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DVD Releases for September 22nd, 2009 - Part II

September 22nd, 2009

Both a great week for home market releases, and a rather soft week. There are numerous DVDs and Blu-rays worth of consideration for DVD Pick of the Week, but almost all of them are from the TV on DVD category with no first run releases even coming close to that level. The best of the best are 30 Rock - Season Three, Castle - Season One, Star Trek - The Original Series - Season Two - Blu-ray, and Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season Two - Blu-ray, all from the TV on DVD category, while Star Trek - The Next Generation - The Movie Collection on Blu-ray and Wallace and Gromit - The Complete Collection - Blu-ray. And of those six possibilities, the DVD Pick of the Week is... All of them. I honestly tried to narrow it down, but I just couldn't. They are all so amazing. With so many top-notch releases, it's no surprise that the list had to be split into two. The second part can be found here.

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A Rob Zombie directed, adult oriented, 2-D cartoon about a Mexican wrestler / super hero. Could have cult appeal, but there's almost no chance it will be a mainstream hit. Additionally, neither version has much in the way of extras (just some deleted / alternate scenes) and unless you are a hardcore fan of the directly, or adult oriented cartoons, a rental will be enough.

Jonas - Rockin' The House - Buy from Amazon
The latest Disney channel TV series to hit the home market. It premiered on TV this past May to ratings that were less than stellar. Likewise, their concert movie did not live up to expectations. One might say they are a little over-hyped and perhaps a little over-exposed. If this show isn't high quality, could they just be over?

There are seven episodes on this DVD (a couple are found under Bonus Features) starting with...

  • Groovy Moves - The three brothers find out its their mother's birthday, and they forgot, and they have to find the perfect gift. But when they accidentally destroy all the old home movies, they decide to make new ones.
  • Wrong Song - Nick is in love with a girl, but his two brothers think this is trouble. Also, Stella tries to invent clothing that can protect the boys from the horde of screaming girls they call fans.
  • Pizza Girl - All three boys try to compete for the same pizza delivery girl. This won't end well.
  • Band's Best Friend - A friend from elementary school comes to town, but is he really there to visit with them, or just leach off their fame?
  • Chasing the Dream - Kevin lets Macy, their super-fan, sing backup on a song, but it turns out her voice is terrible. So now they have to decide what to do. It's called, 'Fixing it in post.'
  • Beauty and the Beat - The first of two bonus episodes that I assume are from season two (they haven't aired yet). The group gets the chance to judge the Miss Most Amazing Teen pageant. At first Stella is not impressed by their... enthusiasm. Then she get mad after they say she's, 'not the pageant type.' You can guess what she does next, and how it works out.
  • Cold Shoulder - The president of the Scandinavian fan club travels to America to be with Kevin, but things don't work out (she breaks up with him with a cookie-gram). It's up to Stella to figure out why, and if she can fix it.
So how is the show? Most critics are comparing the show to The Monkees, which is an excellent starting point for any review. They both focus on the day-to-day lives of a rock band, a hyper-unrealistic look at the day-to-day lives of a rock band. Here's the thing, The Monkees worked because they had two actors who couldn't play musical instruments and two musicians who couldn't act. They could play to the strengths of the individual members so both the music and the acting had something that was worth checking out. They also backed them up with an amazing group of songwriters, which was a very smart move.

Here you have three leads that can't act, at all. After watching these five episodes, I don't believe they are rock stars in real life. I no longer think they are really brothers. Also, since they write their own music you don't have much control there and the music they write tends to be a little too generic for my tastes. So all you can do put the three guys into wacky situations and hope for the best. Maybe add some swish pans, extreme close-ups, etc., and you have all the ingredients for an edgy show, right? Right? Sadly, unless you are a 'tween girl, it will probably take a lot more than that to keep you interested in this show.

Extras on the DVD include the two bonus episodes mentioned above, and an 11-minute featurette a practical joke the trio pulled on their co-star, Chelsea Staub, who thought she was there for a photo shoot.

Unless you are a serious fan of the Jonas Brothers as a band, there's no reason to check out Jonas the TV series. Even if you are a fan of their music, their... unpolished acting might be hard to take. That said, Rockin' The House offers good value on a price per minute basis compared to a lot of similar releases.

Law & Order - Special Victims Unit - Season Ten - Buy from Amazon
Good show, but the DVDs have never been loaded with extras. Add in the fact that the show is on nearly 24 hours a day, and it limits the value of the DVD.

Lymelife - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A film that explores sub-urban life and the general ennui that goes with it. There was quite of bit of pre-release buzz surrounding this film, partially due to the cast, but also due to the writer / director, Derick Martini, whose previously wrote the screenplay for Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish, which won the Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, the reviews were only mixed and it struggled in limited release. Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending. Also, the Blu-ray is cheaper. It's not a bad deal, but I would still start with a rental.

The Mentalist - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Arguably my favorite police procedural on TV right now. It's down to this one and Castle. There are a lot of similarities, including focusing on non-professionals helping the cops solve crimes. The main cop is a woman and there's some sexual tension there. There are two subordinate cops on both shows that play the comic relief, to a certain extent. I like the chemistry between the two leads better on Castle, but I like the subordinate cops better on this show. The tiebreaker is Richard Castle's family, as Susan Sullivan and Molly Quinn are fantastic as his mother and daughter. That said, both shows are worth checking out, but the extras here are weaker with just some deleted scenes, outtakes, and a couple of featurettes. Still worth picking up, but not DVD Pick of the Week material.

Mitch Fatel Is Magical - Buy from Amazon
Comedy is very subjective. What some might find hilarious, others will simply groan at. Or shrug in a confused manner. Or want to run away from at a high velocity. Mitch Fatel makes me want to do the last one.

There are two major problems with this act. Firstly, there are some that have said Mitch Fatel has a unique delivery, and this is true. Some has said his delivery makes him sound like an 8-year old while others have said it makes him sound mentally retarded. That might be a little harsh, but I can see where they are coming from. The second of the two problems with the act are the jokes, which are almost all about sex. I don't mind jokes about sex, as long as they are well written, but when every joke is about sex, it gets incredibly repetition, incredibly fast. Combined with his delivery and watching this DVD was like watching an 8-year old tell dirty jokes for over an hour. And they are not even well written sex jokes. "I like breasts." is typical of the jokes told here. And I'm not being snarky when I say that, that's a direct quote from the special. And when he said it, the crowd laughed like he had just told a great joke. Like I said, comedy is subjective.

Extras on the DVD are mixed. There are a lot of individual extras to check out, seven of them in all, but most are barely a minute, or under a minute. The total running time is barely 11 minutes long and most have no replay value. There's one ad-lib that wasn't included in the set, which is funnier than anything we see in the set. There's a short look at the photoshoot for the DVD. There's one of his joke set to very limited animation, which seems rather pointless. The others all have his fans talking about him; for instance, Mitch is Reviewed has post show responses. What's the point? You know they are not going to include any critical responses, and you have already seen the set, so you can judge for yourself.

So his delivery is bad and his jokes are not funny and almost none of the extras on the DVD are worth sitting through even once. Is there anything here that is worthy of praise? Not in my opinion. Mitch Fatel Is Magical is not magical, it's creepy. It's like watching a little kid tell a dirty joke, the same dirty joke, for an hour, while whispering half the time. It's not merely unfunny; it's aggressively bad. Skip it.

O'Horten - Buy from Amazon
Despite earning amazing reviews, this Norwegian film opened poorly, which prevented it from finding the audience it deserved. This poor box office performance could explain why the only extra on the DVD is an interview with the writer / direct Bent Hamer and the composer Erik Kaada. Even so, it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Observe and Report - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A disappointment, both in terms of critical reception and box office numbers. Seth Rogan's character just isn't sympathetic enough to root for, and that makes watching the movie more uncomfortable than entertaining at times. Since it struggled at the box office, I'm not surprised the DVD doesn't have a lot of extras, but I'm surprised that it has none. None. The Blu-ray does have a lot of extras, including Picture-in-Picture track, deleted scenes, outtakes, making of featurette, and more. Worth checking out, but given the nature of the movie, give it a rental first.

Paul Newman - The Tribute Collection - Buy from Amazon
A 13-movie, 17-disc collection of films from Paul Newman. Includes several physical extras, including a book if photos and essays. The book itself is probably worth at least $10 to $20, so unless you have more than half the films in this box set, it is an excellent deal. Even if you have almost all of the movies, it might be worth picking up just for the book and packaging.

Scooby-Doo - The Mystery Begins - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A TV movie prequel for the Scooby-Doo franchise that is earning better reviews that expected. It's not Oscar material, but it is an effective story. There's not much in terms of extras, just a couple featurettes, some outtakes, etc. The Blu-ray has this, plus a pop-up trivia track. Worth checking out for fans of the franchise, but start with a rental.

SpongeBob SquarePants - The First 100 Episodes - Buy from Amazon

What I mean by that is... No. No I will not watch all 100 episodes for this review. That's more than a day and a half of SpongeBob, which is too much for anyone to watch over the course of a week. That's a full-time job by itself. What I did was watch a random episode per disc to get a general feel of the shows progression throughout the years. (The show was excellent from the start, but starting around season four the hit to miss ratio starts to go down.) Also, I checked out the extras, which were non-existent for the first ten discs. Starting on disc eleven there are audio commentary tracks on eleven shorts with storyboard editors, writers, producers, etc. Not as energetic as I was expecting given the nature of the show. The rest of the extras are all found on disc 14, starting with Square Roots - The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants. This 43-minute long featurette is talks about the origins of the show, as well as the cultural impact the show has had, and nearly every topic in-between. This is definitely aimed at adults, as it deals with the show as an academic endeavor, and not a silly square sponge. (On a side note... If you named a cartoon character Fagerbakke, it would be too silly a name to work. Even for a show like SpongeBob.) I love when they veered off into political stories, like the accusations of SpongeBob being gay and Obama admitting he's his favorite TV character. Life Lessons from Bikini Bottom is an 8-minute short 'educational' film. (It's a bunch of clips with a narrator acting as if it's a serious scientific documentary.) Help Wanted - Seven Seas Edition is the pilot episode, but with the audio track switching languages practically every line. It's quite surreal and just shows how universal SpongeBob's appeal is. Finally there's a music video for Kick-Wham-Pow-Bob. In total that's just over an hour of extras to with the 37 hours of regular programming.

I have often commented that SpongeBob SquarePants is aimed at little kids and drunken college students. And now the show has lasted so long that people who enjoyed it as little kids when it first started might be old enough to be the drunken college student now. This 14-disc set has better extras than a lot of previous releases and a per minute price that is roughly 3 cents. However, I'm sure that every episode on The First 100 Episodes has been released on DVD... Twice. ... At least twice. I don't think it's worth the triple-dip, but if you don't own the show yet, now is the perfect time to grab it.

Star Trek - The Next Generation - The Movie Collection - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
This is coming out this week, along with First Contact being sold separately. I should get them to review shortly. In the meantime, I will say that while the quality of most of these movies is not on par with those featuring the cast of The Original Series, it is still worth picking up for fans of the show, and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Star Trek - The Original Series - Original Motion Picture Collection - Buy from Amazon
Collection of the first six movies. This was already released on Blu-ray, so if you own that, there's no reason to also buy this.

Star Trek - The Original Series - Season Two - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
The third TV on DVD release coming out this week that I didn't bother to watch in order to review. There's no need, because not only have I seen every episode multiple times, I own the first DVD release, and I've reviewed the second DVD release. There's little more than needs to be added about the quality of the show, other than to say it is the best of the three seasons. There are numerous classic episodes, like Amok Time and The Trouble with Tribbles, and even the weakest episode here (Catspaw or The Apple) still have relatively high replay value. (On a side note, while it's not be best known episode, I've always loved Wolf in the Fold because there's something twisted about Jack the Ripper being portrayed by the same actor who provided the voice for Piglet.) Additionally, all of the extras from the previous DVD are ported over, so the only real question is whether or not it is worth the upgrade to get the show in High Definition.

There are a few exclusive extras include several Picture-in-Picture commentary tracks on key episodes like Amok Time and The Trouble with Tribbles, which are arguably the two most important episodes from this season. The DVD is also BD-Live enabled, and there's additional extras for mobile devices, which I do not have. I might have to grab one just for reviews, if these become standard. Finally, there are reportedly a dozen or so Easter Eggs found on the seven-disc set. I've found a few brief interview clips, but part of the fun is finding them on your own, so I won't say where they are. As for the Blu-ray's technical presentation, this is obviously the best the show has looked and / or sounded... ever. It is possible that the show looks better than it did with the original masters, given how long ago it was made. Some of the original special effects shots have not aged well, both in terms of realism and in video quality, but the remastered shots are amazing. The 7.1 audio track makes excellent use of the rear speakers to draw the viewer in. Additionally, it only costs about 25% more than the most recent DVD release, which is an excellent price for this type of release.

Is Star Trek - The Original Series - Season Two - Blu-ray worth the price to upgrade? Absolutely. In fact, it is a clear contender for DVD Pick of the Week. I can't wait to complete my collection of the show on Blu-ray.

Taxi - Season Four Buy from Amazon
It's been four years since season three came out on DVD. If you are a fan of this show, grab this DVD, and grab it now, otherwise there's a good chance the studio won't release the fifth and final season for a long, long time.

Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season Two - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A great show. An expensive show. An expensive show on Friday nights. Expensive show on Friday nights aimed at a demographic that is more likely to be going out on a Friday night rather than staying home to watch TV. It's no surprise that the show was canceled, but the home market releases are great. There are audio commentary tracks on four episodes, and 8-part featurette on the show, deleted scenes, outtakes, and more. Easily worth picking up, and worth paying extra for High Definition.

Ugly Betty - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
The first season of this show was amazing. It earned eleven Emmy nominations winning three of them, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for America Ferrera. Season two the show struggled and its Emmy nominations were down to six and it won none of them. This year it went zero for one. Season four the show is moving to Fridays. You can tell it's on life support and the network is preparing to pull the plug. But is this fair?

The storylines this year are increasingly more soap opera and less a parody of said soap opera. Lindsay Lohan has a short guest stint as a girl from Betty's past who used to bully her in high school. Daniel Meade has to try and retain custody of his son. Wilhelmina continues her plot to take over the Meade publishing empire and is using the unborn baby of the late Bradford Meade to do so. Hilda is still dating a married man and has to decide if there's a future there. Betty has yet another potential boyfriend. Betty and Amanda become roommates after the latter's shopping addiction gets the better of her. Daniel and Wilhelmina have to become partners, which works out about as well as you would assume. There are also literally dozens of minor storylines, and a few major storylines, which I left out. Unfortunately, most don't work. Lindsay Lohan's character didn't work and I'm not surprised they cut her guest run from six to four episodes. I wasn't sad to see Daniel Meade's son leave either. There were a few characters that left that I'm not happy about, but I'm not going to spoil that here. Overall this is clearly the weakest of the three seasons and if things don't turn around quickly, it might not last long enough for Betty to have her big makeover at the end of season four.

On a side note, there are a lot of people on this show that are stupid, or at least act stupid. At one point, Wilhelmina threatens Alexis with jail time because she has influence over the D.A. since they (Wilhelmina and the D.A.) are sleeping together. Instead of buckling to this pressure, just reveal that fact in open court. "Your honor, the D.A. and I had a plea agreement, but he reneged after he started sleeping with the biological mother of the unborn child being carried by the victim of this case." And if the D.A. objects saying I had no evidence of that claim, I would say, "Wilhelmina told me when she tried to blackmail me. Oh, and I want her arrested for that." I figure the worst case scenario is another media circus starting while the D.A. spend all its energy trying to downplay the accusations. Hardly a downside given the family history and it would still help you get what you want. Multiple times during this season I kept saying, 'Why are they doing this. It's stupid. There's a better way to get what you want.'

Extras start with 8 webisodes on disc one featuring Marc and Amanda and their after-hour escapades. Disc two has an audio commentary track on Crush'd. Disc five has a Picture-in-Picture commentary track on The Sex Issue with Becki Newton and Michael Urie (Amanda and Marc). Disc six has two more webisodes, a featurette on the show's return to New York for filming, and nearly nine minutes of outtakes. Additionally, there are deleted scenes on five of the six discs (disc five is the only exception). Not a bad selection of extras, and it should be enough to please fans.

I was surprised how quickly Ugly Betty drew me in during its first season; however, by Season Three the show has lost almost all of its charm. A very disappointing turn. If you bought the first two seasons, but didn't see season three on TV, give this one a rental ahead of the season premiere. If season four improves, it might be worth picking up to have a complete collection. If season four continues its slide, it might be time to give up on the series.

Wallace and Gromit - A Matter of Loaf or Death - Buy from Amazon
I've been seeing trailers for this on a lot of DVDs I reviewed this week, which could mean I will be getting a screener in the mail soon. That would be awesome, because it looks hilarious. If you are a fan of the franchise, then this is worth checking out. On the other hand, it's only 30 minutes long. Back to the original hand, it is also coming out as part of The Complete Collection on DVD and Blu-ray, the latter of which is an amazing deal. (The former has too much double-dipping.)

Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana - Buy from Amazon
First of all, this is not a Full-Length movie as it is called on the DVD case. This is just three episodes from three shows currently airing on Disney Channel: The Wizards of Waverly Place, Suite Life on Deck, and Hannah Montana. All three episodes crossover, starting with...
  • The Wizards of Waverly Place - Castaway (To Another Show)
    Justin wins an essay writing contest and gets a trip to Hawaii on the S.S.Tipton along with his sister, Alex, and his younger brother, Max. While there, Justin falls for London, Harper and Cody get along because they are both smart and strange, Alex and Zack get along because they are both dumb and strange, and Alex and Bailey hang out because they are the only pair left.
  • Suite Life on Deck - Double-Crossed
    While the gang from The Wizards of Waverly Place are still onboard, Hannah Montana also arrives, as she's playing a concert in Hawaii. Bailey is a major super fan of Hannah Montana, Cody attempts to get tickets for the two to the concert, which shouldn't be too hard, since he's met her previously. Unfortunately, she doesn't remember him, so his task will be a lot tougher.
  • Hannah Montana - Super(stitious) Girl
    While onboard the S.S.Tipton, Hannah Montana loses her lucky ankle bracelet, which was given to her by her mom. Now everything is going wrong, and she's thinking about canceling the concert.
Extras include a three-and-a-half minute featurette by Justin on how to write an essay. There's also It's a Suite Life Having Fun With Hannah & The Wizards, a six-minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of the crossover episode.

Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana combines two shows that I like, and one that I dislike. This could result in the two good shows propping up the bad show, or the bad show could drag the others down. Fortunately, it's the former. In fact, I didn't mind the Suite Life on Deck episode on this disc. If you are a fan of any of these shows, then there's enough value on this DVD to make it worth buying.


Filed under: Video Releases, Observe and Report, Lymelife, O'Horten, Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins