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DVD Releases for June 17, 2008

June 16th, 2008

Another busy week, but one that feels loaded with quantity and low on quality. None of the first run releases stand out and there's precious little else to make up. That's not to say there are no DVDs worth buying, as there are. My recommended list includes Burn Notice - Season One - Buy from Amazon, Classe Tous Risques - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon, Popeye the Sailor - 1938-1940 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon, and Men in Black - Special Edition - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon, to name more than a few. However, none struck me as qualifiers for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Air I Breathe - Buy from Amazon
The first of four spotlight reviews for previously released DVDs.

This movie opened in limited released this past January and earned terrible reviews before quickly disappearing from theaters. Most critics called it pretentious, overdone, unoriginal, or shallow, or indeed a combination of those four. The movie tells the stories of four individuals who represent four emotions: Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow, and Love. These stories intersect throughout the film in a way that a lot of people are comparing to Robert Altman, but not in a good way. There are some good performances given here, but the story is a mess. The chain reaction of events does not confer the idea that we are all linked, but merely strains credibility. By the end, it would not be unreasonable for audience members to have given up on the picture and any philosophical message will have been lost.

On a side note, I didn't buy the Andy Garcia / Sarah Michelle Gellar storyline. It's just a matter of power, which the latter has more of. Sure, her character is just a pop star, but that industry has a lot more power than any mob boss does. Think of it this way, who cleaned up Vegas? Who got rid of the gangsters from Sin City? It wasn't the cops; it was the corporations. When the billion dollar corporations moved in, the Mafia couldn't compete and were squeezed out. I felt the same way about Bullseye from Daredevil. If you never miss, you don't become a hitman, you become a basketball star. The money is better.

Extras on the DVD are in line with more limited releases and include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and outtakes. The audio commentary track has several participants, although it is still a little dry with a few dead spots. The four deleted scenes run a mere 5 minutes, and for the most part they were wise cuts. The outtakes run just 2 minutes and are the weakest of the three extras.

The Air I Breathe is a movie that tries to impart a slice of Chinese philosophy, and while I applaud the effort to be something more than mere entertainment, I have serious issue with the execution. With extras that are only average in quality, the DVD is worth no more rental, and even that is being generous.

Alive or Dead - Buy from Amazon
A low-budget, direct-to-DVD horror film. Let's face it, most films like this suck; however this film has been getting a few good reviews, what few reviews I have found. The film is not a teenage slasher, although it does have enough gore, but it has a solid psychological edge to it as well. Certainly worth checking out for fans of the genre.

Be Kind Rewind - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
I love Michael Gondry's work and own practically everything he has done on DVD. I say this because I want to warn you about possible biases in advanced. ... I think it is criminal that Be Kind Rewind didn't earn more at the box office and I think it is far better than the reviews would indicate. Sure, it's not the best film Gondry has made, but even one of his lesser films is better than most of what hits theaters. As for the extras, the DVD has very little with just a behind-the-scenes featurette. And the Blu-ray has no additional extras. Personally, I think there will be a special edition coming out sooner rather than later (perhaps as early as this November), and I would suggest waiting. Rent this version and buy the special edition when it comes out.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Be Kind Rewind, Fool's Gold, Men in Black, and So I Married an Axe Murderer
Slow week for Blu-ray releases with just four titles coming out. Three of those four movies are for movies that are good enough to be worth checking out, but only one of those has enough extras to warrant purchasing the Blu-ray over the DVD. (On a side note, So I Married an Axe Murderer is called a special edition, but there are absolutely no extras on the Blu-ray. None.)

Brenner - Buy from Amazon
A cop show about a veteran and a rookie who are partnered together. This is not a original idea, but the hook here is they are father and son. The show originally aired for a single season starting in 1959... and again in 1964. This is the 15 episode run from 1959 and hopefully the 10-episode 1964 run is not far behind. Although to be completely frank, they could have released all episodes in one complete series box set and most fans would have been a lot happier.

Burn Notice - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A TV series about a spy who is 'burned' while out in the field (i.e. he was fired). He returns to Miami to find out who burned him and why and teams up with an old friend and his ex-girlfriend. The three not only try to find out the big mystery, but also help those in need and who can't go to the police, for a price. A guy has got to make a living. The show earned strong reviews and has proven to be a hit on the USA network. However, most of you reading this have probably never seen an episode, which is a shame. As for the DVD, the 4-disc set has audio commentary tracks on all 12 episodes, but they are scene specific not full-length commentary tracks. This does mean they are a lot shorter that usual, but more concentrated. Other extras include some outtakes, a couple of montages, some audition footage and a music video. A very solid collection that is easily worth picking up.

Californication - Season One - Buy from Amazon
You know you are doing something wrong when a critic says to themself, "Dear lord, not another sex scene."

Californication stars David Duchovny as Hank Moody, an author who drinks a lot and has a lot of sex. A lot of sex. So much sex that it loses its effectiveness nearly immediately. Oh yeah, he is also still in love with his former "wife" (they never married) and has to deal with his 12-year old daughter, who is wise beyond her years. While trying to restart his sagging career and win back the love of his life, he lives up to his last name and complains a lot. He is a man of indulgences who is frequently too dysfunctional to be compelling. That said, the show does have its strengths and some of the storylines are engaging, but as a whole I'm not sold on it.

(On a side note, chapters should be placed in such a way to allow the viewer to skip the "Previously..." section. I don't need to wait a minute watching a recap of episodes I just watched.)

Extras are limited and annoying. First of all, I don't consider episodes from future seasons or unconnected shows to be true extras. They are not extras, they are ads. (I do consider crossover episodes to be real extras, on the other hand.) Here there are 2 second season episodes from Dexter and 2 from The Tudors, but, you have to download them. Not cool.

Californication is a show that has some potential, but they need to focus more on characters and story and less on softcore porn. Season One only worked in patches and with zero real extras, it is hard to recommend anything above a rental. Hopefully season two, which starts soon, will improve enough that it will be easier to recommend that DVD.

Caramel - Buy from Amazon
A Lebanese film set in a beauty salon where the women gather to discuss their relationships. This is not a new story. In fact, it is nearly identical to The Salon, Beauty Shop, and both Barbershop films. However, while it might not be original in its premise, it was superior in its execution and managed to earn just over $1 million during its run, which is huge for a foreign language film. As with most foreign language imports, the extras are light with just an interview with the director, but the quality the film is high enough that the DVD is worth picking up over just renting.

The Carmen Miranda Collection - Buy from Amazon
Carmen Miranda was a major star during the peak of the big musical extravaganzas of the 1940s and is best know for wearing fruit on her head. This 5-disc set includes five films from 1943 to 1946, but of those only The Gang's All Here is among her best. Additionally, most of these are already available on individual DVDs (or sometimes as part of other box sets). This further reduces the value of the DVD and it is only worth buying for fans of Carmen Miranda who want all her films, even the lesser ones, but haven't bought many of her DVDs yet.

Choas Theory - Buy from Amazon
Ryan Reynolds plays an efficiency expert whose life crumbles after he is late for the first time in his life. As this happens, he realizes that in his quest to be efficient, he hasn't really lived. Reviews for the film have been weak with most critics saying the film's tone is all over the place as it mixes drama, comedy, and even romance. That said, the film does hit a few high marks and is worth checking out, but with only a few deleted scenes as extras, a rental will be enough for most people. On a side note, this is the second Sarah Chalke movie that was practically dumped direct-to-DVD. Hopefully she won't develop a reputation as a box office jinx.

Classe Tous Risques - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
One of the final films in the first wave of Film Noir. In fact, many film historians would argue it came out after Film Noir trend had waned. However, Classe Tous Risques, a.k.a. Consider All Risks, is still an amazing film and one that should be of interest to anyone fascinated by the genre, or of French New Wave filmmaking. Extras on the DVD include some interviews and a 28-page booklet, which is not as much as many Criterion Collection releases, but the price is not as high either and it is worth picking up.

Company - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
A Tony Award winning musical that was written by Stephen Sondheim, who also wrote Sweeney Todd, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, West Side Story, Into the Woods, and others. He has won an Oscar, a Grammy, and more than half-a-dozen Tonys, and there are plenty of reasons for that.

The film tells the story of Bobby, a man on his 35th birthday who is attending his surprise party with ten of his friends, all of whom are couples. While the play starts at his party, most of Act I is comprised of a series of vignettes with him being in the company of one of these couples, most of whom think he should settle down and get married. However, that would mean he would have to pick between one of his three girlfriends and what he is looking for is a woman that combines all of the good features of all three.

First of all, I have to admit I am not a big fan of musicals, especially live action musicals. Even with the classic Disney cartoons I tend to tune out during the songs, especially if there are more than three or four during the length of the movie. Many would consider that heresy. That said, two of my favorite musicals are Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods, so Stephen Sondheim's particular style is something that works with me. This one is no different, although it does not rank among my favorites. The songs are fantastic and the story is engaging with a great mixture of humor and drama. It would be very rare for an audience member to not connect to at least a few of the characters and that will help the 2+ hours go by very fast.

Extras are entirely made up of interviews, including a nearly 40-minute interview with the writer / composer, Stephen Sondheim, a nearly 20-minute interview with the star, Raul Esparza, and a nearly 10-minute interview with the director, Jim Doyle. Sadly the extras are not presented in High Definition, but the main feature is and it looks, and sounds, fantastic.

The latest revival of Company was nominated for 8 Tony awards, winning 4 of them. This is not a surprise and for fans of the genre in general, and of Stephen Sondheim in particular, the Blu-ray is worth checking out. Add in the extras, and its overall value is lifted above just a rental and to the purchase level.

Dynasty - Season Three - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
What the hell? The first two season of this show were released in full season sets, now they are splitting them up into two volumes. Worse yet, the price is not significantly less than the full season sets making it feel like a huge cash grab. Just not acceptable.

E.R. - Season Nine - Buy from Amazon
It would be hard for a show to last 14 seasons and not have a least a few cast changes. However, by the ninth season, only Noah Wyle was left from the original cast (and even he would leave a few years later). But, while the cast has changed dramatically over the years, the quality of the show has remained steady as ever. Extras are limited to deleted scenes and outtakes, although there are lots of deleted scenes and combined they are a solid extra. I would have liked some audio commentary tracks, but the 6-disc set is still worth picking up.

Fanny - Buy from Amazon
Coming out on DVD for the first time ever. This 1961 film stars Leslie Caron in the titular role. The film earned strong reviews and was nominated for a handful of Oscars, but it is mostly forgotten now. For fans of the era, it is worth checking out, and many who do will want to add it to their DVD collections.

Fool's Gold - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey team up for the first time since How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. That film earned weak reviews but won over many fans at the box office. This film earned tragically bad reviews, but still did respectable business in theaters. (However, with a hefty production budget, it will still need to do very well at the home market to show a profit.) It's odd that the studio didn't help out more by putting out a DVD that is worth checking out. The extras are limited to a short featurette and some outtakes, which is not enough to be worth renting. As for the Blu-ray, it has no additional extras, nor are the extras in high definition. Certainly skippable.

Galaxy High School Collection - Buy from Amazon
A cartoon from the 1980s that probably brings back a wave of nostalgia for kids of the 80s. The show starts out well and ends on a high note, but too many of the 11 episodes in between a rather weak (cheaply animated, poorly written, one-dimensional characters, etc.). The series has previously been released in two volumes, but now it is being re-released in one 2-disc set, which is how it should have been released in the first place.

It's a Boy Girl Thing - Buy from Amazon
Two high school students live next door to each other but couldn't be more opposite. He's a popular, but slightly dim-witted jock and she's a smart but socially isolated geek. Despite these differences, they hate each other until one day they wake up and have switched bodies. Through the process of seeing how the other lives, they fall in love. Don't expect a lot of originality here, but there are a few laughs to be found within. Extras are also better than expected and for many it could be enough to lift it out of the rental level, but try before you buy.

Jack and Jill vs. The World - Buy from Amazon
Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Taryn Manning star as Jack and Jill in this romantic drama. The film earned terrible reviews with many critics commenting that it is full of cliches and collapses under its own weight. Add in a DVD that has extras that are of little value (only the 11-minute making of featurette is worth checking out), and it is hard to recommend anything more than renting. Even that is being generous.

Jericho - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
A nuclear attack on the United States has left the country a little more divided than normal. The second and final season was cut short to just 7 episodes, but these episodes were used to tie up all of the story threads from the first season, with mostly successful results. Extras on the 2-disc set include audio commentary tracks on all seven or eight episodes. (It depends on if you consider the different cuts of the finale as different episodes.) There are also lots of deleted scenes with optional commentary, a featurette on the making of, and another featurette on the campaign to save the show. Worth picking up for fans, but those that haven't seen it might not want to get involved in a show that was canceled too soon. Also coming out tomorrow is Jericho - The Complete Series, but it is not much of a savings over the two individual seasons.

Joy Division - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the influential band, Joy Division. I know loyal readers must be getting a sense of déjà vu right now, after all, I reviewed Control just two weeks ago. It makes it hard to come up with something new when going over nearly the same material in just two weeks.

That said, I consider it a high compliment that I was drawn in by the movie despite the familiarity. It's a very simply mix of talking heads and music, but we hear from nearly everyone associated with the band, including Anton Corbijn, who directed Control. (Just another link between the two.) We hear plenty of stories from the genesis of the band, even before the genesis of the band and we hear a bit of history of Manchester and how the city's past help set the stage for the 1970s musical development. We even go past where Control ends and into the New Order days, which as I said in the previous review, is when I first encountered the band.

Extras on the DVD are exactly what one would expect on a documentary like this. Since the film is very straightforward both stylistically and with its narrative, there's little room for an audio commentary track, so the extras are mainly additional interviews, more than an hour's worth of additional interviews. Sometimes the interviewee expands on points made in the movie, others they are only tangentially linked, but they are great to watch. The only other extra is the complete performance of "Transmission."

For fans of Joy Division, this documentary is a must see. Even for those who have little knowledge of the band but like to learn more about the history of rock and roll should check out this DVD. Add in the huge number of additional interviews and I can recommend buying over just renting.

The Jungle Book 2 - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
When Pixar took over Disney's animation department, they canceled all sequels to Disney classic movies, and this film is part of the reason for that.

Simply put, there is nothing in this movie that is better, or even just on par with the original. Not the writing, not the acting, not the music. The only parts of the movie that come close is the voice work of John Goodman and the background artwork (not the character animation). Even the latter part is due more to the technological advancements from the 1960s. If you liked the original, this movie feels like a pale imitation. If you haven't seen the original, there's little reason to start with the sequel.

As for the DVD, it has a total of one new feature not found on the original DVD release, a game called Mowgli's Story Time Adventure. I couldn't even get through this game, it was far, far too repetitive. The rest of the extras including the two featurettes, two deleted scenes with intros, another game, and a sing-along feature. Not enough here to warrant an upgrade.

The Jungle Book 2 is a movie that is no better than most direct-to-DVD releases while the Special Edition is nowhere near special enough for that label. If you already have the movie on DVD, you can safely skip this version. While if you haven't I have a hard time recommending even renting, as there are far too many better options out there, like the original.

Just Add Water - Buy from Amazon
Is it just me, or are there a lot of movies coming out on DVD this week that looked like they were originally made for a theatrical release? This is a case of good cast, bad reviews that is further complicated by the lack of extras on the DVD. If you are a fan of some of the members of the cast, it could be worth a rental, but for most people, they can safely give this one a pass.

Love and Other Disasters - Buy from Amazon
A romantic comedy that played in a few international markets but never found a theatrical release date here. It is not a terrible movie, but it does contain nearly all of the clichés found within its genre. Worth checking out for fans of romantic comedies in general or of Brittany Murphy in particular, but with just a making of featurette, a rental should suffice.

Mannix - Season One - Buy from Amazon
One of four late reviews on this week's list. However, I'm now caught up with all of the DVDs that have arrived late over the past few weeks. Until the next one arrives late, which will be soon.

First of all, I like Intertect. I like the high tech aspect of the first season. However, apparently my opinion is not in the majority because the show was very nearly canceled after the first season and during the second season they dropped Intertect and made Joe Mannix an independent private eye. But the first season Joe Mannix has to deal with his boss, Lew Wickersham, who was played by Joseph Campanella. Mike Connors and Joseph Campanella have great chemistry together and it's a shame. Season one sees Joe Mannix battling an escaped mental patient with a gun and a grudge, gangsters trying to fix a basketball game, a politician with a past, and worst yet, hippies. Aaaaahhhh!

This is a show that first aired 40 years ago, so it would be understandable if the 6-disc set had no extras, but that's not the case. There is an audio commentary track on the pilot with William Link, one of the show's co-creators. There's a second audio commentary track on Another Final Exit with Mike Connors and Joseph Campanella. The two also sit down for a two-part interview while there's also a clip of Mike Connors being interviewed on The Mike Douglas Show. There is an additional clip from Diagnosis Murder with Mike Connors doing a guest shot as Joe Mannix. There are a images, promos, and the like. Finally, there are audio intros by Mike Connors on every episode, which is a cool feature.

The first season of Mannix hasn't been seen in a long, long time, as it isn't part of the regular syndication package. For fans that have enjoyed the reruns should love to see how the show started. Add in extras that are far superior to what one would normally find on a show this old, it is easily worth picking up.

Meerkat Manor - Season 3 - Buy from Amazon
A Reality TV series that follows the lives of a family of meerkats, which I believe is what Timon was in The Lion King. This show has become unbelievably popular and even without any extras, this 2-disc DVD is still worth picking up.

Men in Black - Special Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Still one of Will Smith's biggest hits and one of the best Sci-fi comedies of all time. The film is coming out on a Special Edition DVD (although the link is currently dead on Amazon), but more importantly, it is making its debut on Blu-ray. There are plenty of extras here, mostly ported over from the previous DVD, and weren't upgraded into high definition; however, there are a couple of Blu-ray exclusive extras. There is an interactive trivia game and some downloads for those with Profile 2.0 players (this includes all PS3s) and an alien subtitle track for those who read alien. The interactive trivia game is the only one here that stands out as worth your time. In fact, I mentioned the possibility of interactive trivia games as being the main selling point of internet connectivity for High Definition players. HD DVD never took advantage of the technology, but at least Blu-ray is. If you have a Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player, this is a must-have disc, especially at this price.

My Mom's New Boyfriend -Buy from Amazon
A good cast is wasted on this film. This is not surprising as it was written and directed by George Gallo, who penned See Spot Run, The Whole Ten Yards and Code Name: The Cleaner. Wholly unoriginal, the direct-to-DVD release is completely skippable.

The Naked Brothers Band - Polar Bears - Buy from Amazon
Another DVD from The Naked Brothers Band TV series, which is apparently popular but I can't figure out why. This DVD has an environmental message, which I applaud, but the quality of the show makes me cringe. Improv should be left to the experts.

National Lampoon's Bagboy - Buy from Amazon
Not the worst National Lampoon's release to come out recently, but that's hardly a compliment. At this point, if I had independently produced a comedy and couldn't find a distributor and National Lampoon approached me, I would decline. Their reputation has sunk that low.

The Nude Bomb - Buy from Amazon
I actually like this movie. It's not great, but I don't think it is as bad as the critics say it is. It is merely average, not catastrophic. Perhaps compared to the show, it comes across as worse than it is. As for the DVD, it is coming out to take advantage of the upcoming theatrical releases and is your typical bare bones catalogue release. For fans of the show, it is worth checking out, but a rental will suffice.

Numb - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian movie that never got a theatrical releases down south, but it came out on DVD a few weeks ago. The screener arrived late, but here is the review at last.

Matthew Perry stars as Hudson, a writer suffering from depersonalization disorder, which is a psychological disorder where a person feels they don't belong in their own body and nothing seems quite real. The film is an autobiographical look at life of writer / director Harris Goldberg. Goldberg has written a number of movies, including Master of Disguise and both Deuce Bigelow movies. However, despite this track record, this is an excellent movie. This is not a big movie and people expecting to see Chandler Bing on the big screen will be disappointed. However, what they will see is arguably Matthew Perry's best performance in a movie, ever. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that he is as understated as he would have to be to portray a person with this condition. And understated is not his usual calling card.

Extras on the DVD are limited to an audio commentary track with the writer / director and a making-of featurette. The first gives plenty of information in a straightforward way. There are a few longer dead spots near the end, but overall it is still worth checking out. The featurette runs just over 19 minutes and goes into some of the same subjects as the commentary track, but features most of the main cast and a few other crewmembers as well. Again worth checking out.

Numb is a movie that could have felt like a disease-of-the-week TV movie, However, the film is very well done mixing the right level of drama, humor, and even romance. Add in extras that are on par with most limited releases, and this DVD is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Popeye the Sailor - 1938-1940 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
I will admit that I was never a huge fan of Popeye cartoons and I preferred Looney Tunes. However, I will admit that so far the DVD releases have been just as good as the Golden Collection. In fact, in some ways they are better. For instance, they are chronological. (I understand why they don't do this for Looney Tunes, because most people would skip the early ones, instead waiting until Bugs Bunny showed up.) But for serious collectors, chronological is the ideal way to go. (Perhaps they will release special box sets of Chronological Bug Bunny, Chronological Daffy Duck, etc. I'd double-dip, but then again, I have more money than brain cells.) Extras on the 2-disc set include several documentaries of varying length, running from a few minutes to nearly 50 minutes. Finally, there are some bonus shorts, interviews, and image galleries (pencil test, storyboards, etc.). Easily worth picking up. Also coming out this week is Popeye and Friends - Volume 1, which is a compilation of shorts from the 1970s. It's not as strong as the shorts from 1938-1940 seen in the other DVD, but it is worth checking out for fans of the character.

Rails and Ties - Buy from Amazon
The directorial debut of Alison Eastwood, daughter of Clint Eastwood. Reviews were very poor with the script taking the most hits and the film never found an audience during its short, short theatrical run. Given its short run, it is not surprising that the DVD has no extras, but it does limit its value to a rental at most.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
After the two years I consider the best in the show's run, we hit a weak spot with season four. There were a number of changes in the cast, almost none of them positive.

Libby Chessler left as Sabrina's foil only to be replaced with Brad, Harvey's new best friend, who just happens to be descended from witch hunters. Valerie Birkhead is also gone replaced by witch-in-training, Dreama. This is the change that hurts the most, as Valerie was my favorite of Sabrina's friends and Dreama's the worst. That character was just annoying. The only positive move this year is the addition of Josh, the sometimes boss / sometime romantic interest of Sabrina.

As for the individual episodes, season four starts out poorly as there are just too many changes to go through during the first season premiere and it feels like the writers had no time to tell a story, just update viewers on the new cast. On the other hand, the Halloween episode is a highlight of the season, as usual, as is the nearly annual return of Amanda. Additionally, the season ends on the high note with Josh and Harvey battling to win Sabrina's heart.

Extras are limited to... nothing, There are also no subtitles but at least there's a play all button on each disc and proper chapter placements. The definition of a bare bones release.

The jokes can be cheesy, the moral lessons are heavy-handed to say the least, but Sabrina the Teenage Witch is still a fun show. Like the other DVD releases, Season Four is devoid of extras, so it is hard to be enthusiastic about any recommendation. If you bought the previous seasons, there's little reason to stop now. However, if you were fine with renting before, there's little reason to buy now.

The Suite Life of Zack & Cody - Lip Synchin' in the Rain - Buy from Amazon
The latest 4-episode DVD release for this series from the Disney Channel. I've reviewed a lot of releases from this channel, from TV series to their original movies, I these releases are the most painful to watch.

The four episodes presented here are...

  1. Lip Synchin' In The Rain: They are putting on a musical at the kids' school and Maddie auditions for the lead role, but winds up London's understudy, because her father bought her the role. However, London can't sing so they get Maddie to perform her songs backstage while London lip synchs.
    The best episode on this release, but there are still some real problems. For instance, the musical they are performing is High School Musical, which Ashley Tisdale stars in. Of course they use the "Some people think I look like her." joke, but they use it far too often.
  2. Arwin That Came to Dinner: Arwin's mother is getting married and kicks him out, so he stays with Zack and Cody. Hijinks ensue.
    Worst episode of the group, which is not surprising as Arwin is easily the most annoying of the adult characters on the show. Physically painful to watch and I'm having flashbacks just writing about it. Moving on.
  3. Orchestra: A musical genius comes to the school to help save the music department, but he starts putting the moves on Zack's girlfriend. ... Or was it Cody's? Meanwhile, London's trying to learn the hotel business by doing every job in the place until she finds one she's good at, or ruins its reputation.
    The B-story here is better than the A-story, but that's not saying much. The least memorable of the episodes, but that's still better than the show's average.
  4. A Tale Of Two House: The twins' father is back in town for a play and renting an apartment nearby. The boys decide to use it as a place to bring their girlfriends. Meanwhile, Esteban's family it returned to power in his homeland and he becomes rich again.
    Esteban is the second most annoying of the adult characters, so the B-story here is highly annoying. On the other hand, the A-story is better than most on the show, but that's not enough to make it worth checking out.
Moving onto the extras, there are 4 minutes of outtakes and a behind-the-scenes featurette, which is on par with these releases from Disney. In other words, nothing special but at least it's better than nothing.

The Sprouse twins combined have half as much talent as the average child actor out there and I have no idea why they are this famous. Worse yet, Ashley Tisdale, who plays Maddie Fitzpatrick, the only one of the main characters who doesn't drive me up the wall, left the show to pursue bigger and better roles. This was a smart move on her part, but it hurts the show even more. I can't recommend buying, I can't even recommend renting.

Super High Me - Buy from Amazon
A documentary in the same vein as Super Size Me, only about pot instead of Big Macs. The film stars Doug Benson, who is a stand-up comic not a documentarian, and it shows. It's not a terrible movie, but it doesn't address the subject in a meaningful enough way to be of interest as a documentary, nor is it really funny enough to be a comedy. Add in zero extras and the DVD is only worthy of a rental.

The Sword in the Stone - 45th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
45th Anniversary Edition. ... Come on.

The Sword in the Stone was made in 1963 and is not considered one of Disney's classic cartoon, but I still have a soft spot for it. Nostalgia will do that for you. The movie has several fun sequences, especially the wizards' duel, but these can feel like bits and pieces stuck together and not part of a cohesive whole. Individual episodes and not one complete story. Likewise, the music is good, but not spectacular. (This was the first movie featuring the Sherman Brothers and they had not yet mastered the feature-length film.) Finally, the film ends rather abruptly and it feels like it is the first part of a two-part movie. Perhaps a sequel was planned but the movie didn't do as well as expected.

This is not the first time this movie has come out on DVD, and it is only an incremental improvement over its DVD debut. In fact, the only new extra on the DVD is the Merlin's Magical Academy Game, which is part trivia, part action. (Bubbles, acorns, or clouds move across the screens and you have to hit the right button.) Unfortunately, the last stage seems to be bugged for me and no matter what button I press, it tells me I did it wrong. The other extras include a featurette on two deleted songs, two animated shorts, an excerpt from Walt Disney Presents on magic, an image gallery, and some facts on the movie. You can also watch the four songs individually or watch the movie with the lyrics on the screens. Just average for these releases and not up to the level I would have liked. (Personally, I want a Platinum Edition DVD, but I figure that won't happen for at least 5 years, at which point it should be released on Blu-ray.)

Many consider The Sword in the Stone to be a second tier Disney cartoon from the era, but it is still better than most that are released today and it is worth adding to your DVD collection. However, the 45th Anniversary Edition is not worth upgrading from the previous DVD release.

Transformers - Animated - Transform and Roll Out - Buy from Amazon
Umm... Robots shouldn't be able to blow chunks or a gasket or have any sort of gastric intestinal distress, no matter how much they dislike heights.

The show starts in deep space with Optimus Prime as the leader... of a repair ship. Yep, Optimus Prime is not the leader of the Autobots, but just a captain of a non-combat ship. While fixing a teleportation gateway, he and his crew come upon the Allspark, a powerful energy source that the Decepticons have been searching for to use as a weapon. But before they can return to Cyberton with it, the Decepticons attack. During their battle with Megatron, the ship is sucked through the gateway and appears over Earth. The ship, which was badly damaged during the fighting, crashes into Lake Erie near Detroit, Michigan, and there they stay in stasis for the next 50 years. But when they awake, they find a Detroit that is no longer the center of car production in the United States, but the center of Robot production, thanks to Professor Isaac Sumdac, who had some help from the recovered remains of Megatron.

The immediate concern with this show for me is the writing; does it live up to the spirit of the original? For the most part, it does. Granted, Optimus Prime is no longer the supreme leader of all of the Autobots, but he is still a capable leader. Prowl is not a cop car, but a motorcycle, which makes little sense (it is obvious no one is driving). But the spirit is still there. I'm not overjoyed with the animation, on the other hand, and the robots are too stylized for my preference. Too many of them don't look like robots but men wearing silly costumes. Even worse are the humans, which have very unnatural movements. (This part of the show borrows too heavily from the anime tradition here, more specifically anime that's aimed at kids.) Speaking of humans, the number one character of that species in the show is Sari Sumdac, the 8-year old daughter of Professor Isaac Sumdac, who becomes an integral part of the team very early on. I can see a lot of younger kids identifying with this character, but I can also see a lot of adult fans of the show completely hating her. So far I haven't made up my mind yet.

As for the DVD, it has the pilot episode, which runs just over an hour, and 3 minutes of bonus shorts (Optimus Prime speaking at an elementary school for career day and Prowl practicing his ninja skills). It's not a lot for $15.00, but it is not outrageously overpriced either.

Transform and Roll Out is the first time Transformers - Animated has been released on DVD. And while it is not the 1980s original, it's not as bad as some feared it would be. That said, I have a hard time imaging this show won't be released on a full season set before too long, and that DVD will likely be a better deal pricewise.

Under the Same Moon - Buy from Amazon
A film that opened in the dreaded select cities. I hate this release strategy because it is too limited for a national advertising campaign, but too wide for a targeted local release. Additionally, its reviews were good for a wide release, but not good enough compared to most limited releases. That said, while I was apprehensive about the film's chances, it surprised at the box office by opening in tenth place and finishing with $12.5 million. Sadly, I don't think the distributor took this into account when they made the DVD.

For a Mexican boy living with his grandmother, the highlight of his week is when his mother calls from the United States, where she lives and works illegally. However, when his grandmother dies, he decides to travel to the United States and find his mother, but the journey is hard and he has to rely on the help of several people he meets along the way. At the same time, his mother misses him so much that she decides to return to Mexico.

This is a movie that is obviously designed to pluck at your heartstrings, but it tries too hard and in the end feels forced and not genuine. The movie's heart is in the right place, but the execution is too heavy-handed. By the time the movie is halfway over the emotional manipulation became too much for me. Additionally, the way the movie is set up, you know there's going to be a happy reunion in the end. But, the reunion wasn't satisfying and it didn't feel like the end of the movie to me. It might have been the end of the journey, but not the end of the movie.

As for the extras, this is where the DVD really disappoints. There is only a 26-minute long making-of featurette and a 12-minute featurette on the murals featured in the movie. Granted, for a foreign language film this isn't a terribly low amount, but considering how well it did at the box office, it is well below expectations.

While I found the movie emotionally manipulative, I will admit that Under the Same Moon should please its target audience. That said, the extras on the DVD are too light to recommend anything above a rental.

Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins - Buy from Amazon
Martin Lawrence stars as the titular character, who is a big player in L.A. who returns home expecting to show off to his family. It doesn't work out that way. This film earned

Filed under: Video Releases, Fool's Gold, The Jungle Book 2, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, La misma luna, Be Kind Rewind, Sukkar banat, Chaos Theory, Rails & Ties, Jack and Jill vs. the World, It's a Boy-Girl Thing, National Lampoon's Bagboy, Just Add Water, Love and Other Disasters, My Mom's New Boyfriend, The Air I Breathe