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DVD Releases for November 17th, 2009 - Part I

November 16th, 2009

There's an excellent mix of new releases this week, including Star Trek on DVD and Blu-ray. There are a few TV on DVD releases, including Andy Barker, P.I. - The Complete Series, as well as several Blu-ray releases of note: Galaxy Quest, Gone With the Wind - The Ultimate Collector's Edition, and The Professional. All of these are contenders for the DVD Pick of the Week, but if I were to narrow them down to one selection, it would be Star Trek on Blu-ray. There are plenty of spotlight reviews this week, enough to split the column into two parts, with the second part found here.

7th Heaven - Season Nine - Buy from Amazon
This series was one of a select few that lasted more than a decade, but at this point there's not much to say about the DVD releases, because either you know all about the show, or you don't care.

Andy Barker, P.I. - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Andy Richter's third short-lived series. This one ran a mere six episodes, but at least fans will be happy to learn the DVD is loaded with extras that include audio commentary tracks on all six episodes, as well as two behind-the-scenes featurettes and outtakes. Easily worth picking up, and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week, despite its short life on air.

Basement Jack - Buy from Amazon: Buy from Amazon
Basement Jack is a serial killer who likes to hide in the basement of his prospective victims' homes and kill during lightning storms, only to then re-arrange the victims into the poses reminiscent of happy family moments. After one such killing spree, one girl manages to escape while Jack is locked up, but now he's out and started killing again and it is up to her to convince the police he's back, and if she can't, she has to stop him herself. This is an effective member of the low-budget direct-to-DVD horror genre, but nothing more. On a side note, it shares a number of actors and locations with Evilution, which is also coming out on DVD this week.

Bill Engvall - Aged and Confused - Buy from Amazon
The latest stand-up concert DVD from Bill Engvall. There are a couple of copies on their way to me, one for review and the other for a contest. I will get to both ASAP after they arrive.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Billy Idol - In Super Overdrive, Blues at Montreux, Brüno, Chasing Amy, Clerks, Darwin's Darkest Hour, Earth, Wind and Fire - Live at Montreaux 1997, Elvis Costello - Spectacle - Season One, Fight Club, Franklyn, Galaxy Quest, Gone With the Wind - The Ultimate Collector's Edition, Is Anybody There?, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - A Very Sunny Christmas, Kanas - There's No Place Like Home, Kevin Smith Collection, Kings of Leon - Live at the O2, Moonshot, My Brilliant Career, My Sister's Keeper, Open Road, The Professional, Rome - The Complete Series, Scrubs - Season 8, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Star Trek, and Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE - Season 1
A good mix of Blu-rays coming out this week, including what could be one of the biggest-selling of all time: Star Trek. There are also recent classics like Galaxy Quest and The Professional, as well as one of the all time greats, Gone with the Wind. It could be an expensive week for fans of High Definition.

Bruno - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to Borat didn't earn as strong reviews, nor did it do as well at the box office. Was this justified and is the DVD or the Blu-ray worth picking up? Check out our featured review to see.

Christmas Releases - Buy from Amazon: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - A Very Sunny Christmas, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - A Very Sunny Christmas (Blu-ray), Larry the Cable Guy's Hula-Palooza Christmas Luau, The Merry Yule Log, An Old-Fashioned Christmas, and ThanksKilling
Slow week with only one release that is selling well: the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas special, which is unrated, and I've read that it is rightfully so. However, I will not be able to confirm or refute that until the screener arrives. One a side note, ThanksKilling is not technically a Christmas release, but a Thanksgiving release. Actually, it is a parody of low budget splatter films featuring a cursed Turkey killing a bunch of teenagers. Thanksgiving... Christmas... close enough.

Dane Cook - ISolated INcident - Buy from Amazon
I might be getting this stand-up DVD to review, but I kind of hope not. Can't stand the man or his style of comedy.

Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about organic food and its place on our tables. It's an important topic, but this was a little-seen film. The DVD should be seen more, but I won't be able to judge if it is worth a rental or a purchase until after the DVD arrives for review.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 3rd. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

G.I. Joe - Resolute - Buy from Amazon
The first of three G.I.Joe releases that are late, but have finally arrived. I guess two weeks late isn't too bad.

The film starts with what appears to be a post-Cobra world. Cobra island was decommissioned, but there's activity there. There's activity everywhere, including onboard the U.S.S. Flagg, which is where G.I. Joe is headquartered. Using a plan that is clearly years in development, Cobra disables satellite communications and, using an overly complex communications method, informs the U.N. that they have 24 hours to hand over all power to Cobra Commander, or he will start destroying countries one by one. And to demonstrate his power, he starts by destroying Moscow and killing more than 10 million people. That leaves G.I.Joe less than 24 hours to stop Cobra, which will be made a lot more difficult without satellite communications, a crippled flagship, and most of their gear destroyed.

Resolute is a more adult take on the long-running line of action figures. And in this regard it is mostly a success. There were far fewer "parachute moments" that fans of the 1980s cartoon will remember. (You know, where planes get blown up, but at the last second the pilot ejects and his parachute is deployed so we know that no one dies, ever.) But there are too many times where neither side has the aim you that would expect for a highly trained counter-terrorist task force, or their arch-nemesis. Additionally, there were more than a few scenes where I was thinking, "There should be more blood here." It's like they wanted a more adult movie, but they didn't want a PG-13 rating.

As for the story, it's better than I was expecting. (In fact, it might be better than the big budget movie that came out recently, but I can't confirm that until that screener arrives.) It's short at only an hour long, but there's plenty of action and a few interesting character bits, especially between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. (Although here I have two minor issues. Firstly, Storm Shadow takes too much. Secondly, the Zartan / Snake Eyes crossover bit was just unnecessary.) At just under 60 minutes, there's no padding here, and the filmmakers assume you are familiar with the basics of the setup and the characters. If this is the first time you've seen G.I.Joe, then some of the background motivations will be lost. Then again, this is clearly aimed at adults who grew up on the toys.

Extras on the DVD include a 2-minute short with Duke, Roadblock, and Snake Eyes called Now You Know. There's a 21-minute interview with several of the filmmakers who talk about the motivations behind creating the show and what went into making it. There are storyboards and finally character bios for several of the characters, both from G.I.Joe and Cobra. I would have liked an audio commentary track, but what we get is solid.

G.I. Joe - Resolute could be the first time they made a G.I. Joe cartoon that was aimed at adult fans, and it works. The main feature is short, while the extras are solid. Bottom line, if you are a fan of the franchise then this DVD is definitely worth the money.

Girl Seeks Girl - Buy from Amazon
A Spanish Soap Opera with a lesbian twist. It is being compared to The L Word, which is high praise for those in that target audience. Even if you are not in the target audience, there's enough charm here to win over most people.

Gone with the Wind - Buy from Amazon: Two-Disc DVD, Collector's Edition DVD, or Collector's Edition Blu-ray
One of the greatest movies ever made and arguably the biggest box office hit of all time. The movie is coming out on a 70th Anniversary DVD and Collector's Box, but that's not what's interesting. What's interesting is that this week marks the Blu-ray debut for the film. Granted, it's only available as part of a rather expensive Collector's Box Set, and I would have liked an option for a more reasonably priced regular edition more on par with the Two-Disc DVD. Even so, it is certainly worth picking up, and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

How to Be - Buy from Amazon
The Robert Pattinson over-exposure continues. This guy is on practically every "Top Young Actors" list I've read, but I think it is too early to tell where his career will end up. As for this British comedy, it appeared in a number of Film Festivals, but its reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are merely mixed. There are better than expected extras (behind-the-scenes, making-of featurette, interviews, audition footage, etc.), but its appeal is limited.

Humpday - Buy from Amazon
Two friends from college get into a contest of one-upmanship, which leads to them to making gay porn together. Obviously not the most mainstream of movies, but still worth checking out, but I think it might be best to start with a rental.

Intrepid Descent - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about backwoods skiing. There are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, so I can't even take an educated guess about the film's quality until the screener arrives.

Is Anybody There? - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film opened in limited release with reviews that were good, but not great, while its opening weekend box office was also good, but not great. However, it hung on better than most movies, and earned $2 million in the end. Extras on the DVD are limited to interviews with a handful of the cast members and the director, but that's still enough to be a solid rental while the Blu-ray only costs $1 more, so if you are looking to buy, it's the better deal.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A Christmas special from the low-budget, very popular TV series. I should be getting a screener for this show shortly, but I'm not sure when it will arrive, or which format it will be.

Kevin Smith Collection - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Two Kevin Smith films make their debut on Blu-ray this week as part of this three-disc set. Yes, one of these films in a double-dip, but don't worry, you can buy the movies separately as well. Are they worth the double-dip? Should you grab one, the other, or the full Box Set? To find out my opinion, check out our Featured Review.

The Limits of Control - Buy from Amazon
The latest from Jim Jarmusch and the follow-up to Broken Flowers, which is his biggest hit to date. This film started out extremely well at the box office, then its reviews caught up to it and it collapsed the following weeks. With a couple of extras on the DVD, fans of the director will want to check it out, but start with a rental first.

Luxury Car - Buy from Amazon
A Chinese movie about a retired schoolteacher trying to find his son so his dying wife can see him one last time. The film won the Un Certain Regard Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, but never found an audience here. Perhaps the DVD is worth picking up, but I won't know for sure until the screener arrives.

Michael Jackson - Mega Box - Buy from Amazon
This box set contains Interviews Volumes One & Two, Press Conferences, and Fan Footage. It's a much better deal than buying them individually, but I'm well beyond Michael Jackson overload at this point and just seeing the DVD box covers is too much. I feel ghoulish just writing about them.

My Sister's Keeper - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Based on the popular book and directed by the same person that directed The Notebook, this film suffered from an overabundance of emotionally manipulative material, but still featured enough excellent performances that fans of the genre will want to check it out. Extras on the DVD are limited to some deleted scenes, while the Blu-ray has a couple of exclusive featurettes, but costs twice as much on Amazon. Makes it hard to say which version to grab.

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

Near Dark - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
This movie is either another reason to hate Twilight, or perhaps Twilight's only saving grace. But more on that digression later.

Adrian Pasdar stars as Caleb Colton, a cowboy from a small Oklahoma town who one night meets a girl by the name of Mae (Jenny Wright who had parts in St. Elmo's Fire and The Wall). They seem to be having a good time, but as sunrise nears, she freaks out and demands he takes her home. However, she gives him a goodbye kiss, and a goodbye bite before she leaves. As he tries to make it home, the sun rises and his skin starts to burn, but he doesn't know why. As his father and his younger sister (Marcie Leeds who played the young Hillary in Beaches) watch him struggle to walk in the sun, he's kidnapped by a group driving a Winnebago. Turns out Mae is a vampire and this is her clan. The leader is Jesse, who was turned in the civil war while his "wife" is Diamondback. Severen is the archetypal vampire; a killer without a soul who revels in the power and the lack of repercussions for his actions. The final member of the clan is Homer (Joshua John Miller who had a small part in Halloween 3, but to date this has been his biggest film). Homer was turned as a child, and was the one who turned Mae, but as a vampire will remain outwardly a child forever. After Caleb becomes a vampire, Severen's response is to kill him, but Mae wants him to stay with her. But before he can be accepted into the fold, he must prove he has what it takes to be a vampire. He must prove he is capable of killing to feed. However, even as a vampire, Caleb would rather die that kill, which puts him at odds with his new family.

The solo directorial debut for Kathryn Bigelow, who previously co-directed The Loveless with Willem Dafoe and recently directed The Hurt Locker. And until The Hurt Locker came out, this was easily her best movie. It's a vampire flick, but it isn't exactly a horror movie. Yes, it does have some violence, including some bloody kills, but it is more about the transformation that Caleb goes through and his struggle fit in with his new family, especially Mae, and his old family's desire to get him back. Others call it a vampire Western and the movie definitely takes advantage of some of the scenery of the South West, but it is the drama of the two families fighting for Caleb's soul that is the heart of the movie. Is what it takes to be a vampire worth it? Is Mae worth it? Who would he choose, Mae or his father and sister? The movie struggled at the box office when it first opened, but it has since developed a cult following, and I can see why.

As for the Blu-ray, it's kind of a mixed bag. Extras start with an audio commentary track that is hidden under the Set-up menu item. It's a solo effort by Kathryn Bigelow and it doesn't have a huge amount of energy, which is typical of solo tracks, but there's plenty of information here and it is worth giving a listen to. Living in Darkness is a 47-minute making-of featurette that features a lot of the cast, as well as some of the crew (director, producers, etc.). Again, absolutely worth checking out. There's a deleted scene with audio commentary track that shows how well the vampires see at night. I think it was cut because they either had to use the infrared every time we saw the vampires at night, or never. And never was a lot cheaper. Finally, there are two trailers. None of the extras are exclusive to the Blu-ray, nor are they presented in High Definition. Speaking of High Definition, the image quality found here is not good. I've read that it is better than the recently released DVD, but it is still a mess of DNR and grain. One of the weaker Blu-ray discs I've reviewed in this way. However, to be fair, the movie only cost $5 million to make back in 1987, so it would be unreasonable to expect a pristine transfer. The audio is better, but it is still closer to average than exceptional. Speaking of the DVD, that disc is currently on Amazon for $10.49, while the Blu-ray is just $11.99, or just 14% more. That's an excellent price for this type of release. Worth picking up.

As for the mention of Twilight above, there were recent plans to remake this movie, but the producers thought the tone of the remake would be too similar to the tone of Twilight, so they put the remake on hold. This is an awesome movie and one that doesn't need to be remade, but a higher budget version might help bring the story to more people, assuming Kathryn Bigelow was involved in all aspects of the production. On the other hand, a remake could have been a train wreck that sullied the reputation of this movie. So, Twilight either prevented the movie from being discovered by more people, or saved it from an inferior remake.

Near Dark is the kind of vampire film that will please even those who are not fans of the genre. The Blu-ray isn't the best example of the format, but it is absolutely worth picking up at that price.

NHL - Montreal Canadiens - 100th Anniversary Collector's Set - Buy from Amazon
A four-disc, six-hour collection celebrating the history of the Montreal Canadiens, the most successful hockey team in league history. A perfect gift for fans of the team, especially those dedicated enough to stick with the team through the recent lean years.

The Open Road - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This movie opened in limited release without any advance screenings for critics and proceeded to bomb at the box office. Ouch. That hurts expectations, but is the film really as bad as that?

Justin Timberlake stars as Carlton Garrett, a minor league baseball player who is in a slump. Part of the problem is his mother is sick with a congenital heart problem and desperately needs surgery, but she refuses to sign the consent form unti she gets to speak to her estranged husband, Kyle Garrett, who is a retired baseball star. So Carlton flies with his ex-girlfriend to Ohio to get his dad. But due to a missing wallet, they are unable to fly back, so the three of them get into a Hummer and drive back to Texas. However, father and son have a lot to talk about since they haven't spoken in three or four years, as the trip is made more difficult as Kyle is clearly not looking forward to his family reunion and is trying to get out of it as best he can.

There are a lot of excellent actors in this movie, and not just the many I mentioned above, but there are also cameos by Ted Danson, Lyle Lovett, and Harry Dean Stanton. However, the script gives none of these actors anything to work with. The film itself is really generic. It's a dysfunctional family film, which is not a new idea, and there's little new here. There's little here, period. It starts slowly and never picks up speed. Part of the problem for this is the fact that the two main characters have a lot to work out, but neither seems interested in dealing with them. Therefore, for most of the movie these two are stuck in the same vehicle, but never talk on a real level. To emphasize, it's two people in a car who don't want to talk. I can't think of a less cinematic situation; these people don't want to talk, and I don't want to watch them not talk. By the time anything happens, it's far too late to save the movie.

The only extras on the DVD are an audio commentary track, which is hidden under the set up menu, and a seven-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

I don't have the Blu-ray, so I can't say how it looks or sounds, but there appears to be no Blu-ray exclusive features and it costs 40% more.

The Open Road has a great cast, but a really weak script. Not enough happens in the movie to have any replay value, while the DVD doesn't have enough extras to compensate. If you are a fan of some of the cast, then it is worth a rental, but that's as far as I will go.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 3rd. However, the screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Say Anything... - 20th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
It's the 20th anniversary of Say Anything... and thus the studio is releasing a special edition DVD and Blu-ray. I only have the latter to review, but I think that most people interested in the film will be looking to upgrade to High Definition.

John Cusack leads an amazing cast, starring as Lloyd Dobler, an average student who doesn't have any plans for the future, despite just graduating from high school. He does have a plan for now, though: o win the heart of the valedictorian, Diane Court. This despite the objections of her overprotective father, who thinks his daughter is too smart and has too much potential to date an underachiever like Lloyd. While her father pressures her to dump him and concentrate on her upcoming fellowship in England, his friends and sister help him with advice on how to keep the relationship going. When the summer ends, will Diane be heading to England? Will Lloyd be with her?

The film is a touching story of high school romance that remains as touching now as it was back then. The relationship between Diane and Lloyd is the heart of the movie, but the relationship between Diane and her father is just as important. This movie is filled with amazing performances by actors who are now household names and the script is authentic, which only serves to enhance their performances. It might be just a high school romance, but it is the best high school romance around. If it isn't in your collection, it should be.

The only question is whether or not the Blu-ray is worth picking up. Extras include all of the ones from the previous DVD release, including an extended audio commentary track (there's about 20 minutes with Cameron Crowe, John Cusack, and Ione Skye). There's also the making-of featurette, as well as the deleted / extended / alternative scenes. New to this disc is a 22-minute retrospective that features just about everyone in the cast, as well as Cameron Crowe. Crowe sits down for a ten-minute interview, and there's a montage of celebrities talking about their found memories of the movie. Finally, there's a trivia track. All the new extras are worth checking out, as are most of the ported over extras.

Looking at the technical presentation, the video is better than expected for a relatively low budget film from 20 years ago. The audio is likewise better than expected and for a dialogue driven movie, there's more than enough rear and side speaker activity for this type of film. Additionally, it only costs $20 on Amazon, which is good value.

Say Anything... was Cameron Crowe's directorial debut and it is still his best film. The 20th Anniversary edition has more than enough extras to be worth the Special Edition label. If you've made the upgrade to High Definition, then the Blu-ray is perfect. If not, the DVD is a worthy upgrade from the previous DVD release.

For a Blu-ray update for Scrubs and the rest of the reviews, our weekly DVD report continues here.


Filed under: Video Releases, Star Trek, Brüno, My Sister's Keeper, Is Anybody There?, The Limits of Control, Humpday, The Open Road, Basement Jack, Evilution, Food Beware