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DVD Releases for December 1st, 2009

November 30th, 2009

It's the week after Black Friday, which is widely reported as the busiest shopping day of the year, so it comes as no surprise that there are fewer releases this time around than there have been in recent weeks (including just a trio of spotlight reviews). After all, it makes sense to release a DVD / Blu-ray before Black Friday rather than after. That said, we are still in the heart of holiday shopping season, which means there are a couple of $100 million hits on this week's list, as well as some titles that are of interest. Unfortunately, when it comes to most of the really interesting releases, I'm still waiting for the screener to arrive, so I can't tell if they are DVD Pick of the Week material. The best of this week's releases that I can give a more detailed review for is Mystery Science Theater 3000 - XVI - Limited Edition Box Set.

Ben 10 - Alien Swarm - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A live action TV movie adaptation of the popular cartoon and sequel to 2007's Race Against Time. This movie has a $15 million budget, which is impressive for a show like this and early reports are that it tops the previous outing in terms of quality. Extras on DVD include just a making-of featurette and a music video, while the Blu-ray has nothing exclusive and costs 50% more.

Better Off Ted - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A TV show about the horrors of working at a faceless corporation. I've only seen half one episode, so I will have to wait until the screener arrives before I give a full review.

The Biggest Loser - The Workout - Buy from Amazon: 30-Day Jump Start and Last Chance Workout
Two more workout tapes from the popular Reality TV show. It's not a bad show, certainly one of the better of the genre, but I think it sets an unrealistic picture of what's possible when it comes to weight loss. After all, it's a hell of a lot easier losing 100 pounds over a couple of months when exercising is your full-time job.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Ben 10 - Alien Swarm, A Christmas Tale, Deadline, Death Warrior, The Green Mile, Gremlins, IMAX - Ride Around the World, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Mask of Zorro, Night at the Museum - Battle of the Smithsonian, Night at the Museum - Two Pack, Paper Heart, The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter, Secondhand Lions, Snatch, Terminator Salvation - Director's Cut, The Wizard of Oz - Three-Disc Collection, and Zorro - Double Feature
A wide selection of Blu-ray releases this week, including a couple of recent $100 million hits, limited releases, a foreign language film, catalogue titles, a TV movie, direct-to-DVD releases, etc. Pretty much the only category not represented is full-season TV on DVD sets. On a side note, I'm supposed to review four or five of these releases, but all of the screeners are late. Granted, several studios don't release Blu-ray screeners to most critics until after they street, as a way of preventing piracy. (You would think critics wouldn't want to hurt the industry they are dependent on for their jobs, but it happens.) But having all screeners late is still unfortunate.

The Brooklyn Heist - Buy from Amazon
A.K.A. Capers. An indie comedy that tells the story of three gangs that decide to rob the same pawnshop on the same night. The film is almost like three movies in one, as each "criminal gang" is filmed in a different style, which adds to the overall experience. However, this also makes some of the jokes repetitive, as they are presented in all three stories. Still, worth checking out.

Christmas Releases - Buy from Amazon: A Christmas Tale, A Christmas Tale (Blu-ray), Handy Manny - Motorcycle Adventure, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - Choo-Choo Express, and Silent Night, Deadly Night - III, IV, V - Box Set
The flow of Christmas releases has returned to a trickle with just five titles here. And that's only if you include A Christmas Tale DVD and Blu-ray as two separate titles. For that matter, Silent Night, Deadly Night - Box Set isn't your typical warm Christmas movie either, while the two Disney Channel releases are only tangentially related to Christmas.

A Christmas Tale - The Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Catherine Deneuve star as Junon Vuillard, the matriarch to a dysfunctional family who learns she needs a bone marrow transplant from a blood relative in order to live. So she gets her family to reunite for Christmas. The film earned excellent reviews and did well in limited release last year, especially for a foreign language film. Extras on the DVD include a making-of featurette, a documentary by the writer / director about the selling of his family home, and a booklet full of essays. The Blu-ray has no additional extras, but actually costs substantially less.

Dancing with the Stars - Buy from Amazon: Dance Body Tone or Dance Off the Pounds
Dancing with the Stars is a competition Reality TV series that comes on just before Castle, so it is the Reality TV series I've seen the most, but only seen the last five minutes of each show. Dancing is a great form of exercise, but I'm not sure it would make a good exercise DVD, as it is something you are supposed to do with a partner. Then again, given my experience with exercise, my opinion is probably not one you should trust.

Death Warrior - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Just a quick note that I should be getting a screener for this movie soon. I don't know exactly when it will arrive, nor do I know what format I will be getting, but I will review it ASAP.

The Donna Reed Show - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
After waiting nearly a year between season one and two, season three is coming out just four months later. There's no word on when season four is coming out, yet, but we could hear something soon.

Frat Party - Buy from Amazon
What looks like a high school sex comedy is actually set in the waning days of college and is about a man, Duffy, who is the Big Man on Campus. He is also days away from graduating and marrying his fiancée, Adriana. However, he has to deal with one last frat party, and the temptation that comes with that, and a soon-to-be father-in-law who wants to stop the wedding at all costs. A low-budget entry into a crowded genre that has zero reviews. That's a huge warning sign to proceed with caution, even if you like the genre.

The Frog Prince - Buy from Amazon
Hopefully no one falls for this obvious rip-off and buys this DVD thinking it is The Princess and the Frog.

Handy Manny - Motorcycle Adventure - Buy from Amazon
The latest Handy Manny DVD advertises itself as "A Full-Length Adventure," which is not exactly accurate. This main program is a mere 46 minutes long, and that's with opening and closing credits. This little bit of inaccuracies aside, does the DVD at least pack enough entertainment for the price?

It's time for Manny's family reunion and he's planning to bring his tools on a road trip on his motorcycle. However, the journey doesn't get off to an easy start, as his motorcycle is running a little rough and needs to be fixed. The talk of the reunion gets Pat thinking about finding his family, but even when he looks through Kelly's catalogue he can't find any hammers that have his eyes, or any eyes, that is until he sees the cover. When they see the same hammer on the side of a delivery truck stopped at a gas station, Pat, Squeeze, and Flicker decide to check it out, but when the truck drives off it's up to Manny and the rest of the tools to try to rescue them. However, this is easier said than done with encounters with a cow, a flat tire, and a bridge that's out all delay them. Will they ever get Pat, Squeeze, and Flicker back? Will it be in time for the family reunion?

Okay, I admit it, I kind of like this show. Granted, I don't watch it on TV or anything like that, but when the DVDs arrive at my door, I actually look forward to watching them, and that's not something I normally feel when I review a kids show, especially one aimed at audiences this young. However, I like the voice acting in this show, the stories are interesting and not as incredibly repetitive as many other shows are, and the music is actually good. (The double-length episode even has an original song by Los Lobos on it. How cool is that?) With bright and colorful animation and a fun story, it should entertain its target audience.

The only extra on the DVD is a bonus episode called A Very Handy Holiday, which has Manny trying to get his gifts done in time while trying to make it to Kelly's party. However, every time he thinks he's on his way, someone needs his help. And Manny's not the type of person to leave a friend stranded. This episode can be watched normally or in Adventure Mode. Adventure mode stops the program every so often and asks multiple-choice questions with two choices at level one and four at level two. Depending on what version you choose, active or auto, you either have to press the correct arrow key to continue, or the episode will continue automatically after a few seconds. This is a good episode and an appropriate one for this time of year and even without the Adventure Mode, it lifts the running time to roughly 70 minutes, which is on par with other releases of this nature, which makes the DVD good value for the money.

If you kids are fans of Handy Manny, then Motorcycle Adventure is absolutely worth picking up. And it doesn't suffer from the oppressive repetitiveness that a lot of kids shows have, so parents can enjoy it with their kids.

Into the Storm - Buy from Amazon
A TV movie biopic of Winston Churchill starring Brendan Gleeson. The sequel to The Gathering Storm, it focuses on his personal and political life after World War II comes to a close. The film earned 14 Emmy nominations and won two of them, so it is obviously worth checking out, but the lack of extras is disappointing.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - Choo-Choo Express - Buy from Amazon
The second Disney Channel DVD release coming out this week, this one is again billed as, "A Full-Length Adventure," but it is a double-length episode with a bonus episode as an extra.

Choo-Choo Express starts with professor Ludwig Von Drake informing Mickey and the gang that he's made a new invention: snow that doesn't melt. But he needs the gang's help to bring it back to the clubhouse. First they will need to build a train and get it up the mountain where he's finishing his experiments and creating all the snow they will need. Then, after getting it back, he will need them to travel and pick up all the guests for the big Easy Freezy Snow celebration, including some very, very special guest who love the snow more than anyone else. Of course, there will be a lot of obstacles to overcome, but with the help of the Mousekatools, and you the viewer, Mickey and the gang will surely come out on top.

The bonus episode is Mickey's Big Job, which can be watched with or without the Adventure Mode on, which in turn has two difficulty levels and two play modes (active and auto). In this episode, Willie the Giant has to go and visit his mother, so he needs Mickey and the gang to look after his farm in the clouds while he is away. But there are a lot of chores that need to be done to keep a farm going. With your help, and the Mousekatools, it shouldn't be too big a job, though.

On a side note, I can't believe I never recognized They Might Be Giants singing the theme song. Once I read that they perform that song, and "Hot Dog," it was obvious that it is them, but I never clued in until now.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is part of the "ask and pause" genre of kids shows, which encourages interaction between kids and their parents, who should be watching these shows with their kids. They are repetitive, but that's what makes them so engaging to kids; they know what's going to happen next and can sing the songs as they come up. If your kids liked the previous releases, then Choo-Choo Express is good value for money, and the winter theme of the main program is perfectly timed for a December release.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 - XVI - Buy from Amazon
The 16th DVD collection hits the home market in a Limited Edition box set that includes episodes from the first and last season the show was on Comedy Central, and a couple in-between, as well as mini-posters and a Tom Servo figurine. For some, the Tom Servo figurine will be enough to pick up the DVD, but for the rest, check out the featured review here.

Night at the Museum - Battle of the Smithsonian - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition, Two-Disc Monkey Mischief Pack, Three-Disc Blu-ray
This movie earned an identical Tomatometer score to the original earned, but is it really as good as its predecessor? It that much of a compliment? I won't know until the screener arrives, and since it won't be shipped until Tuesday at the earliest, I won't get to it until next week.

Pale Force - Buy from Amazon
A pretty funny concept that perhaps is best watched as three to four minute long shorts while nearly 80 minutes in a row is just too much of one joke. Also, they are available for free online, so it is hard to justify spending $13 to $15 dollars on the DVD.

Paper Heart - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Buy from Amazon
The contest has already begun, but the screener is late. Hopefully the DVD and / or Blu-ray will get here soon.

Raging Inferno - Buy from Amazon
A German TV movie about a fire in a tower that traps the patrons of a restaurant at the top. I've only seen one review online, and it's in German, which I don't speak, despite my tendency to pretend I do. (Although I'm 97% sure "Katastrophenmovie" means "Disaster movie".) The verdict for the DVD was, "convincingly"... which I think is a good thing.

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

Rocky - The Undisputed Collection - Buy from Amazon
It didn't actually come out this week, but this is arguably the best release I reviewed this week. Check out all the details in the Featured Review, which can be found here.

Saturday Night Live - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
This show has been on TV longer than a lot of people reading this have been alive. Because of this, there's little that needs to be said about the sketch comedy show as a whole. There are some interesting notes for season five, though. For instance, this is the first season without John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. It is also the first season with Harry Shearer, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Al Franken... sorry, make that Senator Al Franken. (Although all three would only last a season in their first stint on the show.) And it was the last season for Bill Murray, Jane Curtain, Gilda Radner, and several others. For some this is the last of the golden age and the final DVD they will be picking up. For others, this is just the first of several major cast shuffles the show has survived and there's no reason to stop buying the full-season sets.

Silent Night, Deadly Night III, IV, & V - Buy from Amazon
Three more sequels to Silent Night, Deadly Night are coming out as part of a box set. I haven't seen any of these movies, so I can't really comment on the quality until the screeners arrive.

Terminator Salvation - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Two-Disc Blu-ray
This film was expected to be one of the monster hits of the summer with some predicting it would reach $300 million, or more. That wasn't the case. In fact, the most expensive film in the franchise earned the lowest box office total since the original while earning the weakest reviews. The DVD has no extras, unless you count the digital copy, while the Blu-ray has the director's cut, a Maximum Movie Mode Picture-in-Picture commentary track, making-of featurettes, BD-Live features, etc. It does cost 70% more than the featureless DVD, but at only $17, it's a bargain. Some are complaining about Warner Bros.' decision to only include extras on the Blu-ray, but this is a movie that should be seen in High Definition, and given how low the price of Blu-ray players dipped during Black Friday sales, it's time for mainstream people to start buying them. Complaining about the lack of extras on DVDs now is like complaining about the lack of extras on VHS tapes back in 1999. If you don't upgrade, you can't complain when you miss out.

TV on DVD - Full Series Megasets - Buy from Amazon: The Complete Love Comes Softly Collection
Just the one Megaset this week, and it is not even a full series, but a collection of TV movies.


Filed under: Video Releases, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Terminator Salvation, Paper Heart, Un conte de Noël, Frat Party, Death Warrior, The Brooklyn Heist