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DVD Releases for October 23, 2007

October 23rd, 2007

Wow. What a week for DVD releases. There are roughly 50 releases on this week's list but strangely not many that were in contention for the DVD Pick of the Week. In a few cases the price-tag was just too high, or the extras were a little light. In the end I went with Fido - Buy from Amazon. Some might think this is my pro-Canada bias showing through... and I really can't argue with that. Still, it is a fun movie and deserves to be seen by more people.

The Adventures of Aquaman - The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
All 36 Aquaman segments pulled from The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure and put onto one 2-disc set. I think it would have been preferable to release the entire show on one DVD and not spit up the segments. Preferable, but probably not as profitable.

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
Turning a TV show into a movie is risky, but going the other way isn't easy either. Here, one of the best adventure franchises around was turned into a weekly series focusing on Indiana Jones as a boy.

This massive 12-disc set contains seven feature-length episodes, each on its own disc, additionally, there are 5 discs of extras totaling many, many hours of documentaries. Most of the episodes themselves are not truly feature-length but two hour-long episodes crammed together, and this is very clear many times. (There were two-part episodes when the show original ran, and these episodes had a much better flow.). However, you still have marvel at the expansiveness of the show. Over the three seasons, 44 episodes were produced, the traveled to nearly two-dozen countries and dealt with countless people from history. In fact, the show was much more of a historical drama than an action series, and I think this is why it never really caught on during its original television run.

As for the extras, they take up the bulk of the 12-disc set with more than three dozen documentaries. Strangely, not a lot on the show itself but about the people, places, and themes brought up in the show. For instance, the first DVD has featurettes on archeologists, Egyptologists, T.E. Lawrence, and slavery. These four have a combined running time of 105 minutes, longer than the show itself. Five whole discs are set aside for extras like disc 5, the companion disc to The Perils of Cupid. Here we find seven documentaries about opera, Puccini, Freud, Carl Jung, etc. (Personally, I preferred the ones centered on psychology more than opera, but that could be me.) But all told the running time is close to three hours.

Finally, there's a separate disc for interactive features for your computer. This includes more educational material including an interactive timeline and a game.

This is an award-winning historical show that combined with the sheer weight of extras emphasizes the educational more than the entertainment. The quality of the series and the extras is high, but so is the price. To collect all three volumes of the series, it will cost over $200, and that's with Amazon's generous discount. I'm not sure there are a lot of people who were that ravenous fans of the show that they'd be willing to pay that much. However, you do get great value for your dollar.

Alive Day Memories - Home from Iraq - Buy from Amazon
Not too long ago I was reading about the introduction of armored steel helmets in World War I. After the introduction, the number of head injuries skyrocketed, as did the average length to recover, so much so that some thought they were a failure. But in fact, they were a huge success. Before steel helmets, if you were hit in the head by a bullet or shrapnel from artillery, you were dead, not injured, and it didn't take any time to recover, because you didn't. In the same way, the number of dead in Iraq has been kept very low thanks to improved armor as well as exceptional medical skill of army surgeon. Without this, the number of dead could easily be over 10,000. However, this has created a huge number of men and women who have been severely injured, amputations and traumatic brain injury, and who have been largely ignored by the media. This documentary looks at these men and women and asks then to recall their Alive Day, the day they were nearly killed, and how the injuries, both physical and psychological affect them. It is incredibly powerful and a must see.

American Gangster - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
BET created this series that details the lives of some of the most notorious African-American criminals. But far from celebrate these men like too many gangsta-rappers do, they show the downfall and the horror they inflict on communities. (On a side note, most fans of Gangsta Rap are white, middle-class suburbanites, despite the stereotypes.) The series is most effective when they don't try to justify these criminals' actions, but it still works for the most part. The 2-disc set also includes additional interviews that run more than an hour and it is worth checking out, but a rental will do for most.

Battleship Potemkin - The Ultimate Edition - Buy from Amazon
This movie is more than 80 years old, and I can say without fear of contradiction that it is still one of the greatest movies ever made. The film tells the story of a revolt aboard a Russian battleship and how it was the spark to the Russian Revolution. While it has an impressive narrative, it also has some of the best, and often imitated, visuals of all time as well. In fact, it has been imitated so often that people watching it for the first time today could swear they've seen it before. That said, the 2-disc includes two versions of the film, (one with the Russian intertitles one with English), as well as the original 1926 score. There is also an extensive making of documentary and other extras. Easily worth picking up for any cinemaphile.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 2001 - A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Company, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, The Hills Have Eyes 2 - Unrated, Home of the Brave, Hostel - Director's Cut, Hostel - Part II, King of New York, Meet the Robinsons, Mr. Brooks, Scary Movie, The Shining, and The Sopranos - Season 6, Part 2
Wow. Huge list of Blu-Ray releases this week, including many from Stanley Kubrick. The best of these releases is certainly one of his films, but I can't narrow it down to just one.

Breathless - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
The beginning of French new wave cinema. This is a must have DVD for all fans of foreign films, it is just that important and influential. Fortunately, Criterion made sure this 2-disc set lives up to the film's importance give us more than an hour of interviews with a mix of new and old, even more in term of documentaries, and a short film. Easily worth picking up.

Buried Alive - Buy from Amazon
A piece of schlock, which is clear as soon as you read the back of the DVD. If they use the phrase, "lusty college friends," you know there's no originality to be found here. Even with that in mind, the script is still absolutely terrible and it drags down every other aspect of the movie. The needed a dialogue doctor to come in and fix the script. Maybe spice up the back-story. Add in a few original kills. Then it would be up to the level of the directing and acting and I would be able to recommend at least renting. But this mess, just skip it.

Burt Lancaster - The Signature Collection - Buy from Amazon
Huh? You are making a box set to celebrate the career of Burt Lancaster and you choose these five movies? Nope. I don't think so. None of these movies are his best or most famous and only Jim Thorpe - All American and The Flame and the Arrow have any drawing power while the other three feel like filler on a box set full of filler.

Christmas - Buy from Amazon: The Christmas Card, A Christmas Carol, A Christmas Memory, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, A Fruitcake Christmas, Sabrina the Animated Series: A Witchmas Carol, Sonic Christmas Blast Star of Bethlehem, and Thomas the Tank Engine - Ultimate Christmas Collection
No more Christmas DVDs till after Halloween, at the very least. Granted, the Alastair Sim's version of A Christmas Carol is a classic, it's still just too damn early. This is the reason why by the time December finally arrives, I hate Christmas.

The Company - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
A TV mini-series that tells the story of the CIA during the cold war. The film focuses on the Soviet Union and deals with a few successes as well as a few failures, but overall tends the paint the organization in a flattering light. (The term blowback is one that has to be used whenever discussing the CIA's history.) This 2-disc set has all six hours of the mini-series, (well, six hours minus commercials), plus two short featurettes. Worth checking out, but a rental will suffice for most.

Cutting Class - Buy from Amazon
A very early role for Brad Pitt, this '80s slasher flick is completely forgettable while the DVD has no extras. Skip it.

Days of Heaven - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Films like this show Terence Malick should make more films. Although maybe if he made more films, he wouldn't be able to make them like this. It was 20 years between this movie and Thing Red Line, but compared to that film, this one did better with critics than it did with moviegoers. After a featureless release a number of years ago, the film gets the Criterion touch this week with two audio commentary tracks, an hours worth of interviews, and a 40-page booklet with photos and essays. Worth the usual hefty price that most Criterion Collection come with.

Dog Bite Dog - Buy from Amazon
Canadian rapper, actor, entrepreneur Edison Chen stars in this Hong Kong action film. Here he play a wild, nearly feral killer who is on the run from the cops who are chasing him from his latest job.

I've watched a lot of movies from Hong Kong for my job, but I have to say this one goes beyond what most dare get away with. It is very dark and deals with some unpleasant topics and it is violent in a very brutal and explicit way. It earned its III rating in Hong Kong, (which is equivalent to the NC-17 rating here). Although, I should point out while the violence is visceral and intense, it is not sadistic. This is not torture porn but a movie that deals with real characters that have a character arc and that you develop emotional connections to.

Extras on disc one include an audio commentary track with the star, Edison Chen, and Hong Kong film expert, Bey Logan. Yes, it's Dragon Dynasty, so it must be Bey Logan. (I am not in any way making fun of Bey Logan or Dragon Dynasty using him so often. He is great on these tracks and if he were on every one of them, it would be a treat to listen to.) These two talk about the making of the movie, the style, how dark it is, how it differs from other films he and his co-star have been in. They even include a revelation of the weirdest tabloid rumor Edison Chen read about himself, which is so out there is stopped the track dead. And I mean completely dead. (I won't spoil it for you here, but I understand the reaction.)

The second disc includes behind-the-scenes clips and interviews. Dog Bite Dog Explored: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of the Movie has seven clips with a total running time of 51 minutes. They mostly look at the production of the film with a few on-set interviews, (however, Weiying Pei is interviewed in a recording studio). Featurettes has four interviews with the director and three of the cast members. Combined these four interviews run nearly 100 minutes, which is almost as long as the movie itself.

Overall, this movie has serious cult potential. People who like their action films with a dark edge will be happy here. But this is not for everyone. Those who do like will be very happy with the 2-disc treatment it earned and will gladly add it to their DVD collections. If you are a little worried about the film, at least give it a rental first.

Fido - Buy from Amazon
One of several limited releases that I thought might have a chance at mainstream success. However, it was not a good summer for limited releases as almost none cracked $10 million and there were no breakout hits. The film earned good reviews, not great reviews, but good reviews, but the zombie satire proved difficult to market and it never found an audience theatrically. On the other hand, it should do much, much better on the home market especially with the strong DVD. Extras including and audio commentary track with the director and leading lady, deleted scenes with optional commentary track, outtakes, and making of featurette. More than enough to lift this film to the purchase level and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Hamish MacBeth - Series Three - Buy from Amazon
The final season for this show, which was an early role for Robert Carlyle. A mystery series that proves small town Scotland is just as dangerous as small town England. The lack of extras is disappointing but common for BBC imports and the 2-disc set is still worth checking out.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: (2001 - A Space Odyssey, Carlito's Way, Carlito's Way - Rise to Power, A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, Inside Man, Motorhead - Stage Fright, Seed of Chucky, and The Shining
A big list, but like the Blu-Ray releases, most are from Stanley Kubrick. Inside Man is the best of the rest, but I'm not sure it needs the high definition treatment and if you are like me and already own it on DVD, I can't recommend the upgrade.

Heart - Dreamboat Annie Live - Buy from Amazon
Heart was one of the best rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s and Dreamboat Annie is one of their best albums. This DVD showcases the live performance of that album that took place at an invite only event last April. Not only do they perform the entire album, the DVD includes covers of many songs that inspired them while writing the album, as well as interviews and more. Perfect for fans of the band, it is also being released this week on CD.

Hellraiser - 20th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
This franchise started off better than most horror films, but never earned more than a cult following. This DVD should please these fans with an audio commentary track, making of featurettes, interviews, and more. Fans of today's brand of Torture Porn might like the high level of gore, but it also might be too old school for them. Give it a rental just to see.

Home of the Brave - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Busted Oscar bait. This film released just in time to qualify for the Oscars, but the full release was pushed back, and back and when it finally hit theaters is failed to make any noise. Weak reviews were partially to blame, but releasing the movie in select cities didn't help. As for the DVD, it is better than expected with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes with audio commentary, and more. Still, it's hard to recommend a rental.

Hostel II - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
By this time next week we could have definitive proof that the torture porn brand of horror is dead. It certainly feels like it's on its last legs with the recent failure of this film, among others in the genre. The film didn't fall that far critically, but at the box office it made less in total than the original made during its opening weekend, and that doesn't happen very often. As for the DVD, there are plenty of extras starting with not one, not two, but three audio commentary tracks. There are also deleted scenes, outtakes, radio interview, featurettes on the special effects, and more. I'm sure fans will love the DVD, but I'm also sure there are not as many as there were last time around. Also coming out tomorrow is a Director's Cut edition of the original on DVD and Blu-Ray.

I Love Lucy - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Great show, but I'm sick and tired of full season sets like this. $180 for the full series is much cheaper than buying individual seasons and there's a bonus disc you can't get elsewhere. It's a money grab.

Into Great Silence - Two-Disc Set - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the Grand Chartreuse monastery where the monks live in total silence. 2-disc of total silence; I'm not sure how that works. Still, it's a great movie, while there are plenty of extras from you typical making of featurettes to more information on the monks. Easily worth checking out and most who do see it will want to add it to their collection.

The Junior Defenders - Buy from Amazon
The Junior Defenders is a fictional kids show featuring four super heroes kids who saved the world every week on their show. This is a film with Kevin Smith in it, (albeit as a cameo), so why haven't heard of it? For that matter, it seems like no one has heard of it. No reviews, no comments on IMDb, an Amazon sales ranking high that 35,000. Interesting. I might pick it up just to do a spotlight review when it arrives.

Karas - The Revelation - Buy from Amazon
A sequel to Karas - The Prophecy, which earned mixed reviews and a small cult following. This film is much the same, which means if you liked the previous one you've probably already pre-ordered this one. If not, you've probably never heard of this one.

The L Word - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
A lesbian drama featuring a large and talented cast that has impressive crossover appeal. You don't have to be a lesbian to love this show, but you have to be a fan of soap operas.

I am not.

There are a lot of reason to recommend this DVD. The show has great writing, excellent acting, and it gives a positive image to a group that is not often seen on TV or in movies. Gay cinema has grown tremendously over the past few years, leaving lesbian cinema strangely behind the curve. Perhaps the lack of strong female leads in general can explain this phenomenon. On the other hand, very few of the storylines are lesbian specific and wouldn't be out of place in most soaps. It has so many relationships that it was impossible for me to jump into season four and figure it out, no matter how many episodes I watched I still felt I was missing something.

As for the extras, I was disappointed by the 4-disc set. The only extra on disc one is a short, 3-minute promo for GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation while the rest of the extras were on disc four. They include a 90-second animal shelter spot, a couple bonus episodes for The Tudors and Califronication, a couple contests, and some galleries and bios. But nothing specific to the show itself. No audio commentaries, not behind-the-scenes, no making of, no interviews, etc.

Great show, weak extras, and a high price. I can only recommend this 4-disc set to anyone except for the biggest of fans.

Meet the Robinsons - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Released in early spring, Meet the Robinsons earned good reviews and became one of the biggest hits of the Spring just failing to reach $100 million. But will it continue that performance on the home market?

Lewis is an orphan who is obsessed with learning the identity of birth mother. In order to complete his goal, he sets about inventing a memory scanner. But during his test, he is sabotaged by a strange man in a bowler hat. While chaos ensues, Lewis is met by a stranger, Wilbur, who claims to be from the future and that's where he has to take Lewis. (A future that seems to be designed by someone who grew up in the 1950s.)

The movie works on most levels. The design certainly is colorful enough, the story and the characters are engaging, but while watching the movie, I was almost never tricked into thinking I was watching anything other than a kids movie. Yes, I know it is a kids movie, but the best kids movies are made for adults, but made in a way that kids can enjoy. This is true of Finding Nemo, Cars, and the soon to be released on DVD, Ratatouille. However, the only time I felt I wasn't watching a kids movie was when we saw the dystopian future created by Doris, and that only lasted a short while in the movie. On the other hand, the initial meeting of the Robinsons felt 100% kids' movie and sense of wonder aimed a little low for me, (but I did like the pop quiz after).

As for the extras, they enforce the idea that this is a movie aimed at kids as opposed to a movie aimed at adults that kids will enjoy. Things start off with an audio commentary track with director Stephen J. Anderson, who is occasionally interrupted by The Bowler Hat Guy. There are also two featurettes, a making of called Inventing the Robinsons that runs 17 minutes and a shorter, 6-minute featurette on inventors called Keep Moving Forward: Inventions that Shaped the World. The latter is certainly for kids. There are also three deleted scenes each with an introduction by the director who explains why they were cut. Of the three, only one might have worked in the movie. Finally, there are two music videos and a trivia game. Games like this should give the player something when they win. Perhaps a deleted scene.

Overall the film is worth checking out, especially if you have kids. And while adults will be able to enjoy the movie, I don't think they will be sucked in enough to give the film significant replay value. Kids, on the other hand, will want to watch it more than once and the DVD is certainly worth buying for them. It's a good movie, but not a classic.

Mind Of Mencia - Uncensored Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
Personally, I find the whole internet flame war over Carlos Mencia a lot more entertaining than his show. I don't like his jokes, I don't like his delivery style, and yes, I've heard a number of the jokes his done before. (I'm not saying he steals them, I'm saying he's unoriginal.) However, even some fans of the show are starting to admit it is running out of steam. This 2-disc set has 30 minutes worth of deleted scenes as well as audio commentary tracks, but I still can't recommend picking it up.

Monarch of the Glen: The Complete Series 7 - Buy from Amazon
A Scottish soap opera show, but soap opera in the same vein as Corrination Street not the American counterparts. This is the final season of the show and those who have been happy with the previous six seasons will be happy to have the entire show on DVD, but sad that it's ending. Many shows that last this long usually peter out and the final season(s) are for completists only, but that is not the case here. Also coming out this week is the complete series collection.

Mr. Brooks - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
A thriller that had potential but didn't quite pay off. It works enough that most people will enjoy seeing it, but many will be left with that nagging feeling that if the script was given one more pass, some of the subplots tidied up or removed, and maybe some of characters tweaked, this could have been a truly great movie. Extras include the standard audio commentary track, behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, and an interview with the three main leads. Overall it is worth checking out, but for most a rental will do.

NCIS Naval Criminal Investigative Service - The Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
One of roughly 17,000 police procedural shows, this one sets itself apart with the military angle. But is this truly enough to set it apart? Or will it be left adrift in a sea of generic shows?

On a side note, most of the stories have very little to do with the military. Sometimes the only connection is one of the victims is a member of the military and the crimes themselves wouldn't be out of place on any of the other police procedural shows. Others have very strong connection dealing with homeland security, military issues, etc. There's little to no correlation between sticking to the military theme and the quality of the episode, on the other hand.

Season four starts off the same way season three ended, with Special Agent Jethro Gibbs retired and in Mexico and Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo in charge and Abby Sciuto pining for his return, (but not in a romantic way). And it doesn't take long for that to happen. Hell, he doesn't miss an episode. There are some changes in season three, including romance being in the air with Anthony DiNozzo, and others, while Timothy McGee's sister returns for one of the best episodes of the season, "Twisted Sister." Overall I was impressed with the consistent level of quality on this show. This is not one of the shows I watch on a weekly basis... in fact, at the moment there are no shows I watch on a weekly basis. ... But there are shows I buy as soon as they come out on DVD. I am seriously contemplating including this show in that list.

Moving onto extras, the 6-disc set starts things off with audio commentary tracks on six episodes, but strangely none on the first two discs. Most of the commentary tracks are with two members of the cast and they provide interesting tidbits, but a lot of dead air. ('We're watching cause we haven't seen the show in a while.' is a common comment.) Strangely, there are no extras at all on the first disc at all. The only extra on Disc 2 is a roundtable discussion with the cast where they discuss questions submitted by the fans and this discussion continues on Disc 3 and runs a combined 31 minutes. Disc four has two behind-the-scenes featurettes the first called Ducky's World on the morgue but it details how an autopsy is performed while Behind the Set deals with the production design. Ducky's World is shorter, (5 minutes vs. 9 minutes), but more interesting. Disc 5 has Dressed to Kill, (more on the sets), and Prop Master, (on the props). The two are six and seven minutes long, and are interesting to watching, but the replay value is limited. Lastly, Disc 6 has Picture Perfect, on the look of the show, the camera work, the lighting, etc. and runs just shy of 10 minutes while Season of Secrets is an overview of season four and deals with a lot of spoilers I won't mention here, but at just over 2 minutes, there's not much revealed.

Finally, we get to the big three: Play All Button, Proper Chapter Placement, and Closed Captioning / Subtitles. Sadly the film goes one for three as it only has proper chapter placements. With only four episodes per disc, a Play All Button isn't terribly necessary, but the lack of subtitles is criminal, and no, I'm not being over-dramatic here. It is illegal to broadcast a show without subtitles due to the Americans with Disability Act, so I'm not sure why DVDs are exempt from that. I'd recommend calling your representative in congress about the issue, but they are too busy condemning news paper ads to deal with an issue that actually affects people.

Overall season four is exactly what fans of the show have come to expect. Interesting mysteries, fun characters, (especially Abby), great acting, etc. As for the DVD, this 6-Disc set his all the right notes, (the featurettes are a little short and perhaps fewer but meatier ones would have been preferable). However, that's a minor complaint and it is certainly worth picking up.

Nearing Grace - Buy from Amazon
This movie was made in 2005, sat on a studio shelve for a year, opened to mixed reviews, disappeared at the box office, and is now being dumped on DVD. Sadly, this is a common life cycle for an independent film. That's too bad because this coming of age should be seen by more. Even if you don't want to pick it up, at least give it a rental, you should be pleasantly surprised.

O Lucky Man! - Buy from Amazon
A musical about capitalism starring Malcolm McDowell as Michael Travis and the plantation thief. The film is making its DVD debut on this 2-disc set, but even the official Warner Bros. site has no information on extras. It is possible that it has none as the movie is nearly 3 hours long, but that seems strange. You would think if there were extras, the official site would list them, so I don't know what to think. Even so, it if still worth checking out at the very least.

Route 66 - Season 1 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
A poetic road trip series that featured two men travelling across the country looking for themselves and the real America. This is a show that probably couldn't be made today, then again, it barely survived back then. It's a great show, but I'm not too happy with the DVD. First of all, I don't like seasons being split into volumes, but with 30 hour long episodes for the first season, I can understand why. Secondly, there are not a whole lot of extras, but considering the mostly unknown nature of the show, I'm not all that surprised. They do have some vintage commercials from the era, as well as bios on the actors and the car, but that's it. Still it is worth checking out for most and picking up for many.

The Ruth Rendell Mysteries - Set 2 - Buy from Amazon
More murder mysteries set is small town England. This 3-disc set has 6 stories, half of which run one hour and the other half are double-length installments. There are no real extras, but that's no real surprise.

Saw III - Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon
The latest installment in the franchise is coming out this Friday while the director's cut is coming out on Tuesday. I don't think that's a coincidence. This is the second release in less than a year, which is way too short of a time for a special edition, and for that reason alone it deserves the dreaded Skip It rating. Also coming out this week is a Trilogy box set, but since there will be at least three more installments, it is a little premature to release a box set.

The Sopranos - Season 6 - Part 2 - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray, or HD-DVD
I'm going to say something that many people would consider sacrilege. I never got into this show. Almost none of the characters interested me, as they were unsympathetic. Good mafia movies give you a reason to look past the brutal criminal enterprise they are involved in. Michael Corleone was a good guy who was dragged into that world when his family was under attack. You saw Henry Hill as a kid when he was just trying to survive. But Tony Soprano always came across as a psychopath to me. It would be like making Goodfellas and having Tommy DeVito as the main character. (Also, I think James Gandolfini in an overrated actor. Look at his movie career; it shows little range and no critical appeal.) As for the DVDs, they are completely overpriced. The extras are better than most HBO releases, but still just average for a concurrent network release, and you are expected to pay more than most full-season releases for just 9 episodes. Skip it and wait for the inevitable Full Series box set. Hopefully that will be worth the price.

Stanley Kubrick - Warner Home Video Directors Series - Buy from Amazon
Stanley Kubrick is one of the best-known director's in the history of the movie industry. And one of best, even if he never won an Oscar for his directing, (he did get one for special effects). This box set contains four of his best films including 2001 - A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jackey, and Eyes Wide Shut. Eyes Wide Shut? Why? Why not Dr. Strangelove instead? Each film is released in a 2-disc special edition, except Full Metal Jacket, and include such features as making of documentaries, featurettes, etc. There is also an extra DVD with feature-length documentary. Most of these films can be purchased separately, including the documentary, and they can also be purchased on blu-ray, (2001,A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut), and HD-DVD, (2001, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut). Regardless of what format you choose, this is a great set to get and well worth the money. Also coming out this week are a few more Stanley Kubrick releases including Barry Lyndon - Buy from Amazon and Lolita - Buy from Amazon.

The Strange Case of Howard Phillips Lovecraft - Buy from Amazon
H.P.Lovecraft is one of my favorite horror authors of all time. He wrote in a style that I prefer to the less subtle brand we see today. This is actually a French documentary that first appeared on TV there. An excellent film that sadly doesn't give enough information during its 45-minute running time. (He wasn't famous during his lifetime and therefore there are not a lot of firsthand accounts about his life to draw on.) It's worth checking out, but that that price a rental will do. On the other hand, fans of his work should be happy to know Guillermo del Toro is working on an adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness and that should be released in 2010. Can't wait.

The Super Powers Team - Galactic Guardians - Buy from Amazon
The last Hanna-Barbera cartoon featuring the D.C. Comics super hero team, The Super Friends, a.k.a. Justice League of America. The series was quite faithful to its source material and it built a loyal fanbase. These fans would have preferred more extras, but the 2-disc set is still worth picking up.

Tales from the Crypt - The Complete Seventh Season - Buy from Amazon
The final season of this fun horror anthology series hits the home market this week. The final 13 episodes are on this 3-disc set as well as a virtual comic book with narration from the Crypt Keeper himself, John Kassir. If you have been happy with the previous DVD releases, there's little reason not to pick up the final season. If you've never heard of the show, give it a rental. Since it is an anthology series, it doesn't matter where you start, but certainly try.

The Transformers - Buy from Amazon: 2-Disc Special Edition or HD-DVD
If I had never heard of the Transformers I probably would have liked this movie a lot more than I did.

Michael Bay stomps all over my childhood memories and turns one of my favorite cartoons into a rather generic action film. Okay, maybe that's a little harsh, but this movie gives off a vibe of being made by someone who never got what made the original cartoon so cool in the first place. There were changes made for legitimate purposes, like upgrading the fighter plane Starscream transforms into and not having Megatron become a gun, (never liked that as a kid). However, most changes I disagreed with. Changing Bumblebee from a VW Bug was sacrilege, and it was purely a financial decision no matter how much Michael Bay tried to justify it. (Also of note, Jazz wasn't a Porsche despite Michael Bay's claim he was. For that matter, Michael Bay can't even pronounce Porsche, but I bet he owns one.) Probably the biggest complaint I had with the movie was with the personalities of the Transformers. They had none. They were supporting characters in their own movie and their personalities were almost interchangeable.

Also, I didn't like the robot designs. There was too much detail. I know that sounds strange, but in real life, most objects have smooth, continuous surfaces. You would certainly have this in any vehicle with a combat role, as the exposed inner workings of the robot would be a weak point. And don't tell me that they can't morph in the movies, cause they did. They morphed with they first took the Earthly disguises. I'm not saying they should have created robots that bore no resemblance to the vehicles they came from. I'm saying smooth the surfaces out a bit and don't show as much small part details. You aren't limited to the part from the real vehicle, because they are not real vehicles. Automous Prime doesn't have a working engine inside him; he's based on much more advanced alien technology and not the internal combustion engine, so you don't need to see those parts in robot form. For (nearly) all of the Transformers toys, there were robot parts hidden within the shell of the vehicle form, (especially the heads and hands), I think the designers of the movie robots should have taken that approach.

This all brings me to my biggest complaint: Frenzy. I hated this character. I hated practically everything about him. I hated his design, both from an aesthetic approach and a practical approach. He again had way too many exposed parts to either look cool or be practical. For that matter, why does a small stereo transform into four-foot tall robot? Wouldn't a spy be more effective the smaller it is? And don't get me started on his irritating personality. Nothing about this character worked for me, and he was on screen almost as much as the rest of the Transformers combined.

There are some positive aspects to the film including the performance of the human leads like Shia LaBeouf and the actions scenes certainly did have plenty of pyrotechnics. In the end, it made for a good popcorn flick, but The Transformers: The Movie was still a better movie and certainly carried more emotional weight.

Moving onto the extras, on the DVD, the first disc just has an audio commentary track with the director Michael Bay. Here he praises his work, comes up with justifications for all the changes, (some good and some bad), there are quite a few pauses, he mispronounces Porsche about a dozen times, (even those there is no Porsche in the movie), and before the movie was halfway over I wanted to slap him. (IF you do get the chance to slap him in real life, don't. And if you do slap him in real life, don't mention my name.) If this was all the extras on the DVD, it would be completely unacceptable and I would rate the DVD as not even worth renting. However, this is not the case as Disc 2 contains two hours worth of featurettes broken up into three main sections and again into 11 sub-sections. Much of these are your typical making of featurettes dealing with various aspects of production, casting the actors, the design of the robots, etc. Worth checking out and there is some replay value here.

Also, the HD-DVD version has a two additional extras starting with Transformers H.U.D. This is your typical trivia track that uses the picture-in-picture ability of the HD-DVD player to add interviews, production footage, outtakes, etc. This has better replay value than the featurettes and is certainly worth checking out. Finally, there's the adroitly named Web-Enabled Content, which allows your HD-DVD player to connect to the internet and do... I don't know what. My player won't connect to the internet. The horrors of being an early adapter; sometimes they are still working out the bugs.

The Transformers came out last week but due to a delay in shipping, I wasn't able to give it a full review until this week. I'm certainly glad I was and despite my fanboy rantings, I stick by last week's DVD Pick of the Week rating.

Trap - Buy from Amazon
Nicole is an abused wife whose only source of comfort and support is her online e-mail friend, Amy, who convinces her to kill her husband. What she doesn't know is Amy is also an abusive spouse who delighted it getting one stranger to kill another. However, while Nicole is on her way to Amy's house to start a new life, Amy's husband, Chandler, decides he's had enough and kills Amy. For the rest of the film there's a tense psychological standoff between these two. The film features a lot of new talent, and you can tell, but it is still worth checking out.

The Tripper - Buy from Amazon
What looked like it could be a fun slasher flick wasn't able to earn many fans among critcs and did even worse at the box office. It's not a total failure and there's enough here that it is at least interesting to watch, but even with better than expected extras, (audio commentary track, deleted scenes, outtakes, several making of featurettes, etc.), it is still just worth a rental.

Unborn in the USA - Inside the War on Abortion - Buy from Amazon
An interesting yet frustrating documentary. It deals with the abortion debate focusing on the well-funded anti-abortion movement. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to give the extremists on that side of the debate enough rope to hang themselves, and they do, but it is frustrating to watch as the interviewers never ask any really tough questions and never confront the interviewees when they lie. I've noticed this a lot on TV these days. It's almost like the biggest social faux pas in our society is questioning what someone says. I can't tell you how many times I've heard in an inte

Filed under: Video Releases, Transformers, Meet the Robinsons, Inside Man, Saw III, Hostel, Mr. Brooks, Hostel: Part II, Die Große Stille, Fido, Home of the Brave, The Tripper, Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion, Nearing Grace