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DVD Releases for March 31st, 2009 - Part II

March 30th, 2009

It's a big list this week with nearly 50 DVDs here (including a few that are late reviews). This includes this year's big Oscar winner, Slumdog Millionaire, which is coming out on DVD and Blu-ray. Also coming out this week is two foreign language thrillers: Tell No One on DVD and Blu-ray, and Timecrimes on DVD. All three are worthy picking up. In fact, all three are DVD Picks of the Week. With so many releases, it comes as no surprise that this week's list has to be split into two, with the first part found here.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 24th. However, the screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

The Kite Runner - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
The first of three short spotlight reviews for Blu-ray releases. The reason why they are so short is simple: I've reviewed the movie already, and there's little reason to go back and rewrite what I've written. This review will not concentrate on the movie or the DVD, but only what makes the Blu-ray better than the DVD. Sadly, that's not much.

This is shovelware, like the other two Blu-ray only releases on this week's list. There are no additional extras from the DVD release, nor are the extras presented in High Definition. Additionally, while a few scenes really benefit from the High Definition look (the kite tournament really stands out) overall the video is good, but not among the best I've seen. On the plus side, it only costs $18 on Amazon right now, which is 16% more than the DVD, and that's a premium that is worth paying.

Leonard Cohen - Live In London Buy from Amazon
Dear Leonard Cohen,
As a fellow Canadian I feel the need to tell you that you are not a very good singer. Please stick to songwriting.

Lisa Lampanelli - Long Live The Queen - Buy from Amazon
A stand-up concert DVD with Lisa Lampanelli, who is arguably best know for her work on the Comedy Central Roasts. Since I haven't seen a Comedy Central Roast that I found funny enough to truly recommend, I'm not remotely interested in this DVD.

Marley & Me - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD, 2-Disc Bad Dog Edition, or Blu-ray / DVD Combo
Marley & Me was this year's big Christmas Day release and it was aimed squarely at family, and it connected. Big time.

The film stars Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston as John and Jennifer Grogan, a young couple, both of whom are working as reporters, or trying to work as a reporter in the case of John Grogan. When Jennifer Grogan suggests it is time to have kids, Sebastian, John's best friend, suggests getting a dog instead, as a way of delaying the inevitable. So they head off to get a puppy, and get one that's been discounted. This turns out to be a mistake, as the dog, Marley, turns out to be more than they can handle. That pretty much covers the plot, as the rest of the movie is just the story of the life of this dog, and its effect on the family that owns it.

The film earned good reviews but not great reviews, and quite frankly, maybe I'm not a dog lover, but I'm a little surprised it got overall positive score. Like I said, I am not a huge fan of dogs, but I found little to be appealing about Marley, who was an incredibly destructive dog. The amount of stuff he destroyed, it would have been cheaper to hire a one-on-one dog specialist to completely retrain the dog, and then have the owners come back into the picture and take over as pack leader. I certainly wouldn't let that dog anywhere near kids given its behavior problems. Also, too often I felt my emotions were being played. Having an emotional reaction to a movie is good, but if you think you are being emotionally manipulated by a movie, that's bad.

Extras on the Single-Disc DVD include 26 minutes of deleted scenes with audio commentary track, but with nearly 20 deleted scenes, a lot of the scenes are quite short. Next up is Finding Marley, an eight-minute featurette on the dogs that were trained for the film. Breaking the Golden Rule talks about the number one rule in filmmaking, "Never work with kids or animals" and how this movie broke both. On set with Marley: Dog of All Trades runs two-and-a-half minutes and it is a faux interview with one of the dogs playing Marley. Animal Adoption is a five-minute featurette on adopting a pet from the pound. There are also six minutes of outtakes. Finally, When Not to Pee is a two-minute story about an outtake from the shooting.

The 2-Disc Bad Dog Edition has all of those, as well as a digital copy of the movie for portable devices.

Meanwhile, the Blu-ray / DVD Combo edition has all of those extras, and those extras are presented in High Definition, as well as a Dog Trainer Trivia Track. This includes pop-up trivia and Picture-in-Picture clips. There are a dozen such clips spread throughout the movie, but they only run 17 minutes in length, which is not a lot for a two-hour movie. However, this is an extra that is exclusive to the Blu-ray, and it does push the technology. Add the Blu-ray does come with both a digital copy of the movie and a copy of the movie on DVD, so the Blu-ray / DVD Combo is by far the better deal.

Marley & Me is a movie that should appeal to dog lovers and families, but mainly dog lovers. It's little sappy at times and younger kids might grow bored with the more adult aspects of the movie. It is worth checking out, and the Blu-ray / DVD Combo is the best deal out of the three versions coming out. However, I would recommend renting first.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 24th. However, the screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

A Mighty Heart - Buy-ray - Buy from Amazon
The second of three short spotlight reviews for Blu-ray releases. The original review for the DVD can be found here, but for an ultra-short recap... The film is worth checking out, but I found it emotionally manipulative at times, while the DVD didn't have enough extras to lift it past a rental. As for what sets the Blu-ray apart from the DVD...

Again, not much. This slice of shovelware is the same as the HD DVD release. i.e., There are no additional extras and the extras are not presented in High Definition. Worse still, the film was intentionally shot grainy, to give it a more realistic look. This might be a good choice thematically, but it totally ruins the point of High Definition. (On a side note, why do people think grainy equals more realistic? If the real world looked that grainy, I would get new prescription glasses.) A Mighty Heart was one of my first High Definition reviews and I wasn't impressed then, and I'm not impressed now. The technology should be improving, but this feels like a step backwards.

No Regret - Buy from Amazon
This South Korean film was pushed back several times and when it was finally released, it went nowhere. Mixed reviews might have something to do with that. The film was released in its native market in a fantastic 2-disc set, but sadly here we just get a single-disc, and I can't even find any information on extras, which is a bad sign.

The Other End of the Line - Buy from Amazon
A Romantic Comedy that opened in limited release last fall. This is not a genre that thrives in limited release, and its reviews did not help. But while it crashed and burned in limited release, will it have what it takes to find an audience on the home market?

Jesse Metcalfe stars as Granger Woodruff, an ad executive who is working with his partner on an account with Hawksin Hotels, led by Kit Hawksin. Their first attempt was described as... pornographic and they have one last chance to land the contract. Meanwhile, that night Granger is with his girlfriend at dinner when he is informed that his credit card number has been stolen... Which is how he meets Priya Sethi, a worker in an Indian call center who goes by the name Jennifer David. She's in charge of figuring out which charges are legit and which charges are not, and she's dedicated, so she calls over and over again. In fact, they spend so much time that they develop a relationship of sorts and Granger asks her to meet him; the problem is, he doesn't know she lives in India and thinks she's from San Francisco. So she decides to spend her life savings flying to the United States to meet him. This comes as quite a shock to her family, who were preparing for her wedding to a rich and respectable gentleman.

Yes, this is a romantic comedy, and it is predictable, and it is full of contrivances, and it is lightweight. But for fans of the genre, this is not a problem, because let's be honest here, 90% of all romantic comedies are lightweight, predictable and full of contrivances. The real question is whether there is chemistry between the two leads. I have some good news, and I have some bad news. Shriya Saran is great as Priya Sethi, and her back story with her family is fun. On the other hand, I'm not sure Jesse Metcalfe has what it takes to be a romantic lead. He's just too... generic. Also, the ad agency part of the story was superfluous. But overall, most fans of the genre will enjoy it enough to want to check it out.

As for extras, there were none on the screener I received, but I'm not 100% sure that my screener represents the final consumer product, as it was an actual screener. (The movie burned on a DVD and not in the final packaging.) If I get a final copy and there are extras there, I will update this review.

The Other End of the Line is a movie that is typical of most romantic comedies, which is why its reviews were so poor. However, fans of the genre will want to check out the movie, but with a DVD that appears featureless, a rental will be enough for most people.

Pokemon - Giratina & The Sky Warrior - Buy from Amazon
These movies are still big hits in Japan, but it has been a while since the franchise has earned a theatrical release here. However, given this film's strength in its native market, it is no surprise that the DVD is selling better than some of the previous installments did.

The Real Ghostbusters - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Love the show; however, many hardcore fans might have already picked up the full series Megaset from Time Life. Those who didn't will notice this price is cheaper, but I think the eventual release of another Megaset will be the best deal. Possibly under $100 at Amazon. It might be worth waiting for that.

Ricky Gervais - Out of England - The Stand-Up Special - Buy from Amazon
Best known for his performances in The Office and Extras, Ricky Gervais is also a very talented stand-up and this DVD proves that. Extras are a little on the light side with just a short interview, but it is still worth picking up for fans of the performer, and worth renting for fans of stand-up in general.

Schoolhouse Rock! - Earth - Buy from Amazon
The first major Schoolhouse Rock! release in more than a decade (there were a couple of new songs for the 30th Anniversary release, but this is the first new collection). This DVD has an environmental theme presenting eleven new songs, plus a couple of old ones.

The songs, and the subjects are...

  1. "Report from the North Pole" - Global Warming
  2. "The Little Things We Do" - Everything
    This song talks about the little things everyone can do, like take shorter showers, recycle, put on a sweater instead of turning on the furnace, etc. It's a good song and helps set up a lot of the topics that will be discussed on the rest of the DVD.
  3. "The Trash Can Band" - Recycling
  4. "You Oughta Be Savin' Water" - Water Conservation
  5. "The Rainforest" - Deforestation
    This song is presented with a vastly different style of animation, which helps it stand out.
  6. "Save the Ocean" - Water Pollution
  7. "FatCat Blue: The Clean Rivers Song" - Water Pollution
  8. "A Tiny Urban Zoo" - Urban Gardens
    They are talking about growing flowers, but I think growing a veggie garden would be better overall. And would save money on your grocery bill.
  9. The Energy Blues - Energy Conservation
    This song was first released in 1978 during the height of the oil crisis, but it applies today as well.
  10. "Solar Power to the People" - Solar Power
  11. "Windy and the Windmills" - Wind Power
  12. "Don't Be a Carbon Sasquatch" - Carbon Pollution
  13. "The Three Rs" - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
    A song that is a partial remake of "Three is a Magic Number", which was the first Schoolhouse Rock! song made. This is a live action music video sung by Mitchel Musso, a.k.a. Oliver Oken from Hannah Montana, but it has clips from the other songs on this DVD.
The DVD can also be watched as single program with Bob, Jack, and Lou, three polar bears that host segments between the songs. These bumpers pad the length of the show to 45 minutes, but they are the weakest part.

Sadly, there are no extras on the DVD. But there are subtitles, if you want to sing along.

For fans of the original Schoolhouse Rock!, Earth is a fun DVD to watch, as the songs are catchy and the animation style will bring back memories. The lack of extras is disappointing, which leaves the DVD as a solid rental, leaning toward a purchase. I would like to be more enthusiastic about it, but there's not a lot of content for a $20 price-tag.

Seven Pounds - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film might be remembered best as the movie that ended Will Smith's $100 million movie streak. It certainly won't be remembered for its quality. Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, two making-of featurettes, a featurette on jellyfish, and a featurette on the International Printing Museum. The A HREF= target="_NewWindow" rel="nofollow">Blu-ray has all of those, plus it is BD-Live enabled, and it comes with a Digital Copy of the movie; however, it doesn't really shine in High Definition, so unless you really like Digital Copies of movies, the DVD is fine. In fact, the DVD is only worth a rental.

Slumdog Millionaire - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the biggest hits of the year, Slumdog Millionaire has not only made $140 million domestically, but will also top $300 million worldwide, on a budget of just $14 million. Oh yeah, it was also nominated for ten Oscars, and won eight of them. That sets some very high expectations.

The movie starts with Jamal Malik being tortured by the Indian police. It turns out he won a lot of money on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and the host thinks he cheated, so he called the cops, who are using extreme methods to find out exactly how he was able to answer all of those questions right. After all, how could a boy raised in the slums of India know more than doctors, lawyers, and all the other, educated people whom have tried out for that show? We then proceed to flash back and forth between his childhood and today and how he learned all of the answers to the questions, and why he went on the show in the first place, and it wasn't for the 2 crore in Indian rupees.

Recently Salman Rushdie described the book this movie is based on as, "...the kind of fantasy writing that gives fantasy writing a bad name." And you know what, I have to agree. The number of coincidences in the movie are stunning. But they are almost impossible to talk about without spoiling major points in movie. I will talk about one... He knew who invented the revolver, because he saw his brother kill a man with a Colt. But Colt is not the only company making guns today, so it is a bit of a coincidence his brother used that gun. And just because your brother used a Colt to kill a man, doesn't mean Colt invented the revolver. Or for that matter, how could he not know what is written on the national emblem of India? Of the four choices presented, The Truth Alone Triumphs is the only answer that makes any sense. I'm not Indian and I could get that one. So I agree that, "The movie piles impossibility on impossibility..." However, I don't care. This is what suspension of disbelief is for. If the rest of the movie is good enough, you can forgive a few too many coincidences. And this movie is more than good enough to overlook the improbable plot and the movie deserved almost all of its eight Oscars. (I thought WALL-E should have won for Sound Mixing (and Sound Editing for that matter) while I figured it would win for Best Song, and perhaps Best Score.)

Extras on the DVD include not one, but two audio commentary tracks. The first is with director, Danny Boyle, and lead actor, Dev Patel, while the second is with producer, Christian Colson, and writer, Simon Beaufoy. The first has more energy, but both are definitely worth listening to. Up next are 12 deleted scenes that run 34 minutes. Sadly there are no audio commentary here, which usually helps with context. There is a 23-minute long, two-part making of featurette. Slumdog Countdown runs six minutes long and shows all the events in Jamal's life that helped him answer the Millionaire questions, so it has major, major spoilage. There is a five-and-a-half-minute featurette on the making of the toilet scene. Gross. Moving on. There is a short film, Manjha, included on the DVD, and a three-minute look at Bombay (a.k.a. Mumbai) that is set to music.

There are no additional extras on the Blu-ray, nor are the extras presented in high definition. However, it does come with a Digital Copy of the movie, which generally adds $5 to the cost of the DVD. If we take that into account, the Blu-ray is the better deal, barely. It does look and sound great in High Definition, on the other hand; better than one would expect given the genre.

Slumdog Millionaire is one of the best movies of the year and it won eight Oscars to go with its stunning reviews. It is worth owning and both the DVD or the Blu-ray is good value. If you like to have a copy of the movie on a portable device, then the latter is clearly the better deal. Otherwise, it is a bit murkier.

Special - Buy from Amazon
In the movie, Michael Rapaport as a man in a drug study for an experimental antidepressant, which has a strange side-effect: it makes him think he has super powers. Sadly, the film earned only mixed reviews and went nowhere at the box office. It should perform better on the home market, even though it appears there are no extras on the DVD. On a side note, there's an upcoming film called Defendor starring Woody Harrelson, Kat Dennings, and others, which seems to have a similar plot. (I don't know why Woody Harrelson decides to become a super hero, and that could be a major difference between the two.)

Spectacular! - Buy from Amazon
Another musical aimed at teens. This one stars Nolan Gerard Funk, Tammin Sursok, and Victoria Justice. (Victoria Justice is the only one who I recognize.) The film originally aired on Nickelodeon in February, while the DVD comes out this week. Extras include a making-of featurette, a behind-the-scenes featurette, lessons on how to do the dancing, and lessons on how to be in a choir. That's enough that it is worth picking up if you liked the show when it originally aired, and if you are in the target demographic, it is worth renting.

Stevie Nicks - Live In Chicago - Buy from Amazon
A concert from 2007 that was aired on PBS. It has been released on DVD already as a PBS reward, but now those who missed the original broadcast can buy it for a more reasonable price.

Tell No One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A French thriller that did what few in its genre can do, earn some measure of mainstream success thanks to its impeccable reviews. So much success, in fact, that I'm a little disappointed in the extras on the DVD; there are a sizeable chunk of deleted scenes and some outtakes. The Blu-ray has this and a lengthy making of-featurette, and it is worth paying extra for.

Timecrimes - Buy from Amazon
A Spanish thriller that opened in limited release with excellent reviews, but this is not a genre that tends to do well in limited release. Given its struggles theatrically, I was expecting the movie to have next to no extras on the DVD, but that is not the case. Extras include a 44-minute making-of featurette, 10 minutes of interviews, a 5-minute featurette on the makeup, 33 minutes of featurettes on the website games used to promote the film, a 7-minute short film, and more. Worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 24th. However, the screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Things We Lost in the Fire - Buy-ray - Buy from Amazon
The final of three short spotlight reviews for Blu-ray releases. The original review can be found here. Short recap, like the other two Blu-ray only releases on this week's list, I was not as impressed by the movie as most critics were, while the DVD didn't have enough extras to be worth anything more than a rental. As for the Blu-ray...

More shovelware. More shoveware of a DVD that wasn't great to begin with. Extras are terrible, and shown here in standard definition. The movie looks and sounds good, but this is not a film that pushed the boundaries of High Definition by any stretch of the imagination. The only good news is that it doesn't cost too much more than the DVD. Then again, this is purely a rental, so that doesn't matter.

Urban Legends - The Complete Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
All 15 episodes from the show's first season presenting dozens of urban legends and asking the viewer if they can tell which ones are real, and which ones are only legends. It's not a bad premise, even if the execution could use a little work. The only extras on the 2-disc set are a series of 'mini-myths', each of which are only a minute in length. It's worth checking out, even if a rental will be enough.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea - Season Four - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
The first volume of the final season of Irwin Allen's longest running series. Irwin Allen is a rather famous TV producer for never having a series last more than four seasons. Granted, most of his shows are remembered now more for their camp value than anything else, but this is one of his best.

Xombie - Dead on Arrival - Buy from Amazon
A movie based on a web comic about a zombie trying to reunite a lost girl with her missing family. You can watch the first five chapters on the official site, and if that piques your interest, grab the DVD.


Filed under: Video Releases, Marley & Me, Slumdog Millionaire, Seven Pounds, The Kite Runner, A Mighty Heart, Ne le dis à personne, Things We Lost in the Fire, The Other End of the Line, Los Cronocrímenes, Special, Pokemon 2008