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DVD Releases for November 26, 2008 - Part I

November 25th, 2008

Strange week. There are a dozen spotlight reviews on the list this week, but only one is for a DVD coming out this week. Ten are for DVDs that arrived late, and one spotlight review is actually early. As for this week's releases, there are not that many that seem like must-haves and none rise to the level of a DVD Pick of the Week. If I were to choose the best release found below, it's WALL-E, which came out last week. But even then I would chose the Blu-ray I reviewed last week over the DVD. Despite the lack of a top tier release, there were still more than enough that it was necessary to split the list into two parts. Part two can be found here.

24 - Redemption - Buy from Amazon
A feature-length TV movie that aired this past weekend and that is now coming out on DVD this week. Critical reception seems to be quite strong, the only real question is whether you really need to grab the DVD now, or will it be included as part of the full-season set next year. Let's face it, the studio is asking $16 for what is essentially an extended cut of the two-part episode, plus an audio commentary with Kiefer Sutherland, which is really high for TV on DVD releases. If it is included, it will likely be a lot cheaper. On the other hand, it's not a bad deal if you consider it a TV movie. I say rent it now, or to be more precise, rent it in early January just before season seven starts. Then decide to buy next year based on whether or not it is included in the full-season release.

2008 Philadelphia Phillies - The Official World Series Film - Buy from Amazon
Real fans want full games and not a 90-minute season recap.

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

Adam-12 - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
A police procedural that ran from 1968 to 1975. It was created by Jack Webb, who is most famous for Dragnet. Like that show, this one is a very "by the book" kind of show. This makes it seem rather old-fashion compared to a lot of the flashy shows today, or the ones that have a more unusual hook, but I think it helps the show last. In 20 years some of the flashy shows will seem very dated, while this show will still have drawing power.

Martin Milner plays Patrolman Pete Malloy, veteran of the LAPD who lost his partner on the job and is now helping a newcomer, Officer Jim Reed played by Kent McCord. The two deal with a lot of the crimes that took place in the Los Angeles jurisdiction at the time the show was made, including drugs and burglaries to more serious crimes like dealing with a serial killer, or a child kidnappers. The whole time the cops are shown in a very realistic manner, for the most part. (The commentators on one episode note that the cops tend to get a lot more done over the course of one shift than is realistic, but that's obviously for dramatic effect and is not a big deal in the grand scope of things.) The police force is shown in a good light, but they are not deified, or even glamorized, and are shown to make mistakes from time to time and shown having a real down-to-earth life. For those who think too many modern police procedural shows let flash get in the way of a good story, this is a great relief.

Four episodes, one per disc, have audio commentary tracks with Sergeant Frank Mika and Officer Rob Nobile. These tracks focus not on the behind-the-scenes and production of the series, but instead on the law and the police procedural matters. This includes a lot of the changes in the laws, technology, procedures, etc. Very interesting to listen to. There is also a pop-up trivia track on one episode, and two image galleries. Sadly, there are no subtitles, but there are play-all buttons and proper chapter placement.

They don't make shows like Adam-12 anymore. Although looking at the current crop of police procedural shows, Law & Order feels like the most direct descendent. If you picked up Season 1, then grabbing Season 2 is obvious, since it's a better value with more extras than expected. If you've never seen the show but like Law & Order, then it is worth checking out, but start with Season One.

Beautiful Ohio - Buy from Amazon
This film was made in 2006, and after playing in a number of film festivals (including the Sarasota Film Festival where Michelle Trachtenberg and Chad Lowe won awards), it is finally getting a release. Sadly, it is going direct-to-DVD on a featureless DVD, but at least more people will get a chance to see the coming of age story.

Beverly Hills 90210 Season Six - Buy from Amazon
So apparently the new version of this show sucks. Color me shocked. I was a never a fan of this show, but depending on who you talk to, it was showing its age by this point in its run. Add in no special features, and it is hard to rate this one past a rental, unless you are a completist.

The Big Easy - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
A TV series based on a movie that did not do very well at the box office. Given this, the fact that the TV series only lasted two years is not a shock, but at least its fans can now have the whole thing on DVD.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Action Thriller Starter Pack, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Barenaked Ladies - Talk to the Hand - Live in Michigan, Becket, Black Narcissus, Earth vs. The Flying Saucers, Fearless - Director's Cut, Flesh for the Beast, Fred Claus, Gunnin' for the #1 Spot, Hall & Oates: Live at the Troubadour, La Haine, Hancock - Unrated, Heart - Dreamboat Annie Live, Jarhead, Keane - Live, The Kingdom, The Line, Meet Dave, Missing, O.A.R. - Live At the Madison Square Garden, The Opera Gala, Ricky Martin - The Black and White Tour, Rush - Snakes and Arrows Live, Shadow: Dead Riot, Space Chimps, Sparrow, Starship Troopers, Superman - Doomsday, Talento de Barrio, Vivaldi: L'Estro Armonico - The Best of Violin Concetros - Acoustic Reaity Experience, and Walk the Line - Extended Edition
Not a single Blu-ray came out this week where I said to myself, "That's a must have." The best selling Blu-ray is Hancock, but the movie is just not that good. On a side note, I doubt All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is actually coming out on Blu-ray this week as it isn't out on DVD yet.

Bottle Rocket - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Wait for the Blu-ray; it won't take long.

Christmas Releases - Buy from Amazon: A Colbert Christmas - The Greatest Gift of All, Fred Claus (Blu-ray), Fred Claus (DVD), Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Santa and Pete, The Town that Banned Christmas, Two Front Teeth, and The Worzel Gummidge Christmas Special
Now that we are getting closer to Christmas, the number of Christmas releases has declined. A Colbert Christmas - The Greatest Gift of All was the release I was looking forward to the most, but I was disappointed with the special and I don't think any of these releases rate past a rental.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 2nd of December. However, the Blu-ray screener arrived early and I was able to get the review done this week.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Two quick notes. One, I actually got a review done early. That hasn't happened in a long time. Two, I only have the Blu-ray at the moment, but I expect to review the DVD for next week.

The movie starts with a woman giving birth in a castle, and shortly after an older man rushes in and helps the young Prince escape before troops are sent in to kill him. Shortly after, we return to England to the four children (Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy). It's been a year since they've returned from Narnia, and some have not adjusted very well from being kings and queens to being school children. But they are soon called back to Narnia, only to discover that hundreds of years have passed since they were there last. Now the creatures of Narnia have been driven nearly to the point of extinction by the forces of Telmarine, of which Prince Caspian is the rightful heir.

The original film earned excellent reviews and became one of the biggest hits of 2005, so there was a lot of pressure on this film. For the most part it does live up to its predecessor, at least critically. (At the box office, it was another story.) It shares some of the same strengths, and some of the same flaws, but it is hard to imagine many people who enjoyed the first movie who will be turned off by this one. Conversely, if you didn't like the first movie, there's little to change your mind here. I did like how Susan's character is a little more proactive in the movie, but the film as a whole didn't have as much emotional strength. On a side note, and I admit I'm being picky here, there was a shot when the forces of Narnia were traveling underground during the final climatic battle where there was one shot with effects that were bad enough to take me out of the movie. It was a very short shot (I figure less than a second) and I am very anal about these things. There were a few other times where I thought, "That could have be worked on a bit." But that is unavoidable.

Moving onto the Blu-ray presentation, it looks and sounds fantastic. This is one of the best-looking live action Blu-ray releases I've seen. This is not surprising since when it comes to new releases, Dinsey is arguably the best studio out there. (I have had issue with some of their catalogue releases, on the other hand.)

Extras on the first disc are limited to an audio commentary track with the director and the five main actors (Anna Popplewell, William Moseley, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, and Ben Barnes). They enthusiastically give plenty of information and maintain a high level of entertainment. The only other extra on the first disc is Circle-Vision Interactive, a 360 degree look at the sets complete with text, images, behind-the-scenes video, and some clips from the movie with audio commentary track. There's a lot of stuff to go through and it takes a long time to get through it all. But fans of the movie will want to do just that. Also, the Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled.

Over on Disc Two, there are a huge number of featurettes starting with Inside Narnia: The Adventure Returns, a 35-minute long making-of featurette; Sets of Narnia: A Classic Comes to Life, a 24-minute long featurette on the locations where this movie was shot; Big Movie Comes to a Small Town, a 23-minute long featurette on the town of Bovec where one of the climatic scenes was shot. Previsualizing Narnia is just over 10 minutes and deals with the previsualizing process, which is like animated storyboards done in rough computer animation. Talking Animals and Walking Trees: The Magical World of Narnia runs 5 minutes long and is about the creatures in the movie. Secrets of the Duel is a three-minute featurette on the fight between Peter and King Miraz. There are also two featurettes on becoming Trumpkin and Nikabrik. Finally, there are 12 minutes of deleted scenes, with intros, and three minutes of outtakes.

Finally, disc three has the digital copy for portable devices.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was a very good movie, but not a great movie. It is worth checking out, but it doesn't feel like a classic of the genre and I have doubts that the franchise can survive much longer. That said, the Blu-ray has more than enough here that it is worth picking up, and since it is only $2 more than the DVD, there's little doubt which format is the better deal.

Chungking Express - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
One of Kar Wai Wong's earlier films, and the arguably the one that first brought him international acclaim. It is an amazing film and this DVD has more than enough extras to be worth picking up; however, it is part of Criterion Collection's first wave of Blu-ray releases and it is worth waiting for.

A Colbert Christmas - The Greatest Gift of All - Buy from Amazon
This TV special aired on Sunday, but it is coming out on DVD on Tuesday. Talk about a quick turnaround.

The special starts with Stephen Colbert in his cabin up in the mountains preparing for Christmas. However, as he tries to return to New York to film his Christmas special, an enraged bear blocks his door. Over the course of the next 40 minutes (one hour with commercials), a series of musical guests come and sing original Christmas songs while Stephen tries to figure a way to elude the bear and make it back in time to film his Christmas special. Many of these songs are quite good, particularly the opening song, Willie Nelson's song that includes the best one-liner from the show, "I'm so high, you're hallucinating.", and the Stephen Colbert / Jon Stewart Hanukkah duet. (Feist has arguably the best song in a technical sense, while the previous three mentioned are more on the funny side.) On the other hand, there needs to be a law to prevent Toby Keith from acting again. For that matter, the actual plot and acting itself was the weakest part of the show. I understand it was a parody of TV Christmas specials from a certain era, which I only vaguely remember, but not enough worked that I can be enthusiastic in my recommendation.

As for the extras, there are quite a few to be found on the DVD, including the option of listening to it with or without the live studio option. Next up is a Book-Burning Video Yule Log, which is cute, but has no replay value. There is a Video Advent Calendar that includes 25 short clips of Stephen Colbert giving Christmas advice (avoid injuries while unwrapping Christmas gifts by warming up unwrapping other people's gifts), and other tidbits. It's funny, but the lack of a play-all button is annoying. Up next are three Alternate Endings, which were too strange even for this show. Finally, there's a bonus song called "Cold, Cold Christmas", which is a great parody of a Country 'love' song. I assume it was cut for time, because it is a great song.

A Colbert Christmas - The Greatest Gift of All is not as funny as I was expecting it would be, but it is still worth checking out. Meanwhile, the extras are on par with expectations, but I'm still not sure the DVD is worth picking up over just renting. Call it a solid rental, but a toss-up for a purchase.

Daryl Hall & John Oates- Live at the Troubadour - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Just a quick note, I should be getting a screener of this release shortly to review. The late releases never seem to end.

David Lynch - The Lime Green Set - Buy from Amazon
Yes, this was on the list last week, but Amazon has it coming out this week as well. Not sure which release date is correct, so I figured I would include it again, just in case.

Dead of Winter a.k.a. Lost Signal - Buy from Amazon
A low budget horror film about some people stranded in the middle of nowhere after they are slipped some acid and crash their car while on the way to their cabin in the woods. But is there something out in the woods? No, they're on an acid trip, remember? There, I just saved you 104 minutes. On a side note, there are at least three movies with the working title Dead of Winter that are coming out this year or next, and two of them star Al Santos. Makes it hard to do research. That said, Killer Movie sounds like it is the best. It''s a horror / comedy about a serial killer stalking the cast and crew of a reality TV show who are in North Dakota to tell the story of the local high school hockey phenom. I've been waiting for a good movie that spoofs reality TV shows. I don't know if this is that movie, but the only review I've found so far was positive. Also, the Official Site has a fun game.

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

Desperate Housewives - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
Not the most late DVD I've ever reviewed, but it is high on that list. In my defense, it arrived more than a month late, and during one of the busiest times of the year.

Desperate Housewives is a primetime soap opera that follows the lives of five women who live on Wisteria Lane, who have to deal with health problems, marriage problems, faked pregnancies, fake marriages, being married to a serial killer, suicide attempts, and more. Unfortunately, less than half of these are remotely interesting. In fact, Felicity Huffman's character again is the only one that I find interesting to watch. Most I have zero empathy for, while a couple I actively hate. The best part of this season was Nathan Fillion, who had a recurring show as Dr. Adam Mayfair, the new husband of an old neighbor who returns to the neighborhood, but while she has a new husband, she has old secrets. Everyone has secrets in this show, and most run the gamut from ludicrous to preposterous. If the show were played for laughs, like Ugly Betty, this wouldn't be a problem, but I suspect they are supposed to be dramatic. And that time warp ending that takes place five years in the future just didn't work.

Extras on the show include audio commentary tracks on seven of the seventeen episodes, mostly in the form of 'couples commentaries.' (The two actors playing husband and wife get together and do a commentary track on an episode that features their characters prominently.) The rest of the extras can be found on disc five starting with Getting Desperate: From Beginning to End, a 27-minute look at the creating Something's Coming, the episode where a tornado hits Wisteria Lane. Spare Time: Hanging With the Men of Wisteria Laneruns eight-and-a-half minutes and has the actors on the show talking about their roles. Cherry-Picked has the creator, Marc Cherry, doing audio commentary for several of his favorite scenes from this season. There's an alternate ending and 12 deleted scenes, also with audio commentary track. And finally there are nearly five minutes of outtakes.

I've never been a fan of Desperate Housewives, but I've reviewed it in the past, and I think it's getting worse. I did like Felicity Huffman's storyarc, and adding Nathan Fillion was a smart move, but its not enough to save Season Four, at least not in my mind. However, I will admit that there are enough extras on the 5-disc set to compensate for the strike-shortened season, and for fans it is still worth picking up.

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

Eli Stone - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Almost done all of the late reviews. Woo hoo!

Eli Stone stars Jonny Lee Miller as the titular character, a less than idealistic lawyer who one day starts hearing music, specifically George Michael's "Faith." Then after he makes an appearance in his living room, Eli heads in for an MRI, and then to an acupuncturist, to try and find out what is wrong with him. The doctor says it's an inoperable brain aneurysm while the acupuncturist says he is a prophet. He'd rather have an inoperable brain aneurysm, and I agree. I would prefer to live in a world with set rules that one can learn and anticipate, even if that means bad things happen to me. However, that said, the way the show plays out makes for a fun journey, for the most part. I'm not as interested in the on again, off again relationship with Natasha Henstridge's character; sadly it takes up a lot of this strike-shortened season. Also, the song and dance numbers lose their novelty quite quickly. Overall it is still a good show and one that is worth checking out, but I don't know how long the writers will be able to keep it up. But given the rumors surrounding it, that might not be a problem.

Most of the bonus features appear on the final disc of this four-disc set (an audio commentary track on disc three is the lone exception). Extras on disc four start with an extended version of the pilot episode, complete with an audio commentary track. Next up are seven deleted scenes that run 8 minutes. There are also a quartet of featurettes starting with the 12-minute Turning a Prophet: The Creation of Eli Stone, which is what like it sounds. Acting on Faith: Eli & George Michael is a four-and-a-half minute long featurette on the episode where George Michael had a guest spot, "I Want Your Sex." This is the episode where he had a guest appearance as an actual person, not just as an hallucination. (A very fun episode, by the way.) Up next is Creating Visions: The Effects of Eli Stone, which is a five-and-a-half minute featurette on the special effects. The final featurette is Inside the Firm: The Natasha Henstridge Tour; it runs five minutes and it is exactly what it sounds like. Rounding out the extras are three-and-a-half minutes of outtakes.

Eli Stone is a show that has a quirky edge to it, which helps pull viewers in initially, but it is also dangerous as this quirkiness can grow tiresome quickly. Since Season One was cut to just 13 episodes thanks to the writers' strike, it is hard to tell if this will be a problem. However, the similarly quirky Pushing Daisies was recently canceled, and rumors are this show could be next. So if you like it, grab the DVD right away, because strong DVD sales might help the studio decide to keep it.

Elton John - Tantrums and Tiaras - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about rock star Elton John, whose career has lasted for more than 40 years. The movie was shown on TV more than a decade ago, but this is the first time it has been released on DVD. There are a few extras, including an audio commentary track with the subject himself, as well as additional scenes, outtakes, and more. Worth picking up for fans of Elton John and worth checking out for fans of rockumentaries in general.

Fred Claus - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This movie had a lot of potential given the talent backing it up, but the execution was deeply flawed. (Personally, I think they should have gone for more for a Bad Santa vibe, or at least Scrooged and less family friendly sentimentality.) As for the DVD, there's just an audio commentary track and deleted scenes. The Blu-ray has a trio of new featurettes, interviews with the two stars by the two stars, and a music video. It's nice getting more material on Blu-ray, but nothing here pushes the format and I'm not sure its worth the 40% more. It's not worth buying regardless of the format, so that question is moot.

George Carlin - It's Bad For Ya - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
On the one hand, this is arguably the legendary comics best concert in years. On the other hand, it was also his last, and it is a little hard to watch it and laugh since it is so soon after his death. The DVD is certainly worth picking up and it includes 30 minutes of a recent interview, and a nearly 40-year old clip from a very early TV appearance on the Jackie Gleason show. The Blu-ray has no additional extras, and costs 50% more.

Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. - The Final Season - Buy from Amazon
Jim Nabors starred in this Andy Griffith Show spin-off, which had him leaving his small town and joining the Marines. This is the final season, and all six can also be purchased as part of a Megaset.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Hancock, WALL-E, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Fred Claus, Jarhead, The Kingdom, Space Chimps, Huo Yuan Jia, Meet Dave, Gunnin' for that #1 Spot, Superman - Doomsday, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Rush - Snakes & Arrows Live, Beautiful Ohio