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DVD Releases for January 27, 2009 - Part II

January 27th, 2009

One of the longest lists in a while this week, but there's a lack of quality at the top. There are a number that are of interest, like Zodiac on Blu-ray, The Bourne Trilogy on Blu-ray, and others, none rise to the level of DVD Pick of the Week. The list was long enough that it has to be split up, and the second part can be found here.

Open Season 2 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A direct-to-DVD sequel to Open Season, which was released theatrically in 2006. So far there are too few reviews to really judge the movie, but hopefully when the DVD / Blu-ray screeners arrive, I can help take care of that.

Pink Panther Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: Pink Panther and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection and A Shot in the Dark
With The Pink Panther 2 coming out in a couple weeks, there are a couple of releases coming out this week that will undoubtedly be much better than that movie will be. Pink Panther and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection is a nine-disc collection of short films featuring the famous cartoon cat. While A Shot in the Dark is arguably the best film in the franchise. For fans of the Pink Panther, both are worth picking up.

Pride and Glory - Buy from Amazon: DVD, 2-Disc DVD or Blu-ray
This film opened with weak reviews, bombed at the box office, and is now coming out on a DVD that has just a making of featurette. Granted, it's more than an hour long, but it is still hard to argue that the replay value of the overall package is above a rental. The 2-Disc DVD has that special feature, plus a digital copy. The Blu-ray has no additional extras from the latter DVD, and the audio and video quality are merely good, and not great. That said, it only costs $1 more.

Redneck Zombies - 20th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
Troma fans rejoice. Made in 1989, this movie tells the story of what would happen if a barrel of toxic goo accidentally falls into the hand of some hillbillies. They would make moonshine with it, obviously. However, instead of getting them drunk, it turns them into zombies! Fans of Tromaville will likely love this movie, others might not have the same reactions. Extras on the DVD are also impressive and include an audio commentary track, a "Where are they now?" featurette, making of featurette, outtakes, deleted scenes, and even a soundtrack CD. Easily worth picking up for fans of the studio, and if you have never seen anything by Troma, check it out, but give it a rental first.

The Rocker - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the biggest bombs of the summer, and I'm not sure why. Granted, the reviews are not great, but they are not terrible either, especially compared to the average late summer release. However, it was one of the few films to open in more than 2000 theater, but with a per theater average of less than $1000. And after an opening like that, it comes as no surprise that it disappeared from theaters as fast as theater owners were contractually obligated to. Fortunately this performance didn't hurt the DVD as it is loaded with extras, mostly of the small variety. There are two audio commentary tracks, both of which lean towards the entertainment end of the spectrum, while there are also deleted scenes, outtakes, and various featurettes. A lot of the extras have members of the cast in character, or are otherwise jokes (like the cast trying to get Rainn Wilson to get them a spot on The Office) so if you were looking to learn more about the movie, you will be disappointed with much of this. The Blu-ray costs about a third more and has no additional extras, which puts it right on the cusp of being worth the upgrade or not. It's worth checking out for most, picking up for many, but start with a rental.

RocknRolla - Buy from Amazon: DVD, DVD plus Digital Copy, or Blu-ray plus Digital Copy
Guy Ritchie started his movie career creating the amazing Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, which he followed up with the equally awesome Snatch. Then he married Madonna and his whole career went to hell. I enjoyed Revolver more than most critics, while this movie nearly earned overall positive reviews. Add in the extras (audio commentary track, two featurettes, and one deleted scenes) and it is worth buying over just renting, especially if you are a fan of Guy Ritchie's earlier films. As for the Blu-ray plus Digital Copy, it costs about 35% more than the DVD, and just $2 more than the DVD plus Digital Copy. It's worth the upgrade.

Roman Polanski - Wanted and Desired - Buy from Amazon
A documentary on the Roman Polanski trial for having sex with a 13-year old girl. The documentary alleges misconduct during the trial; however, he pled guilty, which makes it harder to prove that misconduct affected the outcome. Also, the film tries to make the case that he wasn't get a fair case, and that's why he ran; however, he was able to run because the judge let him leave the country to complete a film before he was sentenced. Let's get this straight: Roman Polanski pled guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year old girl, and the judge let him leave the country before he was sentenced, and the filmmakers are trying to claim he was being treated unfairly. Come on! There's no way the average person would have been allowed to leave the country under similar circumstances. Despite earning very strong reviews, there are too many problems with the film for me to recommend. That said, there are a lot extras on the DVD (audio commentary track, deleted scenes, additional interviews, etc.).

Russel Peter - Red, White, and Brown - Buy from Amazon
As I've stated in the past, I have a hard time reviewing stand-up concert DVDs. I find it very difficult to describe the comedy routines without spoiling the jokes, and let's face it, that's all you care about. "Well the jokes were lame, but I liked the font he used on the back drop." No one says this. So I'm stuck trying to describe jokes without spoiling them. A lot of his jokes have to do with his ethnic background (he's Indo-Canadian), as well as practically every ethnic group he grew up with in Toronto. And since Toronto is the most ethnically diverse city in the world, that's the biggest part of his act. In fact, this act includes an extended bit about his first trip to India and how he discovered his roots. (Or more to the point, how he discovered he was Canadian, not Indian.)

I will spoil one joke for you. Less than a minute into the show when Russell Peters is interacting with the crowd he says, "Somebody brought a kid, good job, huh? Good job." I'm spoiling this one joke as a warning that this is not a family friendly show and he does swear on occasion.

Extras on the DVD include, holy crap, there are extras! Usually stand-up concert DVDs have no extras, if you are lucky a very short behind-the-scenes / interview featurette. This DVD / CD combo comes with a CD version of the concert, for those who like to listen to stand-up. It also has an audio commentary track for the main routine with Russell Peters, Clayton Peters (brother), and Jigar Talati (director). There are also numerous bonus clips from both shows. (They recorded the first two sets done in New York City, and the first one didn't make the cut. There are seven such bits, three of which have audio commentary tracks. In total they run close to 30 minutes, so it is not an insubstantial amount of extras.

Russel Peter - Red, White, and Brown is a great set with a fantastic amount of extras. It is a must have for fans of his stand-up work, and if you haven't seen him before, at least give it a rental. I think if you do, you will become a fan.

Scooby Doo, Where Are You? - Season One - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
Easily the best series in the franchise, but why are they putting out the show on single-disc volumes? Buy the full season sets; they are a better deal.

The Secret of the Magic Gourd - Buy from Amazon
Wang Bao, or Raymond as he is known in the North American release, is a picked on boy whose parents are absent. One day he goes fishing and finds a gourd. What's gourd? It's related to squashes... I think. It doesn't really matter what a gourd is, what Raymond finds is a walking, talking magic pumpkin that grants wishes, badly. Almost every wish Raymond makes backfires making his life harder, and soon he rejects Bailey the Magic Gourd and learns with hard work is all that it takes to succeed. This is a typical wish-granter plot with one strange omission, the wishes never work in the first place. Usually in these movies, the person making the wishes is happy with the initial results, but then gets carried away before the wishes turn on the master. Here the wishes backfire from the very beginning, as his very first wish, a wish for fish, resulted in him being accused of stealing the fish.

While I'm not a member of the target audience, I've seen enough similar films to be able to tell when one is not working. This one does not work. The lead characters were both highly annoying, which made it exceedingly difficult to care about their troubles. There were some great special effects shots, like the flight over the city, or the march of the toys, and I suppose that smaller children might be enthralled enough by these scenes that they will like the whole movie, but even then there are better options out there.

Extras on the DVD start with... while technically not a special feature, there is the option to watch the movie in English, or the original Mandarin with English subtitles. If you watch it in English, Corbin Bleu from the High School Musical franchise does the voice of Bailey the Magic Gourd. The real extras start with "Bloopers", which are 90 seconds of faked mistakes. There's a game called Too Many Toys! that should entertain the target audience. Backstage Disney has a 28-minute long making of featurette and a music video, both are in Mandarin, but the making of featurette at least has English subtitles.

The Secret of the Magic Gourd is not exactly a bad movie and the extras are not bad for a direct-to-DVD release. However, there are just too many other options for your entertainment dollar to recommend buying this DVD for most people. It is worth a rental, if you have younger kids.

The Secret Policeman's Balls - Buy from Amazon
This 3-disc DVD set includes the four Secret Policeman's Balls concert, Pleasure At Her Majesty's, which was their predecessor, the recent documentary, as well as bonus footage and other extras. In total it's more than eight and a half hours of entertainment. These concerts features an amazing array of comedic talent, including most of Monty Python, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Jennifer Saunders, Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, and more. Not to mention performances by Peter Frampton, Sting, Bob Geldof, and more. An incredible deal for just $30.

The Sidney Poitier Collection - Buy from Amazon
Four films from Sidney Poitier, including one he directed, A Warm December. A Patch of Blue is the best-known, and overall best movie of the four, but fans of the actor will be happy to spend $26 for the 4-disc set.

Warning: This DVD and Blu-ray do not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 10th. However, the Blu-ray screener arrived early and I was able to get the review done this week.

Space Buddies - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Just a quick note to start, I only have the Blu-ray at the moment, but I will update this review next week when the DVD arrives.

The owners of the puppies are on their way to a space facility to watch the launch of a new spaceship as part of a school trip. There are no pets allowed, but that doesn't stop these dogs from sneaking in with them, and once there, they sneak on board the ship and are off to the moon. Along the way, they meet up with a Russian cosmonaut, and his dog, who are trapped in space, they have to deal with a saboteur, and more.

Space buddies is the sequel to Snow Buddies, which was the sequel to Air Buddies, which was a sequel / spin-off to the Air Bud franchise. That series spawned five films, but only the first two managed theatrical releases. So in total, there have been eight films in this franchise, which explains why it feels so tired. Nothing happens here that isn't telegraphed a mile away. Additionally, while the plot of the film is uninspired, the characters are grating, and the acting is even worse. There are a lot of recognizable faces in this movie, and for the most part I'm not complaining about them. But some of the voice acting and the kids just drove me nuts. Granted, part of the problem is the characters themselves, as it would be nearly impossible to turn the character of B-Dawg, or his owner, into something that didn't grate on my nerves. But I'm sure they could have found someone better.

Extras are impressive for a direct-to-DVD sequel, starting with Buddy Facts, a pop-up trivia track for the movie. There is also a making of featurette / space exploration featurette that runs just shy of 13 minutes. It should entertain the kids. There are 3 minutes of bloopers, some faked, some with the puppies and other animal actors actually making mistakes. The real mistakes are funnier than the faked ones, but this is usually the case. There is also a music video for "Dancing in the Moonlight" by Alyson Stoner (from Cheaper by the Dozen, as well as Camp Rock, Phineas and Ferb, etc.) I've seen far too many Disney stars try their hand at music. Most should not, but she's definitely one of the better singers I've seen.

Extras that are exclusive to the Blu-ray include Buddy Finder, which is a game you play while watching the movie. You hunt for objects in the movie, and if you find all 100, something happens. Maybe. I don't want to watch the whole movie again to find out. Also, the disc is BD-Live enabled, but it only has the standard Disney selection (messages, Movie Rewards shopping, etc.).

This is the eighth film in the Air Bud franchise, and I wish they would stop. Space Buddies is so uninspired and unimaginative that I have a hard time imagining that kids will be that interested in the film. The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray are surprisingly strong, but even for fans of the franchise, a rental is all that is needed.

Spongebob Squarepants - Spongicus - Buy from Amazon
If I said this was the 49th SpongeBob SquarePants DVD release, I would be lying. However, I wouldn't be off by much. Since there have been so many releases from this TV show in the past, I see no reason not to skip the intro and just jump right into the individual episodes.

  • Spongicus - Plankton tears down the Chum Bucket and in its place build a replica of the Colosseum, complete with lionfish. A man-eating lionfish. ... Wait a minute, there are no men in Bikini Bottom. There's nothing but fish, and crabs, and other sea life.
    The latest season gets off to a strong start with a high energy episode.
  • Suction Cup Symphon - Squidward get the oppurtunity to compose a piece for the Bikini Bottom Symphony Orchestra, but SpongeBob and Patrick keep interrupting his concentration, which causes some unique results.
    While watching this DVD with my nephew and his friends (to get a different viewpoint) one of them said, "This has to be a dream sequence. Squidward can't win in the end."
  • House Fancy - Squidward finally gets his home featured on his favorite TV series, House Fancy. However, his home is a mess, so he is forced to turn to SpongeBob for help, which some unique results.
    The set-up might be different, but the outcome is surprisingly the same as the previous episode.
  • Krabby Road - Plankton, SpongeBob, and Patrick form a band. But are they really going for Rock'n'Roll fame, or is this just another attempt for Plankton to steal the recipe for Krabby Patties?
    Of course it's the latter, but it is still a good episode.
  • Penny Foolish - Mr. Krabs sees SpongeBob finding a penny on the ground. ... And he will stop at nothing till that penny is his.
    This episode plays on a common theme for the series, and because of this, it is not one of the better episodes on this disc.
  • Nautical Novice - In order to impress Mrs. Puff, SpongeBob memorizes the history of boating. But will it come in handy on their class trip to the Nautical Museum?
    This episode plays on a common theme for the series, and because of this, it is not one of the better episodes on this disc.
  • Not Normal - SpongeBob decides he has to be more normal, with disastrous results. But he might have gone too far and not even Patrick will be able to return him to is old, spongey self.
    Creepy. This episode is creepy, as SpongeBob's normalcy is unnatural, but it is also a great source of humor.
  • Gone - SpongeBob wakes up and everyone's gone. The entire town of Bikini Bottom is missing. But why?
    Arguably the best episode on this DVD, especially the conclusion. (Which I won't spoil here.)
Extras are on par with other, similar releases and include storyboard panels and character art. Nothing much, but better than nothing.

On the one hand, I vastly prefer full season sets. On the other hand, when these episodes do come out on full season sets, the two image galleries will likely not be included. Of the eight episodes on Spongebob Squarepants - Spongicus, I can recommend five of them, but I think waiting for the next full season set, or the first volume of the full season set, is wiser.

The Stewardesses 3D - 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is porn, softcore porn from the late 1960s, which means it would barely get an R-rating today. But that's not why I'm mentioning this release. I'm mentioning it because it is in 3D. 3D porn. I'm not sure how to reach to that, so I'm just going to move on.

Swing Vote - DVD - Buy from Amazon
Just a very quick update from the review of the Blu-ray, which can be found here. I won't be talking about the movie at all, just the differences between the two formats, and there's not a lot. Sadly, the Blu-ray had no additional extras compared to the DVD. Additionally, the Blu-ray's audio and video quality was only average compared to most releases on that format. Also, since my PS3 does a fine job of up-converting the DVD to the point where there's little difference, and this is not a film that needs crystal clear image quality to be enjoyed, I see no reason to buy the Blu-ray over the DVD. Then again, I rated the movie as a rental, so that distinction is moot.

Wow... that was short, but it is all that needs to be said. So as an added bonus, I will give you my way of improving the American presidential elections, specifically the primary season.

First step: Divide the nation into six sections.

  1. Northeast: Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C. and all states north and east of that border
  2. South: Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and all states south of that border
  3. Midwest: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan
  4. Mountain & Plains: Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana
  5. Southwest: Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada
  6. Pacific: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii
Second Step: Pick a small state in each section.
  1. Northeast: New Hampshire
  2. South: South Carolina
  3. Midwest: Iowa
  4. Mountain & Plains: Wyoming
  5. Southwest: New Mexico
  6. Pacific: Oregon
Step Three: On consecutive Tuesday's starting on the second one in January hold primaries in these six states in alphabetical order (Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, and Wyoming). This way smaller candidates have a chance to build momentum by competing in smaller states first.

Step Four: Take the remaining 45 states (or 44 states plus D.C., Americans abroad,. Guam, et.c) and divide then into three groups of 15, also alphabetically.

Step Five: Hold each of three 'Super Tuesday' ever other Tuesday starting two weeks after the final single primary. This way candidates are forced to compete in massive, nationwide races, which better simulate the presidential election in November.

Step Six: The next presidential cycle, take the first of the individual races and movie it to the back. Do the same for the three Super Tuesdays groups. And repeat this process each new presidential cycle. This way no one state gets to go first every time and no state is forced to be last each time.

This system has many benefits over the current system, while using a rotating alphabetical order will ensure all states will have a more equal say in the choosing of a candidate, if not every cycle, at least every third cycle. And by setting it up in advanced, states are less likely to jump the line, because they know they will get their chance sooner or latter.

UFC Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: 88: Breakthrough and Ultimate Knockouts - Volume 6
Two more DVDs from the highly successful Ultimate Fighting Championship Mixed Martial Arts fighting league. UFC 88: Breakthrough
Nine fights from the September 6, 2008, including a non-title match between Chuck Liddell and Rashad Evans as the main event. As I mentioned on Holiday Gift Guide, I am not a big fan of MMA, especially the ground game. Submissions tend to slow down the fight, and watching two grown men roll around the ground hitting each other is of no interest to me. Most of the fights involved at least some ground game, most, but not all. And there were some fights here that were fun to watch. This includes Jason MacDonald vs. Jason Lambert, not just because Jason MacDonald won, but seeing a Canadian win does help. But I also liked Roan Carneiro vs. Ryo Chonan, Matt Brown vs. Dong Hyun Kim, as well as the main event. The crowd didn't seem to agree with Dong Hyun Kim's win, but I thought he started out very well, and his submission holds while standing was just incredible, while he ended high. Granted, the middle part of the match wasn't strong, but Matt Brown didn't capitalize and when their was the most action, Dong Hyun Kim was scoring the most points.

On a side note, I thought Matt Hamill was beating Rich Franklin, until he took the low blow. I think the after effect of that allowed Rich Franklin to get in the shot that ended the fight.

Additionally note. Jason MacDonald, who is Canadian, has the nickname, 'The Athlete.' Other nicknames from this DVD include The Piranha, The Punisher, The Barbarian, The Hitman, etc. Nicknames that imply you are tough, but above all else, dangerous. That's just not the Canadian way. We're just too damn polite for that.

Extras on the DVD include two additional fights not seen on the PPV that are on disc one, the rest of the extras are on disc two. There is a 41-minute long countdown show, the weigh-ins (Is this really of interest?), there's a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and finally a 21-minute featurette.

UFC: Ultimate Knockouts - Volume 6
I was looking forward to this DVD over the first, because I figured it would be very hard to knock someone out when you are rolling on the ground, so the 35 fights featured here should heavy punches, devastating kicks, and much less ground and pound. There was more ground game than I was expecting. There were some great stand up exchanges, but not enough for my taste. Also, with 35 fights in 65 minutes, most fights are only shown as 30 second of set up, 30 seconds of actual fight, and 30 seconds of replay. That said, the lack of pomp and ceremony before the fights, and that means there are a lot more blows thrown and hits landed per minute. In fact, there is more action in this 65-minute DVD than there is on the card from UFC 88, which is twice as long. But the lack of context could hurt the overall value of the disc for fans of the sport.

There are no extras on this DVD.

For fans of MMA in general and UFC will be happy to pick up these two DVDs. For those who are interested in the sport and the rankings, then UFC 88: Breakthrough is the better deal. If you just want to see fast and furious action, then grab Ultimate Knockouts - Volume 6.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The latest from Woody Allen earned the best reviews for the director since Everyone says I Love You earned 83% positive back in 1996. It will also finish its run with his biggest box office total since Hannah and Her Sisters back in 1986. Add in three Independent Spirit Award nominations, one SAG nomination, one WGA nomination, one Oscar nomination, four Golden Globe nominations, and one Golden Globe win, and there's a lot of pressure on this film.

The film stars Rebecca Hall as Vicky, a sensible, grounded woman to is engaged to her successful and dependable boyfriend of many years, and Scarlett Johansson as Cristina, a woman who thinks love and passion must come with pain and suffering, and almost seems to seek them out. They get a chance to spent several months in Barcelona after distant relatives of Vicky's (Judy and Mark Nash) offer to put them up. Once their they almost immediately meet Juan Antonio, a suave Spanish man who is attracted to both women, and both women are attracted to him. However, only Cristina acts, a decision that becomes more complicated when his crazy ex-girlfriend, Maria Elana returns.

Like I said above, I had high expectations for this film, perhaps too high. Don't get me wrong, it is a very good movie and I enjoyed watching it, and I do think it is arguably Woody Allen best film since Everyone says I Love You, but I probably would have enjoyed it more had my expectations not been so high. I think this is because the movie is so subtle that it is works best as it draws you in. The narration pulls you in a smooth way. All the parts work like a well-oiled machine thanks to Woody Allen's script and his extensive experience with films like this.

Sadly, there are no extras on this DVD. However, given Woody Allen's track record when it comes to DVDs, as most of his releases have little to no extras. I do not have the Blu-ray, but it appears to have no extras either. It does cost about 33% more, which is acceptable for this type of upgrade.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a great movie that combines a tight script, excellent director, and fantastic acting by all involved. Even with a featureless DVD or Blu-ray, it is still worth checking out for most and picking up for many. However, if it has a full compliment of extras, I could have been a lot more enthusiastic in my recommendation.

Warner Bros. Romance Classics Collection - Buy from Amazon
Four romantic films from the early 1960s, all of which are making their DVD debut (one of which was never even released on VHS). On the other hand, all of them are also rather average.

Waterloo Bridge - Buy from Amazon
One of many Warner Bros. releases this week of older films making their DVD debut. This one is one of the oldest dating back to 1940 and it is about a ballerina who falls on hard times after she learns her true love was killed in World War I. The movie is worth checking out, but he lack of extras on the DVD limit its appeal to a rental.

The Yellow Rolls-Royce - Buy from Amazon
A movie about the lives of three people who owned the same Yellow Rolls-Royce, including nobility, a gangster, and a socialite. Sadly, this film is mostly forgotten now, but hopefully that will change. That said, the lack of extras on the DVD will result in most people just renting the movie.

You're A Good Sport, Charlie Brown - Buy from Amazon
One of my favorite of the Peanuts TV specials. This one has Charlie Brown trying to compete in a motocross race; however, he's a serious underdog because the only bike he can afford is underpowered. I think the Christmas special is the best, then the Halloween special, then this one. Extras include a bonus short, You're The Greatest, Charlie Brown, as well as a featurette on the making of the main special. Worth checking out if you haven't seen the special on TV, worth buying if you are a fan.


Filed under: Video Releases, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Swing Vote, Pride and Glory, The Rocker, RocknRolla, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, Open Season 2