Follow us on

DVD Releases for July 15, 2008 - Part II

July 14th, 2008

Another week without a first run release that is in contention for the DVD Pick of the Week. Granted, The Bank Job is worth picking up, but neither the two DVDs nor the Blu-ray have enough extras to be the DVD Pick of the Week. To find the best of this week's selection you have to look at the TV on DVD list and grab Eureka Season Two. Paradoxically, while the quality is low, the quantity is high, so much so that I had to split the list into two parts. Part one can be found here.

Never Forever - Buy from Amazon
Sophie and Andrew are having difficulties in their marriage, partly because of his family doesn't approve that she is not Korean. Things are made worse by his father's death and his infertility, which lead him to attempt suicide. Sophie then approaches an illegal Korean immigrant in an attempt to get pregnant, so she can pass off this child as her husband's. However, what starts off as a cold, calculated sexual encounter grows into more, which threatens to destroy an already fragile marriage. This is a film that earned excellent reviews, but went nowhere at the box office. Extras are very light with a making-of featurette, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and a photo gallery. Still, the movie is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

New Adventures of the Lone Ranger/Zorro - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
The latest Filmation release. The Filmation studio made a huge number of cartoons (and the occasional live action show), but in order to cut costs, they relied heavily on limited animation. That is to say, they relied heavily on stock footage and panning background shots to reduce the amount of original animation needed for each show. A lot of fans like this instantly recognizable style, others just think it looks cheap. I'm in the latter camp. That said, I won't deny there is a fanbase for these shows and even though this 2-disc set has no extras, it is still worth picking up for fans of the show. At just $13, it's hard not to say that.

Penelope - Buy from Amazon
This film is like a modern fairy tale that had a curse as bad as its titular character. It was originally set to come out in April of 2007, but was pushed back, then removed from the schedule, then given a mediocre release date, before finally opening in barely more than 1,000 theaters. Granted, its reviews were not great, but they were not so bad that it deserved this treatment. Overall the film may not be an instant classic, but it has a certain charm that will ensnare willing audiences. As for the DVD, it is not charming with just a 9-minute making-of featurette. Even so, it is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Poison Sweethearts - Buy from Amazon
A homage to the exploitation films of the 1970s. As far as these films go, it is better than most, but you have to be a fan of the genre to appreciate the movie. If you are, there are more than enough extras on the DVD to lift it past the rental level and to a solid buy.

Reno 911! - The Complete Fifth Season - Buy from Amazon
This show follows a group of dedicated law enforcement professionals from the city of Reno as they go about they patrols encountering the strange citizens in their city. It's a parody of the show Cops! shot in a improvisational / mockumentary style and it has become a major hit for Comedy Central since it debuted five years ago. However, its age is starting to show.

Every show, if it lasts long enough, reaches a point where it becomes clear that it is outliving its premise. I think Season 5 is when Reno 911! reached that point. Don't get me wrong, the show is still solid and better than most on Comedy Central, but it is clearly off its peak and in danger of dropping below acceptable levels. Some of the running gags simply don't work, like the 'Jump the Shark' bits, the PSAs, etc., while the arrests are starting to develop a serious aura of 'been there, done that.' Some of the new bits do work, like Cindy the not quite former Sex Slave played by Wanru Tseng. There are also a serious amount of cameos this season including appearances by Christina Applegate, Diedrich Bader, Seth Green, Patton Oswalt, and Ryan Stiles.

Extras on the three-disc set include audio commentary tracks on six of the sixteen episodes, mostly with five members of the cast, but on two of them there are only two. These tracks lean heavy to the entertainment end of the spectrum, but they are fun to listen to and fans of the show should get a kick out of them. There are also 23 minutes of 'psychological' examinations, which is about as long as a full episode. Finally, there are four deleted scenes, which run more than 30 minutes combined. Quite a healthy amount of extras in total.

Reno 911! may have fallen from its peak, but The Complete Fifth Season is still worth checking out, and with more extras than most TV on DVD releases have, it is worth picking up over just renting. However, if the show doesn't recover, season six could be its last.

Robbie Coltrane - Incredible Britain - Buy from Amazon
Take a road trip with Robbie Coltrane as he takes the B roads from London to his home of Glasgow. Not your typical travelogue, but Robbie Coltrane is an excellent host through the journey and even with no substantial extras, this DVD is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Roxy Hunter and the Secret of the Shaman - Buy from Amazon
The latest in a line of TV movies starring the 12-year old Aria Wallace as the titular sleuth. The shows are aimed at young girls who can look up to Roxy Hunter, but there's little replay value and even less crossover appeal. If you have a pre-teen daughter, it's probably worth a rental, but that's as far as I will go.

Saving Grace - Season One - Buy from Amazon
A TV series about an angel who comes to Earth to help give a police detective a chance at redemption. The show started out earning strong reviews and the first season even earned its star, Holly Hunter, more than a few nominations. Additionally, the 4-disc set is loaded with extras starting with audio commentary tracks on two of the 13 episodes (the series pilot and the season finale), as well as interviews, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a lot more. If you haven't seen the show, it is worth checking out. If you have, it is worth picking up.

Shutter - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Edition, Unrated Edition, or Blu-ray
The latest in a long line of remakes of horror films from Asia. This trend has been going for a while, but most of the recent entrants have bombed at the box office and with critics. This film is no different.

Shutter stars Joshua Jackson, whose post-Dawson's Creek career has not gone particularly well. In this movie is stars as Benjamin Shaw, a photographer who is taking his new wife to Japan with him for his new job. His wife, Jane, has difficulties adjusting to a new land, and things get worse after a car accident, and then she begins to see ghosts in photographs. However, if she being haunted, does it have something to do with Ben's previous trip to Japan, or is she just going insane?

Fans of horror films, especially those from Asia, will find nothing new with this remake, even if they have never seen the Thai original. Additionally, the execution is only mixed, at best. For horror, there are no real scares and the film never rises above mildly spooky. By the time we get to the big reveal in the end, it was too late as the film didn't hold my attention any longer. I don't think the movie is as bad as its Tomatometer score, but that's not saying much and there's very little here to recommend it.

On the other hand, the extras are better than expected given the film's short theatrical run. Things start with an audio commentary track with Rachael Taylor, who plays Jane the wife, as well as production executive Alex Sundell and screenwriter Luke Dawson. It's a good track and they provide more than enough information to be worth listening to. However, it's not a very deep look at the movie. Next up is an 8-minute featurette called Ghost in the Lens, which deals with the Japanese superstitions about ghosts. Ghosts are not as big of a part of Western society, although they certainly are those who believe in them, so this helps bridge the cultural divide in the movie. Speaking of which, the next featurette is called A Cultural Divide: Shooting in Japan, and it is exactly what it sounds like. There is also a nearly 10 minute interview with the director, a 6-minute interview with the screenwriter, and then a trio of featurettes that pretend spirit photography is real and not a result of pareidolia. Actually, more strangely, two of the featurettes pretend it's real, the other shows you how to fake it with photoshop. Finally, there are close to a dozen deleted and alternate scenes, some of which are mentioned in the audio commentary track. In total they run 14 minutes, but there's not much here.

As for the Unrated label, it is pure marketing. Sure, there are a few minutes of additional scenes (which are mentioned during the audio commentary), but there's nothing here that would lift the rating beyond the original PG-13

Additionally, I don't have the Blu-ray, so I can't say what differences there are in the versions. Given the more than 50% increase in price, there better be a lot. However, I don't think there are any additional extras.

Shutter is not the first remake of an Asian horror film, nor will it be the last. That said, given its reviews and its box office struggles, perhaps it should be. It is not a terrible movie, but there's almost nothing here that hasn't been done before, and hasn't been done better. The extras are better than expected, but both the two DVDs and the Blu-ray are not really worth a rental.

Steel Trap - Buy from Amazon
A low budget horror movie that looks like it will be a combination of The Cube and Saw. However, the way it is being advertised on the box is almost nothing like the way it actually is.

Steel Trap starts off at a New Year's Eve party atop an abandoned skyscraper where we are introduced to five characters who are invited to a special VIP party, and along with two other party crashers, head to the 27th floor for what they hope to be an amazing party. However, when they get there they realized they've been trapped by a psychopath who is out to inflict some revenge for misdeeds the group doesn't even know they've committed. Now they must figure out who is behind all of this, before it's too late.

The back of the DVD box promises a movie that is a psychological thriller with plenty of surprise twists. What we get is a pretty standard, low budget slasher that offers very little to set it apart from countless others. There's nothing overtly wrong with the movie and the directing, the acting, and effects are better than most. However, the film is plagued by an improbable story and characters that seem to constantly make stupid choices. There is a twist in the end that is appreciated, but the overall effect is still forgettable.

As for the extras, there are two, an audio commentary track and a making-of featurette. Luis Camara does a solo audio commentary track, but he fills it out well talking about the changes to the script from the beginning, how the location inspired the story, and how the budget affected the script, etc. The only other extra is a making-of featurette, but it weighs in at a meaty 40 minutes and is a combination of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips, with a focus on the behind-the-scenes footage. Worth checking out if you liked the movie.

Steel Trap is not a bad movie per se, but it is almost completely forgettable and there's very little here that will seem fresh or new to fans of the genre. Even with extras that are better than expected, there is not enough replay value here to lift the DVD past the rental level. And even that is only for hardcore fans of the genre. The average person can safely give it a pass.

Step Up 2 the Streets - Buy from Amazon: DVD and Blu-ray
The dancing genre has been filled with numerous films, all of which tend to follow a similar storyline. There is also a sub-genre of dancing films, 'The Dance Tournament', which is even more filled with cliches.

Briana Evigan stars as Andie, a troubled kid whose only outlet is street dancing. She is one step away from being sent to Texas but is given one last chance by her tough but loving aunt. She has to join Maryland School for the Arts. There she meets a cute guy from a more affluent background, a bunch of students who are classically trained, but have never seen dancing like Andie's before. At this point you can play a game of 'Count the Cliches' but this is a movie that is made to impress you with its dancing, not its script. Sadly the movie fails here as well. Granted, some of the dance scenes do have a lot of energy, but there's not a lot here that makes it stand out compared to other similar films and it just doesn't seem fresh.

On a side note, the movie opens with the dance crew, 410, doing an unannounced public performance of dancing in a subway car. They are chased by the police and the media portrays them like they were some terrorist organization. This really hurt the film for me, as it seemed like it was a total overreaction on the part of the cops, media, and even Andie's aunt. I know, something similar happened with Aqua Teen Hunger Force and their light bright / bomb threat, but this is a case of being too stupid to be in a movie, even though something similar happened in real life.

As for the extras, they are weak for a first run DVD. Extras start off with a making-of featurette that runs 12 minutes and is simple promotional fluff. There are 8 deleted scenes, with optional intros. Each scene runs an average of two minutes, with just under a minute of intro. There are six music videos on the DVD, an introduction to the 410 dancers, and a 2-minute video prank, none of which do much to sell the movie. Things end with an Easter Egg that is easy to find and could interest fans of the movie.

As for the Blu-ray, it has no additional extras, but at least all of the extras (with the exception of the music videos) are presented in High Definition.

Anyone who has seen more than two movies about dancing will find Step Up 2 the Streets very familiar. Not only does it not earn points for originality, what it does present is only mediocre, at best. Comparing the DVD and the Blu-ray releases, the latter doesn't offer anything extra in terms of extras, and at a price that is 40% more. If you are set on buying the movie, the DVD is the better deal. However, since I can't recommend buying either version, it's a moot point.

Swamp Thing - The Series - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Volume two of what I assume will be three volumes. They are going by volumes and not seasons because the first season was 22 episodes, the second was 11, and the third was 39, so it makes more sense to divvy them up into three volumes instead. Like the first volume, the extras here are light with just an interview, but those who purchases that DVD will want to add to their collection with this one.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 22nd. However, the DVD screener arrived early and I was able to get the review done this week.

Transformers - Cybertron - The Ultimate Collection - Buy from Amazon
One of the latest series from the Transformers franchise, which has lasted close to 25 years. Most fans agree that the original series is the best, even if they admit nostalgia might be playing a part with that conclusion. However, while fans might argue which series is the best, this one will not be at the top of the list

The show combines digital animation with anime influenced 2D animation, which is a major mistake, as the two styles simply don't mesh well. This issue is exasperated by the low quality of the digital animation. The show is from 2005, but the animation looks like it is a decade old and was a major roadblock for me to get involved in the story. Additionally, many of the characters didn't feel like their previous incarnations, and some were just plain annoying with voice work that couldn't live up to the original show.

This is a shame, as the story certainly had an epic scope to it. The plot revolves around the quest to find the four Cyber Planet Keys that are needed to close the black hole created by the destruction of Unicron at the end of Energon. These keys were hidden long ago on four planets, Earth being one of them. (Amazing how Earth always seems to be at the center of these ancient plots.) The other planets include a speed world, a beast world, and a giant world, so there are a lot of characters in the series, including the return of many fan favorites. The epic scope of the story and the return of so many older characters should have made it a fan favorite, but the results are merely mixed given the weak animation and unfortunate character choices.

The 7-disc complete series DVD lacks real extras, but there are two versions of the pilot here, Fallen and Inferno.

Transformers - Cybertron suffers from many of the flaws of the most recent cartoons, including animation that is sub-par. Additionally, The Ultimate Collection DVD lacks substantive extras, but the 7-disc set is still a bargain for fans of the show.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 22nd. However, the DVD screener arrived early and I was able to get the review done this week.

TV Funhouse - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A TV series created by Robert Smigel, who is best known for his animated bits on Saturday Night Live and for creating Triumph the Insult Dog. This show is a combination of those two ideas, which should have been an easy path to comedic greatness.

This is a show that aims for bizarre and outrageous, and in this area it hits the mark more often than not and the parody of a Saturday morning kids TV show filled with oversexed animal puppets is fertile ground for adult oriented humor. However, they rarely exhibited any real sense of comedic timing. More times than I care to remember, they took what could have been an interested and funny bit and beat it to death, sometimes before the bit even starts. For instance, there's a parody of Scooby Doo that takes the show A Pup Named Scooby Doo one step further creating Fetal Scooby Doo. It's basically Scooby Doo but everyone is a fetus with a really long umbilical cord. ... That's it. Other than that, it is practically identical to every other Scooby Doo spoof out there. And as I said, before the introduction was finished, the joke was already explained and the actual parody felt unnecessary.

There were some funny bits, which I won't spoil here... okay, one spoiler... I laughed the most at the scene with the puppet cat 'giving birth' to the real life kittens, especially when one tried to climb back. It was a good chance for some improv. However, these were outnumbered by the jokes that just don't work, the jokes that went on too long, or the jokes that were repeated so often they killed the humor. I can't imagine they would have been able to keep the show going for a full season, so it is probably best that it ended after just 8 shows.

On the other hand, for a short-run series, the 2-disc set is packed with extras. All 8 episode have audio commentary tracks by the 3 men most responsible for the show, creator Robert Smigel, writer Dino Stamatopoulos, and actor Doug Dale. As one would expect, the three fill the tracks but they lean to the entertainment side of the spectrum. Other extras include a video commentary with some of the anipals that runs just under seven minutes, but even then it overstays its welcome. There are 8 minutes of outtakes and finally two behind-the-scenes bits. Over on disc two there are two additional appearances by Triumph and a deleted sketch. This is more than one would expect given the show's short run and fans should be happy.

TV Funhouse was a show that lacked the proper comedic timing with too many jokes that went on way too long killing whatever humor was there. Watching an anaconda hack up a big meal might be funny to some, but not when it takes a minute for him to do it. And the second time they use the same gag, it is even less funny. That said, the show does have a cult following, and for them The Complete Series is certainly worth picking up. If you have never seen the show before by like some of Robert Smigel's work on Saturday Night Live, then you should check it out, but give it a rental first.

Veggie Tales - Tomato Sawyer and Huckleberry Larry's Big River Rescue - Buy from Amazon
The latest movie may have disappointed at the box office, but the direct-to-DVD series is still going strong. This time around they use the Mark Twain story to give a lesson on helping others and fans of the franchise should be excited to see the DVD is coming out this week.

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation - Buy from Amazon
This film opened with a per theater average of below $5,000, which is usually the level that separates those films that survive in limited release, and those that do not. (To really thrive, a per theater average of $10,000 or more is usually a good start.) However, while it wasn't a break out hit, it did hold on well and was one of the bigger foreign language hits of the year so far.

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation is set in Brazil in 1970 during Brazil's run at the World Cup. However, while the movie has soccer as a central part of the film, at its heart is a coming of age tale set in a politically tumultuous time. Mauro, who is the child protagonist, is left with his grandparents after his left-wing parents are forced to go underground. However, his grandfather promptly dies and he is left in the care of the neighbors. Having a ten-year old kid as you main character is risky for a movie, but actor Michel Joelsas does a wonderful job here, and the script manages to avoid most of the usual cliches, as it deftly avoids being sentimental. One of the better films I've seen this year, and it is certainly worth checking out.

Looking at the extras, the DVD is not overwhelmed with extras, but there are more than most imports have. There is a 16-minute interview with the director, Michel Joelsas, and others, which is in ... Portuguese, I think. (They speak Portuguese in Brazil, right?) But there are English subtitles, so that doesn't matter. Next up is a 10-minute making-of featurette, also in Portuguese with English subtitles. It is the usual mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the movie. Finally, there is a section with outtakes and two extended scenes. There's no audio commentary, but since it is a foreign language film, this is not surprising.

The Year My Parents Went on Vacation hits all of the right notes and comes together without relying on melodrama, sentimentality, or cliches. Add in extras that are better than expected, and the DVD is easily worth checking out, and is worth picking up over just renting.


Filed under: Video Releases, Step Up 2 the Streets, Shutter, Penelope, Never Forever, O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias