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DVD Releases for April 29, 2008

April 28th, 2008

One of the last major Oscar contenders is coming out this week, and it is the only real contender for DVD Pick of the Week. Fortunately, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Buy from Amazon is certainly worth that title. There is also an honorable mention in the form of His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass - Blu-ray, which not only includes additional features from the DVD, but is actually cheaper. Easily the best High Definition release of the week.

27 Dresses - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of the biggest hits of 2008 so far, this romantic comedy earned average reviews, at least average for the genre. However, instead of complaining about the predictability of the story, they complained about the lack of chemistry between the two leads. (Katherine Heigl's character was particularly problematic for many.) Extras on the DVD are rather weak with roughly half an hour of fluffy featurettes (four in total) and a few minutes of deleted scenes. Nothing here really has the replay value needed. The Blu-ray has no additional extras and costs 75% more than the DVD. There's absolutely no way I can recommend the additional expense, especially as this is not a movie that needs to be seen in High Definition. For fans of the genre, it is certainly worth checking out, as many did during its theatrical run. However, for most a rental will suffice as the film doesn’t have the replay value nor does the DVD have the extras needed to warrant a purchase.

The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones - Volume 3 - The Years of Change - Buy from Amazon
The series reaches its end on DVD. Fans of the show should be happy that they will finally be able to collect all of the episodes on DVD, but many fans have not been happy with the overall DVD packages.

Volume three starts at the end of World War I as Indiana Jones is concluding his career in the Intelligence agencies of France and America, before returning to America to attend university and become an archeologist. Along the way he meets various historical figures, Earnest Hemmingway, whom he meets while employed by the French Foreign Legion, Elliot Ness, who is his college roommate, as well as Al Capone, John Ford, and even Dracula. I'm not kidding. I was interested in seeing how they would tackle the Vampire myth, but I assumed it would be realistically. i.e. Someone was using the vampire myth to stir up superstitions in the locals to keep them from investigating a top-secret military installation. However, they went the other direction and the mixing of fantasy in the show made Masks of Evil the weakest episode of third volume, at least in my mind. On the other hand, Mysteries of the Blues features Indy battling the Mob and it featured some of the best elements of the series. It had historical significance, we met a lot of characters 'before-they-were-famous', and there was more than enough action, as well as drama. Hollywood Follies didn't have the drama, but more than made up for it with the humor and was another highlight for me.

As for the extras, there are a ton of them. In fact, there are more extras than movies on this 10-disc set. Like the previous releases, the extras focus on the educational angle of the show. There are featurettes on the famous people featured in the series, the events, the locations, the science, and the arts. There are no making-of featurettes, no audio commentary tracks, no retrospectives, etc. I think fans that liked the adventure part of the show will be annoyed with the lack of features on the show itself, but the 10-disc set is certainly extensive.

Overall I'm torn on The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones - Volume 3. On the one hand, these are not the best episodes (that honor goes to Volume 2), but for the most part, they do entertain. The 10-disc set is loaded with extras, but they focus on education not entertainment. Finally, even for 10 discs, the price is high. To buy the entire series, it would cost close to $250, and that's after Amazon's discount. If you have purchased the first two volumes, and were happy, then there's no reason to stop now. However, if you have waited this long, wait a bit longer to see if there will be a full-series set coming out at a lower price, or a stripped down set with just the movies, or indeed a Blu-ray release in the near future.

The Arizona Diamondbacks 2001 World Series Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
I care very little about baseball outside of my deep-seeded hatred of the New York Yankees. Don't get me wrong, I hate the New York Rangers more than the Yankees, but I still hate the Yankees to such a level that it is considered a mental illness. With that in mind, I can recommend this DVD for two reasons. One, there are full games presented. Two, the evil New York Yankees lose in the end.

Bernard and Doris - Buy from Amazon
A movie starring Susan Sarandon, as tobacco heiress Doris Duke, and Ralph Fiennes, as her faithful butler. The movie played in a few film festivals but never earned a theatrical run instead debuting on cable. It's not a bad movie, just average and even with a compelling real-life story, the studio figured it would be too hard to market. It probably works better at home anyway. The DVD has an audio commentary track and a making-of featurette, but I'm not sure it is worth more than a rental. But it is a solid rental.

Beverly Hills 90210 - The Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon
A teenage soap opera, and I use that term as an insult. The storylines are often too melodramatic for comprehension and the cast of characters never felt emotionally authentic to me. I don't think they were aiming at emotionally authentic, but it is still a problem in my mind. Additional, so far the DVD releases have not had a lot of extras and the extras they have included have felt like fluff. (There have been a lot of montages and I never got the appeal of the montage as an extra. I've seen the series, I don't need to see highlights.) I know there are plenty of fans that will disagree with me, but I can't even recommend renting here.

The Big Gay Sketch Show - The Complete Unrated - Buy from Amazon: First Season and Second Season
The 'Gay' in The Big Gay Sketch Show could refer to either definition of the word. Gay, as in LGBT. Or gay, as in, "high-spirited merriment." Sadly it is more of the former than the latter.

The Big Gay Sketch Show is, as the name would indicate, a sketch comedy show made for and by gays and lesbians for the gay and lesbian community. I am a huge fan of sketch comedy from Monty Python's Flying Circus to to In Living Color, to shows that are still running today like SNL or Mad TV. Sadly, this show doesn't live up to those standards. In fact, at times it feels like a collection of gay stereotypes thrown together without any consideration for humor at all. I understand the purpose of this, if you can laugh at these stereotypes, they are less hurtful when bigots use them. However, it needs to be funny to be effective and the show's hit and miss ratio is rather weak. Granted, even the best shows will have a skit that misses, but here it is batting well below .500. I did find the Lesbian Speed Dating skits funny, as well as the Fitzwilliam skits. Additionally, there was a noticeable improvement in the overall quality in season two, which is a positive sign for the future. If it lasts, it could match its potential soon.

Fans of the show will be happy with the DVDs as both of the two-disc sets dedicate the second disc to extras. Extras like bonus skits, interviews, behind the scenes, and more. Season 1 has 25 minutes of bonus skits, mostly in the form of Celesbian Interviews while the interviews with the cast and crew are mostly about the origins of the show. There's Behind the Big Gay Scenes, which includes a set tour, a couple of making-of bits, bloopers and more. It runs just shy of nine minutes. Finally, More Big Gay Stuff includes some music and stand up. Season Two has even more extras, running more than an hour. Things start with The Big Straight Sketch Show, which was the half-hour special. There's enough bonus sketches to make another full episode, and then some. Finally, there are just over 20 minutes of interviews, and close to 6 minutes of bloopers, behind the scenes, etc.

The Big Gay Sketch Show takes a while to get going, and it still isn't up to the level it should be; however, it does show promise while the DVD releases for the First and Second Season pack more than enough extras to be worth picking up for fans of the show.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 27 Dresses, First Knight, The Golden Compass, Mozart - Die Zauberflote, Ocean's Eleven, and Ocean's Twelve
A pretty good selection of Blu-ray releases this week, including what should be the two biggest selling DVDs. Although neither of those were huge hits, 27 Dresses did well for a romantic comedy but was only a midlevel hit. Meanwhile, The Golden Compass bombed stateside, but performed wonderfully internationally, but that won't help its home market run here.

Burke's Law - Season 1 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
A TV series about a police detective that is also a millionaire. The show ran for three seasons... or two seasons depending on whom you ask. The third season underwent so much change that it could be considered a separate show, it even had a new name. Fans will be glad to finally get it on DVD, but they won't be happy that the season is being split into two, nor will they be happy that there are no extras on the 4-disc set.

Celebration of Gospel - Spirit in Song - Buy from Amazon
An hour long concert of gospel music as broadcast on BET earlier this year comes out on DVD tomorrow. This is the eighth year for the annual event, which brings together up-and-comers and legends to perform the music that moves their soul.

This concert is distilled music and I was expecting a lot more talking. This is great news, as it means a lot more music and it never really feels preachy. Shirley Caesar's performance was the only one that stood out as preachy, while Rev. Jesse Jackson talked the longest, at a mere 45 seconds. I don't think the crowd was prepared for how succinct he was. This left the music to shine on its own, and boy does it shine. Performers like Pattie Lebelle, John Legend, Fred Hammond, the Sunday Best finalists, and more. (Sunday Best was a reality TV series to find the next big gospel star. Think American Idol, but with gospel instead of pop.) While all the music being performed was gospel, it was influenced by Soul, R&B, and even Hip Hop, resulting in a variety of styles and that helps keep the energy level up throughout the full hour.

Extras on the DVD are a little on the light side with just a backstage tour with Jermaine Sellers acting as the host. He's one of the Sunday Best finalists and his singing is better than his hosting. (I lost track on how many times he said, 'a'ight', 'off the chain', and 'y'all.' He even said, "Y'all miss out on this, y'all miss out on the blessing." And said it four times.) Still, he seems to be having a good time and his mood is infectious. The only other extra is an interview with Shirley Caesar just under four minutes, but it has limited replay value.

Fans of gospel music should enjoy Celebration of Gospel - Spirit in Song. It is certainly worth a rental. However, with extras that are a little light, I'm not sure how many people will rate it above that. Try before you buy.

Cheers - The Complete Ninth Season - Buy from Amazon
The ninth and not final season of this long running show. It is not even the penultimate season. Eleven seasons is a long time for a sitcom and this is not a show that overstayed its welcome, so it is particularly disappointing that the DVDs have been so light on extras so far. And I don't think they will suddenly improve for the last two season either. It makes it very hard to recommend buying over renting when the fans don't get enough bang for their buck.

Classic Caballeros Collection - Buy from Amazon
Two movies set in South America that haven't been seen in a while are finally coming out on DVD. Donald Duck is joined by José Carioca, a cigar-smoking parrot, and Panchito Pistoles, a pistol packing rooster, for several adventures, while we see a few other new and old friends as well.

Saying this DVD has two movies on it is overstating things. The first movie, Saludos Amigos, is only 42 minutes long and is shorter than an episode of The Wonderful World of Disney. Saludos Amigos was born out of a goodwill tour Walt Disney made with his studio to several South American countries on the eve of World War II to shore up support for the United States. The movie itself tells the story of the group of artists, musicians, and of course Walt himself as they travel to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Lake Titicaca. (Okay, you can stop giggling now.) Each of these locations is the basis for a short story. The four stories include Donald Duck butting heads with a llama, a small mail plane flying through the Andes, cowboy Goofy traveling from Texas to Argentina to learn to be a gaucho, and finally José Carioca teaches Donald Duck about the samba and South American life. Pedro the Plane was the weakest of the four, but the others have replay value.

The second movie is The Three Caballeros and it is again a collection of short stories, this time the wraparound story is Donald's birthday party and the gifts he gets from his South American friends. There are a lot more segments in this film's 72-minute running time with a number of highlights. These include Aves Raras, or Rare Birds, which includes the first appearance of the aracuan bird, who makes a later appearance in the movie and in other shorts. Bahia has the return of José Carioca taking Donald to Baia where they meet some locals and vie for the attention of one of the singers. Excellent music and very surreal animation mixed with live action make this segment stand out. After another psychedelic musical number, a gun-totting rooster, Panchito Pistoles, is introduced. He gives Donald a piñata and tells him the way the children of Mexico celebrate Christmas and then takes the other birds on a tour of Mexico. After visiting a beach where Donald chases after every woman in sight, there's two more extremely surreal musical numbers that rival "Pink Elephants on Parade" in terms of trippiness. I couldn't get over how much of the movie felt like it was drug induced, but it sure led to some fantastic imagery.

Moving onto the extras, there are two sections to choose from, Backstage Disney and Bonus Short. Backstage Disney includes South of the Border with Disney, which details the creation of the movie and runs over 33 minutes. It uses some of the same footage and presents some of the same information as in Saludos Amigos, but is still worth checking out. There is also a excerpt from an interview with Walt Disney, but it is extremely short at less than 2 minutes. Bonus Shorts is exactly that, two bonus shorts, both of which are set south of the border. Don Donald has Donald Duck trying to win over a woman who has the same fiery temper as his own. Contrary Condor has Donald trying to garb a condor egg for scientific purposes, but is mistaken by the mother as one of her newly hatched kids.

Perhaps saying Classic Caballeros Collection is two movies for one price is overstating things, but it still offers plenty of bang for your buck. My only major complaint is the video quality, which is quite poor at times; however, to be fair it is not unreasonably poor, especially for a movie that is more than 60 years old. I wish they were remastered, but perhaps that was not an option. Regardless, what we do have is worth picking up.

The Complete Toxic Avenger - Buy from Amazon
A 7-disc set with all things Toxic Avenger. This includes all four movies, a making-of documentary, and all 13 episodes of the short-lived series. This is a franchise with massive cult appeal, and it's hard to argue with that price. That said, of the four movies, only the first and the fourth are worth checking out while the animated series is only mildly effective.

Dark Shadows - The Beginnings Collection 4 - Buy from Amazon
A gothic daytime soap opera, but one that transcended the genre. As fans of the show know, Dark Shadows didn't really pick up till the character of Barnabas Collins, a vampire, showed up. But by volume 4 the supernatural aspect of the show was in full force and most of what made the show appealing is already present. Fans will certainly want to continue collecting the series, and for others now is arguably the best time to jump in.

Diamond Dogs -Buy from Amazon
Dolph Lundgren has built quite a career in the direct-to-DVD market and hasn't had a major theatrical release in a long time. His latest offering is neither particularly bad, nor does it transcend the genre. But for fans of direct-to-DVD action flicks in general, and Dolph Lundgren in particular, it is worth checking out and for these people a rental is not without merit.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Buy from Amazon
One of the big players during the previous Awards Season earning many, many, many nominations, and more than a few wins. Now it is finally out on DVD, making it one of the last big players to reach the home market. It's clear the movie warrants attention, but the real question is whether the DVD does it justice.

Mathieu Amalric stars as Jean-Dominique Bauby, a journalist and writer who suffered a massive stroke at age 42. He was completely paralyzed, except for one eye, which he used to communicate with people. His speech therapist, played by Marie-Josée Croze, developed the technique where she would read out a list of letters in order of occurrence and he would blink at the letter he wanted and through this method he eventually wrote a book. The book that became the basis of this movie. Much of the movie has one person, usually Marie-Josée Croze, talking directly into the camera, or reciting letters into the camera, which doesn't sound very cinematic. But it is this vision from screenwriter, Ronald Harwood that helps give the film a unique visual style, but also really helps moviegoers feel like they are a part of the movie. Under the guidance of Julian Schnabel and along with the performances by the cast, the film is instantly engaging on an emotional level that most movies can't dream about.

The film did well for a limited release of a foreign language film, but that still means it never really earned any mainstream success. However, the DVD is as strong as most wide releases. Extras start off with an audio commentary track with the director, Julian Schnabel, who offers plenty of information, but he is not very energetic in his delivery. There are a few dead spots, but not so many that the overall effectiveness suffers. There are two making of featurettes, Submerged: The Making of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and A Cinematic Vision that run 20 minutes in total. There's a lot of information given here and the replay value for both is high. Finally, there's a 20-minute interview with Julian Schnabel and Charlie Rose from the latter's TV program. Charlie Rose is a talented interviewer and is able to get a lot of information out of his subject.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was one of the best movies from 2007 and a major player during Awards Season. Combined with extras that are better than most limited release and the DVD is easily worth picking up, and even a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Don't Go In The Woods Alone - Buy from Amazon
Some have argued that this is the worst teenage slasher ever made. Others have argued that the movie is actually a comedy. While it is funny, I don't think it was meant to be. Seriously, it's really, really bad, but not bad in a good way either. Just avoid.

Fall of the Roman Empire - Buy from Amazon: Two-Disc Deluxe Edition or Two-Disc Limited Edition
For the first time on the home market since the laser disc edition. Fall of the Roman Empire was one of the last, and the most expensive historical epics made, and unfortunately one of the biggest bombs as well. The film was released shortly after the assassination of JFK and the moviegoers at the time were looking for escapist entertainment and not a rather dark look at an Empire in decline. Not only were moviegoers turned-off by the darkness, but critics at the time were as well. But has it aged well? That is the real question.

On a side note, I have the Limited Edition to review, however, it is the same as the Deluxe Edition, except for the fancier packaging, the reproduction of the original collector's program, and six production stills. It says the third disc is also only on the Limited Edition, but it comes in the sale case as the Deluxe Edition comes in. In fact, Amazon says there are two discs in the Limited Edition, which adds to the confusion.

Right now the film is earning a perfect score over on Rotten Tomatoes, but that's deceptive. While all of the reviews compiled on the site are positive, individually, they reviews are not overwhelmingly positive. The film does have the spectacle one has come to expect from the genre, and it has a story to match the pageantry. That said, There are some issues that hold back the movie. The writing is not as strong as I would have liked and outside of Marcus Aurelius, played by Alec Guinness, and Commodus, played by Christopher Plummer, most of the characters didn't feel fully developed. Combined with Stephen Boyd sadly wooden performance left the hero of the movie, Livius, to be less compelling than he should have been. Overall, the film is still an easy recommendation, in fact, it is probably better suited for the tastes of today's audiences than those of when it was first released.

The movie is being released as a Two-Disc Deluxe Edition, but that's partly marketing. Fall of the Roman Empire runs 195 minutes (including overture and intermission) and takes up most of the two discs. There are extras on both discs, but one should not think there's one disc for the movie and one disc full of extras. The extras start with an audio commentary track with Bill Bronston, son of the producer, and Mel Martin, biographer of the producer. There are a number of dead spots, especially early on, but once they get going, they provide enough information to make listening to the track worthwhile. Also on disc one is a vintage featurette on the making of the movie that runs just over 22 minutes, which should interest any fan of epic films. Moving onto disc two we have several new featurettes on subjects like the making of the movie (29 minutes), the real history of the Roman Empire (11 minutes), the differences between history and what we see in movies (10 minutes), and finally the last featurette is on the composer, Dimitri Tiomkin (20 minutes). All have replay value. The final disc, which may or may not be exclusive to the Two-Disc Limited Edition, there are three vintage educational documentary shorts that were shot on the sets of the movie. They include both a new and the old introduction and talk about life in the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar, and Claudius. The video is quite poor, but that's to be expected. It is nonetheless fascinating to watch, even if the knowledge of the Roman Empire has changed dramatically in the past 40 years. (Check out Barbarians for a more contemporary look at the Roman Empire.) Also coming with the Two-Disc Limited Edition is a reproduction of the collectible program that was sold during the movie's original release and six color stills.

They don't make movies like Fall of the Roman Empire anymore, and with good reason. The economics have changed so much that a film of this scope would be prohibitively expensive to make. Instead of sets, everything would be built virtually inside a computer. And the practice of the roadshow tour is completely alien to today's audiences. This makes Fall of the Roman Empire almost like a lost art form. For this, and other reasons, it is easily worth checking out while the collection of extras compliments the movie well. Of the two versions that are coming out, the Two-Disc Limited Edition has more extras, including better packaging and physical extras, but I'm not sure it is worth the $10 more. That depends on how big of a fan you are of the movie, and how much vintage educational shorts interest you.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Buy from Amazon
A 'before they were famous' triple-shot. This movie stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt, and Shannen Doherty. It's a bad movie, but one that has some guilty pleasure / nostalgia appeal to some and for these people, they will be happy it is out on DVD. However, rent first because the years have not been kind to the movie.

Gojira - Buy from Amazon: All Monsters Attack and Terror of Mechagodzilla
Two more entries in the Gojira series come out on DVD this week. All Monsters Attack has Gojira taking revenge for all the people killed in the Pacific battle of World War II. While in Terror of Mechagodzilla aliens use two giant robots to try and take over the Earth. Not sure why. Terror of Mechagodzilla is the better of the two film, it is also the last of the original series and is a worthy installment. All Monsters Attack, on the other hand, has been called the worst film in the franchise and it is only worth picking up for completists.

HD DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: La Boheme
Just one HD DVD release this week, and it's an opera performance. I can't imagine this will be a big seller.

Hero Wanted - Buy from Amazon
A film starring Cuba Gooding, Jr that's being dumped direct-to-DVD. Strangely, it's not nearly as bad as Daddy Day Camp or Boat Trip, and both of those earned wide releases. It's not particularly good either; it's just your average revenge flick with perhaps one or two too many twists, which will cause more than a few audience members to stop caring before the final reveal is given. That said, it is still worth checking out, but a rental will do.

His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc Edition, Two-Disc Platinum Edition, Blu-ray
This movie was dogged by mediocre reviews and controversy over its alleged atheistic views. Personally, I think the former was a legitimate complaint while the latter was rubbish. First of all, all atheistic views were scrubbed from the movie to avoiding offending people. However, the producers should not have bothered, as doing so had zero impact on the complaints levied against the film. This is not surprising since the same people who complained about this movie also complained about the pro-evolution views of The X-Men franchise. If mutants started popping up in real life like they did in those movies, it would be proof that evolution was wrong. In fact, we learn in the comics that the number of mutants was due to an alien called the High Evolutionary who was trying to help humans grow to the level of the Byonders. (Although I think that story has been retro-conned.) ... I probably should have prefaced that part with a Nerd Alert. Moving on... The misguided attacks against the movie aside, the real problem here is less theological and more substantive. His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass is simply a mediocre movie. It aims for grand adventure, and never quite reaches there as they've taken a truly epic story and compressed it into a 2-hour movie. This squeezed out so much that the movie never really makes sense to most people. Those that enjoyed the movie will be happy with the Two-Disc Platinum Edition, which includes an audio commentary track, and several making-of featurettes. The featurettes cover the author, Philip Pullman; the director, Chris Weitz; the star, Dakota Blue Richards, as well as the sets, the props, the special effects, etc. Overall there's nearly 3 hours of material on the 2-disc set. The Blu-ray includes all of these features and has a Picture-in-Picture commentary track (although it is not true PiP and is just a brute force work-around) and it is 4 pennies less expensive than the DVD. For fans of the movie, there's more than enough to warrant purchasing over just renting. In fact, there are more than enough extras here that it is worth picking up over just renting if you haven't seen the movie. And if the movie was more comprehensive and earned positive reviews that were even just at the overall positive level, it would have been a clear contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

How She Move - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian movie about a young lady whose family is hit by financial troubles so she turns to a dance competition to get to where she fell from, and learns a little bit about herself in the process. Okay, yes, there are plenty of clichés thrown around in this movie. However, it is still effective and there are more than enough dance scenes to carry the movie. However, the movie bombed at the box office, which explains why the DVD only had a trio of featurettes to support the film. There's one on the origins of the movie, one on the cast, and one on the dance practices. They are not fluff and are worth checking out, but I would have liked more. Even so, it is worth picking up for fans of the genre or the dance style, and worth checking out for the rest.

I Spy - Buy from Amazon: Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3
A secret agent series from the 60s starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. This was the first American dramatic TV series to feature a black actor in a lead role, and that alone makes its quite interesting to watch. However, it is also a great show without the historical significance. (Those who have never seen the series but saw the movie, don't be scared off. That movie was atrocious and deserved to bomb, but the show is infinitely better and won four Emmys during its three year run.) Strangely, all three years are being released tomorrow in three separate box sets. This is great news for fans of the show who won't have to wait a year to complete their collection. On the other hand, there are no extras on any of the DVDs, which is terrible news. However, given its short run and the age of the show this is not unexpected and I can still recommend them for fans of the genre.

In The Blood - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a closeted gay man who learns he has psychic powers after getting visions of his sisters being killed by a serial killer. The catch, it only works when he has sex with men. ... To be fair, I'm sure there are straight movies that have used a similar plot device to inject as much sex into a movie as possible and the movie is not as exploitive as the premise sounds. It's a low-budget, niche market film, but it should be worth checking out for its target audience (although some have said the appeal is purely camp). However, the featureless DVD is only worth a rental.

Intelligence - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian TV series about the head of the Organized Crime Unit who is hoping to work her way into a key position at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Yes, Canada has a spy agency and apparently we spend a lot of time spying on the United States. Seriously. I remember a few years ago there was a scandal when we were caught doing it and if I remember correctly the excuse given was, "We don't have any real enemies to spy on and we needed the practice." That seemed to satisfy most people on both sides of the border. Back to the show... Intelligence earned excellent reviews, a ton of Gemini nominations, and more than a few wins. (The Gemini Awards are like the Canadian Emmys.) So naturally, not enough people were tuning in each week and it was canceled at the end of the second season. (We tend to create high quality programs up here, but we tend to have troubles promoting them.) Fortunately, the show is coming out on DVD and this 4-disc set includes the pilot movie, the first season, and a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. Easily worth picking up and hopefully the second season won't take too long to come out.

Joey - The Complete Second Season - Buy from
The second season of the Friends spin-off comes out on DVD this week, but only in Canada. Nope, I don't know why. Doesn’t really matter, as it was a terrible show. I always found Joey Tribbinai to be the least interesting character on Friends while Matt LeBlanc was the weakest actor out of the main six, so I was always a little confused why they based a show around him. Perhaps it is because he had the least amount of success outside of the series and was the one whose career needed to help to survive. Regardless, the show is dead, and, possibly, so is his career.

Joseph Campbell - Mythos II - Buy from Amazon
The second series of lectures given by Joseph Campbell on mythology and the human condition. This time he focuses on those from eastern Asia including Hinduism and Buddhism. There are no extras on this 2-disc set, but the program is nearly 5 hours long and that is a lot of information and for those who saw the program when it was on TV, or the earlier program from the 1980s, will certainly want to pick up this DVD.

Keyshia Cole - The Way It Is - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
A Reality TV series that follows the day-to-day life of R&B artist Keyshia Cole. This season Keyshia had to deal with her family, including her mother who has just gotten out of jail, a move to Atlanta, her second album, the possible return of her biological father, and a whole lot more.

First of all, it is Reality TV, but not the really soul-crushing kind where there's a group of people who are willing to sell their dignity for 15 minutes of fame. Here, Keyshia Cole is already famous. However, there is a definitely voyeuristic feel to the show, which is obviously one of the main selling points, but it kind of creeps me out. It's like listening in on strangers' therapy sessions, which actually happens on the show. There's a reason there's Doctor / Patient confidentiality rules; people need to be able to say anything knowing it won't be made public, so showing them on TV is counter-productive. Watching them felt like I was contributing in some way to what could be harmful for these people's mental health. On the other hand, I did like how they dealt with some important social issues including STD, abortion, drug addiction, and others. I'm impressed that they dealt with difficult subjects in a head on way, which is something most scripted shows avoid like the plague.

The single-disc set as all six episodes, or seven if you count the double-length season finale as two episodes plus a featurette on Keyshia's Glam Team that runs just 2:35. There's a 9-minute interview with an interview with Frankie, Keyshia Cole's mother. Finally, there are nearly 14 minutes of deleted scenes. However, you have to watch them in one big block. You can't choose individual deleted scenes, nor are there any chapter breaks.

Keyshia Cole - The Way It Is - The Complete Second Season set ratings records on BET and the season finale is the highest rated broadcast in the network's history. So it's clear there are a lot of fans out there. However, the DVD package is on the light side and for most fans a rental will do while waiting for next year when season 3 will start.

King Corn - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about farming in the United States, specifically the connection between farm subsidies and the fast food industry. On a side note, I do feel the need to point out that corn is very good for you, as long as you treat it like a starch, as you would potatoes or pasta, and not like a vegetable like peas or cauliflower. On the other hand, turn it into high fructose corn syrup, and it is one of the worst things you can eat. You could literally take butter and sugar, blend them together, and eat it straight of the mixing bowl and it would be healthier for you that high fructose corn syrup. (I'm still on my diet, so I probably shouldn't be talking about butter and sugar cause now I'm hungry.) Moving on... The movie earned amazing reviews and should be seen by more people. The DVD is better than most limited releases with some deleted scenes, additional information, and even a featurette on the movie tour and a music video. Easily worth picking up.

Moondance Alexander - Buy from Amazon
A movie about a girl and her horse. After Flicka bombed, I'm not sure why they thought making this movie was a good idea. Reviews were nearly nonexistent and mostly negative. Critics complain that the movie tries way too hard to be wholesome and comes across as artificial instead. Moviegoers likely agreed as it opened poorly and crashed quickly. The DVD should perform better, mainly because it would be nearly impossible for it to perform worse, but also because the extras are better than average for a limited release. (Making of featurette, featurette on the movie, interviews, and music video.)

Nanking - Buy from Amazon
Actors read the words of missionaries and businessmen who helped save the lives of countless Chinese peasants who were unable to flea Japan's invading armies during World War II. This is an incredibly important film, but it is an incredibly difficult subject to handle. Extras are limited to an audio commentary track, but that's on par with more limited releases and it is enough to lift the value to a purchase.

Paddle to the Sea - Buy from Amazon
An Oscar nominated short film from Canada. The movie is about a boy who wants to visit the sea and so he carves a small wooden boat and puts it in a river so it can float to the Atlantic Ocean. It's a very simple story, but it is incredibly well done. That said, it's a short film and without any extras on the DVD (and just a small booklet in total), it is hard to justify the cost of the DVD. Janus Films is putting out three short films this week, this one, The Red Balloon and The White Mane below, all on featureless DVDs. Had they put them on one DVD, hired a film historian to talk about the shorts on an audio commentary track, and set the MSRP of $30, it would have been a clear contender for DVD Pick of the Week. As it is, it is still worth picking up, but I can't be enthusiastic about that recommendation.

Paranormal State - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
A Reality TV series about the Penn State University Paranormal Research Society and their search for the paranormal. That might sound interesting, but as some have pointed out, the show is a fake. Of course it's a fake, if it wasn't a fake, they wouldn't find anything. "Oh look, we found an EM field. That must mean there's a ghost here. The EM field couldn't possibly be because of all the electrical equipment around. The lights, the camera, etc. All of which have EM fields." For that matter, who decided ghosts have EM fields associated with them? A show for people who know just enough about the scientific method to be dangerous. Drives me nuts.

The Red Balloon - Buy from Amazon
The only short film to win an Oscar outside of the three short film categories, and it is easy to see why. This movie is finally coming out on DVD and is being released by Janus Films, in association with the Criterion Collection, but it is not a Criterion release. This is obvious from the total lack of extras on the DVD while the price is just under $10 on Amazon, that's really not that cheap since the movie is only 50 minutes long. That said, It is still worth picking up because the movie is just that good. However, it could have been a contender for DVD Pick of the Week if they had included an audio commentary track, making-of featurette, and look at the historical significance, etc. Also coming out tomorrow is The White Mane on DVD. From the same director, it too is an amazing short film coming out on a featureless DVD.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch - The Complete Animated Series - Buy from Amazon
The Filmation cartoon series from the 1970s and was one of many Archie spin-offs they produced. Probably the most famous Archie property thanks to the Melissa Joan Hart TV series that was based on the same comic book series. Fans of Filmation's work will be happy it is coming out on DVD, but looking back, the animation looks cheap and the writing is not particularly strong. If you are interesting in checking it out for nostalgia reasons, rent it first.

A Touch of Frost Season 13: Endangered Species - Buy from Amazon
... There really was no season 13 of this British murder mystery. After the sixth season, there were first a series of two-part specials and then a series of TV movies, this being the last of them. Frankly, releasing the movies separately seems like a cash grab and they should have released them as one package at a more reasonable price.

The Waltons - The Complete Seventh Season - Buy from Amazon
Old-fashioned to the point that most people who didn't grow up watching the show will simply be unable to get emotionally involved. Fans of the show have been supporting the DVD releases for a while now, but they don't have a lot of reasons to be enthusiastic over the near featureless DVDs that have come out. Given the show's long run, I'm sure they could have come up with something substantive. As it is, I can't recommend more than a rental.


Filed under: Video Releases, Ocean's Twelve, The Golden Compass, How She Move, Le Scaphandre et le Papillon, Nanking, King Corn, Moondance Alexander, Diamond Dogs, Hero Wanted, 27 Dresses