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DVD Releases for March 25, 2008

March 24th, 2008

According to Amazon, there are more than 700 DVDs coming out this week; however, this is certainly a case of quantity over quality and I'm having trouble finding 30 releases worth mentioning. It is also a rather light week when it comes to spotlight reviews with only three of them. To end the trifecta of weakness, there are not a lot that are even in contention for DVD Pick of the Week. War Made Easy is arguably the best movie of the week, but the DVD is devoid of extras. Likewise, Bonnie and Clyde on Blu-ray is a good choice, but there are no exclusive features and the Ultimate Collector's Edition has more physical features. Another contender was PTU - Police Tactical Unit, which is a strong movie with equally strong extras. However, in the end none of these releases really lived up to the title of DVD Pick of the Week.

April Fool's Day - Buy from Amazon
A remake of a movie that was bad to being with. It goes without say that this film painfully sucks and the featureless DVD isn't even worth renting. (On a side note, why didn't this film come out next week? You know, when it actually is April Fool's Day.)

Bonnie and Clyde - Buy from Amazon: Two-Disc Special Edition, Ultimate Collector's Edition, or Blu-ray
One of the best movies of 1967, if not the decade. The film has been released on DVD before, but only once and in 1999, so being a double-dip is not a large drawback here. Extras are the same for the three releases and include a documentary on the real life couple, an hour long making-of featurette, deleted scenes, and wardrobe tests. The real differences between the DVDs come in the packaging with the Ultimate Collector's Edition containing several booklets while the Blu-ray is the first in a planned series of Book releases and also has a book. Regardless of which version you decide on, they are all worth picking up. The lack of additional extras on the Blu-ray release does hurt, but it is cheaper than the Ultimate Collector's Edition and is a good deal.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Bonnie and Clyde, Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics, HDScape Sampler, Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Naked Beneath the Water, and Steep
A rather weak selection of Blu-ray releases with the best selling among them being a calibration disc. There are no first-run releases, but Bonnie and Clyde is coming out on Blu-ray day-and-date with the Special Edition DVDs and is the most intriguing of the releases. At least next week is a lot busier.

The Catherine Tate Show - Buy from Amazon
Catherine Tate is a British comedienne who is probably best known for being the latest companion on the newest edition of Doctor Who. This might make a lot of people consider buying this DVD sight unseen. Don't. A lot of people love this show, but just as many hate, hate, hate it, so definitely try before you buy and give it a rental.

Day Break - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Taye Diggs stars as detective Brett Hopper, who finds himself accused of murdering an assistant district attorney; he has a solid alibi, but no one believes him. His day gets worse and the people who framed him kill his girlfriend, kidnap him, and drug him. And then he wakes up and starts the day all over again. People are calling the show a mix between 24 and Groundhog Day, but for the most part it is in a good way. Granted, it never truly lived up to its potential, but the series is worth checking out. As for the 4-disc set, it has audio commentary tracks on all 13 episodes with some have more than one track, as well as interview featurettes. Certainly worth picking up.

Frisky Dingo - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
From the people that brought you Sealab 2021. Right away you should either be really excited, or warned to stay away. I'm in the former category, as I loved Sealab. This show has the same weird humor, but takes place in the world of super heroes and features the ongoing battle between Awesome X and Killface. Sadly the 2-disc set has no special features, none, which is highly unusual for an [Adult Swim] release. It is still worth picking up, but I can't be enthusiastic about that recommendation.

HD DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Bob Hope Collection: My Favorite Brunette / Son of Paleface, Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics, The Low Life, and Rachmaninov - Piano Concertos Nos. 2&3 - Acoustic Reality Experience
Yuck. A terrible selection of movies this week, even compared to Blu-ray, which itself has a really weak group of releases. It's not like it's getting better next week. Or any other week.

The Invisible Man - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A Sci-Fi channel original series that was a cut above most they had put out at that point and it blends the sci-fi, thriller, action and comedy at nearly the perfect levels. It also balances the stand-alone episodes with the overall story arc, which is sometimes tricky in these shows. Extras on the 5-disc set include two audio commentary tracks (both on the pilot), and interview featurette, and a preview for season two, which turned out to be the final season. Worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains - Buy from Amazon
A documentary look at former president Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter is considered by many to be the best ex-President ever, certainly when compared to his term in office. That said, the movie is perhaps too generous with its praise to be completely effective and a more balanced approach would have made the movie more compelling. The DVD has an audio commentary track, more than 30 minutes of deleted scenes, and a making-of featurette on the soundtrack, which seems out of place. Still, it is worth checking out for most, picking up for fans of political documentaries.

The Kite Runner - Buy from Amazon
Based on an acclaimed novel, this was the latest movie from director Marc Forster who had previous made critical hits like Monster's Ball and Finding Neverland. It was opening in the heart of Awards Season and Marc Forster just earned a big boost publicity-wise after being selected to direct the next James Bond movie. Expectations were very high for this movie, both critically and at the box office. Perhaps too high.

The movie starts with an adult Amir getting the first copies of his book. He also receives a call telling him he needs to return home to Afghanistan. The film then flashes back to 1978 when Amir was a kid playing with Hassan, the son of his father's servant, who is also his best friend. His father, Baba, is a popular and influential man who rails against the influence of the Mullahs and against the communists, both of which are trying to control his country. But his father is worried that Amir lacks the courage to stand up for himself, and it is this lack of courage that leads to a horrid event that destroys Amir and Hassan's friendship. And the call years later brings with it Amir's chance at redemption.

The Kite Runner opened with good reviews, but not great reviews. It was able to escape limited release, but never expanded truly wide. It was able to earn some pre-release Awards Season buzz, but it was never able to become a real player. This is very much like the quality of the movie itself. It is engaging, for the most part, but not totally engrossing. It is dramatic, but at times slips into melodrama. It was so close to being amazing, but in the end it falls short. It is important to emphasize that the movie is very good, but it doesn't live up to the pre-release buzz. It is worth seeing, but won't become a classic.

Extras start with an audio commentary track with Marc Forster, the director; Khaled Hosseini, the writer of the original novel; and David Benioff, the screenwriter. The three are able to offer many different views of the movie from their three unique perspectives, and this adds enormously to the track's value. There are also two featurettes, the first of which is Words from The Kite Runner, which could be described as a making-of featurette for the novel. Second is Images from The Kite Runner, which is a making-of featurette for the movie. Combined they run just under 40 minutes and both have replay value. Lastly... or to begin with, there is a P.S.A. from Khaled Hosseini that can be watched separately or as an introduction to the movie.

The Kite Runner is one of those movies that is frustratingly close to be excellent, so much so that is harder to watch than if it was just bad. It is certainly worth checking out, and many people who do will want to add the DVD to their collection; however, I can't be really enthusiastic about that recommendation.

Los Angeles Dodgers 1988 World Series Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Don't release commemorative championship DVDs unless you have the full games. This release does it right and fans of the team should snap it up.

Lost Highway - Buy from Amazon
This film from David Lynch took more than a decade to reach DVD. This release is certainly intriguing to fans of the auteur, but it will confuse most others. Extras on the DVD include a 10-part interview featurette with the director and it is worth picking up for fans of the auteur.

Midsomer Murders - Set 10 - Buy from Amazon
The latest release from this long running British murder mystery series features four more cases on a 4-disc set. Also coming out this week is The Early Cases Collection, a massive 19-disc collection with the earlier released episodes. Call it a Half Series Megaset. The price of this Megaset is still a little high on a price per minute basis, but it is still better than most imports in that regard.

The Mist - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition or 2-Disc Collector's Edition
This film earned strong reviews, especially for the genre, but opened below studio expectations before sliding out of theaters in a matter of weeks. It's a shame as the film had one of the best endings of the year. (Although it is probably too depressing for most people.) As for the DVD, neither is exactly loaded with extras. The Single-Disc Edition has an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and an interview featurette. The 2-Disc Collector's Edition has the above three, a black & white edition of the movie (huh?), four making-of featurettes and a featurette on artist Drew Struzan. Worth checking out and the 2-Disc Collector's Edition is worth the extra money.

Noble House - Buy from Amazon
A TV miniseries starring Pierce Brosnan that originally aired in the late 1980s. (Just after the end of Remington Steele.) The lavish production (it cost $16 million to make) is just one of several selling points here and fans of Pierce Brosnan and / or the original novel should certainly be interested in picking up this 2-disc set, even though it appears to be devoid of extras.

Painkiller Jane - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
One of three Sci-Fi Channel shows coming out this week. This one is the worst. At best it can be called mindless entertainment, but when most people describe the show, they leave off 'entertainment' at the end.

Party of Five - The Complete Third Season - Buy from Amazon
It has been more than two years since Season Two came out and at this rate we might not get to season six before DVDs become obsolete. On the one hand, the extras have dried up and there's nothing special on the 5-disc set. On the other hand, if fans of the show want to see the second half of the show come out on DVD, they better buy this DVD and buy it soon before the studio kills the release completely.

Pauly Shore's Natural Born Komics - Sketch Comedy Movie - Miami - Buy from Amazon
Pauly Shore is back. I'm not sure there are many people who are truly excited about that.

Pauly Shore's peak at the box office came in 1992 with Encino Man, a film that earned 15% positive reviews. Sadly to say, that was not the worst movie of his career. In fact, it is better than average compared to his other starring roles. No movie he has starred in (as opposed to lent his voice to) has come close to 50% positive reviews, that is until Pauly Shore is Dead came out. That movie became the best of Pauly Shore's career and while it didn't exactly light up the box office, it did show that he could be funny with the right material and maybe he could revive his career.

His revival was short-lived.

This is not the worst film I've seen, it isn't even the worst film with Pauly Shore I've seen, and I've seen all five of them. (Don't look at me like that; it's not my fault. I used to rent movies with friends in high school on a regular basis and we would each choose one movie and we couldn't veto anyone's selection. One of the guys had the uncanny ability to zero in on the worst movie in the store. He also picked a lot of Ernest movies.) His stand up work shown here isn't bad, but it is still hit and miss. Most of the sketches fail to hit their mark, however, and the genuinely funny scenes are few are far between. Also, the material seems very dated with him spoofing shows like Punk'd, Cheaters, Flavor of Love, etc. The lack of freshness certainly hurt the comedic value here.

Moving onto the extras, there's a making-of featurette called The Diarrhea for Pauly Shore, which sums up the level of humor found on the DVD. It's a making of featurette that is about equal parts Pauly Shore talking to the camera and behind-the-scenes footage. Next up are plenty of deleted scenes and bloopers, which include more stand up from some of the cast members, musical performance by T-Pain, etc. I would have liked an index here so I could pick and chose, but overall its hit to miss ratio is better than the show. Combined these two extras run 45 minutes, which is almost as long as the main feature is.

Compared to the movies of Pauly Shore, Natural Born Komics rates as above average, but that is not high praise. It is better than In the Army, but not as good as Son in Law so use that as a guide for whether or not you check out this film. Those who liked Pauly Shore is Dead will likely be disappointed in his regression. Those who haven't seen that movie, should check it out instead.

The Price is Right - Best Of - Buy from Amazon
Really? There is a demand for this DVD? Game shows just don't seem to be the right fit for TV on DVD. That said, it seems to be selling well, so perhaps I'm not the right person to judge.

PTU. - Police Tactical Unit - Buy from Amazon
The latest Dragon Dynasty release, this is a 2003 release produced and directed by Johnny To, who went on to direct Exiled, which I reviewed when it came out in limited release. Like that film, this movie has a style to it that seemed to turn off as many people as it enticed, but it deserves a second look from those who were not drawn in as I was.

The movie stars, in part, Lam Suet as Sergeant Lo, a police officer who loses his gun after a brief encounter with a gang. Now he, and an elite police force, does whatever it takes to get it back. Whatever it takes. In the meantime, a low level street boss is assassinated by a rival gang, the same street boss whose minions stole the gun in the first place. Over the course of the night, we follow the two groups of police, two gangs who might go to war... oh, and CID, who is trying to bust Sergeant Lo for losing his gun, which would cost him his promotion. So there are several groups whose paths keep crossing while the film slowly builds to an amazing conclusion.

For some it might build too slowly. That is the biggest complaint critics have had about this film, but personally I think it is not fair. "Cut for pacing reasons" is something I hate hearing when watching deleted scenes. Movies used to have a lot more deliberate pace, but we've been trained to not be able to handle watching a scene unless there's a million things happening. (We are also trained to want to get to the action immediately without getting into character development, which is another pet peeve of mine.) When done right, a simple scene where all we see is someone walking down an alleyway with a lot on his mind helps build the drama and helps emphasize the other aspects of the movie. This gives the film a film noir feel to it, and the dark humor of some of the situations helps.

As for the extras... come on, it's a Dragon Dynasty DVD, so you can probably guess what it has. Things start with an audio commentary track with Bey Logan, Hong Kong cinema aficionado extraordinaire. He is at his top form again giving plenty of information dealing with the creation of the film, the actors, the director, etc. Never a dead spot. The other extras on the DVD are three interview featurettes. The first is with Simon Yam, who plays the head of the PTU and it runs just under 22 minutes. Next up is Johnny To, or Johnnie To as he is called here while the last one is with Maggie Siu. The former runs just over 13 minutes while the latter featurette runs just under 13 minutes. All three are in Cantonese with English subtitles and all three have replay value. This is an extremely common selection of extras from this studio, but it is effective so there's little reason to change.

A movie that has more style than straight-up action, but in a good way. PTU is worth checking out, and with a DVD release that is up to Dragon Dynasty's usual standards, it is worth picking up over just renting.

Pu-239 - Buy from Amazon
Paddy Considine stars as a worker in a Russia Nuclear facility that is accidentally exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. He has only a few days to live, but he has a plan to provide for his family after he's gone. He's going to steal some weapons grade plutonium and sell it on the underground market to the highest bidder. The film is certainly dramatic but also has a darkly comedic side as well. This, combined with the performances, makes for a compelling movie. The only extra on the DVD is an audio commentary track, but that's to be expected giving its import nature and it still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

The Sasquatch Gang - Buy from Amazon
A movie with a trailer that looks exceptionally bad. This movie isn't that bad, but it's not that good either. Add in extras that are just average for a limited release (audio commentary track and deleted scenes), and the DVD just screams rental, but at least it fills that role just fine.

Shrooms - Buy from Amazon
Lindsey Haun stars as Tara, a lady on a camping trip with her friends in Ireland for a chance to indulge in a few psychedelic mushrooms. Unfortunately for her, she accidentally eats a Deaths Head mushroom. This is a mushroom that legend has it can cause the unlucky individual to gain dark powers, including the ability to predict the future. ... If they survive, that is. The film opened in limited release with poor reviews and disappeared quickly, just like nearly every other limited release horror film in the last decade. Most critics seem to agree that Lindsey Haun's performance is the best part of the movie, but most critics also agree that that's not enough. (Interestingly, she was in another movie recently, Broken Bridges, where the same thing happened. She was the best part of a bad movie. Hopefully her next movie, The Hard Ride, will be better.) Extras include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and outtakes and overall the DVD is worth a rental for fans of the genre, but that's it. On the other hand, had the movie used it 'magic mushroom' hook better and was able to inject some originality into the genre, then this could have been a very good movie.

Sliders - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
It's been a while since Season Three came out, and I can't say it has been worth the wait. After season three the show was cancelled by Fox but a year latter it was resurrected by the Sci-Fi channel, albeit with a greatly reduced budget. The show wasn't helped by the departure of John Rhys-Davies partway through season three, nor the loss of Sabrina Lloyd at the beginning of season four. (Additionally, I never found the Kromags to be compelling bad guys and I preferred the simple dimension jumping of the earlier seasons.) I can see a lot of fans of the show skipping the final two seasons and sticking with the earlier releases. That is certainly my plan.

That 70s Show - Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
All 8 full season sets are coming out tomorrow in this special package deal, which is an interesting feat as Season 8 doesn't come out until next week. Methinks Amazon messed up the listing, so don't order this expecting to get it this week.

Tripping the Rift - The Movie - Buy from Amazon
Several episodes from season three re-edited to form a movie, sort of. You can tell these were individual episodes at one time, but that's not a huge issue. The problem is, they are merely average episodes turned into a pseudo-movie. (In fact, most fans will agree that season three has not been the strongest season for the show so far and the show ended on a bit of a down note.) Extras are very limited with just an interview piece with the voice cast. Overall it is worth a rental, but fans will want to save their money until the final season comes out on DVD.

The Upright Citizens Brigade: Asssscat! - Buy from Amazon
An improv special from The Upright Citizens Brigade, who starred in their own show of that name on Comedy Central for three years. While the show didn't last as long as some had hoped, it did develop a fanatically devoted fanbase and these people will love this DVD. However, it does lack the season long theme from the series, which was one of the many aspects of the show that set it apart.

Walk the Line - Extended Edition - Buy from Amazon
This is the third DVD release for this film in just over two years. (Granted, the first two came out on the same day, but still.) 17 minutes of footage was added to the movie and there are also several new features from the previous edition, including more than 40 minutes of featurettes. Furthermore, a 2-disc set for under $20.00 is a hell of a deal and enough to overcome the double-dip issue. Worth picking up.

War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death - Buy from Amazon
This film was released in theaters just 10 days ago, but it is now coming out on DVD. This short turnaround could explain why it made so little at the box office. An excellent movie that thoroughly and extensively details the work of politicians, pundits, and indeed the media, in catapulting the propaganda, so to speak. Documentaries like this are absolutely necessary because no one in the aforementioned groups ever take responsibility for their past predictions. They always complain about people living in the past, or, "playing the blame game" when someone asks hard questions or tries to get them to own up to their mistakes. The media is supposed to be the ones who do that, but as this movie shows, they are part of the problem and not part of the solution. While the movie is a must see, there are no extras on the DVD. If there were extras like additional interviews, additional media footage, or an interview with the filmmaker, then this DVD would be a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. As it is, it is definitely still worth picking up.

Warner Gangsters Collection - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
On the one hand, this release offers good bang for your buck. On the other hand, it is clear that they are running out of top of the line films from the genre. The six films presented here are good, but not classics. The extras are in line with other, similar releases from the studio (e.g. vintage shorts and cartoons) and overall it is still worth picking up. That said, I'm worried how many more volumes they can squeeze out of the series.

Wings - The Sixth Season - Buy from Amazon
A sitcom in all of its mediocre glory. It's not a bad show, for the most part, but it doesn't rise above the genre. Even many fans will agree that the replay value doesn't warrant a purchase over a rental.

Wristcutters: A Love Story - Buy from Amazon
This film opened with good reviews, but not great reviews, and earned an impressive per theater average during its opening weekend. However, as soon as it tried to expand, it was crushed. This is likely due to the nature of the story, which is set in a purgatory filled with people who have killed themselves. The film focuses on three such individuals as they travel to find a lost love, find whoever is in charge, just find something new. Extras include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making-of featurette, storyboards, and behind-the-scenes photos. Worth checking out for fans of art house cinema and many that do try it will want to buy it.

Yul Brynner Collection - Buy from Amazon: Kings of the Sun, Solomon & Sheba, and Taras Bulba
Three movies featuring Yul Brynner are coming out on DVD this week. None are among his best or most well known and it is hard to recommend them to anyone outside of his diehard fans. They are too average for anything more than a rental for most people.


Filed under: Video Releases, Walk the Line, The Mist, The Kite Runner, Wristcutters: A Love Story, Steep, Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains, The Sasquatch Gang, Shrooms, War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death