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DVD Releases for June 12, 2007

June 11th, 2007

The Summer is traditionally the weakest time of the year for DVD releases and this is not surprising as the target audience is too busy checking out the latest theatrical releases to be bothered with the home market. First-run releases are also weak because the delay from theater to home means we are not getting prime offerings here. TV on DVD releases are likewise weak because it is too late to take advantage of season finales and too soon to take advantage of season premieres. So, to find the best offering, one has to look to limited releases like Grbavica - Buy from Amazon, or TV movies like Masters of Horror - The Screwfly Solution. But the DVD Pick of the Week goes to a classic, The Hustler - Two-Disc Collector's Edition

Blood & Chocolate - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
The werewolf genre has not produced a real hit in a long time. The monsters have made appearances in some movies, but they haven't been able to carry a blockbuster since that term was first used. Today, the most these films can hope for is cult appeal, and that's only if they can bring something new and interesting to the mix. This film did not and was justly ignored by moviegoers. As for the DVD, there's not a lot here in terms of extras with just an audio commentary track and some deleted scenes. I can't even recommend renting this one, but I will mention Ginger Snaps, again, which I do with practically every werewolf release.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Cruel Intentions, Music and Lyrics, Seven Years in Tibet
Slow week for Blu-Ray releases. Only Seven Years in Tibet earned overall positive reviews and even then it barely did so.

Breach - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
The movie industry has a tendency to work in pairs. Dante's Peak / Volcano, Happy Feet / Surf's Up, etc. Breach was the second film set within the American intelligence community to come out within just a few months. Despite earning better reviews than The Good Shepherd did, it wasn't able to match it at the box office. Given the film's struggles at the box office, it would have been understandable if the DVD wasn't overloaded with extras, but fortunately the studio decided against that approach. The DVD has an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, two making of featurettes, and a report from Dateline that dealt with the real life facts of the case. Overall, it adds up to a solid purchase.

The Bridge - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the Golden Gate Bridge, specifically the number of people who tend to throw themselves off of it. During the production of this movie, the filmmakers captured nearly two dozen suicides, which is creepy to say the least. Too creepy for me. On the other hand, I can understand why others would want to check it out and the DVD does provide enough extras to be worth the rental.

Charley's Aunt - Buy from Amazon
A mostly forgotten cross-dressing comedy about two-guys who convince their classmate to dress-up as a woman and act as their chaperone while meeting with their special ladies. You can probably guess most of the plot points, but the cast keeps the action moving and is worth checking out. On the other hand, for most people a rental will do.

The Clown Murders - Buy from Amazon
An early film in the career of John Candy. ... And that's pretty much the only noteworthy aspect of the film.

Days of Glory - Buy from Amazon
The film tells the story of four North African men who enlist to fight for France during World War II. They had never been to France before, but coming from French colonies, they decided it was worth the risk to fight and die to defend the fatherland from the Nazis.

This film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and it's not hard to see why, although, of the five films that were nominated this year, it did earn the weakest reviews at 83% positive. It also earned the least at the box office. Part of the complaints deal with the glut of World War II movies out there; it is nearly impossible for a film to come up with something new. In this case, the film overcame this by dealing with a group of soldiers that have been all but forgotten about in the history books. However, this likely hurt the film at the box office as people wanted to see films about events they already know about. A movie about a world-famous photograph, for instance, will be a bigger draw.

That said, it certainly deserves to be seen by more people and those who do give it a shot will almost certainly be drawn into the story.

As for the extras, they are light, but that it to be expected for a foreign language import that struggled at the box office. They start off with a making-of featurette that runs 24 minutes long; it is your typical mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the movie. It is very interesting, especially when they talk about how the four main cast members all had relatives who were indigenous recruits during World War II, which gave them a special connection to the movie. The only other extra is a short animated film, The Colonial Friend, from the director.

One of the best movies to come out this year, the DVD should find a more receptive audience on the home market. And even with the light extras, it is worth checking out. Call it a solid rental or a light purchase.

Deadwood - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
This show continues to earn strong reviews. However, the DVD releases are at a premium price. SRP of $100, for a season that's only 12 episodes long. Granted, there are audio commentary tracks on four of them as well as a couple of featurettes, but that's still too much money for too little product.

Diagnosis Murder - The Second Season - Buy from Amazon
TV legend, Dick Van Dyke, stars with his real-life son, Barry Van Dyke, in this medical murder mystery series. This is a good show and fans of the genre should be entertained, but there are two reasons to hold off buying it. Firstly, there are no extras. Secondly, the show is syndicated enough that without extras, there's little reason to buy it.

DishDogz - Buy from Amazon
A movie about dishwashers, skateboarding dishwashers. If you can say that without giggling, you're a better man than me.

Ghost Rider - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Cut, 2-Disc Extended Cut, Blu-Ray Extended Cut
Despite earning weak reviews, Ghost Rider opened in a record-breaking fashion and became the first of what should be a record-setting group of $100 million movies. The DVD should prove to be the biggest hit from this week's group, but even the 2-Disc Extended Cut might be a tough sell outside the Fanboys. Granted, there are two audio commentary tracks, a feature-length making-of documentary that is broken into three pieces, animatics of the Ghost Rider special effect, and a roughly 45 minutes worth of featurettes on the comic book history of Ghost Rider. It's a nice package and fans will want to snap it up. But given the weak reviews and the short legs, even most people who saw it in the theater won't be itching to pick it up. For others, a rental will do.

Glastonbury - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the Glastonbury Music Festival, which has lasted more than 30 years. The film earned excellent reviews but was never able to find an audience during its short theatrical run. On the other hand, the 2-disc DVD and the extended music numbers should prove to be a bigger seller. Other extras include an audio commentary track, nearly an hour's worth of additional interviews, and two short films. Worth checking out.

Grbavica - Buy from Amazon
Another highly rated limited release that never made an impact at the box office. This one earned unbelievably positive reviews, but had to deal with the foreign language (and let's face it, a name that most people couldn't pronounce). The film features amazing performances by Mirjana Karanovic and Luna Mijovic who play a mother and daughter living in a Sarajevo neighborhood that used to be a notoriously brutal prison camp during the recent war. Since the film is a low-budget import that barely made any noise at the box office, it is not surprising that the DVD has no extras and it is still worth checking out and the performances alone give it enough replay value to lift it above the rental level.

The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Nancy Drew takes center stage on the cover of this 5-disc set, and there's good reason for that. Fans of the mysteries from the 70s will get a kick out of seeing the shows again, but the lack of extras limits its value to a rental.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Black Christmas, Born on the Fourth of July, Bruce Almighty, Daylight, Harsh Times, Liar Liar, Living Landscapes The Worlds Most Beautiful Places, Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, Music and Lyrics, Sneakers, Uncommon Bach
HD-DVD has a lot more releases than Blu-Ray this week, but even with a couple of good movies, nothing here demands an upgrade.

Hellboy - Blood and Iron - Buy from Amazon
The second animated spin-off from the movie. These are proving quite popular and with the sequel on its way, I expect to see more of them. This installment is more sophisticated than the previous one, but doesn't have the same fantastical flourish. Extras include an audio commentary track, making of featurette, test animation, and another featurette that re-chronologicalizes the non-chronological sequences from the show. Easily worth picking up for fans of the franchise.

The Hustler - Two-Disc Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
I love con-men movies; there's something about the art of the graft that I find so easy to get into. The Hustler, which deals with pool sharks, is one of the best such movies. This is not the first time the movie has been released on DVD, but it is the first time it's gotten the 2-disc special treatment it deserves. The old audio commentary is back, and so are the making of featurette and the trick-shot featurette. The second disc contains several new featurettes (a couple on the making of the movie, one on the cinematic impact of the movie), as well as a biography of Paul Newman, and finally another on the trick shots seen in the movie. Easily worth picking up, worth the upgrade, and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

James Stewart - Screen Legend Collection - Buy from Amazon
This is not the first box set to celebrate the work of James Stewart, nor will it be the last. However, for each one that gets put out, it is getting harder and harder to find top-notch films to fill it. This one has three that are in that category and two that feel kind of like filler. When it comes to James Stewart, calling any of his films filler is unfair as even his worst ones are better than most films that come out. On the other hand, the lack of extras is disappointing. Even so, it still worth picking up for most fans.

Jesse Stone - Buy from Amazon: Death in Paradise and Night Passage
Tom Selleck stars as Jesse Stone in these two made-for-TV movies. Based on the novels by Robert B. Parker, who also created Spencer for Hire, the films proved winners both critically and with audiences. However, the DVDs are devoid of special features and are only worth renting for all but the most hardcore fans.

John Wayne - Screen Legend Collection - Buy from Amazon
At this point even the most hardcore John Wayne fan is feeling overloaded with the number of releases coming out to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth. To make matters worse for this box set, it is coming out a little late compared to the others, the movies here are only average, and there are no extras. Personally, I can't recommend picking it up, but others may disagree.

Kathy Griffin - My Life on the D-List - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Reality TV with Kathy Griffin, but not the soul-sucking Reality TV but the documentary type. Or documentary-lite type with Kathy Griffin giving the world a self-deprecating look at her life. On the other hand, the price is a little high for TV on DVD and the extras are light (one featurette and a preview for season 2), and that limits the value to a rental.

Masters of Horror - The Screwfly Solution - Buy from Amazon
Regular readers of this site know I don't like the new breed of sadistic horror, and I especially don't like the ones with sick misogynistic twists to them. The latest DVD release for Masters of Horror deals with this topic head on just as director Joe Dante took on the political environment in season 1's Homecoming, although, this one has a lighter touch and for some that makes it more effective. As usual, the extras on the DVD are strong with an audio commentary track, making-of featurette, and another on the special effects. Not as good as the first season releases, but still better than most TV movies get.

The Original Nancy Drew Movie Mystery Collection - Buy from Amazon
Four films from the late 1930s featuring Nancy Drew, which are coming out tomorrow to take advantage of the publicity for Nancy Drew. Although given the early reviews, these movies will connect with today's audiences more than the new one will.

The Practice - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
TV on DVD that's not full a season set! What's up with that? The first season of this show was only 6 episodes long, sort of. There were 13 episodes made, but only 6 episodes were shown during the first season run, with the rest shown at the beginning of season 2. So it was a good decision to not release these episodes by their own, but releasing it as Volume 1 instead of Season 1 might hurt sales, as will the light extras as there's only a single featurette to go along with the 13 episodes.

Primeval - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
In what has to be one of the worst marketing moves ever, the studio shifted this film from an April release to mid-January, and they did it a week before its new release date. Because of this, there was no advanced advertising, no time to build up buzz, and no hope for the film at the box office. Could the film have been a big hit had the studio not screwed with it? In a word, no, but a better ad campaign could have a least helped it do much better than just $10 million.

Speaking of the ad campaign, this movie was sold as a serial killer flick, not just a serial killer, but a cannibalistic serial killer movie. However, it is an animals gone bad movie featuring a giant, man-eating crocodile. I should say that since the movie is based on real life events, the crocodile isn't sci-fi-sized, merely a very large specimen. However, having seen the movie, it might have been better if it was truly giant, say 100 feet long.

While watching this movie I kept thinking of Lake Placid, for the obvious reasons. I think the aspect of that movie that could have made this movie much better was the dark humor. Orlando Jones did have a few good lines, but not enough. They needed was Betty White. (I do realize the African plight subplot would have made some of the jokes seem crass, but that part of the movie didn't work for me, so I'd be fine with losing it.)

Moving on to the extras, they are rather light, but that's to be expected given the film's struggles at the box office. There is an audio commentary with the director and the visual effects supervisor, who go into good detail about the making of the movie, especially the problems they had. However, there's too much dead air in the audio commentary. More than once I checked to see if it was still on. Next up is the Crocumentary, which runs just over 9 minutes and detail the CG work that went into creating the crocodile. I especially liked when they showed the same shot several times showing the refinement to the special effects, but I've always been interested in that side of moviemaking. Finally there are three deleted scenes with audio commentary; all three were good cuts but interesting to watch here.

Overall the film just didn't hold my attention. Even fans of, "When Animals Attack!" films will likely feel the same. Add in extras that are just average, and it is impossible to recommend the movie for anything more than a rental. And even that might be a little generous.

The Rat Patrol - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
The second, and last season of this World War II series comes to DVD. It's more like Hogan's Heroes than Combat, but not as popular. Add in zero extras and the value is further eroded.

Silk - Buy from Amazon
A Taiwanese horror movie that adds some sci-fi twists to a ghost story. For the most part, this combination works, at least early on. Depending on your personal preference, you might drawn in enough to forgive the weaker second half the movie. However, even fans of Asian horror should give it a rental first as is it too risky to buy it blind.

Sleepover - Buy from Amazon
I have watched this movie, in its entirety, twice, because Steve Carell has a supporting role in it. (In my defense, it was free on TV at the time.) The only real difference between this version of the DVD and the previous one is the cover, which now features Steve Carell a lot more prominently. I guess they are hoping to catch some extras sales thanks to the release of Evan Almighty.

Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls - Buy from Amazon: DVD and Blu-Ray
Tyler Perry is one of the few directors who gets his name above the title of his movie. It is almost like they are selling his name more than the movie itself, which is understandable given the quality of his movies. It also seems like the quality issue finally caught up as this film barely earned more in total than his previous film did during it's opening weekend. Or perhaps the weakness at the box office was more a result of some of the themes in this movie. Idris Elba stars as Monty, a divorcée who is trying to get custody of his three girls from his ex-wife. In the movie, Tyler Perry makes it sound like she's vindictive and it was a cruel injustice that he lost custody, even though Monty, the hero of the movie, spent time in jail for raping a woman. Hmmm. You would think that would play a major role in a custody case. As for the DVD, the extras are only average with an audio commentary track, extended scene, and a featurette on the actress who place the titular little girls who are real-life sisters. Hardcore fans of Tyler Perry have probably already pre-ordered the DVD, while the rest of us should stay far away. Also coming out tomorrow is Diary of a Mad Black Woman Movies - Special Edition.

An Unreasonable Man - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about Ralph Nader, his consumer advocacy work and his quixotic quest to become president of the United States. Granted, I don't think he ever thought he could become president, but he failed in just affecting the national dialogue during the election. The movie is amazing and with plenty of extras, for the most part. I would have liked an audio commentary track, but the deleted / extended scenes and featurettes really add to the impact of the movie, and they should since they are longer than the movie itself. Overall, it is easily worth picking up for fans of political documentary, and may even help a few Democrats who unfairly blame Nader for Al Gore's loss in 2000 remember why the man became so popular in the first place.

Waiting for God - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
This series follows the lives of two old-timers living in a retirement community while waiting to die. Something only the British could pull off. The 2-disc set contains the 10 episodes from season 2, as well as a featurette on the Stephanie Cole, who plays Diana Trent. That's not much for extras, but fans of the series will likely be happy nonetheless.

Walker, Texas Ranger - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
In 2005 a website called Chuck Norris Facts became a major Internet phenomenon. Apparently someone didn't get the memo that the site was a joke and people were poking fun at him, because he is now a political pundit. Thank goodness the same thing didn't have with Vin Diesel. I mention this because it means I don't have to talk about the show as much, which was quite terrible. Add in zero features and I can't even recommend renting it, but I know there are plenty of people out there who will disagree with me.

Welcome Back, Kotter - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
I love this show as a kid and would watch it every week. But even back then I knew John Travolta was overrated. I found him to be the least interesting character and the most wooden acting on the group and to this day I am amazed he made it big and Gabe Kaplan didn't. As for the DVD release, I'm of two minds here. On the one hand, the show is great and even with just a retrospective as an extra it is worth checking out. On the other hand, there's a rumor that they are making a movie adaptation of the show, which is enough to make me want to crawl under my desk and whimper. Could I really recommend buy this DVD if it results in that movie getting made? I guess I'll have to take the risk, cause it is worth checking out.

What's Happening Now!! - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
What's Happening!! ran for a few seasons, was canceled and relegated to syndication. However, it was so popular there that the show was re-launched as What's Happening Now!! and ran for another three seasons. (On a side note, it was also the first series for Martin Lawrence, but he doesn't show up till season three). Fans of the show will be happy that it is coming out on DVD, but the lack of extras is disappointing.

Zzyzx - Buy from Amazon
Not to be confused with Zzyzx Rd., which set a record for lowest confirmed box office. This movie should make more on DVD than that one did in theaters, but it would only take 2 sales to do so. Unfortunately, even a strong DVD (audio commentary track, interviews, and a pair of featurettes), it will struggle to overcome the terrible buzz generated by its namesake. Hopefully people will give it a chance because it is worth checking out.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Bruce Almighty, Ghost Rider, Music and Lyrics, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Breach, Daddy's Little Girls, Black Christmas, Primeval, Sleepover, Blood and Chocolate, Harsh Times, Indigènes, The Bridge, An Unreasonable Man, Grbavica, Glastonbury