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DVD Releases for January 9, 2007

January 8th, 2007

It's a strange week for DVD releases. On the one hand, there's not a big selection of releases coming out this week. On the other hand, half the ones on this list are worth adding to your DVD collection. Back to the original hand, none are really worthy of DVD Pick of the Week. Idiocracy - Buy from Amazon is a good movie, but has no where near the extras needed. The Illusionist - Buy from Amazon comes close but still falls just short. MI-5 - Volume 4 - Buy from Amazon is a great package, but at a price that will scare off casual fans. In the end, while I rated a lot of DVDs as buys, none are worth the DVD Pick of the Week.

10 Days Out... Blues From the Backroads - Buy from Amazon
This CD is a compilation of music from Kenny Wayne Shepherd's travels and it comes with a bonus DVD, which is what I'm reviewing here.
Part documentary, part concert film, part Road Trip. Kenny Wayne Shepherd travels with fellow blues men Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton around the south to interview and jam with some legendary artists, many who were there when the blues first developed. B.B. King, Etta Baker, some of the members of Muddy Waters' Band are here, and Shepherd even jams with Buddy Flett at Leadbelly's graveside, which I'm sure he would have enjoyed hearing. Most of the people in the movie are in their 70s, or older, which makes this DVD an irreplaceable record of these men (and woman), who influenced Rock'n'Roll since before those two words were ever uttered in the same sentence. Had the DVD just contained the interviews it would have been worth checking out, but the real draw here is the music, which is phenomenal. For music historians this is a must have. For fans of the Blues this is a must have. But more importantly, people who learned all they know about the Blues from The Blues Brothers should also pick this CD / DVD up. You watch the DVD just once and I can guarantee that your appreciation for the music will increase and even if you've never heard of half these people you will become instant fans.

If there is a negative, it's the lack of special features. There's nothing on the DVD. In fact, the menu has one button, Play. However, to be fair it is a bonus DVD and not a stand alone release so that's a minor, minor complaint and personally I'm more upset about the lack of subtitles.

Bandidas - Buy from Amazon
The film stars Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz as two bank robbers in turn-of-the-century Mexico. The film did well in Spanish-speaking markets, but only received a short, targeted release here. That's too bad because it deserved better. Granted, it is not an award-worthy movies, but it is entertaining for the most part. Extras are in line with other limited releases (audio commentary track and a featurette), and the total package is worth picking up, especially if you are a fan of the two leads.

Broken Bridges - Buy from Amazon
When this movie was first released it earned no positive reviews. And really, it doesn't deserve any better reviews than it got.

The movie stars Toby Keith as a country singer who returns to his home town after a military training accident kills five people from his town, including his brother. When he returns home he reconnects with his high school sweetheart and the 16-year old daughter he never met. This is typical movie of the week material and execution is the even worse. Toby Keith does his best impression of a lump of wood; his acting was so bad at times that I didn't even believe his character was a country singer, and he is one in real life. Kelly Preston fairs little better, Burt Reynolds is a good actor but the material here offers him nothing but a few short scenes to act gruff. The only member of the main cast that stood out in a good way was Lindsey Haun, but that could be because she acted opposite of Toby Keith most of the time and looked good by comparison.

The writing was equally bad with cliché after cliché thrown at us. The times the film tried to get emotional it felt very artificial, subplots were raised without satisfying conclusions, and too often I felt like I was watching an ad for the movie soundtrack.

On the other hand, the DVD is better than expected given the film's short, short theatrical run. There are a handful of featurettes on the main cast members (or at least most of them), a making of featurette, a featurette on the making of the Muddin' scene (which seemed to be the most fun scene to film), a featurette on the look of Lindsey Haun's character, a music video and more. The lack of an audio commentary track is disappointing, but not surprising, and overall I was impressed with the care that went into the DVD.

I'm sure there are several people eagerly anticipating this DVD, but I'm am equally sure they are (nearly) all Toby Keith fans. All others should stay far, far away.

And after a review like that, why not come and try to win a copy of the DVD in our box office prediction contest. Don't worry, this is only one of three movies featured this week.

Color of the Cross - Buy from Amazon
This movie posits that Jesus was a black man and that his killing was racially motivated. It's a interesting premise, but the execution makes it seem the filmmakers were aiming for controversy over quality. Add in a single featurette and DVD is barely worth renting, and that's only for those who haven't had their fill of religious films over the past three years.

Conversations With Other Women - Buy from Amazon
This film has an interesting hook: the use of split screen certainly adds another layer to the movie making it stand out from other films. On the other hand, some complained that is was a gimmick. The latter opinion appears to be in the minority as the film earned overwhelmingly positive reviews, but despite these good reviews it was never able to escape its limited release. The film features excellent performances by both Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart and the DVD is better than expected with audio commentary track, deleted scenes, making of featurette, etc. It's worth checking out for most, and worth picking up for those who enjoy dialogue driven films like Before Sunrise.

Crank - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Jason Statham is the king of September releases, and I mean that in a good way. He specializes in films that are high paced, entertaining, but uncomplicated. And this film is exactly that. I was a little disappointed in the film's box office performance, but the DVD looks to make up for that with an audio commentary track, interviews, making of, etc. There's even an option for a family friendly audio track. What it would be edited to when it is shown on TV. Personally I'm not bothered by language so this feature is not a selling point for me, but it is interesting nonetheless. It's worth checking out, but I am hesitant to buy it because a special edition is likely. Of course, it is more likely the more people buy this version. Damn catch-22s. On a side note, this is the only movie coming out on a High Definition format tomorrow, either Blu-Ray or HD-DVD.

Danielle Steel 2 DVD Collection - Buy from Amazon
Three movies based on the works of Danielle Steele and a bonus movie. Four terrible movies on 2 featureless discs. Skip it.

Extras - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Created and starring Ricky Gervais, who is best known for his work in the British version of The Office, the series focuses on the world of the extra and one particular one who is convinced he should be a star. Since the creative team behind this series is the same as the one behind The Office, a lot of people are going to compare the two shows, and while this one is different than their first, it is just as funny. (I will note that since more people work in offices than in movies, most people will connect to the humor in The Office easier.) The 2-disc set is great with deleted scenes, outtakes, and two featurettes. However, I was hoping for audio commentary tracks and with only 6 episodes, they could have done one for each quite easily. Even so, the show is brilliant and the DVD is easily worth picking up, but the audio commentary tracks could have made it a DVD Pick of the Week.

I Trust You to Kill Me - Buy from Amazon
A Rockumentary about the band, Rocco DeLuca & the Burden, and their tour in Europe. The band is mostly unremarkable except that they are managed by Kiefer Sutherland. What could have been an interesting look at the Indie music scene feels more like a vanity project than a documentary about the band. The extras are on the light side (three music videos and a featurette), making the DVD only worth picking up for fans of the band or the actor. A rental will suffice for most others.

Idiocracy - Buy from Amazon
Idiocracy was made in 2004 for a 2005 release, and then it was push back a few months, and then a few more, then it was pulled from the schedule. In the end it was dumped in just over 100 theaters during the first week of September without being screened for critics. However, the reviews were good, certainly better than most wide releases. Why was the movie treated so badly by the studio? Poor test screenings convinced them it didn't have an audience, so they recut it. In what could be the ultimate movie irony, Idiocracy, a movie about the dumbing-down of society was dumbed-down by the movie studio. Had that been intentional to emphasis the point made in the movie, it would be a near perfect political statement. Given the film's nearly non-existent theatrical run, the lack of special features are understandable (there are only 5 deleted scenes), but it is still worth picking up and strong sales could convince them to release the director's cut with more extras.

The Illusionist - Buy from Amazon
A bit of a surprise hit, the film opened in Select Cities, which is a very hard release schedule to pull of. However, it opened with a per theater average of more than $18,000 and did an excellent job of holding onto that as it expanded. In the end the film finished with nearly $40 million on a budget of just $16.5 million. This period piece is an amazing looking film with an excellent script and superb performances from its cast. The DVD, on the other hand, is a little light. There is an audio commentary track that is worth listening to, more than once, but behind-the-scenes featurette and the interview with Jessica Biel are simply fluff. Even so, the DVD is easily worth picking up, but a better selection of extras would have made it a DVD Pick of the Week.

Lightspeed - Buy from Amazon
Stan Lee has created some of the most memorable characters in comic book history, so setting up a production company for make TV movies for the Sci-Fi Channel seemed like a sure thing. Oh boy, this movie sure proved that wrong. Calling the movie terrible is an insult to terrible movies everywhere. (To be fair to Stan Lee, there are rumors that the original script was heavily edited during production. That's a recipe for failure.) Terrible movie + featureless DVD = Skip it!

Live Nude Girls - Buy from Amazon
You would think with a name like that and the word, 'Unrated' on the cover this DVD would be selling a lot better. Perhaps people have read the reviews.

MI-5 - Volume 4 - Buy from Amazon
Excellent show released on an amazing 5-disc set, but at a very high price. All ten episodes have audio commentary tracks and there are also two interview featurettes, and a making of documentary. The total length of the episodes is about half a season's worth for an American show, but at a premium price. Granted, the quality is also premium and for those keeping up with the series will certainly want to add this DVD to your collection. However, newcomers will likely be scared off.

The Night Listener - Buy from Amazon
I thought when Robin Williams won his Oscar he would stop making movies like this and go back to making comedies. Granted, he has made some good dramas since then, but this is not one of them. And with special feature that are very weak for a first run release (even one that bombed at the box office), there's little reason to pick this one up, or even rent it.

Psychopathia Sexualis - Buy from Amazon
Because this movie deals with sexual deviancy, it could have been really offense and controversial. In an attempt to avoid that fate, the filmmakers made the movie really dull. The extras on the DVD are better than expected given its practically non-existent theatrical release, but not enough to lift it past the rental level, and even that is being generous.

Quinceanera - Buy from Amazon
The film cost less than $500,000 to make, but amazing reviews helped this low, low budget film succeed at the box office. The film earned at least triple what it cost make and while that is certainly impressive, it should do even better on the home market, especially if it wins the Independent Spirit Awards. (Personally I'm torn between this film and Twelve and Holding, but I'm currently leaning towards voting for the latter.) Extras are excellent for a limited release with an informative and engaging audio commentary track, 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and two short featurettes. Easily worth picking up.

SpongeBob SquarePants - Season 4 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
I'm not sure why they decided to divide season 4 into two volumes, but at least they are now both on DVD and you don't need those best of sets they keep releasing.

Street Fight - Buy from Amazon
A political documentary about the mayoral election in Newark, New Jersey. The film is certainly interesting to watch, but unfortunately it is biased. This is partly because Mayor Sharpe James refused to give the film crew access fearing the documentary would be a political attack against him. So either by refusing to give access he caused the documentary to be biased, or he was correct in his assumptions and can use the end result as proof. Still worth checking out, but there's not enough here for it to be worth picking up.


Filed under: Video Releases, The Illusionist, Crank, The Night Listener, Quinceanera, Idiocracy, Conversations with Other Women, Broken Bridges, I Trust You To Kill Me, Street Fight, Psychopathia Sexualis, Bandidas