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DVD Releases for February 6, 2007

February 5th, 2007

It's the first Tuesday of the month and, like many months, it's a busy week for DVDs. Busy, but not necessarily that strong. Looking at the more than three dozen releases on this week's list, there's little here that I would consider DVD Pick of the Week material. No first-run releases came even close, but there were a trio of other contenders: Eddie Murphy - Delirious - Buy from Amazon, Hellboy - Sword of Storms - Buy from Amazon, and The Science of Sleep - Buy from Amazon. It is safe to say all three will end up in my ever-growing DVD collection, but Eddie Murphy - Delirious - Buy from Amazon alone is the DVD Pick of the Week. I think that's the first time a stand-up concert film has earned that honor.

After Innocence - Buy from Amazon
Seven men who were found innocent by DNA testing are profiled in this powerful documentary. While the movie is great, the DVD is even better with deleted / extended scenes, updates on the men, interviews with the filmmakers, footage of premieres and more. The added features really add to the overall experience.

All Quiet on the Western Front - Universal Cinema Classics - Buy from Amazon
This is the 1930 adaptation of the German anti-war novel and not the 1979 remake starring Ernest Borgnine, although both versions are worth watching. However, while the movie is excellent, there's not much here in terms of extras, but given the age of the movie, that's not surprising.

The Amazing Screw-on Head - Buy from Amazon
A busted TV-pilot. I love that this is being released on DVD, even though it is a little pricey on a per-minute basis, especially for TV on DVD. It's very similar in pricing to the latest Masters of Horror release, but without all the cool special features. Even so, fans of Mike Mignola comics will want to check it out, but it will probably only require a rental. On the other hand, you might want to buy it just to encourage another network to pick up the show.

Anything But Love - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
TV on DVD that isn't full-season sets? Heresy? No. The show only ran for one full season (season 2) and had shortened runs the other three. However, it works out nicely into two volumes of 28 episodes each and I would expect volume 2 to follow shortly, if the sales are strong enough to make it worthwhile. Considering the show is more than a decade old and never really found an audience, it is great to see there are better than expected extras include an audio commentary track on the pilot with Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis, and two featurettes. Worth checking out for most fans and worth picking up for many.

Baywatch - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
Ugh. Even hardcore fans of this show have complained about the terrible quality of its DVD releases thus far, and it doesn't look like things will improve any time soon. Skip it.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: American Psycho, First Blood, Reservoir Dogs, Saw II, Tailor of Panama, Young Guns
A mixed bag of Blu-Ray releases this week, but this is not unusual. The only newer movie, Saw II, is rather weak, while I've always really liked First Blood. (It was filmed near my hometown, which probably has something to do with it.)

Boynton Beach Club - Buy from Amazon
A charming, but slight, romantic comedy set in an, "Adult Living Community." Probably the most noteworthy aspect of the movie was its release strategy. Originally the film opened in only a few theatres in Florida, but earned enough work-of-mouth to expand nationwide. Eventually it managed to make $3 million despite never playing in more than 63 theaters and never having a per theater average of $5,500 or more. You would think that kind of success would convince the studio to put out a tricked out DVD, but alas, there's only an audio commentary track as an extra. Even so, it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Charmed - The Complete Seventh Season - Buy from Amazon
Good show, but zero special features really hurt its value. When it comes to TV on DVD sets that have no extras there are two questions that need to be asked to determine if buying it is still worth it. Is the series syndicated enough to satisfy your cravings for the show? And, is it important to watch the episodes in the right order? If the answers to those questions are yes and no respectively, you can safely give the DVD a pass. On the other hand, if it is the other way around, then it is worth picking up.

Cinderella III - A Twist in Time - Buy from Amazon
When this DVD showed up at my front door my first thought was, "There was a Cinderella II?" Apparently there was. I don't know which direct-to-DVD sequel is worse, but this one sets the bar really low.

I'm not in the target demographic and that made writing this review difficult. I thought of getting some firsthand testimony from members of the target audience, but I don't know any. And it is not like I can go around the neighborhood and ask people, "Do you know any girls age 3-9 who can come to my place and watch a movie?" That wouldn't end well. But with that caveat in mind, I can still confidently say that I was disappointed in the movie. The story is your typical princess movie, but at least the time travel angle was a good hook, but even here it was overly predictable and full of clichés. I immediately noticed how cheap the animation looked, especially the character animation, most of which looked terribly flat and lifeless. (On the other hand, some of the backgrounds and effects were okay.) The songs neither added much to the enjoyment, nor did they grind the movie to a stop. Most seemed superfluous.

As for the extras, there were a few interactive features (game, dancing, etc.), and a music video featuring Hayden Panettiere. There's not much here that adds to the overall experience. (On a side note, Hayden Panettiere is a better singer than I was expecting, but she should still concentrate on acting.)

I suppose the movie is serviceable for younger girls. However, there are better options and at a mere 62 minutes and limited extras, it's not worth picking up.

The Clock - Buy from Amazon
A soldier on two-day leave meets, falls in love with, and marries a woman. This may seem like a spoiler, but it's not. This is one of those movies where you know exactly where it's going, but the journey is still worth it. Extras are strong for a movie that's 60 years old and include a vintage short, a cartoon, and a radio program which stars Judy Garland, among others. Worth checking out for fans of the era.

Coastlines - Buy from Amazon
Sonny comes home from prison earlier than expected. But despite the best intentions of just settling down, he seems to upset the balance of the small town.

This is the fifth feature film for writer / director Victor Nunez, and arguably it is the weakest. Part of the problem was the familiar feel to the movie. You could pretty much guess how all the characters will act the first time you met them, sometimes earlier. (For instance, Sonny talks about the Vances and ... LOOK OUT! IT'S A SPOILER! how he went to jail because, "We made a deal. I figure they're still good for it." You know right away that they won't be because if they did live up to their end of the deal, there wouldn't be any conflict in the movie. Although, I will admit I figured that would be the major conflict and that the predictable love triangle, or love quadrilateral, would be the secondary part of the film when the opposite was true.

Extras on the DVD were better than expected given the film's short, short run. There's an audio commentary track featuring Victor Nunez, who is engaging and informative, and a deleted scene, also with audio commentary. They add to the overall value of the movie, but don't have too much replay value.

There's a lot that works in the movie, but not by enough to give it an overall recommendation. And given its extras, even for fans of Victor Nunez, it will be worth a rental rather than a purchase.

Crossing Delancey - Buy from Amazon
Amy Irving stars as Izzy Grossman, a single woman who gets set up by her grandmother, or at least her grandmother's matchmaker. The film is a romantic comedy, so you pretty much know how it's going to end as soon as it starts, but it's a very charming romantic comedy and fans of the genre will certainly want to come along for the ride. Fans of the movie have been waiting a long time for it to come out on DVD, but the lack of special features limits its value to a rental for most people.

Disaster! - Buy from Amazon: Unrated or Really Unrated
A stop-motion animated spoof of Armageddon. Yeah, that movie is nearly a decade old, but the jokes in this one are even older. How bad is this movie? Its tagline is, "In Space, No One Can Hear You Fart." And as bad as that sounds, the movie is worse. Skip it.

Eddie Murphy - Delirious - Buy from Amazon
This can't be the first time this has been released on DVD, can it? This concert film catches one of the best stand-up comics at his peak. Some would go so far as to say this is the best stand-up concert film of all time, and it's hard to argue against that. Normally these types of DVDs have little or no special features, but this one not only has an interview with Eddie Murphy, it also has ten minutes of bonus footage not seen on the original broadcast or on the VHS release. That's more than enough to get every Eddie Murphy fan excited about Tuesday. On the other hand, the subject matter dealt with in this set does limit the audience somewhat, as it was seen as shocking in its day. However, its day was 25 years ago, so it might be seen as quaint now.

Flags of Our Fathers - Buy from Amazon
This film could be the poster child for the Curse of Great Expectations. After earning Oscar nods two years in a row, and a win for Million Dollar Baby, there were huge expectations for Clint Eastwood latest film. However, while the film earned some of the best reviews of any wide release of the year, all most people could talk about was its disappointing performance with critics and at the box office. It should get a second life on the home market, but not right away as the DVD is completely devoid of special features. This makes me think there will be a special edition when Letters from Iwo Jima hits DVD, but until then this is worth a rental at most.

Flicka - Buy from Amazon
This movie barely registered at the box office. It's not that it earned terrible reviews, it was saddled with an ineffective ad campaign, not to mention fans of the book were quite upset with some of the changes made to the story. In the end the film made barely more than $20 million at the box office, but it should beat that on the home market. There's an audio commentary track, deleted / extended scenes, outtakes and a music video. Nothing extraordinary, but a good selection nonetheless.

Grudge 2 - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Release or Unrated Director's Cut or Blu-Ray
The original earned bad reviews but still managed to make a fortune at the box office. The sequel earned terrible reviews and earned a fraction of that at the box office. In fact, it barely made more over its entire run than the original made during its opening weekend. The DVD is average (no audio commentary track but a bunch of featurettes), and it is clear this sub-genre of horror film has pretty much run its course. Fans will have to enjoy imports while Hollywood studios will abandon more attempts to remake them.

Heading South - Buy from Amazon
A movie about older, white women who travel to Haiti to have sex with younger, black men. The film deals with sex, race, class, politics, and imperialism, all of which should be interesting topics. However, I just didn't care. None of the characters were the least bit sympathetic. Well, that's not entirely true; Albert, the man in charge of the hotel, seemed like a good man and his inner-monologue was the most interesting scene in the film.

Like I said, there's a lot of interesting storylines here that could be made into the focus of the movie. The love triangle, the cross-class / cross-culture romance, etc. Then there's the political angle; affluent tourists who help perpetuate a cruel a repressive regime. However, these ideas were introduced too quickly and too bluntly (sometimes with the characters talking directly to the camera). Because they weren't able to develop at a smooth pace, their effectiveness was lessened considerable.

Add in zero special features and I can't recommend this film for even a rental. On the other hand, the reviews were rather good so you might want to take that into account. I am the minority opinion here.

Hellboy - Sword of Storms - Buy from Amazon
An animated TV movie based on the comic book that spawned the critically praised, but criminally underseen, movie. The story is strong, the animation is stylized but high quality, and extras are unbelievable. The film has the usual audio commentary track, featurettes on the history of Hellboy, the redesigning the character for animation, behind-the-scenes of the voice recording, and the Q&A session from 2006 Comic Con. There are also DVD-ROM features, as well as physical extras like a 32-page comic box and an impressive amount of art. Granted, I am a fan of Hellboy in all incarnations, but I think this DVD will satisfy more casual fans and is a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan - Buy from Amazon
The original 1941 version of this movie. It has since been remade three times, including most recently as the Chris Rock vehicle, Down to Earth. This version is the best and fans of the other versions will want to check it out. However, without any special features, a rental will do.

Hollywoodland - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
One of two movies set in Hollywood of years past. This one earned much better reviews than The Black Dahlia did, but neither film made much of an impact at the box office. Hollywoodland is an effective neo-noir film that follows P.I. Louis Simo as he investigates the death of George Reeves. There are a lot of strong performances here, but due to the nature of the story, there's little in the way of a satisfying ending. We don't find out what really happened, because no one really knows what happened. Extras include an audio commentary track, three featurettes, and some deleted scenes, which helps raise the overall value to the purchase level.

James Bond - Buy from Amazon: For Your Eyes Only, Goldeneye, Goldfinger, Licence to Kill, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Thunderball
These movies are now being released separately after being released in a box set late last year. Obviously there is no reason to upgrade, but if you only want select films from the franchise, now is the perfect time to get them.

The Last Unicorn - 25th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
An under-appreciated and practically ignored animated movie from 1982. The film is very much in the same vein as Hayao Miyazaki, not just in the animation style but also in the high fantasy storytelling. This is the first time the film has been released on DVD, but despite the Special Edition label, I was disappointed with the extras. A fully flushed out DVD could have been a DVD Pick of the Week, but as it is, it's merely a weak recommendation.

Mad About You - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
A lot of Mad About You fans are breathing a sigh of relief this week. It has been nearly three years since season two came out on DVD and most assumed the show was dead, especially after the Best Of... was released a couple years ago. However, while fans will be happy the show is returning to DVD, the total lack of extras is disappointing. But it is important to note that if these fans want seasons 4 through 7 on DVD, they better buy this season and fast.

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles - Buy from Amazon
The latest from Yimou Zhang, this film was not his best and struggled at the box office. Beautifully shot, the movie is too slow-moving and not original enough to draw the average moviegoer in. The only extras is a making of featurette, but that doesn't lift the DVD past the rental level.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet - The Music Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is a good movie, but it is the third or fourth time the film has been released on DVD (not counting box sets it was a part of). That's just too many releases and the studio can't expect people to keeping shelling out cash for the latest version.

Running With Scissors - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Over the weekend Ebert and Roeper did their worst of the year show, and both Richard Roeper and Michael Philips (the guest host for the week), had this movie in their bottom 10. The reviews are not nearly as bad as some of the film passed over for this dubious honor, but this movie does generate some intense reactions in audiences. If you haven't seen the movie in theaters, and most haven't, then it might be worth checking out to see which side of the fence you fall on. However, odds are if you don't love the movie, you will hate, hate, hate it. Extras are also disappointing with just three behind-the-scenes featurettes. The amazing cast and a high curiosity factor might encourage a lot of people to rent the movie, but that's more than enough for most.

The Science of Sleep - Buy from Amazon
Directed by Michael Gondry, who also brought us Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This film had no chance of earning the same box office because is wasn't as accessible to mainstream movie audiences; it is creativity without bounds, at times creativity without a strong enough story to support it. Even so, it still was a box office success and its total of over $4 million is still very strong, all things considered. This encouraged the studio to put out an excellent DVD set that is packs with extras, extras like audio commentary track, two making of featurettes, music video and more. It is certainly worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

SpongeBob SquarePants - Sponge for Hire / Seascape Capers - Buy from Amazon
Stick with full season sets.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Fast Forward - Season One - Future Shellshock! - Buy from Amazon
With the movie scheduled to come out next month, it's the perfect time to release this show on DVD. Unfortunately, this is arguably the worst incarnation of the franchise. Even the later movies were better than this. In the end, this is for the hardcore collector only.

Trust the Man - Buy from Amazon
I had high hopes for this film thanks mostly to the cast, but early reviews were weak and just kept getting weaker. Given this and its short theatrical run, a featureless DVD would be expected, but there is an audio commentary track, deleted scene with optional audio commentary, and a making of featurette. It adds up to a rental, but nothing more than that.

Wetback - The Undocumented Documentary - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about illegal immigration that makes the case that this is blowback from C.I.A. operations in Central America. It makes a compelling case and discusses the issue from an angle not normally seen.


Filed under: Video Releases, Saw II, The Grudge 2, Flags of Our Fathers, Flicka, Hollywoodland, Running With Scissors, La science des rêves, Boynton Beach Club, Trust the Man, Vers le sud, Qian li zou dan qi, Coastlines, Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, After Innocence