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DVD Releases for August 19, 2008, Part I

August 18th, 2008

This is the week that Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour makes its debut on DVD and Blu-ray. This movie was a huge hit theatrically, so it will be interesting to see how well it sells on the home market. However, while it is certainly a very good deal, I'm not sure it is a real contender for DVD Pick of the Week. For that we have to look to Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles on either DVD or Blu-ray, but there are also a few other releases worth checking out. There are are plenty of other releases, so much so that we had to split this week's list into two. Look for part II here.

Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers Collection - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
The second half of this sci-fi western anime-inspired series is coming out on DVD this week, much to the delight of fans. Perhaps the series hasn't aged too well and what made it fresh and unique before has lost its novelty factor, but it is still worth checking out for fans of cartoons from the 1980s. Additionally, the 4-disc set has a lot more extras that most such releases have, showing the distributor understands that their target audience is adult collectors and not little kids.

Affinity - Buy from Amazon
A costume drama / supernatural mystery that is based on the novel by Sarah Waters.

Anna Madeley stars as Margaret, an upper-crust woman dealing with the recent death of her father who becomes a 'Lady Visitor' at the local women's prison. It is her intent to meet with the prisoners in an attempt to learn more about their nature and perhaps help them in their recovery. There she meets Selina, played by Zoe Tapper, a self-professed spiritualist in prison after an exorcism goes wrong. She grows closer to Selina and the very spirits seem to want to bring them together. However, as we learn more about the two ladies through flashbacks and Margaret's narration, things are not as they seem.

As the LOGO label in the DVD box suggests, this has a lesbian theme to it, which I consider a strong advantage. There are not enough strong roles for women in movies in general, which could explain why in gay and lesbian filmmaking, the former dominates the latter. The novel earned a lot of critical praise, and the adaptation is impeccable. (The screenplay was written by Andrew Davies, who also adapted a number of novels, include the recently released Brideshead Revisited and what is widely considered the best version of Pride and Prejudice ever made.) The acting by the two leads was amazing while the directing and cinematography were also great, but there were a few minor problems. For instance, there were a few camera moves that seemed like they were borrowed from 24 and felt out of place in a Victorian movie. A minor complaint to be sure, but one that I felt was worth mentioning.

Moving onto the extras, there are a substantial number to be found on this DVD, especially for a film that never earned a theatrical release. Things start off with a deleted scene, while there is also a 6-minute making-of featurette and four interviews, one with the original author, Sarah Waters, the screenwriter, Andrew Davis, and the two stars, Anna Madeley and Zoe Tapper. (There are also a number of other extras that appear on a lot of LOGO releases and are not specific to this movie.)

Affinity is a movie that mixes a lot of genres and adds a lesbian twist to it. It builds slowly and will draw in most viewers with its mood and atmosphere, as well as the actors. Extras on the DVD are better than expected and it is worth buying over just renting.

An American Crime - Buy from Amazon
A real life horror story about a terrible crime that took place in the 1960s involving child abuse. Movies like this can be important if they help us understand how and why something like thing could happen. If not, they feel like exploitation. This feels like exploitation. I don't think that was the intent, but it doesn't matter if the film's flaws are there by desire or not, they are still there and prevent me from recommending a rental.

Anthony Bourdain - No Reservations Collection 3 - Buy from Amazon
Didn't this come out on DVD two weeks ago?

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Camp Rock - Extended Rock Star Edition, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, Justice League of America - Season One, Life Before Her Eyes, Monster, Nixon - Election Year Edition, Prom Night, The Proposition, Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 2&3 - Acoustic Reality Experience, The Scorpion King 2 - Rise of a Warrior, Street Kings, Terminator - The Sarah Connor Chronicles - The Complete First Season, and Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Concertos for Double Orchestra - Acoustic Reality Experience
A mixed week for Blu-ray releases. On the one hand, all three first run releases this week are also coming out on Blu-ray, as are a couple limited releases, a TV on DVD release, catalog titles, and more. However, while there are a few releases that are of interest and that should sell, I don't think there are any that have the potential to move hardware, which is what we need at this stage of Blu-ray Adaptation. That said, it would be unusual for such a release to come out at this time of the year, and it is likely we will have to wait till Iron Man makes its Blu-ray debut at the end of September for that to happen.

Camp Rock - Buy from Amazon - DVD or Blu-ray
This is the latest Disney channel made for TV movie musical that is coming out on the home market. These have practically become a genre of their own, but are they a fad, or is there something more to their popularity? Disney is hoping it's the latter since they already have a sequel in the works.

Demi Lovato stars as Mitchie Torres, a young lady who desperately wants to be a singer and to help her with that goal she wants to spend the summer at Rock Camp. However, her parents can't afford to send her there. That is until her mom's catering company gets the contract for the summer allowing Mitchie to attend the camp at a discount. At the same time, rock star Shane Gray is forced to teach at the camp in order to repair his troubled public image, which includes walking out on his band, Connect 3, during a video shoot. (Connect 3 are played the members of the Jonas Brothers, which is apparently a selling point to the movie, although I'm not sure why.) While at the camp, Shane overhears Mitchie singing, but doesn't see her, so he spends the rest of his time trying to find her (sort of a Cinderella story without the glass slipper). Further complicating the plot, Mitchie lies about what her mother does for a living to impress the Queen Bee Tess Tyler (Meaghan Jette Martin) and her two cronies (Ella and Peggy), and these lies start to build, which threatens her friendship with Caitlyn Geller (Alyson Stoner of Cheaper by the Dozen).

The obvious way to judge the film's quality is to compare it to High School Musical, and in my mind it comes up short in nearly every way, but not by a large margin. The character of Mitchie Torres doesn't carry the movie as well as Troy did in High School Musical, while the chemistry between Troy and Gabriella was better, etc. (I think Alyson Stoner matched up well compared to Olesya Rulin, and both were my favorite characters in there respective movies.) Additionally, the story didn't draw me in as well, nor were the songs as catchy. But like I said previously, these are not major flaws, just minor weaknesses that add up and overall it is still worth checking out for the target audience, but I'm not sure there will be as much replay value as there is with High School Musical, nor do I think the franchise will be as successful.

On the other hand, the extras are much better than the High School Musical releases have had so far. Extras are broken up into two groups: Music and Backstage. Music has a couple music videos, a 'Sing Along' version of all the songs and a Karaoke version of the songs. Backstage starts with a six and a half minute long tour of the set. Next up is a nearly 30-minute featurette on how to be a rock star hosted by Alyson Stoner featuring most of the cast and many of the crew. It talks about how to dress like a rock star, how to dance like a rock star, how to act like a rock star, etc. But it is Disney, so it is nicely sanitized (stay in school, don't do drugs, be nice to the people around you). Up next is a 16-minute featurette on the Jonas Brothers, who apparently are popular at the moment, but I've never heard any of their music outside of a Disney production. (Conversely, I have seen a Miley Cyrus music video on Much Music before.) Introducing Demi Lovato does just that, but if you've never heard of her before get ready for a major marketing push as she has another Disney channel movie coming up (two if you count Camp Rock 2) and a Disney TV series as well. Camp Memories is a montage of images set to a song while extras end with rehearsal footage and a discussion of the making of one of the key scenes of movie, the talent show.

The Blu-rayBlu-ray has no additional extras, and most are not presented in High Definition. And the Blu-ray costs more than 50% more than the DVD.

Fans of High School Musical will want to check out Camp Rock. However, the general consensus is that this movie is not as good, and I agree. But for fans the musical, the DVD is worth picking up (the Blu-ray doesn't offer enough for the difference in price).

Chronicle of an Escape - Buy from Amazon
This film opened in the heart of Awards Season but barely earned overall positive reviews. It's hard enough for a limited release to survive, but adding in only moderately strong reviews and the killer competition of Awards Season was too much for this film. It is worth checking out and with extras that include a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, and more, it might be worth picking up instead of just renting. But rent it first.

Dana Carvey - Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies - Buy from Amazon
It's been a long time since Dana Carvey did a stand-up special for HBO; 13 years to be specific. He hasn't lost his touch. In fact, this special might be better than the original, Critics' Choice. Okay, perhaps that is overstating things, but it is still an excellent performance and fans of Dana Carvey, or of stand-up in general, will want to check it out. Extras on the 2-disc set include some deleted bits, a Q&A session, and Critics' Choice in its entirety. Awesome. Easily worth picking up, and perhaps even a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Deal - Buy from Amazon
Poker has never been more popular, enough so that Hollywood has taken notice and in the past few years several films on the subject have been released. However, none have been a big hit, and there's a reason for that.

Bret Harrison plays Alex Stillman, a recent college graduate and up and coming poker player who busts out of a poker tournament but draws the attention of a veteran player, Tommy Vinson, played by Burt Reynolds. Tommy takes Alex under his wing and teaches him the game that he no longer plays due to an addiction to gambling, however, there is a falling out between the two and they end up competing against each other at the world championship.

The thrill of poker, as it is with any form of gambling, is the unknown. Not knowing what the next card could bring. When the game is scripted, it loses a lot of its edge. A player getting sucked out at the river is a lot less impressive when you know some writer made that happen. This is something that is problem with the genre at its very core and something that the filmmakers can't fix. However, Deal has a lot more problems than this. A lot more. The story here is strictly by the numbers and the movie is overloaded with clichés, both in the narrative and visually. Style-wise there is nothing here to set it apart. Worse yet, the performances are terrible with many of the cameos by real poker players topping anything the main cast brought to the table. (And I'm counting Jennifer Tilly's performance as a cameo by a poker professional, which she should take as a compliment.) Antonio Esfandiari certainly is a lot more interesting than either of the two leads.

(Additionally, very early when we see Alex bust out, it is played like he blew it. I don't see what he did wrong. He was short stacked and was dealt suited connectors, he needed to make a play and couldn't wait for the perfect hand. Plus he was in the small blind, so he was getting into the pot at a discount. The flop gave him top pair; granted, his kicker wasn't great, but again, as short stack he had to make a move. And then when the turn gave him top two pair, there's no way he could get away from that. It's not like there was a ton of hands his opponent could have had that could have beaten him, so the way the commentators reacted was unrealistic.)

The only extra on the DVD is a 13-minute poker school featuring Isabelle "No Mercy" Mercier and Greg "Fossilman" Raymer. This is more interesting than the movie itself.

There are not that many movies than have done what Deal did, i.e. earn 0% positive reviews. However, this is not the worst movie I've reviewed. That's not an endorsement and the nearly featureless DVD is best avoided, but I wanted to compliment the movie at least once in this review.

Dexter - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Cable TV again shows they can do it better than network TV. This second season was an improvement from season one, which I recommended as a solid purchase when it came out. At least the episodes are better, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Season one had Dexter battling a serial killer nicknamed the Ice Truck Killer, this time around the main serial killer is called the Bay Harbor Butcher, who has killed even more than the Ice Truck Killer. The twist, Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher. Now he has to do his job, which is to help catch the Bay Harbor Butcher, while preventing the cops from cracking the case. To make matters worse, his girlfriend starts to think he is addicted to heroin and forces him go into rehab. And worse yet, his sponsor, Lila, seems to have more problems than he has. Throughout the season's 12-episode run, the show keeps several threads going at once, including Dexter learning more about his past and his father, his sister getting over finding out that her fiancée was the Ice Truck Killer, Lt. Laguerta trying to get her job back, and other stories. All of these will quickly draw you in and build to an amazing finale.

On the other hand, the extras on the 4-disc set are rather weak. There are a couple 'bonus episodes' for unrelated TV shows, and a couple more that you have to download. There is an interview with the star, Michael C. Hall, but again you have to download it. Finally, like too many Showcase DVD releases, there are no subtitles. However, there are play all buttons and proper chapter placements.

Dexter is a fascinating show that will draw you in. Season Two is better than season one, at least the episodes are. However, the extras are weak. Still worth picking up, but I can't be very enthusiastic about my recommendation.

Fletch Collection - Buy from Amazon
Skip it. I don't care how much you like these movies; this DVD release is crap, since it's just the most recent DVDs in one package. And with Fletch Won still battling through development hell, there's little doubt there will be a proper box set release when that movie finally hits theaters. And another when it hits the home market. And another if they manage to make another sequel. Etc.

A Four Letter Word - Buy from Amazon
A gay romantic comedy that is earning better reviews than most films in its genre do. That said, it is still a niche market film, and it is unlikely to perform well on the home market.

George of the Jungle - Swinging 1st Season - Buy from Amazon
I can't watch this show. It is a pale imitation of the Jay Ward original from 1967.

Gossip Girl - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
This is a show that had some extreme hype backing it up since well before the show first aired, so much so that it would have been a shock if it didn't become a hit. That doesn't seem to be a problem. In fact, the film earned 12 Teen Choice Award nominations, winning 6 of them. Its winning ratio is even better when you realize that it earned multiple nominations in several categories and only failed to win one award it was up for. The extras on the 5-disc set include deleted scenes for most episodes, featurettes on the creation of the show, a featurette on the fashion, and finally a featurette on the wedding. For fans of the show, it is easily worth picking up. For those who have not seen the show, be warned, it is a teenage soap opera.

Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Anyone else see the title to this movie and immediately think of Clerks? If you don't, then I'm not going to explain that reference to you.

Miley Cyrus and her alter ego, Hannah Montana, have gone beyond fad and entered the realm of the cultural phenomenon. Case in point, this movie set record after record when it opened earlier in the year, including but not limited to being the largest opening for a film playing in less than 1,000 theaters and the highest per theater average for a film playing in over 100 theaters. Granted, even its very strong reviews weren't enough to keep it around long and the Fanboy Effect, or should I say Fangirl Effect kicked in quickly. For these fans who went to see the film opening night, or couldn't because the shows were all sold out, then this DVD or Blu-ray release with be a godsend. I'm not sure others will agree.

The genre of music here is certainly pop, and a very smoothly crafted pop like the kind that dominates the charts these days. However, I feel the need to point out that most of my favorite bands started before Miley Cyrus was born. Hell, many of them started before I was born (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rush, etc.). That said, while this is not my preferred genre of music, I will admit that she has a energy to her performance that is infectious at times. The crowd was certainly into the concert.

One of the big selling points for the film is the 3-D, which some probably think was nothing more than a gimmick. ... It's really hard to disagree with that assessment, but sometimes gimmicks can be fun. There were several times where the 3-D effect was really put to great use, including the drumstick being tossed in the air and the camera moving through the sparks from the pyrotechnics, and most of the time it added to the experience. However, the 3-D effect used here is typical of the red/blue anaglyph method of 3-D and is not up to the level of many IMAX films that use polarized light to generate the same effect. (Then again, I don't think the polarized light technology is feasible for home theaters. At least not yet, but I hear they are selling 3-D HDTVs in Japan right now.)

Extras on the DVD include a couple bonus songs, a 'sing-a-long', and an 11 minute and 24 second backstage tour / interview with Miley Cyrus. There's not a lot of in-depth information presented here, but it should be fun to watch. Unfortunately, there are no additional extras on the Blu-ray release, but there are some real benefits. First of all, the Blu-ray looks amazing, and sounds very good as well. (Although the audio is not among the best for Blu-rays that I've reviewed. For instance, I recently reviewed Shine A Light on Blu-ray and that release sounded better than this.) Additionally, the 2-D / 3-D concerts are not split among two discs, which is more convenient, and the price of the Blu-ray is a mere $2.00 more, which is less than 10% difference in price.

For fans of Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour is a great treat and the energy alone is enough to draw people in. Hardcore fans will certainly want to add this concert to their collection, the only question is whether they should go with the DVD or the Blu-ray. Even though the latter offers nothing new except the high definition treatment, that's enough that it is worth spending the extra cash.

Her Best Move - Buy from Amazon
A lot of sites have this movie making its DVD debut tomorrow, which is not entirely true. I don't doubt that it is getting a release tomorrow, but it made its debut nearly two years ago. It appears to have gotten a distributor since last time it was being sold directly on the website. This is great news because it is a good movie and deserves more recognition, and even with a DVD that is devoid of special features, it is worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

House, M.D. - Season Four - Buy from Amazon
Major shakeup at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital as House is forced to take on a new team, and he decides to determine who the best is through a series of tests. Needless to say, given his misanthropy, these are not fun tests for his subjects, but they are fun for the audience. The second main storyline of this season has Wilson falling in love with a fellow doctor, Amber, who is a mirror image of House. This is a strike-shortened season meaning there are only 16 episodes on this DVD, but it is selling at the same MSRP as Season Three. That said, it is still a very strong season and worth adding to your collection. The value is increased thanks to the selection of extras, which includes an audio commentary track on one episode, a featurette on season four, another on the effects, an interview featurette with the cast talking about their favorite episodes, and finally a six-minute look at House's favorite soap opera. Easily worth picking up, and if it wasn't the same MSRP as previous full seasons, it could have been a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Jane and the Dragon - A Dragon's Tale - Buy from Amazon
A computer animated kids show based on a series of books by the same name. In the show Jane is a lady-in-waiting in training who would much rather become a knight. However, that is not the place for a lady during the ninth century. She feels she has a shot at her dream after a dragon kidnaps the prince and she heads off to rescue him. But said dragon, named Dragon, isn't a ferocious monster, just merely annoying at times, and the two become friends while she is made into a squire. It's a fun show and worth checking out, however, I would prefer a full season set.

John Oliver - Terrifying Times - Buy from Amazon
John Oliver is best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show, who has become very popular due in part to his highly honed sense of dry wit. This is his first comedy special, which aired on Comedy Central earlier in the year.

Topics include religion, politics, history, being British, and such, while he is occasionally joined by fellow Brit, Andy Zaltzman. And there's great news; no matter what topic he's on, nearly all of his material hits its mark. I'm not going to spoil any of the jokes, but I will say the humor is politically informed, a little on the dry side, and extremely witty. (I especially liked in the interplay between John and Andy, which we see more of on the special features.) Not only is the main program great, the comedy starts before the main program with John Oliver talking through the opening menu.

And on a side note, 'soccer' is a British term. It comes from Association Football. So I'm not sure why a British man would have such a difficult time with that word.

As for the extras, they are three main sections. Firstly, there are a quartet of appearances by John Oliver on The Daily Show. Next up is a live performance by John Oliver at the UCB Theater where he performs some of the same material as seen in the main program, but additional jokes that I guess didn't make the cut. And yes, the Pyrex beaker joke was funnier that the crowd reaction implied. Finally, there's an interview of John by Andy on a number of subjects, which shows off their dry wit and British sensibilities. (There is also a short Easter Egg found on the DVD Extras menu that is easy enough to find.)

If you are a fan of The Daily Show and have seen John Oliver in action, this is a great DVD to pick up. If you have never seen The Daily Show or heard of John Oliver, it is still worth checking out. Extras are better than most stand up concert releases get and it is certainly worth the money.

Life Before Her Eyes - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film opened in limited release with terrible reviews and never found an audience during its short theatrical run. The DVD does have better extras than this would indicate, audio commentary track, deleted scenes, a trio of making of featurettes, and Eva Amurri's casting reel, but none of that's enough to make up for the quality of the movie. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray offers nothing new, but it only costs 25% more, which is not bad for this type of release.

Married... with Children - The Complete Ninth Season - Buy from Amazon
This series lasted eleven seasons, and for most of that time is was great entertainment, as long as you had a high tolerance for humor that is not PC. Of the show's eleven seasons, only seasons seven and eleven were rather weak, but it is clear by season nine that the show was winding down and its run was nearly over. But let's concentrate on the highlights.

  • Shoeway to Heaven
    Al and Jefferson discover vintage shoes that Al hid during the 70s that are now worth a bundle.
  • Driving Mr. Boondy
    Bud Bundy gets a job at the DMV, just in time for Al Bundy's driving test.
  • Business Sucks & Business Still Sucks
    Al bans breast-feeding in the shoe store, so several new mothers protest in his store. On a side note, this episode marks an early appearance by Bob Rooney, one of my favorite of Al's friends. He made a number of appearances over the final three seasons of the show.
  • Dial B for Virgin
    Bud mans a Virgin hotline, but the B-story is the key here. Al and Peg try and rent a movie, which turns into one of the most quotable parts of the series. "How about this: Four Weddings and a Funeral" "That's kind of like five of the same thing, isn't it?" More than ten years later and I still remember that joke.
  • I Want My Psycho Dad: Part 1 & 2
    Who's that riding into the sun.
    Who's the man with the itchy gun.
    Who's the man who kills for fun !
    Al's favorite TV show, Psycho Dad gets canceled, so the gang from NO MA'AM decide to protest, going all the way to Washington.
  • The Naked and the Dead, But Mostly the Naked
    The guys have to take their wives to the nudie bar to prove it's just a little harmless fun.
  • User Friendly
    Al tries to figure out what a light switch does and enlists the help of his friends to do so. Hijinks and pain ensues. I love seeing the gang of morons hurt themselves over and over again. It's like a Wile E Coyote cartoon.
  • Radio Free Trumaine
    Keri Russel guest stars in what was obviously an attempt at a spin-off that didn't pan out. I can't believe Top of the Heap made it but this show didn't.
On the downside, there are not one, but two Clips shows this season, Best of Bundy and My Favorite Married... Additionally, there are no extras on the 3-disc set, as well as no subtitles. There are play all buttons and proper chapter placements.

Married... with Children is nearing its end on the home market, and while The Complete Ninth Season is not among the best the show has to offer, it is still worth picking up for those who have been collecting the show thus far.


Filed under: Video Releases, Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, Prom Night, Monster, Street Kings, The Proposition, Life Before Her Eyes, A Four Letter Word, Deal, Crónica de una fuga