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DVD and Blu-ray Releases for December 15th, 2009

December 15th, 2009

This is the last full week before Christmas, so in many ways this is the last chance studios have to release their top properties. And you can tell. There are four releases that are prime candidates for the DVD Pick of the Week, including two $100 million hits (Inglourious Basterds and The Hangover) and two TV on DVD releases (Robot Chicken and Star Trek - The Original Series). All have their strengths and weaknesses, but if I were forced to choose just one, it would be Inglourious Basterds on Blu-ray. On the other hand, all four are joining my collection, plus several others coming out this week.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 2009 Yankees - The Official World Series Film, Basilisk - The Complete Series, Beyonce - I Am Yours, La Boheme - The Film, G-Force, Girls Aloud - Out of Control, The Hangover, Inglourious Basterds, The Mel Brooks Collection, The Other Man, Samurai Champloo - The Complete Series, Star Trek - The Original Series - Season Three, Star Trek - The Original Series - Three Season Box Set, and Taking Woodstock
Not as wide a selection this week as there was last week, but there are still a number of prime releases like Inglourious Basterds and The Hangover, as well as a classic TV series ending its run on High Definition... maybe. Let's face it, there will be a Star Trek - The Original Series Megaset released by this time next year, and it will probably come with a model of the Enterprise. At least I hope so.

Cake Boss - Buy from Amazon
A Reality TV series that I've seen a couple of times, and feels like a pale imitation of Ace of Cakes. Unfortunately, that show isn't readily available on DVD in full season sets... yet.

Chai Lai Angels - Dangerous Flowers - Buy from Amazon
A Thai parody of Charlie's Angels with muay Thai fighting. There are only a few reviews online, but most make the point that this is a style before substance movie, but most also say there are enough fights and jokes to keep you entertained.

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 this review.

Deadline - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The screener arrived late and the contest has already begun, so let's not waste time and jump right into the review.

Brittany Murphy stars as Alice Evans, a screenwriter who has recently suffered trauma at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Ben, who was sent to prison as a result. In order to recover, and to meet a deadline for a script, she heads to an old Victorian house recently bought by the producer to be alone and work. However, she has troubles almost immediately with strange noises emanating from the house and taps in baths that turn on by themselves and writing appearing on her laptop and the like. When a box off video tapes almost literally jumps out at her she starts watching and learns that the previous residents of the house, Lucy and David, had a tumultuous relationship that eerily mirrored her own. Given this, you know it won't end well.

There have been so many haunted house movies that it really takes something special to stand out, and quite frankly, this film doesn't have it. This is the kind of suspense film that uses background music to signal tension, while what's happening on screen never really has the matching intensity. The most we get is "kind of eerie." I think part of the problem is the setup, which the filmmakers were probably hoping would help set the movie apart. In the movie we are rarely watching the events unfold but instead are watching Alice watch the events as they were recorded by David, which adds a layer of disconnect. That's part of the problem, but another problem is that there's simply not enough that happens in the movie that's interesting enough to hold your attention. This is really too bad, as I like most of the main cast and was looking forward to seeing this movie. I didn't have unreasonable expectations. After all, it is a direct-to-DVD movie, but I was hoping for more than this.

The only extra on either the DVD or the Blu-ray is a ten minute making-of featurette, which is presented in Standard Definition in both cases. The technical presentation of the Blu-ray was only average for the format, but this is to be expected given its low budget. It does cost just 20% more than the DVD, so it does have that going for it.

Deadline had potential with an interesting premise and a good cast, but simply put, not enough happens to keep the viewer's attention. Perhaps if you are a fan of the genre and the cast it is worth checking out, but even then the DVD or Blu-ray are strictly a rental.

G-Force - Buy from Amazon: DVD, DVD and Digital Copy, or Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy
A kids movie released in the middle of this year's Summer season. Obviously the studio was expecting a big hit, and they got one, but the real question is, did it earn its box office triumph? Does the quality of the movie live up to the $100 million in ticket sales?

G-Force stars a trio of Guinea Pigs, Darwin, Juarez, and Blaster (and a star-nosed mole, a fly, several cockroaches, etc.) that have been specially trained by Ben and Marcie to go into places where regular agents can't. Their first mission is spying on "former" arms dealer Leonard Saber to discover what his next plan is, codenamed Clusterstorm. However, this is strictly an unofficial mission as they haven't been given the go-ahead by the government, and when the mission fails to bring the desired results, they are shut down. The government agents decide that the animals know too much and have to be... retired. After making a quick escape, they find themselves in a typical pet store, where they pick up a fourth recruit, Hurley, but the mission remains the same: find the evidence, prove their worth, and stop Clusterstorm.

I'm of two minds on this movie. On the one hand, you could look at it as a spoof of action films that flood multiplexes every summer. In this regard, the film is mostly a success and it hits these films on the right points. It's overblown and overdone, it has way too many effects shots, it has the bad one-liners, etc., so if you are an adult you can appreciate what the filmmakers were attempting on this level. On the other hand, it's your typical special effects laden action blockbuster, only it's aimed at kids. Unfortunately, it is really clumsily made without a lot of finesse or wit. There is a great cast here, but it feels like most of them were there to just collect a paycheck. And I'm not 100% sure it is supposed to be a spoof. It could just feel that way because of the lack of finesse in the script. Additionally, while there are many action scenes in the movie, by the end they become too repetitive. There are some great special effects shots. For instance, Juarez getting out of the water is stunning, especially given how difficult it is to get water or fur to look right. Getting water and fur to interact together takes a lot of talent. It might entertain the kids, once, but I don't think there's enough replay value to warrant purchasing. I would put it on par with Aliens in the Attic, which I reviewed before.

(On a side note, the finale deals with a robot that builds itself out of appliances that Saber's company makes. As a cobbled-together creation, its design is a mess. ... but it still looks better than most robots from Transformers. I have a rant about the designs in that movie that involves Zebras, but I'll leave that for another day.)

I only have the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack, but since it has all three discs, it should be pretty easy to figure out which version has what.

The extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary track with the director, Hoyt Yeatman, who made his directorial debut here. (On a side note, he has a lot of experience with special effects, and you can tell from this movie. The special effects are obviously its best feature.) It's a solo track, and as such doesn't have as much energy as I would like, but it is still worth listening to. There are also a featurette called Blaster's Boot Camp that talks about the gadgets in the movie. Strictly for the kids. G-Force Mastermind is a 4-minute featurette on the creation of the movie, specifically the origins of the idea, which came from Hoyt Yeatman's son. G-Farce: Bloopers has 2-minute of outtakes while there are six deleted scenes. Finally, there are three music videos.

The DVD and Digital Copy has all that, plus the digital copy of the movie. Not a lot extra and it costs too much more than the previous edition.

The Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack has all of the above, plus some High Definition exclusives. The biggest of these is the Cine-Explore picture-in-picture track, which is loaded with information. I'm a huge fan of these Cine-Explore tracks and this one lives up to the standard of previous ones I've seen. In fact, it's better than the movie deserves. Bruckheimer Animated spends three minutes talking about the huge special effects movies that he is known for. There is not a lot of information here, and none of it is in-depth enough to matter. Access Granted is an eight-minute featurette on Imageworks, the company that did the special effects on this movie. As for the film's technical presentation on Blu-ray, it depends on what you expect going in. It looks and sounds amazing, for a kids movie. However, I had two minor complaints. First, as a special effect movie, I was expecting amazing and the Blu-ray was only able to match, but not exceed expectations. Second, it looks better than it sounds. Quite frankly, I was expecting more from my surround sound speakers. There are no real flaws in sound, but it is not one of the best I've listened to either.

I think G-Force will connect with the target audience well enough, but it lacks the depth needed to be worth picking up. If you are intent on buying, the Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack has the most bells and whistles, but the DVD is super-cheap on at the moment.

The Goods - Live Hard, Sell Hard - Buy from Amazon
Jeremy Piven's first starring role in a long time, but it didn't wow critics, nor did it connect with moviegoers. In addition, the DVD has no extras, which further reduces its value. Perhaps if you are a big fan of Jeremy Piven it is worth a rental, but otherwise it is safely skippable.

The Hangover - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc R-rated DVD, Two-Disc Unrated DVD, or Unrated Blu-ray
I read a story recently about the year in review that said this movie might change the way Hollywood works. That might be overstating things, but they did have important points. For instance, this movie had three main stars with no real experience starring in blockbusters. (The only one of the three who had previously been in a $200 million hit was Bradley Cooper, who had a part in The Wedding Crashers.) However, the great chemistry, excellent writing, and the overall reviews proved a lot more important to the success of the movie. If studios think they can get away with dropping high-priced stars and still get monster hits like this, they will. Hell, if they can drop high-priced stars and costly special effects, then the studios won't be able to run fast enough. (Of course, if that were to happen, moviegoers would quickly tire of this type of movie and would begin to crave special effects-laden movies packed with big names. The tastes of moviegoers tend to move in cycles that way.) Extras on the Single-Disc R-rated DVD appear to be an audio commentary with the director and the three stars, a look at the locations where the film was shot, a featurette on Ken Jeong, a couple of short featurettes on some of the music, and outtakes. The Two-Disc Unrated DVD has all of this and an Unrated version of the movie, but it's only a few minutes longer and mostly marketing hype. The Unrated Blu-ray upgrades the audio commentary track to a picture-in-picture track and there are also some BD-live features to check out. One final note, the Unrated Blu-ray only costs $1 more than the Single-Disc R-rated DVD and $3 less than the Two-Disc Unrated DVD. Easily the best option of the three and clearly a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Head - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The first of two MTV animated TV shows coming out this week. While this one lasted longer, I preferred The Maxx more. ("You killed my hostage!") This show dealt with Jim, who was an average guy who just happened to have a friendly alien living inside his head, which of course caused it to grow to a massive size. Jim and his alien friend, Roy, help stop another alien from launching an attack on the Earth. At least that was the plot for the first season. The second season didn't have as strong a story arc connecting the episodes together, which made it less interesting, but overall it was still a good show, while the DVD is worth picking up.

The Headless Woman - Buy from Amazon
The third film from writer / director Lucrecia Martel started out really well in limited release, but its reviews were such that it wasn't able to maintain its early momentum. The only extra on the DVD is a Q&A with the writer / director, which makes it worth renting for most and picking up for fans of Lucrecia Martel.

Herb and Dorothy - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about unlikely art collectors who amassed a fortune in art, which they then gave away. The reviews were impeccable, but it struggled at the box office. Extras on the DVD include deleted / extended scenes, as well as Q&A with the filmmakers and the two subjects. Worth checking out for sure, and leaning toward a purchase.

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 this review.

I Love You, Beth Cooper - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Two notes to start. First, yes this review is really late, but in my defense, the screener did arrive quite late. Secondly, I only have the Blu-ray and I'm not exactly sure what differences there are between the DVD and the Blu-ray, if any.

The film starts at graduation with Denis Cooverman nervously awaiting his chance to give his valedictorian speech. We see him talk to his friend in a flashback, saying that after graduation, he will never see the girl of his dreams, Beth Cooper again, so he musters up the courage to say that he loves her in his speech. (He also takes this time to call out her much older boyfriend for dating high school girls, makes fun of the shallow girl, the bully, etc. He probably should have stopped while he was ahead.) While in the real world this would have resulted in a little more than a few laughs at the ten-year reunion, and perhaps a beating on a more immediate basis, in this movie Denis is rewarded for his courage when Beth and her two friends decide to show him the night of his life. What follows is your typical Nerdy Guy / Hot Chick romantic comedy like Can't Hardly Wait, combined with one wild night comedies like Superbad. It obviously has a sense of familiarity, but does it at least rise above it?

Sadly, no. The sense of familiarity is not just limited to the basic setup, but the execution as well. The jokes rely far to heavily on physical / gross-out humor than the characters. There are supposed to be elements of real character evolution here, especially how Denis comes to see that Beth is not the perfect object of his affection he had built her up to be and if this was a well made movie, we could have been emotionally engaged as he learned about the real Beth and the two fell in love. They do try these moments in the movie, I will give them credit for that. But they are not the focus of the movie. What we have is a series of increasingly implausible events that are meant to shock and titillate, but not too much, as it is a PG-13 movie. I really wanted it to like this movie, but it needed a stronger emotional heart.

Extras on the Blu-ray start with an alternate ending, as well as four deleted scenes. I Love You, Larry Doyle is a six-minute interview with the writer of the book that the movie is based on. We Are All Different, But That's A Good Thing is nine minutes of clips with the cast talking about the diversity of the cast and characters. Peanut Butter Toast has Paul Rust singing, while there are two Fox Movie Channel Presents segments, the first with Paul Rust and the second with Hayden Panettiere. Those last three are in Standard Definition, but the rest were in High Definition. I can't complain about High Definition presentation, as both the audio and the video are solid, especially for this type of film. Finally, the price is a little high. Close to 30% more is too much to spend for a Blu-ray that has no additional extras, nor needs to be seen in high definition to be enjoyed.

I Love You, Beth Cooper had the potential to rise above the clichés of the genre, but instead wallowed in them. Neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray have much in the way of extras, which limits its value further. Perhaps it is not as bad as its Tomatometer score or its box office performance would indicate, but unless you are a hardcore fan of some of the cast, it is skippable.

Ice Road Truckers - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
When The Deadliest Catch became a hit, a lot of shows like this came about to capture the same target audience. None of them are as good as the show they try to emulate.

Inglourious Basterds - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD, Two-Disc DVD, or Blu-ray
There are few directors that have as large a Fanboy following as Quentin Tarantino. His latest film was his best at the box office domestically and internationally and earned some of the best reviews of his career. Does the Blu-ray live up to all of this? Head over to our featured review to find out.

Lost - Season Five - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The second update to the review. The full review can be found here while the update about Lost University can be found here.

After completing Semester 1 with a 4.0 grade point average (I did drop Language 101) nothing actually happens. I was hoping I would be rewarded with something, perhaps an exclusive sneak peak of the upcoming season. Then again, Semester 2 starts in January and maybe they are saving rewards for then.

I do have two notes about Lost University. First, Language 101 is not really a beginners course. After all, I would think any real beginners course in Korean would start with teaching students the Korean alphabet, and not just rattle off a series of phrases from the show in Korean. This is why I dropped the course. Second, while I commend the studio for putting together such an interactive feature, I was a little confused as to its target audience. Are there really that many people who want to do homework for their favorite TV show? But when discussing the fact that I had to do homework to review this Blu-ray, my mom thought it great idea. Then again, she's a teacher in real life, so perhaps she enjoys tests a little too much.

That's it... for now. Maybe I will come back at the end of January and discuss how Semester Two went and if there are any rewards for completing the first year of Lost University.

The Maxx - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
An MTV animated series from 1995 that was based on the comic book of the same name that was created by Sam Kieth. I loved this show and even though the CreateSpace releases have no extras, this one is certainly worth picking up.

The Mel Brooks Collection - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Nine Mel Brooks movies, including eight of the eleven he directed. (To Be or Not To Be was the only one here he didn't direct, but he did produce it.) These movies range in age from The Twelve Chairs to Robin Hood - Men in Tights and include almost all of his classic films. (The only one not included here that I would miss is The Producers.) It would have been nice to have more extras, or extras exclusive to this set, but it is hard to argue with the price.

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

The Men - Buy from Amazon
Marlon Brando's film debut. If that doesn't get you interested, it was written by Carl Foreman, who earned one of his seven Oscar nominations, and directed by Fred Zinnemann, who was nominated ten times in his career, and picked up four wins.

Brando plays Ken, a young soldier fighting in World War II who is shot in the back and rendered a paraplegic. Once back home, he is stuck in a hospital bed, but he refuses to do his physiotherapy, or even see his fiancée (Teresa Wright) due to his depression. The rest of the movie is spent showing his troubles adjusting to his new life, but with the help of a dedicated doctor (Everett Sloane), his soon-to-be wife, and even some fellow patients (include one played by Jack Webb), will he be able to live a full life?

This movie is closing in on 60 years old now and I don't think it would be inaccurate to say that it is mostly forgotten. This is a shame, as it is worth (re)discovering and for more than just Brando's performance, although that is a major reason to see the movie. The entire ensemble cast is great, while the social message is still powerful today. That's not to say the movie is perfect, as it's a little to blunt at times. It could have used perhaps a little more subtle touch to make the message more effective. Also, at the time it was apparently controversial for its "anti-war" message, but now it's impact as a social message movie has faded somewhat. (I put "anti-war" in scare quotes because I don't consider movies like this to be anti-war, but more of a "War is hell" type movie. These can be seen as anti-war to some, but I think the message is more, "There is a huge cost to war, so don't go into one unless you have to and unless you are willing to pay the price afterward.")

Sadly, there are no extras on the DVD. I would have loved to have heard an audio commentary by a film historian or a retrospective featurette that talked about the film's place in Marlon Brando's acting career.

The Men is worth checking out for a number of reasons. Marlon Brando shows he is an amazing actor right from his first movie role, the ensemble cast is fantastic, as is the script. The DVD is featureless, but it is still a solid rental at the very least, while fans of Brando will want to give it a blind buy.

The Other Man - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
A good cast is wasted on a film that many critics felt lacked any dramatic tension. These weak reviews were one of the reasons it bombed in limited release. The DVD and the Blu-ray do have a commentary track and some interviews, but, unless you are a fan of the cast and don't mind seeing them "slum it," it is safely skippable.

The Paper Chase - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Season two of four of the TV series based on the movie of the same name. It is also the first season of the show's second run. It only lasted one year on CBS (1978-1979) before being picking up by Showtime (1983-1985). Since season two was 18 episodes long and seasons three and four were 18 episodes combined, the next DVD release will be the show's last.

Robot Chicken - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
I love this show, but I haven't seen an episode on TV for a while. I stopped watching most TV shows on TV and simply buy the DVDs sight unseen. I bought seasons two and three of this show this way, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. Extras on the two-disc set include commentary tracks, outtakes, deleted scenes, and a lot more. Easily worth picking up and a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Sherlock Holmes Collection - Buy from Amazon
In the 1960s the BBC made a series based on the exploits of the most famous detective of all time starring Peter Cushing in the lead role. The three-disc collection has the five that remain and are must-haves for fans of Sherlock Holmes. Also coming out this week is Murder by Decree, another Holmes movie, this one made in 1979 and starring Christopher Plummer. It's a good time to be a fan of these books, especially with (or maybe in spite of) the upcoming movie.

Star Trek - The Original Series - The Third Season - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
I reviewed the first two seasons when they came out on Blu-ray, but the third season screener has not yet arrived. Hopefully it will arrive very, very soon. Also coming out this week is the Full Series Box Set, but it is more expensive than buying the three seasons separately while there are no additional extras.

Taking Woodstock - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Demetri Martin from The Daily Show and Important Things has his first starring role in this real life-ish look at the famous music festival and how it came to be. The reviews were only mixed, but that's better than its box office performance. Extras on the DVD include audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and a couple of making-of featurettes. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray has no real additional features and it costs nearly 50% more. The music is nice to hear in high definition, but not enough for that premium.

The Tudors - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
A costume drama about King Henry VIII that feels more like The O.C. than anything you would read about in History class. Obviously since it has lasted three seasons so far, it must have an audience, but I'm not sure who that is, as costume dramas as soap operas generally don't have a lot of crossover appeal.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 17th of November. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

A Wink and a Smile - Buy from Amazon
The review is only a month late. At least I'm almost caught up now. (Two more late reviews to go.)

A Wink and a Smile is a documentary about the burlesque scene in Seattle, focusing on a class taught by a woman who goes by the stage name Miss Indigo Blue and her assistant teacher, The Shanghai Pearl. Her class is made up of ten women of varying ages and backgrounds, from their early 20s to one woman who is in her 50s, from college students to opera singers. We see these women learn the art of burlesque, as well as hear from them why they joined the class. We also learn more about the history of burlesque; for instance, it was originally something done almost entirely by men and was used to parody or satire political or social norms of the day. In addition to numerous interviews with Miss Indigo Blue and her students, we learn about some of the other major performers in the area, including the aforementioned The Shanghai Pearl, as well as Tamara the Trapeze Lady, who as her name suggest uses a trapeze in her act. There is even a bit on Waxie Moon, who is a... I believe the term used was "boylesque," which makes him a rather rare performer.

There are lots of topics covered in this 90-minute documentary, which makes it great for neophytes, but at times frustratingly incomplete. I found all of the topics covered intriguing from the history of the art form, to the professional performs, to the students' personal stories, etc. and I would have surely spent 90-minutes on any one of them. I guess my biggest complaint is that the film leaves you wanting more, which isn't bad for any movie, and it really fits with burlesque. On the other hand, one of the main complaints I read about this movie was, well, there were two main complaints, but they were related. The first complaint was that it wasn't erotic enough, while the second was that they didn't show the full acts at the end. The first complaint it ludicrous. If you are a critic and you going into a documentary expecting eroticism, you are in the wrong business. It's a documentary, so even if it is about an erotic subject, it isn't bound to try to be erotic in itself. The second complaint is more legitimate, except I don't think they realize how long that would take. They have the full group act on the DVD as an extra, and with intro it's four-and-a-half minutes. If every act were as long as that, it would take 45 minutes to show them all. I would have loved to have them all as extras on the DVD, but it would have been unreasonable to expect to seem them in the movie itself.

Speaking of extras, not only do we see the full group performance, but there is an eleven-and-a-half minute Q&A with the director, Deirdre Allen Timmons, and the lead subject, Miss Indigo Blue. (In this section the director says her biggest piece of advice to filmmakers is to back up their footage. This could explain why we don't get to see more full performances as extras on the DVD.) There are also two image galleries, one of which is a slideshow with musical accompaniment.

Performer enters with some clothing.
Magic happens.
Performer exits the stage with less clothing.
- Miss Indigo Blue on the essence of burlesque

A Wink and a Smile deals with a subject that most documentaries don't go near. It's not going to help you eat healthier, or live in a more environmentally sustainable way, or make you more aware of some deep political problems in the world. However, for 90 minutes you get to meet some fascinating women (and at least one man) and get some insight into a world most people never see. After watching this movie, I wanted to immediately learn more about burlesque, which is probably the highest compliment you can give a documentary. I think it is definitely worth checking out, and the extras push it from a solid rental to a purchase.

Wizards of Waverly Place - The Movie - Buy from Amazon
The first TV movie spin-off of the popular Disney TV series. I've reviewed two or three DVDs for this series in the past (it depends on how you count Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana) and I found them to be one of the better TV shows aimed at 'tweens that are on TV right now. (Granted, I wouldn't go out of my way to watch it on TV, but usually the DVDs arrive at my desk in pairs, and Wizards of Waverly Place is the one I'm looking forward to reviewing more. And since I'm so far outside of its target demographic, that's a compliment.) So how does this compare to an average episode of the show?

The movie starts with the Russo family preparing for a family vacation at the place where the mother and father first met. At first, Alex (Selena Gomez) does not have to go along and her parents are trusting her to not get into trouble while the rest of the family is away. However, one small problem involving magic and an attempt to get to a party she wasn't allowed to go later... and it's off to paradise with the rest of her family. She is so put off by this turn of events, and the fact that her parents treat her like a child (which she is) she wishes her parents had never met. And as things usually go in films like this, her wish comes true. Now it is up to Alex and her older brother, Justin (David Henrie), to find the Stone of Dreams, which will be able to reverse her wish. (Meanwhile her younger brother, Max ( Jake T. Austin), is given the task of trying to reunite his parents, which goes about as well as one would expect given his particular set of talents. Alex and Justin are aided in their quest by a stage magician named Archie and his not-so-trusty parrot, the latter of which wants to use the wishing stone for her own nefarious reasons, after she tricks Archie into turning her back into her human form, that is.

When it comes to movies based on TV shows there are several pitfalls one must avoid. This includes making a movie that merely feels like a double-length episode that has been stretched to fill out a feature length running time. You need a story idea that can be sustained throughout the entire movie, which is easier said than done. Fortunately, this is the case here. It does feel like a real movie and the scale of the show is boosted in every aspect. (In fact, there were apparently more than 300 special effects shots in the movie, and while some were a little dodgy compare to theatrical releases, they were better than a lot of TV movies have.) The plot was able to hold together the entire time and I didn't think that there was too much padding happening. The goofy "villain" added enough humor to the movie, while the chemistry between Selena Gomez and David Henrie, who for the most part carry the movie, is quite touching. There are plenty of nice family moments between the two.

(On a side note, the "extended edition" is about four minutes longer than the broadcast version, but I have no idea what scenes were extended, as I didn't see the show when it first aired.)

The only extra on the DVD is a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, which is worth checking out, but a little disappointing as the only extra, especially considering Selena Gomez sang a couple songs for the soundtrack. You would think having music videos for them would be obvious additions to the DVD. It also comes with a key chain with a color-changing Stone of Dreams.

An actual movie! Usually when these Disney DVDs arrive at my door calling themselves "feature-length adventures" they are little more than a double-length episode of the TV series they are from. However, in the case of Wizards of Waverly Place - The Movie, it is a proper TV movie with a proper running time, proper timing, proper scope, etc. The DVD isn't blessed to an overabundance of extras, but it is still worth checking out for most members of the target audience and worth picking up for fans of the show.


Filed under: Video Releases, The Hangover, G-Force, Inglourious Basterds, The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, I Love You, Beth Cooper, Taking Woodstock, Herb & Dorothy, The Other Man, La mujer sin cabeza, A Wink and a Smile