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DVD Releases for August 21, 2007

August 20th, 2007

This is another week without a first run release that demands to be purchased. That is not to say there are no first run releases coming out tomorrow, just none that need picking up. Fortunately, TV on DVD and Special Editions were able to pick up the slack. From the former category we have Ugly Betty - The Complete First Season and House, M.D. - Season Three that were contenders for DVD Pick of the Week. From the latter, we have House of Games - Criterion Collection and Serenity - Collector's Edition. And the winner is... Serenity - Collector's Edition. Buy it early, buy it often, and maybe we'll have a sequel before too long.

009-1 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
A couple of months ago Volume 1 came out. This week it's Volume 2, which can also be purchased with a funky box.

Blood in the Face - Featuring Interviews by Michael Moore - Buy from Amazon
This documentary might be one of the scariest movies you will ever see. It probes the new white supremacist movement, letting these men speak for themselves, which is arguably the most effective way to destroy their credibility. The film is more than 15 years old, but I would doubt it is any less relevant today (although perhaps their main target of hatred has shifted). The lack of extras is disappointing, but understandable. I also have concerns about the low replay value, which might preclude purchasing over renting. Just a quick note, Michael Moore is barely in the movie, so don't buy it based on his name being so prominent in the title. And don't avoid it for the same reason.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Immortal Beloved and National Lampoon's Van Wilder - Unrated
Just two Blu-Ray releases this week, neither of which comes close to needing the high definition experience.

Broken English - Buy from Amazon
Parker Posey stars in this romantic comedy that earned respectable reviews and nearly cracked $1 million during its limited release. On the other hand, the lack of substantial extras limits the value of this DVD to a rental.

The Dark Backward - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of those films that is nearly impossible to describe. This film is a dark, dark comedy that has attracted some ardent defenders, but for most of us the only reaction we will be able to muster is, 'Huh?' Because of this, I'm a little surprised that the film is earning a Special Edition release, but with an audio commentary track, retrospective Q&A, outtakes, and deleted scenes, it is worth picking up for fans. And if you have never seen it, it might be worth a rental just out of curiosity.

Dexter - The First Season - Buy from Amazon
A TV series about a sociopath serial killer who was raised by a cop and now works in the police crime lab. At least that's his day job. At night he hunts down and kills the criminals he thinks have slipped past the justice system. An excellent show, but one that is not for everyone, the 4-disc set has all 12 episodes and includes audio commentary on two of them as well as a making of featurette. If you haven't seen the show, it is worth checking out; if you are a fan, it is worth picking up.

The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
I could use this DVD. I'm pet-sitting for my parents while they are on vacation and their dog just knocked over the trash making a huge mess. And she did it twice. This doesn't help change my opinion of pets in general. Also coming out tomorrow are Cesar's Toughest Cases and Power of the Pack.

The Ex - Unrated Edition - Buy from Amazon
Zach Braff better start picking better roles or his post-Scrubs career will be short.

In this movie, Braff plays a slacker who has a knack for getting fired but he finally has to grow up when his wife has a kid and his takes a job with his father-in-law's company. However, once there, he meets Chip Sanders, who not only becomes his rival at his new job, but a rival for his wife.

The simple set up could be enough for a surprisingly funny movie. However, it seems whenever there was a choice, the writers went with the easy, sitcom joke instead of something that dealt with the characters. Pratfalls over character-driven humor. More than once I thought there should be a laugh track here. Apparently it was aiming for dark comedy, but the closest they got to that was putting Chip Sanders in a wheelchair and make some awkward comments. With such a great cast, there should be something here to really like, but I can't think of it.

Moving onto the extras, there are only a handful of deleted / alternate scenes (including three endings), and some outtakes. The fact that there were three endings suggests the writers didn't know how to end the movie, which is a sign that it shouldn't have been made in the first place. There's nothing here that enhances the movie and nothing here with any replay value. As for the unrated label, I think it's pure marketing; granted, I'm not good at reading the minds at the MPAA when it comes to ratings, but I doubt the DVD would receive anything stricter than a PG-13 rating.

I really, really wanted to like this movie. It stars a lot of actors I've enjoyed in previous films, but nearly all the jokes fall flat, and the characters lack depth. Even if you can sit through the whole thing, you will forget the movie before the end credits role.

Exorcism - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
One might call this movie a rip-off of The Exorcist, and it would be hard to argue against that claim, but this low-budget Spanish horror flick is quite different in a number of ways, mainly its good qualities. It doesn't have any.

The Film Crew - Hollywood After Dark - Buy from Amazon
The spin-off, of sorts, for MST3K featuring Kevin Murphy (a.k.a. Tom Servo); Bill Corbett (a.k.a. Crow T. Robot); and Mike Nelson (a.k.a. Mike Nelson), but instead of being stuck in a satellite, we have the three men laying down audio commentary tracks for forgotten films. Films that should be forgotten. But that's the beauty of it.

There are some differences between The Film Crew and MST3K, some minor like the lack of silhouettes, some significant like the reduced number of host bits, some major like the nature of the film. I don't think they could have used Hollywood After Dark and its stripper theme during MST3K. (It is important to note that the stripping is so mild in this movie as to seem quaint, so don't get the movie if you are looking for adult entertainment nor should you be turned off if you don't want adult content.)

Hollywood After Dark stars Rue McClanahan as a stripper. Yes, that Rue McClanahan. It is also a heist movie with a pointless s.c.u.b.a. twist. But mostly it's just dull. Oh so dull. Fortunately, it is bad in a way that is easy to mock and it gives the three men plenty of opportunities for jokes. The jokes don't come as fast and furious as in MST3K, but the average joke works just as well as they did in the earlier show.

On the other hand, the host segments fell flat, but there are less of them then in MST3K, which is a good thing. Also, the lone extra, Ode to Lunch, wasn't as funny as the average joke during the movie.

Those going through MST3K withdrawal, and there are a lot of you, should be happy with the first entry in The Film Crew direct-to-DVD series. The lack of extras is disappointing, but the DVD is still worth checking out.

On a side note, this DVD actually came out more than a month ago, but the review was delayed due to a problem in shipping.

House of Games - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Davide Mamet's directorial debut, and some would argue still his best movie. In the film, Joe Mantegna stars as a con-man / card shark who entices therapist, Dr. Margaret Ford, into his underground world. Now, I'm a sucker for a good con-man movie and I may be biased here, but this is just a fantastic film and one that deserves to be seen by more people. As for the extras, they are also fantastic, starting off with an audio commentary track featuring Mamet and Ricky Jay, who is incredibly knowledgeable on the art of the con, and has been a technical advisor on Heartbreakers, Sneakers, The Prestige and The Illusionist. (If I see his name in the credits, I'm almost guaranteed to like the movie.) Other extras include nearly 30 minutes of interviews with the two stars, a behind-the-scenes featurette / promotional piece, a storyboard of an original con designed by Ricky Jay, and a booklet with images and essays. Easily worth picking up and a clear contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

House, M.D. - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
This is the season I stopped watching this series, at least on TV. The arcing storyline involving David Morse as a cop meant that I didn't want to miss an episode and have to watch them out of order, so I decided to stop altogether and just pick up the DVDs when they came out. And this 5-disc set is worth picking up. Extras include an audio commentary track on one episode, a making of featurette for another, two behind-the-scenes featurettes, outtakes, the return of Valley Girl, M.D. with Jennifer Morrison and Lisa Edelstein, and a look at Hugh Laurie rocking it out with his charity band called Band from TV. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

I Pity the Fool - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
A reality TV series featuring Mr. T giving self-help advice. ... I think I need to lie down.

JAG (Judge Advocate General) - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
One of several thousand courtroom drama / police procedural shows out there. This one sets itself apart with the military life angle, but that's not enough for me to recommend the 6-disc set.

Life Begins - Series 1 - Buy from Amazon
This British series stars Caroline Quentin, and people here probably know her best from... actually, audience here probably don't know her at all, but she's a comedic talent featured in a number of comdies. This series helps showcase her dramatic talent. In it, she stars as Maggie Mee, a suddenly divorced woman who is forced back into the workplace. Lack of extras hurts the value of the DVD, but it is still worth checking out.

The Lives of Others - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
This German film earned unbelievably positive reviews and was a surprise winner at the Oscars (although I still think Pan Labyrinth was robbed). It seems this film is becoming more relevant today and that might have helped it win. As for the DVD, it is on par with other foreign language releases with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes and a making of featurette. There are not an overabundance of extras, but it is still easily worth picking up.

Malicious - Buy from Amazon
This movie features Molly Ringwald, who was trying to break out of her John Hughes / Brat Pack days with this project. Unfortunately, it failed both with critics and with moviegoers. This is the first time it has been released on DVD, but I can't imagine a lot of people were eagerly awaiting its DVD debut. Perhaps if you are a really big fan of Molly Ringwald, it will be worth checking out, but even then a rental will suffice.

Man About the House - Complete Series 1 and 2 - Buy from Amazon
The original to the American remake, Three's Company. Like most shows that crossed the pond, Man About the House was far superior to the progeny, but the 2-disc set is devoid of special features and only worth picking up for the more hardcore fans. On the other hand, fans of the remake might want to give it a rental to check out the original.

The Michael Haneke Collection - Buy from Amazon
This box set includes seven films from German director, Michael Haneke. Its release comes just months before his Hollywood debut with Funny Games, a remake of his 1997 Austrian film of the same name. The set doesn't include two of his more recent films, Caché and Time of the Wolf, but it has all the rest of his output and fans of Michael Haneke, or those interested in Funny Games, might want to pick up the 7-disc set.

The Milky Way - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Luis Buñuel's discussion of the Catholic faith (although it deals less faith as it does with the organized religion). Luis Buñuel dealt with Surrealism but this film is one of his more straightforward productions, but that's not saying much. Also, the subject matter is nearly guaranteed to turn-off most members of the audience. As for the DVD, it has a few extras including interviews with film historian Ian Christie, screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, and a documentary on the importance of the film. In total, these run over an hour and in addition to the booklet add to the film enough to recommend picking up the movie over just renting.

A New Wave - Buy from Amazon
A group of slackers decide to rob a bank, but they need a foolproof plan, so they watch a bunch of heist movies. A setup like that has the potential to be great, and while the film doesn't live up to that potential, it is still a fun film. Extras are light with a making of featurette and a music video, but that is to be expected with indie films. Still worth checking out for most, picking up for fans of the genre.

The Night of the Sorcerers - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Despite the name, this is a movie about a vampire. A female vampire that spends most of her time prancing around in a leopard skin bikini, in fact. That might be enough for some to be interested, but be warned, it's a low-budget, B-movie horror flick that is worth more as camp than serious film.

Perfect Stranger - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
One of several thrillers to come out this April. No one was expecting the film to be an Oscar winner or a blockbuster, but the film's performance with critics and at the box office was still well below expectations. This probably explains where the only extra on the DVD is a weak making-of featurette. And this in turn explains why you should skip this DVD.

Redline - Buy from Amazon
Following in the footsteps of such cinematic marvels as The Fast and the Furious, Gone in 60 Seconds, and others, this slice of Car Porn came and went from theaters without making a noise. Now as it hits the home market, the question is whether it will outperform its theatrical run.

It would almost have to.

Nadia Bjorlin stars as Natasha Martin, a musician / auto mechanic / race car driver who takes after her father, who was tragically killed during a race. Because of this, she refuses to race despite her natural talent. In comes Eddie Griffin, who offers her a recording contract in order to race, but tragic consequences, and a really bad wager may end up costing her more than she could ever imagine.

That's the A story. There are also subplots involving a Gulf War vet just back from combat and his younger brother and his crazy uncle, and I mean crazy. There's also the arrogant movie producer played by Tim Matheson, but quite frankly, none of these actors are on screen as long as any of the cars are.

Looking at the pros, Nadia Bjorlin turned out to be a better actress than I thought she would be, but the opening narration set the bar really low. It's always nice to see Tim Matheson in a movie, even if his role was hardly demanding. Also, as promised, there are a lot of expensive cars that move really fast in this movie. In addition ... nope, that's it.

As for the negatives, the paper thin plot is pointless, and actually distracts from the action at times. For example, they introduce a racer for the final climatic race that was responsible for the crash that killed Natasha's father. I think he was supposed to add some dramatic tension, but he is killed off without him saying a word. Outside of the racing, the one action scene was laughable. The rescue of Natasha, who was kidnapped by the crazy uncle and rescued by the Gulf War vet. Before the attack, he asked for enough explosives to take down a house, what it got barely took out a gate. Also, the directing was a distraction. I felt the cuts were too quick at times to really appreciate the cars and the use of slow motion also hurt the action level.

Moving onto the extras, there are only two. Firstly, a behind-the-scenes look at several of the stunts, and a look at the movie's appearance at the Los Angeles auto show. Neither of which added anything to the movie or had much in the way of replay value.

This is the kind of movie that makes for a great Saturday afternoon time waster for those who like fast cars and good looking women and I can see a few people consider the movie a guilty pleasure. I'm not one of those. However, even if you are, chances are it will claim its rightful place of cable TV relatively soon, so there's little reason to spend money renting it and there's absolutely no reason to buy the DVD.

I would like to end this review by pointing out producer Daniel Sadek is evil incarnate. I know this because he intentionally destroyed a Porsche Carrera GT during the filming of the movie and anyone who harms a Porsche is pure evil. Also, Porsche is a two-syllable word. If you think otherwise, you are pronouncing it wrong.

Reel Talent - First Films by Legendary Directors - Buy from Amazon
These are basically a dozen student films from directors who went on to become influential moviemakers. Directors include George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis, and Shawn Levy. ... Shawn Levy is a legendary director? Really? Extras are light, with just three relatively short interviews, but the 2-disc set is still worth checking out.

Rob Zombie 3-Disc Collector's Set - Buy from Amazon
Just a re-issue of the two films in the House of 1000 Corpses franchise. If you own them already, there is no reason to upgrade. If you don't, you probably don't want them.

RoboCop - Buy from Amazon
Is it fair to call this film underrated? It did earn excellent reviews and did spawn two sequels and a TV series. However, I don't think the film every really rose to the level it should have. As for this 2-disc set, the extras are strong with both the theatrical version and an unrated versions, audio commentary on the former, deleted scenes, making of featurettes, interviews, etc. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. Even worth the upgrade from the previous Criterion Collection release.

Sacco and Vanzetti - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian anarchists who were tried, convicted, and executed for murder and robbery. However, due to the prejudiced nature of the judge and jury, a prejudice the prosecution played up, there are still lingering doubts to whether they did it. A powerful film that applies just as much today as it did 80 years ago when the two men were executed.

Serenity - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
We may get a sequel yet. For those who don't know the story, Firefly debuted on Fox in 2002 and, in what may have been a first, was canceled so fast that it broke the laws of cause and effect. But that wasn't the end, and in 2005 Serenity came out to glorious reviews and promptly bombed at the box office. Okay, maybe bombed is too strong of a word, but it earned just half of what the studio was hoping for. But that wasn't the end either, as the DVD and HD-DVD were big sellers, big enough that the studio decided to create a special edition DVD release. It is important to note that Joss Whedon has stated in an interview that if this release does well enough, they studio might give the greenlight to a direct-to-DVD sequel. Is the DVD worth the upgrade? Yes, but long time readers knew I would say that so I have to prove it is not just my Firefly Fanboy talking. In addition to all of the old extras, this 2-disc set has an additional audio commentary track, deleted / extended scenes, featurettes on the filmmaking process, the ship, Jack Green the cinematographer, and the promotional piece Sci-Fi Inside: Serenity, as well as a collection of Internet films that were released as part of the viral marketing. My only complaint is that not enough members of the cast are involved in the new audio commentary track, but that's pretty minor complaint and perhaps having 10 people on a single audio commentary track would be a bad thing. (Maybe in the next edition they could have four or five audio commentary tracks with different combinations of actors / crew.) This DVD is easily worth the upgrade and a clear contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

She - Deluxe Two Disc Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of the earliest lost world movies (adventure pictures where the heroes adventure into worlds seemingly lost in the past). Primitive people, dinosaurs, etc. This film came out a couple years after King Kong, but while it earned good reviews, it lost a lot of money at the box office, purportedly killing careers in the process. This is not the first time the film has been released on DVD, but the 2-disc set is the most complete package and includes 8 minutes of lost footage, audio commentary track, featurettes and a lot more. For fans of the era, it is worth checking out and worth the upgrade for most people.

South Park - The Complete Tenth Season - Buy from Amazon
Season Ten of South Park was mixed. They seemed to forget the cardinal rule for political satire: the comedy comes before the politics. I will say that Make Love, Not Warcraft is one of the best episodes of the past few years, and I say that as someone who plays the game regularly. (I'm on the Steamwheedle Cartel, I have several alliance characters in the Lost Brotherhood Guild. Peinnann and SisterOmega are the two characters I use the most, if you want to try and find me online.) Extras are on par with recent releases and I can't see many people who have collected the other nine seasons giving up now.

'Til Death - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Brad Garrett stars in this sitcom about a couple married for 23 years who have to deal with newlyweds who just moved in next door. It's pretty standard fare and one that didn't overly impress critics but it did well enough with TV audiences to get a renewal. As for the DVD, the 3-disc set has a trio of short featurettes and some outtakes, nothing special and nothing to lift it past the rental level.

Tutankhamun & The Golden Age of the Pharoah - Buy from Amazon
A documentary hosted by Omar Sharif about Tutankhamun and the treasures found in his tomb.

Ancient Egypt is fascinating and Tutankhamun is particularly interesting not only since so little is known about the boy king, but because the opening of his tomb was a nearly unprecedented event as it wasn't looted by grave robbers over the years. This National Geographic program should appeal to those who are well versed in Egyptology as well as those who are neophytes in ancient history.

Extras start off with a gallery that is 36 minutes long and looks at many of the artifacts featured in the show and in the exhibit but without and text or dialogue to give us context. Discovery is up next and it details the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922; at 14 minutes, it is just as interesting as the main program. Finally, Behind the Scenes talks about the making of the documentary itself as well as the exhibit it details and run 11 minutes. (Interactive content just links to the website.)

Those interested in Ancient Egypt will certainly find plenty here to interest them, and, even though my interests lie more in the future than in the past, I found the program worthy watching. The extras add enough to the overall experience to rate it past the rental level and as a purchase.

On a side note, this DVD actually came out more than a month ago, but the review was delayed due to a problem in shipping.

Ugly Betty - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
America Ferrera stars as the titular character, an assistant working at the fashion magazine, Mode. I admit, I was a bit skeptical when I first heard of the show, but it is incredibly high quality, demonstrated by its 5 Emmy nominations and two Golden Globes wins. The 6-disc set is also high quality with audio commentary tracks on 4 episodes, deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes on the genesis of the show, the fashion, and more. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. It is also coming out in a Spanish language version.

Ultimate Gift - Buy from Amazon
Part of a trend of movies aimed at the churchgoing crowd. This one wasn't able to break the slump these films have been in as it earned weak reviews and then struggled at the box office. Too preachy, too heavy-handed, too sentimental, etc. You either already agree with the message, or it will turn you off. In fact, even if you agree with the message, its ham-fisted delivery could turn you off. The extras on the DVD are mixed, no audio commentary track, but there are a making of featurette, intro, etc. However, these two feel overly preachy. If you want to deliver a message in your movie, great, but the delivery quality has to be high, or you will hurt you cause.


Filed under: Video Releases, Serenity, Perfect Stranger, Das Leben der Anderen, Redline, The Ultimate Gift, The Ex, Broken English