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DVD Releases for January 15, 2008

January 14th, 2008

The early year doldrums continue on the home market front. Even though there are plenty of releases, including eight spotlight reviews, there are none that really jump out as Contenders for DVD Pick of the Week. Family Guy - Blue Harvest Special Edition could be called the best of a weak bunch, but odds are everything the disc will be included in a future release that will be a lot more competitively priced. (On the other hand, if you want the cool physical extras, grab the Limited Edition release.)

Alex Haley's Queen - Buy from Amazon
From the people who brought us Roots. This mini-series from 1993 stars Halle Berry as the daughter of a slave and the son of a plantation owner who is raised between two worlds while belonging to neither. This is a good mini-series, a very good mini-series, actually, but it is not the multi-award-winning / groundbreaking epic that Roots was. It's worth checking out, but with a bare-bones 2-disc set, it's hard to recommend purchasing over just renting.

'Allo 'Allo - The Complete Series Seven - Buy from Amazon
A great show that had sadly jumped the shark by this time. It is probably still worth picking up for most fans of the show, but they won't have the same replay value as earlier seasons.

An Affair To Remember (50th Anniversary Edition) - Buy from Amazon
Arguable one of the most romantic movies of all time, although it suffers now thanks to all of the imitators. That said, this is not the first time this movie has been released on DVD; it's not even the first special edition, but it is the best. All of the old extras are back (audio commentary, archival news footage, retrospective, etc.), as well as more than a hour of additional featurettes. Some of these deal with the movie specifically; others deal with the two leads. Overall it is an excellent package and worth picking up if you don't own the movie already. However, it might not be worth the upgrade for more casual fans.

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown - Buy from Amazon
Originally airing on TV more than 30 years ago, and coming out on DVD 5 years ago, this is a rather depressing cartoon dealing with heartbreak at every turn. No wonder this generation needed so much therapy. The DVD has a featurette on love in the world of Peanuts, which is seriously messed up. Sally pinning after Linus, Lucy's love for Schroede, Charlie Brown's long-time crush on the little red-haired girl. Only Peppermint Patty and Marcie have a normal relationship. Additionally, there are two bonus episodes on the DVD, You're in Love, Charlie Brown and It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Breaker Morant, Good Luck Chuck, Mr. Woodcock, Suburban Girl, and Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God... Be Back by Five
A very weak list of Blu-Ray releases this week. I can't recommend picking up any of them. Also, the last release is dealing with a broken link at the moment.

Breaker Morant - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
A courtroom drama with a military twist. Three lieutenants in the Australian army are being court-martialed for executing prisoners, but they are being used as a scapegoat by the men who issued them those orders. An excellent movie, and not one a lot of people today would be very familiar with. The DVD has an audio commentary track and a 30-minute documentary on the Boar War and is worth checking out for most, picking up for many. On a side note, Amazon has the DVD coming out tomorrow but the Blu-Ray not coming out till February. Other sources have both coming out tomorrow. The latter seems a lot more logical.

Criss Angel - Mindfreak - The Complete Season Three - Buy from Amazon
A 3-disc set featuring the street magician, Criss Angel. The 3-disc set has a few extras on it, but I don't think there's enough replay value here to warrant purchasing.

Dragonlance - Dragons of Autumn Twilight - Buy from Amazon
The first book of the hugely popular Dragonlance series is coming to DVD on this direct-to-DVD release. Fans of D&D should rejoice, but not for long.

This film has a huge cast and a lot of them will be recognizable to genre fans: Michael Rosenbaum from Smallville, Lucy Lawless from Xena, Michelle Trachtenberg from Buffy, and Kiefer Sutherland from The Lost Boys. However, while these people are well known, many are not experienced voice artists, and it shows. Not that I can blame some of these actors for phoning in their roles, as the dialogue they were given would have been hard for the most experienced voice actor to pull off. (More than once I felt like the characters were trying to explain the rules of the game and this sounded very unnatural.) Bad dialogue aside, the writing has other problems as well. The filmmakers were obviously going for an epic feel, but it never quite got there and it feels like a pale imitation of other films in the same genre. Too many characters and not enough time to explore their personalities left them feeling two-dimensional. Two-dimensional characters meant I couldn't become emotionally involved in the plot, which hurt the adventure.

Which brings is to the animation; it was nearly universally bad. The hand animation was stiff, not fluid, while the digital animation was cheap looking. And combined, they were even worse. At times it felt like I was watching the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the 1980s, and not in a good way, combined with pre-Toy Story CG. Had the writing been better, this could have been enough to ruin the movie for me. As it is, it's just one more knock against the film.

As for the extras, there are two short pieces: Original test animation and initial character designs. Combined they run roughly 4 minutes and it is hard to call them selling points.

Dragonlance is one of the best fictional lines from Dungeons and Dragons and there is little doubt that fans of the game or the novels were eagerly awaiting this release. It saddens me to say it wasn't worth the wait. There's very little here that works, and the combined effect is worth no more than a rental, and that's only for fans of the source material. All others can safely skip this release.

Earth Vs the Flying Saucers - Buy from Amazon
One of two Harryhausen movies coming out on DVD tomorrow, the other being It Came From Beneath the Sea. Although this movie was made later, it is not the better of the two films. In fact, Ray Harryhausen said it was his least favorite movie. That said, it is still worth checking out for all fans of stop-motion animation. I think most will prefer the black & white version to the colorized version that is also included here.

Extras - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Both seasons of Ricky Gervais' follow-up to The Office, as well as the special series finale. For those who already own the series and just want the finale, you will have to wait till the end of February. And for that little bit of marketing, this box set earns a big fat skip it.

Family Guy - Blue Harvest - Buy from Amazon: Special Edition or Limited Edition
On the one hand, the Family Guy spoof of Star Wars was an excellent way to kick off the sixth season of the show. On the other hand, it's just a double-length episode, and it doesn't need to be released on DVD. There are a few extras starting with an audio commentary track, making-of featurette, interview with George Lucas and even a couple of Easter Eggs. What is presented here is worth checking out, but it will likely be included in a future set and I can't recommend buying it. However, if you do plan on buying it, grab the Limited Edition instead. It comes with the extras above as well as a T-shirt, 3-D glasses, collectible trading cards, and a lot more. It is twice as much, but for the nerd with more money than brain cells, like me, it is worth it.

Good Luck Chuck - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Version, Unrated Version, or Blu-Ray
One of the worst movies to come out this past September, and that's saying a lot. The film tried to be both a gross-out sex comedy and a sweet romantic comedy and works as neither. (Personally I think Jessica Alba could have taken this character and succeeded in a romantic comedy, but she needed a leading man with more charisma than Dane Cook has.) As for the DVD, there are enough extras to get by, but not enough to compensate for the movie. I can't recommend even renting it.

HD-DVD Release - Buy from Amazon: The Ten
Only one HD-DVD release this week, and there's no reason to grab the film on HD-DVD instead of DVD (no additional extras, no real need to see it in High Definition). In fact, there are only five HD-DVD releases coming out for the rest of the month compared to five Blu-Ray releases coming out this week. No wonder they lost the Format War.

He was a Quiet Man - Buy from Amazon
Christian Slater stars as a cubical worker on the brink of snapping and killing a lot of people. However, one of his co-workers snaps first and instead of being a monster, he gets to become a hero. This is his best movie in a while; sadly it still went nowhere at the box office. Thankfully the studio didn't just dump the film on a featureless DVD; extras include an audio commentary track, deleted / alternate scenes, and a making of featurette. Enough to be worth checking out, and enough to be worth buying over just renting. It's almost a slow enough week to be a contender for DVD Pick of the week.

In the Heat of the Night - 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
An all time great coming out on a special edition DVD. Extras include the original audio commentary track and a trio of new featurettes, which is not a whole lot and perhaps not enough to justify the special edition label. Given the reviews, the awards, and the social importance of the movie, this should be a 2-disc release loaded with extras. That said, what we get here is certainly worth picking up and even worth upgrading.

It Came From Beneath the Sea - Buy from Amazon
The second Harryhausen movie coming out on DVD tomorrow, it is the first he made with producer Charles H. Schneerand, and began a working relationship that lasted nearly 30 years. A very early film, but it has stood the test of time and is worth watching for fans of Ray Harryhausen or stop-motion animation in general. Contains both the black & white and the colorized version, but I don't consider the latter to be a selling point.

Medabots - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
One of those shows that spawned a toy line, either that or one of those toys that spawned a show. The show is very much like Pokemon, Beyblade, Yu-Gi-Oh, etc. in its basic set up; i.e., a boy and his (monster, top, deck of cards, robot) travel meeting others and fight their (monster, top, deck of cards, robot). Each episode comes across as a big ad for the toys and without high enough production values or strong enough writing, there's not enough replay to be worth picking up.

Mr. Woodcock - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Billy Bob Thorton tries his hardest to kill his career in this comedy that feels like a pale mix of School for Scoundrels and Bad News Bears. The film did better than expected at the box office, but not by enough to warrant any serious extras on the DVD. There are some deleted scenes, a piece of fluff making-of featurette, and an interview featurette on the horrors of gym class. It adds up to one big, "Skip it."

The Naked Prey - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
A white hunting party runs afoul of the African locals and one of them is stripped of weapons and clothes and is forced to run for his life as the tribe hunts him down. It's a simple story that works thanks to the tension and thrills it manages to build quickly. That is not to say there are not problems with this movie, including the overuse of stock footage at times. As for the DVD, it contains an audio commentary track, a reading of the short story by Paul Giamatti, isolated score, and booklet. It's a premium product, but you get what you pay for.

The New Adventures of Old Christine - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Another series trying to break the Seinfeld curse. No post-Seinfeld series has lasted this long for any of the main cast. Not only has this show lasted more than a season, it has also won Julia Louis-Dreyfus an Emmy, so the quality is high as well. As for the DVD, the first season was shortened and the 2-disc set only has 13 episodes, as well as an interview, deleted scenes, and outtakes. That's not much and I would have liked an audio commentary track or two, but the price is right and it is worth picking up.

Oswald's Ghost - Buy from Amazon
A documentary look at the assassination of JFK and the scars left on the American psyche that persist today.

I hate conspiracy theories; they drive me nuts. Their attractiveness to others is based on a well understood psychological flaw in the way humans process information. If we can predict what will happen next, we can react before events can occur, which is a great advantage evolutionarily speaking. So we look for patterns and our brains have evolved to be really good at finding them, even when they don't exist. Add in the common fallacy that the cause must be as great as the outcome, and we can see why the Kennedy assassination is the mother lode of all conspiracy theories (perhaps only outdone by the "moon landing hoax").

This documentary does an excellent job at dissecting the conspiracy theories involved here, the players, the true believers, etc. If you want to know the hows and the whys of the birth of the conspiracy theories, this is a great place to start. If you are looking for in-depth information on what happened that day, you will likely be disappointed here as the movie just don't focus on that part of the story.

Extras on the DVD include three additional pieces. The first is a nine-minute rant by someone who obviously has done a lot of research but his only real skill the ability to talk for nine minutes without breathing. The Zapruder Film and Beyond is a 22-minute piece on the famous film named after the person who filmed it. Finally, there's an interview with the director, Robert Stone, which is an excellent piece. It runs just over 15 minutes and explains a lot of the issues critics had with the movie; I particularly like how he says he didn't want to add to the debate, but to talk about the debate and how this was a new angle to look at the events.

Oswald's Ghost is rather dry and academic, which is what I'm looking for in this type of documentary. It gives the facts and presents them in a clear and concise fashion. If you are looking for flash, look elsewhere. But those interested in the history, this DVD is worth checking out.

Persuasion - Buy from Amazon
The latest TV movie Adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. This version compares well to the 1995 version and those who liked that film should check out this one.

Post-War Kurosawa - Buy from Amazon
Five early films from one of the most influential directors of all time. However, while fans of Akira Kurosawa should enjoy these movies, there are no extras. Personally, I would rather pay more and get more, especially given the significance of the body of work.

Raising Flagg - Buy from Amazon
A real mess. Probably would have stayed on a studio shelf somewhere for many, many years except Alan Arkin started earning nominations for Little Miss Sunshine (and eventually some wins), so it was rushed out into theaters. In the end, it likely made less money than it cost to make and ship the prints used. Now it is coming out on DVD with more features than I would expect (audio commentary and deleted scenes), but it is still not really worth checking out. I can't even recommend renting.

The Rockford Files - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
The last full season for this show comes out tomorrow and it includes the extended version of The Man Who Saw Alligators. Since season five was shortened, I'm hoping they will include the TV movies, but I think that is a pipe dream. However, all 8 TV movies in one box set is not.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch - The Third Season - Buy from Amazon
It's amazing this show lasted as long as it did. Practically every single season brought about serious changes in the cast. Usually shows can't survive changes like that, but this one lasted right till season seven.

Season two has Sabrina trying to pass her tests to become a licensed witch and the season ended with her passing her tests. However, season three starts off with her finding out that until she figures out the family secret, she's not allowed to use her license, which sets up this seasons overall story arc. Many episodes feature guest stars as relatives filling in a big Rebus puzzle. (At least I think that's what they are called.) It takes a long time for the puzzle to be really filled in, and the big reveal isn't until the season finale in Hawaii. (In fact, it takes until the second-to-last episode of the season for her to figure out the Spellman family secret is about the Spellman family. On a side note, I particularly liked Melissa Joan Hart's delivery when she figured out how little she had learned over the year.) In additional to this running storyline, there are plenty of good single episodes including the Halloween episode, which is probably the best of the season.

On a side note, I figure about half the episodes deal with some moral lesson (gambling, addiction, judging people by their appearance, etc.). However, this lessons don't interfere with the story, and are usual so superfluous that they are easily ignored. Had they been more heavy handed, or even more effective, I would have found the show too preachy to enjoy.

As for the extras, there are none. In fact, there are no subtitles either, but at least there's a play all button on each of the 4-discs and proper chapter placements (including chapter starts at the beginning and the end of the credits).

Season three is arguably the best season in Sabrina the Teenage Witch's seven year run. It is either this season or season two. (I think Donald Faison's recurring character from the previous season puts it over the top, but it is close.) I'm disappointed there are no extras, but not surprised, and this 4-disc set is still worth checking out for fans of the show. However, for most, a rental will be enough.

Saving Sarah Cain - Buy from Amazon
A independent big city woman travels to her Amish sister's funeral only to find out she is the new guardian of her five nieces and nephews. What should have been a harmless culture clash comedy gets bogged down in a TV movie of the Week feel. Or worse yet, an after school special. Add in very little in the way of extras, and I can't even recommend renting. I'm sure it will appear on TV soon enough to catch for free, and even then, most people will find themselves channel surfing.

Sci-Fi Essential - Buy from Amazon: Alien Siege and Manticore
A couple of TV movies from the Sci-Fi channel that came out a while ago on DVD but the screeners arrived late and I couldn't get to them until this week.

Alien Siege - Buy from Amazon
This might be the worst movie I've ever reviewed. That's reviewed, not watched, cause I just couldn't get through the movie. It's just, just so bad. So, so bad.

The movie is about some aliens who come to Earth and need our blood to survive, so they need to kill 8 million of us to get the blood they need to find the cure to blah, blah, blah. Really? They need to kill us to get the blood? Cause I'm pretty sure we can donate blood and it doesn't kill us. For that matter, why can't an advanced alien species clone our blood? But this is not a movie that cares about details like that, and if the rest of the movie was merely adequate, neither would I. But there's really no redeeming quality here. The writing, the directing, the acting, the special effects, and the action scenes are all terrible.

There is an audio commentary track with the director and several stars. I was disappointed that is wasn't just 90 minutes of, 'We are so sorry.'

This movie fails on every level, even the so-bad-it's-good level. I couldn't recommend watching it for free, I certainly can't recommend paying money to see it.

Manticore - Buy from Amazon
A reporter and cameraman embedded in Iraq hear word of possible WMD in a town nearby. In the meantime, a group of Iraqis are trying to summon an ancient monster that will repeal the invaders and help the leader become the new king of Babylon. When the reporter and her cameraman go missing, the military is sent in to rescue them, but instead come face to face with the manticore. It's not as bad as it sounds.

Starring a lot of people that fans of the Sci-Fi channel might recognize (Chase Masterson from Deep Space Nine, Robert Beltran from Voyager, Heather Donahue from Blair Witch, etc.), the acting in the movie is surprisingly good compared to the average Sci-Fi original movie and worlds ahead of the above film. The writing is functionable, if a little dependent on clichés and even the cheesy special effects don't hurt the movie too much. (The worst part of the special effects is clearly the Manticore itself, which is a shame. You shouldn't giggle when the vicious monster appears.)

There are no extras on this DVD. Alien Siege gets an audio commentary track, but this gets nothing. Go figure.

Manticore is a piece of B-Movie filmmaking, but it is better than it should be. It's not good enough to warrant owning, but fans of the genre should give it a rental.

Screamers - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about genocide featuring the rock band, System of a Down. The film opened to good reviews and opened with a reasonable per theater average, but it collapsed the next week and disappeared shortly after. It is a fascinating topic and worth checking out, but for most people a rental will suffice.

She's Gotta Have It - Buy from Amazon
Spike Lee's first joint comes out on DVD for the first time. ... Really? Wow. I wonder what the hold up was? An amazing film that still ranks as one of his best, the DVD is sadly devoid of special features. There's been a rumored Criterion Collection edition for a long, long time now, and while this release probably hurts its chances, it is still worth waiting for. Give this one a rental until a better DVD comes along.

Strays - Buy from Amazon
Written, directed, and starring Vin Diesel. ... Okay, you can stop laughing now. It's not a terrible movie and indeed shows a level of talent that is missing form many of his more recent films. On the other hand, it is a coming of age story featuring characters that really should have figured it out already, and I find these characters are not very sympathetic and that hurts my ability to get into the movie. The only extra on the DVD is a 35-minute retrospective, which is interesting enough to watch to warrant a rental for fans of Indie filmmaking, but the replay value for the overall package is not high enough to purchase.

Suburban Girl - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Originally titled The Girls' Guide to Hunting & Fishing, this movie's theatrical release was pushed back a couple of times before being dumped direct-to-DVD. Strangely, it is also being released on Blu-Ray. The movie is your run-of-the-mill romantic comedy that should satisfy fans of the genre but doesn't have the replay value to be worth buying over just renting. As for the Blu-Ray, there is nothing here in terms of extras to be worth the upgrade, and this is not the kind of movie you need to see in High Definition to enjoy.

Super Comet - After the Impact - Buy from Amazon
A documentary that tries to balance the educational aspect and the entertainment aspect by not only having scientists explain how a massive comet impact the Earth would effect us, but by having dramatizations of several groups of people adapting to the change.

They should have stuck with the scientists.

It's clear that the strength of this DVD is the real-world implications of a direct hit by a massive comet, and not just in terms of pure physics, but also in terms of sociology. Evacuating huge cities, how survivors would react, and other such topics are dealt with in addition to such topics as the impact, the EMP pulse, tidal wave, etc. When dealing with these subjects, the program shines. Many of the special effects shots are also effective (they are not Hollywood blockbuster caliber, but they work well enough.)

On the other hand, the movie also follows four different groups in four different places and how they cope with the disaster. This was the weakest part of the show. I suppose some might need the human drama to be drawn into the science, but I found it distracting for the most part. Another issue is just the structure of the show. Since it first aired on TV, there are obvious commercial breaks every 10 minutes that are usually followed by a recap. Watching it on DVD, it almost feels like it was made for people with really short attention spans.

On a side note, 800 times Little Boy, the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima is merely 10 megatons, and there's no way that would move a comet that size. I'm not convinced they would even bother to use such as small bomb. 8,000 times sure, but not just 800. Also, a lot of heat travels through radiation in the form of infrared rays that travel at the speed of light. This means if you can see the giant fireball, it is too late and you will be cooked before you can register what you saw. You certainly won't be able to close a bomb shelter door in time to save yourself. Just a couple of things that bugged me with the show.

Sadly, there are no extras, there are not even any subtitles.

Overall this is an interesting enough program to be worth checking out, but there's not enough replay value to be worth picking up. In fact, if you've seen it on TV when it first aired, you probably won't be interested in even renting it.

The Ten - Buy from Amazon
Paul Rudd hosts this anthology movie that presents ten vignettes about the ten commandments, each one focusing on someone breaking one of the rules.

When this film was released it earned weak reviews and never found an audience during its theatrical run, so I didn't have high hopes for the movie when I checked it out on DVD. However, the humor just clicked with me and I found most of the skits hilarious. However, since the skits average just nine minutes long it is nearly impossible to give a review of the skits without spoiling them so get ready for a lot of white text...

The skits that worked outnumbered the ones that didn't by a 4 to 1 margin, with most having serious replay value. The best of the best were (in no particular order), Thou Shall Not Take the Lord's Name in Vain, which is a love story between a librarian and Jesus. I especially loved the Spanish voiceover, which I won't spoil for anyone. Thou Shall Honor the Sabbath and Keep it Holy is about a group of men who like to get naked on Sundays and listen to Roberta Flack. I have found that nudity, especially non-sexual inappropriate nudity is a great source of humor, and that is certainly true here, also this bit ends with one of the best songs I've heard in a while. Also topping the list is the animated Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor, which is a a great homage to Fritz the Cat. While those three are fantastic, almost all of the skits have serious replay value. The only two exceptions were Thou Shall Have No Other God Before Me and Thou Shall Not Murder, which were two of the first three skits. It was a slow start, but the film hits its stride and ends on a high.

The extras on the DVD are better than I thought they would be considering its short theatrical stay and include and audio commentary track with Paul Rudd, Ken Marino, David Wain, David's parents, and is complete with a Jazz accompaniment. Excellent track with very little in the way of dead spots and a lot of interesting information. I especially liked the perspective from David's parents, Nina and Norman. Next up are deleted & extended scenes mixed with some outtakes. There are an hour's worth of clips here, but sadly no play all button. There's a seven-minute interview from the SXSW film festival, a three-minute episode of Wainy Days, and five-minute making-of featurette. All three are worth checking out, but the replay value isn't that high.

Like most anthology movies, The Ten was hit and miss. However, unlike most critics, I thought the hits outnumbered the misses by a considerable margin and combined with the extras, the DVD is easily worth picking up.

Undead or Alive - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD horror comedy western involving zombies. Right away you know this movie isn't going to win any awards, but it is better than it has any right to be.

The film is a horror comedy, but it is heavily tilted to the comedy side. There are no real scares and the mood is kept very light. (The jokes even get goofy at times, especially the opening with Brian Posehn.) There is enough gore to earn the horror label, but not enough to really satisfy any gorehound, while the zombie effects help the overall effectiveness. As for being a Western, I never once believed the characters belonged in the west; they felt too modern in the way they acted and talked. So each part of the film doesn't work as well as it should, but combined it hits the level of low expectation theater. It's the kind of movie that you can pop in your DVD player on a Saturday afternoon and kill 90 minutes with.

As for the extras, they are better than expected with an audio commentary track and two making-of featurettes. The audio commentary track features the director, Glasgow Phillips, and the three leading actors, Chris Kattan, James Denton, and Navi Rawat. The track keeps the mood of the movie and is more lighthearted entertainment than it is informational; in fact, it helps the mood of the movie and I enjoyed the picture a lot more with the audio commentary than without. The first making-of featurette, From South Park to the Wild Wild West, is just over 14 minutes and deals with the usual making-of subjects. Geronimonsters: The Zombies That Walked the West runs just under 12 minutes and focuses on the creation of the zombies for the movie. Both are worth checking out.

Granted, Undead or Alive is certainly an exercise in low expectations theater, but not every movie needs to be Oscar quality to be enjoyed. It's goofy, it doesn't take itself seriously, and I found it fun. I am in the minority here and I am recommending renting above buying, but there will be more than a few who check it out who will consider it a guilty pleasure.

Wedding Daze - Buy from Amazon
This movie was bounced around several release dates, then pulled from the schedule completely, and finally dumped direct-to-DVD. Given all of that, it's not as bad as it could have been. It's a workable romantic comedy that is worth checking out for fans of the genre. However, with just an alternate opening some deleted scenes, the DVD is only worth a rental.

Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God... Be Back by Five - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Kind of a strange release for Blu-Ray. A limited release that didn't earn great reviews or earn a lot at the box office. In fact, most people have never heard of it, even with such a memorable name. It's worth checking out, but not buying, and the DVD is good enough for most people. (On a side note, the Amazon link for the Blu-Ray is currently dead. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.)

When Harry Met Sally... - Buy from Amazon
Uhh.... they re-released this movie on DVD last month. This is a great movie, but I can't support this kind of business practice. Skip it.

White Noise 2: The Light - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Nathan Fillion is cursed. There is not other way to explain how he can keep starring in high quality movies that bomb at the box office, or in this film's case, never make it to theaters at all.

(By the way, while this movie was also released on HD-DVD, I only have the movie on Standard Definition DVD so I can't compare the two.)

This film is a sequel White Noise, which was release early in 2005 and was completely eviscerated by critics but became a surprise hit. Those who saw that movie and were completely turned off, don't need to worry as White Noise 2 is a sequel in name only and has only the thinnest thread connecting it to its predecessor.

This time around the film stars Nathan Fillion as Abe Dale, a man whose wife and child are brutally murdered in front of him by a man who then promptly shoots himself. Unable to cope, he tries to kill himself only to be brought back, but not before going through a Near Death Experience. While recovering, he notices white auras around certain people, people who die shortly thereafter. Nathan Fillion does an excellent job playing this character, who has to deal with these astonishing and perplexing developments and he does it in a way that most real people would. He's not a movie character hero, but he still feels like someone who could be pushed into taking action when the situation demanded and that's a hard balance to maintain. Katee Sackhoff also turns in a great performance and the mood the maintained throughout the film. (Although personally I preferred the early scenes of Abe trying to figure out what was going on over the later scenes when the supernatural aspects become more overt.

Extras on the DVD are mixed; there's no audio commentary track and one of the three featurettes is less than effective, but the overall package is still better than most direct-to-DVD releases get. The meatiest extra is the collection of deleted scenes. There are a dozen deleted scenes running more than 30 minutes (or roughly a third of the length of the final movie). There are only a few that could have been left in the movie, but most make interesting supplemental viewing. Of the three featurettes, Journey into Madness is the best; it runs six minutes long and is hosted by Barbara Copp, a production assistant, and Nathan Fillion, who take you on a tour of an allegedly haunted Mental Asylum. The Making of White Noise 2 is more effective than most making-of features considering it runs just 9 minutes long. It has a better sense of humor than most, which is generally thanks to Fillion. The final featurette, Exploring Near-Death Experience tries to convince the viewer that N.D.E. are real. Right away it is defined as a lucid experience that happened at a time of imminent death. "And yet, at a time of unconsciousness, people are having these vivid, lucid experiences." I have vivid, lucid experience while I'm unconscious all of the time. They are called dreams. There is a very mundane explanation for these experiences and trying to convince me there's something paranormal here just doesn't fly. In fact, it hurts the effectiveness of the movie.

White Noise 2: The Light is a movie that is superior to the original in nearly every way. This direct-to-DVD release is easily worth picking up, even with a collection of extras that are only adequate. If there was an audio commentary with the director and the two leads, I could have been a lot more enthusiastic about my recommendation.


Filed under: Video Releases, Good Luck Chuck, Mr. Woodcock, The Ten, Screamers, Raising Flagg, He Was a Quiet Man, Oswald's Ghost, Wedding Daze, White Noise 2: The Light, Suburban Girl