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DVD Releases for December 4, 2007

December 4th, 2007

This week was not as busy as I was expecting. Perhaps the thought of going against Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 2-Disc Collector's Edition or on Blu-Ray was enough to scare away the competition. However, while that is a formidable release, it is not this week's DVD Pick of the Week. For that, we have Superbad - Unrated 2-Disc Edition or Unrated Blu-Ray Edition. If you have a Blu-Ray player, that edition is worth the extra money, but it is not the kind of release worth upgrading for.

7th Heaven - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
A TV series with a message, which is both a blessing and a curse.

I like movies and TV series with a message. You have something to say? Great. However, making a TV series with a message is tricky work as there are plenty of pitfalls one must avoid. For instance, it could come across as preachy or heavy-handed. The message could overtake the drama. It could lack crossover appeal and end up preaching to the choir. Sadly, this series stumbles a few times in nearly every category. Overall, season five still works, but the miss to hit ratio of the episodes and the storylines is starting to weaken. (The Bad Mary arc got tiresome.) In fact, there are many fans who think this is the last of the great episodes. However, it isn't until after season six when Jessica Biel and Barry Watson left that things started to really go downhill.

Unfortunately, there are no extras on this 6-disc set and no subtitles. However, there is a play all button and proper chapter placement.

This show is a little too 'family friendly' for my liking, but even fans will admit the DVD is lacking. There's little reason to buy the 6-disc set over renting it, and as the quality of the show goes down, future seasons might not even be worth that.

12 Angry Men - Decades Collection with CD - Buy from Amazon
This is perhaps one of the simplest movies ever made. It is nothing more than 12 men in one room arguing over the guilt or innocence of the defendant. However, the script it flawless, the directing impeccable, and the acting amazing. In short, it is one of the best movies ever made. The DVD itself has no real special features, but it comes with a CD of 8 hits from the 1950s. ... Really? This is a movie that deserves a 2-disc special edition, and all we get with it is a mix tape?

24 - Season Six - Buy from Amazon
Most fans of the show admit that season six was a bit of a mess, to be polite. So much so that many are considering giving this season a pass. The 7-disc set, on the other hand, is packed with audio commentary tracks on half the episodes, deleted scenes on 13 episodes, featurettes on the making of, the special effects, the writers, webcast diaries, and more. For hardcore fans, this is probably enough to make it worth picking up, but for most people, a rental will suffice.

Arctic Tale - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
The follow-up to March of the Penguins, just on the opposite side of the planet. ... It also had the opposite response from critics and moviegoers alike.

This is not a bad movie, but it does seem to aim lower. It's a film that seems to be aimed at kids, and not adults. (While the G-rating would normally be a hint, this is not different than March of the Penguins.) The highlight of this film is without doubt the photography. In fact, this film could have been a series of scenes shot in the arctic and it would have been a lot more successful. As it is, the filmmakers decided to throw in a story about a polar bear cub named Nanu and a walrus pup name Seela. I was also not happy with the narration; that's not to say Queen Latifah was bad at the job, but the writing just doesn't hold up.

Moving onto the extras, there are just two, a 24-minute making-of featurette, and a 7-minute episode of Are We There Yet? World Adventure on spotting polar bears. Neither had the replay value I was hoping for.

Had the filmmakers just relied on the extraordinary footage, I would have loved this film. As it is, I can only offer a tepid recommendation. Extras are likewise weak and I can only recommend renting.

Battlestar Galactica - Razor - Unrated Extended Edition - Buy from Amazon
A TV movie that helps bridge the gap between Seasons 3 and 4. Fans of Battlestar Galactica tend to be... passionate about the franchise (completely nuts is another way to describe them), and this movie has divided them. Some consider it a great story that tells a lot of information that was left out of the regular series due to time. Others are calling an abomination, which is probably overstating things. Personally, I think it's a great movie and the extras are more than enough to warrant purchasing over just renting.

Battlestar Galactica - Season One - HD-DVD - Buy from Amazon
The best selling HD-DVD release this week, and with good reason. In fact, two of them. Firstly, this is a great show, especially the first season. Secondly, there are no first-run HD-DVD releases also coming out this week. In addition to the regular DVD features, there are Picture-in-Picture commentary tracks, which not only is something you can't get on DVD, but something you can't get on Blu-Ray. At least that used to be the case -- all new model Blu-Ray players will support Picture-in-Picture, but it will probably take a while for the studios to release Blu-Ray movie / TV series that take advantage of it. Overall this DVD is worth picking up, perhaps worth upgrading for.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 20 Million Miles to Earth, Cast Away, Elton John: Elton 60 - Live At Madison Square Garden, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Queen: Rock Montreal & Live Aid, and Superbad - Unrated
Quite a few Blu-Ray releases, include some new (like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Superbad - Unrated), as well as some that are very, very, old (20 Million Miles to Earth). I think the concept of releasing an early Ray Harryhausen film on Blu-Ray is simply wonderful. Using the power of high definition on stop-motion special effects just sounds strange (it's like using broadband to send ASCII art), but I'm sure the movie's never looked better.

Bob Hope MGM Movie Legends Collection - Buy from Amazon
This 7-disc set is selling for an amazingly low price, but you get what you pay for. I would much rather spend twice as much money and get at least some significant extras.

Boy Crush - Buy from Amazon
A collection of short films with a shared gay theme. I like short films and wish there would be more released on DVD. In fact, there's a short film starring Dule Hill and Nicole Lyn called... wait for it.... The Numbers. I have to get this movie on DVD, but I have no idea where to look.

Cleveland Browns - NFL Greatest Games - Buy from Amazon
A 3-disc set. ... They need three discs to show the Cleveland Browns' greatest games? For that matter, why is games in plural? (That was joke, so don't send me any hate mail.)

Crank Yankers - The Best Of - Buy from Amazon
My first thought upon seeing this title was, "This is going to be a short DVD." After watching it, my first thought was, "If that's the best of, I'm glad I didn't have to sit through the whole series."

It's puppets. It's puppets making prank phone calls. For three hours. Actually, it's starts with naked puppets of Tenacious D singing a song, and that was practically the only bit I enjoyed on the whole DVD. (The other highlight came on the very last prank phone call with Ludacris telling his label he wanted to change his name.) A lot of the jokes are incredibly repetitive (especially the ones with Special Ed), and that turns a bit that was not funny to begin with into something that takes real stamina just to sit through. Other times I just didn't get the joke. Not that I didn't find the joke funny, but I couldn't identify where the joke was supposed to be. For instance, the prank where they call 411 and ask for Batman. The operator dealt with the call very professionally and the call ended way before anything funny happened. Another serious problem with the series is the sound quality, which is just unacceptable. I know half the conversation is over the phone, but it is still well below what I can tolerate for a DVD release. They could at least put subtitles on the show to help. This didn't happen every time, or even half the time, but enough that it was a problem.

On a side note, the show was recorded in Nevada, because in most other states what they did would have been illegal. And if that doesn't convince you we need federal laws to supercede state laws in some cases, I don't what will.

As for the extras, there are none, but that's probably for the best.

Simply put, I don't see where the humor is here. Prank phone calls are like bad improv. I can't believe the number of genuinely funny people who were involved in a show that produced no more than a few chuckles in three hours. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who love the show, but I'm not one of them, and I can't even recommend this DVD for a rental. Skip it.

Decades Collection with CD - Buy from Amazon: 12 Angry Men, Carrie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Fiddler on the Roof, The Graduate, Guys and Dolls, Mad Max, Moonstruck, Some Like it Hot, The Sure Thing, West Side Story, and When Harry Met Sally
Several movies coming out tomorrow, each with a CD of hits from the same decade they were released. Not sure there's a point to that. Most of these are very good movies, but they deserve better treatment on DVD.

Diagnosis Murder - The Third Season - Buy from Amazon
Dick Van Dyke stars with his real-life son, Barry Van Dyke, as father and son in this murder mystery show as... well... father and son. The Elder Van Dyke stars as a doctor and the son is a cop... they solve crimes.

I love this show. I love most murder mystery shows and have for a long, long time. Diagnosis Murder, Matlock, even the more old schools shows like Perry Mason. This show has the all the necessary elements including great characters, interesting mysteries, and of course, enough humor to make the drama stand out. This is the first season without Scott Baio and the first with Charlie Schlatter, but for the most part it follows the same formula that worked for the first two seasons and that should please fans.

On the other hand, the 5-disc set it devoid of special features and only has two of the Big Three (captions are missing).

While this is a great show to watch, the lack of extras limits its value. Additionally, I'm not sure it needs to be bought to be enjoyed. The episodes are independent of each other so you don't need to watch them in order, and the mystery angle limits replay. If you picked up and enjoyed the first two seasons, there's no reason to not get this one, and for those that don't remember the series, check it out, you should be pleasantly surprised.

Erik the Viking - Buy from Amazon
I literally jumped out of my seat when I saw this release. I pre-ordered this movie when it first came out on DVD, but the company distributing it went bankrupt before they shipped any copies. However, it is important to note that this is not the theatrical version, but the shorter edited version. While I would love to have the full version, or both versions, on DVD, this will tide me over for a while.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Arctic Tale, Battlestar Galactica - Season One, and Queen: Rock Montreal & Live Aid
Another week where HD-DVD has fewer releases than on Blu-Ray, and yet another week where Blu-Ray should come out on top.

Highlander - The Complete Animated Series - Buy from Amazon
For a franchise that really only had one good movie, it sure did last a long time, especially on TV. In fact, TV seems to be the best medium for the show and I would suggest checking out this series, and the other two, before the movie sequels.

Hot Rod - HD-DVD
Why do I have to write about this movie two weeks in a row? How have I offended the Movie Gods?

I reviewed the DVD release last weekend, so this is just a quick update on the HD-DVD and I won't be going into detail on the movie itself, or the extras that are on the DVD release. I'm going instead deal with the how well this release pushes the HD-DVD technology. It doesn't. The movie itself is not very visual with only a couple of scenes that have any splashy effects while there are no extras exclusive to HD-DVD. Paramount really should have used some of the money they got for going HD-DVD exclusive and put together some decent extras. On the other hand, the movie did bomb at the box office, so I can see why they didn't want to spend any more than they had to.

(On a side note, why did they have to bleep out the swearing in the commentary and other special features? Why not just say on the box that the extras are not rated? This was a major distraction for me.)

Even if you own a HD-DVD player and loved this movie, I can't recommend spending the extra $8 to get the HD-DVD version over the DVD version. There's not enough here to be worth the money.

The Hottest State - Buy from Amazon
This is the second directorial effort by Ethan Hawke, but while it is marginally better than his first, it is still not strong enough to warrant picking up. In fact, it is only worth renting if you are a big fan of by Ethan Hawke.

Instant Star - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
This Canadian show is getting an excellent DVD release, which is surprising since most Canadian shows never get a DVD release at all. (Is it too much to ask to get Nothing too Good for a Cowboy on DVD?) It's a short season at just 13 episodes, but they are the extended director's cuts and the extras more than compensates (deleted scenes, audition tapes, bonus musical performances, etc.). Worth picking up, and it's the patriotic duty of all good Canucks to buy this DVD.

The Killer Snakes - Buy from Amazon
The title makes me think this is a stupid, stupid move. Some Anaconda wannabe. But this is a Shaw Brothers' film from the 1970s. Not one of their best know or most beloved, but still worthy of notice. Check it out if you are a fan of Hong Kong horror films, and you might want to add this film to your collection.

Lady Chatterley - Buy from Amazon
From one of the most controversial books published to a rather quaint movie. Amazing what can happen in 70 years. The movie itself is only average for limited releases and the DVD is devoid of special features. Even so, it is worth renting.

Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Spectacular - Buy from Amazon
Ugh. Saying "skip it" seems inadequate here, but we don't have a rating that's lower.

The Last Man on Earth - Buy from Amazon
The 1964 film starring Vincent Price that is based on the same book that is the source material for the upcoming I Am Legend. I'm sure I Am Legend will have better effects, but I'm pretty sure it won't be a better movie. The only extras on the DVD are the trailer for this film, and the trailer for I Am Legend, neither of which really qualify as extras. Even so, it is still worth checking out.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit - The Fourth Year - Buy from Amazon
Excellent show, but it doesn't need to be seen on DVD to be enjoyed, and the 5-disc DVD set doesn't offer enough to be worth picking up.

Naked Boys Singing - Buy from Amazon
I feel the need to point out the name is wrong. They are not boys; they are men. Naked Men Singing is a fun gay-themed musical experience. Naked Boys Singing will get you thrown in prison.

The Nanny Diaries - Buy from Amazon
The Nanny Diaries opened this past summer with weak reviews, stumbled out of the gate, and missed expectations. Is it a diamond in the rough, or is it as bad as this performance would indicate?

In reality, it's a little of both. The movie starts with Scarlett Johansson narrating the strange society of the Upper East Side like it is some faraway tribe an anthropologist would study. The movie follows her job working as the nanny for one such family. It's a combination of boss from hell, culture clash and coming of age genres, and for the most part, it works. Sure, it doesn't have the edge of the original book, but it is good in a lightweight kind of way. Certainly worth checking out on the home market.

As for the extras, they are more disappointing. There are only two featurettes and some outtakes running a total of just over 40 minutes. The first featurette, Life at the Top as Seen from the Bottom, is your typical making-of featurette and is a mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes, and clips from the movie. These three also comprise the second featurette, Confessions from the Original Nannies, which is slightly longer and deals with the two authors of the book, how they came to write the novel, how it became a movie, etc. The outtakes are unmemorable, but so are most such extras.

Overall, The Nanny Diaries works well enough to be worth checking out, but doesn't have the replay value needed for a purchase. In addition, the light extras cement the DVD's ranking as a Rental.

New York, New York - 30th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
Not Scorsese's best film, but it does have a bit of a following. This is the second release for the film in three years, but this one has a lot more features on it including audio commentary track, alternate / deleted scenes, intro, etc.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - Buy from Amazon: Single Disc Edition, 2-Disc Collector's Edition, Blu-Ray
One of a trio of potential monster hits that came out this past May, and the last of the summer's $300 million movies to reach the home market. How does the DVD release live up to the others?

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End earned disappointing reviews and was the weakest of the four $300 million hits this summer. It definitely missed some of the magic from the first film while it suffered from some of the same problems as Dead Man's Chest. Some of the action set pieces went on too long and in the end became repetitive, the humor and wit was not as sharp, the new characters were not as compelling, the double and triple crosses were not as engaging. I would like to talk about the last two in more detail. I was especially troubled by the introduction of the seven pirate lords, most of whom could have been played by cardboard cutouts, as they did not have enough dialogue to differentiate themselves. As for the double crosses, by this time we knew that no alliances made would last until the final confrontation, so seeing someone betray a supposed ally had no effect.

That said, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End was still a fun ride with all of the necessary action and adventure a summer blockbuster needs. While not as strong a film as the others in the franchise, it should still entertain.

As for the extras, the 2-disc set is impressive, but almost all of the special features on are the second disc. Disc one contains only 5 minutes of outtakes. Disc two, on the other hand, has tons of featurettes starting with Keith & the Captain, a 4-minute featurette on Keith Richards' cameo in the movie. Anatomy of a Scene: The Maelstrom runs just under 20 minutes and deals with the climatic battle in the end of the movie. The Tale of Many Jakes deals with the first scenes with Jack Sparrow and Jack Sparrow and... you get the idea. Having multiple versions of the same actor on the screen at the same time is nothing new, so you don't learn much in this featurette. There are also two deleted scenes with optional audio commentary, but they are just over 2 minutes and don't add much. Next up are featurettes on Chow Yun-Fat and Hans Zimmer with a combined running time of 15 minutes.

The next screen of extras brings us Masters of Design, which has five members of the crew talking about different props, costumes, etc. This includes the map, Teague's costume, the Singapore set, etc. There are five sections with a total running time of 25 minutes and there is good replay value here. Hoist the Colours runs four minutes and in about the song sung at the beginning of the movie. The Brethren Court gives short, mostly minute-long descriptions of the pirate lords. We get more information in these short clips than we do from the movie, which is a problem I had with the movie.

There are additional extras on the Blu-Ray version, but apparently my player needs a Java upgrade and Samsung hasn't put a new one up. If it is made available in time, I will write an update to this review.

While not the surprisingly-strong adventure film that the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie was, At World's End is still a fun popcorn flick with enough replay value to be worth picking up. Add in the impressive extras, and I can be very enthusiastic about that recommendation. Also, from what I can tell about the Blu-Ray release, it is certainly worth the upgrade.

Rocky - The Complete Saga Collection - Buy from Amazon
Don't buy this set. It is just last year's box set with Rocky Balboa added it and it is definitely not worth the upgrade.

Saturday Night Live - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Only the second season of the show's 30 year run, and it's arguably the best. This says a lot about the early cast, and even more about some of the people on the show now. (Of note, this is the first season with Bill Murray and the last with Chevy Chase.) This 8-disc set is easily worth picking up, even with some people complaining about the price. However, you have to remember each show in 90 minutes long, so the price per minute is comparable to other series released today.

Super Mario Bros & Sonic the Hedgehog Box Set - Buy from Amazon
Anyone else read that title and instantly have the Super Mario Bros. theme song stuck in their head? Do, do, do, do-do-do. It's going to be stuck there for days.

Superbad - Buy From Amazon: Theatrical Edition, Unrated Edition, Unrated 2-Disc Edition, Unrated Blu-Ray
Two practically unknown actors who have never had to carry a movie before team up with two writers with their first feature-length script and a director that has only made one movie previously to create on of the best movies of the summer, and one of the biggest hits, especially in terms of pure profit. Fans are being rewarded with four different versions of the movie, but only the Unrated 2-Disc Edition and the Unrated Blu-Ray are even worth considering. Both have a ton of extras including an audio commentary track, deleted & extended scenes, alternate lines for numerous scenes, outtakes, a scene from the upcoming Pineapple Express (could we have another $100 million hit?), and more. The Blu-Ray edition has all of those extras, in 1080p, and also has the Supermeter, which keeps track of the number of times characters swear, make references to genitalia, say McLovin, etc. It's completely silly, but a lot of fun. I'm not entirely convinced that the Blu-Ray version is worth the extra $6, especially since this is not a movie that needs to be seen in High Definition to be appreciated, but it is close, and no matter which one you choose, it is a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Tom and Jerry - Tales - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
More short films from the famous cat and mouse duo. Sadly the DVD is bare bones and only has the low price going for it. Usually Warner Bros. cartoon releases are better than this.

Touched By An Angel - The Fourth Season - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Stop splitting seasons into two volumes! You are not making and fans by doing that.

Touched By An Angel is a show with a message, but it falls for every trap this presents. The message comes first; it is delivered in a heavy-handed, ham-fisted way; it comes across as preachy and overbearing instead of inspirational. Add in a 4-disc set with nothing in the way of extras, and there's little reason to buy the The Fourth Season - Volume 2 on DVD. In fact, for most fans, they would be best served catching a few episodes on syndication than even renting. The DVD treatment is just that weak.

Tyler Perry - The Plays - Buy from Amazon
Tyler Perry has a loyal fanbase who love his plays. The rest of us don't share the love. So while this 7-disc set would be a great gift for a fan of Tyler Perry, it has very little crossover appeal. Also coming out tomorrow is House of Payne - Volume 1, but the same rules apply.

Wallace and Gromit - Three Amazing Adaventures - Buy from Amazon
This DVD has A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave, as well as bonus shorts from Shaun The Sheep. Excellent quality at a good price, but they have mostly been released on DVD before.

Will & Grace - Season Seven - Buy from Amazon
This is a show that jumped the shark well before season seven. In fact, it only lasted one more season and I think for many average fans, they don't need to pick up this season, or the next when it is released.

The Wire - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
A gritty look at the drug trade in Baltimore. ... I bet Baltimore is a lot nicer place that it is portrayed on DVD. This show, Homicide, and others, make it look like some crime-ridden cesspool. A town that can produce John Waters can't be that bad. This season, the show continued its critically-acclaimed run and even though the 4-disc set is a little weaker than I would like, it is still worth checking out. (At least the price is more in line with the market and less of a premium like other HBO shows.).


Filed under: Video Releases, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Superbad, The Nanny Diaries, Hot Rod, Lady Chatterley, The Hottest State, Naked Boys Singing, Arctic Tale