DVD Releases for August 28, 2007

The last week in summer brings with it a mixed bag of DVD releases, very few of which are top-notch releases. There are a few that are worth picking up though, and two that are clear contenders for DVD Pick of the Week: Heroes - The Complete First Season and Heroes - The Complete First Season - HD-DVD edition. This is the first time a high definition release has won the DVD Pick of the Week, and while the format war will drag on at least one more year, we should start seeing more and more releases take the top prize before that happens.

3:10 to Yuma - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
With the remake on the way, there's no better time to release the original on a Special Edition DVD. Of course, to be a special edition DVD, you need more than a couple of trailers. They couldn't find a film historian to talk about the movie on an audio commentary track? At least that would boost the rating above the rental level.

Air Guitar Nation - Buy from Amazon
A documentary that I'm still not 100% sure is real. It's about the World Air Guitar Championships, so you'll forgive me if I still think it could be a mockumentary. On the other hand, it is clear that the film earned excellent reviews and the DVD is better than expected given the film's short, short theatrical run. Granted, the extras are not overwhelming, but there are enough deleted scenes (over 30 minutes worth), to lift the DVD past the rental level.

Blades of Glory - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
This movie was one of the bigger hits of the spring, earning better than expected reviews and working its way to $100 million at the box office. Will Ferrell does his best with the material, which is enough to make the movie entertaining for the most part. Jon Heder also does his best, but still is overshadowed by Will Ferrell in every scene. I get the feeling you could have removed him from the movie and replaced him with any Frat Pack member and it would not have affected the movie all that much. Hell, you could have removed him entirely and it would still be as funny (of course you'd have the issue of pairs figure skating without a partner, but I'm sure the writers could have thought of something). As for the DVD, there's no audio commentary track but a lot of behind-the-scenes featurettes on various subjects. Most are quite short and barely hold your attention for that length of time. There are also some deleted scenes, outtakes and some others, but nothing that demands to be seen again. Overall the DVD is not as strong as other Will Ferrell flicks and it's hard to be too enthusiastic when recommending the movie. Call it a solid rental leaning toward a purchase.

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros - Buy from Amazon
A gay coming of age movie about a boy named Maximo, who is a member of a crime family who falls for a cop. The film earned excellent reviews and started off reasonably well, but couldn't expand. The DVD should perform better, even though there are no extras.

Bob Saget - That Ain't Right - Buy from Amazon
That Ain't Right. I couldn't have said it better myself. Skip it.

Chinese Traditional Painting / Chinese Peking Opera - Buy from Amazon
Anyone else see this cover and think of Strongbad? No. Really? Cause I don't want to be alone in my insanity.

Cracker - A New Terror - Buy from Amazon
Robbie Coltrane reprises his role as the forensic psychologist Dr. Eddie 'Fitz' Fitzgerald in this follow-up to his TV series. Unfortunately, this TV movie would just be an average episode, if that. Add in extras that are rather light (an interview and a featurette), and I can't recommend more than a rental.

The Crocodile Dundee Triple Feature - Buy from Amazon
A box set for a franchise in which only the first one was worth watching while the other two were completely pointless. The price is low enough that it might entice some people to pick it up, but it would be a better choice to just grab the original.

Dangermouse - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Like most full series box sets, this one is not worth the upgrade if you already own the previous releases, but if you don't own the previous releases, this one is a much better deal.

Dark Shadows - The Beginning Collection 1 - Buy from Amazon
The vampire soap opera has been released on DVD almost in its entirety. Now the early years, the years it lacked the supernatural edge are coming out on DVD. This first of 6 volumes contains the first 35 episodes of the pre-vampire run of the show and include extras like interviews, introduction, and even the pilot complete with vintage commercials. If you own the previous releases on DVD, you should check out this 4-disc set as it adds a lot of background information on the show.

Dane Cook - The Lost Pilots - Buy from Amazon
I like this release in theory. I like the ability to see busted pilots, but I don't like Dane Cook. The more of his work I see, the less talented I think he is. That said, I still hope enough people buy the DVD to convince other studios will release more busted pilots on DVD.

The Essential Ozzie & Harriet Collection - Buy from Amazon
100 episodes for just over $20. Wow, that's cheap. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for and fans of the show will want more in terms of extras and will likely be willing to pay more for them.

Flight 29 Down - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
A Discovery Kids show about seven kids marooned on a desert island. Granted, the film has earned some comparisons to Survivor or Lost, but it is a good show on its own. The lack of extras is disappointing, but those who enjoyed Volume 1 should be happy with this DVD.

Friday Night Lights - The First Season - Buy from Amazon
A show about football. This I understand. A show about high school football. Now you've lost me. The show's appeal was lost on a lot of people as it earned weak ratings and barely survived the season, yet it managed to win over a lot of critics. I'm still not sure how, as the drama was weak, the characters uninteresting, the camerawork was distracting, etc. As for the 5-disc set, it has a making-of featurette and some deleted scenes, which just isn't enough for a show that's still on the air and I can't recommend picking it up.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Dawn of the Dead - Unrated, Notting Hill. The Hurricane
Another week with no HD-DVD releases that demand the High Definition treatment. At least not the separate releases. Heroes - The Complete First Season - HD-DVD is the first release that I would say is worth checking out in HD-DVD. Of course, I'd rather it came out on Blu-Ray, but I'll just have to wait for the format wars to end for that to happen.

Heroes - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
Save the cheerleader, save the world. Or at least save NBC from another embarrassing year in the ratings. Arguably the best new show of the year (only Ugly Betty came close and while that series won its two Golden Globe nominations, I would still put Heroes slightly ahead). As for the 7-disc set, the DVDs have the unaired, extended pilot episode with audio commentary track, 12 additional audio commentary tracks, about an episode's worth of deleted scenes, four making-of featurettes on the special effects, the stunts, the score, etc., and a profile on Tim Sale, the artists who creates the works of Isaac Mendez. (In addition, there's an interactive mind reading game, but it's mostly pointless.) As for the HD-DVD release, that 7-disc set has all of the above features as well as 8 video commentary tracks, which are like audio commentary tracks but use the picture-in-picture feature, the U-Control track, which makes the shows interactive, and web features that you access through the HD-DVD player's ethernet connection. Easily worth picking up and the HD-DVD version might be worth upgrading to High Definition for some.

Kickin' It Old Skool - Buy from Amazon
One of the worst movies of this year. ... or any year. However, it's not totally bad and there's.... uh .... hmmm ... well, Alexia Fast, plays Jennifer Stone at age 12, she's Canadian and was in Fido. ... That's about it for the good points. The movie not only was savaged by critics, it bombed at the box office so there's little surprise the only extra on the disc is a selection of deleted scenes. Jamie Kennedy's next movie is a documentary about hecklers and other critics, but if Jamie Kennedy doesn't want people to insult his work, he should stop making crap like this. (And just for the record, I made a conscious effort to tone down the negativity in this review.)

Legion of Super Heroes Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Skip it and wait for the full-season sets.

Masters of Horror - Season One Box Set - Buy from Amazon
The complete first season of Masters of Horror at a price that is less than half of buying the individual episodes. Bastards. The only reason I bought the individual episodes when they first came out is because the studio said they wouldn't release a full season set because it would cost around $130. They lied. If you don't have the first season DVDs, now is the perfect time to pick them up.

Meatballs 4 - Buy from Amazon
I'll admit, the first Meatballs was pretty funny. Not award-worthy by any definition of the term, but an entertaining way to waste an afternoon. However, the franchise quickly devolved into unwatchable garbage. And as bad as 2 and 3 were, number 4 was the worst. On a side note, they are remaking the original for 2010 with the director of Big Momma's House 2 behind the camera. Scary indeed.

Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide - Field, Trips, Permission Slips, Signs And Weasels - Buy from Amazon
The final episode of this kid's show hits the home market. Compared to other shows with the same target demographic, this one rises above the pack, featuring great characters and better writing than most kid's shows are gifted with. (Just because your target audience is kids, doesn't mean you can treat them like morons.) Normally each episode is broken into two 11-minute stories, and indeed two such stories are presented here, but this DVD also has the 50-minute long series finale. There are no extras on the DVD, but it does come with a book full of top-ten lists and other jokes. Normally I would say fans would still be better served waiting for a full-season set, but that might not come as the show has had a number of single-disc releases, and the book here is a perfect addition to the DVD, and just in time for back-to-school. Also coming out tomorrow is Shredderman Rules, which also stars Devon Werkheiser.

A Night At the Roxbury - Special Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
I have a question. Did this movie deserve a special edition? Really? Then again, this is a not-so-special edition as there's nothing here that will make you want to upgrade. Then again, this is not a movie I would recommend buying in the first place. Skip it.

The Odd Couple - The Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Arg. Great show. Amazing show that featured Jack Klugman and Tony Randall at their peak. However, this 4-disc set is completely devoid of extras. What a shame. Still worth checking out, but it is disappointing that the studio didn't give the show the treatment it deserves.

Offside - Buy from Amazon
A group of Iranian women go to a soccer game. Only problem, women are not allowed to go to soccer matches in Iran so they have to dress-up as men. It's a fun and effective way to look at a law that seems bizarre, at best, to most westerners and downright oppressive at worst. Extras are light, but that's to be expected for a foreign language import and the interview with the director, Jafar Panahi, adds enough to the film to push it past the rental level.

The Outer Limits (Original Series) - Season 1 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
There is absolutely no reason to upgrade if you have the previous release.

Return to Halloweentown - Ultimate Secret Edition - Buy from Amazon
Sara Paxton takes over for Kimberly J. Brown in the fourth film in this franchise. The franchise was never award-worthy, but this installment is still arguably the weakest and with just a five-minute promo / making of featurette the extras don't warrant anything more than a rental. Even then I'd wait till Halloween rolls around. One final note, I hate how Disney calls all of the DVD releases for their TV movies Special Editions. That label should be reserved for DVDs that have impressive extras, not ones that have barely more than you get when you watch it on TV.

Samurai Jack - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon
The fourth and final season of this stylistic, futuristic samurai show. Fans of the show will be happy to finally get the whole thing on DVD while even those who have never seen the show should check it out. Extras are light with just a roundtable discussion on the show and instructional video on how to draw the characters, but there's no reason not to complete your collection.

Teachers - Buy from Amazon
Now there's a movie I haven't thought about in a long time. Part of the reason for that is this is the first time the film is being released on DVD. Also, it's not terribly memorable. It's not a bad movie, it just doesn't do enough with the material to stand above other inspirational teacher movies. As for the DVD, it is devoid of special features. It might be worth a rental for those looking for a bit of nostalgia, but that's not enough for an enthusiastic recommendation.

Two's Company - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
No, this isn't the prequel to Three's Company, this is the British culture clash comedy. This brilliant show ran for 4 seasons back in the 70s and still holds up today. My only complaint is with the extras as there really aren't any. Still fans of the show will want to pick it up while fans of Britcoms in general should give it a rental before deciding.

Ugly Betty - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
One of the biggest breakout hits of last season. Not only did the show win over critics and audiences, it walked home with two Golden Globes and is nominated for five Emmys. But I have one problem with the show.

America Ferrera is not ugly. Stop calling her ugly.

America Ferrera stars as the titular character, an assistant working at the fashion magazine, Mode. I admit, I was a bit skeptical when I first heard of the show, as it is based on a Colombian soap opera and I dislike soap operas, even the more restrained variety made in the States. But it is an incredibly high quality show and I was immediately drawn in. Not only is America Ferrera just perfect for the lead, the rest of the cast is amazing. And the characters are very well written. None of the 'villains' are all that evil and they all have traits that make them human. You can go from hating them one minute to feeling sorry for them the next to even cheering for them.

Moving onto the extras, this 6-disc set has a nice collection headed by audio commentary tracks on four episodes. My favorite commentary track was with Becki Newton, a.k.a. Amanda Tanen, and Michael Urie, a.k.a. Marc St. James. These two were clearly having a blast and it shows that their onscreen chemistry extends offscreen. These four audio commentary tracks are spread over the whole set while the remaining extras are all on the sixth and final disc. Most of these are in the form of featurettes starting with Becoming Ugly, which is your typical making-of featurette comprised of a mixture of talking heads, clips from the show and behind-the-scenes footage. I've seen so many of these featurettes that its really hard for them to stand out, but this one keeps the pace up throughout its 12-minute running time and is worth checking out. Next up is Green is the New Black, which is about half as long and details the incredible amount green screen work done in the show. When watching the show I did notice a few green screen shots (like the mausoleum), but I had no idea how prevalent composting was on the show. A La Mode is 7 minutes long and details the style of the show. Obviously for a show like Ugly Betty, this is a key aspect of the production and it is well detailed here. Next up are 27 deleted scenes that run a combined 21 minutes. Some of these are very short and add little to the show, but a few are worth checking out. Finally, we get to Ugly Bloopers; these outtakes run just under 4 minutes and have the usual flubs lines, giggles, etc. They are funny once, but with limited replay value.

I wonder if playing the lead in a show called Ugly Betty is rough on America Ferrera's self esteem or if the Golden Globe win makes it all better? Regardless, this is a great show and the 6-disc set is easily worth picking up. I look forward to the new season, although given the nature of the show, I'll probably wait until it comes out on DVD before watching it.

(One last note, this DVD was released last week, but my screener was delayed, hence it appearing on this week's list.)

Unrated Boxed Set - Buy from Amazon
Three movies that are so bad they are not worth sitting through if you run across them on TV, shoveled together into one box set. Yuck.

Year Of the Dog - Buy from Amazon
Mike White makes his directorial debut after years of acting and writing while Molly Shannon has her first lead role since Superstar.

This could have been a real struggle but for the most part these two people pull it off.

Molly Shannon plays Peggy, an introverted secretary who seems so locked up as to have no real life, expect for her dog. So when her dog unexpectedly dies one day, her world comes crashing down. No one around her seems to be able to comfort her, although they try. This is a comedic drama that tilts more to the drama side of things. Also, like much of Mike White work, the comedy is very deadpan and very much character driven. The humor comes from the strange characters, not punch lines. Also, the effectiveness of Peggy as a character depends a lot on your personal view on her... let's just call it a breakdown. I found at times she has crossed the line and she became less sympathetic because of that. However, overall I still enjoyed the movie.

Moving onto the extras, they start with an audio commentary track with Mike White and Molly Shannon who detail a lot of the filmmaking process dealing with the number of dogs, etc. It's a good mix of information while a little dry at times. A Special Breed of Comedy: The Making Of Year of the Dog is just what it sounds like. The 15-minute long making of featurette is comprised of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the movie and is worth checking out. Being Molly Shannon runs just 4 minutes as does Mike White Unleashed, both of which are pretty self explanatory. Special Animal Unit is another 4-minute featurette, this one on the animals and animal trainers in the movie. Next up is seven deleted scenes with optional audio commentary track with Mike White. Up next is a 2-minute long insert reel and 3 minutes of outtakes. Finally, there a 6 minute long Moviefone Unscripted with Mike White and Molly Shannon interviewing each other.

The move from actor to director is not always a smooth one. I think Mike White's experience as a writer helped him make that transition smoothly while the level of extras on the DVD add to the overall experience. Clearly worth checking out and for most will be worth picking up over just renting.

- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2007-08-27