter has a couple of BD-Live features, but we will get to that soon enough. First, to the movie itself.

When the original came out in 2003, it was hotly anticipated, which explains the film's $60 million opening weekend. However, while Ang Lee was ale to get some introspection out of the comic book tale, this is not what fans were looking for, which explains the film's then record-setting fall during its second weekend. Fans of the Super Hero don't want deep introspective, they want "Hulk smash!" This time around, they got "Hulk smash!" Granted, not everyone will think The Incredible Hulk is an improvement over the first film, and there are some issues with lack of character depth / development, as well as some technical issues (some have complained about the CG animation found within), but overall, those looking for a popcorn flick should be happy. Happy enough to await a third Hulk film? I'm not so sure about that, but he should be one of the selling points to The Avengers.

The 3-Disc Collector's Edition has plenty of extras spread over the first two discs (the third is a digital copy of the movie.) Things start with an audio commentary track featuring Louis Leterrier and Tim Roth. It’s a great track that is filled with information and nary a dead spot and the two men bounce a lot of information off of each other. There are also half-a-dozen deleted scenes running a grand total of 13 minutes, many of which could have been placed back into the movie, but were likely trimmed for pacing reasons. (I think Blu-rays should be able to seemlessly reincorporate trimmed footage like this back into the movie. I don't know of any that have done this, but I look forward to it becoming common place.)

Over on disc two, things start with an alternate opening, which is an interesting extra, but I prefer the opening they went with. More deleted scenes follow, 17 in total, running nearly 30 minutes. Many work, but are unnecessary. There is a 30-minute making-of featurette, which is worth checking out but pretty standard fair. I see so many of these each week, that it takes a lot for any of them to stand out. Becoming the Hulk is a 9-minute featurette on the design of the CG Hulk, as well as Edward Norton's preparation to perform as the comic book icon. Becoming the Abomination is a very similar featurette, just on the Abomination. Anatomy of a Hulk-Out is three smaller featurettes combined into a nearly 30 minute whole on the times that Bruce Banner turned into the Hulk in the movie. From Comic Book to Screen is a 6-minute semi-animated comic book.

The third disc is just the digital copy, which I'm a fan of. Even though I don't have a portable device to watch the movie on, I like the option.

The Incredible Hulk will not be seen as one of the best comic book movies of all time, but it is a fun ride and fans of the recent influx of similar titles should be entertained by the movie. As for the three home market releases, the 3-Disc Collector's Edition is certainly worth the upgrade from the Single-Disc Edition. Additionally, even if the Blu-ray had no additional features, it would be worth buying over the DVD. However, with a couple BD-Live extras, it is certainly worth paying $3 more for. Regardless of which format you decide to get, it is worth buying over just renting.

James Bond - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon: Die Another Day, Dr. No, For Your Eyes Only, From Russia with Love, Live and Let Die and Thunderball; or Volume One (Dr. No / Die Another Day / Live and Let Die) and Volume Two (For Your Eyes Only / From Russia with Love / Thunderball); or Six Pack
It's James Bond. And it's on Blu-ray. What more do you need? On a serious note, this series of releases could be enough to encourage many people to make the leap to Blu-ray, but I don't want to get into the six films in too much detail, as screeners are on their way and I will be doing a full spotlight review soon. I will say buying the Uber Collection is the best deal, because even the weakest Bond film is worth adding to your collection, especially with the level of extras found here. On a side note, this is the third year in a row they've released James Bond box sets, and I have them all. Granted, I only bought one of them, the second was a Christmas gift, and the third one I'm getting as a screener to review.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Casino Royale, Die Another Day, The Incredible Hulk, The Happening, Halloween, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, The Strangers, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Deception, Funny Games, Diary of the Dead, Le voyage du ballon rouge, Gunnin' for that #1 Spot, Shrooms