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DVD Releases for June 16th, 2009 - Part I

June 16th, 2009

A strangely busy week for spotlight reviews with ten of them representing nine DVDs and seven Blu-rays. It would have been a bigger list, but several are late. As for the best of the best, I'm giving an tentative DVD Pick of the Week rating to Transformers - Generation One - 25th Anniversary Edition - Season One. However, those will to wait for the retail version of Matrix of Leadership - Complete Series, or willing to spend more on the limited release will want to give this one a pass. Additionally, we have a DVD Puck of the Week, as the Canadian release, Murdoch Mysteries - Season One, is a must have for all loyal Canucks. With the number of spotlight reviews, the column had to be split into to, with the second part found here

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: American Gangster, Burn Notice - Season Two, The Cell 2, Chinese Circus - Elites, The Diary of Anne Frank, Dr. Strangelove, Equator - Battle for the Light, Fracture, Friday the 13th (2009), Friday the 13th - Part 2, Friday the 13th - Part 3 - 3D, Generation Kill, Ghostbusters, The Greatest Game Ever Played, John Adams, Kickboxer, Lost - Season One, Lost - Season Two, Miracle, Morning Light, Nightwish - End of a Era, No Way Out, Ocean Voyager, One Week, Rockers, Rolling Stones - The Biggest Bang, The Seventh Seal, Spaceballs, Striking Distance, and Sword of the Stranger
Some incredible Blu-ray releases this week, but nearly all of them are catalogue titles. Some of the highlights include Ghostbusters making its debut on Blu-ray and the first two series of Lost, and all three are selling well. That said, I don't think overall sales will be that strong, as there are no day-and-date monster releases. (Although Friday the 13th should sell a high percentage on High Definition.

Burn Notice - Season Two - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Just a quick note that season two is coming out on DVD this week; however, my screener is late, so I won't be able to get to the spotlight review in time. I should be able to get to as soon as it does arrive, on the other hand.

The Cell 2 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A direct-to-DVD sequel to a movie that, while visual, had little else to offer. This movie isn't as visually interesting, and it has even less backing it up. Skip it, even if you are a fan of the original. ... Especially if you are a fan of the original.

Cherry Blossoms - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a wife who finds out her husband has a terminal illness and has only days or weeks left to live. So she decides not to tell him and go on one last vacation as a married couple. However, when she dies he's left trying to figure out how to go one with his life, not knowing how little of it there is. The film earned reviews that were great, but it still went nowhere at the box office. This could explain why there are no extras on the DVD, but it is still worth renting for most, picking up for many.

The Diary of Anne Frank - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The 50th anniversary of this award-worthy movie is being celebrated with a new Blu-ray release, as well as a DVD re-release. The extras on the DVD include audio commentary track, making of featurette, featurette on the music, footage shot by the director during World War II, and a lot more. The Blu-ray has these extras, as well as several additional featurettes, including screen tests and a press conference with George Stevens. On the other hand, the Blu-ray costs twice as much as the DVD.

Dough Boys - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a group of four friends looking for the next hustle and just trying to live day-by-day. No, that's not a very fresh topic, but hopefully the film has something fresh to say about it.

Four friends, Corey, Smooth, Black, and Long Cuz are sick of living on the streets as petty hustlers and are looking for that one big score that will help them escape their current lives. The problem is, they are clearly over their heads. It doesn't matter what that one big score will be, it will turn out wrong, because these four don't have what it takes. One of them, Long Cuz, big claim to fame is that is once went to New York City. Not that he was from New York City, or went there and made it big, but that he visited New York City one day, and he was the first of the four to leave the city. These four have no shot. It's obvious they all make it to the end of the story alive. And it's the film's rather by-the-numbers approach that hurts the film the most. There were some good performances, and it was nice seeing Richard Brooks is something (G vs. E needs to be released on DVD).

The are no extras. In fact, there are not even subtitles.

Dough Boys was made under the Give Back Raise Up program, which is designed to help African-American filmmakers a chance to get a jump into the business, which is a laudable goal. However, the script really lets them down here, and without any extras on the DVD, it is worth a rental, at the most.

Everwood - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
The first season of Everwood came out on DVD in September. September of 2004! Why did it take them so long to get season two to come out? Doesn't matter. What matters is if you are a fan of the show, buy the DVD ASAP, otherwise season three might not come out for even longer. Studios obvious care about sales, and first week sales matter the most in cases like this.

Family Guy - Volume Seven - Buy from Amazon
Don't like the DVD releases being split into volumes and not released as full seasons. On the other hand, I can't complain about the extras found on them. Back to the original hand, I think the show is past its prime. On the other hand again, it is still very funny. Worth picking up, but not worthy of consideration for the DVD Pick of the Week.

Friday the 13th - Buy from Amazon: Part 2 - Blu-ray, Part 3 - 3D - Blu-ray, Part 4 - The Final Chapter, Part 5 - A New Beginning, and Part 6 - Jason Lives
This week there are six Friday the 13th films being released on the home market, five of which I have screeners to review. And two of those I've already reviewed. Big list, so let's jump right in.

Friday the 13th - Part 2 - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
I previously reviewed the first three movies of this franchise when they came out on DVD, now parts two and three are coming out on Blu-ray. There's not much I need to add when it comes to the quality of the movie. Suffice it to say, it feels very superfluous.

As for the High Definition upgrade, the movie was a low-budget horror film from the early 1980s, and you can really tell. Granted, it looks and sounds better than it did on DVD, but it doesn't come close to pushing the limits of the technology. As for the extras, there are no exclusive features to be found here, leaving us with just the three featurettes and the second chapter of Lost Tales from Crystal Lake shorts. Weakest set of extras out of all five releases Friday the 13th I review this week.

Friday the 13th - Part 3 - 3D - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Practically a remake of Part 2, only with 50% more dimensions, and 50% less quality.

On the other hand, the Blu-ray is a real step above the previous DVD release. The audio / video is good, considering the source, but nothing you will use to show off your home entertainment system. However, the extras are where this disc shines, because it has some. The DVD was bare bones in that department. Here things start with a trio of featurettes led by Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror, which spends 13 minutes talking about the trouble of filming in three dimensions. Legacy of the Mask is close to ten minutes long and discusses not just the iconic mask, but the overall look of Jason and it has a lot of good information. Slasher Films - Going for the Jugular is seven minutes long talks about the franchises place in the sub-genre. (On a side note, I don't like invincibility aspect of Jason. That turns him from a real menace, to merely a movie monster. But obviously fans of the franchise feel differently.) The final extra on the Blu-ray is the third part of the Lost Tales from Camp Blood short film series, which at this point I no longer care about.

Friday the 13th - Part 4 - The Final Chapter - DVD - Buy from Amazon
Is it ironic that the first Friday the 13th film I'm reviewing for the first time has the word 'Final' in the title, and it's not even halfway through the franchise?

The film takes place right after the action from the third movie with a dead Jason being carted off to the morgue. However, due to reasons never really explored, Jason pops back to life and starts his killing spree all over again. This time he has heads back to Crystal Lake and chops his way through a boat load of youngsters, some of which has actual personalities, which is a rarity in this franchise. This includes a family living near the lake, and a group of teens that rented a cabin nearby. (One of the teens is played by Crispin Glover, who is the biggest highlight in the movie for me. In fact, his dancing in the movie is worth the price of the rental. Unfortunately, there are only a few other highlights in what is an otherwise rote performance for the franchise.

Extras on the DVD include not one, but two audio commentary tracks, the first with three members of the crew, and the second with two fans. Both are worth listening to by fans of these movies. There are also a lot of Slashed Scenes, which are outtakes from the filming that are presented without sound but with commentary by the director, Joseph Zito. Basically they show a lot of the kills and in doing so explain how they were done. Pretty cool. Jason't Unlucky Day is an 11-minute making of / retrospective featurette. The Lost Ending shows 'lost footage' from the ending that was never used. There's even a 2-minute featurette on the dance done by Crispin Glover, which a lot of people think is a highlight of the movie, if not the highlight of the movie. There are also two short film: the fourth part of Lost Tales from Camp Blood, which I can't sit through any more of, and the first part of The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited, which is a faux-news report on the kills in the movie.

Friday the 13th - Part 5 - A New Beginning - DVD - Buy from Amazon
Hey, at least they tried something new.

The film starts off with one of the survivors of the previous movie having a bad dream as he is carted off to a halfway house. Seems Jason scared Tommy so much, that he's spent the last few years in a mental institute. Now that he appears to be getting better, the killings start up again. But has Jason returned? Or has Tommy finally snapped? Or is it the obviously demented Vic, who starts off the killing by whacking Joey with an axe (not that I blame him). At least there's a bit of a mystery behind the killings. At least they tried something new. However, that's the only part of the movie that's laudable. Okay, that's not exactly true. The character of Violet is also cool, and like the previous film, it's dancing that stands out as the best scene in the movie. But for the most part, the nudity is amped up and the rest is cut down.

Extras include an audio commentary track with several members of the cast and crew. There is an 11-minute making of featurette that hits all the right marks. Finally, there's the latest installments of Lost Tales from Camp Blood and The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited, both of which has overstayed their welcomes.

Friday the 13th - Part 6 - Jason Lives - DVD - Buy from Amazon
Jason returns to live thanks to the work of Tommy, one of the few characters to make it to three films. He begins the film travelling with Horshack to the cemetery where Jason is buried. His plan is to burn the body, destroying Jason once and for all time. However, a couple of inopportune lightning strikes later, and Jason's been resurrected. Naturally the police don't believe him, as they've spent years trying to convince people that Jason is just a myth. And when the killings start again, they think Tommy's to blame. Will Tommy be able to finish what he started? Okay, this movie isn't bad. Certainly the best of the Friday the 13th sequels. As they talk about in the making of featurette, they knew by this point they couldn't take the franchise seriously anymore, so there are more than a few winks and nods at the audience. (Like when the graveyard caretaker broke the fourth wall. There are better kills, better action, better humor than we've seen in the whole franchise. And they did it will less gore, and less nudity, so they had to rely on creativity to get there. No, the film is not art, but for what it promises, it delivers.

Extras start with an audio commentary track with the director and a few others. Worth listening to, as it has high energy and plenty of information. There's also a 13-minute long making of featurette, 6 minutes of deleted / extended scenes (mostly extra gore on the kills that the MPAA had them trim), a storyboard of the original ending. All of this is worth checking out. On the other hand, the Lost Tales from Camp Blood and The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited are not.

In total we have two Blu-rays and three DVDs from the original Friday the 13th franchise coming out this week. If you are completists, I would buy Part 2 - Blu-ray, Part 3 - 3D - Blu-ray and rent the other three. It won't be that long before they get the Blu-ray treatment, and it appears it will be worth the wait.

Friday the 13th - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Version, Extended Cut, or Blu-ray
This film broke records at the box office, but mostly the kind studios don't want. Records like biggest drop-off during a sophomore stint for a film that opened in first place. Smallest total box office for a film that opened with more than $40 million. Etc. The reviews were quite bad, but I think the Fanboy Effect had more to do with this than anything else. Looking at the various releases, it appears almost no one is buying the Theatrical Version, no surprise there, while the Extended Cut only has a short making of featurette and some deleted scenes as extras, which is not a lot. On the other hand, Blu-ray not only has both versions of the movie, but also has exclusive extras like a picture-in-picture track, two additional featurettes, and it is BD-Live enabled. Even at nearly 50% more money, it is still the better deal. Then again, the movie is only worth a rental for most people, so take that into account. Also coming out this week is His Name Was Jason, a retrospective documentary on the franchise that is worth picking up.

Garfield's Pet Force - Buy from Amazon
This film has been released in theaters in a number of foreign markets and has done quite well. Not blockbuster status, but it could have been a minor box office hit here. Or at the very least, done well enough not to feel like it was being dumped direct-to-DVD. Without any reviews, it's hard to tell if this is worth checking out, but without any reviews, I wouldn't recommend anything more than a rental. And that's only if you are a fan of Garfield.

The Greatest Game Ever Played - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
The first of three sports related Disney Blu-ray release this week. This one stars Shia LaBeouf and came out a couple years before his career absolutely exploded. Here he plays Francis Ouimet, a young man who comes from a working class background who is a huge fan of golf, which was considered an upper class sport at the time. He looks to prove the upper class people wrong and show that he does belong in their club, by winning the U.S. Open, which at the time had only been one by one American before. So in essence the movie is not only a sports movie, it's an underdog movie, and class struggle movie, and even has some cross-class romance thrown in. That's a lot of clichés to try and avoid, and the film doesn't do a very good job at dodging them. From the training montages to the 'your kind doesn't belong here' speeches, this movie has a very familiar feeling to it. That said, it is still a compelling story and fans of golf, or of the actors involved, it is still worth checking out. It might even have the replay value to buy for many people, but there are too many clichés for the film to be a classic of the genre.

Looking at the Blu-ray production, there's almost nothing to complain about. The video is very sharp, very rich, very detailed. It's not the kind of movie that has to be seen in High Definition to be enjoyed, but after watching it in High Definition, I can't image many people will want to go back. Additionally, the audio actually gave my rear speakers a rather solid workout, especially the crowds during the golf scenes. As for the extras, it's less impressive here. There are two audio commentary tracks, the first with the director and the second with the writer. There is also a making of featurette, a look at the historical facts, and even an interview with the real Francis Ouimet from 1963, 50 years after the game depicted here. All are from the DVD and all are in Standard Definition.

The Blu-ray debut for The Greatest Game Ever Played is shovelware. It's really well made shovelware, but it's expensive for shovelware. It is still worth checking out for most, and picking up for some.

H20 - Just Add Water - Season 1 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
A teenage TV series from Australia that tells the story of three typical 16-year old girls. Except that these girls are mermaids. The show is incredible popular with its target audience, and has even won awards back home. On the other hand, as part of the CreateSpace program, it's a tad expensive for what you get. That said, it's the only chance to get these shows, and if this works, more will likely be added to the program.

Jesse Stone - Thin Ice - Buy from Amazon
The latest direct-to-DVD movie starring, co-written, and produced by Tom Sellect that is based on the novels by Robert B. Parker. So far the films have been solid performers, both in ratings and with critics. The lack of extras on the DVD releases so far is a pain, but if you bought the previous releases, there's no reason not to grab this one, which is as strong, if not stronger, than Sea Change, which earned a couple nominations.

Last Holiday - Essential Art House Collection - Buy from Amazon
About damn time. The Alec Guinness original is miles above the recent remake, both in terms of wit, as well as its biting edge. For those who saw the latter film and thought it was fluff, this is the movie for you. And if you saw this film originally, and were hoping the remake would encourage a studio to release the movie on DVD, your wait is finally over. This is a Criterion Collection release; however, it's part of the Essential Art House Collection line, which means there are none of the usual extras associated with Criterion Collection. That's a shame, but it is still worth picking up.

Little Red Riding Hood and Other Stories - Buy from Amazon
Christina Ricci stars as the titular character in the headlining short film on this DVD. Also on this DVD are two other David Kaplan short films, The Frog King and Little Suck-a-Thumb, while extras include audio commentary tracks. Easily worth picking up for fans of more 'adult' takes on fairytales.

Lost - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon: Season One and Season Two
The creation of Blu-ray must really annoy those in charge of TV on DVD releases. After all, what do you do when you started releases seasons before Blu-ray was a viable format? You can't just switch partway through the run and not re-release the previous seasons in High Definition. But no matter what you do, they are going to feel like catalogue releases, which most people won't be willing to pay as much for. So let's see how the makers of Lost handle it.

For those who have never hear of Lost, let me first welcome you to the modern world. Lost is arguably one of the best known TV shows on the air right now watched by an average of ten million people, and TIVOed by countless others. Add in dozens of awards and more than 100 nominations, and there's little that needs to be said about the quality of the show itself. I will say that the first season is still the best, and it is the one that most strongly suggests the makers has a real plan of action. They had a self-contained story and had a plan on how to tell it. Season two suggested that perhaps, perhaps they were not 100% sure they were going to make it out of season one, and they were not as well organized for the second season. That said, both seasons have high replay value and are worth owning. The real question is whether the Blu-ray releases are worth upgrading over the previously released DVDs.

On the one hand, there's not a lot in terms of extras that are exclusive to Blu-ray. In fact, the only thing new is SeasonPlay, which is a feature that allows you to plug the discs in and jump right to where you left off. This is not the first TV on Blu-ray release to have this feature, but given the nature of the show, it is almost required. On the other hand, the sound and look of the show is amazing in High Definition. For a lot of people, the A/V quality is worth the upgrade. Looking at the cost, it would be unfair to compare the prices of the Blu-ray releases to the DVD releases for seasons one and two, as the DVD releases have been discounted already. Using this comparison, we get a premium of 46%, which is high, but lower than a lot of TV on Blu-ray releases. Compared to the most recent DVD release, on the other hand, these only cost 26% more, which is fantastic for this type of release. Additionally, there's a $20 mail-in rebate for those who own the seasons on DVD already. That drops the price to just $28.99, or about $5 less than it would cost to buy the DVD right now.

If you already own Lost on DVD, there is practically no reason not make the jump to Blu-ray with Season One and Season Two, if you have that option. Granted, I would have liked a few Blu-ray exclusives, but there are more than enough extras ported over from the DVDs to be worth your while.

Madea Goes to Jail - Buy from Amazon
A movie that takes 'preaching to the choir' to another level. You are either part of the target audience and love the movie, or you are not. Obviously the critics are not in the target audience. As for the DVD release, there are two: the widescreen and the Pan & Scan versions. Strangely, the Pan & Scan version is selling better on Amazon. And there's no Blu-ray release. The movie made $90 million at the box office, but they are not even releasing it on High Definition. Even stranger. Also coming out this week is Tyler Perry's House of Payne - Volume 4.

It would be too much of a miracle for the list to be short enough to fit on one page two weeks in a row. To find the rest of this week's releases, click here.


Filed under: Video Releases, Madea Goes To Jail, Friday the 13th, Miracle, Fracture, The Greatest Game Ever Played, Morning Light, Hanami, The Cell 2, Garfield's Pet Force, American Gangster