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DVD Releases for September 4, 2007

September 4th, 2007

Oh boy. September is not the best month for first run releases, but it is the perfect time to release TV on DVD as the new season is just about to start. This month there are more than 50 such releases, and that's just counting full-season or full series sets. I hope you were saving up, cause wow, there's a lot to spend your hard-earned dollars on. This week, the best of the bunch include several TV on DVD releases, including The Office - Season Three, but it is Robot Chicken - Season Two - Uncensored that wins the coveted title of DVD Pick of the Week.

30 Rock - Season 1 - Buy from Amazon
I'll admit that Tina Fey was the main reason I tuned into this show for the first few episodes. Unfortunately, the first few episodes were rather weak and I dropped it from my schedule. I did watch a couple of reruns this summer and the show apparently got better. Extras are good with five audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, outtakes / montage, a short making-of featurette, and an even shorter Micro-Series. Overall this is a good package and worth picking up for fans of the show. And for those who dropped out early like me, it's worth checking out to re-evaluate. Also available in two volumes for reasons I can't explain.

Animal 2 - Buy from Amazon
I was going to make a joke about Rob Schneider, but in my research for the movie I found someone beat me to it so I have nothing to say. ... Moving on.

Bernard and the Genie - Buy from Amazon
One of my favorite Christmas movies, this film stars Lenny Henry as the Genie and Alan Cumming as Bernard (it also features Rowan Atkinson among others). You don't see it on TV very often, so it will be nice to get it on DVD and the previous release had gone out of print.

The Black Donnellys - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
The tales of a violent crime family earned respectable reviews by critics but never really found an audience and was canceled by the end of the first season. At least fans will get a chance to relive the show on DVD, but the overall package isn't enough to draw in new viewers. In fact, with just some deleted scenes, it might not be enough for fans to want to buy it over just a rental.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City Music Hall
The only Blu-Ray release this week is a concert film. Not that that's terrible, as the format really improves the sound and makes it feel like you are there. However, I'm still looking for that one release that says, "This is worth upgrading to High Definition for."

Bobby Z - Buy from Amazon
A Paul Walker movie going direct-to-DVD. I'll try to act shocked. It's not like he's starred in a number of hits recently; in fact, the only films he's been in that you could call hits either starred dogs or cars. It's unlikely this film would have been a hit if it made it to theaters and the early buzz was bad. As for the DVD, it's nearly featureless with just a making-of featurette and the overall package is skippable.

Bosom Buddies - The Second Season - Buy from Amazon
The show that made Tom Hanks a star. Well, not really. The show ended in 1982 while Tom Hanks didn't really become famous until 1984 when Splash came out. But it is still looked upon fondly by many of his fans and even with a 7-minute syndication sales pitch as its only extra, I can see more than a few of them picking it up. Also coming out tomorrow is the Complete Series, which costs more money than buying the two seasons individually.

Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke - High-Larious Edition - Buy from Amazon
One of the most famous comedy duos of their era, Cheech & Chong made several films and this one is their first and arguably their best. However, that's not saying much. They were supposed to team up for another film, Cheech & Chong Get Blunt was the last title I heard, but that project appears to be dead. But at least fans will get this special edition DVD, which includes an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, retrospective, music video, and more. Worth checking out for long time fans and those who have never seen the two in a movie, but I'm not sure the replay value warrants buying the DVD over just renting it.

Chill Out Scooby-Doo! - Original Movie - Buy from Amazon
It's nice to see the movies didn't kill the franchise. On the other hand, while these movies should please their target audience, those who grew up on the originals are better served with their memories.

The City of Violence - Buy from Amazon
A South Korean film that is more style than substance, but it's not just martial arts style but film noir style as well so it's okay. The 2-disc set from Dragon Dynasty is packed with extras include an audio commentary track (but not one featuring Bey Logan), and some outtakes on disc 1, while disc 2 has a meaty, multi-part making-of documentary. Pre-production and Production each have five parts while post-production has two more featurettes as well as some deleted scenes. In total these featurettes run roughly 75 minutes long while the nine deleted scenes are a total of 8 minutes. An excellent package and easily worth picking up for fans of the genre in particular or South Korean filmmaking in general.

Closing Escrow - Buy from Amazon
After bombing out of theaters last weekend, this mockumentary hits DVD this week. Despite the fast exit from theaters, the DVD has more extras than most limited releases have with several deleted scenes, a making of featurette, and a behind-the-scenes featurette. Fans of improv mockumentaries might find something to enjoy here, but don't expect it to be up to the same level as Christopher Guest's films.

Delta Farce - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
One of the worst movies of the year. One of the worst movies of any year. So bad it should kill careers. And it's coming out on Blu-Ray. When you are in a Format War, you really need to make sure every movie you release on the format will do it justice. This one doesn't. No amount of extras would make this movie worth renting, and the audio commentary track and four featurettes don't add anything to the movie.

Demetri Martin. Person. - Buy from Amazon
Most people probably know Demetri Martin from his Trendspotting segments on The Daily Show. Personally, I don't like those segments as much as others. I always thought that the best correspondents act like they are on a real news program and what they are saying is perfectly rational. I think John Hodgman does this the best. On the other hand, fans of his stand up routine should be more than happy because not only is this act arguably his best, but the extras are very strong for a stand-up DVD. These include an additional set, audio commentary track, deleted scenes, and more. Worth picking up.

Desperate Housewives - The Complete Third Season - Dirty Laundry Edition - Buy from Amazon
A primetime soap opera that looks at the lives of five women who live in suburbia. These women are involved in various plots involving sex, murder, sex, shady business deals, sex, divorce, sex, another murder, more sex.

The term soap opera has been around for a long, long time, but I never considered it a compliment. They tend to exaggerated and melodramatic, in both the situations and the acting, and this show is no different. Now I'm not a big fan of soap opera, but when I watched Ugly Betty I was hooked by the end of the first episode. It didn't take long for me to care about the characters. I just finished watching a full season of Desperate Housewives and I still don't care about most of the characters. Hell, I couldn't tell you the names of half of them without looking them up on the Internet. (The only exception here is Felicity Huffman and her character, Lynette. She's a fantastic actress and can rise above the material.)

As for extras, the 6-disc set is mixed. There are no audio commentary tracks, which is strange for such a big show. You would think a show this big could have a few audio commentaries at least. I'm sure fans would have love to have the cast chat about the show. There are a substantial number of featurettes and other extras starting with On Set With Eva, which is a spotlight on Eva Longoria and runs just over 5 minutes. Here Comes the Bride talks about the three weddings that happened in season three, which means it should be called Here Come the Brides. This is one of the longer featurettes clocking in at close to 8 minutes. Amas de Casa Desesperadas compares the original version to the Spanish version, which is even more over the top. This one ran just 6 minutes but was the most interesting to me. Desparate Moments deals with the sex and it's amazing they kept it down to just 8 minutes. Cherry-Picked: Creator Marc Cherry's Favorite Scenes runs almost 8 minutes and is exactly what it sounds like. Rounding out the extras are eighth Deleted Scenes (without audio commentary), and outtakes that run a combined 8 minutes. That's it. A grand total of less than 45 minutes, or about the length of one episode. Had this been on top of a few audio commentary tracks, it would have been good, but as it is, I was disappointed.

Having not been a regular viewer of the show, I can't say if the quality is getting better or worse. I can say it wasn't nominated for as many awards as it was the first, or even the second season, and the ratings seem to be weaker as well. Also, the extras took a big hit with the omission of the audio commentary tracks. However, I doubt too many people who have been happy with the previous releases will want to stop now, but that's as warm of a recommendation as I can make.

Dirty Jobs - Collection 1 - Buy from Amazon
Great show, but why, why release a best-of set when there's a full-season set out there?

Disney Princess Enchanted Tales - Follow Your Dreams - Buy from Amazon
I'm so far outside the target demographic for this DVD that I can't even guess if it will please those who are in that select group. However, I can tell you the series is selling very well, which should say something.

Dog Soldiers - Buy from Amazon
Hey, a Werewolf movie that earned good reviews. I haven't seen one of those since Ginger Snaps. This film does less with the formula, but is very effective in its straightforward nature. As for the extras, they are light with just an audio commentary track and a making of featurette, but that's to be expected for a smaller import and it is still worth picking up.

Falcon Beach - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Another TV show about a bunch of rich kids and their self-important problems. A show should have sympathetic characters and should not make the viewer fantasize about the town being swallowed whole by an earthquake.

Flock of Dodos - The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus - Buy from Amazon
A documentary that tries way too hard to be evenhanded. The simple fact is the term, 'science' is definable and this definition is not up for debate. For a theory to be scientific, it has to be falsifiable (among other things). Intelligent Design is not falsifiable, ergo, it is not science and should not be taught in science class. Just like you shouldn't teach science in English class or cooking in metal shop. Granted, the movie is still entertaining and those interested in the debate should check it out and with better extras than most documentaries get, it is probably worth picking up.

Foundling - Monster Blood Tattoo - Buy from Amazon
This is not a DVD, but one of those things. You know. Made of paper with lots of words in them. Book! It's a book. Aimed at the same set that probably just finished the Harry Potter franchise, this one deals with a boy named Rossamund who lives in a world filled with monsters. It is quite a challenge and an honor to kill a monster, so much so that the vanquisher usually gets a tattoo made from the monster's blood, hence the title. The book should please, and the level of detail in this world is truly immersive.

Francois Ozon - A Curtain Raiser and Other Shorts - Buy from Amazon
Francois Ozon is a French director who is building quite a fanbase here. This DVD include more than 2 hours of short films (some very short), that shows off his particular style. Fans of Swimming Pool in particular should look into picking up this DVD.

Garfield and Friends - Dreams & Schemes - Buy from Amazon
A best of set for a series that has already been released on full-season sets. The only reason to pick up this DVD is for the Pooky Mini-Beanie Plush, which is probably only worth it if you are a major collector.

Georgia Rule - Buy from Amazon
Not one of the worst reviewed movies of the year, but close. The film failed to connect with moviegoers, which normally would have resulted in a nearly featureless DVD release, however, the DVD is stacked with an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, outtakes, making of featurette, behind-the-scenes featurette, and more. It's still not worth picking up; in fact, I wouldn't even recommend renting it. But the few fans of the film should be happy with the DVD.

Hetty Wainthropp Investigates - Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
Starring Patricia Routledge, who is probably best known here as Hyacinth Bucket (that's pronounced "bouquet"), from Keeping Up Appearances. Here she plays a sleuth who solves crimes in her small English village, which are well known to be the deadliest places on Earth. This 13-disc set has all 22 episodes, the original feature-length movie that became the pilot, and an interview with Patricia Routledge. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show.

In the Pit - Buy from Amazon
A fascinating documentary that looks at the construction workers who helped build the second deck of Periferico freeway in Mexico City. While the movie is interesting, the scope in too narrow to mainstream appeal and the lack of extras further hurts the DVD's value.

Inspector Mom - Buy from Amazon
The pilot movie to the TV series that debuts this November that stars Danica McKellar, who is best known as Winnie from The Wonder Years. And she's really the only reason I'm mentioning the DVD.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Seasons 1 & 2 - Buy from Amazon
Danny DeVito was added to the cast for the second season of this FX series. In it, he plays the owner of the bar, "Paddy’s Irish Pub, " that is the center of all of the action (which probably explains why he showed up a little drunk to do promotion for the show on The View). On the one hand, it's nearly impossible to call any of the main characters sympathetic. On the other hand, it's funny watching them vainly try to get out of the trouble they create for themselves. Extras on the three-disc set are strong with audio commentary tracks on two episodes, outtakes, two making of featurettes, Kaitlin Olson audition tape, and select scenes from the pitch pilot. The film's got a nasty edge to it at times, but that's part of the appeal and the DVD is worth checking out for those who haven't seen it and worth buying for those who have.

Naked Brothers Band - Battle of the Bands - Buy from Amazon
Now there's a name that can get you on the FBI watch list.

Naked Brothers Band is led by two brothers, Nat and Alex, who head up a six member band, with the other members Rosalina, Qaasim, David and Thomas. It's a follow-up to their movie and it has the same mockumentary feel to it. I think this was to give the show a more naturalistic feel, but it just came across as painful. This Is Spinal Tap, which is an obvious inspiration, was able to pull off this style because the people in the movie were masters at improv. The same can't be said of the cast here, but to be fair, most weren't born when This Is Spinal Tap first came out. Allie DiMeco (Rosalina), handles herself well, and so does Nat, for the most part. The rest of the kids run from nondescript to embarrassing.

Yes, I understand I'm not a member of the target audience and my taste for music runs a little older than this, but I've reviewed enough kids shows to know when one isn't working.

Moving onto the extras, they deal mostly with the music but that should come as no surprise. There are three music videos for the songs featured in the three episodes, there are also 7 minutes of interviews with the two brothers, and another 4-minute interview with Cooper, the manager. I guess if you are a fan of the show these could be selling points, but for me it was just more to endure.

A good kids show should at least be tolerable to adults who may be in the room with their kids as they watch it. This show is not. There is a loyal fanbase and these people have probably already pre-ordered the show, but for everyone one I recommend staying away.

Naruto the Movie - Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow - Buy from Amazon
A movie based on an Anime TV series from Japan, it was the first movie from the franchise to make it to theaters stateside, but it only played in one showing in select theaters. (This made for an unbearably high Fanboy content in most theaters.) Fortunately, now the average fan can see the movie in the privacy of their own home. Fans of the series should be happy with the movie and it is worth adding to their collection. Speaking of collection, also coming out this week is Naruto - Volume 15.

Night on Earth - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
Five stories from five different cities in five different taxi cabs all take place on one night. The film is not writer / director Jim Jarmusch's best movie, but it is close to the top. (Personally, I prefer Dead Man first and Broken Flowers second.) For a Criterion Collection release, the extras on the DVD are a little light; for instance, there is no feature-length audio commentary track, although there is commentary on select scenes. Other extras include two interviews (one made for this DVD release and the other from 1992), and a booklet on the movie. Better than most limited releases from that time would get, but less than I would expect from Criterion.

Nip/Tuck - The Complete Fourth Season - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray, or HD-DVD
The first season was brilliant. The second season struggled to maintain the high level of quality. The third season some people were talking the show was over. The fourth season, while not as good as the first, did bounce back. On the other hand, the 5-disc set is disappointing. There are no audio commentary tracks and only a few deleted scenes, some outtakes, and a couple featurettes. If you own the previous seasons, there's little reason to stop now, but I can't be enthusiastic with my recommendation.

NFL Indianapolis Colts Road to Super Bowl XLI - Post-Season Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
Now this is how you do a championship DVD! All 4 post-season games are on this 4-disc set, for a very reasonable price. If I cared about the NFL even a little bit, I would buy this DVD. Granted, the extras appear to be non-existent, but I think fans would agree seeing the full games is better than watching a few highlights.

The Office - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
A mockumentary on office life and the torment of doing a job that you no longer care about. From indifferent co-workers, to incompetent bosses this show should appeal to anyone who has ever worked in a cubicle jungle. The 4-disc set has all 24 episodes from season three, including 9 with audio commentary track, enough deleted scenes to create 8 additional episodes (and I'm not joking about the length), outtakes, music videos, promos and a lot more. Easily worth picking up for fans of the series and a clear contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Prison Break - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Didn't they break out of prison in season 1? So what are they going to do with season 2? (This dilemma is dealt with in one of the featurettes, but it was something that confused me last year.) The show moved from being a prison break show to being a on the run show, and for the most part it made the transition rather well. As for the DVD, this 6-disc set has plenty of extras including audio commentary tracks on 11 episodes, and a trio of featurettes. Certainly worth picking up for fans of the show.

The Prodigy - Buy from Amazon
Holt Boggs stars as Truman Fisher, a small-time enforcer who is chosen by a legendary assassin to be his successor, and this assassin will force him to accept, even if he has to kill everyone Truman knows. A very low budget, but effective film that should please genre fans. However, the violence is a little too intense for most mainstream moviegoers. The extras are light (audio commentary track and deleted scenes), but add enough to the overall experience to make purchasing a valid choice over just renting.

The Real Housewives of Orange County - Season One - Buy from Amazon
Combining Reality TV and rich people complaining about petty problems. Skip it.

Remember the Titans - Blu-Ray - Buy from Amazon
My all-time favorite football movie. Granted, it is an inspirational coach movie based on real life events, but it was made before that genre became bloated and overdone.

Remember the Titans stars Denzel Washington as Coach Boone, but while this film is still his biggest hit, looking back now we can see this film helped launch a lot of careers including Kip Pardue, Kate Bosworth, Donald Faison, Ethan Suplee, Ryan Gosling, and Hayden Panettiere. (On a side note, the scene where Sheryl Yoast and Coach Boone are going over the game footage was when I knew Hayden would be a star. That look she gave him; most child actors fall under the, "Where are they now?" category, but her ability to hold her own with Denzel Washington at such a tender age showed she had what it takes to make it. Now all she has to do not blow all her money on porn and cigarettes.)

But this review isn't about the movie or its stars, it's about Blu-Ray and how it compares to DVD, and really, there is no comparison. I can stand within inches of my 40" screen and it looks clearer than watching it on DVD from across the room. Even the HD-DVD player with its DVD up-conversion is no match for the Blu-Ray. (I'd love to do comparisons with Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, but sadly I have no movies in both formats.) However, I still have three issues. Firstly, Remember the Titans, while a very good movie, doesn't really need to be in high definition to be enjoyed. Secondly, while the DVD is packed with extras (two audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, making of featurette, another featurette on Denzel Washington, and more), and while that's a great selection, it's exactly what the DVD came with. The only new 'extra' is the Movie Showcase, which allows you to go to one of three scenes that showcase the Blu-Ray technology, but a feature that amounts to scene selection is not something I'd consider a real extra.

Finally, and most importantly, the cost of upgrading to Blu-Ray is just too high without there being something massive to back it up and so far there's just no Blu-Ray releases that fit that bill. Now, there's a few coming out by the end of the year that could be the one. Perhaps it will be Spider-Man - The High Definition Trilogy, or maybe it will be Lost - The Complete Third Season, or perhaps Blade Runner - Ultimate Collector's Edition. On the opposite side of the coin, the prices are falling, and the cheaper the players are, the less movies are needed to justify that massive initial cost.

If you already have a Blu-Ray player and you don't own Remember the Titans, then it's an easy recommendation. If you do own it on DVD, the lack of substantive upgrades in extras prevents me from wholeheartedly recommending upgrading. On the other hand, if you still don't have a Blu-Ray player, wait till the next generation players start to come out. It won't be that long till they are more reasonably priced.

On a side note, this is my first review for a Blu-Ray release and I upgraded specifically for this reason (in fact, the Blu-Ray disc arrived two days before my player did). I don't expect these reviews to be regular just yet, and by regular I mean weekly. But I should have at least one Blu-Ray review per month while I'm looking to get HD-DVD reviews as well.

(One last side note, this film has an excellent soundtrack, I'm going to have to pick it up shortly.)

RL Stine's The Haunting Hour - Don't Think About It - Buy from Amazon
Tobin Bell in a kid's movie. ... Okay. The film stars Emily Osment (Spy Kids and Hannah Montana), as a new girl in school who becomes the target of the Queen Bee (Plastics, Heathers, we've all see this type in action). It's from the same writer who created Goosebumps, so fans of that show will know what to expect and should be pleased with the movie. As for the DVD, there's not much here with just a couple of short featurettes, an interactive quiz, and a music video by Emily Osment. (I think it's a federal law that everyone who's ever been in a Disney show must make their own music video.) That's not much, but on par with other, similar releases.

Robot Chicken - Season Two - Uncensored - Buy from Amazon
One of the strangest shows on TV. One of the best shows on TV. It's stop-motion animation done with classic toys, mostly from the 80s, with tiny spoofs of pop culture. How tiny? Some are only a few seconds long and even the longest barely top a minute. With no plot to discuss, and no jokes I want to spoil, let's move onto the extras. This 2-disc has a number of extras starting with audio commentary tracks on every single episode, there are also enough deleted scenes to make an entirely new episode, an actual bonus episode that is comprised mainly of previously seen bits, audio only deleted scenes, a making of featurette, and more. Just a word of warning, the humor here is very absurdist at times and it not for everyone. However, if you think a parody of Terminator using Inspector Gadget toys is funny, then this 2-disc set is for you. (On a side note, the DVD says it is uncensored and for the most part it is. There's plenty of ... salty language, but there are still a few times that words are bleeped out.

Rules of Engagement - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A show about two couples and their single best friend. It treads the well worn path of relationship comedies but does so in a competent fashion. That doesn't sound like much of a compliment, but it's hard to get to excited about the show. It's funny, but not hilarious, the writing is good, but not great. Granted, the show was a mid-season replacement and therefore only 7 episodes long and it could take some time for the show to find its legs. Even with reasonable extras (behind-the-scenes footage, a table read, and some outtakes), I recommend waiting to see if the show improves during its second season before making the investment to buy it on DVD.

She-Ra - Princess of Power - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Personally, I always preferred She-Ra to He-Man (although I think I'm in the minority here). I thought the writing was better, which gave it the decisive edge, although the animation was still rather weak. I've been impressed by the various DVD releases for the two franchises so far and this 6-disc set is no exception. Extras include audio commentary track on two episodes, the third documentary featurette on the show, storyboards, promotion images, and even collectible art. If you've been happy with the other releases, there's no reason to stop now.

Space Mutiny - Buy from Amazon
Oh my god! Widely regarded as one of the worst movies ever made, Space Mutiny is being re-released on DVD. On the one hand, it is one of the worst movies ever made and therefore there is no legitimate reason to own it on DVD. On the other hand, it is one of the worst movies ever made and for fans of bad movies, this is a must have. On the plus side, it is really cheap.

Spongebob Squarepants - Season 5 - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
I think it is safe to say this show jumped the shark. Or would that be swam over the shark as it is an underwater show. I think young kids should still enjoy the episodes, but I think those college students better move on to something else. As for extras, the 2-disc set only has pop-up trivia for two episodes, which is rather light.

Stranger Than Paradise - Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon
The second Jim Jarmusch film to come out on a Criterion Collection DVD this week. This one is the better film while the 2-disc special edition have more extras, although still no audio commentary track. (This is not a surprise as Jim Jarmusch has stated he never watches his movies once they are done, which would make an audio commentary track a challenge to make. However, it does have Permanent Vacation, the first film the director made, a 45-minute interview with the director from 1984, 8-minute short film made by his brother, and more. For fans of the director, it is certainly worth checking out, and even worth the upgrade from the previous release.

Stephanie Daley - Buy from Amazon
This film earned excellent reviews, especially for its two leads, but it bombed when it hit theaters. Since the film failed to find an audience theatrically, it comes as no surprise that the DVD is devoid of extras; however, it is still worth checking out even if it is just a rental.

Unholy - Buy from Amazon
Nicholas Brendon stars in this film, along with Adrienne Barbeau. I like Nicholas Brendon, but my god, he's chosen a lot of really bad movie roles. Even genre fans will want to stay far, far away from this movie.

Wind Chill - Buy from Amazon
This suspenseful horror film only managed to earn mixed reviews, but that doesn't explain why it did so poorly in theaters. As for the extras, they are impressive for such a short run film and include an audio commentary track and a making of featurette. I was expecting nothing. Fans of horror films that enjoy mood and tension more than shock should check out this film, but I'm not sure it needs more than a rental.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley - Buy from Amazon
This film opened in limited release to amazing reviews but it was never really able to find an audience during its theatrical run. The DVD should perform better in that regard but the extras (audio commentary and a featurette), is hardly overwhelming. Barely average for limited release would be a better description.


Filed under: Video Releases, Georgia Rule, Delta Farce, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Stephanie Daley, En el hoyo, Closing Escrow, The Death and Life of Bobby Z