DVD Releases for August 11th, 2009 - Part II

It was a hard slog to get through the spotlight reviews this week. I live in Abbotsford, and this was the weekend of the Abbotsford Air Show and the constant stream of jets flying overhead made it nearly impossible to watch movies at times. (Do you know how loud you have to be to drown out Cutthroat Island?) As for this week's list of home market releases, there are a number that are worth picking up, but none that are must haves, and none rise to the level of DVD Pick of the Week. However, while there are no DVD Picks of the Week, there are enough reviews that the list had to be split into two with the first part found here

Lonely Street - Buy from Amazon
Jay Mohr stars as an inept P.I. trying to protect Elvis, who is now in his 70s and looking to make a comeback. The film has an overly complicated plot and is stuffed to the gills with characters, but it is not without its charms. The DVD has a making of featurette, an interview featurette, and some music videos from an Elvis impersonator. Worth checking out, but start with a rental.

Michael Jackson - Moonwalking - The True Story of Michael Jackson - Buy from Amazon
This is just too ghoulish for my tastes.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 28th of July. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Necessary Evil - Buy from Amazon
This is one hell of a confusing movie. And I think that's by design. I think the filmmakers thought that if they made a confusing movie, the suspense would build and the horror would come naturally. They were wrong.

The movie starts with a team of mercenaries that were contracted by Lance Henriksen exploring a place with vague Egyptian iconography. We are told in a voiceover that it is actually Babylon and they are here for some 'eternal life' related quest. (Danny Trejo is one of them, which is probably the only interesting aspect of the early scenes.) After something happens involving wirework, we move ahead 16 years to Deborah (Kathryn Fiore) who is a pregnant investigative journalist. She's investigating the Edgewater Psychiatric Institute and their new drug Reficul, which is Lucifer spelled backwards. Yes, the movie is that heavy-handed. And yes, it is pointed out in the movie, in a voiceover at the end. (There are other important characters, and plenty of plot threads I've passed over, but trust me, they are unnecessary and uninteresting.)

Voiceovers can work. They can add a sense of style to a movie. They can be the source of great insight, or humor, as the filmmakers' desire. But when it feels like the narration was added in as an afterthought to try and explain an overly convoluted plot, then it just serves to make a ridiculous movie even worse. There are some good actors in this movie, but the script gives them exactly zero to work with, which is likely what the budget was. The production values are terrible, while the audio and video are hardly significantly better.

There are no extras, which mercifully means I don't have to listen to people talk about this movie and try and defend it.

Necessary Evil may not be the worst movie I've reviewed, but the DVD is still 100% skippable.

NFL - Philadelphia Eagles - 10 Greatest Games - Buy from Amazon
Ten games from the Eagles franchise starting with 1978's Miracle at the Meadowlands to 2006's return of T.O. There's plenty for every Eagles fan to enjoy. ... In fact, it might be worth picking up for Cowboy haters just to see the Eagles demolish them a few times.

The Ninth Gate - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Johnny Depp plays Dean Corso, a man the specializes in acquiring, appraising, and selling rare books. And a man who will do just about anything for money. So when he is contacted by an occultist, Boris Balkan, interested in authenticating his copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of the Shadows, a book reportedly inspired by the writings of Satan himself, and one that is rumored to allow someone to summon Satan to Earth. As soon as he takes this job, he begins to notice strange people following him, his apartment is ransacked, etc. It seems many forces are trying to get their hands on that book, including the widow of the previous owner, who will do anything to get it back. (Wink.) When a friend of his is murdered in a way reminiscent of one of the woodcarvings in the book, he wants out, but it is clear that he is too fan in to do so and he must see his job to the very end.

This is a movie with a good beginning; the setup works and the early detective work is sufficiently creepy to get you interested. But then it never goes beyond that. You watch the movie always expecting it to reach the next level, to go beyond the initial setup. It never really does. We do get a few surprise twists thrown in, but by the hour mark, most audience members will have their resolve tested. I like the film noir detective work with the supernatural angle, but it all feels so incomplete.

(Also, more than once while watching this movie there was a character that was acting out of sorts, or a scene that didn't look real. I couldn't tell if this was intentional, as to heighten the atmosphere, or if it was just a case of bad green screen or weak acting. "Is that character in on it? Or is the actor just a big ham?")

Extras on the Blu-ray include an audio commentary track with the director, but it is not a strong track, as it is too dry to hold your interest. There is a 2-minute featurette called Featurette in the menu, and it's as imaginative as its name indicates. There are also two image galleries, but I don't consider those to be true special features, unless they are truly above the ordinary. They are not. The video is strong, but not one of the best I've seen. I do like the 7.1 surround audio presentation, on the other hand, and at just $14, it's a good value.

The Ninth Gate is a movie that could have been great, but struggles to get past mediocre. If you have it on DVD and have been upgrading your collection, then the Blu-ray is a better deal than most similar release. If you've never seen the film before, I would say rent it and go from there.

Olivia - Buy from Amazon
Olivia makes its DVD this week and the DVD includes one episode, or two stories, that haven't been shown on TV yet.

  • Olivia Acts Out - The school play is happening and Olivia hopes to get the starring role. However, when she is cast as unnamed cow. ... Unnamed cow, number two. But there are no small roles, so how will she make the most of her 'Moo'?
  • Olivia and Grandma's Visit - Olivia's grandmother is coming to visit, but while she's there, Olivia will have to stay in her brother's room. How will the two be able to live together for a full two days?
  • Olivia Plays Piano - Olivia and Ian have piano lessons, but Olivia is jealous since Ian seems to have a natural talent for playing the piano, while she does not.
  • Olivia Trains Her Cat - Trains her cat? Olivia brags that her cat can do all sorts of strange things, like cooking, so now she had to train it to do all the stuff she said it could.
  • Olivia and the Crystal Ball - Ian and Olivia fight over their dad's new bowling trophy, but when it breaks, William gets blamed. Now they think the cops have come to take him to prison, so they have to figure out a way to hide him.
  • Olivia Plays Soccer - The class is learning to play soccer, but Francine is chosen to be the goalie instead of Olivia.
  • Olivia Packs Up - Tired of her brother pestering her, Olivia decides to move away to somewhere where there are no younger brothers.
  • Olivia is Invited to Dinner - Olivia is invited to her home of her arch-Nemesis / best friend, Francine. But will the dinner live up to how she has been imagining it would be?
The only special feature is a photo gallery.

Olivia is one of the better pre-school shows out there. It isn't repetitive like so many others and parents can watch the DVD with their kids and not be driven insane. Always a bonus for this type of show. Compared to other TV on DVD releases aimed at the same target audience, the DVD is worth picking up.

Paris 36 - Buy from Amazon
A French film set in 1936 Paris that is a loving tribute to the vaudeville theater of the day. However, while it is loving to its subject matter, the critics were less kind. It's not a bad movie, it's just not the kind of movie that thrives in limited release. Extras are better than expected with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making of featurette, and more. Worth checking out, but start with a rental.

Pulling - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
A British TV series that won a British Comedy Awards and was nominated for a BAFTA... and was then cancelled. This DVD has the six episodes from the final season, but not the hour long special that wrapped up the show. Hopefully that will be released on DVD soon.

Replicant - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
A Jean-Claude Van Damme film from his direct-to-DVD era. Here he stars as Edward "The Torch" Garrotte, a serial killer who targets new mothers and sets them on fire. Chasing him for the past three years is Jake Riley, but at the beginning of the movie he's retired from the Seattle police, but the Feds request his assistance to continue the chase. Turns out they have decided to use a more... unconventional approach to catching the killer. They've cloned him and will use the cloned memories, as well as a telepathic link between the Replicant and the original to catch him. But first, Jake must train the Replicant, who is a blank slate, and try to use him to catch "The Torch". However, this is easier said than done, and the two have to build a trusting relationship first.

Jean-Claude Van Damme has never been known to make high quality movies. His career Tomatometer score is a dismal 5%, and that one positive movie is last year's JVCD. Most of his films can't crack 20%. Most of his recent films can't get 5 critics to bother to review it. So going into one of his movies is an exercise is lowered expectations. With that in mind, this is one of his better efforts. The relationship between Jake and the Replicant puts the movie a step above the average action flick, while the chemistry between the two leads is solid. Also, Jean-Claude Van Damme gives arguably his best performance before JVCD; if not his best, it's in his top five. That said, it is still not a great movie and if you are not a fan of Jean-Claude Van Damme, then it is probably best to stay away.

Extras on the Blu-ray include an audio commentary track with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Michael Rooker, who appear to have been recorded separately, although it sounds like Jean-Claude Van Damme is interacting with someone outside of mic range. There are also 20 minutes of deleted scenes, which look more than a little rough. The same can be said of the video quality of the movie, which is merely adequate, at best. I'm sure it looks better now than it does on Blu-ray, but it's low budget roots are definitely on display. The audio is better in comparison, but it's is just good, and not great.

One of several bargain Blu-ray releases coming out this week, Replicant makes its High Definition debut on a $14 Blu-ray disc. For fans of Jean-Claude Van Damme, that might be cheap enough to be worth picking up, but I would recommend starting with a rental.

Road Trip - Beer Pong - Buy from Amazon: R-rated or Unrated
The original Road Trip was better than expected, but with almost no connection to the first film (outside of a cameo or two) and absolutely no reviews online (at least none that I could find) there's no way I would recommend even renting this movie.

Sea Monsters A Prehistoric Adventure - 3D - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Less a hard documentary and more Edutainment, which is what most 3D documentaries are. Even so, it earned stellar reviews and it is certainly worth checking out. However, $15 for a 40-minute DVD (there are no extras) is simply too much to pay. The Blu-ray is also featureless and costs 33% more. Call it a rental.

See No Evil - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
No mas. This is one of a dozen spotlight reviews on this week's list, five of them of Blu-ray shovelware releases, and three of the twelve are low budget horror movies. This release is both part of the shovelware and the low budget horror groups, and it's just too much for me to take.

Kane, a WWE wrestler, stars as Jacob Goodnight, a psychotic killer who uses the abandoned Blackwell Hotel as his home. He's stayed there in relative quite for years, that is until a cop, Frank Williams, leads a group of petty criminals comes to his hotel to clean it up as part of their community service. He does what psycho killers do, he kills them off one-by-one. (No, that's not a spoiler. If you didn't know that was going to happen, then this is not the genre for you.)

Admittedly, I am not the target audience for this film. I dislike most Teenage Slashers, but this one is really weak compared to others in the genre. The killer is too generic, his back-story is uninteresting, the acting is wooden, etc. The movie doesn't build any tension, so it's not scary in that sense, while the kill scenes are not gory or inventive enough to entice fans of the genre.

On the other hand, extras on the Blu-ray are better than expected, at least there are more of them than expected. There are two audio commentary tracks, the first with director Gregory Dark & writer Dan Madigan and the second with star Kane & co-executive producer Jed Blaugrund. Neither track brings enough entertainment or information to be worth checking out, but the second is better than the first. Next up is a 13-minute making of featurette, which is presented in non-anamorphic standard definition. There's also a 3-minute look at Kane's wrestling career, some storyboard to screen comparisons, and some WWE featurettes. None of this has any replay value.

Even if you are a fan of low budget Teenage Slashers, See No Evil is worth nothing more than a rental. Even with better than expected extras on the Blu-ray, there's not enough replay value to warrant anything more. And if you are not a fan of Teenage Slashers, then stay far, far away.

Smile Pretty - Buy from Amazon
Scout Taylor-Compton stars in this film made in 2006. In it she plays an abused teenager trying to recover and return to a normal life. I can't find any reviews, but I suspect it is coming out now because Scout Taylor-Compton's latest film, Halloween 2, hits theaters this month.

Steppin' - The Movie - Buy from Amazon
This dance movie set in college was supposed to come out theatrically last year, but it's being dumped direct-to-DVD instead. There are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, so I can't judge if that was a wise move or not. But if the studio has no confidence in the film, I'm not sure why potential customers should have any either.

Super Friends - The Lost Episodes - Buy from Amazon
This is the 1983 season, or the eighth season of the long running Super Friends franchise that ran from 1973 to 1986. Extras are limited to two downloadable comic books, which is less than most similar releases have.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I might be getting one of these box sets to review, so I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about them now. For fans of the franchise, both are a good deal. The Blu-ray is cheap compared to a lot of other High Definition releases, but distressingly high compared to the price of the DVD.

The Tiger's Tail - Buy from Amazon
An Irish film starring Brendan Gleeson from In Bruges and Kim Cattrall from Sex and the City. He plays Liam O'Leary, a successful, and somewhat corrupt Irish businessman, who while on the way to pick up his Irish Enterprise award, he sees his double, twice. This apparently means he's going to die, but his wife and son think he's seeing things. But it turns out family secrets are haunting him, and the more he learns the harder it is to accept his life as real.

This is an odd movie, one that never truly finds a tone it can stick with. At times it's a psychological thriller, but at time it feels more like a black comedy. Is it about a man trying to discover who he is? Or is it about the economic boom in Ireland, which was created at the expense of the average person? These problems hurt what was otherwise a strong effort. I particularly liked Brendan Gleeson in the film, and it was a treat seeing him act opposite his real-life son. (I have no objection to Kim Cattrall acting in the film, but her accent could have used work. Perhaps it would have been best just to make her American.)

On a side note, this movie was made in 2006, at the height of the Irish economic boom, but by the time movie earned a limited release here, Ireland was already in a recession. So a lot of the dire warnings of an economic collapse in that market have come to pass. I don't think this hurts the film; in fact, it could actually makes the film more effective, depending on your perspective.

There are no extras on the DVD.

Enough of The Tiger's Tail works that it is worth checking out. However, there are enough flaws in the movie and the DVD has absolutely no extras. This adds up to a rental, but little more.


- C.S.Strowbridge


Date posted: 2009-08-11