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DVD Releases for April 14th, 2009 - Part I

April 14th, 2009

Not a busy week on the home market with the least number of new releases on this week for a number of weeks. (It seems busier than it is, because of all of the spotlight reviews. In fact, there are as many spotlight reviews as there are simple mentions. Additionally, there are more spotlight reviews for late arrivals than there are for this week's releases.) Looking for the best of the best, there's not a lot on top worth of the DVD Pick of the Week. The release I'm looking forward to the most is Lost in Austen - Buy from Amazon, which I'm awarding the DVD Pick of the Week. Thanks to the number of spotlight reviews, this week's list had to be split into two with the second part found here.

American Swing - Buy from Amazon
This movie hit theaters just a few weeks ago, but it is coming out on DVD this week. It started out better than expected given its reviews, then it returned to Earth with a thud. The extras on the DVD include additional interviews, and it is worth checking out for fans of documentaries, but it is not in-depth enough to have the replay value necessary to warrant a purchase over a rental.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 17th of March. However, the DVD screener arrived early late, hence the delay in the review.

Barney Miller - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
This is the first time I've had a chance to review this series, and I'm glad I did.

Barney Miller is a cop show that started in 1974 and ran for eight seasons. It focuses on the men (and the occasional woman) of precinct 12, and has been called one of the most realistic police shows of the time. In other words, it shows a group of cops dealing mostly with petty criminals and writing up reports. You don't see a lot of shoot-outs in the show. In fact, you almost never see outside of the one room on this show. Quite a bit of changes on this show this season. Granted, Hal Linden was still around as Capt. Barney Miller, as was Max Gail as Det. 'Wojo' Wojciehowicz, Ron Glass as Det. Ron Harris, and Jack Soo as Det. Sgt. Nick Yemana. However, this is the last season for Abe Vigoda as Det. Phil Fish leaves the show for one of the most ill conceived spin-offs of all time. Steve Landesberg becomes a more regular part on the show playing Det. Sgt. Arthur Dietrich. While Ron Carey joins the show as Officer Carl Levitt.

This is arguably the best season for the show, and it showed in the ratings as it jumped from #70 during season 1 to #38 in season 2 to #17 this season. Highlights for the season include the two-parter Quarantine, as well as two-part Strike. Probably the best individual episode is Hash where the cops get stoned thanks to special brownies made by Wojo's girlfriend, while Werewolf and The Recluse are back-to-back winners early in the season. The chemistry of the cast was never better and Abe Vigoda was missed going forward.

On the other hand, there are no extras on the DVD, nor are there subtitles. There are play all buttons and proper chapter placements, but that's all in terms of DVD authoring.

Despite a lackluster DVD release, Barney Miller - The Complete Third Season is still worth picking up, as are the first two seasons. I would love to have seen some extras here, but given the age of the show (it debuted 35 years ago) it is understandable that there are none.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 10th of March. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

The Best Years - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Created by Aaron Martin, who was one of the writer / producers of Degrassi - The Next Generations. The connection to Degrassi is both a blessing and a curse, as there are plenty of fans of that show who will give this one a shot because of that connection. On the other hand, Degrassi is arguably the best series ever aimed at its particular target demographic, and it would be impossible to live up to those standards. This time around, he aimed to make a show aimed at roughly the same demographic, but just a little older, hence focusing on the lives of freshmen at freshmen at University.

Charity Shea stars as Samantha Best, a scholarship student who has been living in a number of Foster homes since the death of her parents. Unlike most students entering college, she isn't looking for a little more freedom from the rules and restrictions of family, she is looking for a little more sense of family. Once in college she meets her new roommate, soyabean heiress Kathryn Klarner (Jennifer Miller) who could be a friend, or competition. Then there's Dawn Vargaz (Athena Karkanis) who is an actress who played the lead role on a TV series set in a High School, but it's one of those over-the-top ones and not a quality show like Degrassi. Also in the show is Cynthia Song (Siu Ta of This Is Wonderland) an overly eager Type-A personality student that doesn't make as many appearances as I would like. She is getting attention of the romantic kind from Noah Jenson (Devon Syler) but is more interested in Devon Sylver (Brandon Jay McLaren) but he has a sometimes girlfriend of his own, Shannon Biel (played by Ashley Morris). On the academic side, she has to fight her way to maintain the grades needed to keep her scholarship, while impressing the woman who set it up, Dorothy O'Sullivan (Sherry Miller). (Partway through the first season, we meet Dorothy O'Sullivan's daughter, Alicia O'Sullivan (Lauren Collins, who apparently becomes a bigger player in the second season. I'm a fan of hers, so I hope that's true.) Like Degrassi, this show deals with more relevant topics than many shows aimed at the same target audience, and while it skirts close to the 'Soap Opera' territory, it never truly crosses the line.

Extras on the four-disc set can all be found on the final disc, starting with a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, which is a combination of talking heads, behind-the-scenes, and clips from the show. There are nearly 20 minutes of interviews with Aaron Martin and the main cast members. B-Roll Footage has more behind-the-scenes footage, some of which is seen in the other bits. Series Outakes / Wrap Reel is likely the montage of clips they shows at the Season one wrap party, and does include some outtakes, as well as more behind-the-scenes footage. Finally, there are 15 audition tapes, some of which are less than a minute, while others are much longer. I would have liked an audio commentary track or two in the mix, but this is still a strong selection of extras.

The Best Years - Season One is a great show for people looking for a show similar to Degrassi, but with a slightly older cast. Extras are not overwhelming, but enough to lift it from a rental to a solid purchase.

Bled - Buy from Amazon
Vampire movies are an interesting breed, as the mythology regarding vampires is probably more in-depth than any other monster. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means there are a lot of conventions one can draw from and you don't have to explain as much. On the other hand, it means the movie can run into clichés easily. On the one hand, little changes can be seen as fresh and reinventing the genre. On the other hand, too big of a change will alienate fans. So where does this movie fit it?

Sarah Farooqui stars as Sai, an artist who meets a buyer at one of her shows and buys one of her paintings. Not one does he buy one of her paintings, but he introduces her to a new drug that he says will open up her mind and make her one of the true masters. Instead it transports her to another dimension, where she is attacked by a strange vampire-like creature. But since this is a vampire movie, she enjoys it and becomes addicted, even getting her friends to try it. What follows is a rather confusing story of drugs, blood, lust, and transdimensional monsters. By the time the end comes around and the mythology is explained, I know longer cared. (Well, that's not entirely true. I did appreciate the mythology, which is -- and this is major spoilage, so you might want to turn away, the benefactor in the beginning is trying to get her addicted to this drug to drive her bloodlust. This bloodlust will drive the vampire out of his home dimension and into ours, at which point the benefactor will steal some of its blood and use that blood to stay young forever. That's not a bad twist on the usual story.) However, nearly everything else was a failure. The dialogue was corny, the story was weak, the characters were not intriguing, I didn't buy these actors in their roles, the direction was pedestrian, and the movie looked cheap.

On the other hand, there are a lot of extras on this DVD, certainly more than with most direct-to-DVD releases, but while there is a lot in number, but are short and lack replay value. Things start with an audio commentary track with the producer, director, and composer. With three people, there are enough voices that something always something to say, while it isn't too crowded that you lose track. There is a 3-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, but there's just a bunch of random footage without much in the way of context. Next up are two of rough-cut deleted scenes that run a total of 3:20. There are two-and-a-half minutes of audition tapes, 30 seconds of special effect tests, two minutes of time-lapse photography of the making of the 'Incubus'. And finally there are alternate opening credits. In total, there are about 14 minutes of extras, outside of the audio commentary track, and quite frankly, I don't have the desire to watch any of them again.

Bled is a movie that tries to add a new twist to the vampire mythology, which I appreciate. However, the effort is wasted by poor execution. Very poor execution. There are a lot of extras on the DVD, but none of them are interesting enough to lift this movie to the rental level. Safely skippable.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 7.1 Music Classical Collection - Acoustic Reality Experience, 8 Mile, Cranford, Don Pasquale, IMAX - Deep Sea/Into the Sea, The Last Kiss, Living Landscapes: Earthscapes - Wild Africa. Mean Girls, Pride and Prejudice, The Spirit, Splinter, The Story of India, Strange Wilderness, The Thirteenth Floor, and Universal Solider
Bad week for Blu-ray. The best selling release according to Amazon is Pride and Prejudice, which I can't see being a huge seller on Blu-ray, as it is not the kind of release that has done well so far in the format's short history. The biggest theatrical release getting a day-and-date release this week is The Spirit; however, while it might sell well on Blu-ray compared to DVD, I don't think it will be a huge hit in either format.

Crude Impact - Buy from Amazon
A documentary on the oil industry and the impact our insatiable demand it having on our planet, and our politics. These effects can be dire; however, at this point it feels like just one of a dozen problems that can end civilization and for many it's too much to take. That said, it is an important film to watch.

Dark Matter - Buy from Amazon
A film loosely based on the real-life school shooting in 1991 at the University of Iowa. It was originally aiming for a 2007 release date, but the Virginia Tech shootings happened, which pushed the release date back. When it did finally get released, it earned weak reviews and disappeared quietly. Odds are that for most people a rental will be more than enough.

Exosquad - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
The first of four seasons, I think. There were two seasons, each of 26 episodes, but according to the minutes, there's only 13 episodes on this 2-disc set. I hope there are only 13 episodes, otherwise the video will have to be so compressed that is will be useless to watch. There doesn't appear to be any extras, but fans of the show will still want to pick it up, while those who haven't seen it will want to check it out.

Fight Night - Buy from Amazon
Underground fighting is becoming increasingly popular in movies as late, so much so that I'm thinking we need to add it to our list of keywords. Fight Night, a.k.a. Rigged involves a con-man teaming up with a female boxer who can take on men twice her size (I assume that's weight and not height) with the goal of winning cash, and lots of it. But when a they are approached about throwing a match, their plan takes on an even more dangerous edge. I haven't seen many reviews under either name, but most of the reviews I have read are mostly positive. Those interested in this type of film should check it out, but with no information on extras, start with a rental first.

The Great Kat - Beethoven's Guitar Shred - Buy from Amazon
The second DVD collection from The Great Kat, a.k.a., Katherine Thomas, who is a guitar shredder. For those who don't know the genre, and I admit that I am not an aficionado of the musical style, shredding is a sub-genre of heavy metal that relies on absolute speed, and she has got speed.

This DVD has seven videos in its main program, starting with "The Flight of the Bumble-Bee", composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. In the materials I received with this review, they brag that Kat plays this song at over 300 beats per minute. Here's the thing... the song is barely more than 200 beats, and it's over in 42 seconds. In fact, all seven songs combined last less than 8 minutes. There are additional videos, including an animated short done with rotoscoping; however, all the bonus material combined is just around 4 minutes, so there's not a lot of material here, but it does only cost $10.

When watching hockey a lot of people complain about not being able to keep track of the puck even though it’s a back object on a white background. However, this is actually hard to do, as your brain is designed to tune these things out. (It has do to with a couple design flaws in our eyes.) You have to be 'trained' to do this with ease; the more you watch hockey, the easier it is to do, and the more enjoyable the sport becomes. Why am I bringing this up? Because Kat's guitar playing is too fast for me to hear. (This makes it incredible hard to write a review.) When it comes to her renditions of classical music, like "The Flight of the Bumble-Bee" or "Beethoven's 5th Symphony", I can hear the individual notes, because I've heard the songs before. But for her original compositions, the notes are just too fast for me, and they go by in a blur. However, if you are a fan of speed metal, odds are this will not be an issue, and the only question is if it is worth $10 for 12 minutes of material.

That I can't answer, as it is an individual choice. But unless I was a hardcore, really hardcore fan, I would stick with a rental. It's just too much money for too little product.

Gretzky, Indy & The WHA - Buy from Amazon
A multi-disc set on Wayne Gretzky and his early days in profession hockey playing in the WHA. Found here are documentaries on the player, the team, and the league, as well as incredibly rare game footage from 1978. Worth checking out for fans of the sport in general, or of the league and player in particular.

Intelligence - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian drama series about the international drug trade and the Canadian police forces trying to shut it down. The series has been nominated for 16 Geminis (the Canadian equivalent to an Emmy) winning five of them. Sadly, despite its critical acclaim, after just two seasons it was cancelled. It is definitely worth owning, but grab Season One first.

Knots Landing - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Wow. It has been three years since season one came out, so a lot of fans might have given up on the rest of this series coming out on DVD. If you are a fan that wants to see the rest of the series come out in a timely fashion, buy it and buy it fast. Slow sales now could kill the DVD release entirely.

The Last Kiss - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Zach Braff's follow-up to Garden State (not counting his voice work in Chicken Little. After Garden State became a surprise hit, a lot of people had high hopes for this film. Sadly it wasn't able to do well at the box office, while its reviews were mixed. After seeing this movie, it's hard to argue with those results.

Zach Braff plays Michael while Jacinda Barrett plays Jenna, a couple who have been going out for a few years and have no decided to get married and start a family. Or start a family and get married, as the case maybe. However, Michael is getting cold feet and begins a flirtatious relationship with Kim, a relationship that doesn't go anywhere, but when Jenna finds out, she breaks up with him and kicks him out of the house. Now he has to decide if he wants to win back Jenna or start fresh with Kim.

I liked Garden State and I was looking forward to this movie when it was being made, but it is a great disappointment watching it. Zach Braff's characters in these two movies are just too similar (apparently he helped write a lot of the dialogue, and I think you can tell). The film moves too slowly, as if we are being given time to ponder the wisdom of the characters and they have brilliant revelations in their lives. However, it's a movie about a man who is having seconds thought about his life and wants to see if the grass really is greener on the other side. That's it. It's like a mid-life crisis movie for people in their 20s, and there's not a lot to learn here. And because the character all act like what they have to say is a lot wiser than it really is, it grates on my nerves. Maybe I'm too old to be impressed by the wisdom of 20-year olds.

The DVD was originally released just over two years ago, and it has an impressive amount of extras given its short theatrical run. This includes two audio commentary tracks, a quartet of featurettes running just over 40 minutes, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a music video. That's the good news. That bad news, there are no exclusive extras to the Blu-ray, nor are these extras presented in High Definition. Speaking of High Definition, this is not a movie that shines in the format and the audio and video are nothing special.

There are not many reasons to buy The Last Kiss on Blu-ray. There are no new extras, the film is just average looking on Blu-ray, and the movie is not that good to begin with. I can't imagine a lot of people didn't buy the movie on DVD back in late 2006 because they were waiting for Blu-ray, and I can't imagine a lot of people who own the DVD who will be willing to pay $20 to upgrade.

The Lost Collection - Buy from Amazon: Hiding Out, Homer and Eddie, Irreconcilable Differences, Morgan Stewart's Coming Home, My Best Friend's a Vampire, The Night Before, Repossessed, and Slaughter High - Uncut
Lionsgate is putting out a collection of eight movies from 1984 to 1990, which they are billing as, "The best movies you totally forgot about." Most deserve to stay forgotten, but there are a few that are worth remembering.

Hiding Out - Buy from Amazon
Jon Cryer stars as Andrew Morenski, a New York stock broker who discovers he and his two partners had been unwittingly helping the mob launder bonds. At first he dismisses it thinking it isn't really his problem. That changes when one of his partners is killed and his is taken into protective custody by the Feds. However, when his cover is blown, he decides to flee the city and go deep undercover. Back to high school. Once there he decides to relive his glory, or to be more accurate, have some high school glory for the first time, but what happens when the mob comes looking for him?

The Lost Collection gets off to a mixed start. It is not a bad movie, and there are some funny moments, as well as some good acting, etc. However, the movie just doesn't do enough with its central premise. The guy could have been hiding out as a high school teacher, and not a student, and it would have been mostly the same. Overall it is worth checking out, while the replay value puts it in-between a rental and a purchase.

Homer & Eddie - Buy from Amazon
James Belushi stars as Homer, a man who took a baseball to the head as a child and is now a little slow. And Whoopi Goldberg stars as Eddie, who has problems of her own. Now the two are on a road trip to travel to Oregon to visit his parents, who abandoned him after his accident.

Okay, that movie was painful to watch. As I was watching this movie I just kept asking myself, 'Who thought this movie was a good idea?' The emotional aspects of the movie lacked any sense of subtlety, which quickly drained away its effectiveness. Nothing that was supposed to be funny, was actually funny, and the only time I laughed was when the movie reminded me of the "Full 'Tard" scene in Tropic Thunder. Nothing worth seeing here. Avoid at all costs.

Irreconcilable Differences - Buy from Amazon
Drew Barrymore stars as Casey Brodsky, a 9-year old girl who is suing to get legal emancipation, or as they call it, divorcing her parents. The movie starts with testimony from her Her father and her mother, who talk about the past and how they met, how they fell in love, and how they got married, and how they became a Hollywood power couple, but an affair with an actress led to a divorce. And finally how they are now using their child to get back at each other.

This is another movie that lacks subtlety. The movie earned a few award nominations for the acting, including two for Drew Barrymore, but I was not impressed. I thought she was better in both ET and Firestarter, which were made previously, so you can't blame it on her age. I think it is just the material. The overdone nature of the comedy is almost farcical, which clashes with the more heartfelt moments in the movie. It's one of those movies that is close to being really good, but is merely okay due to some flaws in its execution. Worth checking out for many, but a rental will be enough.

Morgan Stewart's Coming Home - Buy from Amazon
Jon Cryer stars as the titular character, a boarding school refugee who is finally being asked to come home with by his mother and father, a conservative republican Senator up for re-election. It turns out their campaign manager thinks what they need to win is the sell the family, but Morgan's personality isn't suited for the campaign trail, and he causes havoc with the ordered life.

A completely by-the-numbers comedy that doesn't have enough charm to overcome its total lack of originality. It's one cliché after another thrown at the screen hoping to generate some laughs. If you've seen any movie about a 'free-spirited' child of 'conservative' parents, you've seen this movie. It's not terrible, but it's worth nothing more than a rental. Nothing.

My Best Friend's a Vampire - Buy from Amazon
High school student Jeremy Capello is having problems sleeping, as he is having a reoccurring nightmare that involves two fellow high school students he is attracted to, a strange woman he's never seen before, and ends with him being castrated by a nun, which is a pretty common way for dreams to end... or so I've heard. His life becomes a lot more complicated when he meets the women in his dreams, and she turns out to be a vampire. One bite later and so is he. Now he has to deal with his newfound 'lifestyle', he's new vampire mentor, a crazed vampire hunter and his inept assistant. Not to mention how his friends and family will react to his coming out.

As I mentioned above, vampire movies have a lot of conventions to work within, as well as a lot of freedom, if done right. And here it is done right. There's a strong use of humor (the villains as buffoons is a little overdone at times) and some good action scenes (although some of the car chases are perhaps a little long). There's not real scares or gore, but it's not that kind of vampire. I was impressed by the cast, including Robert Sean Leonard, a very young Robert Sean Leonard, who is great in the lead and he makes a very believable as a confused newly sired vampire. Rene Auberjonois plays Modoc, the vampirism tutor and has a tough role of explaining it all without sounding too much like exposition. Paul Willson from Cheers is the inept assistant, which was a hoot. I even like the vampire / gay connections is cute. Of course, if you take the analogy too seriously, it can go form cute to offensive (the instruction manual is titled, "Vampirism: A Practical Guide to an Alternative Lifestyle", and the recruiting of others does mirror the 'they're coming for your kids!' paranoia you sometimes see in the Gay Rights debate. It's not award-worthy cinema, but it's solid entertainment with some replay value. Arguably the best release in The Lost Collection; it's certainly the one I enjoyed the most.

The Night Before - Buy from Amazon
The movie starts with Keanu Reeves as Winston Connelly, a geeky high school student asleep in bed, or so he thinks. In reality he's lying in the middle of the street and has no idea where he is or how he got there. We learn through flashbacks that he was going to the prom with Tara Mitchell, played by Lori Loughlin, one of the most popular girls in school. We quickly learn through that this was due to a lost bet, but he's not going to let that get him down and he's hoping for a good time. Nor will he let getting lost spoil his night. Nor the spiked drink. Nor accidentally selling his date to a pimp. Okay, that one's going to be a problem.

Two in a row. After going zero for four in the purchase category in this collection, we have two films in a row with enough replay value to be worth picking up. Granted, this is also not award-worthy material, but the two leads have their charms, the writing is better than most for the genre, and I really like the use of flashbacks to fill us in on the events of the previous night. They draw you in by letting you in on only bits and pieces at a time, which helps draw you into the movie. I personally like My Best Friend's a Vampire better, but this is definitely the second best one here.

Repossessed - Buy from Amazon
An unofficial sequel / parody of The Exorcist starring Leslie Nielsen as Father Jebedaiah Mayii, a priest who once did battle with the devil who had possessed a little girl (played in both movies by Linda Blair). When she becomes possessed a second time, or repossessed (groan) Father Jebedaiah Mayii must team up with a young priest to win the battle for this lady's soul again.

At the time this movie came out, Leslie Nielsen was arguably the King of Spoofs having first visited the genre with Airplane and was just coming off his starring performance in The Naked Gun. However, well he has made many, many great films in the genre, this is not one of them. In fact, this is one of his worst. I didn't laugh once during the entire movie. I maybe smiled once or twice, but that's it. Skip it.

Slaughter High - Uncut - Buy from Amazon
A group of high school students are tormenting a nerd, Marty, but one of their pranks goes horribly wrong, and now Marty is scared for life. Literally. (Although I would say it's partially his fault. After all, who puts nitric acid on top of such a wobbly shelf?) Now ten years later, the group of friends are invited to their high school reunion, but when they get there they see the school is shut down, and they are the only ones to show up. But, they decide to break in and have a celebration. But when one of them is killed, they realize something is amiss.

It's a Teenage Slasher from the 1980s, which is the epitome of Low Expectations theater. These movies promise blood and boobs, and nothing else. Even here the movie fails. There's really only one kill that memorable, and I won't spoil it here, and even fans of the genre will find little to be entertained here. On a side note, it is the best selling DVD in this collection, possibly because of its Unrated label (also because of its notoriety as its star sadly killed himself shortly after making the movie) but don't be fooled, it would receive and R-rating today. I can't even recommend renting for most people.

You'll notice I haven't talked about the DVD presentation yet, and for good reason, they are all the same. On the plus side, every more has a trivia track as one of the subtitles, which is more extras than I was expecting. On the down side, all the movies are presented in Pan & Scan. Yep. Pan & Scan. That seriously hurts the value of these DVDs. I would say wait for widescreen, but that might take another 20 years to happen.

Overall I would rate two of these as worth buying (My Best Friend's a Vampire - Buy from Amazon and The Night Before - Buy from Amazon) while half the rest are safely skippable.

Lost in Austen - Buy from Amazon
One of the most unique adaptations of Jane Austen's work. Here Jemima Rooper from Kinky Boots plays Amanda Price, a modern woman who is a Jane Austen enthusiast who turns to Pride and Prejudice when she has problems with her boyfriend and doesn't want to deal with them. However, inexplicably, she somehow swaps places with Elizabeth Bennett and is transported into this fictional world. Despite her knowledge of the source material, she manages to mess up the story in her attempts to get back. I saw this when it aired on TV, mostly. Frustratingly, I missed the final episode of the mini-series and I'm glad it is being released on DVD here so fast. And, it's at a very good price for an import and has a 45-minute behind the scenes featurette to go with it. Easily worth picking up for fans of the author, and neophytes should give it a chance as well.

Malcolm & Eddie - Season One - Buy from Amazon
An early hit show from UPN debuting in 1996 and lasting till 2000. This is not a huge run, but it is much better than most shows from that network managed for the first few years. (Of the shows that debuted before Malcolm & Eddie, only one, Star Trek - Voyager would last more than a season.) It was a good show, but never earned huge ratings, and it appears the 4-disc set is devoid of special features. Even so, worth checking out for most picking up for many.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 17th of March. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Married... With Children - Season 10 - Buy from Amazon
A decade. By this point this show had been on the air for a decade, and it goes without saying that by this point in the series, it was past its prime. Some running gags stopped running and were limping by this time. But is it all bad news?

Nope. Most of the 26 episodes on this 3-disc set are still good, including season opener when Peg's mom comes to stay after getting into a fight with her husband, played by Tim Conway. Al decides to take No Ma'am to the next level and have it declared a tax-free church. Buck passes away, and Kelly takes it hard. Al, Jefferson, and the rest of the gang of idiots discover a new phone sex operator, but when they find out who is on the other end of the line...

There are also some great episodes, like when Kelly invents the color Bleen out of a bunch of random deadly chemicals, and this Bleen grows hair, but at what cost? My personal favorite is the two-part The Hood, The Bud, and the Kelly. The A-story here has Bud trying to make an 'exercise' video, but he gets into trouble when he finds out his backer is a mob boss. That part's not bad, but the B-story is what sells these episodes. . Al, Jefferson, and the usual gang of morons try to install a satellite dish on the roof, while their wives are inside making bets about who will fall off the roof next. It may seem like a simple story that could sustain a whole episode, even as the B-story, but it is so well done, and the comedic timing is perfect. I hadn't seen the episode in nearly a decade, but I still remembered some of the joke all these years later.

Not every episode is good, Enemies, for instance. This is the second unsuccessful attempted spin-off in as many seasons, and while I thought Radio Free Trumaine had potential, this episode / show was terrible.

As with most of the DVD releases for this series, there are no extras and no subtitles, but there are play all buttons and proper chapter placements.

If you are a fan of Married... With Children, there are enough episodes worth checking out, and enough with replay value, that Season 10 is worth picking up. I'm not sure I'll be able to say the same about season 11.

The Mary Higgins Clark Collection - Murder, Mystery & Suspense - Buy from Amazon
A collection of TV movie mysteries based on the best-selling novels by Mary Higgins Clark. The price for this 7-disc set is very low, but despite the source material, the quality of the films is only average compared to most TV movies.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 10th. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Max Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The review is more than a month late thanks to an influx of late DVDs over the past couple of weeks, while I only have the DVD and will not be getting the movie in High Definition. So without further delay...

The film starts during a violet storm at sea where a lone figure, Gulliver, tries valiantly to steady his ship. However, it is in vain and he is swept into the sea to find himself washed up on a beach. Exhausted, he falls asleep (a very deep sleep, apparently). At that time, our focus shifts to Gabby, a night watchman who stumbles upon Gulliver, but at first he doesn't know what he's found, as he is so small compared to Gulliver that he fits in the palm of his hand. Gabby runs back to town to warn the King, where we see preparations for a royal wedding to take place between Princess Glory, daughter of King Little of the nation of Lilliput, and Prince David, son of King Bombo of the nation of Blefuscu. The prince and the princess are in love, while the two Kings seem to be sure allies, that is until the subject of the wedding song comes up. King Little wants "Faithful" to be sung, while King Bombo wants "Forever" to be sung. Unable to compromise, the two nations go to war. (I'm sure there have been dumber reasons for two nations to attack each other. However, none come to mind.) At this point, Gabby is finally able to present his findings to King Little. At first they think Gulliver, is a spy from Blefuscu. (Huh? The guy is a giant. Who would be dumb enough to send a giant as a spy?) But later decide he would be a valuably ally, as long as he forgives them for tying him up previously.

This is one of the earliest feature-length animated movies ever made, and one of the earliest examples of rotoscoping, the process of animating overtop live action footage. It is also considered a classic by many, but I am not one of them. On the technically side of things, this is not a well animated movie. Granted, it is 70 years old, and the technology was more limited back then, but there are still some issues. First of all, the rotoscoping doesn't always mesh very well with Max Fleischer's style of squishy animation. Secondly, and this is something that always bugged my about his style, the mouths don't always match what is being said. Sometimes a character's mouth is not even moving when they speak. The action can be a little repetitive at times. Compared to Disney animated films of the day, it's not even close, both in terms of animation and story. There are reasons for this, including a very, very tight production schedule, which was only one third the length of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, that explains some of the issues, they still exist. It's not a bad movie exactly, but it is rather average and nothing more.

Extras include three short films, the first two featuring Gabby and King Little, and the third a documentary short on the Max Fleischer studio. The most notable feature of this DVD release is the aspect ratio, but this is not a good thing. The movie was made in 1939 in a 1:1.37 aspect ratio, as was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and practically every movie of the time. In fact, the first widescreen animated movie wasn't till 1955 and Lady and the Tramp. However, this DVD is in a 1:1.77 aspect ratio, and as far as I can tell, the top and the bottom of the screen has been cut in order to give the appearance that this movie is widescreen. That just not acceptable. Pinocchio was just released in its original aspect ratio, so I don't know why they thought it had to be changed here.

I don't have the Blu-ray so I can't tell you if there are any exclusives, or if the A/V quality is worth the upgrade or not.

Max Fleischer's Gulliver's Travels is a movie a lot of people will want to own on DVD or Blu-ray, but for these people it would be wise to either grab the 2000 release, or wait for a Blu-ray release that is worthy. It must be in the original aspect ratio, and some more substantial extras wouldn't hurt. (Like an audio commentary track with some animation historians, perhaps?)

A long list with plenty more spotlight reviews that can be found here.


Filed under: Video Releases, 8 Mile, Mean Girls, Deep Sea 3D, The Spirit, The Last Kiss, Strange Wilderness, Dark Matter, Splinter