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DVD Releases for October 7, 2008 - Part I

October 7th, 2008

It's not a good week for first-run releases, as there's not a single one from that group that would get serious contention for DVD Pick of the Week. However there are a number of other contenders, including classic releases Sleeping Beauty - Two-Disc Platinum Edition - on Blu-ray and Ray Harryhausen - Ultimate Collector's Giftset on DVD or Blu-ray. There as also a couple of TV on DVD picks to look at like 30 Rock - Season Two and Robot Chicken - Season Three. The final release this week that I would like to give a shout out to is Jack Brooks - Monster Slayer on DVD. (Finally, there are a couple of late spotlight reviews that are worth picking up: NCIS - Season Five and Ghost Whisperer - Season Three.) One last note. While first run releases were weak, the overall list was long and the second part of my run-down can be found here.

30 Rock - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Tina Fey turned her star turn on SNL with a starring role in this show. The show got off to a great start the first season, earning ten Emmy nominations, including two wins. However, its second season earned 17 nominations, including seven wins! (This includes four nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series and three for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.) This is a must-have TV on DVD set, even before looking at the extras on the two discs, but the extras are actually better than last time around, which is great because the number of episodes is down by about 33% due to the strike. Audio commentary tracks increased from five, which is a good number, to ten, which is an amazing number. It also has deleted scenes, script readings, a live performance, backstage interviews, etc. Just an awesome selection and enough to make this a strong contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Alfred Hitchcock - Legacy Collection - Buy from Amazon: Psycho, Rear Window, and Vertigo
Three Hitchcock films coming out on DVD, again. Granted, Psycho, Rear Window, and Vertigo are simply amazing movies, but this is not the first time they've been released on DVD. For that matter, I don't think it's the second or third. It is the best, but there comes a time when the declining marginal value takes over. If you don't have the films on DVD, these are absolute must-have releases. If you do, then it becomes a matter of how big of a fan you are, or if you are willing to wait for the Blu-ray releases, which can't be that far behind.

Alice Faye Collection - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
Five more films starring Alice Faye from the late 1930s to the mid-1940s. This 5-disc set doesn't include her best movie, but fans of films from the era should still be pleased with the selections. These films can also be purchased separately, but at nearly twice the price.

Allo 'Allo! - Complete Series Nine - Buy from Amazon
A British TV series that started out great, but by the end was only a shadow of its former self. Even hardcore fans will admit the ninth and last season it not really worth buying, unless you are a completist. Also coming out tomorrow is The Complete Series Megaset, but since the last few series are not really worth it, it's not a deal.

The Backyardigans - Escape from Fairytale Village - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian digitally animated kids show, which has become a big hit on Nick Jr. and there have been more than a dozen DVD releases so far. Clearly this show is a hit with kids, but there's little outside appeal.

The Beverly Hillbillies - The Official Second Season - Buy from Amazon
A lot of people are confused about the term 'official' in the title. Here's the thing, originally the first 55 episodes were released on DVD, but they were done not using the original negatives but really old prints. Needless to say, the audio and video quality was less than ideal. Now Paramount is releasing the show using the original negatives, but it is releasing the second season first in order to prove they are nuts as well. Okay, that's not entirely true, but I don't have a sensible reason for what they are doing.

Blu-ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, The Amityville Horror (1979), Beetlejuice, Body Heat, Carrie, Erin Brockovich, Foo Fighters - Live At Wembley Stadium, The Happening w/ Digital Edition, Interview with a Vampire, Korn - Live on the Other Side, The Original Faces of Death: 30th Anniversary Edition, The Omen (1976), The Omen (2006), Otis - Uncut, Ray Harryhausen Collection, Sleeping Beauty w/ DVD copy, Tudors - Season One, The Visitor, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, and Young Frankenstein
A great collection of Blu-ray releases this week, but not much at the top. The biggest first run release coming out this week is The Happening, which is not selling well on Blu-ray, or DVD, for that matter. The biggest selling Blu-ray release of the week appears to be Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray, which is a little shocking as kids movies have not done particularly well on Blu-ray yet. (The second best seller according to is Beetlejuice on Blu-ray, which is awesome.)

Boy A - Buy from Amazon
A British movie about a young man who committed a horrible crime as a kid and is now trying to adjust to life after he's released from prison. Because of his age at the time of the crime, he and his accomplice could not be named in the press, so they were referred to as Boy A and Boy B, hence the name of the movie. The film earned excellent reviews but never found an audience domestically, and now it is being released on a featureless DVD. That's unfortunate, but it is still worth checking out.

Brotherhood - The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon
A British TV series set in Ireland about two brothers, one a gangster, the other a politician. (You can insert your own joke about who is the bigger criminal here.) The series is shown here on Showtime, which has some great shows of its own. However, like many of their releases, the extras are a little light while the price per minute is a little high. Still, worth checking out.

Cyborg Soldier - Buy from Amazon
The first of three direct-to-DVD films coming out this week featured in a spotlight review. The term mediocre is hardly a compliment, but compared to most such releases, it should be.

The film stars Rich Franklin as Isaac, a genetically engineered cyborg super soldier, who escapes from the facility where he was created. He comes across a border guard, played by Tiffani Thiessen, who helps him run from the group sent to retrieve him, a group led by Bruce Greenwood. My expectations for this film were low, and at most I was hoping it would be an effective time-waster, and it was. Rich Franklin is a former UFC champion, so he can handle the action scenes well. Also, his character is not supposed to be quite human, so lack of acting skills can be attributed to that and are more acceptable. The script actually does more than just there to set up the action scenes, and overall it is entertaining, which is its main goal.

On the other hand, there are no extras on DVD.

Perhaps it is just low expectations, or perhaps its because I watched this movie after Kill Switch, but I thought Cyborg Soldier was actually worth checking out. However, it's not a great movie and it is coming out on a featureless DVD, so it is just worth a rental.

Doctor Who - Buy from Amazon: Episode 84 - The Brain of Morbius and Episodes 144 to 147 - The Trial of a Time Lord
The Brain of Morbius is a very Frankenstein-like story involving a mad scientist who is trying to revive one of the greatest criminals in the galaxy. The Trial of a Time Lord encompassed the entire 23rd season of the show, which is rather unique for the series. The four-part story has the Doctor on trial for breaking the First Law of Time, which is like the Prime Directive of Star Trek. Both DVDs are loaded with extras, and even the high price shouldn't scare away fans.

Dora the Explorer - Dora Celebrates Three Kings Day! - Buy from Amazon
Dora the Explorer is a kids show that aims to help kids develop Spanish language skills, as well as teaching kids about other cultures. The show follows the "ask and pause" format, which has the lead characters ask the kids questions, and then pause for a response. This allows kids to feel that they are a part of the show. It also allows critics to have some fun by playing along by giving inappropriate responses. I'm sure parents do the same thing when they watch with their kids.

The latest DVD release includes four episodes, starting with...

  • Dora Saves Three Kings Day - Dora, Diego, and Boots dress up for Three King's Day and ride to the party on an elephant, camel, and horse, but when Swiper tries to steal their treats, the animals get away and you have to help them find the animals again.
  • Isa's Unicorn Flowers - Dora and Isa grow and collect various flowers, including one that looks likes a unicorn's horn, which causes a unicorn to show up. But when he becomes trapped, you must help him find a rainbow so he can get back home.
  • Benny's Big Race - Benny the Bull is going to be part of his first race, but his go-cart falls apart, so Dora and Boots have to help him complete the race. However, sudden and inexplicable wheel loss is not his only problem.
  • The Backpack Parade - Dora and Boots dress up their backpacks in costumes for a parade. Huh?
There are no extras on this DVD, nor are there subtitles or proper chapter placements, but there is a play all button.

Dora the Explorer is a hugely popular show for pre-school kids, and Dora Celebrates Three Kings Day! is just the latest DVD release from the franchise. Sadly, the DVD doesn't offer any additional value added features, but for fans who bought previous DVDs, this one is worth checking out, and the episodes have enough replay value for their target audience that it is worth picking up.

Feast 2 - Sloppy Seconds - Buy from Amazon
The original Feast was a low budget horror film, which was a blend of splatter film and comedy. This film tries to amp up the gore, and tries to increase the humor as well. It's more successful in the former.

The film starts shortly after the events of the first film when Biker Queen, sister to Harley Mom arrives at the bar and sees the aftermath, including the corpse of her sister, and she vows revenge, dragging the Bartender along with her and her biker gang. Meanwhile, in a neighboring town, the monsters are terrorizing the town killing off most of the population. The few survivors band together with the biker gang and try to survive. It doesn't go well.

A lot of the horror is gone, replaced with pure spatter, and they try to increase the humor and / or the level of campiness, which wasn't successful. I find that too much gore, no matter how well done, gets repetitive. You need moments of calm to build up the mood and suspense. But this is hard to do and having a lot of blood hit the screen is easy. Also, nearly all of the attempts at campy humor missed. One scene involved one of the monsters raping a cat. Yes, you read that right. According to the audio commentary track, they thought it was funny, but it was just stupid. Stupid and the scene lasted way too long. Additionally, too many of the characters were 100% unsympathetic. The two Mexican wrestlers, Thunder and Lightning, as well as Biker Queen were the only new characters that were even remotely sympathetic (the wrestlers' grandmother "died" too soon to care about, and the biker gang members never showed as distinct enough characters and were there either to be victims or to be shown topless). Honey Pie, who was one of the most hated characters of the first film actually comes across as a nice person in this movie, at least compared to the used car salesman. Since I didn't care about most of the characters, and I found the gore uninteresting, and the humor lame, there was very little to keep my attention here.

Extras include an audio commentary track, a 12-minute long making-of featurette, and another featurette on Gulager family, which has three generations on both sides of the camera. They're worth checking out for fans of the movie, but they don't have a whole lot of replay value.

No one goes to see a movie called Feast 2 - Sloppy Seconds thinking it is going to be an award winner. However, it wasn't able to match my low expectations. It was weaker than the first movie in just about every way. Granted, it is likely still worth renting for fans of this type of horror movie, but that's as far as I would go.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut last month. However, the DVD screener arrived late and during a very busy time, hence the delay in the review.

Ghost Whisperer - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
Getting caught up. Hopefully this time next week I will be completely caught up on all of the DVDs that arrived late. ... Assuming no more late DVDs arrive this week.

Season three of Ghost Whisperer continues where Season Two left off, namely Melinda Gordon finding out that there is a light and a dark side to the afterlife, and that there's a dark Ghost Whisperer trying to get people to be trapped on the dark side. (On a side note, this reminds me of the Tru Calling and its dark counterpart.) This season we also are introduced to a new storyline, which deals with the secrets of the origins of the town that partially explains all of the dark happenings in Grandview. While this storyline plays a large part in season 3, there are also a number of stand-alone episodes that are great, including one where a businessman is haunted by a ghost that thinks he is Santa Claus. Despite being cut short by the strike, Ghost Whisperer season three is as strong as ever and certainly worth checking out.

Extras are found on the first two discs, which is strange as extras are usually found on the last disc. They included audio commentary tracks on the season premiere, as well as an animated short that looks like an animated comic book and seven more webisodes from The Other Side. Welcome to the Underground talks about the new theme and story arc that comes out this season, and it includes looks at several new sets, and it's the best extra on disc one. Disc two has two featurettes: Bringing the Spirits to Life and Payne’s World. The first is eleven and a half minutes long and deals with how the special effects brings the ghosts to life. The second featurette is on the character Professor Rick Payne, which is played by Jay Mohr. Sadly, Jay Mohr is leaving the show, which is a terrible. I hope the show doesn't suffer too much. Finally, there are three interactive features that I couldn't quite review properly because my PS3 was shorted out by a power surge (while I was reviewing The Three Stooges) and I was using my old DVD player and the remote control is broken. There is a haunted house, an interactive diary, and a scary scene creator.

One last note, the season was shortened by the strike, which makes the price per minute a little higher than before, but not so much so that I'm upset by it.

Ghost Whisperer slumped a bit in the ratings during Season Three, so much so that some were worried it would not be brought back for season four. However, this is not indicative of the overall quality of the season. For fans of the show, Season Three is certainly worth picking up. Others should give the show a try, as it is better than most people give it credit for.

Halloween - Three-Disc Unrated Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
I can't recommend this DVD for two main reasons. One, I didn't like the movie when I reviewed it the first time. Two, it hasn't been that long since it was first released on DVD.

The Happening - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
M. Night Shyamalan's latest film, and his worst, at least according to Rotten Tomatoes. It did bounce back at the box office compared to Lady in the Water, but that's hardly a compliment. Extras on the DVD include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes, interviews, and more. There's not a lot here to compensate for the quality of the film, and I can't recommend the DVD for more than a rental.

Holiday in Handcuffs - Buy from Amazon
Melissa Joan Hart stars in a Christmas movie about a woman who kidnaps a date for Christmas, but despite this introduction, the two fall in love. This is not really a spoiler; the film is just that predictable. Also coming out this week under the same banner is Snow and Snowglobe.

How I Met Your Mother - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
Neil Patrick Harris is an incredibly funny person and probably should have won the Emmy. However, he and Alyson Hannigan are the only reasons to watch this show. Frankly, that's not enough for me to recommend it. I do recommend checking out Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which I can't wait to get on DVD.

Jack Brooks - Monster Slayer - Buy from Amazon
A low-budget Canadian horror / comedy about a plumber with anger management issues who gets to let loose when a professor accidentally unleashes monsters on his home town. Horror / comedy is a hard genre to get right, but most critics agree that the filmmakers did just that. Additionally, the DVD is loaded with extras, starting with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, a 50-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a 15-minute featurette on the special effects, a featurette on the score, the World premiere in Spain, and finally storyboard comparisons. Easily worth picking up for fans of the genre, and even a contender of the Canadian DVD Puck of the Week.

Jean-Pierre Melville - Double-shot - Buy from Amazon: Le Deuxième Souffle and Le Doulos
Criterion Collection is putting out two movies by Jean-Pierre Melville on DVD this week: Le Deuxième Souffle and Le Doulos, both of which are classics. Extras on the two discs include commentary tracks, interviews, and essays, and they are both worth picking up for fans of the filmmaker, or of French films in general.

Joy Ride 2 - Dead Ahead - Buy from Amazon
Just a quick note that this direct-to-DVD sequel to Joy Ride is coming out this week. I'm supposed to receive a screener, but it appears to be late.

Keeping Up with the Kardashians - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
I might be the only person on the planet who hasn't seen Kim Kardashians' ... um ... "film debut." It probably has better production values than Disaster Movie, which is her first theatrical release. (On a side note, I've read more than one review that said she was arguably the best part of that movie.) As for this show, it's a Reality TV series featuring a bunch of people who really haven't done enough to deserve to be on TV. I appreciate the fact that Kim Kardashians is starving herself to fit in with the "Way-Too-Thin" fashion trend, but that's not enough to recommend this DVD.

Kill Switch - Buy from Amazon
A movie starring, and written by, Steven Seagal. ... At least he didn't try to direct it.

It all seriousness, I went into this movie with an open mind. I wasn't expected cinematic greatness. After all, it is a direct-to-DVD release, and these are not known from their high quality. That said, I was not prepared for just how bad this movie was. Everything from the writing to the acting to the directing was substandard. Not even the fight scenes could elevate this movie above rock bottom. (There was one particular scene early in the movie where Seagal throws a bad guy through a window and they show it again, and again, and again. It was just too much to take. The script was full of clichés, Seagal's whisper acting is worse than Caruso's squat and squint style of acting, and the director seemed to think fast cuts and repeating action scenes would be enough to cover for Seagal's obvious inability to handle fight scenes. It's not even bad in a fun way.

Moving onto the extras, there are none. But at least that means I don't have to listen to someone on a commentary track defend this crap.

Kill Switch is not the worst movie I've reviewed, but it is close enough. No amount of extras on the DVD would lift it to a rental, and they don't even bother trying. Truly worth skipping.

Martin - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
The fifth and final season of the show that brought us Martin Lawrence. Easily the worst season, but if you've collected the previous four, $22 might be worth it just to complete your collection. However, I can see a lot of fans giving up at this point.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Buy from Amazon
An Emmy-nominated TV movie starring Dermot Mulroney, Gretchen Mol, and Emily Watson. The film starts in 1964 with Dr. David Henry helping his very pregnant wife, Nora get to the hospital to give birth. But the contractions are too close and they'll never make it on time. They instead head to the local clinic, but a minor car accident prevents the doctor from getting there in time, so David must make the delivery himself. They are surprised by the birth of twins, the second of them is a girl born with Down Syndrome, which wasn't understood at the time. He's worried about what it would do to his wife, who was over medicated and unconscious during the second birth, so he instructs the nurse to take her away to a home, but when she sees the conditions there, she decides to keep it herself. This all happens in the first 15 minutes. The rest of the film deals with the consequences of these actions over the next 25 years.

This is a Lifetime TV movie, and a lot of people have negative opinions of such films, and they are commonly described as tearjerkers, or worse. However, while this movie certainly has a heavy emotional edge to it, it is not manipulative in how it handles the drama. Definitely worth watching, especially for fans of the book, for the most part. A few of the secondary characters from the novel didn't make it into the adaptation, but this is to be expected, since TV movies have a rather strict timeframe and if they included all of the characters, the movie would have been three hours long. So if your favorite characters were Doro, Leo, or Rosemary, then you might be disappointed with the movie.

Sadly, there are no extras on the DVD.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter tells a touching story in a way that is emotional, but not manipulative, which is trickier than it sounds. When the movie first aired on TV, it was seen by more than 5 million people, the most of any cable program that week, so there clearly was an audience that it tapped into. However, the DVD is completely devoid of special features, which hurts its overall value. It is still worth checking out for fans of such movies, but I'm not sure there's enough replay value to warrant picking up over just renting. Call it a solid rental, maybe a weak purchase.

Michael Palin - Double-Shot - Buy from Amazon: Full Circle and Hemingway Adventure/Great Railway Journeys
Michael Palin adventures are arguably the best travelogues I've ever seen. However, Full Circle is certainly better than Hemingway Adventure/Great Railway Journeys, even at the higher price.

Midsomer Murders - Set 11 - Buy from Amazon
Great show, but 4 episodes for $37 is a lot. Even with 100-minute episodes, its price per minute is a little high, especially with weak extras. Then again, people who pick up a lot of imports are used to the price issue, as well as the lack of substantive extras.

Mission: Impossible - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
Great show, but at this point it was starting to show its age. This is the last season with Leonard Nimoy and the only season with Lesley Ann Warren. This is the only season where the show didn't earn any Emmy nominations, although it stop earning multiple Emmy nominations after the third season. Still worth checking out for most, picking up for fans.

The Munsters - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A complete series Megaset with a bonus episode not found on either of the full season sets. However, you can buy Family Portrait separately.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut at the end of August. However, the DVD screener arrived late, and at a very busy time, hence the long delay in the review.

NCIS - Season Five - Buy from Amazon
Season Five starts off where Season Four left off, with the director using the team to go after an international arms dealer, one that she has a personal grudge with. The story concludes this season, with explosive results. ... Hmmm pun.

(In reality, while there is an explosion in that episode, I was kind of disappointed in the way the story just fizzled at the end. It felt rather anti-climactic given the build up.)

Season five is usually when shows start to show their age, if they make it this long, but NICS is still going strong. In fact, ratings-wise, it had its best season, reaching the top 10. This is an amazing feat, especially given the number of police procedural shows. This one sets itself apart from the competition for a number of reasons, including the cast of characters, all of whom have their own little quirks that keep things interesting. Additionally, the writing is strong, even if the Naval setting tends to be underused at times. (There are a number of shows that could take place on CSI or Law & Order with only minor tweaks.) However, the writing is uniformly strong, and it draws you in from the start till the end. It's the kind of show that you want to watch in a marathon session, even if most of the episodes are stand-alone episodes.

Extras on the 5-disc set include audio commentary tracks on four episodes, usually with one cast member and a member of the crew. Sadly, none feature Pauley Perrette, who is my favorite member of the cast. Over on the second disc there is a single featurette called Requiem Revisted, which was one of the most powerful episodes of the season. The rest of the featurettes are found on disc five, including Season Five: From Stem to Stern, which is a 17-minute recap of the most recent season. The Dressing Room: The Costumes and Wardrobe of NCIS, which spends 14 minutes looking at the wardrobe. There's a 10-minute featurette, NCIS on Location, on the filming of the show that is done on location. Finally, there's From Pauley to Abby: Hairspray, Lipstick and Tattoos, which shows Pauley Perrette's transformation from herself to her character at hair and make-up.

For fans of the show, NCIS Season Five is arguably the best season of the show so far. The only possible complaint is the length of the season, which was cut short due to the strike. It was short by about 20%, while the 5-disc set costs about 10% less, which makes it a little more on a per minute basis. However, that's a minor, minor complaint, and it is not nearly enough to say it is not worth picking up. If you are a fan of the show, this is a must have. If you haven't seen the show, check it out, but start with Season One.

NHL - Stanley Cup 2007-2008 Champions - Detroit Red Wings - Buy from Amazon
I can't believe the Canucks missed the play-offs last year. I think they've improved this year, but I still think I'm going another year without a shave and a haircut. On a side note, this 4-disc set has all 6 games from the finals, while this DVD has almost four hours of Sidney Crosby. Both are worth picking up for fans of the respective teams / player. But for me it is just too damn depressing to contemplate further.


Filed under: Video Releases, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, The Happening, Halloween, The Omen, The Visitor, Boy A, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, Otis, Feast II: Sloppy Seconds