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DVD Releases for June 26, 2007

June 26th, 2007

It's a relatively soft week for cream-of-the-crop releases, but what this week's selection it lacks in top quality it sadly more than makes up for with mediocre offerings. None of the first-run releases were of much interest, limited releases only produced a few DVDs worth a second look, and even big name TV on DVD was mostly lacking in the must-have department. It took an obscure release from the U.K., The New Statesmen to win that coveted honor.

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
All 13 double-episodes of this animated series based on the Mario Bros. 3 video game. Some people reading this might be thinking, 'I remember that show, and I liked it.' ... One of those is probably wrong. It wasn't a particularly good show when it first came out in 1990, and it hasn't aged well either. Extras are strong in number, but weak in quality as the third disc adds very little to the overall experience. It might be worth a rental for the hit of nostalgia, but most people can safely skip it.

Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Classic Collection, Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
David Suchet returns as Hercule Poirot in nine made for TV movies based on the works of Agatha Christie. All nine films presented here are worth watching, most of them repeatedly, and there is also a bonus disc on the life of Agatha Christie. My only complaint is the price, which is high for TV on DVD. On the other hand, if you consider it a movie box set, it is a little more acceptable. Even so, it is still worth picking up for fans of Agatha Christie in general, and especially for fans of David Suchet's performance of Hercule Poirot.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon - Buy from Amazon
This movie was talked about in horror circles for a while before its eventual release. And while expectations were strong, it was able to match them and earn a wider than expected release. It then collapsed at the box office and quickly disappeared. Perhaps the release was a little too wide. Or perhaps the market has dried up thanks to the glut of substandard releases. (Or a combination of the two.) Real fans of the genre will at least be happy with the DVD release, which is packed with extras including an audio commentary track, deleted & extended scenes, a making-of featurette, behind-the-scenes featurette, and more. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Black Snake Moan - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray, HD-DVD
I don't even know where to begin describing this movie, so I won't even try. It had all the makings of a train wreck, but managed to earn respectable reviews, yet it still went off the tracks at the box office barely making the top ten when it opened and finishing with less than $10 million. (I blame Justine Timberlake, but regular readers probably could have guessed that I would.) The extras are strong, especially considering the film's box office struggles, with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making of featurette, two featurettes on the music and more. The movie works, for the most part, but the nature of it means most people should give it a rental before deciding if they want to add it to their DVD collection or not.

Blu-Ray Releases: Buy from Amazon: Hustle & Flow
Just the one Blu-Ray release this week, not counting the one concurrent release. I can't see many people thinking Hustle & Flow needs the High Definition treatment, but it is a bit of a shock that the HD-DVD version is outselling the Blu-Ray one.

Casper, the Friendly Ghost - Best of - Buy from Amazon: Volume 1 and Volume 2
Two DVDs, each with 12 cartoon shorts with Casper, the Friendly Ghost. As any long-time reader will know, I'm a Loney Tunes man myself and, for the most part, find the competition lacking. For instance, Casper, the Friendly Ghost was incredibly repetitive and just a little too sappy for me. I could still recommend these DVDs if they were as well done as the Golden Collections are, but there are no special features on either DVD. I know why studios don't think they need extras, but they have to learn their target audience is not little kids but adult collectors who want to learn about the cartoon's historical significance.

Cult Camp Classics - Buy from Amazon: Volume 1 - Sci-Fi Thrillers, Volume 2 - Women in Peril, Volume 3 - Terrorized Travelers, and Volume 4 - Historical Epics
Four box sets, each with 3 camp classics... if you could call them classics. Volume 1 has only one film of interest, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, which is one of the most beloved such movies. Volume 2 has Caged!, which is actually a good movie and feels campy only due to the over-abundance of camp in the "Women in Prison" genre. The only one worth checking out in Volume 3 is Zero Hour!, which was spoofed to within an inch of its life in Airplane. (If you've ever seen that movie, you can't take Zero Hour! seriously, it's impossible.) Finally there's Volume 4, which has... nothing that really stands out. The films are also available individually, while the box sets are basically buy 2 get one free, but without any extras, even the low price is not really worth it.

Climates - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a dysfunctional marriage that is tested during a vacation. The film works, for the most part and opened well, but simply couldn't handle expansion. The DVD should perform better, especially with a making-of featurette, a featurette of the film at Cannes, and interviews, but will still likely get lost in the crowd.

Darwin's Nightmare - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about a lake in Africa where a foreign species of fish, the Nile perch, was introduced to increase fishing trade. But this fish is an alpha predator and wiped out the native population that used to feed to locals, and due to the demand for the Nile Perch in Europe and other markets, the locals could no longer afford to feed themselves. An incredibly effective film that is a powerful indictment of globalization and how the rush for profits can overcome all other concerns. Extras are limited with just an interview with the director, but it is still worth picking up.

Dead Silence - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Version, Unrated Version, HD-DVD
One of a glut of low budget, poorly reviewed horror films to come out lately. Like most of its companions, this one failed to make much of an impact at the box office while the lackluster DVD isn't going to sell that much better. There are some deleted scenes, a few featurettes and a music video, but nothing to lift it past a rental, and even that is for fans of the living dolls sub-genre of horror.

Drive in Double Feature - Search and Destroy / The Glove - Buy from Amazon
I think when this DVD, and the large number of similar releases were given the go ahead, many people were assuming that Grindhouse would revive interest in this genre of low-budget filmmaking from the past. It didn't. Those who did see Grindhouse and loved it might want to give these films a chance, but for most of these people a rental will do.

Going Under - Unrated Edition - Buy from Amazon
Should a movie about sadomasochism be so dull?

Roger Rees (who is probably still best known here for his guest appearances as Robin Colcord in Cheers), stars as Peter, a married psychotherapist who uses the services of professional dominatrix who goes by the name Mistress Diana, played by Geno Lechner. Their professional relationship is threatened when Suzanne, a.k.a. Mistress Diana suggests they meet outside the workplace, which Peter immediately agrees to. Unfortunately, neither Peter nor Suzanne are emotionally equipped for this turn of events and the predictable collapse soon follows.

There are basically two aspects of this movie, only one of which works. Since the movie is about sadomasochism, there are a number of 'sex' scenes, although I never found any of them particularly sexy, or even dramatically compelling. On the other hand, the emotional journey of these two people was a lot more interesting to me, but even then we don't get close enough to either character to learn enough about what makes them tick to be fully drawn in.

Extras are better than expected given the film's short, short theatrical run. Starting things off is an audio commentary track with writer/director Eric Werthman and star Roger Rees. The track is low-key but informative, and helped improve my appreciation for the movie. Next up is a 17-minute interview featurette with Geno Lechner and Roger Rees, which touches on some of the same points made in the audio commentary track but is still interesting. The last substantive extra is the NYC Black and Blue Ball that deals with the premiere fetish party in New York City. At just 6 minutes, there's not much in-depth information presented, but there is more nudity than in the entire film.

There are some aspects of this film that are amazing, like Roger Rees' performance. Others, like the dramatic look at emotionally scarred individuals trying to connect worked well enough to be worth recommendation. But both of those are overshadowed by sadomasochism. I'm sure it was depicted in a realistic and objective way, but it still hurt my enjoyment of the movie and limits my ability to recommend it. Fans of independent cinema might want to give it a rental, but that's as high as I will go.

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - Second Season - Buy from Amazon
The spin-off of the Andy Griffith Show. This is the second season of the show, and the first in color, and arguably the peak of its popularity. Despite this popularity, there are no extras on this 5-disc set.

Hannah Montana - Pop Star Profile - Buy from Amazon
Miley Cyrus stars as Miley Stewart, a typical teen girl who has a secret identity as the teen pop sensation, Hannah Montana, in this Disney Channel series that is aimed squarely at 'Tween girls. And since I'm neither, it is difficult to judge the quality of the show.

This is a TV on DVD release that is not a full-season release, which is one strike against it. It is also a theme release with all four episodes focusing on the character, Jake Ryan, a famous actor who stars in Zombie High (an obvious parody of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). In the first episode on this DVD, he just joins Miley's school, and immediately every girl, except Miley, has a massive crush on him. He also uses his fame to get preferential treatment, which annoys Miley, for obvious reasons. I too found the character obnoxious and annoying (and unlike her opinion of him, mine did not change later on).

Because of the vast distance between me and the target audience, I decided to grab Livin' the Rock Star Life to make comparisons. This way I could at least judge the show based on the previous release and tell readers if it has improved or not. After watching all 8 episodes that have been released on DVD, I can say that despite the annoying guest character, the overall quality has improved and the creative forces seem to be gelling together. That said, I think the highlight for these episodes was not the A-stories, but the side bits, especially the father / son dynamic with Billy Ray Cyrus and Jason Earles. (On a side note, I'm amazed Billy Ray Cyrus is allowed in front of a camera after recording Achey, Breaky Heart. I was sure there was a law passed to prevent that, maybe even a U.N. resolution.)

Extras on the DVD are acceptable with an interview featurettes and a music performance. The featurette has members of the cast and Miley Cyrus' real family taking about the show, behind-the-scenes, and her family life. It runs just 5 minutes, but fans of the show should find something there worth watching. Next up is Nobody's Perfect, which is a live concert performance. I assume those who enjoy the show for the music will like this extra.

When most people hear, "Disney Channel series", they will form certain opinions based solely on that. And while Hannah Montana isn't as bad as some series that have appeared on the network, it doesn't live up to the best either. (I'm still waiting for full-season sets of Kim Possible.) Speaking of full-season sets, normally I'd recommend waiting for such sets to be released, but there's almost no chance those will ever come out. In the meantime, this is a release that should satisfy those who liked Livin' the Rock Star Life.

In addition, Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus, a 2-disc CD set is also coming out tomorrow and it has 20 songs, 10 from Hannah Montana and 10 from Miley Cyrus.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: American Me, Army of Darkness, Being John Malkovich, The Big Lebowski, Bulletproof, Hustle & Flow, Mallrats, Meet Joe Black, Mystery Men, Unleashed, The Watcher
A huge list of HD-DVD releases this week, including some of my personal favorites like Mallrats and Army of Darkness. ... and Being John Malkovich. ... Mystery Men's pretty good as well. As good as this week's selection is, there's nothing here that makes me want to jump to the next level, at least before the Format Wars have ended and there's a victor. When that happens, I can see myself adding at least a few of these films to my collection in whatever format wins. Hopefully Blu-Ray, as it is technically superior and I'm more than willing to pay a little extra to get more.

High School Musical - The Concert - Extreme Access Pass - Buy from Amazon
Okay, this has officially gone from TV movie, to national phenomenon, to an addiction. One that Disney has no problems feeding. Since the movie first aired on TV, there have been the original DVD, the special edition DVD, CD Soundtrack, special edition CD soundtrack, and now the concert DVD (and, of course, the CD soundtrack to the concert).

The concert features the main cast from the film performing all the songs from the show, while certain cast members perform solo songs from their upcoming CDs. (It seems like every actor who stars in one Disney show gets a recording contract.) In addition, under the bonus features you can find the warm-up act, Jordan Pruitt, who fans of the Disney TV movies might recognize as she sang on the soundtrack to Jump In!. The energy is excellent and the crowd of 'Tweens, and younger kids, really get into the show. I assume if you or your child liked the movie, they will love the concert.

Other extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette on the concert, which runs 9 minutes and is hosted by Lucas Grabeel. Fans of the show should find something here worth watching, but the replay value is limited. Next up is U Direct, an extra that allows the view to change angles while watching select songs (this includes some backstage shots as well). There is a rather limited selection of camera angles here and that hurts the overall value. (The DVD cover claims there is a preview for High School Musical 2, but it is just a 30-second TV spot. Not what I would call an extra.)

Those who haven't seen the original musical might be at a loss to explain the popularity of the franchise (which has spawned one sequel that will debut later this summer, and another that may get a theatrical release in 2008). If your reaction to this news is, "Huh?" then this DVD isn't for you. On the other hand, if you own two or more items from the extensive list of merchandise, I can't see any reason not to do the same with this DVD.

Isolation - Buy from Amazon
A horror film that tries to scare audiences with the birth of a calf... a genetically engineered calf! Franken-Holstein. Moooo! If you get past that silly premise, the film is rather effective and worth a rental for most.

Louis C.K. - Shameless - Buy from Amazon
Louis C.K. returns to stand-up after his show was tragically cut short. Fortunately for his fans, he's at the top of his game here. Extras are better than most stand-up with the very first half-hour special Louis C.K. did back in 1996, which is a real treat for long term fans and those just introduced to his work. Easily worth picking up.

Miami Vice - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
Pastels, fast cars, and fast music video cuts are the highlights for this show, which is ending its run on DVD. By this time in the show's run, it was clearly dying, but even so there's little reason for fans of the show not to pick up the final 5-disc set.

Monk - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
Tony Shalhoub stars as detective Adrian Monk. The show has rebounded after a couple weak seasons and is again at the top of its game. Extras remain strong with audio commentary tracks, ability to watch the Film Noir episode in both B&W and color, and the pilot episode to Psych, which is also to be released on DVD this week. My only complaint is the price, which is a little high for a season that's only 16 episodes long, but it is still worth picking up.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Volume 11 - Buy from Amazon
Four more movies are given the MST3K treatment in the latest DVD release from Rino and include Ring of Terror, The Indestructible Man, Tormented, and Horrors of Spider Island. The first three are from the earlier seasons and are packed with great gags, the final one is from the last season and doesn't have the same edge to it. Don't get me wrong, it is still enjoyable, but doesn’t have the replay value of the other three. Extras on the disc continue the tradition with trailers for the movies, a reunion, and a jukebox with 10 songs from the series. If you have picked up previous releases, you should be more than happy to add this one to your collection.

The New Adventures of Batman - Buy from Amazon
It is important to note that by "New" they mean 30 years old. I guess that's still newer than the 1966 live action series starring Adam West. (Speaking of which, when will that series escape legal limbo and finally make it out on DVD?) Even those who enjoyed the camp of Adam West's rendition of Batman will likely want to take a pass on this version.

The New Adventures of Superman - Buy from Amazon
This series is even older than the previous one, having debuted in 1966. However, while the show is over 40 years old, it still stands up today and fans of Superman in all of his incarnations will want to check it out.

The New Statesmen - Buy from Amazon
Easily the best of the three "New" TV shows hitting DVD this week. This series stars Rick Mayall, who people here probably best know as... okay, I'm drawing a blank here. He's an amazing comedic actor, but he's not well known this side of the pond. He was the titular character in Drop Dead Fred, but I'm probably only one of three people who remember that movie. On the other hand, fans of BritComs will certainly remember him from Bottom and The Young Ones. (On a side note, if you are interested in picking up The Young Ones on DVD, wait until October and pick up the Extra Stoopid Edition.) Here Rick Mayall plays Alan B'Stard, a Tory in Margaret Thatcher's government, and a politican with no morals and a love for money and power. So the show is certainly relevant today. It lasted 4 seasons and only 26 episodes, but unlike many series, almost all of them are right on target. Even with no extras, this is an excellent DVD and one that I've been hoping would come out since TV on DVD first started to become popular. It is also my DVD Pick of the Week.

Partition - Buy from Amazon.ca
A Canadian film that was supposed to be released on DVD this week, but there seems to be a problem on Amazon.com. On the other hand, it can be imported from Amazon.ca. The DVD has extras that are in line with most limited releases with an audio commentary track and a rather in-depth making-of featurette and overall it is worth picking up, even if you do have to import it from Canada.

Peaceful Warrior - Buy from Amazon
The studio really tried to sell this movie, going so far as to give away $15 million in free tickets. The plan was to use the strong word-of-mouth that followed to sell the movie. However, that plan could only work if the movie wasn't so blunt. Message movies like this need to find a way to work their message into the narrative and not hammer moviegoers over the head, repeatedly. Otherwise it will turn off those who are not already true believers. The film should perform very well on the home market, but that's more of a matter of selling to the choir than any substantive reason. Personally, I can't even recommend renting it.

Pride - Buy from Amazon
A real life inspirational coach movie... that's about swimming. As hard as it is to image, the movie failed to find an audience here. It wasn't a really bad movie, but it certainly wasn't good enough to overcome a generic ad campaign while swimming's lack of popularity also hurt. Extras on the DVD are merely average, if that, with an audio commentary track, deleted / extended scenes, and musical montages. Worth a rental, but I can't recommend more than that.

Psych - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
The show stars James Roday as Shawn Spencer, a amateur sleuth who pretends to be psychic to get a job working with the police (and to avoid jail). There's great chemistry between James Roday and Dulé Hill, who plays his friend / reluctant assistant. If you are a fan of Monk, you will likely enjoy this show as well as there are a lot of similarities in the writing and the feel. In fact, they are being sold together as part of a package deal at a considerable savings. My only complaint is the extras, which don't include any audio commentary tracks. However, the deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes, and audition tapes are still more than enough to recommend picking it up.

Reno 911! - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
A week after the movie came out on DVD, the latest season of the TV series hits the home market. The show is still funny and most fans will have pre-ordered the DVD a while ago. However, there are some signs that it is running out of steam. I'm sure they can make a fifth season work, but they better wrap it up in the end. The 2-disc set has all 14 episodes, plus plenty of extras including audio commentary tracks on 5 of those episodes, several profiles and one extended scene. This is a little bit of a let down from previous seasons, but not enough to exclude a recommendation. On a side note, while the box says the DVD is uncensored, that only applies to the audio track. You get to hear all the actors swear, a lot, but the nudity is still blurred out.

Shooter - Buy from Amazon
A political thriller disguised as a straight up action flick. Or a popcorn flick with some political undertones. It depends on whom you ask. Most people will agree that the film entertains, if ones expectations are low. Extras are merely average with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making-of featurette, and an interview with the military advisor. It's worth checking out, but there's not enough replay value here to be worth anything more than a rental.

The Spaghetti West - Buy from Amazon
A documentary that first aired on the IFC. From the name, it should be obvious that the film deals with Spaghetti Westerns, which not only dominated the Italian film industry, but also became worldwide hits. Fans of these films, and there are many, should give this DVD a chance. However, without any extras a rental will do for most people.

Twisted Sister - The Video Years - Buy from Amazon
Years? I thought this band only made two videos, and they both came out the same year. I'm sure they'll find a way to pad that out to a full DVD.

Wedding Wars - Buy from Amazon
A humorous, but perhaps a little lightweight look at the issue of same-sex marriage. In the film, as a matter of protesting the lack of equal treatment under the law, gays in America decide to go on strike. The film is unlikely to change many minds about the subject, but it could entertain a few of them.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Shooter, Danny the Dog, Hustle & Flow, Dead Silence, Black Snake Moan, Pride, Peaceful Warrior, Darwin's Nightmare, Iklimler, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Going Under, Partition