DVD Releases for January 8, 2008
We are back to a relatively normal level of DVD releases this week, including a few that are worth considering for DVD Pick of the Week. Both 3:10 to Yuma on Blu-Ray and The Riches - Season 1 on DVD are prime contenders. If you don't have Blu-Ray, it's the latter, while if you do, it's the former.
3:10 to Yuma - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
The wave of Profile 1.1 Blu-Ray releases continues this week starting with this one. However, unlike the two that came out last week, this movie is actually worth owning. Not only does this Blu-Ray disc have the few extras found on the DVD (deleted scenes and a handful of featurettes), it also has true Picture-in-Picture commentary, feature-length timeline track, and additional featurettes. Every day-and-date release should have extras that can't be found on the DVD, and extras that push the technology. Sadly this is not the case for most releases, but when it is it should be rewarded. 3:10 to Yuma on Blu-Ray is easily a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.
The All-New Superfriends Hour: Season One - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
The All-New Superfriends show is 30 years old now, and it hasn't exactly aged well. Wonder Twins? There are two featurettes on this 2-disc set, which is better than most cartoon releases get, and enough for it to be worth picking up for fans of the show. However, a lot of people who enjoy D.C. comic shows from today will be shocked at the quality.
Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 3:10 to Yuma, Con Air, Dragon Wars a.k.a. D-War, Killing Machine / Shogun's Ninja, Man on Fire, Night of the Werewolf / Vengeance of the Zombies, The Rock, Sister Street Fighter / Sister Street Fighter II, and Sunshine
A large number of Blu-Ray releases, but very few are worth even a second look. Only one, 3:10 to Yuma on Blu-Ray, is definitely worth picking up.
Boogeyman 2 - Buy from Amazon
Really? Boogeyman deserved a sequel, even a direct-to-DVD sequel? I find that hard to believe. The film stars Tobin Bell, who has typecast himself beyond redemption, and it is unlikely that this film will be a highlight of his resume. Skip it.
The first of two Nicolas Cage films hitting Blu-Ray this week. This film didn't earn as much money at the box office or win over as many critics as The Rock, but I always like this movie better.
I'm a big believer that humor improves just about any genre. Taking yourself too seriously is a major problem, as any errors made are magnified and action films tend to be full of them. For instance, I never bought for a second that Cameron Poe would have been in prison for 8 years for killing that guy. It makes no sense. The average sentence for killing a person in the states is just 7 and a half years and there were mitigating circumstances here. However, I can ignore this since we need the hero to be in on the plan and be able to gain the trust of the bad guys. It was the only set up that really worked for the movie and the for the most part it works.
For the most part. It does take a bit to get moving, the number of action film clichés are overwhelming, even the slot machine jackpot at the end was just so telegraphed, and some of the effects looked really dated. But it is still a fun ride.
As for the extras, they are the same as the DVD, which is to say they are terrible. There are two short making-of featurettes and they are complete fluff that are not worth sitting through the first time and have no replay value. Unacceptable.
Yet another High Definition release that just isn't worth paying full price to upgrade. Fortunately, if you have the previous DVD release, you can get $10 through a mail-in rebate and that cuts the price in half, which is more in line with the value of the disc.
Death Sentence - Buy from Amazon
A revenge flick that adds nothing new to the genre. Not only did the movie crash with critics, it bombed at the box office and the DVD is devoid of any really substantive extras. The definition of skippable.
Dragon Wars - D-War - Buy from Amazon: DVD of Blu-Ray
The biggest South Korea film at the domestic box office, it nevertheless just matched limited expectations. The film earned terrible reviews and was described as amazing special effects stuck in a movie without a real script. Depending on the critic, this was sometimes enough for a recommendation. The film looks impressive (especially on Blu-Ray) and is worth a rental. Perhaps some will even pick it up as a guilty pleasure, but that's as enthusiastic as I can get.
Two socially awkward people meet and fall in love. Or at least something that resembles love. It's hard to tell with these people.
The film starts off at a fast food restaurant where Lily works and meets Jarrod. Jarrod is a man on a mission, to get revenge on the bully who tormented him throughout his childhood. This reminded me, and a lot of other people, of Napoleon Dynamite, which is either a great sign or a big warning depending on how you feel about that film. Unfortunately, I fall into the latter category. The film had a major flaw with Jarrod's character. As the director states in the deleted scenes, they had trouble keeping him, and I quote, "absolutely totally hateable." And while he's not totally hateable, he's still 60% to 70% hateable. Most of the characters have more than the usual quota of quirkiness found in Indie comedies, which I can accept, but he just came across as a jerk much of the time. Lily came across as very sympathetic and in a way made me cheer for Jarrod just cause she deserved better, but it wasn't enough. It's not a bad movie, but it wasn't as good as it could have been.
Extras on the DVD are better than most limited releases, especially imports and start with an audio commentary track with the writer / director, Taiaka Waititi, and include bits with Loren Horsley, a.k.a. Lily and Joel Tobeck, who played Damien. There are also a dozen deleted scenes that run 18 minutes as well as just under three minutes of outtakes, and a music video.
Indie comedies tend to rely heavily on quirky characters to get their laughs. However, there's a fine line between laughing with these people and laughing at them and Eagle vs. Shark crossed that line a few times. (It wasn't helped by the unsympathetic nature of one of the leads.) It is still worth checking out for fans of independent films, but for most a rental will suffice.
Evil Roy Slade - Buy from Amazon
John Astin is best known for playing Gomez Addams, as well as Dr. Putrid T. Gangreen from the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes franchise. But this western spoof from the early 1970s should earn him some fans who have never seen his other work. Sadly, it is a mostly forgotten film and it is being treated as such on DVD and there are no extras. However, at just $8, it is still worth picking up.
Eye of the Dolphin - Buy from Amazon
After earning praise for Mean Creek, Carly Schroeder has stumbled when it comes to picking projects and Eye of the Dolphin is no different. Not a terrible movie, but a missed opportunity, which in some ways is worse. At least with a truly terrible movie you can forget it as soon as it is done, or sooner, but this film will frustrate you by how close it came to being a good movie. They needed to take advantage of the beautiful locations more (especially underwater shots), and done more with the performances. The story is too by the numbers and runs into too many coming of age cliches. Still, it is worth renting for most people.
The tale of a family Italian immigrants making their way to America, led by a man who is prone to hallucinations, many involving giant carrots.
Vincenzo Amato stars as Salvatore Mancuso, a man who is trying to come to America with his family, which is a story that many a child or grandchild will have been told. It takes place just before World War I, which was probably the worst time to try and come to the United States. Travel was still very difficult, while the way perspective immigrants were treated was changing for the worse. No longer was it "give us your poor huddled masses"; government started using its incomplete knowledge of psychology and intelligence to make the testing process a whole lot less user friendly. This movie does an excellent job of portraying this journey from the perspective of those who made it.
On the other hand, there are pacing problems and the story does not feel as epic as it could or as inspiring. Also, it helps to have a connection to this story and to be related to the generation that made this journey.
Extras on the DVD are unfortunately light, starting with a short introduction by Martin Scorsese. There is also a 26-minute long making-of featurette, which hits all the right notes.
In the show, James Arness plays Marshal Matt Dillon, who is the law in Dodge City, and it certainly needs a healthy dose of the law.
Gunsmoke is a show that lasted 20 years on TV, which is a record for a primetime drama. So why are they releasing the seasons in split volumes? Do they think they won't have enough releases otherwise? Are they still planning one release every six months? Do they realize that will take 2 decades to release to who series? DVD won't exist as a format in two decades. Blu-Ray won't exist as a format it two decades!
If you check out the Amazon page you will see this release is getting just 2 stars out of 5, and nearly everyone is complaining about the split volume release. And I agree with them. This is a great show but releasing 20 episodes on a three-disc set just doesn't make sense. And what's going to happen when the show made the jump to an hour-long format? Are they going to release seasons in four volumes? It's so frustrating watching this award-winning Western and knowing how badly it is being treated on DVD. And it is a wonderful Western with great writing and superb acting.
However, not only are they releasing the season in two volumes, the 3-disc set is nearly devoid of special features. The only extras are some sponsor spots... ads. Ads, for cigarettes. Sure, there is some historical interest here, but they hardly make interesting extras.
This is a TV show that should be easy to recommend on DVD. However, despite the show's longevity, it is being treated very poorly. I would recommend a rental, but not a purchase.
HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Galaxina, Mobsters, The Pianist, The Road To Rio / The Road To Bali, White Noise 2: The Light, and Zodiac - Director's Cut
Another week where I have trouble finding just one HD-DVD release that is worth upgrading from DVD. When you are in a format war, you have to show why consumers should upgrade now instead of waiting for a winner to emerge. And to do that, you need to take advantage of the technology.
Lovejoy - The Complete Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
Lovejoy is a Robin Hood con man who uses his considerable skills, and those of his partners, to help those in trouble in this mystery series from the United Kingdom. An excellent show, but the DVD comes at a premium price without any extra to justify it. This is sadly a common problem among imports. Still, it is worth checking out, but for most a rental will do.
Joshua - Buy from Amazon
A story about a seemingly perfect family that learn that their son might be a little disturbed. The sub-genre of horror dealing with disturbed, possessed, or demonic kids has a lot of great films, but this isn't one of them. It also isn't one of the worst ones either. It generates enough creepy atmosphere; however, it also tends to be a little too predictable and suffers from some logical flaws. Extras are good for a film with such a short theatrical run and include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, interviews, audition tapes, etc. Worth checking out, but like so many others on this week's list, a rental will do.
MI-5 - Volume 5 - Buy from Amazon
A troubling development with this season. Not with the show, which continues to impress, but with the DVD, which seems practically barren compared to special-feature-laden previous releases. There are audio commentary tracks on just 2 of the ten episodes, and 12 minutes of interviews. Granted, this is not bad compared to the average TV on DVD release, but that price is anything but average. For those who have been buying the seasons up till now, it might be worth the money, but gone are the days that I can be enthusiastic it recommending these DVDs.
An improv mockumentary about a pop band akin to This Is Spinal Tap, only not as good. Not nearly as good.
Comedy is a lot harder to do than drama, and failing at comedy produces results that are a lot worse than failing at drama. Improv comedy is the hardest form, and the results are physically painful to watch when done poorly. This show is proof of that. I feel bad saying this because they are just little kids, but the adults on the show don't fair any better. As for the music, it is better than the humor, but not enough to save the show. The songs are simplistic, as are the lyrics. It's clear that they are competent musicians, but it is equally clear that the songs are written by kids and I prefer music with a lot more complexity to it.
Allie DiMeco, who plays Rosalina, and Nat Wolff, the older of the two brothers, have some chemistry together and this is the highlight of the show. But it's not enough. In fact, they work better in the introductions to the videos and the other short extras they are in together rather than the show itself because they are no burdened by bad improv and weak writing.
As for the 2-disc DVD, at least it's a full season set and not another best-of release. Extras include five music videos, a trio of short featurettes on various subjects like love and hair, interview clips with the two brothers, and it ends with tips with how to be a rock star. There is a play all button, but no captions and no proper chapter placements. In fact, there's only one chapter per episode.
When I reviewed Battle of the Bands I didn't come away with a very positive opinion of the show. After watching the 13 episodes on this 2-disc set, my opinion hasn't changed. It's a good package for fans of the show, but I pity the parents who will have to watch this with their kids.
Personal Best - Buy from Amazon
A lesbian love story set in the world of track and field leading up to the boycotted 1980 Moscow Olympic games. As an early example of lesbian cinema and as a romance it works. However, track and field is not very cinematic and the poltical climate the film was made under is no longer relevant, which has dated the film. Still, it is worth checking out but for most a rental will do.
The Real Dirt on Farmer John - Buy from Amazon
An excellent documentary about a family farm and its struggles. The film failed to find an audience during its short theatrical stay, so it is no surprise that the DVD is devoid of extras, but it is still worth checking out, even if it is just for a rental.
The Riches - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
What happens when a conman has a mid-life crisis? He tries to get his family to settle down into a comfortable suburban lifestyle. That's the basic premise of this show, which stars Eddie Izzard as the conman in question and Minnie Driver as his equally gifted grifter wife. This 4-disc set has only 13 episodes at a price that is on par with most DVD sets with the regular full season of 22 or more episodes, but at least there are a great selection of extras to justify the price. Things start with audio commentary tracks on the first and last episodes, a featurette on the casting, a featurette on the world premiere, webisodes, etc. Easily worth checking out and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.
A reality TV show from MTV starring skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and best friend / body guard, Christopher 'Big Black' Boykin. I don't think this show is adding anything to the world of culture, but it's clear that they are having a blast and that feeling is infectious.
First of all, this show is reality TV and long time readers know my opinion of reality TV. However, this is not the soul-crushing type of reality TV, but it's not the documentary type either. It's an unscripted buddy comedy with two guys goofing off and having some fun. And you know what, that's enough for light entertainment like this.
The extras are extremely impressive, starting with an audio commentary track on all 16 episodes from the first two seasons. The tracks include Rob Dyrdek and Big Black, as well as producers Jeff Tremaine and Ruben Fleischer. If you get any insight from the commentary tracks, you are a better man than I am. It's mostly just the guys laughing at what happening on screen. There are also a ton of deleted scenes on discs 2 and 4. Several dozen scenes running about 90 minutes are here. Disc 2 also has a featurette on the dog called Special Meaty Puppy Footage, a 30-minute interview / recap of season 1, skating tutorials, and more interviews. Over on Disc 4, along with the additional deleted scenes mentioned above, there's a music video for Dirty Girl, footage on their other pet, Mini, their miniature horse, footage of Uncle Jerry. There's another clip show, the best of show for season 2, and finally their appearance on MTV Cribs.
From the first time I saw these two in Gumball 3000: 6 Days in May, it's clear that these two have the chemistry needed to carry a show. No-one is going to call this deep drama and no-one watching will be inspired to change the world, but they should have fun. Add in the very impressive load of extras, and this 4-disc set is worth picking up for fans of the show.
One of Michael Bay's earliest films, and the first $100 million hit in Nicolas Cage's career. It's a big, loud action film that Michael Bay has become known for. This is both a blessing and a curse.
There are a lot of excellent actors in this movie including Sean Connery, as the British secret agent who has been imprisoned by the American government after he stole secret information from them, as well as Ed Harris, as the general holding San Francisco hostage unless his demands are met. Most of the members of supporting cast are equally good, so I wish more of them had characters that felt real. At times the movie feels like a series of action sets strung together without much concern for the plot, character, etc. Quite frankly, this is not a serious problem. Let's face it, it's a straight up popcorn flick and on that level it does more than enough to satisfy its target audience.
(As mentioned in the audio commentary track, there are a few mistakes in this film that were made for no other purpose than for style. This has to be my main complaint with Michael Bay and his films, but given his box office track record, it is not something his fans care about. But I believe that if you can't get the style you want within the realm of reality, then that's a weakness you have as a filmmaker.)
As for the extras, there's a boatload including an audio commentary track, making of featurettes, interviews, outtakes, etc. However, all of them are from the previous DVD release and none of them push the technology. This is very common for catalogue releases, but it is still annoying.
Big, loud, and occasionally dumb, The Rock is an action film that lives up to its summer blockbuster status. Sadly, while the film looks and sounds great on Blu-ray, there's not enough extra here to be worth full price. However, there is a $10 mail in rebate if you own the DVD and are upgrading to the Blu-Ray, which is a very smart move on Disney's part. Taking into account Amazon's discount, the price is only $9.99, which makes it worth picking up.
Originally this movie was going to come to theaters on April 20th. 4 20. Get it? It's a pot reference. When you need to have your release date relate to your film, you are in trouble. Just look at The Omen for proof of that.
At least that's what the filmmakers were aiming for. The end result moved way too slow to be an adventure. The movie is only 80 minutes long, but I'm sure it could have been condensed into a 40 minute short had they just cut all the scenes of Jane staring off into the distance. I'm not sure what these scenes were supposed to add to the movie. Perhaps the filmmakers were worried we would forget she was stoned. The only way this would happen was if the audience members were stoned... which is probably the idea. Cut that out and all of the gratuitous cameos and you would no film left at all. (I lost count, but I think we hit a dozen cameos.) It's frustrating because it is clear that there is a good movie somewhere here. The script needed one or two more passes to tighten it up, add more adventure and less pointless staring.
As for the extras, there is only a simple 10-minute making-of featurette that doesn't really stand out.
I really wanted to like this movie; I think Anna Faris is very talented as an actress and there are a number of very talented people in this movie. However, the movie just don't come together and an effective whole. That said, while I'm not the only critic out there that feels this way, I am in the minority and others could feel the opposite way and should give it a rental. But with almost no extras, a rental is all most people will need.
Sunshine - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
A science fiction film that was more concerned with story than special effects. It won over most critics but moviegoers essentially ignored it. When this happens, one has to worry that the studio will skimp out on the DVD and further reduce its financial potential. In this case, that didn't happen. The DVD comes with two audio commentary tracks (one with the director and the other with the technical advisor), production diaries, deleted scenes, and two wholly unrelated short films that are here just to give the filmmakers added publicity. Over on the Blu-Ray version, we have all the above features, as well as a sparse Picture-in-Picture commentary (there's less than 20 minutes spread throughout the film), a sound engineer extra that allows you to mix the sound, and you can even hook it up to your chair and make it move. Okay, for that last one you need a special chair for this feature, and I don't know many who have one... or any for that matter, but it does rate high on the cool factor in a completely nerdy way. Overall, the Blu-Ray gives a good taste of what the technology can do, but not enough to be truly satisfying and I can't say I'm totally convinced it's worth the 40% difference in Amazon's prices. It's close, but I can't make that call.
Paul Rudd hosts this anthology movie that presents ten vignettes about the ten commandments, each one focusing on someone breaking one of the rules.
When this film was released it earned weak reviews and never found an audience during its theatrical run, so I didn't have high hopes for the movie when I checked it out on DVD. However, the humor just clicked with me and I found most of the skits hilarious. However, since the skits average just nine minutes long it is nearly impossible to give a review of the skits without spoiling them so get ready for a lot of white text...
The skits that worked outnumbered the ones that didn't by a 4 to 1 margin, with most having serious replay value. The best of the best were (in no particular order), Thou Shall Not Take the Lord's Name in Vain, which is a love story between a librarian and Jesus. I especially loved the Spanish voiceover, which I won't spoil for anyone. Thou Shall Honor the Sabbath and Keep it Holy is about a group of men who like to get naked on Sundays and listen to Roberta Flack. I have found that nudity, especially non-sexual inappropriate nudity is a great source of humor, and that is certainly true here, also this bit ends with one of the best songs I've heard in a while. Also topping the list is the animated Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor, which is a a great homage to Fritz the Cat. While those three are fantastic, almost all of the skits have serious replay value. The only two exceptions were Thou Shall Have No Other God Before Me and Thou Shall Not Murder, which were two of the first three skits. It was a slow start, but the film hits its stride and ends on a high.
The extras on the DVD are better than I thought they would be considering its short theatrical stay and include and audio commentary track with Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, David Wain, David's parents, and is complete with a Jazz accompaniment. Excellent track with very little in the way of dead spots and a lot of interesting information given. I especially liked the perspective from David's parents, Nina and Norman. Next up are deleted & extended scenes mixed with some outtakes. There are an hour's worth of clips here, but sadly no play all button. There's a seven-minute interview from the SXSW film festival, a three-minute episode of Wainy Days, and five-minute making-of featurette. All three are worth checking out, but the replay value isn't that high.
Like most anthology movies, The Ten was hit and miss. However, unlike most critics, I thought the hits outnumbered the misses by a considerable margin and combined with the extras, the DVD is easily worth picking up.
On a side note: This movie actually comes out next week, but I accidentally filed it in this week's list of DVDs to review. I will include this review again next week just to remind people it is coming out.
Terry Jones' Barbarians - Buy from Amazon
There's something funny in the water in Britain. They have this habit of making educational TV programs starring comedians. Michael Palin has his travelogues, Tony Robinson of Blackadder fame has Worst Jobs In History, and Terry Jones has this series, among others. However, while it is a weird combination of history and humor, it really works. Even a lack of extras won't prevent me from recommending buying this 2-disc set, even if you don't think you would like to learn about history.
Tropical Heat - Sweating Bullets Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
All three seasons of this show in one box set that is cheaper than the average single season set. Unfortunately, there are no extras, but you get what you pay for.
Two and a Half Men - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
I'm not sure how this show survives on the air year after year. It feels so... sitcom-y to me. Sure, it's worth a laugh or two, but you don't need to see every episode in order, or at all, to enjoy it, so unless the DVD is packed with extras, there's little reason to grab it over just renting. In this case, it is not. Extras include two featurettes (one of the cast one on the writers) and a gag reel. Nothing that sets it apart or makes it worth the cost.
The Waltons - The Complete Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
A show that has a lot of dedicated fans, but one that just seems way too outdated for me. Add in a 5-disc set that has zero special features, and I can't recommend anything more than a rental.
What's New Scooby-Doo? - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
The latest release from one of the most enduring animated franchises out there. I always preferred the earliest shows where the bad guys were just men in masks. However, you would think people who could create such realistic costumes wouldn't need to resort to crime and could make a great living do that work. ... What? Surely I wasn't the only kid to think that. ... As for this 2-disc set, there are no extras but it is being sold at a very reasonable price and worth picking up for fan.
White Noise 2: The Light - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
There's something you don't see everyday. A direct-to-DVD sequel that is much better than the original was. However, it stars Nathan Fillion, so you know it wasn't going to be a box office hit. He's been in four movies and had four critical hits. Combined, these four movies have earned just over $52 million at the box office, which is less than White Noise and its 8% positive reviews earned. There is no justice in Hollywood. Extras on the DVD are a little light with a couple of featurettes (including one that tries to convince you that Near Death Experiences are real proof of the paranormal), as well as more than half-an-hour of deleted scenes. Worth checking out for most, picking up for many. On the other hand, the HD-DVD has no additional features of note and is not worth the extra 40%.
It's been less than six months since this movie first came out on DVD. That's unacceptable and this DVD better be a major, major step up for the original or I'm going to be really, really upset.
Note: This is also being released on HD-DVD, but that version has not yet arrived and the review will be delayed at least one week.)
On the positive side, this is a great movie that will draw you in almost immediately. The film is amazing right from the original story, to the screenplay, to the casting, directing, all the way down the list. It better draw you in because the film runs for 2 hours and 42 minutes and there's not a lot of levity to be found here. There's not even a really satisfying ending because we don't have all the answers in real life. The movie is slow and the pacing will grind you down, but this is not a bad thing as the audience gets to feel what it must have been like to be working this case.
I do have a few issues with the movie, including some of the CG shots looked a little fake, but I don't think it will hurt the film for most people. However, that running time and the subject matter will wear out most people.
As for the extras, the first DVD had no real extras. The 2-Disc Director's Cut, on the other hand, starts with two audio commentary tracks, the first with the director, David Fincher, and the second with two actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr., as well as three of the crew, producer Brad Fischer, screenwriter/producer James Vanderbilt and author James Ellroy. Both tracks have more than enough information and while there is some overlap, fans of the movie will want to listen to both.
The extras on disc 2 are divided into two groups, The Film and The Facts. The first includes a seven-part, 54-minute making of featurette, a 15-minute featurette on the special effects, and six-and-a-half minutes of previsualizations with final shot comparisons. The Facts has two sections, This is the Zodiac Speaking and Prime Suspect. The former is a feature-length documentary on the Zodiac killings while the latter is a 42-minute featurette with interviews of people who knew Arthur Leigh Allen.
Zodiac is an amazing movie that deserved to do better in the theaters and the 2-Disc Director's Cut would have been an easy recommendation if it was released first. However, a double-dip this close to the original is just unacceptable. Hopefully fans of the movie held off on buying the DVD till now, because I can't recommend buying it again, I just can't recommend people support this practice. As for the HD-DVD, there are no additional extras, but the difference in price is barely more than 25%.
Date posted: 2008-01-08