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DVD Releases for October 30, 2007 - Part I

October 29th, 2007

This is the first part of the DVD Release Report. It's being broken up into two parts because it's just so long that the site will cut it off at the end. In fact, that happened last week, and the last two releases are included in this week's list.

Another massive week for releases with dozens of releases mentioned below (and in the second part). Of these numerous releases, there were several that were in contention for the DVD Pick of the Week, but I was able to narrow the selection down to just two: Spider-Man 3 - Blu-Ray Edition and Looney Tunes - Golden Collection - Volume Five. Blu-Ray finally gets on the board and scores a DVD Pick of the Week, but it won't be the last. In fact, I have a funny feeling the format will score its second award.

The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard - Buy from Amazon
This British series stars Jane Horrocks as the titular Mrs. Pritchard, a woman who is so sick and tired of lying politicians that she decides to run for office. When she becomes a media darling, she becomes a favorite in her riding. Soon others join here newly formed party and they are swept into power. Once there her ethics runs headlong into reality and this conflict is the heart of the show. The show earned poor ratings only was not renewed for a second season, but this 2-disc set is still worth checking out. However, with no real extras, a rental will do for most people.

Angel - Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Releases like this are why a lot of series are having trouble selling 50,000 units when a few years ago ten time that would be considered only a solid hit. Granted, this is an excellent series and if you don't have it yet, now is the perfect time to pick it up.

Avatar The Last Airbender Book 3 Fire - Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon
Wait till they release the full book.

Barbara Stanwyck - The Signature Collection - Buy from Amazon
Another Signature Collection where I'm not entirely pleased with the movie selection. The set contains none of the four films that won her Oscar nominations, nor are these five films among her best or most well known. That's not entirely fair as Executive Suite is an excellent movie, but there are probably half-a-dozen better films that could have been released instead. I guess its getting harder and harder for the studio to find five movies that haven't been released on DVD yet. As for the extras, each of the single film discs has a musical and a cartoon short while Executive Suite has an audio commentary track as well. However, Jeopardy and To Please a Lady is a double-feature and the only extra on that disc is a radio drama. Fans of the actress will be happy to see these five films on DVD for the first time, but a little more care could have given more people incentive to pick it up.

Basket Case 2 - Buy from Amazon
Frank Henenlotter returns to his favorite conjoined twins in this sequel. It's not as good as the original, but still better than most B-movies out there and very entertaining. As for the extras, that are what you would expect for a low-budget horror film from 1990, (a few featurettes / interviews), and if you have the original on DVD, you'll want to own this one as well.

Benny Hill - Complete & Unadulterated Megaset - Buy from Amazon
More full season sets. I guess they make good gifts for people who enjoyed the show but didn't bother picking them up on DVD.

The Blood Shed - Buy from Amazon
Wow. That's a groan-worthy pun. The low budget, really, really low budget horror film tells the story of the Bullions family, who are, as the box calls them, inbred, hillbilly, cannibals. However, far from being a retread of previous cannibal family films, this film is surprisingly good with lots of creativity and skills in all areas of filmmaking well beyond the usual for low-budget horror films. The DVD isn't overburdened with extras and the only special feature of value is an audio commentary track, but that will be enough for many genre fans to buy it over just renting it.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Artic Dreaming, David Gilmour: Remember That Night - Live At The Royal Albert Hall, Exotic Saltwater Aquarium, Fireplace - Visions of Tranquility, HD Window: The Great Southwest, HD Window: Hawaii, License to Wed, The Polar Express, Serenity: Southern Seas, Spider-Man 3, Spider-Man Trilogy, A Stained Glass Christmas with Heavenly Carols, and Visions of the Sea: Explorations
Massive list of Blu-Ray releases, but very few are worth even a second glance and only the Spider-Man 3 releases is really worth picking up. On a side note, there are not one, not two, but seven picture window Blu-Ray releases! I always found these releases to be completely useless, but the best selling of these releases are ranking higher than three of the four HD-DVD releases this week. How sad is that?

Blu-Ray Spotlights

This week we have spotlight reviews for two Blu-Ray releases that I previously reviewed on DVD. Because of that, I won't be dealing with the movie as much as how the Blu-Ray disc differs from the DVD release.

The Invisible - Blu-Ray Edition - Buy from Amazon
The original DVD review can be found here, but for a quick recap... I didn't find the mystery engaging or suspenseful while the moody lead character gave me no reason to care about his plight.

The question here is whether this DVD is worth the extra $5.00 it costs to buy the Blu-Ray version over the DVD version. To answer that question you have to look at the picture quality and extra features. With The Invisible, I never thought the visuals were screaming for the high definition treatment. It was moody and high definition fog looks pretty much the same as standard definition fog. Looking at the movie showcase, which is there to show off the Blu-Ray technology, I wasn't struck by any of the three scenes being significantly more impressive than the DVD version. Granted, I watched the DVD with upconversion on my Blu-Ray player so the does have an effect. However, if you don't have a Blu-Ray player, the question of buying the Blu-Ray disc is moot, unless you want to upgrade your home theater system to high definition, but The Invisible is not a film worth upgrading for.

As for the bonus extras, there are none. Yes, the Blu-Ray version does have all of the extras from the DVD, but that should go without saying. If the high definition version doesn't, someone needs a stern talking to. (I'm looking at you, HD-DVD release of Top Gun. I'm still pissed at that.)

I couldn't recommend the original DVD for anything more than a rental. However, if you've already decided to buy the movie, I can't recommend the Blu-Ray over the DVD. This movie doesn't demand the high definition treatment and there are no additional features so it isn't worth the extra $5 to purchase.

The second Blu-Ray spotlight is...

Meet the Robinsons - Blu-Ray - Buy from Amazon
The original DVD review can be found here. I enjoyed this movie enough to recommend picking it up if you had kids, but adult collectors of digital animation will probably be fine with a rental.

Speaking of digital animation, I think it will be these films that help convince more and more people to join the high definition movement. Because they are created digitally, they really pop wit the high definition treatment. Granted, this movie's style is cartoony and a more realistic art style would benefit more from the extra resolution, but I was still happy enough with the improvement that I wouldn't consider it a mistake to upgrade on that point alone.

As for bonus extras, they have all of the DVDs features as well as an extra game. Normally set tops games are a waste of space, but this action game is actually very well done. It is certainly better than what you could do with a regular DVD player and showing off the technology is important in getting people to pay more for the high definition discs.

With visuals that benefit from high definition more than most movies, and additional bonus material, I can say that Meet the Robinsons is worth paying the extra $5 to $7 to get the - Blu-Ray version. So far most high definition releases feel like shovelware, so it is nice to see a - Blu-Ray release that is worth it.

Bob Dylan - The Other Side of the Mirror: Live at Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965 - Buy from Amazon
Three years of Bob Dylan's performance at the Newport Folk Festival, including 1965 when the legend went electrical for the first time in a live performance. There are more than a dozen performances here, an interview with Bob Dylan, and an afternoon workshop from before the 1965 show. Easily worth picking up for fans of the Folk singer as they wait for I'm Not There to be released.

Brain Damage - Buy from Amazon
A classic from 1988. Well, maybe classic isn't the right word. The film is about a man, Brian, who is infested by a parasite that gives him powerful, and pleasurable, hallucinations as long as he feeds it. And what does this parasite eat? Human brains. This is actually a re-release from a few years ago, but with Basket Case 2 coming out tomorrow, I thought I'd mention it. (They are both directed by Frank Henenlotter and this is his best work.)

C.S.I.: Miami - Season 5 - Buy from Amazon
The C.S.I. franchise is not my favorite when it comes to police procedural shows, and I consider C.S.I.: Miami to be the worst of the three.

The original is, well, the original and it has that going for it. Also, I find the chemistry between the characters to be superior. C.S.I.: New York is at least somewhat different in terms of tone, but this one feels like a clone of the original, just without the same level of interesting characters and very little chemistry between them. And good god, David Curuso overacts. Watching the show infrequently on TV is one thing, but sitting down and watching 4 or five hours in a row to do this review is another. The dramatic removal of the sunglasses, the squinting, the squatting; it was all too much and I had to take a break.

Last week I reviewed NCIS and it makes for a great comparison and it emphasized all the problems I have with this show. On C.S.I.: Miami the mysteries are not as interesting, the editing techniques are distracting, and there are far too many extraneous shots. If you tell me you can read the solvents on the paper, I believe you; I don't need to see it up close on the microscopic level. Or if you are going to show me super close-ups of evidence, don't do it four, five, six times an episode. These flashy techniques might work if used sparingly, but I've grown tired of them long before this season. Hell, I grew tired of them before C.S.I.: Miami was first spun off. Speaking of Miami, where are there two or three minutes of aerial shots of Miami each episode? Are they afraid the people will forget C.S.I.: Miami is set in Miami? And what is with all the slow motion? The jump cuts? Split screen? Split screen with the same image on the screen twice? The multitude of cheesy screen effects? This isn't style; this is pretentiousness masquerading as style. I swear, if you got a real editor to handle this show, and you could get the running time of the average show down at least 10 minutes without hurting the narrative in the slightest. Hell, since the 'style' is distracting, it would improve the show dramatically.

Moving onto the extras, there is a good selection with audio commentary tracks on five episodes and five featurettes on the 6-disc set. However, while the quantity is high, the quality is not. The audio commentary tracks are mostly good, but sometimes are on the dry side. More technical and less entertaining. The best involved Eva La Rue as she talked about the episode, Darkroom, and how an event in her life helped inspire it. On the other hand, the featurettes were usually too short to give us much information. Rio Grand: CSI Miami Goes to Rio runs just under 8 minute and doesn't give enough information on the shoot in Brazil to have much in the way of replay value. If Looks Could Kill - Special F/X Makeup is self-explanatory and runs 13 minutes. Again, it is interesting, but with limited replay value. On disc four is the nine-minute long featurette, Turning Up the Heat: The Look of CSI Miami and it examines the look of the show. On Disc Five we find Dressing the Part, which is also rather self-explanatory and runs 6 minutes. Finally, Disc Six gives us The Real MDPD with Jonathan Togo; it runs 25 minutes and is easily the meatiest featurette on the set. Again, the name gives a good description as we see the real life examples of pretty much every aspect of the show.

A really good police procedural show should draw you and make you care about the case, and not just solving it but the process. Too often while watching this show, I only cared about the outcome. And sometimes, I stopped caring about that well before the show was over. There is simply too much style and not enough substance to hold my attention. On the other hand, fans of the show will likely enjoy the 6-disc set and should pick it up.

Caligulia - 3-Disc Imperial Edition - Buy from Amazon
Caligulia stars Malcolm McDowell, Peter O'Toole, Helen Mirren, Sir John Gielgud, and based on a screenplay by Gore Vidal. This could have been an impressive look at a time in history. If the movie stuck with the truth and gave us a look at the political intrigue and Roman way of life, it could have been a good film.

Unfortunately one of the producers was Bob Guccione, of Penthouse magazine, who decided it would make a great porno. The mixing of the two was the biggest mistake of the production, but even if you just look at the film as a piece of historial fiction, it's a bloated mess. Everything seems overdone and the few scenes and aspects that do work seem diminished by the mere size of the film. In the end, it really only works as a curiosity, but even as a train wreck, it did not hold my attention.

On a side note, the debauchery depicted in the movie is mostly fiction. There are very few historical records from the time, and most of the truly bizarre accusations against Caligulia were not written until years after his death by people trying to discredit his reign. The same is true of Emperor Nero. In fact, a lot of this movie suffered from historical inaccuracies, which wouldn't be such a big deal except people kept defending this film saying it is an accurate depiction of the times.

As for the three-disc set, it is well done and will satisfy those who want to check out the movie out of curiosity or whether they are a fan of the film in whatever capacity that is. Disc one contains the international version that runs more than two-and-a-half hours including extended scenes, mostly involving hardcore sex but there are some scenes with more graphic violence. Disc two has the 1979 theatrical, which is just under two-and-a-half hours. This version can also be viewed with one of three audio commentary tracks, the first with Malcolm McDowell, the second with Helen Mirren, and the third with Ernest Volkman. The first two are much more interesting, while the third is done over the phone and the audio quality is quite weak. In addition, there are a dozen deleted / extended scenes of version quality, none that really add much to the movie.

Finally, there's a third disc with several featurettes starting with interviews with John Steiner, (Longinus), Lori Wagner, (Agrippina), and Tinto Brass, (the director). In total these three interviews run nearly 90 minutes long. Additionally, there is a two part making of featurette called, The Making of Caligula, and it runs a combined 1 hour and 10 minutes. It is interesting to see the perspective from the 1970s when the film was made and the perspective now. It is clear that most people are more or less resigned to the mess Caligulia turned into.

It can't be overemphasizes that the film's production was a mess. In fact, the story of the production is a lot more interesting that the final product. Even watching it as a train wreck, I found the movie couldn't hold my attention. Hearing the audio commentary tracks and the interviews does give an interesting perspective on the film, but I can't image a lot of causal film buffs giving this film more than 12 hours of their life, which is how long it would take to watch the movie and all of the extras. As a movie, I can't recommend Caligulia for anything more than renting. But without the extras, you don't get a true sense of the movie and it would take more than one sitting just to get through the entire 3-Disc Imperial Edition. This makes it nearly impossible to come up with the final rating.

All I can say is rent it, but make sure you have the weekend free to get through it all.

El Cantante - Buy from Amazon
This film earned terrible reviews and completely disappeared at the box office, but the DVD is better than expected. Extras include two audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes, and a making of featurette. That's enough for a rental, if you are a fan of the music, but everyone else can safely skip it.

Captivity - Buy from Amazon: Theatrical Version or Unrated Version
One of the worst movies of the year, this was also one of the biggest box office bombs as well. Since it performed so badly with both critics and moviegoers, there's little surprise the DVD has so few extras, (two making of featurettes and some deleted scenes), but no amount of extras would help this movie be worth even a rental. Skip it.

Christmas Releases - Buy from Amazon: Christmas at Water's Edge, A Christmas Carol / Old Scrooge, A Christmas Story, Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, Holidaze - The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen, LeapFrog Presents A Tad of Christmas Cheer, Scrooge, A Stained Glass Christmas with Heavenly Carols, and This Is Tom Jones Christmas
Even more Christmas releases this week. But fewer top-notch releases. I guess the direct competition with Halloween sacred some of them away.

Danielle Steel's Safe Harbour - Buy from Amazon
The kind of film that gives a bad name to chick flicks; it's not even good in a guilty pleasure way. Boring, pointless, and completely skippable.

Dark Shadows - The Beginning Collection 2 - Buy from Amazon
Volume 2 of the Pre-Barnabas days of this Gothic soap opera. As it is with the rest of this series, this is an excellent DVD, but the price tag for the entire series might scare people away from starting the collection. That would be a shame and it is certainly worth picking up.

Day Watch - Unrated - Buy from Amazon
This film earned better reviews that the first film earned, but didn't last as long at the box office. The film has serious cult appeal, and while the style does overtake the substance of the film at times, it is still fun to watch. Unfortunately, the DVD as little in the way of extras, (audio commentary track, making of featurette and a music video), but that's on pair with more limited releases and enough to rate it above the rental level. Perhaps when the last film comes out, they will release a trilogy box set with more impressive extras, but until this DVD is worth adding to your collection. (They do have a 2-Pack, but they are making a third movie, sort of, maybe... it's a long story, and I would advise waiting for that one to come out before buying a box set.)

The Devil Came On Horseback - Buy from Amazon
A powerful documentary about the genocide in Darfur, which wasn't supposed to happen because we said, "Never again." after the genocide in Rwanda, which wasn't supposed to happen because... well, you get the idea. The DVD is sadly light on special features with just a short film and a PSA, but it is still worth checking out. Maybe if enough people see it, never again will mean never again.

Elvis #1 Hit Performances - Buy from Amazon
Elvis's 15 number one hits performed live on various TV shows and concert specials. Great music but a lack of context hurts.

Everybody Loves Raymond - The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
This is either for fans so deranged that they simply must have everything related to Everybody Loves Raymond, or for causal fans who thought buying the individual season would be too expensive.

Family Affair - Season 4 - Buy from Amazon
The penultimate season of this series from the 1960s. A little too sugary for my tastes and a lot of people will agree that it hasn't aged well, but there are enough fans that the DVDs are reasonable sellers. Extras include an interview with Johnny Whitaker and a featurette on the child stars. Overall it is worth picking up, but I can't be too enthusiastic about that recommendation.

Family Guy - Freakin' Party Pack - Buy from Amazon
This is essentially a full series set for a series that's still going. It feels like a cash-grab and I can't recommend those.

HD-DVD Releases - Buy from Amazon: Face/Off, License to Wed, Mozart - Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), and Talk to Me
Only four releases this week, only one of which, Talk to Me, is even worth considering as a purchase.

Hideout in the Sun 2-DVD Collector's Edition - Buy from Amazon
A lot of grindhouse releases have come out recently, mostly the hack and slash variety, but for a change of pace this 1960 sexploitation film is being released on a 2-disc set. It is the first film grindhouse auteur, Doris Wishman, made during her long career. It's got a time capsule like feel to it, and an almost quaint feel to it. It's a film that should be seen by fans of films from that era, even if it's just for curiosity sake, but the DVD has better features than expected for a low-budget film from the 1960s. There are two versions of the movie, full-screen and letter-boxed, as well as an audio commentary track with film historians, interviews, featurettes and more. It's worth checking out, but I can't see many people buying it.

The Initiation of Sarah - Buy from Amazon
There are several actress in this film that I like including Jennifer Tilly and Summer Glau. However, this TV movie remake is pure cheese, and that's being kind. If you are into this cheese, Halloween is coming up and it might be worth a rental, at the very most.

Jackie Chan - The Myth - Buy from Amazon
Jackie Chan's latest film is from Hong Kong, where he undoubtedly feels more comfortable. While this won't be remembered as one of his best films, it is still a step up from Rush Hour 3 and fans of his should check it out. Add in an audio commentary track, making of featurette, and other extras, and it is worth more than a rental.


Filed under: Video Releases, Spider-Man 3, Meet the Robinsons, License to Wed, The Invisible, El Cantante, Talk to Me, Captivity, Dnevnoy dozor, The Devil Came on Horseback