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DVD Releases for April 15, 2008

April 14th, 2008

Not a particularly strong week for DVD releases this week. Sure, there are a few worth picking up, but there were far more that felt like filler. In fact, there was only one contender for DVD Pick of the Week, Juno. I would certainly recommend the Blu-ray version over either DVD edition.

The Adams Chronicles - Buy from Amazon
A mini-series that first aired during the nation's bicentennial that tells the story of four generations of one of the founding families. The 4-disc set also includes a historical featurette, which should interest the target audience.

Alien Nation - Ultimate Movie Collection - Buy from Amazon
This franchise started as a movie, became a TV series, and then ended as a series of TV movies. Unfortunately, these five movies are not as good as the TV series, or the original movie, but fans of both will likely want to pick up the 3-disc set to complete their collection, even without any real special features.

Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Version, Unrated DVD, Unrated DVD with Digital Copy, or Unrated Blu-ray
When the original AVP came out, many fans were upset they went the PG-13 route, as many thought they were watering down the two franchises. This time around they decided to go for an R-rating, which most fans will agree is an improvement. However, it is arguably the only improvement. On the other hand, both the DVD and the Blu-ray have plenty of extras including two audio commentary tracks, making of featurette, special effects featurette, image galleries, digital copy, and you can even watch the movie with an Unrated marker that will tell you when there's additional footage not seen in theaters. Finally, the Blu-ray comes with a dossier with information on Aliens and Predators. Fans of the crossovers will be happy with picking up either one, but most of the rest of us can safely stay away. Also coming out tomorrow is the AVP Two-Pack on both DVD and Blu-ray.

American Dad - Volume 3 - Buy from Amazon
Why is this show being released in volumes and not seasons? Like too many Seth MacFarlane releases, this one seems designed to annoy fans by offering 18 episodes from seasons two and three. However, like all Seth MacFarlane releases, this one comes with a lot of extras including audio commentary tracks on every episode, deleted scenes that could make a couple extra episodes, and a table read at the ComicCon. Worth picking up but I wish they would stick with full season sets. It may sound like a small complaint, but it is an easy problem to fix.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The latest film from Sidney Lumet is also one of his best, which is saying a lot given his career. At the box office, it started out well in limited release, but struggled to maintain that momentum as it expanded and in the end it earned some measure of mainstream success, but not as much as some were expecting. (The same can be said of its performance during Awards Season.) As for the DVD, it has an audio commentary track and a making-of featurette, which is acceptable for a limited release but not overwhelming. Overall, I can certainly recommend buying the DVD over just renting, but if the DVD had a few more extras, it could have been a contender for DVD Pick of the Week. Additionally, the Blu-ray costs nearly 40% more without offering enough for the upgrade. On the other hand, now that Blu-ray has won, there's a lot less risk involved in buying the High Definition format. It's not like you could end up with a dead format in just a few months.

Blast of Silence - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Independent Film Noir about a hitman traveling to New York City on Christmas for a job. A little-seen but amazing film, this is certainly a worthy movie to received the Criterion touch. Sadly, this DVD is not overloaded with extras. There is an hour-long making-of documentary, several image galleries (including side-by-side shots from the movie and the same locations today), and the usual high quality booklet. Certainly worth picking up, but I was hoping for an audio commentary track.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, AvP - Two Pack, Before the Devil Knows You Are Dead, Commando, Juno, Mariah Carey - The Adventures of Mimi, A Passage to India, and Predator
A deceptively average selection of Blu-ray releases. There are a couple that are worth picking up, but there is no one release that combines a high-quality movie and a Blu-ray release that shows off the technology.

The Bridge on the River Kwai - Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Great movie, too many DVD releases to choose from. This is not the only example of this problem on this week's list.

College Hill Interns - Buy from Amazon
A BET series in which ten people, five women and five men, compete with each other through a series of grueling tests to see who has what it takes to become an intern of a major corporation. ... It's the apprentice but with a cast of African American contestants. Yes, it is Reality TV, but at least there's no Donald Trump.

I don't get this show. The premise is about ten people trying to earn their big break in the business world, which would actually be a good role model for its target audience since too often the media makes it seem like the only way for black person to succeed is through sports or entertainment. You too rarely see successful black doctors, businessmen, etc. So what's one of the first challenges they have? An inflatable obstacle course. How is this going to help someone in the corporate world? I didn't realize this was Clown College Hill Interns. (That is not to say all the challenges were this vacuous, but it was definitely off-putting, especially so early.) Also, too much time was spent with petty personality conflicts and sexual escapades. I'm sure this is a big selling point to the target audience, as it is with all Reality TV shows, but I was just not interested.

Extras on the 2-disc set are rather limited with just a 9-minute audition reel, a much shorter reel of rejected audition tapes, both on the first disc. On the second disc, there is a featurette on Soulja Boy.

College Hill Interns is not the soul-crushing type to Reality TV program, but it doesn't live up to its potential. Add in extras that are light and I can't recommend purchasing over renting.

The Final Season - Buy from Amazon
An inspirational sports story based on real life events. You can pretty much guess how many clichés are crammed into this movie. That said, fans of these movies might find enough here to enjoy, and the DVD is spectacular for such a box office bomb. (It made less at the box office than it cost to make the prints.) Extras include two audio commentary tracks that offer a wealth of information, as well as a making-of featurette and another featurette on the real life town featured in the movie.

HD DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Buy from Amazon
Only one HD DVD release this week, and it already came out on Blu Ray a couple of weeks ago.

How the Earth Was Made - Buy from Amazon
How was the Earth made? It turns out it was made by aliens using duct tape. Lots of duct tape, obviously.
On a serious note, this is a good documentary and one that offers a lot of information and in a way that should keep most people engaged.

I Remember Nelson - Buy from Amazon
Ha ha... Sorry, wrong Nelson. This is a Masterpiece Theatre production on the life of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson who helped defend Britain from Napoleon by leading the navy in one of the great naval battles at Trafalgar. This mini-series presents four different views of the man from four different people over the four episodes. Like many British TV productions from the 1980s, the video and sound quality is only adequate and there are no extras. Still, worth checking out for many, picking up for some.

I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With - Buy from Amazon
Written, directed, and starring Jeff Garlin, and a lot of other actors, this movie became a must-see as soon as I saw the trailer. I loved the little scene with his mother.

"That shirt makes you look fat."
"That's 'cause I am fat. If anything, I make the shirt look fat."

The film earned good reviews and started off very well in one theaters, but just couldn't maintain that as it expanded. Now it is coming out on DVD this week with an audio commentary track and a single deleted scene. That's not a lot, but it is average for a limited release. It is also enough to recommend purchasing over just renting.

In the Name of the King - A Dungeon Siege Tale - Buy from Amazon
Arguably Dr. Uwe Boll's best video game adaptation ever. Also arguably one of the worst movies ever made. I find it simply incomprehensible that he believes he is making quality cinema. This movie contains some of the worst dialogue ever put onto screen, but it is delivered by some quality actors. A lot of people ask how this comes to pass, but the answer is simple. Dr. Uwe Boll looks for projects that have fallen through and snaps up the actors and pays then not as much as they are probably worth, but more than they would get waiting for their next gig. Unlike most past Boll efforts, this movie is really bad, but at least it is bad in an entertaining way and fans of these movies could find enough to enjoy that it's worth wasting an evening with. However, it is not worth buying, or even renting at full price. In fact, I am hesitant to recommend spending any money on it at all. It will work just as well watching it on late night cable TV.

Inside - Buy from Amazon
After a violent car crash, Sarah is left widowed and pregnant. Several month later, on Christmas Eve, she is resting while waiting to give birth the next morning when a mysterious women shows up at her door and demands to be let in. She knows too much about Sarah and won't be deterred from her goal, not matter who gets in the way or how much blood has to be spilled.

And that's a lot of blood.

I've read a lot of very positive reviews for this movie, and there's a lot here to recommend. The film starts out slow and builds the mood impeccably, and then when the action starts, it doesn't stop till the end. That said, I was never drawn into the movie like so many other critics were. I wasn't disturbed by the gore as much as the lack of a plot. It has been described as minimalist by a few critics, but to me minimalism goes too far when you no longer need names for the characters and you can just called them Victim #1, Victim #2, etc. (Part of the problem was with the predictable nature of the kills. I know that either Sarah was going to save herself, or she wasn't going to be saved. So when each person showed up, I never saw them as potential rescuer, but just another corpse.) The special effects were excellent and there is more than enough blood for even the most hardcore gorehound, but there lacked an emotional connection to draw me in. Additionally, when the big reveal in the end finally came, which I won't spoil, it left me cold. There wasn't enough of a plot to have a surprise twist at that point so my reaction was, 'Who else could it have been?'

There is only one extra on the DVD, but it is a 50-minute long making-of featurette. This massive extra goes into immense detail in the making of the film, covering nearly every aspect of the movie. Fans of the film should certainly enjoy this.

Inside has earned a lot of positive reviews from many critics, and not just the genre critics that specialize in horror. I can certainly recommend picking up the DVD for all gorehounds; despite the fact that I was personally not drawn into the movie, I do recognize its high quality. That said, this is not a movie for the squeamish and this movie delivers a visceral punch unlike any Hollywood horror I've seen in a long, long time. Perhaps ever.

Juno - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition, Two-Disc Special Edition - With Digital Copy, or Blu-ray - With Digital Copy
One of the best movies of last year, it was not only a major player during Awards Season, it was also the biggest hit of the five Best Picture Oscar nominees. This is clearly a movie that should be added to your DVD collection, the real question is what version to get. The Single-Disc Edition has an audio commentary track and deleted scenes, which would be good for a limited release that didn't expand enough to earn a true measure of mainstream success. This is not the case here. The Two-Disc Special Edition includes those extras and four making-of featurettes with a total running time of 30 minutes. It also comes with a digital copy of the movie that you can download and watch on your PC or iPod. The Blu-ray has the above extras, in standard definition, and two featurettes on the casting and the premiere, also in standard definition. This is not a lot above the DVD, but the cost is barely 20% more and that's an excellent price for the upgrade to High Definition. Juno is a must have and the best bang for your buck comes from the Blu-ray, and it is this week's DVD Pick of the Week.

Juno - Soundtrack - Buy from Amazon
This week Juno reaches the home market, and therefore it is a perfect time to review the soundtrack. Actually, I probably would have been better to review it in January when it came out, but the review copy didn't get to me until recently.

I was trying to come up with a term to describe the genre on the sounds found on this CD and I found this simple task quite troublesome. It was obvious to me that folk music played a heavy influence, but not in a 100% serious way. In the end I came up with, 'Ironically Hip', but apparently Anti-Folk is what it is called. I think Ironically Hip is a better term and it explains my nephew's reaction to the soundtrack. He said, and I quote, "I should hate this music, but I find it oddly entertaining." Similarly, the first time through my reaction was, "Huh?" Then it was, "Hmmm...." And by the third time through, I was singing along to half of the songs.

Highlights for me include...

  • Loose Lips by Kimya Dawson
    We won't stop, till someone calls the cops
    And even then we will start again and pretend nothing ever happened
    Highly addictive song and one that I could listen to several times in a row and still sing along to when it shows up on my .mp3 rotation. Kimya Dawson supplies the lion's share of the music on this CD, but this is the best. It is not the only one that I like, but it is the best.
  • All the Young Dudes by Mott the Hoople
    Originally from 1972, this was the title track from Mott the Hoople's fifth album and is their best known single, and with good reason. It is also one of the few non-contemporary songs and that helps it stand out.
  • A Well Respected Man by The Kinks
    Another classic song. This one more than 40 years old coming from the beginning of The Kinks' career, but it holds up very well today.
  • Expectations by Belle & Sebastian
    Belle & Sebastian have two songs and while Piazza, New York Catcher is good, this song is great. It feels older than it is, but I mean that as a compliment.
  • Sea of Love - Cat Powers
    I love the original song, so I was wary of the cover. However, by the second time through the soundtrack, I was simply smitten with Cat Powers's voice.
These are only five of the 19 tracks on the soundtrack, but they are not the only ones worth listening to. In fact, more than half of the songs have slipped into my current .MP3 playlist and I can enthusiastically recommend the CD.

Jupiter Moon - Ghost in the Machine - Buy from Amazon
A British series about a university aboard a spaceship orbiting around Jupiter. The teenage soap opera aspects can become tedious, but the space exploration area of the show is very high quality. If you've never seen the show, which would include most people reading this, then it is worth checking out. Fans of the show will certainly want to pick it up.

Lars and the Real Girl - Buy from Amazon
Ryan Gosling stars as Lars, a tragically shy young man who barely leaves his house. His brother and his sister-in-law are really worried when he announces that he met someone on the internet. However, she turns out to be a doll he bought from (Warning that website is 100% not safe for work. You have been warned.)

A fascinating film with an amazing cast. Ryan Gosling is the kind of actor who could earn nominations every year and I feel he was sadly overlooked for this performance. The same can be said for Patricia Clarkson, for that matter. (I don't mean that as an insult to the rest of the cast, all of which were great.) That is not to say the film went unnoticed this Awards Season, but it never became the player it should have. I'm sure the cast would agree that while the acting was great, but that this was due in large part to the writing. The film has to walk a fine line between reality and fantasy, of sorts, and without characters that feel real, it would be impossible for audiences to accept the delusions. But the characters and the dialogue help bolster the reality of the very strange situation.

The film never matched expectations during Awards Season, neither was it as strong at the box office as predicted. This could explain the lackluster DVD. There are few extras, starting with a very short deleted scene, which runs a mere 40 seconds. Next up is a 10-minute making-of featurette, which feels more substantial than its running time would indicate. Finally, there's a 5-minute featurette on Bianca, the Real Doll from the movie and it treats her as if she's a real actress. The extras we have are good, but I would have liked more, especially an audio commentary track.

Lars and the Real Girl is a movie that was destined to keep mainstream audiences away. The very concept of a realistic sex doll would turn off most multiplex crowds. However, it is their loss, as Lars and the Real Girl is an amazing character study. I would have been happier if there was an audio commentary track, but the movie is good enough that I can enthusiastically recommend buying the DVD over just renting.

Lawrence of Arabia - 2-Disc Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of the greatest movies ever made. That said, there have been so many DVD releases that it is hard to recommend the latest one. Wait till it comes out on Blu-ray before getting another copy for your collection.

Loch Ness Terror - Buy from Amazon
For those who thought Water Horse needed more bloodshed. It is just a creature-of-the-week movie that doesn't rise about the genre, but at least it isn't embarrassingly bad either.

Mannequin & Mannequin 2: On the Move - Buy from Amazon
Even at $13.00 for two movies, this is not worth the money. These were seriously bad movies.

Mariah Carey - The Adventures of Mimi - Buy from Amazon: 3-Disc DVD or 3-Disc Blu-ray
Mariah Carey's most successful concert to date captured in High Definition for the first time. I reviewed the 2-Disc edition previously and I can't recommend upgrading to the 3-Disc DVD. However, if you want to make the leap to 3-Disc Blu-ray, that's arguably worth the money.

Melrose Place - The Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
Nighttime soap opera is all its melodramatic glory. I never liked this show and I find the DVD releases to be lacking in substantive extras. I can't recommend renting, but I'm sure plenty of fans will disagree.

The Minus Man - Buy from Amazon
Owen Wilson stars as Vann Siegert, possibly the politest serial killer around. Based on a novel by Lew McCreary, the film boasts plenty of style, but overall it is only average. There appear to be little to no extras on the DVD, but that is to be expected for a film of this nature.

NBA - Boston Celtics 1985-86 Champions - Buy from Amazon
All six games from the championship series plus a disc of highlights. I'm not a fan of the sport, but I know a good championship DVD set when I see it, and this one is worth picking up for fans of the game.

A Passage To India - 2-Disc Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Another great movie that has come out on DVDs before, which makes the latest version harder to recommend. However, it is also coming out on Blu-ray for the first time, and that's an easy recommendation, especially at the price.

A Room With a View - Buy from Amazon
An adaptation of the E.M. Forster. Unfortunately, there are too many changes, and none for the better, making this an unsatisfying experience for fans.

A Shot at Love - With Tila Tequila - The Complete Uncensored First Season - Buy from Amazon
The second spotlight review for a Reality TV show on this week's list. Sadly, this one is definitely the soul-crushing kind.

Forgive me for saying this, but I needed to look up Tila Tequila on the internet to figure out who she was and why she was famous enough to have her own TV show. After extensive research, I still can't answer the latter question. Apparently she's a MySpace star, which is another reason to hate that site. However, despite what appears to be a 100% lack of relevance, she has a show where she is looking for the love of her life. The twist? She's bisexual and doesn't know if she wants to hook up with a guy or a girl, so she has 16 guys and 16 girls trying to prove they would be perfect for Tila Tequila. I couldn't see any reason Miss Tequila gave for why she would be perfect for any of them.

This was physically painful to watch. It is in the sub-genre of Reality TV shows that are the worst of the worst. Instead of people humiliating themselves for a shot at a prize that is a mere pittance compared to the profits earned by the producers, we have people having their emotions played with for the amusement of the audience. Gladiatorial games of love. And no, that's not a compliment. Additionally, the show just wasn't interesting. Tila Tequila is probably a very nice lady, but she wasn't a compelling host. None of the contestants had any real personality and most were indistinguishable from each other.

As for extras, there are more than 50 minutes of extended scenes and 35 minutes of deleted scenes. But in this case more is not better. On a side note, while the box says uncensored, this merely means the swearing is unbleeped. Don't expect nudity.

I am not a fan of Reality TV but I can say that A Shot at Love - With Tila Tequila is among the worst by its very nature. That said, it is one of the highest rated shows on MTV, so there's plenty of fans who will be more than happy to buy this 3-disc set. I can't even recommend renting.

SpongeBob SquarePants - Pest of the West - Buy from Amazon
The latest single-disc collection of the most famous porifera around. This DVD contains a double-length episode, Pest of the West, which features SpongeBob in the old west. There are also four regular length episodes and a handful of shorter shorts. Overall it does prove enough bang for your buck, but I still think the full season sets are worth waiting for.

Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street - Broadway - Buy from Amazon
The Broadway production of Sweeney Todd. I'm not surprised this is coming out on DVD, I'm just surprised it took this long. George Hearn and Angela Lansbury star in this version, which was recorded during the 1982 national turn. Those who loved the movie should check it out and many who do will end up adding it to their DVD collections.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Buy from Amazon
A BBC miniseries from 1996 based on the novel by Anne Brontë, who didn't write Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights. Like many British shows from the era, the audio and video are only acceptable, while the DVD is devoid of extras. Still, the show is good enough that fans of the novel should check it out.

War Dance - Buy from Amazon
An Oscar nominated documentary about a refugee camp in northern Uganda and the group of child dancers who try to escape the horrors of their lives through a national dance competition. Extras include just over 20 minutes in deleted and extended scenes, which is a little light. However, the movie is good enough that it is worth picking up.

Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
I'm a big fan of cartoons, but I never got into Woody Woodpecker. I found him obnoxious, even as a kid. Worst still, this 3-disc set contains a lot from the low point in Woody Woodpecker's run when budget concerns trumped quality. That said, there's still enough here for fans of the character, and the DVD is worth checking for them and many who do will want to add it to their DVD collection.


Filed under: Video Releases, Juno, Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Lars and the Real Girl, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, The Final Season, I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With, War Dance