Follow us on

DVD Releases for October 16, 2007

October 16th, 2007

This week we have the first of the summer blockbusters hitting the home market. But, strangely, it was the last of the four $300 million movies that were released this year. This signifies the unofficial start of the of the Christmas DVD rush season and I would expect every week massive blockbusters or super-special editions being release from now until the Boxing Day. As for this week's best bets, I'm torn between two releases: Grindhouse - Planet Terror - Extended and Unrated - Two-Disc Special Edition and The Transformers - HD-DVD Edition. I've giving both the DVD Pick of the Week honors, but I will add that while Grindhouse is the better movie, The Transformers will appeal to a wider audience. (On a side note, this is the second time a HD-DVD release has earned the DVD Pick of the Week. Blu-Ray better catch up to HD-DVD soon.)

Absolutely Fabulous - White Box - Buy from Amazon
A special from Absolutely Fabulous made in 2004 with Edina and Patsy deciding to redecorate the house. This is a great special, but it's only 44 minutes long and probably should have been included with the season 5 release. In fact, it is including in an upcoming megaset. Fans of the show will likely want to collect everything Ab Fab, but the price per minute here is too high for a recommendation.

AC/DC - Plug Me In - 3 disc Limited Edition - Buy from Amazon
a massive 3-disc set with live performances from AC/DC from the 1970s until this decade. There are seven hours of music as well as hours of interviews and physical extras like tickets, poster, etc. Easily worth picking up for hardcore fans of the band, but perhaps too much for the more casual fan, but it is certainly better value than the 2-Disc Edition. Also coming out tomorrow is AC/DC: Live At Donington - Blu-Ray, which is perfect for all levels of AC/DC enthusiasts.

Bizarre - The Best of - 10-DVD Set - Buy from
This 10-disc set contains 100 or the 150 episodes, which is rather... well... bizarre. Why not release the other 50 and make it a full series set? That idiosyncrasy aside, this is a great sketch-comedy show and the DVD is worth picking up even if you have to import it from Canada with a bad exchange rate.

Blu-Ray Relases - Buy from Amazon: AC/DC: Live At Donington, Hollow Man, Master of Horror - Season One - Volume Two, Master of Horror - Season One Volume Two, The Reaping, and Return to House on Haunted Hill - Unrated Blu-Ray
Not a good week for Blu-Ray releases when it comes to movies. However, the two TV on DVD releases, Master of Horror - Season One - Volume Two and Master of Horror - Season One Volume Two, are certainly worth looking in to.

Casshern - Buy from Amazon
A live action adaptation of a Japanese anime. Even with the ever-improving technology with regards to visual effects, I'm still not sure this was a good idea. That said, the visuals are amazing, but the story... not so much. Add in no special features and the DVD is only worth a rental.

Christmas - Buy from Amazon: Charlie and Lola, Vol. 6 - How Many More Minutes Until Christmas, The Christmas Blessing, Christmas Do-Over, The House Without a Christmas Tree, Jingle All the Way - Family Fun Edition, MGM Holiday Classics Collection, Nutcracker on Ice, The Santa Trap, True Story of the Nativity, White Christmas, and The Yule Log DVD Gift Set
I can't handle more than one holiday at a time. So can we at least wait until Thanksgiving before we start thrusting Christmas on consumers? Thanks.

Crazy Love - Buy from Amazon
A documentary that explores the relationship between Burt Pugach and Linda Riss. If you can even call it that. The DVD comes with an audio commentary track, as well as a couple of galleries, and is worth checking out. However, I don't think the replay value is high enough to buy it.

Deadliest Catch - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
A documentary series that takes a look at the crews of some Alaskan crab fishing boats and the unique dangers they face. This 3-disc set it riveting, but the lack of extras is disappointing.

Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares - Volume 1 - Buy from
I love this show. In it Gordon Ramsay travels to several failing restaurants in Britain and tries to revive them. The show's gotten the American touch, but this man swears like a wounded sailor and that doesn't work on American TV. However, you get to hear all of it here. The lack of extras is disappointing, but it still worth picking up, even if you have to import it from Canada.

Grindhouse - Planet Terror - Extended and Unrated - Two-Disc Special Edition - Buy from Amazon
Grindhouse opened in April with amazing reviews but completely flubbed at the box office. Fortunately the studio didn't decide to just release the film on a bare-bones DVD, they gave us a 2-Disc special edition, but is it worth picking up?

Planet Terror stars Rose McGowan as Cherry, a Go-Go Dancer who just quit her job and wants to start a better life. However, that night a military experiment goes awry and thousands of people are turned into infectious zombies. Into this story are thrown a cast of characters including her ex, a pair of doctors, the Sheriff, a rapist, and a pair of 16-year old twins.

While Death Proof has been earning better box office numbers internationally, I found Planet Terror to be the better movie. Too often in Death Proof I felt scenes existed only to give Quentin Tarantino a chance to write his stylized dialogue. Here, the movie felt more economical with each scene adding something and that helped the pacing immensely. Also, the action was great (although it had an intentionally low budget look to it at times), and there was more than enough gore for splatter fans. On the other hand, if I were looking for negatives, I would have to say that this is a rather shallow movie. There's no great message it is trying to deliver; it is just trying to entertain. However, I don't think it's fair to hold a film up to a higher standard than it sets for itself.

As for the extras, the 2-disc set has enough to please fans starting with an audio commentary track with the director, Robert Rodriguez. Also on the first disc is an Audience Reaction Track, which replicates the experience of watching the movie in a crowded theater. It's interesting, but there's not much in the way of replay value (also, the crowd wasn't as raucous as I though it would be). Moving onto disc 2, there are plenty of featurettes including the usual 10-Minute Film School that is present on most of his DVDs. This time around they deal with a lot of scenes showing how they can be done on a limited budget. In the end he also briefly mentions there is a 2-disc Grindhouse DVD coming out, which is important. (On a side note, it isn't 10 minutes long but closer to 12.) The Badass Babes Of Planet Terror and The Guys Of Planet Terror talk about the cast, here the guys take up longer than the babes, but both have replay value. Casting Rebel runs 5:30 minutes talks about Robert Rodriguez casting his son for the role of Tony and the lengths he went to to make sure his character has a happy ending (or at least make sure his son thinks his character has a happy ending). Next up is Sickos, Bullets And Explosions: The Stunts Of Planet Terror, which runs just over 13 minutes and talks about the stunts while the last featurette, The Friend, The Doctor And The Real Estate Agent is half that long and deals with a few cast members that were friends of Robert Rodriguez, including his doctor.

Overall, this is a fun ride and the 2-Disc DVD is has more than enough extras to make the DVD worth picking up. I did have a concern about the upcoming double-dip in the near future that might have prevented me from giving this release the DVD Pick of the Week. However, the upcoming DVD features the theatrical versions of the two films, and arguably it won't replace this DVD in you collection, but add to it. (Then again, there could be a massive megaset in the works, but that's another issue.)

On a side note, the poster with Rose McGowan and the machine gun leg probably cost the movie $10 million, at least. Nearly everyone I talked to about the movie who would normally be in the target audience said that poster was the reason they decided not to see the movie. However, that's a shame because the movie is worth checking out and the gun leg is not nearly as off-putting in the movie as it is on the poster.

Hannah Montana - Life's What You Make It - Buy from Amazon
The latest DVD release for the incredibly popular 'Tween series hit stores last week, but thanks to the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, the spotlight review was delayed till this week.

Life's What You Make It has four episodes from season two and while season two maintains the dynamics set up in season one, there are some changes. For instance, there is an addition to the cast as Moises Arias joins the show as cousin Oliver (and if you get that reference, you are too old to be watching Hannah Montana).

The episodes are ...

  1. Achey Jakey Heart: Part 1
    Jake Ryan comes back into Miley's life and tries to win her back.
    Arg. I hate Jake Ryan. The character is so incredibly annoying yet half the episodes that have been released on DVD so far have featured him.
  2. Achey Jakey Heart: Part 2
    In order to be with Miley, Jake Ryan has to learn to be like a normal, non-famous person. When that doesn't go well, she decides to make him break up with her.
    At least in this episode the rest of the cast figure out he's just as annoying as I say he is, but I would rather have two other episodes instead of this two-parter.
  3. I Am Hannah, Hear Me Croak
    After giving one too many encore performances, Miley loses her voice and requires an operation. This gives her nightmares about losing her singing voice forever.
    My personal favorite episode on the DVD and explores more dramatic territory than the others. It also features Brooke Shields as Miley's mom.
  4. I Want You to Want Me... to Go to Florida
    Miley's dad hurts his back and can't travel, and he won't let her travel without him to Florida meaning she will have to miss her charity concert. However, she has other plans...
    A coming of age tale that deals with Robbie's reluctance to accept his daughter is growing up. Again, this deals with a deeper story than Achey Jakey Heart did, and that helps it be a lot better episode.
Moving onto the extras, there are two to select from, starting with Backstage Pass: The Secrets of Hannah Montana. This featurette runs 5:30 and talks to the cast about secrets, which is obviously a theme in the show. Next up is a music video by Billy Ray Cyrus (I was sure there was a U.N. resolution passed that prohibited him from ever picking up a musical instrument again after Achey Breaky Heart). Fortunately, this is a much better song, but I can't imagine fans of the style of pop music that fills Hannah Montana will be a fan of this song.

I always prefer full season sets over single DVDs like this, but this is a Disney show, so there's almost no chance that's ever going to happen. On the other hand, Hannah Montana - Life's What You Make It is quite good compared to most releases Disney and is worth picking up.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: A Mighty Heart, The Reaping, The Transformers
Only three HD-DVD releases, all of which are also coming out on DVD. Only one of which -- The Transformers HD-DVD -- is worth picking up.

The Hoax - Buy from Amazon
Based on a true story, we think.

In the movie Richard Gere plays Clifford Irving, an author who career isn't moving in the right direction so he decides to bluff his way back to the top by claiming he's writing the book of the century, an auto-biography of Howard Hughes. But this is not a movie about the writing of a book, but a movie about a con.

This is an actors' movie. The kind of movie that actor's love to be in because it shows off their talent. Of course Richard Gere leads the film and without his charm the film wouldn't be what it is. However, every actor in the movie puts in an amazing performance including Alfred Molina as Dick Suskind his partner, Marcia Gay Harden as his wife Edith Irving, and Hope Davis as the composite publisher Andrea Tate.

As for the DVD, I didn't have high expectations since the film wasn't a big box office hit. It started out well in select cities, but couldn't maintain its start when it expanded. But fortunately the DVD is great. Extras start off with not one but two audio commentary tracks. The first is with the writer, William Wheeler, and the director, Lasse Hallstrom while the second is with the two producers, Leslie Holleran and Joshua D. Maurer. Both tracks learn toward informative more than entertaining, but that's not to say they are dry. Also, there are some dead spots, but not so much that there's a problem with the flow. Additionally, there are six deleted, (with optional audio commentary by the writer and director) and another extended scene without commentary. In total they run 19 minutes and were mostly cut not for pacing problems, but because they didn't quite work. However, they make good extras. There are also two featurettes, Stranger Than Fiction and Mike Wallace: Reflections on a Con. The first is your typical making of featurette and runs just under 12 minutes. The second is an interview with Mike Wallace, who interviewed Clifford Irving back in 1972 about the book. It is only about 4 and a half minutes long, but it adds a new and fascinating perspective to the story.

This movie presents a story that, if you didn't know it was true, it would be too strange to believe. Into this story several amazing actors give several amazing performances and the end result is marvelous. Add in a DVD with better than expected extras and you have a solid purchase, perhaps on a slower week a contender for DVD Pick of the Week.

The Invisible - Buy from Amazon
David S. Goyer is a great screenwriter. I'm not sure he's got this directing gig down just yet. It doesn't help that the script doesn't do enough with the premise while the lead feels like he's sleepwalking through the film.

This is the kind of movie you forget while you are watching it. I guess you could say the film is not terrible enough to be memorable, but that is hardly a compliment. There is an essence of a good story here, and it probably worked well in the original novel and was somewhat better in the Swedish movie this one is based on. But this film instead of feeling tense or suspenseful, it just feels melodramatic. Teen angsty instead of terrifying.

The extras are not as weak as expecting given the fact that the film barely cracked $20 million at the box office. There are two audio commentary tracks, the first with the director David S. Goyer and the co-writer Christine Roum while the second is with the writer Mick Davis. Neither offers too much insight into the movie, but the second one has too many spots of dead air and that hurts the rhythm. There are also a dozen deleted scenes that come with optional audio commentary. Many of the scenes were part of sub-plots that were just removed from the movie. Finally, there are two music videos.

Sold as a supernatural thriller, the movie is a mopey melodrama that doesn't work on enough to be fulfilling. It might be worth a rental, along with the Swedish original for an interesting compare and contrast, but that's about it.

Hollow Man - Director's Cut - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
This movie did not need a director's cut, nor does the director's cut add anything to the movie. The DVD isn't even particularly strong, (there's no audio commentary track and most of the short featurettes are too short to get into any real detail). Skip it.

Ironside - Season 2 - Buy from Amazon
Raymond Burr's second TV hit, but this time instead of defending the wrongfully accused, he's helping put the bad guys away as Chief of Detectives Robert Ironside, who survived an assassin's bullet and formed his own special division for the San Francisco Police Department. Fans of the show will be happy it's on DVD, but the lack of extras is disappointing.

The Jazz Singer - Three-Disc Deluxe Edition - Buy from Amazon
The first feature length talkie, and as such, this is an historically significant film and because of that the studio is giving this film a massive 3-disc DVD release. Included are several vintage shorts restored for this DVD, documentaries on the movie, its production, its place in history, as well as a commentary track by film historian, and more. The historical significance alone makes the DVD worth picking up.

Jonathan Creek - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
A British murder mystery series starring Alan Davies and Caroline Quentin, both of whom are known more for their comedy than their dramatic work, but that certainly helps here. The lack of extras hurts the value as does the price per minute, but it is still worth checking out.

Macgyver - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
A double-dip for a TV series that wasn't worth picking up on DVD the first time. The DVD releases were terrible, they looked and sounded worse than the syndicated versions you can see on TV, and there were no extras. Even at less than $20 per season in this megaset, it is hard to justify buying it.

Masters of Horror - The Damned Thing - Buy from Amazon
The episode of Masters of Horror earned mixed reviews, but the DVD is great. However, wait and pick up the full season set, which should be out relatively soon. Speaking of full season sets, you can get the first season of the series on Blu-Ray in two volumes, which is a much better deal.

Medium - The Third Season - Buy from Amazon
This is a show I am no longer interested it. Patricia Arquette's performance just doesn't have the excitement level to keep me interested. It is almost like she's disinterested at times. At least that's how it seems to me. On the other hand, the extras are great with audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, including one with her brother, David Arquette, who directed one episode in season three. Fans will certainly want to pick it up; I'm just not one of those fans.

Michael Moore Hates America - Buy from Amazon
This is either very sublime humor, or one of the worst documentaries you will ever see. The filmmaker, Michael Wilson, first accuses Michael Moore of hating America, then spends an inordinate amount of time complaining the Michael Moore won't sit down for an interview. He complains that Michael Moore twists the facts and doesn't tell the whole truth, then complains that Michael Moore actually grew up in Davison, Michigan and not Flint, Michigan, which is only 11 miles away. He even makes fun of Michael Moore's weight, but he's no underwear model himself. There is no complaint against Michael Moore than he isn't more guilty of and it is the sheer weight of the hypocrisy that leads me to believe the film can't be legitimate and must be a comedy, but I don't think Michael Wilson is in on the joke.

A Mighty Heart - Buy from Amazon: DVD or HD-DVD
Angelina Jolie needs to stay away from political films. Audiences just don't accept her in them.

The movie tells the story of the kidnapping of the journalist Daniel Pearl, as told by the perspective of his wife, Mariane Pearl. For the most part the film tells an emotionally powerful story without seeming manipulative, for the most part. A lot of the flashbacks were a major weakness of the movie. It was the filmmakers attempt to give the audience an emotional connection to the movie, but for me it just felt cheap to me. Give me something with depth, something that tells me more of the story and that way I will be more emotionally engaged. This shallow treatment of the story was perhaps the biggest issue, but not enough of a problem to prevent me from recommending the movie.

Moving onto the extras, I was not impressed. I've reviewed four high definition releases so far and the only one with serious extras was the Blu-Ray version of Remember the Titans, and even then it didn't have significantly more that the DVD release had. Here we only get a handful of extras starting with a making of featurette, A Journey of Passion: The Making of A Mighty Heart, which runs a meaty 28 minutes and deals with all of the usual subjects. There is also a PSA for the Pearl Foundation with Christiane Amanpour that can be also watched as an intro to the movie. Finally, Committee to Protect Journalists talks about the organization set up more than 25 years ago to help protect journalists worldwide, especially in countries where freedom of the press is (nearly) non-existent. It's an interesting featurette, but runs only 8 minutes. I was hoping for an audio-commentary track at the very least, and perhaps more information on the political end of the movie. Then again, the film bombed at the box office so the lack of extras is not particularly shocking, but if you are going to put out a movie on HD-DVD, you need to give early adapters a reason to pick it up.

Overall the film works enough to be worth watching, but not enough to have the replay value needed for repeat viewing. Add in light extras and the HD-DVD is only worth a rental.

Murder Party - Buy from Amazon
The feature length debut of writer / director Jeremy Saulnier and if this horror comedy is any indication, he could have a career ahead of him. Granted, it is low budget, but entertaining. The DVD appears to be featureless, but it is still worth checking out for most, picking up for many.

My Best Friend - Buy from Amazon
This movie doesn't delve into any unknown territory, in fact, most moviegoers will guess how it ends within the first ten minutes. However, it is entertaining and the cast are engaging enough that these are forgivable flaws. As for the DVD, there is only a making of featurette, but that's common for foreign language imports and it is still worth checking out.

Mythbusters - Collection 2 - Buy from Amazon
There have been a lot of DVD releases for this wonderful show, but none that I would consider top-notch, or even middle rung. Just collections of episodes out of order and without extras. Put them in chronological order and sell them as full season sets and I would be a lot happier purchasing them and recommending others to do the same. As it is, I can barely recommend renting. I love this show; please give me a DVD I would be happy to recommend to everyone.

Normal Adolescent Behavior - Havoc 2 - Buy from Amazon
Havoc was a terrible movie really only noteworthy because it featured Anne Hathaway trying to shed her Disney princess image. Perhaps Amber Tamblyn is trying to do the same after Joan of Arcadia. This direct-to-DVD release is earning no reviews and has barely any extras, (deleted scenes, character profiles, making of featurette). The epitome of a skippable DVD.

The Reaping - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-Ray, or HD-DVD
AnnaSophia Robb stared in one of the best movies of the year, now she stars in one of the worst. (Although it might not be 100% accurate two say she stars in this movie as Hilary Swank is the actual lead, but you couldn't tell that by looking at the cover.) The problems with the movie are numerous, and personally I think it would be a much more successful movie if it had a Scooby-Doo moment and the skeptic was proven right. That would have been the only twist that would have made the movie something less than completely predictable. Extras are light, which is no surprise given the movie's performance at the box office. There are a handful of featurettes on the cast, the plagues, the town, and the bugs, as well as an Easter egg with AnnaSophia Robb reading a short story she wrote. The movie isn't worth watching and the extras are too weak to and any real value and that adds up to the dreaded, 'Skip it' rating.

Return to House on Haunted Hill - Buy from Amazon: R-Rated DVD, Unrated DVD, Unrated Blu-Ray, or Unrated HD-DVD
I'm still not convinced that House on Haunted Hill needed a sequel, but I'm not surprised it's being release direct-to-DVD. As for the DVD, there extras are light with just some generic featurettes, however, the two high definitions versions have a choose-your-own-adventure version that might be interesting enough on its own to make the DVD worth checking out.

Roseanne - The Complete Ninth Season - Buy from Amazon
The ninth and final season comes out on DVD this week and it is a season many fans would rather forget. In fact, the less said the better. Only buy it if you are a completionist.

Show Business - The Road to Broadway - Buy from Amazon
A documentary look at four Broadway plays and the razor thin margin between hits and misses and the huge amount of work that goes into to productions. This is a great movie, even if you are not a fan of musicals. As for the DVD, it is packed with an audio commentary track, bones interviews, bonus scenes from the movie, bonus clips from the shows, etc. Easily worth picking up.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
In fall 2006, this was considered one of the can't miss shows. It was created by Aaron Sorkin and it featured Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry both of whom worked with Sorkin before on The West Wing. Everyone thought it was a can't miss hit, but it did miss. The beshind-the-scenes of a TV show isn't all that interesting unless you have some firsthand knowledge. As for the DVD, despite only lasting one season, the 6-disc set is not bare with audio commentary tracks and a making of documentary. The show started off slow, but showed real promise. Perhaps if it lasted at least another season it would have realized that potential, but at least fans of the show have a DVD worth picking up.

Squidbillies - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
An Adult Swim cartoon that is too out there even for me. It tells the story of some hillbilly squids, hence the name of the series. However, too often the humor is lost in the effort to be outrageous. On the other hand, the 2-disc set is loaded with extras and is worth picking up for fans of the show, I'm just not in that crowd.

That '70s Show - Season 7 - Buy from Amazon
The final season of this long running series. Yes, I know it lasted 8 seasons, but the final one doesn't count. Without Topher Grace, and to a lesser extent Ashton Kutcher, it just wasn't the same. Topher Grace was the heart of the series and without him there was no reason to continue the show. As for this season, it showed signs of wavering and it was clearly on its last legs. Most of the episodes are worth watching and the overall DVD is worth picking up, but I can't emphasize enough that the show should have ended after season 7.

The Transformers - Buy from Amazon: Single-Disc DVD, 2-Disc Special Edition, HD-DVD
The first of the $300 million monster hits of the year arrive to on DVD comes out this week. The Transformers won't be remembered as the best movie to come out this summer, but it did earn better reviews than both Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. As a straight up action film, it is excellent, but as a downside, that's all that it is, a straight up action film. As for the DVDs, the Single-Disc DVD is not worth picking up as the extras are minor, (just the audio commentary track), white the 2-Disc Special Edition includes more than 2 hours worth of featurettes on various subjects, mostly with impressive replay value. As for the HD-DVD version, there are actually HD-DVD exclusive features that take advantage of the of the technology and it is worth paying the extra money for these features.

The Trails of Darryl Hunt - Buy from Amazon
A documentary about the wrongful conviction of Darryl Hunt and his 20 year fight for justice, half that time it was known his DNA didn't match that of the real criminal and they still wouldn't let him out of prison. The film earned perfect reviews but never made an impact at the box office. The DVD should do much better and the extras are strong with deleted scenes and bonus interviews as well as a featurette. Worth picking up.


Filed under: Video Releases, Transformers, The Reaping, Grindhouse, The Invisible, A Mighty Heart, The Hoax, Mon meilleur ami, Crazy Love, Show Business, The Trials of Darryl Hunt