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DVD Releases for November 18, 2008 - Part I

November 18th, 2008

It's a weird week for the DVD release report. According to Amazon, seven of the top ten releases come from two movies: WALL-E and Tropic Thunder. Add in the Spanish language edition and there are five versions of the former movie coming out this week, including the 3-Disc DVD and the 3-Disc Blu-ray, either one of which is worthy of the DVD Pick of the Week. The overall group of releases feels weaker than last week, but it is more than enough that it had to be split into two parts. Part two can be found here.

300 - Limited Collectors Edition - Buy from Amazon
This film is one of the best selling High Definition releases of all time, yet the special edition is in Standard Definition only. What the hell?

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 16 Blocks, Action Blu-ray 3-Pack, Alone in the Dark, Alpha Dog, Awake, Berlin Concert: Live From Waldbuhne, The Beyonce Experience Live (Amazon Exclusive), Bird People of China, Bizet: Carmen, Black Christmas, Blu-Cube 10-Pack Bundle, Blu-Cube 2.0, The Blu-ray Experience : Opera and Ballet Highlights, Blue Streak, Bruce Almighty, Chick Flick Blu-ray 3-Pack, The Eagle Has Landed, Encounters at the End of the World, Eugene Onegin (Metropolitan Opera), Extreme, Family Blu-ray 3-Pack, Female Agents, Flash Point, Foo Fighters - Live At Wembley Stadium, Goonies, Hard Action Blu-ray 3-Pack, Heathers, I Puritani, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Infernal Affairs, Invisible Target, Island, Jeff Dunham - Spark of Insanity, Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special, Jeff Dunham: Three-Disc Collection, Kanye West - Late Orchestration, Khachaturian: Spartacus (Bolshoi Ballet), Kid Blu-ray 3-Pack, Kitaro, Lucky Number Slevin, Mad Money, Malice@Doll, Manon, Marvel Blu-ray 3-Pack, Mirrormask, Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro, Muscle Blu-ray 3-Pack, National Security, The Nutcracker (Marinsky Theatre), Ocean Aquarium, Paris, Je T'Aime, Paul McCartney - The Space Within Us, Priceless, Protégé, Revolver, Running Scared, Scary Movie 4, Scary Movie 4, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2 w/ Digital Copy, Sophie Scholl - The Final Days, Southland Tales, The Stendhal Syndrome, Strauss: Rosenkavalier, Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake, Tropic Thunder, UFC: Ultimate Comebacks, The Universe - The Complete Season 1, Verdi - Aida, Verdi: Rigoletto, WALL-E Two-Disc w/ Digital Copy, WALL-E Three-Disc w/ Digital Copy, The Who At Kilburn - 1977, and Zodiac
A huge list of Blu-ray releases, including some that Amazon has coming out on the 24th. Strange. However, outside of WALL-E and Tropic Thunder, there's not a lot of top-notch releases this week, especially considering how many of them there are.

Bones - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
Arguably the best Police Procedural show on TV right now. (It's either this or NCIS.) Good news, the show remained high quality throughout season three. Bad news, the season was shortened by the writer's strike, and yet the price remains the same. Extras are also mixed with a few extended episodes, a few episodes from season 4, deleted scenes and outtakes. With the bonus episodes the price-per-minute is the same as last season, but this time next year you will be double dipping these episodes, so their value here is limited. Even so, it is still worth picking up, but a few audio commentary tracks could have lifted it to the DVD Pick of the week.

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

Bringing Balachine Back - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the New York City Ballet company, which was co-founded by George Balanchine after he left his homeland in 1933. The movie tells the story of the first time the company performed in Russia, which it did in 2003, 70 years after he first left, and 30 years after he died.

The film takes a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for this performance and we are given a history lessen with narration by Kevin Kline. Now there are some that might call me uncouth, but I've never gotten into ballet. Even so, I could appreciate the struggle and dedication it takes to become the best in any given art, especially one so physically demanding. For those who are already fans of ballet, this is a great film to watch. I'm not sure it will convert others, on the other hand.

Extras on the DVD include additional interviews with a number of subjects, but most of these are quite short. There is also a tour of the Mariinsky Theater, where the troupe performed in Russia.

For fans of Ballet in general, and especially fans of George Balanchine, Bringing Balachine Back is certainly worth checking out. However, the DVD lacks substantial extras, and for most a rental will suffice.

Burke's Law - Season One - Volume Two - Buy from Amazon
A super-rich millionaire works as a police detective from the back of his chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. This is a good show, for the first two seasons before Burke became a spy, but the 4-disc set is rather bare bones (it only has some vintage commercials) and splitting the season in two is annoying.

Cannibal! The Musical - 13th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's earliest films, and still one of their best. (Sadly, that doesn't mean a whole lot, as most of their early films earned weak reviews.) On a side note, it is neither the 13th anniversary of the film's creation nor its release date. This is not the first time it has been released on DVD, but it is the best with a second audio commentary track, new interviews, deleted scenes, a look at the stage production, and more, as well as the original audio commentary track, behind-the-scenes, and other previous extras. If you like Orgazmo, you'll probably like this movie as well. But if you don't like Trey Parker and Matt Stone's work, stay far away.

Christmas Releases - Buy from Amazon: Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special (DVD) or Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special (Blu-ray)
Small list of Christmas releases this week. Next week's list is better. In fact, I'll be reviewing one of them.

The Clique - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD release starring a bunch of young actresses, most of whom are very new to the business. Ellen Marlow plays Claire Lyons, a new girl in school who has to deal with The Pretty Committee, the popular Clique in school. Think of it as Mean Girls, just without the pedigree. Extras are strong for a direct-to-DVD release with a number of featurettes and a gag reel, while there is supposed to be a Blu-ray coming out this week, but the link on Amazon is dead.

Daniel Boone - Season 6 - Buy from Amazon
The final season of this Western is coming out this week. I think there's a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in this movie, which means people who didn't grow up with the show might have a hard time getting into it. Add in a lack of extras and the value is a little weak.

David Lynch - The Lime Green Set - Buy from Amazon
David Lynch is one weird duck. ... Just had to get that off my chest. This 10-disc set includes a number of movies from the filmmaker, including Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and Wild At Heart. It also contains a number of short films, and even a few soundtracks, as well as a 40-page booklet. It's a great collection for his fans, but while some of this is new to DVD, much of it is a double-dip, and with that hefty price, it is for hardcore fans only.

Doctor Who - The Complete Fourth Series - Buy from Amazon
It's going to take a while for this incarnation of Doctor Who to rival the original, which lasted 700 episodes, more or less. Fortunately, through excellent writing, and a fast rotation of cast members, the show has the ability to remain fresh decades after it first aired. Extras include audio commentary tracks for every episode, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes, and more. However, the quality of the show and the high number of extras does come at a premium price. It is still worth picking up, and even with the high price, it is a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Doctor Who - The Infinite Quest - Buy from Amazon
A kids show based on the latest incarnation of the long-running Sci-Fi show. It's fun, but it is for kids, and it is just 48 minutes long. Keep that in mind.

Encounters at the End of the World - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Walter Herzog's documentary about the men and women who live in Antarctica. This is one of his best movies to date, and if you've seen and liked Grizzly Man, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, or his other documentaries, then you will likely love this movie. If you haven't seen those films, give then all a rental. In fact, given the level of extras on this DVD (audio commentary track, interviews, and more), it is worth picking up blind.

Executive Koala - Buy from Amazon
I dare you to read the synopsis of this movie and not say, "Huh?" You know what? I'm going to blind buy this one, and The Calamari Wrestler and review them for this year's Holiday Gift Guide.

The Fairly Odd Parents - Season 6 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Last week when I reviewed Scrubs Season Seven, I mentioned that a common way TV shows "Jump the Shark" was by introducing a baby to the mix. It's quite common in live action shows, but cartoons rarely last long enough to reach that point.

The Fairly Odd Parents has reached that point.

Granted, the two-part (Four-part?) season opener, Fairly Odd Baby, is a strong episode, but most of the rest of the episodes are hit or miss. More miss than hit, quite frankly. Mission Responsible, in which Timmy has to baby sit little Poof is also amusing. The Fairly Oddlympics is mostly amusing, if a little repetitive, but it has a great ending. The Flintstones is spoofed in Land Before Timmy while Star Wars is giving the Fairly Odd Parents treatment in The End of the Universe-ity. Timmy over-uses his wishing powers and is forced to go to the Wishing Well to become reformed. Finally, the 2-disc set ends with Poof's Play Date.

Sadly, there are no extras on the 2-disc set. There are also no subtitles and no proper chapter placements. Since most episodes are 11 minutes long and the opening credits only play once per DVD and the credits for all of the episodes are collected at the back of each DVD, this isn't a major issue.

I'm not a fan of splitting TV seasons into two volumes, and the total lack of extras hurt, but if you were happy with previous The Fairly Odd Parents releases, then Season 6 - Volume 1 should be worth adding to your collection. The show is starting to show signs of its age, but it isn't over yet.

Garden Party - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a several people trying to make it in Los Angeles. The ensemble film shows the lives of a disparate group of individuals trying to make it in the city of angels, and whose lives intersect in a number of ways. It's been compared to Robert Altman's work, especially Short Cuts, but not in a complimentary way. 'A pale imitation of...' best describes the comparison between the two films.

There are five main characters starting with The Dreamer, a.k.a. April, a 15-year old who catches her step-father looking at her while she showers one too many times and decides she has to get out of there, however, it's hard for her to raise the money she needs to pay rent without taking off her clothes. There's The Musician, a.k.a. Sammy, a young singer who is homeless, but willing to take any bed offered to him, regardless if it is offered by a girl or a boy. The Connection, a.k.a. Sally, a powerful real estate agent who uses pot to help get into the good graces of her clients, while using her assistant to help satisfy her desires. Speaking of her assistant, The Dancer, a.k.a. Nathan, a dancer from Nebraska who is trying to earn a living. And finally there's The Sex Addict, a.k.a. Todd, who is an aspiring artist, which you would think would be more interesting to his character than Sex Addict. Alas, it is not. In fact, only two of these characters, April (played by Willa Holland) and Sammy (played by Erik Smith), are even as interesting as their one sentence description. This is the biggest flaw in the movie, the lack of interesting characters. The film also moves slowly and goes nowhere. One of the two positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes says the film works if you know Los Angeles. Perhaps that is true; I don't know that city so I can't comment. But making a movie that only works if you know the city that it is set in is not a recipe for success.

There are no extras on this DVD.

Garden Party is an ensemble drama in the same vein as much of Robert Altman's film, however, it just doesn't work. Add in a DVD with no extras and I can't even recommend a rental.

Gay Cinema Triple-Shot - Buy from Amazon: 3-Day Weekend, Arizona Sky, and Dog Tags
A trio of gay films are coming out this week, which further exasperates the Gay / Lesbian imbalance in movies. I know, you don't need to hear this rant again, however, it bugs me that there are not more strong roles for women in movies in general, and lesbian films should be an ideal way to get there. But there seems to be few such films released, even as Gay Cinema experiences a boom of sorts.

Gene Simmons Family Jewels - The Complete Season Three - Buy from Amazon
I think this Reality TV show is past its prime. It was better than most such shows for the first season or two, but it's over.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about writter / journalist Hunter S. Thompson. The movie opened with excellent reviews and did very well at the box office compared to most in its genre. Additionally, the DVD has better extras than expected with an audio commentary track, additional interviews, deleted scenes, and more. It didn't make the short list of Oscar nominations, which were announced today, but it is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Hannah Montana - DVD Game - Buy from Amazon
The first of two DVD games based on Disney franchises. This one is based on the TV and movie hit, Hannah Montana, and is hosted by Lilly, a.k.a. Emily Osment.

There are nearly a dozen games that can be played here including some that are solo affairs and others that are group games. The main game is a trivia contest where you are given 20 questions, some of which have video components. I got 12 correct. I'm not sure I should be upset that I only managed 60%, or embarrassed that I got 60% right. Next up is a sing-along set with one of seven songs and a dance-along with one of eight songs. Band Audition is a memory game like the old Simon game from the 1980s, although anyone old enough to remember that is probably too old to care about this release. Seeing Stars is another memory game, while the solo games end with a trio of personality games. (I'm a Hannah Montana Whiz Kid who is going to be a TV star, which is strange because I see myself as more of a Lilly character. )

Moving onto the multi-player games, Keep the Beat is a word association game and True Friends is a test to find out how well your friends know you and how well you know your friends. Party Play has three sections, Say Whaat?, Art Class, and Hellooo Drama!. Each one you have to get your teammates to guess the answer by either giving them clues, drawing a picture, or acting it out.

Granted, I'm outside the target demographic here, but I can tell that fans of Hannah Montana that are around 10 to 12 years old should get a kick out of the DVD Game. On the other hand, the DVD is as expensive as the 4-disc, full season DVD below, so that should be taken into account here and for some it might hold back its value to that of a rental. Although, compared to most video games, it is very cheap, so keep that in mind as well.

Hannah Montana - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A Disney Channel TV series that is coming out on a full season set and not another 4-episode single-disc release. And there was much rejoicing!

Of the 26 episodes from season one, nine have already been released on the various single-disc releases I hinted at above. Even if you ignore the repeats, that gives a per minute average that is on par with most TV on DVD releases, so the double-dip aspect of the 4-disc set is minimized. Looking at the episodes that are making their DVD debut this week and we have...

  • She's a Supersneak - Miley and Jackson want to sneak out of the house and check out a new movie, but both are forced to stay home and study by their dad. But when they sneak out to go to the movie, they catch their father on a date with a mystery woman.
  • It's My Party and I'll Lie if I Want To - Lilly's embarrassing behavior backstage results in her being not invited to a party with Miley. Miley still wants to go, but how will she let down Lilly? She'll lie. That always works.
  • Grandma Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Favorites - Miley gets to meet the Queen and Mamaw's in town... to watch Jackson play in a volleyball tournament. Miley quickly grows jealous with Mamaw paying so much attention to her brother, but Mamaw has a reason for this.
  • It's a Mannequin's World - Tired of getting lame gifts from her father, Miley hides in the store to help him pick out something cool. She fails. And now she has to figure out how to avoid hurting her father's feelings, while not wearing the hideous cat sweater in public.
  • Mascot Love - Miley and Lilly haven't been able to spend enough time together, so Miley convinces Lilly to join her trying out for Cheerleader squad. However, their friendship is put through another test when only one of them makes the squad and the other has to play the mascot.
  • Ooo, Ooo, Itchy Woman - Miley and the rest of the class have to go on a camping trip together, but after a practical joke goes wrong, Miley is left with a horrible case of poison ivy.
  • O Say, Can You Remember the Words? - Miley and Oliver are partners for a drama project, but his stage fright is so bad that she drops him. However, karmic payback happens when she can't remember the words to the national anthem live on TV.
  • Oops! I Meddled again! - Miley's website attracts thousands of fans who send her e-mails. Among them is one girl who confesses to having a crush on Oliver, so Miley and Lily decide to play matchmaker.
  • You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Zit is About You - Lilly is forced to wear glasses after her dog ate her contact lenses, and she becomes really conscious of how she looks. Miley tries to cheer her up, until she sees her new billboard, which features a huge pimple for everyone to see.
  • Torn Between Two Hannahs - Luann coming to town. Luann is Miley's identical cousin. Her evil identical cousin. ... Moving on.
  • Debt It Be - Miley overspends on her 'Emergency Only' credit card and has to sell some of her clothes she was given for a video shoot... including a pair of earnings worth $250,000.
  • My Boyfriend's Jackson and There's Gonna Be Trouble - A paparazzi follows Miley home and gets a picture of her, but in order to prevent her secret identity from being discovered, she claims she doesn't live there, it's the home of her boyfriend, Jackson. Awkward.
  • We Are Family---Now Get Me Some Water! - Miley accidentally gets Jackson fired from his job, so she hires him as her assistant. Or Senior Vice President in Charge of Assistication. This will end poorly.
  • Schooly Bully - Miley has to deal with a bully at school, so her bodyguard, Roxy, disguises herself as a fellow student to take care of the problem.
  • The Idol Side of Me - Miley and Lilly are ranked as the uncoolest kids in school by Amber and Ashely, so Miley uses Hannah Montana's appearance on Singing with the Stars, a Reality TV show, to get her revenge.
  • Smells Like Teen Sellout - Miley becomes a sponsor for a perfume she's never smelled before, and when she finally does... let's just say she isn't a fan.
  • Bad Moose Rising - Jackson and Miley get into argument that ends with getting into a bet. Miley has to babysit the neighbor's demanding niece while her uncle is sick.
As for extras, each disc has a Hannah Highlight episode, which is a pop-up, picture in picture trivia track that goes with one of the episodes. Also, on the fourth disc there is also a seven minute featurette with Miley Cyrus back home at the family ranch in Nashville, Tennessee. Finally, there's the opening episode of the Disney Channel Games, in which Miley Cyrus performed.

Hopefully this is a new trend for Disney Channel shows, as I would much rather have full season sets than single-disc best of releases. For fans of the show, Hannah Montana - Season One is a great deal that includes several news extras. My only complaint, and it is a mild one, is that they didn't also include the previous extras so you should keep the old releases after buying this one.

Hawaii Five-O - The Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Great show, but these DVD releases so far have been very bare bones so far. The price-per-minute is great, but I would be willing to pay more to get more.

Heathers - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
A great movie that is finally coming out on Blu-ray after a minor delay. It is also coming out on a gloriously overpriced Limited Edition Box Set, which contains both the DVD and Blu-ray. I'm tempted to buy this version, partly because I have more money than brain cells, but also because I like having the option of buying the really cool packaging with the Blu-ray. Too often the really cool packaging only comes with the DVD version of the movie. Not sure why that is, but perhaps studios still think Blu-ray is too niche to bother with limited edition packaging.

High School Musical - DVD Game - Buy from Amazon
This could be the shortest review I will ever write, because this DVD is practically identical to the Hannah Montana DVD Game I reviewed above, so I only need to go into the few differences found here.

Firstly, and most obviously, this is based on the High School Musical, including all three movies, and is hosted by KayCee Stroh, a.k.a. Martha Cox. Also, there are four personality quizzes, but they all involve your future career. (I'm a teacher, pastry chef, actor, and a CEO.) That's really it as far as differences go. If you like one of these DVD games, you will like the other, assuming you like the franchise it is based on.

On a side note, I got 80% on the trivia quiz, and I haven't even seen High School Musical 3 yet. I'm quite sure I should be deeply embarrassed by that. Secondly, I was disappointed that I couldn't choose Kelsi as my avatar, which sucks because she is my favorite character. ... I'm certain I should be deeply embarrassed that I have a favorite character for High School Musical.

The High School Musical - DVD Game should be a lot of fun for fans of the movie, especially those who like to get together with their friends and watch the film and sing along with the movie. Compared to buying any of the DVD releases, there's more than enough bang for your buck here to be worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Bruce Almighty, WALL-E, Tropic Thunder, Scary Movie 4, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, National Security, The Island, Zodiac, Lucky Number Slevin, Mad Money, Black Christmas, Awake, Running Scared, Paris, je t'aime, Hors de Prix, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Encounters at the End of the World, MirrorMask, Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage, Southland Tales, The Clique, Jeff Dunham's Very Special Christmas Special, 300, 16 Blocks, Alpha Dog, Alone in the Dark