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DVD Releases for June 2nd, 2009

June 1st, 2009

Summer might be the busiest time of the year at the box office, but it is the slowest on the home market. This week we have a couple of Summer TV series coming out on DVD, a few late stragglers from Awards Season '08, and an early surprise at the '09 box office. However, while there are a few worth picking up, none jump out at me as obvious contenders for the DVD Pick of the Week.

Anaconda 4 - Trail of Blood - Buy from Amazon
Why won't this franchise die? The first movie was terrible, and they quickly got worse. Utterly skippable.

Army Wives - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
A Lifetime Channel original series about a group of army wives (and one army husband) who band together to help deal with the emotional struggles inherent in being married to someone who is, for all intents and purposes, married to the military.

Season Two starts off where season one left off, namely, and this is massive spoiler territory, namely with the aftermath of the explosion at the Hump Bar, where Roxy LeBlanc works, and where several of the friends were at the time. We are told at the beginning of the episode that someone close to the group died, but we are not told who until the end, and the reveal in done in a very compelling way. Most of the rest of the season deals with the other repercussions, which are the highlight of season two. However, other storylines are introduced, and it feels like the series is moving deeper and deeper into soap opera territory. I was pleasantly surprised when I reviewed season one, but this time around I just wasn't as drawn into the characters or the plots as much.

Extras, on the other hand, remain strong with audio commentary tracks on three of the 19 episodes, which include a wide range of participants from the cast and crew. The rest of the extras are all on disc five starting with Active Duty, a 20-minute featurette on the cast doing research by travelling to Fort Bragg. Operation Intelligence talks about how the military gives support to the show by giving them access to equipment, personal, technical consultants, etc. The Tribe deals with the five friends that make up the heart of the show. Army Wives Gives Back has five short segments featuring the cast of the show helping out real army wives. There are more than a dozen deleted scenes, with option audio commentary, and finally 3 minutes of outtakes.

I'm having a hard time pointing to what changed on Army Wives this season; however, there seems to be less real drama, and more soap opera drama. That said, fans of the show should still be entertained, while there are plenty of extras on the five-disc set. Worth checking out, and worth picking up over just renting.

Baby on Board - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Heather Graham needs to fire her agent. She has nearly $1 billion in total box office ticket sales, but in recent years, it has been more common for her movies to go direct-to-DVD that have any real presence in theaters. On a side note, this movie was released at Blockbuster as a rental weeks ago, but I don't think that will help its sales this week.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Air Force One, Anaconda, Andrea Bocelli: Vivere - Live in Tuscany, B.B.King - Live at Montreux 1993, Baby on Board, Blu-ray Starter Kit - 4-Pack, Bruce Almighty, Chocolat, Cop Land, Dark Blue, Defiance, Direct Contact, Dragon's Lair, Elsewhere, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood - Live from Madison Square Garden, Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children Complete, Fletch, The Graduate, History Channel Presents - Crusades and the Cross, Home, Glory, Gosford Park, He's Just Not That Into You, Inside Man, Life After People, Nature's Most Amazing Events, Navy Seals, Neil Young Archives, Vol. 1: 1963-1972 (10 Disc Blu-Ray), NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers - Road to XLIII, Out of Time, Paul Simon and Friends: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, The People's Republic of Capitalism with Ted Koppel, Revolutionary Road, Road House, Rollerball, Spring Breakdown, Walking Tall, and Weeds - Season Four
Not a good week for Blu-ray releases. Sure, there are quite a few releases coming out this week, but most are catalogue titles with little demand. I can't imagine there are a lot of people itching to get Anaconda on Blu-ray, for instance. There are a couple of releases that are at least of some interest, including Weeds - Season Four, but they are the exception.

Cannon - Season Two - Volume One - Buy from Amazon
A great show that is unfortunately being released in a two-volume format. Those who are interested should also check out our latest contest, which features this DVD, and three other TV on DVD releases.

Defiance - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This movie came out at the end of 2008 in limited release and given that fact, it would not be inappropriate to assume the film was made to win awards. That didn't happen, although it did earn an Oscar nomination. On the other hand, it did do somewhat better at the box office than predicted. So it was with mixed expectations that I went into this movie.

The film takes place in Belarus during World War II and focuses on two Jewish brothers, Tuvia and Zus, whose parents are murdered by the local police. At first they hide in the forest thinking of ways they can survive, and take revenge, but as they gather with more and more survivors, their goals start to diverge. Tuvia wants to protect lives, including those non-Jews how are caught between the Nazis and them, while Zus wants revenge and is willing to kill to survive. They have to try to survive against Germans, starvation, disease, etc., all while trying to maintain their humanity.

The reviews for this film were mixed with a lot of critics saying it was competently made, but it doesn't rise to the level of its source material. It's emotionally powerful at times, but not as powerful as the real history. Perhaps the film could have used a more delicate touch, which would have enhanced the drama, but thanks to strong performances by the cast, the film is still worth checking out.

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with the director, Edward Zwick, who holds his own on this solo track. Return to the Forest is a 26-minute long making-of featurette, Children of the Otriad talks about the real life events that were the basis of this movie, while Bielski Partisan Survivors is a 2-minute slideshow of some of the survivors saved by the Bielski brothers.

All these extras are included on the Blu-ray, and they are presented in High Definition. There is also a 7-minute featurette on the scoring of the movie. That's not a lot of exclusive material, nor does it push the technology, but it's better than nothing. Additionally, the video looks excellent, and it sounds great as well. It does cost 50% than the DVD, which is a tad high. I would be willing to pay 30% to 40%. Perhaps the video is strong enough to put it over the top, but it would be very close, even then.

Defiance didn't find the audience it deserved and it should be seen by more. I'm not entirely sure the movie has enough replay value to warrant purchasing over just renting, nor am I entirely sure that the Blu-ray is a better deal than the DVD. Regardless if you rent or buy the DVD or Blu-ray, the movie is worth watching.

Delirious - 25th Anniversary - Buy from Amazon
Widely regarded as one of the best stand-up concert films ever made. This 2-disc set include about an hour's worth of interviews, as well as two rough clips deleted from the original movie. If you don't own it on DVD yet, it is worth picking up. Even if you do own it on DVD, it is worth upgrading, especially if you fondly remember Eddie Murphy's days as one of the edgiest comedians out there.

Direct Contact - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Dolph Lundgren stars in this direct-to-DVD action film. At one point, there were some who thought Dolph Lundgren would become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, or at least the next Jean-Claude Van Damme. The came mainly thanks to back-to-back performances in A View to a Kill and Rocky IV, but since then his biggest hit has been Universal Soldier. In the meantime, he's built a career doing direct-to-DVD action films like this one. I haven't seen many of them, and if they are all like this, that won't change.

Dolph Lundgren plays a former special forces agent who was caught smuggling weapons and now is in the world's most dangerous prison. (Seems pretty tame to me; Oz seems scarier.) However, he is allowed to leave, and his debts to some organized crime bosses will be covered, as long as he rescues an American citizen who was kidnapped. However, it turns out he was double-crossed, and now forces from all sides are looking to kill him and Ana, the woman he was sent to rescue.

A low budget action film with a star that is past his prime. This is not the kind of movie that you rent if you are looking for a convincing storyline, powerful acting, or top-notch special effects, which is good, because this film has none. However, the fight scenes, which are supposed to be the main draw, are also quite lame and are poorly choreographed and unconvincing. There are a lot of ways to describe these types of movies that, while not complimentary, are also not necessarily fatal. Silly, mindless, unintentionally funny, etc. Boring is not one of them, and that's the word I would use to describe this movie.

There are no extras on either the DVD nor on the Blu-ray. Also, while I can't complain about the high definition transfer, this is not the film that you would want to use to show off your home theater system.

If you are a fan of low budget direct-to-DVD action films, then Direct Contact might be worth a rental. The rest of us should stay away. However, neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray offer any incentive to buy, even for fans of the sub-genre.

The Fox and the Child - Buy from Amazon
From the same director that brought us March of the Penguins. That should have been enough to get a release here with serious studio backing. As it is, we don't even have box office numbers. I can't even confirm if it was released in theaters. Given the reviews, I doubt the movie would have been a major hit, regardless of studio support, but it is worth checking out for fans of the genre. That said, with no extras on the DVD, it is just worth a rental.

He's Just Not That Into You - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A romantic comedy with an ensemble cast that earned mixed reviews but became a solid mid-level hit. In fact, it earned close to $100 million, which is very rare for the genre. Extras on the DVD are rather average with just a few featurettes and some deleted scenes (I was expecting an audio commentary track). The Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled, but I'm not sure its worth the extra 47% over on, especially given the genre. Call it a solid rental, leaning to a purchase, but I think the DVD is the better deal.

Home - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of two nature documentaries coming out on DVD and Blu-ray this week. The film is filled with amazing aerial footage of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, while the environmental theme is very timely. Worth picking up, and worth the extra cost for Blu-ray.

The Hunger - Season One - Buy from Amazon
There are very few movies that get turned into successful TV shows. M*A*S*H made that transition, as did Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Hunger did not. This horror anthology series isn't scary enough, nor is it erotic enough to satisfy fans of the movie. It's not terrible, but it's not something you need to own on DVD either.

The Jetsons - Season Two - Volume - Buy from Amazon
The 1985 revival of the series hits DVD for the first time on this 3-disc set. Extras include a featurette on the franchise, which started in the 1962, and it is worth picking up for fans.

Last Days of the Fillmore - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the closing of the rock venue, Fillmore West, and the massive concert that was used to close it down. The concert featured performances by Carlos Santana, The Greatful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and others, and this rare film is worth picking up for fans of music from that era.

Nature's Most Amazing Events - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A nature documentary from the BBC that is coming out on DVD and Blu-ray this week. Fans of Planet Earth will certainly be interested in this 6-part series, and while it isn't quite up to that level, it is still worth picking up and the Blu-ray is worth paying extra for.

Neil Young Archives Volume 1 (1963 - 1972) - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A massive, and I mean massive, box set with the first ten years of Neil Young's career. A must-have for his fans, but I fear the price will prevent all but the most hardcore enthusiasts from even contemplating buying it.

NFL Pittsburgh Steelers - Road to XLIII - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Four important games from this past season showing the path the Pittsburgh Steelers had to take to win it all. Full games are what real fans want, and High Definition is worth the extra $9 in price. Also coming out this week is the Cardinals' Season in Review, but they only get a single DVD highlight reel.

Playing Shakespeare - Buy from Amazon
A 4-disc, nearly 8-hour DVD showing the inner workings of the acting workshops conducted by Royal Shakespeare Company founder, John Barton. It includes such famous Shakespearean actors as Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, and others. Fascinating to watch, but I'm not sure there's a large target audience.

Prison Break - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
The fourth, and final season of this prison break show. However, by this point the name has very little to do with the plot. Perhaps that's why it was cancelled; the network realized it had run its course and it was no longer the same show they originally gave the greenlight to. Or perhaps the reviews indicated most of the fans didn't accept the changes. That said, if you own the previous three seasons, completing your collection makes sense.

Quincy, M.E. - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
A great show that I haven't seen in a long, long time. Too long. The show stars Jack Klugman as the titular character, a medical examiner who sees suspicious deaths every week, much to the dismay of his boss and the cops, who just want him to sign off on the case so things don't get too complicated. When will they learn that Quincy is always right? Great shows, but the DVDs are light on extras, and the replay value of mysteries can be limited.

Raising the Bar - Season One - Buy from Amazon
The latest TV series from Steven Bochco, who previously created Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, and other great shows. He has personally won ten Emmys and was nominated 34 times, while the shows he has created have won untold awards. Additionally, this series broke the record for largest audience for a cable program debut at 7.7 million viewers. I went in with high hopes.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar stars as Jerry Kellerman, a passionate public defender who tends to let his emotions get the best of him. He has to battle prosecutors (played by Melissa Sagemiller and J. August Richards) as well as a very combative judge (played by Jane Kaczmarek). On his side, he has his "preppy" co-worker, who is determined to work as a public defender, and not go to his father's big firm. His boss (Gloria Reuben) tries her best to control his outbursts, but struggles in that role.

All the ingredients are here for a top-notch show, but the final product struggles to reach mediocrity. Mark-Paul Gosselaar's character is supposed to be passionate and uncompromising, but he instead comes across as phony. I'm not sure if that's the actor's fault, or the dialogue he is forced to say, but given some of the rest of the dialogue in this show, I'm betting it's the latter. ("You work for me, you wear cuff links, and I'm old enough to be your older sister." I hope that that at least an attempt at humor.) The show tries to be edgy, but there's nothing new here, and too often it wanders into soap opera territory. Some of the storylines were compelling, and I really wanted to like the show, but I just couldn't get into it. (Also, Jane Kaczmarek's character bugged the hell out of me. She was portrayed as an irrational and combative judge who was easily manipulated by her younger clerk, whom she is having and affair with.

Extras on the 3-disc set start with audio commentary tracks on two of the ten episodes. There is a 14-minute featurette on real life public defenders, a 13-minute roundtable discussion with the cast, and finally 2 minutes of outtakes.

So close. There are some really strong stories in the first season of this show. The episode "I Will, I'm Will" is worth renting the 3-disc set for. However, Raising the Bar too often falls into soap opera territory, and some of the dialogue hurts the effectiveness too often to recommend buying Season One on DVD.

Revolutionary Road - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the final Awards Season players to reach the home market. This one has a great deal of buzz about it for a long, long time. This is not surprising given its two leads, its director, and its scheduled release date. Reviews, on the other hand, were not as strong as one would expect for an Awards Season player, and while it earned a number of nominations, it didn't win too many awards. (Although Kate Winslet did win one of her two Golden Globes for this film.) It is with this that I went into this movie with rather tempered expectations.

Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio star as April and Frank Wheeler, a married couple living in the suburbs in the 1950s America. We learn through flashbacks that the couple was once very happy, but the years have led them to lives neither finds fulfilling. The disappointment over the ways their lives have turned out has become bitterness. April has the idea to pack up the kids and live in Paris, which is a plan they had as a young couple, as a way of revitalizing their relationship. But this is not the kind of movie where happy endings are possible.

On the one hand, this movie has some amazing performances, and not just by Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio, but also by Kathy Bates and the rest of the cast. Additionally, the direction is fantastic and the look of the film is wonderful. On the other hand, it is incredibly depressing at times. At times? Practically all of the time. It's a somber tale aimed squarely at Awards Season voters, with little regard for how a wider audience would react. It's still a very good movie and one that should be seen by more, but I'm not sure how many people will have the fortitude to watch it repeatedly.

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary with Sam Mendes and Justin Haythe, who do a wonderful job describing the making of the movie and the issues that arose. There are 15 deleted scenes, with audio commentary, which have a total running time of 25 minutes. Quite a lot of material here, and it's interesting to watch. There is a 29-minute making-of featurette, which goes heavily into the themes of the film.

The Blu-ray has all of those, and all presented in High Definition, while it also has a featurette called Richard Yates: The Wages of Truth, which is about the author of the novel the movie is based on. The audio and video is good, but not great, and I'm not sure there's enough here to justify the 50% premium in the price.

Revolutionary Road is not always a pleasant movie to watch, but it is one that should be watched. Neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray offer an obviously better value than the other. Definitely worth renting, and many who do try it will want to buy it.

Spring Breakdown - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
There are two types of direct-to-DVD releases: 1.) Films that were made without the intent to ever release them theatrically, and 2.) Films like this. This movie was made for theaters, but something went horribly wrong along the way. Skip it. There's too much talent wasted on too little material to be worth your time.

Wallander - Sidetracked / Firewall / One Step Behind - Buy from Amazon
Kenneth Branagh stars as the titular character, a Swedish detective, in this trio of TV movies made for the BBC. These were shown here on PBS, wrapping up its run over the weekend. So for fans, it's a quick turnaround, which should be appreciated. The price is good, as long as you look at it as a series of TV movies and not a TV series, and it is worth picking up.

Weeds - Season Four - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
First a note, I only have the DVD and not the Blu-ray, at least not yet. I hope to get the show on High Definition this week.

Season four starts off where season three left off, namely with Nancy deciding she needed an escape, so she burned down the house. It's not as crazy as it sounds, as there were wildfires in the area, so there was a good chance the house would have burned down anyway. So she packs up her two boys, and her brother-in-law, and heads to her grandmothers house on the border. Her new life is going to be a lot like her old life. Only more complicated, and a lot more dangerous.

So far this show has gone zero for thirteen at the Emmys and one for ten at the Golden Globes. I'm not surprised it has earned so many nominations, but I'm a little surprised it hasn't won as much. That said, this was the weakest season so far. I loved Albert Brooks turn as Nancy's father-in-law was great, but his character didn't last on the show long. The shows dark turn this season also added some dramatic weight, but it also changed the basic premise of the show. This change could be enough to turn off some of the fans of the show. That said, most episodes are still excellent and it is easy to recommend. I'm just a little worried where it will go in the future.

Extras on the 3-disc DVD start with three audio commentary tracks, on the first disc alone. Also on the first disc are eight-and-a-half minutes of outtakes. The second disc has two more audio commentary tracks, and a handful of featurettes. The first featurette, I'm a Big Kid Now, runs close to 10 minutes and is about the three child stars from the show. One of those child stars is the focus of the six-minute featurette, The Real Hunter Parrish. Tour of Bubbie's House runs nearly 8 minutes long and talks about the new sets, and we get a tour as well. The final featurette on disc two is Little Titles talks about the new opening credits, which change for each episode. Moving into disc 3, there are two more audio commentary tracks. The featurettes on this disc start with Moving Weight talks to Guillermo Díaz about his character's occupation, and the legal entanglements that can occur. One Stop Chop Shop looks at the Tijuana sets. The Weed Wranglers looks at all the pot props from the show. Finally, there's Burbs to the Beach, which talks about the transitions that took place in between season three and four.

I don't have the Blu-ray, but I hope to get it shortly.

According to, Weeds - Season Four is the best-selling DVD and the best-selling Blu-ray of the week. I'm not sure that will be true across all stores, but I'm not surprised it is selling so well. I am a little concerned with how the show will keep moving forward, but there's no reason to stop watching it now.


Filed under: Video Releases, Bruce Almighty, He's Just Not That Into You, Inside Man, Walking Tall, Out of Time, Defiance, Revolutionary Road, Baby on Board, Direct Contact, Anacondas: Trail of Blood, Le renard et l'enfant, Spring Breakdown