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DVD Releases for February 20, 2007

February 20th, 2007

It's not a great week for DVD releases. While there are plenty worth talking about, few combine a high quality movie with top-notch extras. Because of this, it was hard to pick a DVD Pick of the Week. Sure, the two spotlight films on this week's list, Shut Up and Sing - Buy from Amazon and The Prestige - Buy from Amazon, are great, but the DVDs leave a lot to be desired. So were the two Canadian entries, Trailer Park Boys - Buy from and C.R.A.Z.Y. - Buy from Amazon. In many ways Gandhi - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon was the best choice on this week's list, but I'm going with Trailer Park Boys - Buy from (and I also recommend the massive box set as well). You may call this is a result of a pro-Canada bias, and you would be right. But at least I'm up front about it.

Alias Smith and Jones - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A TV Western based somewhat on the smash hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This 4-disc set contains all 14 episodes from the first series as well as the 2-hour TV movie / pilot. Extras a limited with just a single audio commentary track (on the previously mentioned pilot). Overall, there are probably plenty of people who are excited about this series coming out on DVD, but I don't think there's enough here to win over many new fans.

American Hardcore - Buy from Amazon
This film earned excellent reviews and performed very well during its opening weekend. It just couldn't maintain per theater average when it expanded. I still think this had something to do with the lack of crossover appeal between hardcore punk and documentaries. The DVD should prove a bigger hit, especially with extras like audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and bonus music performances. It is probably the last feature that will be the biggest selling point with its target audience.

Apartment Zero - Buy from Amazon
Starring Colin Firth as Adrian LeDuc, a man renting out a room in his apartment in order to make up for loses suffered by his movie theaters. This man, Hart Bochner, may be a former government hitman turned serial killer, or it could all be in Adrian's mind. For the most part, the film works and the ending will make fans will want to see it again. Add in two audio commentary tracks and the DVD is worth picking up.

Babel - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray, or HD-DVD
Without doubt, Babel is one of the major players this award season. However, at 68% positive, it's reviews do not justify its performance so far. Every other Best Picture nominee has earned at least 90% positive, so while its score is significantly better than average for a wide release, we shouldn't be discussing its chances at being a multi-Oscar winner next week. But this is the case, and it makes me think this is just the first DVD release. If the film wins even one Oscar, there will be a special edition that comes out roughly this time next year. It might even has some extras, which this DVD does not. At the very most it is worth a rental but I'm saying skip it because it is obviously the set-up to a double-dip.

Blu-Ray Releases: Buy from Amazon: Vertical Limit
Just the one Blu-Ray release this week (not counting concurrent releases), and it's a movie I wouldn't want in my DVD collection even if I got it for free.

C.R.A.Z.Y. - Buy from Amazon
This film earned (nearly) universally positive reviews, practically swept the Genies, and was a major hit. So why haven't you heard of it? Because it's Canadian, and most people, even in Canada, have probably never heard of it. It's a gay themed coming of age story spanning the 60s, 70s, and 80s (although it's mostly in the 70s). Unfortunately, while the movie is amazing, the DVD is barren. I guess you could import the Canadian version, which does have extras, but I don't know if those extras are subtitled or not.

Crossover - Buy from Amazon
Arguably the worst movie of 2006. It's so bad that no amount of extras would make the DVD worth even a rental, and the filmmakers really didn't try, with just an audio commentary track.

Dark Castle Horror Collection - Buy from Amazon
Seeing this company's movies all in one collection emphasizes just how bad their output as been. Overall their films are so bad that one could argue House of Wax is their best film to date (although I prefer House on Haunted Hill). That's not merely bad, that's run-screaming-into-the-woods bad.

Family Ties - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Great series, terrible DVD. I am sick and tired of saying that. One of the best Sticoms of the 1980s, this show deserves a big splash on the home market. However, there are no extras on this 4-disc set. None. In a serious catch-22, if people buy this DVD, studios will think people don't care about extras and will cut back on future releases. But if people ignore this set, they will assume the show isn't popular anymore and will not release future seasons. I would suggest contacting the studio and voicing your concerns, but I really don't think they care. I'm going to recommend picking it up, because the show really is that good, but I can't be enthusiastic about it.

Fifty Pills - Buy from Amazon
Kristen Bell is great in Veronica Mars, but she really needs to choose her movie roles better. Less of these would be a plus. On a side note, I really, really want Fanboys to rock, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children - Buy from Amazon
Final Fantasy is widely regarded as the biggest bomb from the field of digital animation. Making a follow-up seems like a very risky proposition, even if the two are only tangentially connected. The reviews are not much better than the previous film; most agree that it looks great, but those not intimately knowledgeable with the series might be lost by the story. On the other hand, hardcore fans should be pleased, and for them this 2-disc set is worth picking up.

Flight of Fury - Buy from Amazon
Another direct-to-DVD Steven Seagal movie. Who keeps paying this man to make movies? Saying, 'Skip it!' seems hardly strong enough.

Flushed Away - Buy from Amazon
The movie that killed the Aardman / Dreamworks alliance, and I can see why. The film was very well made but performed very poorly at the box office compared to its production budget. Internationally it was much stronger but it still failed to live up to expectations. I hate to blame the marketing for the failure of a film, but that seems to be the case here. The DVD should be a bigger hit with plenty of special features and is worth picking up. Fans of claymation will be happy to hear Aardman Animations are returning to their roots with their next project.

For Your Consideration - Buy from Amazon
It appears Christopher Guest made one too many mockumentaries as this film struggled with critics and moviegoers alike. However, to be fair, 52% positive is better than most films and $5 million is a good total for a limited release film, it's just not as much as people were expecting. The DVD is equally disappointing with just some deleted / alternate scenes and some outtakes. It's worth checking out, but not much more than that.

Gandhi - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of the quintessential biopics. A biopic by which other biopics are judged. This isn't the first time this movie has been released on DVD. In fact, it isn't even the film's first special edition. However, it is the best. And to be fair, it has been more than five years since the last special edition came out and that's more than enough time to not feel like a cheap money grab. This 2-disc set has all of the old extras (4 vintage featurettes, interview, and photo montage), as well as new extras like a retrospective, several making of featurettes, interviews and more. Easily worth the upgrade and if it's not in your DVD collection yet, it should be.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints - Buy from Amazon
Another limited release on this week's chart that earned good reviews, started out very well, and then collapsed. Based on the life of Dito Montiel, the film features great performances by several actors, including Shia Labeouf and Robert Downey, Jr as the young and old Dito. Also adding to the movie are the narrative structures like breaking the fourth wall, narration, and non-chronological aspects. On the other hand, others have complained this hurts the movie's ability to draw in an audience. It's certainly worth checking out and with extras that include audio commentary track, deleted / alternate scenes, interviews, and more it is worth picking up.

Gunbuster - Buy from Amazon
One of the first Anime programs I ever saw. I can't believe it took nearly 20 years for it to be released on DVD. The 3-disc set has all six episodes, the six super-deformation Science Lessons, and a rather in-depth booklet. Easily worth picking up for fans of Anime and worth checking out for neophytes.

The Johnny Carson Show - Buy from Amazon
Before he was the host of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson was the host of the prime-time show, The Johnny Carson Show. There are 10 episodes from the show on this 2-disc set, as well as bonus episodes from some other Johnny Carson shows including a game show and a clip from The Jack Paar Show in which Johnny Carson was a last minute substitute host. Fans of his will love this opportunity to look back at his early work.

Keeping Mum - Buy from Amazon
The latest Rowan Atkinson movie didn't live up to his previous movie success, and even that success was limited. Reviews were not as bad as some people expected, although not strong enough for an overall positive review, but they were better than its short run would indicate. The DVD should attract more interest, especially with extras like audio commentary track, deleted / extended scenes, a making-of featurette and outtakes. Worth renting for most, and picking up for the more diehard, Rowan Atkinson fans out there.

A Man for All Seasons - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Nominated for 8 Oscars, winner of 6 of them, including 4 of the big five (the only one it didn't win was Best Lead Actress, which it wasn't nominated for). It tells the story of the man who stood up to King Henry the VIII when he left the Catholic Church in order to get a divorce. While the DVD carries the Special Edition label, there's only one extra: a featurette about the real life Thomas More. A short featurette. Still, the movie is good enough to be worth checking out, but the lack of extras prevent me from recommending purchasing it. Disappointing.

Man of the Year - Buy from Amazon
Political satire lives or dies based on its edge. If you are going to make such a film, you have to understand you will offend at least a half your audience. You have to live with that and go for it. The worst thing you can do is try and play it safe. This is the biggest flaw in Man of the Year. By playing it safe, the movie bored most people and failed to find an audience. This is also true of the tone of the movie. Is it a satire or is it a thriller? Pick a side and go with it, don't try to do both. The DVD won't do much better with just two featurettes, one on the making of the movie and the other on Robin Williams. Too many missed opportunities reduce the value of the movie substantially and I can't even recommend a rental. Catch it on TV when it's free.

Night of the Living Dorks - Buy from Amazon
As you can probably tell from the title, this is a zombie movie, a horror comedy zombie movie spoofing Night of the Living Dead. Reviews are mixed, but better than most in the genre. Extras are also better than most direct-to-DVD imports with extended / deleted scenes, and a making-of featurette.

Open Water 2: Adrift - Buy from Amazon
I thought the original was overrated, so I have little interested in seeing the direct-to-DVD sequel. Reviews for this one are quite a bit weaker that of the original with many complaining that it lacks the tension and comes off as a cheap money grab. Extras as also wanting with just a behind-the-scenes promotional piece. I can't even say it's worth a rental, and I would hazard a guess not even to fans of the original.

Penn & Teller - Bullsh*t - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
Good news, season four of this show was a dramatic step up from season three. Bad news, it's still not as good as seasons one or two. Topics discussed this time around ranged from political, like the death penalty, scientific, like cryptozoology, to social, like manners. (On a side note, I think one of the swipes at the cryptozoologists was a little too broad. Despite Penn & Teller's mocking, discovering a new species would be exciting, which is why biologists routinely go out in the field to unexplored / underexplored areas looking for new plants and animals. On the other hand, cryptozoologists go to the same location over and over again trying to find evidence of a species that hundreds of fellow cryptozoologists have looked for in the past and failed to find.) Like most of the other seasons, the extras on the 3-disc set are practically non-existent, but overall it is still worth picking up. However, if the show does last another season, they will need to improve or it will certainly be their last.

The Prestige - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale star as two rival stage magicians in turn-of-the-century Britain whose obsession for revenge cause each other to risk losing everything.

I watch a lot of movies each year, easily more than 100. This film is one of the best, better than the 74% positive Tomatometer score in my opinion. It has one of the best surprise twists I've seen in a long time and the film practically demands to be seen a second time. The script is wonderful, not only in its complexities and twists, but the characters in it feel real. (This is aided by the performances, which are universally superb.) I especially liked the journals and how by having one character learn what the other was thinking by reading the other's journal (not just that, but learning what one character was thinking while reading the other's journal that was written while that character was reading the first person's journal), it sets up multiple layers for the viewer to navigate. If mishandled, this would prevent anyone from being engaged by the movie. Fortunately, it is masterfully done and really adds to the sense of mystery. Since we really get to know what the people are thinking, there is the solid foundation that is needed for a movie with multiple surprise twists to work. They seem more real; they are the logical consequences of the characters and situations and not just the product of a lazy screenwriter trying to amaze the audience.

You can't review this movie without at least mentioning The Illusionist. Both movies are set at roughly the same time and both feature stage magicians. However, they tell two completely different stories. The Illusionist is a love story that uses stage magic effectively to add to the story, but in the end it is about the love between Eduard and Sophie. (Although that movie too uses a non-chronological order and narration as part of its story-telling, which is an odd coincidence.) The Prestige, on the other hand, was a movie about stage magicians, about their art, about the rivalry and revenge between these two performers. Also, for the most part the stage magic in The Prestige seems more real. Someone in real life could perform those illusions and it would look pretty much like it does on screen. More than once in The Illusionist I thought to myself, "This isn't stage magic, it's some CG artist's approximation of stage magic.

Both are very enjoyable, but, as a movie, The Prestige is superior. As a DVD, on the other hand, The Prestige is dearly lacking. The only extra is a 19-minute long featurette, or to be more specific, five mini-featurettes that can be played as a whole. They talk about the making of the movie, the set design, and more, but there's not enough time to really get into it.

Overall there's a lot to recommend here. The movie has great performances, plenty of twists, it even has David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. What more could you want? Well, for starters, an audio commentary track. Perhaps some deleted scenes. Regardless, it is still worth picking up while we wait for the special edition, but a fleshed out DVD would have been the DVD Pick of the Week.

The Second City - First Family of Comedy - Buy from Amazon
More than any other troupe, Second City has consistently produced top-notch talent. The legacy of which is examined in this three-part mini-series hosted by Dave Thomas. It looks at the early years, the high times of the 70s, the creation of SCTV, and more. Along with the more than 2 hours from the show, there are a few extended interviews and the DVD is worth checking out.

Shut Up and Sing - Buy from Amazon
A documentary look at the Dixie Chicks and the fallout surrounding what they now refer to as, 'The Incident.' In a concert in London, England during the run-up to the Iraq war, Natalie Maines said something that caused people to burn their CDs, radio stations to boycott their music, and some even sent death threats, death threats specific enough that the FBI had to be called in.

And what did she say? "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."

That's it? That's what caused all of the hate? I've said worst things about former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, and I like the guy. On Sunday, the East Coast Music Awards in Canada were held and comedian Mary Walsh referred to the ruling party as, and I'm quoting, "the arse-lickers of Satan." I think most would agree that's a little harsher than expressing embarrassment but I can guarantee she won't lose a single booking or get any death threats because of it. Hell, Ann Coulter wrote a column where she joked about killing Supreme Court justices and another where talked about fellow Republican Lincoln Chafee saying, "they shot the wrong Lincoln," and she still gets on TV.

I would have loved to hear this discussed during this movie, but it was not that type of documentary. There are three basic types of documentaries: The Michael Moore type where the documentarian is on the center stage as investigator or advocate; the talking head type that is filled with interviews; and the fly-on-the-wall type where the camera is as unintrusive as possible and tries to capture as real a picture as possible. This fits the last category. It's practically 90 minutes of behind the scenes footage starting just before, 'The Incident' right up to their return in 2006 with Taking The Long Way. While most of the movie is behind-the-scenes, they also have clips from news shows, concerts, etc. But the movie is the most effective when it just points a camera at the band and observes.

While I really liked the movie, I was disappointed with the DVD. There are no extras. No deleted / extended scenes. No updates, not even a music video / live performance or two. Nothing.

This was a movie where I would have loved to see the subject tackled from a different angle. However, the movie as it is is still fascinating and even with no special features it is worth checking out, especially for the new fans of the Dixie Chicks.

The Three Stooges - Hapless Half-Wits - Buy from Amazon
I am sick and tired of the treatment the Three Stooges are getting DVD. Overpriced double-dips, colorization, etc. They need to start releasing the Three Stooges in chronological order. Massive box sets with plenty of extras. If they don't do this soon, fans will have given up and any sales potential will have dried up.

Trailer Park Boys - Buy from
Turning a TV series into a movie is a risky proposition, especially one with cult market appeal. However, Trailer Park Boys was not only able to make the jump, it was a big hit with fans and critics. The movie has everything fans of the show have come to expect: heists, swearing, stupidity, kittens, just more of it. On the other hand, the DVD is devoid of special features. Even so, it is still worth picking up and it is the patriotic duty of all Canadians to add it to their DVD collection.

Twitch City - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
All 13 episodes from both seasons of this cult favorite from Canada. The show stars, and was written by, Don McKellar as an agoraphobic / TV addict. Very unique show that most people would have a hard time getting into, but it is worth checking out. Extras add to the overall package nicely with audio commentary tracks by the aforementioned Don McKellar as well as various guests. So basically you get to listen to people who are watching a TV series about a man who watches a lot of TV series. The only way to add another layer to this would be if the shows the character was watching also had commentary tracks.

Voyage to the Bottom of Sea - Season 2 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
An Irwin Allen production, but this one is arguably the best. Or at least not as terribly camp as Lost in Space. Extras are light, but that's to be expected for a show that 40 years old and those looking for a hit of nostalgia won't have to look further that this 3-disc set.

Walking Tall - The Payback - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD sequel to a remake that wasn't a hit when it first came out, with the critics or at the box office. I can't imagine there were a lot of people demanding this movie be made, but those that were should be satisfied. It's a straight-up, uncomplicated revenge flick with more than enough action to live up to lowered expectations. As for the DVD, there are a few deleted scenes, but nothing that adds any value and overall its worth a rental.

What's New, Scooby-Doo? - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Not the best series in this franchise, but it's great that it is coming out on full season sets and not various best of releases. Real fans want to see every episode, not just the ones someone deemed to be the best. As for the extras, they are limited with just some outtakes. Still, worth picking up for fans.


Filed under: Video Releases, Flushed Away, The Prestige, Man of the Year, Babel, House of Wax, Crossover, For Your Consideration, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, Keeping Mum, Shut Up and Sing, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, C.R.A.Z.Y., American Hardcore