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DVD Releases for October 21, 2008 - Part II

October 21st, 2008

The number of DVDs reaching my door is increasing each week (so are the number of ones that are late, or so it would seem). However, while there was a wide selection, the choice for DVD Pick of the Week was easy: Looney Tunes - Golden Collections - Volume 6. ... And James Bond - Blu-ray Uber Collection, as well as Casino Royale on Blu-ray. One last note, as has happened more often than not, this week's list is split into two. The first part can be seen here.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 7th of October. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in the review.

Joy Ride 2 - Dead Ahead - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD sequel to a horror film that wasn't a winner at the box office when it came out back in 2001. At least it was a good horror movie. The same can't be said here.

Why do cell phones never work in horror movies? It really doesn't matter, because this is just one of many clichés we get to have fun with in this movie, but while clichés were a problem, they weren't the main problem. Let's start at the top. I didn't think Rusty Nail was the least bit interesting as a villain, and hiding his face in shadows all the time was a joke. I know it was meant to add to the mood, but very early in the movie it because so overdone that it was laughable. Also, while one of the featurettes plays up the special effects, I found them to be quite weak. Granted, some looked good, but the rest (especially the car crash scene, which was the centerpiece of the stunt work, and the scene when Nik was killed) looked fake enough to kill any suspension of disbelief. And don't get me started on the ending, which was pure crap.

Extras are light with just a 14-minute making-of featurette, which is pretty standard stuff, a 7-minute featurette on the special effects, and finally a storyboard-to-screen comparison of the final confrontation.

Joy Ride was not a great movie, but it was entertaining in a B-movie horror film kind of way. Also, it featured some fine performances. Joy Ride 2 offers very little. I don't even think it offers enough "Boobs & Blood" to satisfy the fans of direct-to-DVD horror.

Kiss of the Spider Woman - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This was previously released as an Amazon Exclusive, but it now being released to all retailers.

The film stars William Hurt as Luis Molina and Raul Julia as Valentin Arregui, two men who are in prison, and will be there for a long, long time. Luis is a gay man who was convicted of "corrupting a youth" while Valentin is a political prisoner tortured by the right-wing regime in the unnamed Latin American nation they live in. The film takes place almost entirely within the confines of their small cell, but throughout the film we hear Luis tell stories of his life before prison, as well as a film that he is obsessed by. Based on a novel by Manuel Puig, this is a movie that simply should not work. It's too claustrophobic, it was 100% unmarketable, and barely anything happens. However, the two leads have such amazing chemistry, and the film is able to really draw you into the story being told.

Extras on the 2-disc set include a trivia track on the first disc, which as they say early on, details the novel, the movie, the musical, and real life information. It is very well done, and while I would have preferred to have an audio commentary track, this is a reasonable substitute. The majority of the extras are to be found on disc two, and they include the original trailers, image galleries, but the heart here is a documentary called Tangled Web - Secrets of the Spider Woman. This documentary runs 108 minutes, almost as long as the movie itself, and details every single aspect of the film's long, twisted run from the novel to the screen. There are also a few smaller featurettes starting with Manuel Puig: The Submissive Woman's Role that runs 9 minutes and is about the author of the original novel, and how he was influence by his life growing up, and the movies he watched. Making the Musical: Spider Woman on Broadway is about the adaptation of the movie to the stage. Finally there's Kiss of the Spider Woman: From Novel to Film, which is a featurette that runs a hefty 36 minutes and deals with how the movie is different from the book. That's a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is fantastic for fans of the movie. Even those who were more ambivalent to the movie will want to watch all of these.

Sadly, I do not have the Blu-ray version to review.

Kiss of the Spider Woman is a movie that was almost never made, which would have been a real shame. Regardless of which format you choose, DVD or Blu-ray, it is worth picking up.

Knight Rider - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
I was a fan of this show when I was a kid, but looking back now I find it just too cheesy to handle. Also, for a full-series Megaset, the price is not a whole lot cheaper than buying individual full-season sets.

The Last Man on Earth - Buy from Amazon
This is the first adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel, I Am Legend, which has also been adapted as Omega Man and I Am Legend. This DVD includes the colorized and Black & White version of the film and it is worth checking out. Also coming out tomorrow are several other B&W and Colorized films from the same era: Bride of the Monster, Creature from the Haunted Sea, Devil Bats, and Phantom from Space.

The Lazarus Project - Buy from Amazon
A Paul Walker film going direct-to-DVD. I'm not surprised, as it seems his box office drawing power is weak at the moment. There are not many reviews for this film, but those that I've found have been mixed. It's not a terrible movie, but it moves rather slowly, while the twists in the movie are not as much surprising as they are confusing. Perhaps it is still worth checking out, but give it a rental first.

Linewatch - Buy from Amazon
A movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. that's going direct-to-DVD. No real surprise there.

Looney Tunes - Golden Collections - Volume 6 - Buy from Amazon
The cartoon collection that all other collections compare themselves to. As you might have heard, this is the final volume in this particular incarnation of these DVDs, but don't worry, there will be more Looney Tunes coming out next year, we just don't know in what format. (I’m hoping it will be in chronological order, perhaps chronological by character. Hell, I would be more than willing to double, or even triple-dip to make sure I got every cartoon they made.) This collection includes four themed discs: Looney Tunes All Stars, Patriotic Pals, Bosko Buddie and Merrie Melodies, and Most Requested Assorted Nuts. There are also bonuses spread throughout the 4-disc set from audio commentary tracks, music only tracks, bonus shorts, documentaries, TV specials, and more. Easily worth picking up, and easily the DVD Pick of the Week. Also coming out this week is the Spotlight Collection, but as before, the Golden Collection is the way to go.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A secret agent show from the '60s that pits agents from United Network Command for Law Enforcement against the forces of THRUSH, which may or may not mean Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity, depending on if you consider the books canon. The show was popular during its time, and remains so today, and was even nominated for several Emmys during its run. Also of note, this is not a double-dip as individual seasons were never released. It was previously released as a Time Life exclusive, but this is the first time you can buy it in stores or from Amazon. I and definitely recommend picking it up, it's a great show and the 41-disc set is loaded with extras.

Missing - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
An excellent movie starring Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon in this story based on the real life events of 1980s South America. Extras on the 2-disc include interviews with the director, producers, author of the original novel, and even some of the real life people from the movie. Finally, there's the usual booklet that comes with Criterion Collection, albeit it's a little hardier. Definitely worth checking out, and worth picking up over just renting.

My Little Pony - A Very Minty Christmas - Buy from Amazon
Originally released in 2005, this disc is being re-released this week, and the only difference is the Minty Christmas figurine being included.

The 40-minute special starts just before Christmas as the Ponies are preparing for the Holidays, which includes making the Here Comes Christmas Candy Cane, which sits atop the Christmas tree and sparkles bright enough to guide Santa to their town. However, one of the Ponies, Minty, tries to adjust it on the tree, which causes it to fall and break. Not knowing what to do, she at first decides to play Santa by giving everyone the perfect gift. Socks. Lets hope Plan B is better.

Also on the disc is a bonus episode from the show, Dancing in the Clouds, which has the Ponies preparing for the Extra Special Friendship Ball. Twinkle Twirl needs to get the Ponies to dance properly, and she gets the help of Sky Wishes and he special wishes to do so.

Both programs are brightly animated (although there were a few flaws) and the songs are catchy enough. It should entertain younger kids, but there's little crossover appeal here.

Extras on the DVD include two songs in Sing-Along mode, while there is the aforementioned figure included in the package. The figure itself is just over an inch high and sports a removable fuzzy Santa hat, which is not quite accurate with what happens in the show, but it is cute.

If you don't have My Little Pony - A Very Minty Christmas on DVD already and you or your kids are a fan of the franchise, it is worth checking out. However, I can't image a lot of people spending $15 for the collectible figure. ... Actually, I can. Collectors tend to be obsessive when it comes to grabbing everything, and there's no reason for My Little Pony collectors to be different.

The Naked Brothers Band - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
The continuing adventures of the pre-teen pop band done in an improv, mockumentary style.

As I mentioned when I reviewed Season One, improv is the hardest form of comedy to pull off, and in the first season they didn't succeed. They still don't succeed in Season Two, but at least it's somewhat better. Allie DiMeco and Nat Wolff are still the best on the show, while Alex Wolff has improved, the rest mostly just fade into the background. There is also an improvement in the music, as it feels more mature, although it is still not exactly up to standard.

As for the individual episodes, season two starts with the double-length Sidekicks where the band is trying to figure out who to dress as for an upcoming costume ball, except for Rosalina, who is now in high school and wants to go to the prom, except she doesn't have a date. Is this a sign for Nat? Oh the torment of adolescent love... which is very similar to adult love, with no one wanting to make the first movie, lest they look like an idiot. The season ends with Polar Bears, a three-part "mini-movie" that was previously released on DVD. In this episode, the band confronts environmental issues, but an attempt to raise money and awareness goes awry when one of them makes a controversial statement at a press conference. In between they deal with road trips, double-dates, and preparing for their first tour.

Special features are all on the second disc and are mostly music videos -- six of them, in fact. There are three "featurettes", but far from being behind-the-scenes, they feel like short bits from the show.

I'm sure there is a target audience for The Naked Brothers Band, but I'm equally sure I'm not part of it. Granted, Season Two was an improvement over the previous season, but I still can't recommend it.

On the Rumba River - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about a Congolese Musician from the 1950s and 60s whose music was banned for being too joyous, and thus likely to cause rebellion. ... And you think your local government is stupid. Despite excellent reviews, the competition was just too much the week it opened, and it was never able to find an audience. It is worth checking out, especially for the musical performances.

One Live Kiss - Buy from Amazon
A documentary DVD of Paul Stanely from Kiss. Filmed in 2006, it includes material from his '78 solo album, his many years with Kiss, and his most recent CD. It looks and sounds great, and fans of his solo work, or of Kiss, will certainly want to add this DVD to their collection.

Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith - Buy from Amazon
The third concert film with Kevin Smith, where he basically talks for a couple hours and takes questions from the audience. This time around it was filmed in his home town and was to celebrate his 37th birthday. The original show was more than 7 hours long, but it has been cut down to 4 hours for the 2-disc DVD, 4 hours plus more than an hour of extras, which is a great value for under $20. If you enjoyed An Evening with Kevin Smith and its sequel, than this one is worth picking up as well.

South of Nowhere - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
I thought this came out already. In fact, I talked about it here. It's a good show that is worth checking out, regardless of when it actually comes out on DVD.

The Stone Angel - Buy from Amazon
A Canadian movie starring Ellen Burstyn, Ellen Page, and others. The reviews were mixed and the movie went nowhere in limited release, but it is still worth checking out, even if it is just a rental.

The Strangers - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
This film earned mixed reviews, which was better than expected, and easily topped original expectations at the box office. Unfortunately, while it is not a bad movie, it's replay value is rather limited. Add in almost no bonus features (a short promotional piece and two deleted scenes), and I can't recommend the DVD for anything more than a rental. As for the Blu-ray, it is BD-Live enabled, but with no movie-specific features, that's hardly a reason to spend 40% more.

Sunday School Musical - Buy from Amazon
This direct-to-DVD film has no connection to the High School Musical franchise, other than being a naked attempt to capitalize on those other films' popularity. This one is aimed at churchgoers, but I can't imagine a lot of people being offended by the Disney franchise, which is so mild the theatrical film is earning a G-rating.

Warning: This DVD does not come out this week and made its home market debut on the 2nd of September. However, the DVD screener arrived late, hence the delay in this review.

Then She Found Me - Buy from Amazon
This is Helen Hunt's directorial debut, and it is a film she also co-wrote and starred in. As I've said before, the transition from acting to directing is not always a smooth one, and while this film isn't perfect, there's enough potential shown here to say Helen Hunt will have a successful directing career, should she choose that path.

The film stars Hunt as April Epner, a 39-year old woman who wants to have a child. However, her husband and fellow teacher decides he doesn't want to have a child, or be married, or be a teacher any more and leaves her one evening. Shortly after her adoptive mother passes away, and into this mess steps a potential new romance, her birth mother, and further complications. Overall, this film has a low-key seriocomic tone to it that works, but is perhaps a little too low-key at times. I watch so many movies, that while I enjoyed myself watching this one, I won't be able to remember it next week.

Extras include an audio commentary track with Helen Hunt, who goes through all of the decisions she made. Next up is a 12-minute featurette on the making of the movie, with a lot of people praising Hunt's work in this movie. Finally there are four interviews with the main cast, which runs a total of 15 minutes.

Then She Found Me is a soft independent film that moves at its own pace, and depending who you talk to, this is either a strength or a weakness. It is worth checking out, but even with more extras than most limited releases, I'm not sure if it is worth picking up. Call it a solid rental, leaning towards a purchase.

To the Limit - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about speed mountain climbing and two brothers trying to go for the record ascent of El Capitan in the Yosemite National Park. The film earned good reviews, but not great reviews, and it never found an audience theatrically. The DVD has a new epilogue, but I don't think that's enough to lift it from a rental to a purchase.

Vice - Buy from Amazon
Practically a Direct-to-DVD movie. This film opened in May to mixed reviews but completely bombed in limited release. It is now being released on DVD, and it is the kind of movie that should do much better on the home market as opposed to in limited release, and for fans of the corrupt cop action genre, it is worth checking out, even if it is just for a rental.

Warner Gangsters Collection - Volume 4 - Buy from Amazon
Five more movies and a bonus documentary on the genre. I don't know how many volumes they will be able to make, but the quality remains high.


Filed under: Video Releases, Casino Royale, Die Another Day, Halloween, The Strangers, Then She Found Me, The Stone Angel, Vice, On the Rumba River, Am Limit