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DVD Releases for October 9, 2007

October 9th, 2007

The holiday-delayed list is here, but there are not many releases I can get truly excited about. There are quite a few limited releases on this week's list that deserve to be seen, but only one rises to the level of a DVD Pick of the Week and that is Black Sheep - Unrated - Buy from Amazon. Fair warning, this movie is not for everyone, but it manages to mix the gore and giggles nearly perfectly and fans of such movies will certainly want to add it to their DVD collections.

12:08 East of Bucharest - Buy from Amazon
Almost a mockumentary. The film tells the story of a TV station and its live broadcast of the anniversary of the fall of communism in Romania. However, the broadcast doesn't go as planned. Very dry humor pleased critics, and earned it more than a few awards, but it never found an audience here. With an audio commentary track as its only special feature, it is worth checking, but I'm not sure the replay value is high enough for a purchase.

28 Weeks Later - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
One of several sequels that came out this summer that just didn't live up to their predecessors. (In fact, I can think of only one that did.) This film was better than most but opened weaker and fell faster than the original. But fortunately, the studio decided to release a strong DVD with plenty of extras. These start with an audio commentary track and include deleted scenes with optional audio commentary track, making of featurettes, animated shorts, and more. Worth picking up for fans of the franchise.

Agatha Christie's Marple - Series 3 - Buy from Amazon
The latest incarnation of the popular Miss Marple character doesn't have the same heart as the Agatha Christie novels. The mysteries don't rise to the level fans have come to expect and the replay value, and the lack of extras, suggests a rental is the most that is needed.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Season Three - Buy from Amazon
Arguably the best season for this show, which ran from 1955 to 1965 (the last three seasons as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour). This season, Alfred Hitchcock directed three of the episodes while the overall quality is amazing with plenty of guest stars. The lack of extras is disappointing, but it is still worth picking up.

Black Sheep - Unrated - Buy from Amazon
Horror comedies are notoriously hard to market. Even ones that earned great reviews usually struggle at the box office. That said, this film failed to live up to modest expectations and that's a real shame. At least the DVD should prove to be a bigger hit.

The film starts with young Henry Oldfield becoming the victim of a cruel, sheep-related practical joke that gives him a severe case of ovinophobia, which has remained with him to adulthood. An older, but still screwed-up Henry returns to his farm where his brother plans to buy him out. His brother is not your typical farmer and has embraced genetics to create a new, superior bread of sheep. You can probably figure out that this doesn't go as planned.

Black Sheep is an excellent mix of humor and gore, with perhaps a little social commentary thrown in. (Although hopefully no one will use the movie in a debate over genetically modified food.) The special effects, which were done by WETA (who also did The Lord of the Rings, among other movies), are excellent, especially considering the low-budget nature of the movie. Some of the dialogue is a little corny, but that adds to the overall appeal.

Moving on to the extras, things start with an audio commentary track with first time writer / director, Jonathan King, and lead actor, Nathan Meister. The two keep things moving along for the most part, discussing the usual parts of filmmaking, the special effects, etc. There's a making-of featurette that clocks in at 30 minutes and hits all the right notes. Next up are some deleted scenes, with optional commentary. Most of the five scenes were removed for pacing reasons and add little to the movie. Even so, they make good extras. There's also an exclusive, made-for-DVD scene called Early Morning. Finally, there's a short blooper reel.

Horror comedies are not for everyone, even the best of them. However, if you find the thought of a fetal sheep attacking a hippie funny, then this is the movie for you. Add in the extras, which are well above average for a limited release, and this DVD is easily worth picking up and even a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: 28 Weeks Later, Edward Scissorhands, Nature's Journey, Reign Over Me, Robocop, Surf's Up, and Twilight Zone - The Movie
A relatively busy week for Blu-Ray releases, especially compared to HD-DVD releases. There are a couple that are intriguing to me: Edward Scissorhands and Robocop. Both are excellent movies and both have a visual style that would benefit from the high definition treatment. However, I still have trouble recommending upgrading until studios start giving added features to early adopters.

C.S.I. New York - The Third Season - Buy from Amazon
This franchise started out well enough, but the self-plagiarism started to hurt while the episodes devolved into style over substance. Watching someone squirt liquid on a q-tip ceases to be engaging about the 50th time you see it, regardless of what music you have playing in the background. And you see it approximately 50 times an episode. Also, their computer programs are way too graphic intensive; real cops wouldn't need to see faces and / or fingerprints flash on the screen, it just wastes CPU runtime and delays the results. Arghh. Okay, I admit, I'm a little anal when it comes to these things, but it bugs me. On the other hand, I will also admit that this 5-disc set is great and fans of the show would be more than happy with picking it up. I just stopped being a fan of the show long, long ago.

Creature Comforts America - The Complete Season One - Buy from Amazon
I like the British version of the show, but I think the original is just too British to survive the trip to the United States. Also, the show is better in smaller chunks. The original was only 10 minutes an episode, here it was the full 30 (or 22 minutes if you don't include commercials). This 2-disc set includes all seven episodes, including half that were never aired, and is worth checking out. I'm not sure the replay value will be high enough for most people to buy, but a rental is well-deserved.

Degrassi High - The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
Finally. This release has been pushed back a few times but we finally get the last of the original generation of Degrassi on DVD. This 4-disc set contains the last 28 episodes plus the graduation special called School's Out. This isn't as much as the Next Generation DVD releases have, but enough to make them worth picking up.

Evan Almighty - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
This is the greatest DVD ever made, and I'm not just saying that cause my name's in it.

... Okay, I am.

Evan Almighty isn't a terrible movie, at least not as bad as its Tomatometer score would seem to indicate. But it is simply too lazy to stay afloat. A number of times the film goes for cheap laughs by having Steve Carell hurting himself. Now don't get me wrong, I like slapstick humor as much as the next guy, but there's got to be more to it than just seeing someone hit their thumb with a hammer a dozen times in quick succession.

There were other issues. For instance, the film was rather sanctimonious in delivering its environmental message. I like movies that have a message, but they just need to deliver it in a way that doesn't get in the way of the entertainment. Also, I found a lot of the movie simply unbelievable, even with a generous helping of suspension of disbelief. For instance, America is one of the most religious nations on the planet. If someone started building an Ark in real life, he wouldn't be scorned by most people, he would become a hero. People who flock to his town and his place would become a tourist attraction. Also, several times Evan tries to come up with complicated explanations for the strange events when a simple demonstration would be much more effective. For instance, his beard comes back immediately after shaving it. But he never does this in front of another person. He never gives them undeniable evidence that something strange is going on. I know why he couldn't, cause it would kill the story, but that's never an acceptable answer and is a clear sign of lazy writing.

Also, the film brought up some interesting theological questions. Like, why would God make Evan grow a huge beard to begin with? Was the robe really necessary, or did it just make him seem crazy? Also, why didn't God just tell him that there was a problem with the dam? A dam bursting is a massive, massive disaster and no matter how big the ark is, someone is going to die when that much water is released with that much force. If you don't believe the action of the characters, you can't become immersed in the story and it loses all effectiveness.

There are some parts of the movie that do work. Steve Carell does as much as he can with the material he is given, Wanda Sykes added at least some edge to the film, Morgan Freeman did very well in his role, again, while Lauren Graham was underused but strong.

Moving onto the extras, there were a lot here, but not that much in terms of quality. For instance, there was no audio commentary track, but there were plenty of featurettes all introduced by Steve Carell. They talk about the making of the movie, the special effects, the animals (apparently they tasted delicious), the environmental message, how to be environmentally sound, etc. And of course, everyone who donated a tree to the Almighty Forest got their name on the DVD, and that includes me.

Overall the movie doesn't work. It's not terrible but the filmmakers don't do enough with the premise to justify spending $200 million to make it. It barely does enough to justify spending 90 minutes watching it and there's almost no replay value. I can't recommend purchasing it, but a rental wouldn't be out of the question.

Everybody Hates Chris - The Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This sitcoms tells the story of Chris Rock's early life, as narrated by Chris Rock. The show maintained its strong quality throughout the second season while the extras on the 4-disc set are equally impressive with several audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes for most episodes, webisodes featuring the cast and crew, behind-the-scenes featurette, outtakes, and more. Easily worth picking up for fans of the show, and if you haven't seen the show yet, give it a try, but start with the First Season.

Family Ties - The Second Season - Buy from Amazon
Great show, mediocre DVD release. Or at least that was true for the First Season. It seems the studio learned and this time around we have some extras, including recent interviews with the cast. The show maintained a very high quality throughout its run, earning numerous Emmy nominations and winning five of them (including three for Michael J. Fox), and the inclusion of any extras makes the 4-disc set worth picking up over just renting.

Flatt & Scruggs TV Show - Buy from Amazon: Volume 3 and Volume 4
A country duo from the 19050s and 60s. They are probably best known today for performing the Beverly Hillbillies theme song, but they also were very popular in their own right, appearing on the Grand Ole Opry radio show and other programs. The latest two volumes each bring another hour of bluegrass to fans, but there appear to be no extras.

Ghost Hunters - Season 3 - Part 1 - Buy from Amazon
Reality TV plus ghost stories. If you ever think you see a real ghost, it's a man in a mask. Also coming out tomorrow is Ghost Hunters: Live from the "Shining" Hotel, however, I need to point out that the Shining is just a movie (and a book before that), and the hotel is not really haunted.

Girlfriends - The Second Season - Buy from Amazon
This long-running show is one of many second-rate TV-on-DVD releases this week. It's not terrible, but with just 3 featurettes and no audio commentary tracks, it doesn't make the argument that it needs to be bought instead of rented.

Gothic Bellydance - Revelations - Buy from Amazon
Everyone once in a while I run across a title that makes me stop and say, "Huh?" This is one such DVD. Gothic Bellydance... I have no way to react to that. My previous experiences in my life have left me unprepared for the concept of Gothic Bellydance. On the other hand, there have been a lot of bellydance DVDs that have come out recently, so perhaps this is all part of a trend and in the future I'll get more opportunities to deal with such a strange combination.

Hannah Montana - Life's What You Make It - Buy from Amazon
If you are a 'Tween, or are the parent of a 'Tween, you know who Miley Cyrus is. In fact, even if you are not, you probably know who she is. There are news reports talking about how her concert series sold out in minutes and how scalpers are getting thousands of dollars for a single ticket. I'm not part of the target audience, but I'll admit that this is actually not a bad show; it is certainly better than most aimed at the same target audience. The DVD has three or four episodes, depending on how you count the two-parter, as well as extras like Backstage Pass that deals with the cast talking about secrets and a music video by Billy Ray Cyrus. I, and I assume most fans, would prefer full season sets, but that's just not going to happen with a Disney release and the overall the DVD is worth picking up over just renting.

HD-DVD Releases: Evan Almighty and Twilight Zone - The Movie
Only two HD-DVD releases this week, both of which also came on out DVD. Neither of which is worth adding to your DVD collection. Evan Almighty just isn't a good enough movie. For Twilight Zone - The Movie, there's just not enough extras to warrant the higher price.

The Lair - Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
A TV series about gay vampires. I am so far away from this target demographic. Firstly, I'm not gay and secondly, I never got the whole 'vampires are sexy' fetish. Vampires want to kill you, that's not sexy, that's scary. The first season was only six episodes long, but it appears to have a cult following that is eagerly awaiting its arrival on DVD.

Man Push Cart - Buy from Amazon
This film earned excellent reviews and started out well in limited release but could never find an audience, despite earning three Independent Spirit Award nominations. The DVD has an audio commentary track and a bonus short film by the director, which is more than many limited releases earn and enough to push it to the purchase level.

Michael Palin - Pole to Pole - Buy from Amazon
I'm a big fan of Michael Palin's travelogues, although I don't think Pole to Pole is the best. My personal favorite is Full Circle with Michael Palin (which is not yet on DVD), while I would rank this one third after Around the World in 80 Days. That said, the price is high on a per minute basis compared to other TV on DVD releases and the extras are low, but the quality of the show is high enough that it is still worth picking up.

Murder, She Wrote - The Complete Seventh Season - Buy from Amazon
At this point in its DVD run, there's little to say about the show that fans don't know. Like other seasons, this 6-disc set has only one featurette, but while I would like more, this is actually more than many shows from the same time get when they reach DVD.

Night Of The Living Dead 3D - Buy from Amazon
One of those films that makes you ask, "Why?" Why remake Night of the Living Dead and why make it in 3-D? The original was a classic, this one was not. Laughably bad is probably the best way to describe it. The extras are strong considering the film's short theatrical run, but not strong enough to compensate for the movie. Skip it.

Poltergeist - 25th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon
Shouldn't Anniversary Edition DVDs have real special features? Or is that too much to ask for? There are a couple of featurettes on 'real world' ghosts, which actually hurt the movie, but there's nothing here about the movie itself. (I know why they do it, to make the movie seem more real and thus scarier. However, the best way to do that is to write characters that seem real, and they did. Insulting my intelligence like this just pisses me off and makes me dislike the movie. This goes for all horror movies that try to pretend they are based on real life events.) Considering how good the movie is, this DVD is a huge waste.

The Reef - Buy from Amazon
Wow, can you say rip-off? Even the font makes it look like a clone of Shark Tale with a healthy does of Finding Nemo thrown in. Terrible movie and not even worth renting. If your kids see it and want to watch it, get them Finding Nemo instead, even if they've seen it 100 times.

Reign Over Me - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Adam Sandler can do dramatic acting. What he can't do is convince a lot of people to watch his dramatic work. Granted, the reviews weren't overwhelmingly positive, but even taking this into account it still under-performed at the box office. Unfortunately, because the box office was so weak, the extras on this DVD are nearly non-existent with just a couple of featurettes. Worth checking out, but for many a rental will suffice.

Rise - Blood Hunter - Unrated - Buy from Amazon
A terrible movie that managed to open with a per theater average of under $1,000. Amazingly, the DVD isn't completely devoid of extras, but it's hard to imagine most people will be able to sit through one of the storyboard-to-screen comparisons so I'm not sure why there are four. Completely skippable.

Roots - The Next Generations - Buy from Amazon
Making a sequel to the groundbreaking Roots seemed like a huge risk. After all, the original was considered one the greatest TV events of all time and earned 37 Emmy nominations including all four leader actor nominations, two lead actress, four of five lead actors, three supporting actresses, four best directors, three best writing, etc. as well as nine wins. So, while this mini-series is quite a bit weaker, it still earned seven Emmy nominations and two wins. As for the 4-disc set, there are a few extras, but not as much as I would have hoped. That said, it is still worth picking up either by itself or as part of the Complete Collection.

Shanghai Kiss - Buy from Amazon
A direct-to-DVD film starring Hayden Panettiere. At least that's the impression you get from looking at the cover. The movie actually stars Ken Leung as an Asian-American actor who inherits his grandmother's home in Shanghai. Hayden Panettiere is a star in the movie as his romantic interest, but I think her fame is being used to sell the movie. Whatever works. It is a good movie and deserves to be seen more, and with extras that including audio commentary track, interviews, behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes, and more, it is worth picking up over just a rental.

Stargate SG-1 - The Complete Series Collection - Buy from Amazon
All 10 seasons plus three bonus discs for substantially less than buying the seasons individually. I think a lot of people have stopped buying individual seasons waiting for full series set. On the other hand, even if you already have half the seasons, this is a better deal than finishing your collection.

Surf's Up - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Will be remembered as one of the biggest digital animation flops of all time, if it is remembered at all. This is too bad as it earned good reviews and it should have performed better. Despite bombing out of theaters, the DVD is great with plenty of extras, starting with the requisite audio commentary. There are also a three-part, 20-minute making-of featurette, deleted scenes, bonus animated shorts, music videos, and interactive features for the kids. Overall it is worth picking up.

The Treatment - Buy from Amazon
The film earned good reviews and opened with a respectable per theater average. However, it opened the same weekend as Away from Her, Waitress, and Paris, Je T'Aime, not to mention Spider-man 3. The competition was just too much for the film. The DVD should prove to be a better seller even if the extras are on the light side (no audio commentary, but there are some deleted scenes, short films, and a roundtable discussion featuring some actual psychoanalysts). Worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

Twilight Zone - The Movie - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray, or HD-DVD
Wow. I can't believe it took nearly 25 years for this film to come out on DVD. ... I can't believe they didn't wait another year and put out a Special Edition for the anniversary. This anthology movie was based on the popular TV series and three of the four segments were remakes of episodes. I think the fact that they were mostly remakes led to the film earning just average reviews. Meanwhile, after waiting this long to get the DVD, it is bare bones with no real extras. On a side note, the film is being released on all three formats giving us an ideal look at which one is winning. So far, according to, the DVD version is number one, but the Blu-Ray release is outselling the HD-DVD version. This backs up other information with regards to the format war.

The Vicar of Dibley - A Holy Wholly Happy Ending - Buy from Amazon
The final two specials for this fantastic show. Dawn French stars as Rev. Geraldine Granger, who leads a church in small town Britain filled with eccentric characters. This disc has the both specials and is perfect for those who bought the previous box set. On the other hand, those who don't have the show on DVD should grab The Immaculate Collection, which has all three seasons and both DVDs of specials. And in a couple of years there will be another set of specials and a new box set called, and this is just a guess, the Saintly Edition.

Whose Line Is It Anyway - Season 1 - Volume 2 - Buy from Amazon
This is a good show, but come on! First they split the season into two volumes, then they wait a year between releases. Fans deserve better.

Wrong Turn 2 - Dead End - Unrated - Buy from Amazon
Wrong Turn needed a sequel? Really? Surprisingly, the film is better than the original was and offers a pretty good send up to reality TV while providing the gore that genre fans need. (It also helps to have Henry Rollins in the movie.) As for the extras, there is an audio commentary track and three featurettes, which is more than a lot of direct-to-DVD releases get. Overall it is worth picking up.

You Kill Me - Buy from Amazon
This summer was a little strange. Records were broken, including the most $300 million and $200 million movies, but on the lower end, none of the limited releases were able to earn real mainstream success. (Waitress came the closest with close to $20 million, but that's a far cry from most previous years.) You Kill Me was one of several limited releases that looked like it had the potential, but in the end it took in less than $2.5 million, which is a shame since it deserved better. Unfortunately, the DVD is lacking. There's a promotional piece that is pretty standard stuff, and a look at the CG work in the movie (it's mostly snow). It is still worth checking out, but while I recommend purchasing over just a rental, I can't be as enthusiastic as I would like.


Filed under: Video Releases, Evan Almighty, Surf's Up, Reign Over Me, You Kill Me, Night of the Living Dead 3-D, Rise: Blood Hunter, A fost sau n-a fost?, Black Sheep, The Treatment, Man Push Cart, 28 Weeks Later