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DVD Releases for August 26, 2008 - Part II

August 26th, 2008

TV on DVD is starting to dominate the weekly DVD releases, including the top tier releases. In fact, four of the top five picks for the week are TV on DVD. However, while Heroes - Blu-ray - Season One & Season Two, NCIS - The Fifth Season, and The Shield - The Complete Season Six are all easily contenders for the crown, Nightmare Before Christmas - Collector's Edition on DVD or Blu-ray is the DVD Pick of the Week. One last note, it's been another big week for total releases, and the list had to be split into two. You can part Part I here.

Postal - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Edition, Unrated Edition, and Blu-ray
This film was actually better than expected, and by better than expected, I mean it was still absolutely terrible, but not easily the worst movie of the year. It was among the worst movies of the year, but not the absolute worst. At the box office it was another story as the movie was bounced around several release dates before settling on May 23rd. It then went from a wide release to a limited release after no theater chains would book it. Then it did so poorly during its opening weekend that they didn't even bother to release box office numbers. (Although I've read second hand reports than it made $1,800 during its opening day.) There are three versions coming out this week, none are worth buying, renting or looking at directly without protective eyewear. On a side note, the Blu-ray is actually the cheapest of the three, but still avoid it at all costs.

The Presidents Collection - Buy from Amazon
A 17-disc, 35-hour DVD box set on the American presidents, from Theodore Roosevelt to George H.W. Bush.

35 hours.

I emphasize that part because... well... the DVD is 35 hours long! And no, I didn't watch all of it, I don't think anyone can expect me to watch the entire DVD, certainly not with a full slate of other DVDs to review this week. I did check out several of the stories, starting with...

  • The Kennedys
    Starting with Joseph Kennedy, who rose in the world of business and then in politics, so much so that he dreamed of becoming the first Catholic president of the United States. But the start of World War II and Joseph's thought that Germany would win caused a sense of defeatism that killed his career, which was followed by several tragedies over the coming years. The nearly 4-hour program continues to JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Edward Kennedy, all of whom had presidential ambitions of their own.
  • Nixon
    At nearly three hours, this program is still shorter than the movie I recently reviewed. This program starts out at the end of his term, which ended in disgrace, and goes to the beginning to see how his rise started. This new rise seemed to be predicated on anti-Communist hysteria, as well as a lot of dirty campaign tricks. That's not to say JFK ran a clean campaign, but this was a new level that should have tipped people off on what kind of president he would be. (And don't blame that on losing to Kennedy, because Nixon ran dirty campaigns right from the beginning.) On a side note, Gerald Ford isn't even given a footnote here.
  • George H. W. Bush
    I like George H. W. Bush and thought he was a good president (I also agreed with him calling Reagan's economics 'Voodoo Economics'). I was looking forward to this particular program, and it was interesting to learn more about him. Watching this, it would have been better had he topped Reagan in 1980 Republican primary; I especially liked the comparison between what Reagan pretended to be in his films, and what Bush was in real life. On a side note, I found it strange that they specifically called Joseph Kennedy anti-Semitic, but they completely ignored Prescott Bush's connection to the Nazi regime. Perhaps it is because those events hurt Joseph Kennedy while Prescott's connections never seemed to cause political harm to the Bush family, which is something I've never been able to fully understand.
Extras on the 17-disc set are light, with most discs only having teacher's guides in .PDF format, while a few have additional video clips. Only Woodrow Wilson's 2-disc program has substantial extras. However, at 35-hours long, additional features are not needed.

For history buffs or for political junkies, The Presidents Collection is an amazing DVD to grab. Most won't have the endurance to get through it all, especially not in one sitting, but there is a huge value here for those interested and for them it is easily worth buying. In fact, if you are a teacher, then it is certainly worth picking up, because you could have your entire semester plan worked around it, and then you would make your kids read a single textbook for the entire year. Awesome plan.

Purple Violets - Buy from Amazon
Edward Burns started out writing and directing and starring in The Brothers McMullen, which was a box office and critical success. He has never recaptured that level of success since then. His latest film, Purple Violets, isn't even getting a theatrical release, premiering originally on iTunes. The film is a functional romantic comedy starring Edward Burns, Debra Messing, Selma Blair, Patrick Wilson, and Donal Logue. It's worth checking out, but odds are for most people, a rental will be enough.

Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
An adaptation of a novel by the Marquis de Sade, this film takes the premise that the corruption of power can only be brought about by the will of the people. In this film, the setting is changed from 1700s to World War II; however, it fits in almost any time period. That said, while the message is effective, the film itself is difficult to watch. (You have to remember that the word "Sadism" is based on Marquis de Sade, which should be a fair warning to all.) Extras live up to Criterion's normal standards with three documentaries and two featurettes housed on the second disc, as well as the nearly ever-present booklet. Worth checking out for most, but I don't think many will want to sit through it more than once, so a rental will be enough.

The Shield - The Complete Season Six - Buy from Amazon
The penultimate season of this long running cable show. Season six starts off where season five left off, which I won't spoil here, just in case you haven't seen any of this show yet. In which case, grab Season One.

This is the kind of show that is made for TV on DVD. It draws you in from the start and you want to watch it all as fast as possible. (Waiting a week for each installment is just not acceptable.) However, because there are so many threads, it is nearly impossible review the series without letting too many spoilers drop. Threads here include Vic's impending retirement (which is not his idea, of course), Kavanaugh's pursuit to catch Vic at all costs (even if he has to break more laws than Vic), as well as dealing with the fallout from Lem's death at the end of season five that gets more and more complicated as the season goes on.

Extras on the four-disc set are incredible with all ten episodes having either an audio commentary or deleted scenes, and most have both. In addition, there are three featurettes, the first being Saturns's Sons on disc one. This 30-minute featurette on the making of season six and features talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the movie. Two Directors talks about some of the directors that worked on this season, but the mainly focus on ... two of them. Hence the name. Finally, Full Circle: Franka Potente is a 14-minute featurette on Franka Potente, who has a recurring role this season as a... well, that would be a major spoiler.

Finally, there are subtitles, no play all buttons, and the way the credits are set up, proper chapter placement is more or less moot. Season Six of The Shield is a must have for fans of the series, and if you haven't seen the series so far, start with Season One. The final season starts in September, and I can't wait.

Son of Rambow - Buy from Amazon, Maybe
I hope this DVD is coming out this week, the link to Amazon is completely dead, but other sources say it is making its home market debut on the 26th.

Son of Rambow is a coming of age story between two unlikely friends who bond over their attempts to make a movie. Bill Milner plays Will Proudfoot, a young boy whose strict religious sect forbids him from associating too much with the outside world, this includes a ban on TV and movies... movies like Rambo. (I know that's not the actual name of the movie, but bear with me.) Lee Carter, played by Will Poulter, is an outsider for another reason. His family life is rough with an absent mother and a brother who is just not equipped to be a parental figure. Without a parental figure in his life, he tends to bully those below him in the pecking order, which includes Will, at least to start with. Their relationship changes from one kid bulling / conning another for opportunistic reasons, to one of genuine friendship. It was certainly the heart of the movie.

Extras on the DVD include an audio commentary track with the two boys, as well as Garth Jennings, the director, and Nick Goldsmith, the producer. Like they say early on, this is not a technical commentary that delves deep into the symbolism of the movie, but it is a load of fun. Next up is a making-of featurette that runs 26 minutes, that is a mix of talking heads, behind-the-scenes footage, and clips from the movie. Like the audio commentary track, it tends to lean towards the entertainment end of the spectrum. There's a short film, Aron, that was made by Garth Jennings, which inspired this movie. Finally, there's another short film, this time the 5-minute short that won the Son of Rambow website contest.

Son of Rambow was one of many, many potential sleeper hits of the past summer, but while it earned very good reviews, it never found an audience. The DVD isn't overloaded with extras, but there's more than enough here to raise it past the rental stage and to a solid purchase.

Redbelt - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
One of several potential sleeper hits of the past summer than never managed to really escape its limited release roots. The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and was written and directed by David Mamet. So far so good. It's about Mixed Martial Arts. Huh. While it seems like a strange mixed of talent of subject matter, the film is rather good and deserved to be seen by more. As for the DVD, it is loaded. Extras include an audio commentary track, behind-the-scenes featurette, interview with David Mamet, featurettes on Mixed Martial Arts, and more. This is better than most wide release earn. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray has some BD-Live extras, which are not online yet, while all the above extras are presented in High Definition. All for just $2. Worth picking up for sure, and worth paying extra for High Definition.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld Collection - Buy from Amazon
Love the books, but these cartoons are weak. Extras on the 2-disc set include a pilot for the TV series, interview, and more. Worth checking out, but best to start with a rental first.

Three Stooges Collection 3 - 1940-1942 - Buy from Amazon
The third collection of Three Stooges Shorts as part of their chronological releases, which is a godsend to fans after so many years of mixed releases and double-dips.

There are 23 shorts on this 2-disc set, so let's get right to the highlights...

  • You Nazty Spy!
    Larry, Moe, and Curly become dictators in this rare political turn for the trio. In fact, this is the first Hollywood film to spoof Adolf Hitler. A great way to start off the set.
  • A Plumbing We Will Go
    After narrowly escaping conviction, the three are on the run from the cops and hide out in a fancy house pretending to be plumbers. Many feel that the troupe were at there best when they were screwing up relatively normal jobs, like plumbing, and there's plenty of comedy here.
  • From Nurse to Worse
    The three try to get $500 a month from an insurance scam by pretending Curly is nuts, but he pretends to hard and the doctor wants to conduct emergency surgery.
  • No Census, No Feeling
    After being chased by the police, again, the three wind up as census takers, which allows them all sorts of interactions (mostly played as one-shot jokes). However, the short takes off when the three find themselves at a fancy mansion and roped into a bridge game. On a side note, what the hell is alum? And why is it used in so many comedy shorts? I know Bugs Bunny has used it more than once to defeat one of his enemies.
  • So Long Mr. Chumps
    After finding and returning some oil bonds, the trio are offered $5,000 if they can find another honest man with executive abilities. They hear of one such man, but he's in prison, so they decide to go to prison to break him out. But wouldn't you know it, the one time they want to be caught by the police...
  • Dutiful But Dumb
    I loved Cinemaware, which was a company that made video games for the Amiga in the late 80s. One of the games was The Three Stooges, which included an oyster soup game, which is based on this short, or at least part of this short. I loved The Three Stooges game, and others by that company like Defender of the Crown and The King of Chicago. So this short brings back memories, as well as being a great fun on its own.
  • I'll Never Heil Again
    The sequel to You Nazty Spy! This time around the King of Moranica, King Henry the 6 7/8th is trying to reclaim the throne.
  • In the Sweet Pie and Pie
    The Three Stooges play convicts who are to be hanged in the morning, but they become part of a scheme to get an inheritance by marrying three society ladies. Of course, the ladies didn't plan for them to live, so they try to try to get them to leave on their own. Ths short has arguably most famous ending of them all, but I won't spoil it here.
Sadly, there are no extras on the DVD. However, given the age of the shorts, this is not surprising.

About a third of the shorts presented on the Three Stooges Collection 3 are top tier. However, I don't think there's a single short that isn't at least worth checking out, and most have replay value. This is more than enough to recommend buying the DVD, but you might want to start with collections one and two.

Warning: This Blu-ray does not come out this week and makes its home market debut on the 2nd of September. However, the Blu-ray screener arrived early and I was able to get the review done this week.

The Transformers - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
It has been nearly a year since the DVD and the HD DVD. When it first hit High Definition, this was a groundbreaking release. So what has changed?

Thankfully, not much.

The video is the same, the audio has got a smart upgrade to Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track. However, the extras are all the same, right down to my problems connecting to the network. (It's like I'm cursed. And since I was able to download a patch, it can't be a problem on my end.) I'll try again next week to see if things have changed.

The Blu-ray debut of The Transformers is even better than the first time it hit High Definition, but only by a small margin. Additionally, in the time between releases, what was groundbreaking before is now just commonplace for a monster hit such as this. For instance, Picture-in-Picture is relatively common now. That said, it is worth grabbing, especially if you bought the DVD, as there is a mail-in rebate to get $10 back. (Sadly, people who bought just the HD DVD version can't participate in the rebate program.)

Uncounted - The New Math of American Elections - Buy from Amazon
Having secure elections should be the number one priority to everyone in a democracy. Sadly that doesn't seem to be the case. The film won't be remembered as the epitome of filmmaking, but it does have an important message and it delivers it effectively. Extras on the DVD include extended interviews and deleted scenes, and it adds up to a solid purchase. On a side note, I'm rather surprised we haven't seen more political documentaries come out this year.

The Untouchables - Season Two - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Great show, terrible DVD release. I hate split-season sets; granted, 32 episodes is a lot for a DVD, but not so many that they had to split the releases.

Warner Home Video Western Classics Collection - Buy from Amazon
A six-disc set containing six Warner Westerns, all of which are also being released individually. However, the box set is roughly 40% less and it is a much better deal, unless you are only interested in one or two of the movies.

What Happens in Vegas... - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Extended Edition DVD with Digital Copy, or Blu-ray
A weaker than expected movie turned into a bigger than expected hit. It's a lifeless romantic comedy with two incredibly unlikable leads. Extras are acceptable for a first-run release and include audio commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, interviews, etc, but nothing that makes the disc a must have. Meanwhile, the Blu-ray has a built in drinking game, and perhaps being drunk is the only way to find this movie funny. Skip it.

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? - Buy from Amazon
I think the correct term to use here is 'Sophomore Slump.'

Morgan Spurlock's follow-up to Super Size Me takes a look at terrorism with the same attitude as he had when he tackled nutrition in Super Size Me, but only to mixed results. I think part of the problem is the subject seems to deserve a more somber treatment than McDonalds' effect on nutrition did. (Although the numbers show that more people die from poor nutrition, either eating too much fat, calories, etc., or not enough nutrients, than are killed by terrorist attacks, so it should be the more somber topic. But, there's a difference between the numbers and the emotions behind a subject.) The movie is at its best when Morgan Spurlock is just talking to people and listening to the people from all sides (although not everyone wanted to be part of the conversation).

The worst part of the film was the set up. I didn't buy the fact that he went out to find Osama Bin Laden to make the world safer for his upcoming kid. He went there to make a movie. That entire part of the movie could have been trimmed and it would have been for the better.

Extras on the DVD include seven extra bits including an alternate ending, interviews with some Saudi women, a member of the IRA, interview with the Israeli President Shimon Peres, and more. In total they run close to 18 minutes, which is not a lot of extras. However, considering how poorly the movie did at the box office, this isn't bad.

Granted, if you are interested in the subject, you won't learn a lot new from, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?, and if you are can learn a lot from the film, you probably are not interested enough to bother watching. That said, the movie is better than the reviews would indicate and it is worth checking out. However, for most a rental will be enough.

Zoey 101- The Complete 2nd Season - Buy from Amazon
This release confused me. It says this DVD is coming out this week, but on Friday and not Tuesday like almost all other DVDs. At first I thought Amazon had the wrong month (September the 29th is a Tuesday). But it turns out it is part of the CreatSpace at Amazon where they will burn the DVDs on demand for customers. I'm kind of interested to see what the quality is like and if it is worth it, because they might be the best way to get short-run TV shows that were canceled too soon.


Filed under: Video Releases, Transformers, What Happens in Vegas..., Redbelt, Son of Rambow: A Home Movie, Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?, The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior, Purple Violets, Postal