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DVD Releases for September 8th, 2009

September 8th, 2009

TV on DVD still dominates the list of DVD and Blu-ray releases with few first run releases of note. As for contenders for DVD Pick of the Week, this is the last week before the flood of Summer Blockbusters starts coming out, and while there are a lot that are worth picking up, but very few that rise above the level of a solid purchase.

Alvin and the Chipmunks - Buy from Amazon: Go to the Movies - Star Wreck and The Very First Alvin Show
The first of several DVDs that I was supposed to review this week but the screeners never arrived. The list of such releases I'm waiting on is well over a dozen now, and I'm worried that they will all show up at once.

Battle of the Warriors - Buy from Amazon
I miss reviewing Dragon Dynasty DVDs. However, with layoffs at their parent company (Weinstein) it is unlikely that they will be ramping up their promotional department again. You would think sending screeners to critics would be the biggest bang for your buck in terms of advertising dollars spent, but I could be wrong on that. As for this film, it stars Andy Lau from Protégé, House of Flying Daggers, Infernal Affairs, and others. Its original name is Mo Gong, but also goes by the name Battle of Wits or A Battle of Wits. I guess that's not violent enough to sell in this market. Given the number of major awards it was nominated for, it is certainly worth checking out. And given Dragon Dynasty reputation for the quality of their DVD releases, it is worth a blind buy.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks - Buy from Amazon
Disney's worst slump at the box office was from the 1970s till the 1980s and for nearly 20 years the studio was without a $100 million hit, and aficionados of the studio also think this period was the nadir in terms of quality as well. However, while this film wasn't a big hit at the box office, it was the last Disney film to win an Oscar till The Little Mermaid won for Best Song and Best Score. So this film a pre-slump classic? An example of the low point in Disney? Or something in-between?

Angela Lansbury stars as Eglantine Price, an apprentice witch who is forced to take in three orphans during World War II. However, she has plans to use her magic to help the war effort against the Nazis, but not only will the children make it difficult to practice the dark arts, she has to deal with the closure of her correspondence school of witchcraft, meaning she won't be getting the final spell she needs to become a full witch. When she does track down her professor, Emelius Browne (played by David Tomlinson), he's little more than a stage magician and a con man. All is not lost, as together they learn about the source of his spells, a magician named Astoroth (I wonder if that name was inspired by Azathoth) whose wore a pendent with the magic words inscribed upon them. Now all five must travel to the land of Naboombu to recover said item from the anthropomorphic, and animated, animals who rose up and destroyed the wizard in the first place.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks was, and is still advertised as being from the same studio that brought us Mary Poppins, and they were clearly going for the same magic. However, there were only partially successful. Some of the scenes are great, including the trip to Naboombu and the interaction between the humans and the animated animals. But many of the live action scenes were rather lifeless in comparison and none of the songs were as catchy as those from the earlier film were. It is still fun to watch and those who remember seeing the film as a child, or who have children of the right age, will certainly want to check it out. However, it is not as memorable as some of the best Disney has to offer.

Extras on the latest DVD release of the film include an 8-minute featurette on special effects hosted by Jennifer Stone from Wizards of Waverly Place. There have been a number of special effects heavy Disney films that have come out on DVD recently, and it seems all of them talk about the evolution of special effects, so there's quite a bit of overlap between these featurettes. That said, it is still worth checking out. Music Magic in an 11-minute featurette on The Sherman Brothers, who are arguably the most famous musical duo in the history of the studio. Next up is a featurette on "A Step In the Right Direction", which was one of the songs trimmed from the original version of the movie. As they say on the DVD, most of the footage has been put back into the movie, but it appears that this song has been lost and this reconstruction is likely the best we will see. Finally, there's a minute long clip of David Tomlinson's recording sessions for Portobello Road.

This is not the first time Bedknobs and Broomsticks has been releasd on DVD, and while there is new featurette found here, it will likely not be enough to be worth upgrading for those who already have one of the previous releases. On the other hand, if you don't have it on DVD, then it is certainly worth checking out, and many that do will want to add it to their DVD collection.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Catwoman, Crank 2 - High Voltage, Creepshow, Dance Flick, Dead Calm, Equator - Reefs of Riches, Exit Speed, Freddy vs. Jason, Friday, Fringe - Season One, Menace II Society, The New World - Extended Cut, The Office - Season Five, Over the Top, The Postman, The Quick and the Dead, Rainier the Mountain, Requiem for a Dream, Set it Off, Silverado, Sleep Dealer, Sphere, Valentino - The Last Emperor, and Wild Asia - Island Magic
Not a good week for High Definition releases, with the bulk of the Blu-rays being catalogue titles. There are a few of these catalogue titles that are of interest, as well as a few TV on DVD releases that are worth picking up, but nothing here screams 'Must have!' On a side note, there are four Blu-ray releases from this week alone that I am supposed to review, but the screeners are late. I have nearly a dozen Blu-ray screeners that are late and more than a dozen DVD screeners. I just know they are all going to arrive on one day and my head's going to explode.

Crank 2 - High Voltage - Buy from Amazon: DVD, 2-Disc DVD, or Blu-ray
I'm supposed to review this movie, but my screener is late. It appears that the Blu-ray has some high definition exclusives (the audio commentary track is upgraded to a picture-in-picture track) while it costs less than the equivalent 2-Disc DVD. If you are interested in buying, the Blu-ray is obviously the way to go. However, I'm not sure it is worth purchasing over just renting.

Criminal minds - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
One of roughly seven billion police procedural shows on TV at the moment. It tries to separate itself from shows like CSI, Law & Order, etc. by focusing on a division of the FBI called Behavioral Analysis Unit, a.k.a. the BAU. This is a group of elite profilers, so the show focuses as much on the criminal as the crime. Is this enough to set it apart? No. It is a rather standard example of the genre, and if you are not a fan of said genre, then this show won't really sell you on this type of show. But is it at least a well-executed show within the confines of the genre?

That question is a little more difficult to answer. I'm a fan of the genre and I have seen countless episodes of countless shows, both those I've reviewed and those I've watched for entertainment. I found a number of episodes from this season to be a little too predictable. For instance, the season opener deals with a series of terrorist attacks and at the beginning of the episode starts where the season three finale ends, with Hotch nearly being a casualty of a terrorist attack. We see someone who is presented as a witness, but it was clear to me he was part of the attack. Later an ambulance shows up despite orders to not let first responders in, as BAU concluded that the first responders would be primary target of the terrorists. When the driver shows up he says, 'My partner was too scare to come in with me.' And immediately I knew there was no partner and he was part of the terrorist group. And as soon as Hotch asked him where the nearest hospital was, I knew there was a bomb in the ambulance and the real target was that hospital. And I was right on all of it. Now this might have been a fluke, except the very next episode I was right about the pattern of the wounds on the victims, why paper was found in the wounds of the new victim, that the new killer would do the same pattern on herself when her last victim was rescued, and that she would then kill herself. Granted, it was suicide by cop, but otherwise I again went four for four. And this pattern repeated itself a number of times during the season.

Now, there are a few possible explanations for this. One, I'm a genius. This is not true; I do have an above average I.Q., but it's not high enough to be classified as a genius. Two, I was just lucky. Possible, but unlikely given the frequency that it happened. Three, I've seen far too many of these shows and / or this show is just too predictable. This is the one I think is the most likely explanation. Even if it is a case of me seeing too many similar shows, the fact that the writers can't make the surprise twists stand out is a bad sign. That said, the characters and the crimes are still interesting enough that the frequency of getting ahead of the writers was not enough that I still didn't enjoy watching the show.

Extras on the seven-disc set include deleted scenes for a number of episodes, plus short behind-the-scenes looks for several episodes. On the final disc there are outtakes and bios on all of the main characters. There are a lot of extras here, but individually none of them are very substantial. Also, there are no play all buttons, nor are there subtitles.

Criminal minds is a good show, but not a great show. It is worth watching for fans of police procedural shows, but doesn't transcend the genre. Likewise, the seven-disc DVD release for Season Four has enough extras to not appear bare and for fans it is worth picking up, but overall the DVD is below average for a concurrent release.

Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon: Homicide, The Human Condition, and That Hamilton Woman
Three Criterion Collection are coming out this week. Of the three, Homocide is the most recent. I don't know if you could call it a classic, as it is not old enough, nor well known enough to qualify, but the reviews are impressive. The Human Condition is a trilogy from Japan set during World War II about a conscientious objector. Finally, That Hamilton Woman was made during World War II, but is a period piece about the love affair between Emma, the titular Lady Hamilton, and Horatio Nelson, Admiral of the British Navy. Also an excellent movie; in fact, it was nominated for four Oscars, winning one.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 1st. However, the screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

CSI - Season Nine - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This was a season of massive chance for CSI with, as all fans of the show know, William L. Petersen leaving the show partway through. I'm not sure why exactly he did this, but I doubt it was a contract dispute, because not only was he one of the highest paid actors on TV at the time, he was also a producer of the show. What I can say for sure is the number of changes early on had a dramatic effect on the series, but did they improve the show? Or at the very least, will the show be able to survive?

The answer to the first question is no. I have nothing against Laurence Fishburne, but his introduction changed the dynamic of the show and he became a much larger focus of the show than Gil Grissom. Additionally, Lauren Lee Smith was also introduced this seasons, meaning they had to spend much of the season getting two new characters integrated into the ensemble cast, which proved too much at times. However, I believe this is just a temporary problem and that by season ten, things should be moving smoothly again. Call it a bump in the road, and not a shark jumping moment. At least not yet.

On a side note, this is why the Law & Order formula works better when it comes to the longevity of a series. Law & Order is all about the cases. Sure, the personalities of the cops and lawyers matter when it comes to chemistry, but we almost never learn anything about their personal lives. Because of this, characters can be switched out without disrupting the dynamic of the show. In fact, in the 20 years that show has been on the air, there have been more than two dozen major cast members for the six main characters (two cops, the cops' boss, two ADAs, and the District Attorney). If that show ventured into the private lives of the characters as much as CSI does, that show would have died a long time ago.

Extras on the six-disc set include featurettes on the new cast members, Crime Scene Initiation. Also on disc one is deleted scenes one episode and a picture-in-picture / interactive / branching track on one episode. Over on disc two we find... nothing. It's the only disc without any special features. Disc three has deleted scenes on one episodes and a pop-up trivia track on another, The Grave Shift, which was Dr. Raymond Langston first time for fieldwork, so it's a good show to give special attention to. Disc four has deleted scenes on one episode (Miscarriage of Justice); Interactive Investigation Mode on a second episode (Kill Me If You Can); and an audio commentary track on a third (Turn, Turn, Turn). Disc five has two featurettes starting with Rats in Space, which is about A Space Oddity, my favorite episode of the season, and not just for the reason Archie Kao mentions. (Although having Liz Vassey in a 'Star Trek' bikini is great.) I love the Lab Rats episodes, as the background characters are much more interesting than the A-Team group, and combined with the Star Trek references, this episode hits my geekiness as well. At close to 30 minutes, it's very in-depth. The next featurette is From Zero to 200 in Nine Seasons, which is about the 200th episodes. There are also deleted scenes and an audio commentary track on A Space Oddity, which just goes to show how much this episode means to the cast & crew. Disc six starts with deleted scenes on two episodes. There is also a featurette on the departure of Gil Grissom from the series. The set is also BD-Live enabled with some text-based information, as well as a trio of short video clips.

As for the technical aspects of the show, the video is good for TV release, but not up to the level of Lost, for instance, or what you would expect for a theatrical release. Audio was better with good use of the surround speakers. I'm happy with the technical presentation, but this is not a release I would grab to show off my home theater system. (TV on DVD rarely is.) The Blu-ray is the same price as the DVD, so it's a no-brainer which one is the better deal.

The massive amount of change that happened during season nine of CSI was arguably more than in any previous season of the show. Not arguably more, but obviously more. It was arguably more than all other previous changes combined. Because of that, the show a little weaker than in the past, but it is still worth checking out. Add in the impressive list of extras and season nine is worth picking up with the Blu-ray being the far superior choice over the DVD. Sadly, when it comes to TV on DVD, the High Definition release is usually overpriced, so it is nice to see that this is not the case here.

Dance Flick - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
A very interesting release, since the Blu-ray is coming out this week but the DVD doesn't come out for a month (although you can rent it starting this week). I was supposed to get the Blu-ray to review, but the screener is late. Hopefully it will arrive before the DVD is released for sale.

Disney Princess Enchanted Tales - Follow Your Dreams - Buy from Amazon
Two short stories about two Disney princesses. The first features...

Aurora, from Sleeping Beauty, who is put in charge of the kingdom when her parents, and Prince Charming, must travel outside the kingdom. At first she's excited to prove herself, but she's soon overwhelmed by the responsibilities. Maybe a little bit a magic will help her get through her duties. Or maybe not.

In the second story, Jasmine from Aladdin wants to be more than a, "Peacock Princess", as she puts it, but when her dad gets her to help by being a substitute teacher, she's way over her head. Then when her father's prize horse escapes, she's in real trouble. Will she be able to redeem herself?

The quality of the two shows are good, especially compared to most Disney direct-to-DVD sequels. The technical quality is good, as a lot of similar releases have weak animation, while the music is fine, but not as memorable as the original films. Worth checking out, but I have an issue with the price.

There are a couple of games on this DVD, starting with Aurora Dress Up where you choose an outfit for Aurora. Unfortunately, you can't dress her up like a jester. Next up is Find Sahara where you help Jasmine find her father's horse. The final extra on the DVD is Belle Music Video, which is exactly what it sounds like. The DVD comes with a bonus disc that includes two more music videos. More importantly, there's a 5-minute look at the upcoming The Princess and the Frog. This will be enough to convince more than a few people to buy the DVD, but at only five minutes long, it's too short to be worth it on its own.

Disney Princess Enchanted Tales - Follow Your Dreams originally came out in 2007. No, that's not a typo. The DVD is just two years old, but it is being re-released with a bonus disc that has just a few extras at a price that is far too high for what you get. It's worth it at half that price, so if you can find it in the bargain bin it would be worth buying, but even Amazon's discount is not enough.

Fringe - Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A Sci-Fi police procedural show very much akin to X-Files brought to us by the same man who created Lost. Fans of either show will likely enjoy this show, but it's more 'Freak of the Week' show and doesn't feature the a massive, season-long story arc like you find in Lost. Extras include audio commentary tracks on three episodes, deleted scenes, outtakes, making of featurette, featurette on the science of the show, etc. The Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled and it is worth the extra 30% to pick up.

Gifted Hands - The Ben Carson Story - Buy from Amazon
A movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. that doesn't suck. Granted, it's not a great movie and is just average when compared to most TV movies, but it is better than a lot of what he has made recently and it is worth checking out.

Harper's Island - The DVD Edition - Buy from Amazon
A Teenage Slasher mini-series. I love this idea. I had an idea for a very similar project a few years ago, but it was set at a remote university during the holiday break, and it had a more Cthulhu cult angle to it. However, a good idea is just the first step. You still need solid execution to be worth checking out. Does it have solid execution?

Seven years ago a killer, John Wakefield, murdered six people on Harper's Island, a small island off the coast of Seattle. Now a group of friends and family are travelling to the island for a wedding between the rich girl, Patricia 'Trish' Wellington, and the working class groom, Henry Dunn. One of the guests is Abby Mills, whose mother was one of the original killer, and whose father was the sheriff who stopped the killer. However, when people turn up missing, or dead, Abby starts to think John Wakefield is back. But is she right? Is John Wakefield back? Or is there a new killer on the island?

This is a series is rather ambitious, but it gets off to a bumpy start. There's an audio commentary track on the first episode and as the participants mention, there are more than two dozen speaking parts in that single episode. That's just far too many, and it really hurts the series just as its trying to get going. There are too many characters are too often you don't know enough about them to care when they are killed off. (Personally, I think they should have gone with a 2-hour TV movie for the first episode, which would have allowed them to introduce the characters more before the killing started.) But as the series went on, and the cast was whittled down to a more manageable size, we were able to learn more about the characters, which improved the show significantly.

Extras the 4-disc set include audio commentary tracks on four of the episodes and there are deleted scenes for six episodes. The third disc has 16 webisodes called Harper's Globe, which is the online promotion material that's supposedly made by a worker at Harper's Globe, the local newspaper for the island, but also includes weird footage that I guess is there to build the mood. Some background information is given, but it's in serious need of an editor to trim it down from 90 minutes to 30 or 40 minutes. Over on disc four there's a 20-minute featurette on the casting for the show. There is also a 30-minute making of featurette that's the usual mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes, and clips from the series. It's broken down by episode, or more specifically, by kill, which makes it more effective. Guess Who? is a 3-minute featurette on how the cast didn't know who the killer was. The final featurette is called The Grim Reaper, and it is about Karim Zreik, who was responsible for telling the actors when they were going to die. There are no play all buttons, nor are there subtitles.

Harper's Island is a show with an excellent idea that takes a little while to get going, but once it does it is addictive. (It is also nice to watch a show knowing there will be a definitive end, and that the season won't end in a cliffhanger.) The 4-disc DVD has enough extras to lift it from a rental to a solid purchase and I would like to see more shows like this come out.

I'll Believe You - Buy from Amazon
A Sci-Fi comedy about UFO hunters. There are almost no reviews, but one would have to assume it's better than its box office numbers would indicated. The limited talk online suggests it is worth checking out for fans of the genre, but start with a rental.

Important Things with Demetri Martin - Buy from Amazon
Demetri Martin first came to the attention of most people through his work on The Daily Show, but he's been doing stand-up for a lot longer. Important Things is his Comedy Central show that is a mix of stand-up and sketch comedy. I was never a big fan of his appearances on The Daily Show, but like a number of his stand-up routines. Because of that, I was cautiously optimistic about the show going in.

There are obviously a lot in common with this show and his stand up; for instance, his big pad makes an appearance or two. Those bits are usually very funny. I also enjoyed the fairytales, which feature appearances by John Oliver. The Power of Words and his musical interludes also work, for the most part. On the other hand, the slam poet missed the mark. And the longer the sketch, the less likely it would end on a high note. (I think the only exception to this is the two men arguing over a parking spot, which just keeps getting funnier and funnier. However, the Revenger bit and the sketch about Demetri's acting flopped. Hard.) That said, the hit to miss ration is more than strong enough to warrant checking out.

Extras on the DVD including audio commentary tracks on four episodes, which are a pain in the ass to get to. Seriously, whoever designed the menu needs to be slapped around. There are also a lot of deleted scenes, outtakes, behind the scenes, etc. But the organization could use some work.

Demetri Martin's style of comedy is a 'hip to be square' kind that relies on word play and geek-charm. It works well in his stand up routines, but less in sketch comedy. Fortunately, Important Things with Demetri Martin has more of the former than the latter, while Season One has enough extras to warrant picking up over just renting.

Kabei - Our Mother - Buy from Amazon
A Japanese film about a single mother struggling to get by during World War II. Its reviews were great, but the buzz was non-existent and it never found an audience during its theatrical run. It should perform better on the home market, but with no extras, the DVD will only be worth a rental for most people.

Little Einsteins - Fire Truck Rocket's Blastoff - Buy from Amazon
The latest DVD release in the Little Einsteins' franchise, this one has a four episodes, as usual, but can be watched with one of two interactive mission modes. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

  1. Fire Truck Rocket - A volcano is about to erupt and the group has to travel to rescue a monkey whose tail is caught between the branches of a tree.
  2. Melody the Music Pet - The gang has to help a strange alien-like creature find its ticket or it won't be able to get on the pet train and find a family to adopt it.
  3. Carmine's Big Race - The group is in Monaco to help Quincy's friend, Carmine the Music Car win the big race. And apparently the Monaco Grand Prix involves cars doing donuts around traffic cones.
  4. Mr. Penguin's Ice Cream Adventure - The gang help Mr. Penguin transport his train full of ice cream to his friend's birthday party.
You can watch the episodes the regular way you see them on TV, or with the Magic Mission Mode turned on. On easy mode you are given a series of questions for each episode that offer you two choices based on what is happening on screen that you have to answer with your remote. On hard mode, there are four options.

The interactive mode of Little Einsteins - Fire Truck Rocket's Blastoff should please fans enough to make this DVD worth picking up. It's a 'Ask and Pause' type kids show, so it fits perfectly with the interactive mode.

Local Color - Buy from Amazon
This film was released in 2007 and went nowhere. It was then re-released earlier in the summer and didn't do much better that the box office. This is not surprising given the film's reviews. It should do better business on the home market, but with just a few short featurettes, a rental will be enough for most people.

Mad Monster Party - Buy from Amazon
The DVD screener is late, which is a shame because I'm really looking forward to watching it. It's too weird to not check it out.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland - Buy from Amazon
This is being advertised as a 'Full-Length Movie'. It's not. Granted, it's a little longer than a two-part episode, but it's far from a 'Full-Length Movie', which I would expect to be absolutely no less than 66 minutes long. This may seem like a strangely precise definition, but it is the length of three episodes of a 30-minute show, minus the commercials. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences defines feature-length as just 40 minutes long, while the Screen Actors Guild defines it as 80 minutes long, so there's obviously some leeway in that definition, but I still think I should start the review with a warning regarding the label. Although thanks to my tendency to babble, this warning will likely be the longest part of this review.

Moving on...

Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland starts with an excited Donald Duck bursting into Mickey's Clubhouse with a gift he bought for Daisy Duck. It turns out its her birthday and he's hoping the cuckoo clock he bought will be a great gift. However, in his excitement, the cuckoo bird escapes and Donald and Mickey have to chase it down before the party starts. This is easier said than done, as the cuckoo bird travels to the strange world of Wonderland (as is Alice in Wonderland). In their attempts to catch the bird, they run into a number of familiar characters, including Chip'n'Dale as Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, Goofy as the Mad Hatter, and more.

It does feel more like a full movie in some regards, including the more epic adventure and it doesn't feel like it is just two episodes stitched together. (Also, it is in widescreen, which does make it stand out compared to the TV series.) It still shares the same 'ask and pause' format of the show, and the Mouskatools are used, etc. If you are a fan of Alice in Wonderland, then you will obviously recognize the story, but it is not a faithful adaptation.

Extras include a bonus episode of show, Goofy Goes Goofy, while the 'movie' can be watched in Adventure Mode, which is identical to the Mission Mode in the Little Einsteins DVD I reviewed above.

If you have been buying the previous Mickey Mouse Clubhouse DVDs, then Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland is worth adding to your collection. It is a tad more expensive on a per-minute basis, but the interactive mode adds more replay value to the show.

Mr. Belvedere - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
A middling hit during its five-and-a-half-year run, the DVD releases have been better than expected. For instance, this 4-disc set has audio commentary tracks on six of the 22 episodes. That's better than most concurrent TV series have on their DVD releases.

Nitro Circus - Season One - Buy from Amazon
The show feels very much like the sequel to Jackass, only instead of watching idiots hurt themselves doing stupid stunts, you watch a different set of idiots hurt themselves doing stupid stunts. Only this set of idiots are actually trained professionals instead of amateur idiots. These professionals include Travis Pastrana, Andy Bell, Jolene Van Vugt, and others. Because they are professionals, they tend to do things that are more athletic than the average stunt seen on Jackass and far less simply embarrassing. That's not to say nothing embarrassing happens, especially when Streetbike Tommy is involved.

When reviewing a show like this, I can't get much more specific than that without entering unacceptable spoiler territory. I will say I did like seeing them play hockey and it's nice seeing Jolene Van Vugt prove that women can be as nuts as men, (plus, she's Canadian). On the other hand, a few too many times I felt that Tommy was there to be the clown, which was not cool. Also, too many of the stunts felt repetitive. Seeing Andy Bell do a backflip on a kid's toy is cool. Seeing someone try to repeat that trick over and over again loses its appeal, quickly. Even upping the distance doesn't make it more interesting.

The only extra on the first disc is a music video, while the second disc has bonus stunts and interviews.

I'm not a fan of Jackass, but I always like the athletic stunts the best. Nitro Circus is like Jackass, but with almost nothing but the athletic stunts, which makes it the better show. That said, it still tested my endurance and the extras on Season One were not particularly strong. If you are a fan of this genre, it is worth checking out, but for most a rental will suffice.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Set and filmed in Botswana, the show stars Jill Scott as Mma Ramotswe, the first female private detective in Botswana, and Anika Noni Rose as her assistant. Co-produced by the BBC and HBO and based on a series of books by Alexander McCall Smith. The show has earned excellent reviews and it is worth checking out. However, it is very expensive on a per minute basis compared to most TV on DVD releases, and that might limit its value to a rental for a lot of people.

The Office - Season Five - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Season five of The Office had some warning signs that the show is running out of steam; however, even if you think it has jumped the shark, it is still funny enough to be worth checking out week after week. Extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray including audio commentary tracks on about half the episodes, a couple hours of deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, webisodes, and more. The Blu-ray does have some exclusives, and it only costs 16% more, so it is clearly the better deal. Regardless of which format you choose, it is worth picking up. Also coming out this week is a Box Set, but I have no idea why someone would spend money on a multi-season box set for a series that isn't over yet.

One Foot in the Grave - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A 12-disc set with the complete TV series, including the most recent specials. If you have the previous full-series set, you can get the Christmas Specials separately.

Parks and Recreation - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A lot of people had high hopes for this show, but most agree that it started out slow. Some think that by the end of its shortened starting season it has reached its potential, or at least moved in the right direction. If you are part of that group, then this DVD is absolutely worth picking up, as there are audio commentary tracks on all six episodes, as well as deleted scenes and outtakes. It is expensive on a per minute basis, but that's a lot of extras compared to most TV on DVD releases. On the other hand, I think it might be wise to wait to see if the show has improved during its second season. If not, it likely won't last till season three, and that might change the value of this DVD, as it is right on the border between a rental and a purchase.

Power Rangers - RPM - Volume 2 - Race for Corinth - Buy from Amazon
Volume 2 is the origin collection featuring five episodes detailing the origins of four of the five power rangers. (The origins of the mysterious Black Ranger are not discussed while Yellow Ranger has a two-part episode.) Things start with...

  • Ranger Green - As he undergoes test to learn the intricacies of teleportation under the tutelage of Dr.K., we learn the origins of Ziggy and why he was thrown out of the Corinth in the first place. I won't give away too much, but it has something to do with stealing from the five Cartels, which includes a gang called the South Town Sweet Tooths. Least intimidating organized crime syndicate, ever.
  • Ranger Red - The leader of the Power Rangers. He wasn't always in a position of authority; in fact, during the initial war with Venjix, he was in the shadow of his older brother, Marcus, while he father, Colonel Truman, never saw his natural abilities as a pilot or a leader. In order to prove himself, he takes on a dangerous solo mission outside of Corinth, against the express orders of without the permission of his father.
  • Ranger Yellow - Part One & Two - The Power Rangers are hosting a group of kids, who insist on asking inane questions about why Ranger Blue talks pretty or why Ranger Red has the coolest hair, or who looks best in Spandex, much to the horror of Dr. K. However, they are interrupted by a Venjix. We learn how before she was a Power Ranger, Summer Landsdown was rich and spoiled heiress raised by her butler, Andrews, because her parents were never around. However, after the initial battle, her parents pick the worst time to return, and force their daughter to fulfill a promise she made: if they left her along to be a Power Ranger for a year, she would then agree to marry Chaz Winchester.
  • Ranger Blue - The episode start with a Q&A session between the Rangers and Dr. K, who clearly lacks the patience to explain all the questions, like why there are big googly anime eyes on the zords. Or why there's a huge explosion when they morph. This leads into the origin story of Flynn McAllistair, who growing up in Scotland always wanted to fight for justice, but no matter how hard he tried, and no matter how good of a fight he put up, he never seemed to make a difference, and he always seemed to be punished for his efforts.
Sadly, there are no extras on this DVD. However, I've reviewed about a dozen Power Ranger DVDs from various incarnations, and I have to say this one is the best. It combines a near perfect mix of humor and action, and the Q&A session in the last episode is clearly a nod to all the fans and the questions they have with regards to the show. There's not a single misstep in the bunch and most have very high replay value.

I'm too old to be in the target audience for Power Rangers - RPM, but I had a blast watching the episodes. Even without extras, Race for Corinth is easily worth picking up and I'm really looking forward to volume 3.

Sleep Dealer - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
As expected, this film wasn't able to find an audience during its limited release, in part due to its reviews, which were only mixed. However, it seems that the studio thinks it has a chance on the home market, and it is being released on DVD and Blu-ray, the latter of which costs less than the former. Worth checking out, but perhaps start with a rental.

Thomas & Friends - Hero of the Rails - Buy from Amazon
There's two aspects of this release that I found surprising. Firstly, they still make Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs? Secondly, according to Amazon's sales chart, it's in the top ten for the new releases this week.

True Jackson - V.P. - Season 1 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
The normal caveat applies for TV on DVD releases. I hate it when they split seasons into two volumes, as it feels like a cash grab. However, when it comes to kids shows, which almost never last past 65 episodes, it makes a lot more sense to release five volumes of 13 episodes each instead of two full seasons and one half season.

As for the actual show...

Keke Palmer stars as True Jackson, a 15-year old girl who while selling sandwiches catches the eye of the Max Madigan (Greg Proops) who is a fashion designer and the CEO of MadStyle. He likes the way she changed his designs. In one of his bursts of inspiration / insanity, he hires her on the spot to be his V.P. of Youth Apparel. She immediately hires her best friend, Lulu (Ashley Argota), to be her receptionist, and her other best friend, Ryan (Matt Shively), just hangs around. True's nemesis is Amanda Cantwell (Danielle Bisutti) who is the V.P. of women's fashion, and was previously the youngest V.P. in the company. In the typical episode, Amanda will try and trip up True, but no matter what she does, or how True reacts, Max loves her work.

This brings us to the major problem with the show. There's a typical episode and the show's only 13 episodes into its run. Additionally, the show feels very similar to shows like iCarly, Hannah Montana, Sonny With a Chance, etc. It focuses on one girl (Carly, Miley, Sonny, etc.) who usually has two friends, one guy and one girl. She's part of the adult world in someway (fashion, music, TV, etc.) and has to balance her adult life with the typical drama of being a kid. The show has potential, especially thanks to the performance and charm of Keke Palmer in the lead, while Danielle Bisutti is equally great as her foil. But I found her two friends to be too similar in terms of temperament and what they bring to the show. Maybe over the course of the show the side cast will be fleshed out more, which would help the show reach its potential. As it is now, it's better than Sonny With a Chance, but not as good as Hannah Montana, or going a little more old school, Lizzie McGuire. (I wonder what Hilary Duff would think about being referred to as old school?)

As for extras, there are nine behind the scenes clips at roughly 2 minutes per clip, but you can only watch them as one chunk. There are nearly 8 minutes of outtakes, 14 minutes of screen tests for the cast, and finally a 5-minute look at the Barbie show at Fashion Week in New York City. This is a better selection of extras than what you would normally find on a TV on DVD release for a show with a similar target audience.

True Jackson - V.P. is better than a lot of shows with the same or similar target audience, and while it is not among the very best, it is still worth checking out. Season 1 - Volume 1 has enough extras to lift the 2-disc set to the purchase level for fans of the show, while if you haven't seen it and you are part of the target demographic, or have kids who are, then it is worth checking out.

Universal Horror - Classic Movie Archive - Buy from Amazon
The definition of 'Classic' is being stretched dangerously thin here, but it is hard to argue with that price. A list price of $20 for five films is excellent, especially if you are a fan of B-movies.

Valentino: The Last Emperor - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Fashion Week starts in New York City in just a couple days, so it makes perfect sense to release this movie on the home market this week. It's a good documentary, but not a great documentary, but it still beat expectations at the box office earning close to $2 million. Extras include a trio of featurettes and for fans of fashion it is worth checking out, but I think it is just worth a rental. Then again, I'm not big into fashion, so keep that in mind when considering my opinion.

Worst Week - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A high concept comedy that would have had a short shelf life regardless of the initial quality. Sadly, its reviews were only mixed and only lasted one season. The only extra on the 2-disc set is an audio commentary track, which makes it hard to recommend anything more than renting.

Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! - Wubbzy Goes Boo - Buy from Amazon
Might be getting a copy of this DVD to review. It's currently placing high on the Amazon sales chart for the week, especially compared to similar DVD releases.


Filed under: Video Releases, Dance Flick, Crank 2: High Voltage, Valentino: The Last Emperor, Sleep Dealer, Local Color, Kabei, I'll Believe You