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DVD Releases for September 25, 2007

September 24th, 2007

The prime window for TV on DVD is closing, and the summer releases are starting to come out, so it is appropriate that the DVD Pick of the Week co-winners are one of each. This includes , Knocked Up - Unrated Collector's Edition and a belated win for Corner Gas - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon.ca.

Alone in the Dark - Unrated Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon
You have got to be kidding me. This film deserved a special edition? It is one of the worst reviewed movies of all time and a box office flop as well. Why is it getting a director's cut? For that matter, can you really call Uwe Boll a director? Skip it.

As You Like It - Buy from Amazon
The latest Shakespeare adaptation by Kenneth Branagh was not as successful as his past efforts and is being dumped direct-to-DVD on a nearly featureless DVD. Fans of Shakespeare, especially Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare, should check it out, but a rental will suffice.

Babel - Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Busted Oscar bait that was released on DVD earlier in the year. The only extra is a 90-minute making-of documentary that is compelling, but, given the short time between releases and the high price, I can't recommend picking up this DVD.

Black Book - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
The most expensive Dutch film ever made, with a budget of $20 million. However, it made just under $19 million worldwide. It was the best movie from Paul Verhoeven in a while, but it might take a while for moviegoers to forgive him for Showgirls. Extras on the DVD are on par with other limited releases featuring an audio commentary track and a making-of featurette and it is worth picking up.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Gods and Generals, Gothika, Memoirs of a Geisha, Underworld - Unrated, The Wild Bunch, Wyatt Earp
Another week, another list of Blu-Ray releases that don't do enough to sell the format. Nothing that combines the high visuals and the great reviews needed to justify spending extra money on Blu-Ray.

Broken - Unrated - Buy from Amazon
The latest example of torture-porn should please genre fans, but most people should stay far, far away. On the other hand, the DVD has plenty of extras for a no-budget indie film, with an audio commentary track, making-of featurette, and interview.

The Bronx is Burning - Buy from Amazon
One of the last ESPN fictional works, as they have abandoned that part of the business. That's too bad as they made some excellent sports movies over the years, but they couldn't seem to build an audience for them. In this case, the mini-series is about the 1977 The New York Yankees and their quest for the World Series. Fans of the Yankees might be interesting in picking up the 3-disc set, but lack of extras and questionable replay value limits it value to a rental.

Bug - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Bug played counter-programming to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End but only managed average reviews before disappearing from the box office. Because of this, one would expect the DVD release to be nearly featureless, but the DVD has an audio commentary track and two featurettes. I still can't recommend purchasing over renting and the movie will turn off more people than it will engage, but people should at least give it a chance.

Catherine Tate Show - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A British sketch comedy series starring Catherine Tate. The hit to miss ratio isn't great, but fans of British humor should give it a rental.

Chalk - Buy from Amazon
A mockumentary about four teachers and their thankless job. It's well made but the target audience might have been too small for it to survive its theatrical release. But now that it's out on DVD it should do much better, especially with extras like an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes, and interviews. Worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Corner Gas - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon.ca
The small town sitcom continues with season 4. This time the citizens of Dog River have a table hockey tournament, start a blog, tear down a barn, try to become a rodeo clown, forget to get a gift for their mother on mother's day, have a good hair day, and get sent to jail. All the normal things that happen in small towns in Saskatchewan. Extras are still light like the previous seasons, but the 3-disc set is still worth picking up, even if you have to import it from Canada.

Count Dracula - BBC Mini-Series - Buy from Amazon
30 years after this three-part mini-series first aired, it is coming out on DVD for the very first time. The mini-series keeps closer to the original novel than most adaptations and the British production gives the adaptation a more academic feel; the adaptation is as serious as it would be if they were making yet another version of Pride and Prejudice. However, the DVD has no special features, which is not exactly shocking, but still disappointing.

Cujo - 25th Anniversary Edition Buy from Amazon
Stephen King movies tend to come in two varieties: The amazing ones where talk of Oscar glory is not out of place, and the complete crap. Cujo fits nicely in the middle. No one will mistake it for art, but it is effective in delivering the terror. As for the Anniversary Edition, it's a nice upgrade from the previous release with an audio commentary track, 3-part making of documentary, and interviews with the main cast and crew. Worth the upgrade for fans of the movie and worth checking out if you've never seen it before.

Drawn Together - Season 2 - Uncensored - Buy from Amazon
Drawn Together is an adult cartoon spoof of MTV Real World with 8 cartoon parodies living together, (Pikachu, Betty Boop, Superman, etc.). The show is clearly running out of steam and is moving away from its Reality TV roots and relying more on gross-out humor and cheap gags. The first season had plenty of both, but now its becoming more dominant. Extras are good with audio commentary tracks on four episodes as well as interviews and even some Karaoke versions of the songs. Worth picking up for fans, but I can't see the show lasting much longer.

Eat My Dust - Supercharged Edition - Buy from Amazon
Opie Cunningham steals a car to impress a girl and proceeds to get chased by everyone in the county, include the sheriff, who is his father.

That's it. That's all that happens in this 90-minute movie. I'm not kidding here.

This is not a good movie in any technical sense of the word, and it is most noteworthy for giving Ron Howard a chance to direct. That said, it is a fun movie and all those who like car chase movies will want to at least check it out.

As for extras, the Supercharged Edition label is more or less marketing. The movie is 30 years old so having just a minute long intro and a 10-minute interview featurette is more than most independent films from the era would get, but not enough to justify the label.

Ron Howard went from this movie to starring in and directing Grand Theft Auto. If you already own that movie, this movie would make a great double feature. Hell, grab Death Race 2000 - Special Edition and have a Roger Corman car chase night of fun.

Elvira's Movie Macabre - Buy from Amazon: Blue Sunshine/Monstroid, Gamera, Super Monsters/They Came from Beyond Space, and Maneater of Hydra/The House That Screamed
Bad movies and cleavage return as Elvira brings us 6 more b-movies on 3 DVDs. Imagine MST3K without the commentary while the host bits rely more on titillation than actual jokes and you have Elvira. Granted, Cassandra Peterson has a hypnotic charm as Elvira, but it's not enough to justify buying the DVDs.

Evening - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
Weak reviews and a sub-1,000 opening theater count spelled a quick exit for this film. This is a shame since there are a lot of excellent actors in this movie but the script just wasn't there. Since the film struggled at the box office, it comes as no surprise that there only extras are a few deleted scenes and a couple of featurettes, and overall I can't really recommend even renting it.

From Beyond the Grave - Buy from Amazon
An anthology of horror from 1973 starring Peter Cushing. The fact that Peter Cushing is in it will be a selling point for many fans of old school horror, but that's one of the few selling points. Only two of the four stories are really worth checking out, but that should be enough for a rental.

Full Of It - Buy from Amazon
When Sam goes to a new school, he lies in order to fit it. However, quickly these lies start to come true. Like most tales with djinns or other wish-granters, it was rather predictable but a strong execution could have still made it enjoyable to watch. That didn't happen. The film had an amazingly short theatrical run, but the DVD has more than enough extras with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, a few behind-the-scenes featurettes, and more. However, with the quality of the movie, I can't even recommend a rental.

Grounded for Life - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
This show lasted five torturous seasons as it was treated like crap by the original network before moving to the WB. Even then it only lasted one full season while Season 5 ran a mere 13 episodes. Fans who have the previous 4 seasons will want to pick up this 2-disc set, but the lack of extras hurts the value.

The Hand - Buy from Amazon
Only the second film Oliver Stone ever directed. And considering how bad it is, it's amazing he made another. (It's not Alexander bad, but it's bad.) Also amazingly it stars Michael Caine in one of his numerous paycheck roles. It's got some cheese value going for it, but that's only worth a rental at the most.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: The Getaway, Gods and Generals, Gothika, The Jack Ryan Collection, Patch Adams, The Wild Bunch, Wyatt Earp
Nothing of interest here. The most noteworthy release is The Jack Ryan Collection, which was supposed to come out on Blu-Ray as well till Paramount was ... persuaded to drop that high definition format to go exclusively with HD-DVD. Personally I think that was a mistake, but only time will tell if it was worth it.

The Intruder - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
A pre-Star Trek William Shatner stars as Adam Cramer, a 'social worker' from the Patrick Henry Society who has come to the small southern town of Claxton to fight against desegregation, which has recently become court-mandated law. A very early film from Roger Corman and one of the few that didn't show a profit during its original release. It is also one of his best.

It is important to note, I don't mean best as in Death Race 2000 is the best b-movies of all time, I mean The Intruder is an excellent serious movie. Not only does it have a great story and some compelling performances (although it's nice to see William Shatner always had that ability to overact), it also builds suspense wonderfully while delivering a strong social message. It took a lot of courage to make the movie in 1961, especially considering they filmed it in the south, and given recent events, it stands up today.

As for the extras, they are mixed. On the one hand, this is an independent film from 1961, so having any extras is amazing. On the other hand, it calls itself a Special Edition, so having just a 10-minute interview with William Shatner and Roger Corman is a little light. Perhaps they could have done an audio commentary track together like on other recent releases of the master of independent cinema.

When thinking about Roger Corman's career output, the word that comes to the minds of most people is probably schlock. However, this is a perfect film to show his range. And even with extras that are not as strong as I would have liked given the quality of the movie, I still rate it as a purchase over just a rental.

Side note: While the film didn't make a profit during its original run, it was able to eventually break even on the home market and now has shown a profit.

The King of Queens - The Complete Ninth Season - Buy from Amazon
The ninth and final season of this long-running series comes out on DVD this week. A sitcom in every definition of the word; it was reliable if unchallenging. This means fans who have the previous 8 seasons won't stop now, but it makes coming up with something interesting to say nearly impossible.

Knocked Up - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Version, Unrated, Unrated Collector's Edition, or HD-DVD
One of the best-reviewed films of the year and one of the pleasant surprises this summer. The film stars Katherine Heigl as Alison Scott who gets a promotion at work and goes out to a bar to celebrate and ends up hooking up with Ben Stone, played by Seth Rogan. Needless to say, alcohol was involved. Like just about everything Judd Apatow touches, this film earned its laughs through characters, not gross out humor, although it wasn't afraid and didn't play it safe. The movie is coming out in several versions, but only one is worth talking about: Unrated Unprotected Collector's Edition. (The HD-DVD version is nice, but it is identical to the DVD release and I can't justify spending 40% more on a comedy that doesn't need the high definition upgrade. Even if you have HD-DVD player already, it's not worth it. Neither high definition format will thrive till studios give early adapters more features.) Moving on... Extras are amazing with an audio commentary track, deleted / extended / alternate scenes, and three featurettes, and that's just on disc one. Disc two adds even more deleted / extended / alternate scenes, featurettes on the kids, the music, Ken Jeong who plays Dr. Kuni the gynecologist, and even a featurette featuring one of the leads without their shirt. ... Okay, it's Seth Rogan, so it's probably not a selling point. But even so, this is an amazing movie and an amazing DVD and easily the DVD Pick of the Week.

The Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland Collection - Buy from Amazon
This is how classic cinema should be remembered on DVD. Not on some featureless DVD, but with vintage shorts, cartoons, and newsreels from the era to help set the mood. Not only that, but also all the movies come with introductions by Mickey Rooney and a couple have audio commentary tracks from film historians. Easily worth picking up for fans of either actor or of films of the era.

Midsomer Murders - Set 9 - Buy from Amazon
Stay out of small towns in England. They are the most dangerous places on Earth. This 4-disc set presents the next batch of four murder mystery movies, but sadly there are no extras.

My Name Is Earl - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
After a fast start last year, this show was able to maintain its quality including an Emmy win for Jaime Pressly, (probably due in part to her arcing storyline). Not only are the episodes still very strong, the extras are as well. The 4-disc set has audio commentary tracks on 8 episodes, a handful of deleted scenes, outtakes, making of featurette, and more. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD pick of the week.

Next - Buy from Amazon: DVD - HD-DVD
A sci-fi film based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. The film opened with poor reviews and quickly disappeared from theaters. And given the surprise twist, this was really the only way it could have gone.

I'm going to use a different approach here and start off with a major, and I mean major spoiler. If you have any interest in watching this film and not knowing the major twist, do not highlight the text below. Understand?

First a brief synopsis: Nicolas Cage plays Cris Johnson, a stage magician who can see into the future, but only his future and only 2 minutes, except when it comes to Liz, played by Jessica Biel. This is nothing that you don't learn in the trailer. The major spoiler is after the two meet and have sex, which is almost exactly halfway through the movie, everything else we see in the movie is one of Cris's psychic visions and none of it actually happens. That's right, half this movie is a flipping dream sequence. Unbelievable. One of the worst surprise twists I've ever seen. Even if the rest of the movie was perfect that twist would have killed the film for me, and it is far from perfect otherwise. There are some interesting aspects to the movie, and some good actions scenes, but nothing that really sets it apart. (Also, the number of fake-outs grew tiresome, quickly.)

Moving onto the extras, there are only four featurettes with a total running time of just over 30 minutes. There is the usual making of featurette called Making the Best Next Thing at just over 18 minutes it is longer than the rest of the featurettes combined. Visualizing the Next Movie is another making of featurette, but this one deals specifically with the visual effects and is just under 8 minutes. Next "Grand Idea" is just a minute shorter and deals with the challenges of shooting in the Grand Canyon. Finally, Two Minutes in the Future with Jessica Biel is a 2-minute interview with Jessica Biel. There are some interesting tidbits given here, but overall, this is simply not up to the level of a major studio release.

Additionally, since I have both the DVD and the HD-DVD versions of the movie, I can compare them and see if it is really worth paying the extras bucks for HD-DVD. Granted, the movie is visual and seeing some of the effects in high definition is certainly nice, but some of the other effects looked obviously fake and seeing them in high definition didn't make them look more realistic. (In fact, the opposite might be true.) Add in no additional extras on the HD-DVD compared to the DVD and I can't recommend spending the extra money to buy the HD-DVD version.

Then again, given the quality of the movie and the light extras, I can't recommend buying the DVD either. There's some good ideas here and enough of the film works, or at least comes close, that a rental would not be out of order, but that's as glowing a recommendation as I can give.

(On a side note, studios seriously need to give people reasons to upgrade, including extras you can't find on the regular DVDs. Even if it is not high definition specific, just give us something.)

Night of the Demons 2 - Buy from Amazon
The original wasn't exactly a box office hit, but someone decided it was a good idea to make a sequel. It wasn't. Maybe when the third one is finally released on DVD, it will be worth renting them for a cheesy Halloween marathon, but that's the absolute most.

Numb3rs - The Third Season - Buy from Amazon
One of several police procedural shows on the air, this one sets itself apart thanks to David Krumholtz, who plays Charlie Eppes, a mathematical genius who helps his FBI brother, played by Rob Morrow. I like seeing the, for lack of a better term, the nerd be the hero. That said, there are too many other similar shows and the re-play value for any crime mystery show is a little low to recommend picking up without a boatload of extras. This one does a good job at supplying those with audio commentary tracks, outtakes, featurette, recap of season 3 and a set tour, which is just enough to lift it from the rental to the purchase level.

Reeker - Buy from Amazon
A low budget horror flick that is surprisingly good, if not actually good. The competition on the direct-to-DVD arena is not know for greatness, so a when a film comes along that is merely average, it stands out and is worth checking out. On the other hand, with barely any extras and low replay value, a rental will do.

Robert Klein - The HBO Specials 1975-2005 - Buy from Amazon
Robert Klein was one of the most influential stand up comics of his generation and this 4-disc set presents his 8 HBO Specials spanning 3 decades from 1975 to 2005 and includes a couple interviews as well. Over 8 hours of material here that is not only a great showcase not only one of the great stand up comics, but it showcases the art form itself. Worth picking up for sure.

The Best of Rocky & Bullwinkle - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
The Rocky and Bullwinkle show featured not just the titular characters, but half a dozen or so other regular bits like Fractured Fairy Tales, Dudley Do-Right, etc. This DVD, and Volume 1 strips away all those other stories and allows you to watch the full story uninterrupted.

The three stories here are:

  • Wossamotta U: Bullwinkle goes to college to lead their football team to victory while Boris and Natasha try to fix the game to win big bucks from illegal gambling. This is the longest of the three stories and one that I've remembered the best from the first time I saw. (If the phrase, "Tick Tock Tech" means anything to you, you will love this story.)
  • Treasure of the Monte Zoom: The weakest of the three stories, Boris and Natasha go treasure hunting. Not as many jokes, and the story itself is not as interesting.
  • Goof Gas Attack: The scientists of Pottsylvania develop a gun that shoots Goof Gas and that can make any person they hit really, really dumb. Since it makes people completely stupid, the government sends Bullwinkle moose because he's too stupid to be affected. There are a lot of really good jokes and the story isn't bad either.
Seeing all the segments in a row is great, for the most part. The segments are only four minutes long and about 30 seconds of that is recap of the previous segments, so it tends to get repetitive at times.

Extras are light with just some intros by a puppet Bullwinkle. There's about a dozen of them for a total running time of 5 minutes. It's entertaining, but not much in terms of replay value.

Two of the three stories are very fun to watch and have replay value enough to warrant picking up this DVD. However, if you have the complete season sets, there's little reason to grab the best of sets as well.

On a side note, this DVD was released a couple weeks ago, but my screener copy just arrived, hence the delay in the spotlight review.

Schoolgirl Report 2 - What Keeps Parents Awake at Night - Buy from Amazon
Oh dear god, they are releasing more of these? When the first volume was released, I didn't know what to think about the film. It's a strange hybrid of pseudo-documentary, maybe a spoof of PSA like Reefer Madness but on sex, not drugs. (Some might call it porn, but it has less nudity than the direct-to-DVD releases from the American Pie franchise, so that label seems inaccurate here.) But I was relatively sure that even though they made more than a dozen movies in the series, it was a one-time event and the rest wouldn't be coming out on DVD cause there wasn't a market for it. I was wrong. If this one sells as well as the first, or at least close, expect to see the rest released on a regular basis for the next five years, which is how long it will take to release all 13 volumes. .... Unless of course they start making more.

Sherlock Holmes - The Complete Granada Television Series - Buy from Amazon
This 80s series featured Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and his performance became synonymous with the detective. More than 40 episodes are presented on this 12-disc set, which also includes audio commentary tracks on 4 of the episodes, interviews with lead and another with a descendant of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and more. The price is high, but you get what you pay for.

Spider Baby - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a Spider Baby.
What?
A spider baby. It's kind of a freak show thing. It's got the body of a spider, but it's actually a baby.
How is it a baby? Does it have a nappy on it or something?
No.
Does it have the head of a baby?
Um... no.
If it looks like a spider and doesn't actually gurgle at you or anything, how do you know it's actually a baby?
They keep it in a pram.
Dougal, are you absolutely sure about this? You're not confusing it with a dream you had?
No, honestly, I saw it on the news. Honestly, no wait now, actually, now that you say it, it was a dream.
Father Ted, great show. ... Moving on.

The Streets of San Francisco - Season 1 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Great series, terrible DVD release. Not only are they splitting the 27-episode season into two parts, but the 4-disc set is featureless. Even so, fans of police procedural shows of today should check it out to see how it was done 30 years ago. (Also, if you are a fan of the Disney cartoon Filmore, check it out as well, just to see what that show is parodying.)

Tekkon Kinkreet - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Anime made by a Japanese studio but directed by an American, Michael Arrias, his first directing credit. Overall, the film works, for the most part, but Anime enthusiasts have a lot of options when it comes to spending their money and even with an audio commentary track and two featurettes, many will consider this one worth just a rental.

The TV Set - Buy from Amazon
Too many inside jokes hurt this otherwise fine look at the TV industry. That said, anyone interested in the behind-the-scenes of the entertainment industry should certainly check it out. Additionally, with two audio commentary tracks and a making-of featurette, those interested will likely opt for purchasing rather than just renting.

The Unit - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
The third season starts this week. In fact, it starts the same day the second season hits the home market. Personally, I think it should have been released at least one week beforehand to give viewers a chance to catch up one the second season before the third begins. Regardless, fans will want to buy this 6-disc set especially given the level of extras. There are audio commentary tracks on 10 episodes, a making-of for the finale, a featurette on the set design for the submarine, and a final featurette on the weapons use. Worth picking up.

The Untouchables - Season 1 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
I don't like it when they release seasons in multiple volumes, as the price per minute tends to go up. Even if that's not the case, it means it takes longer for the series to be released on DVD meaning fans will have to wait potentially years more between the first and the last release. This is a great story that looks at the G-men who took down Al Capone and his fellow gangsters. On the other the hand, splitting the season into two volumes and offering no extras is no way to please fans.

Voltron: Defender of the Universe - Volume 4 - Buy from Amazon
The cartoon was not as popular as The Transformers was, but if the movie version is a hit, expect to see a lot of similar shows being adapted for the big screen over the next few years. As a kid, I liked The Transformers better, but this might be because I only saw the American version and not the Japanese original, Hyakujuo Go-Lion. Personally I'm more interested in seeing that show on DVD, but I digress. The latest 3-disc set has 14 episodes and extras like a featurette on the American production, and interviews. If you have the previous volumes, there's no reason to stop now.

Walking Tall - Lone Justice - Buy from Amazon
The second direct-to-DVD sequel to the remake Walking Tall, which wasn't that good of a movie to begin with. I guess the simple story allows for additional installments to be made fast and easy and that means we will probably be seeing more.

Wanderlust - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the road movie with a narrative about two guys trying to finish their own road movie (featuring a short appearance by Kat Dennings). The film first aired on the IFC channel in 2006 and the combination of documentary and fiction puts it above most similar films and it's worth checking out. However, with just extended interviews, a rental will suffice for most people.

Wayside - The Movie - Buy from Amazon
The Wayside school was supposed to be one story tall with 23 classrooms. But due to a design error, it is 23 stories tall and one classroom wide. ... I don't think that would be structurally sound. The show is based on a series of books, but it doesn't really live up to them. In fact, change the names and many fans wouldn't even recognize them. Additionally this, 'movie' is really just the two-part pilot that runs less than 50 minutes and with no extras, it is not worth the price.

What About Brian - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A short-lived TV series about three couples, and their bachelor friend. The first season of the show was a mid-season replacement and was only 5 episodes long while the second season only lasted 19 episodes so it was a smart plan to release both seasons in one 5-disc set.

The series started off very well, detailing the lives of three couples and how their bachelor friend fit in (or didn't in some cases). One couple is having trouble conceiving a child, another just had a child and don't seem to want to have sex anymore (at least not with each other), and the third... well, the third is a little more complex. Early episodes focused on these storylines and they were compelling. However, in the second season it focused more on Barry Watson and his numerous girlfriends and was closer to shows like Melrose Place than what we saw during the first season and because of this my interest rapidly waned. This is probably why it was canceled at the end of the second season.

Extras on the 5-disc set are impressive with audio commentary tracks on two episodes, an unaired episode with intro, a making of featurette, and my favorite What About Season 3, a look at what would have happened in season 3. I would love to see more short-run shows discussing what could have been.

The show had a lot of potential, and while most of if was unfulfilled, fans will still want to pick up the 5-disc set and it is a nice way to say goodbye to the show.

Willie Nelson - Last of the Breed - Buy from Amazon
Live performances of 35 of Willie Nelson's songs with a few of his friends. That's a lot of music to fit on one DVD, so there's little surprise the extras are limited to a tour of his bus.

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Filed under: Video Releases, Knocked Up, Gothika, Memoirs of a Geisha, Underworld, Babel, Next, Gods and Generals, Evening, Bug, Zwartboek, Chalk, The TV Set, Full of It, As You Like It, Alone in the Dark