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DVD Releases for January 1, 2008

December 31st, 2007

Another irritating week for releases with several movies coming out on Tuesday, January 1st, and others coming out on Wednesday (and I've heard some reports that some of these are already in store). Normally this would cause a lot of confusion, but this week there's barely a dozen releases worth mentioning. Even then there are more than a few that feel like I was just padding the list. The best release in term of extras is War on Blu-Ray, which takes advantage of the technology like no other High Definition release on either format. On the other hand, Shoot 'Em Up is the best movie and the DVD Pick of the Week on either DVD or Blu-Ray.

Avia II - Buy from Amazon
According to Amazon, this is the 11th best selling DVD released this week. A tool for calibrating your home theater system nearly made the top ten. That just proves how slow the week is.

Billy Jack - Buy from Amazon
A perfect movie to get a MST3K fan who has heard all of those Billy Jack references on the show and still doesn't know what they were talking about. Not really a bad film, but the franchise quickly went south and definitely became worthy of mocking.

Blu-Ray Releases - Buy from Amazon: Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Extinction, Resident Evil Trilogy, Shoot 'Em Up, and War
Only five Blu-Ray releases this week, more than half dealing with Resident Evil. Also, the first two Profile 1.1 releases are coming out this week, which should have been a big deal but neither movie is strong enough to make the Blu-Ray worth picking up.

HD-DVD Releases - None
There are no HD-DVD releases this week. Just thought I'd mention that so no one thinks I just forget to include them this week.

Indie Sex - Buy from Amazon
A three-part documentary about sex in independent films and how these filmmakers can talk about sex in a frank and honest way that just doesn't happen in mainstream moviemaking. With a combined running time of just over three hours, the film delves into the topic well, but there's no way they could be completely comprehensive. It could be three days long and you would still miss a few prime examples. But for those who missed the shows run on IFC will be happy to be able to check it out on DVD; however, a rental will suffice for most people.

Jimmy and Judy - Buy from Amazon
The film stars Edward Furlong as Jimmy and Rachael Bella as Judy, two social outcasts who decide to abandon their safe, dull suburban lifestyle and take to the road with a camera in hand. A very shaky hand. After watching this movie I feel nauseous.

Roughly 99% of what we see on screen is shot by one of the two characters during the course of the movie with a video camera in their hand. (I think there was only two or three tripod scenes in the whole film.) I think this was done so we could feel more involved in the movie, more connected to the characters, but it just made me feel seasick. Of course, being draw into this movie wasn't very likely as I cared little for the two main characters. Maybe I'm just too old for films about teen angst. Maybe if they had more of a reason to rebel, or something they were fighting for I would have cared, but these two didn't seemed to stand for anything.

The performances by Edward Furlong and Rachael Bella are great and they have a lot of chemistry together, but there wasn't enough that seemed fresh or original to get me past the problems above.

As for extras, there is an audio commentary track with co-writer/producer/director team of Randall Rubin and Jon Schroder, and cinematographer Ben Kufrin. Like many audio commentary tracks for independent film, they talk a lot about the difficulties shooting a low budget film. The three of them keep the pace up and there are very few dead spots. The only other extra are the deleted and extended scenes running 13:29, most of that being Judy shaving Jimmy's head.

A bit of experimental filmmaking that can only be done by independents. However, I think the film would have been more successful if it was made more conventionally. At the very least, it would have been much easier for me to watch. But the film suffers from a feeling of déjà vu and even the chemistry of the two leads is not enough. Fans of the genre might want to give it a rental, but for most people, that's all the movie will need.

Jinki - Extend - Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
Stop me if this sounds familiar, this Anime mini-series is about giant fighting robots used to protect Earth from invading aliens. They even has teenage twins as pilots. It's like they took a big box of cliches and grab a few as many as they could fit in one show. But it works. The 3-disc set contains the three volumes that were previously released on DVD as well as most extras than one would expect from this type of releases (interviews, model test, etc.). Worth checking out for fans of Anime.

Mariah Carey - The Adventures of Mimi - Buy from Amazon
Mariah Carey's latest DVD is a concert film from the Adventures of Mimi tour, which was in support of her 2005 CD, The Emancipation of Mimi.

Arguably Mariah Carey's most successful concert, the set includes songs from her 15 year career including her first single, Vision of Love and especially hits from what was at the time her latest album. Her vocal performance was amazing, good selection of songs but perhaps not as many of the older hits I prefer, and there was good energy but its not a very energetic performance. She doesn't so a lot of dancing, for instance. For that matter, the stage-show as a whole isn't particularly flashy lacking any pyrotechnics and having only a rather straightforward light show. Without her frequent outfit changes there would be really no variety in the concert. Then again, this does allow the music to take center stage.

The concert itself seemed short at just 80 minutes. (Apparently a lot of the between song interactions were cut, as were the D.J. performances during the outfit changes.) However, to make up there are more than a few extras on the 2-disc set starting with a behind-the-scenes featurette that runs 14:35. The other extra on the first disc is the Jukebox, which allows you to choose the songs you want to hear and the order you can hear them. Disc 2 stars with a 34:18 documentary, but there's limited replay value. There are also Karaoke versions of selection songs, with or without Mariah Carey's vocals, and Lovers and Haters video. I have a hard time imagining this couldn't fit on one disc.

Fans of Mariah Carey should be excited to own a DVD of her big comeback, and while the DVD isn't perfect, it is still worth the asking price.

Resident Evil: Extinction - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
The third, and I doubt final film in the Resident Evil franchise hits the home market. This time around the film earned reviews that were on par with the other installments, but became the biggest hit at the box office earning nearly $150 million worldwide. With that much money, I can't see them not making another sequel or perhaps a spin-off with Leon. As for the value of the DVD, it is packed with extras making it worth picking up for fans of the film. Extras including an audio commentary track, 30 minutes worth of making of features, deleted scenes, etc. However, it is the Blu-Ray that interests me the most as it is one of the first Profile 1.1 discs releases. If you have a PS3 and have downloaded the latest firmware patch, you will be able to watch true Picture-in-Picture and not just the brute strength work-around some Blu-Ray discs have. If you are interested in buying this film and you have a Blu-Ray play, the Blu-Ray is worth the extra money. That said, I can't recommend buying any version since the movie just isn't that good. Also coming out tomorrow on Blu-Ray are Resident Evil and the Resident Evil Trilogy set for those who want the whole franchise in High Definition.

Seaquest DSV - Season Two - Buy from Amazon
Season two of this cult Underwater Sci-Fi series. I call it cult because it was never able to find a substantial audience on network TV and it only lasted three season. It appearently didn't find a major audience on the home market either because it's been two years since Season 1 was released. However, while it has been a long time between releases, the studio obviously wasn't spending that time on extras as the 8-disc set is devoid of special features. That said, if you are a fan of the show, buy it fast or Season 3 might never come out.

September Dawn - Buy from Amazon
Mormon cinema is a niche market, even within Utah, so making a movie based on real life events in the history of the Church is not likely to result in widespread appeal. Base the movie on events that are one of the most infamous and brutal events in their history and you will turn off many Mormons leaving very, very few people in the film's target audience. It's a message movie that is so ham-fisted in its approach that even those sympathetic to its message will be turned off by the film. The film isn't helped by the Romeo and Juliet type love story that seems tacked on and more than a little distracting. The only extras on the DVD are two featurettes on the historical facts of the story including one of the descendants of the victims. On a side note, the film earned very poor reviews, but most of these were due to perceived historical inaccuracies. However, the movie is not as controversial as many think it is as only Brigham Young's direct involvement is not based on significant evidence and even here there's enough circumstantial evidence to suggest some connection. (It is important to note that this attack didn't happen in a vacuum. Mormons were massacred in Missouri shortly before this attack and there was the threat of an invasion by the United States army. Religious bigotry and violence begets religious bigotry and violence.) Personally, I think it's the heavy-handed nature of the script that is the biggest concern, and that's enough to prevent me from recommending the DVD.

Shoot 'Em Up - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Interestingly, this week we have a movie that was based on a video game, Resident Evil: Extinction, and this one that just feels that way. And I mean that as a compliment. If this movie took itself seriously, it would be an unbearable mess; but thankfully the over-the-top action is treated in an almost cartoon-like fashion creating a fun ride that is far better than its box office performance would indicate. Fortunately the studio didn't decide to skimp on the DVD because of its box office troubles and on the DVD there's an audio commentary track, making of featurette, animatics with optional audio commentary tracks, and deleted scenes. There is a DVD-Rom / Blu-Ray feature that allows you to play the movie while keeping track of the body count, bullet fired, etc. There's no insight in this feature, but it's fun. Much like the movie itself. Worth picking up, and worth the extra money for Blu-Ray and the very best release for a rather weak week.

Solstice - Buy from Amazon
A PG-13 rated direct-to-DVD horror film with more than a few recognizable stars. It's a remake of a Swedish film called Midsummer, it just is not as effective in just about every way. Technically it is a fine looking film, the acting is good, the special effects on the ghost are better, but there's not enough scares here for most people, and there is certainly not enough gore for fans of the genre.

The Tudors - The Complete First Season - Buy from Amazon
Showtime's look at the early years of King Henry the Eighth turns what could have been an interesting historical drama into a soap opera that cares more about showing sex scenes than being completely historically accurate. I am much more interested in the later than the former.

Watching this show was frustrating. Much of it could have been really intriguing, especially the political intrigue, the alliances, the betrayals, etc. Even just marveling at the costumes and sets and the production of the show should have been a positive aspect of the show. Even here there are too many historical inaccuracies for those who have studied the time period to deal with. Maybe if the writing was sharper I could have forgiven the odd problem, but the writing doesn't help either. It alternates between being flat and overdone and both extremes kill the drama. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers did not feel regal as King Henry VIII, but like a moody spoiled brat that wouldn't be out of place on any teenage soap opera.

As for the extras, there are two short featurettes on the production of the show and a longer featurettes on the real world locations seen in the show. Combined they run just over 30 minutes but have too little replay value. There are also bonus episodes from three unrelated Showtime shows: This American Life, Californication, and Penn & Teller Bullshit! The first and last as more interesting than the main show.

The Tudors - The Complete First Season seems to have been made for people who want Desperate Housewives set in the Renaissance, but with more sex than you can have on network TV. Anyone interested in real drama and historical accuracy should check out The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

War - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Another weak release where the Blu-Ray release is more interesting than the movie itself. Like Resident Evil: Extinction - Blu-Ray, this Blu-Ray release has true Picture-in-Picture for those with Profile 1.1 Blu-Ray players (mostly PS3s). It also has a BD-Java game playable through the network, which is above and beyond anything released on HD-DVD. If only the movie didn't suck. Seriously, if this film earned even 50% positive reviews, the Blu-Ray version would have been the DVD Pick of the Week and a must have just to show off the technology. As it is, it's worth a rental to just check out what Blu-Ray can do while the DVD is perfectly skippable.

Weird Science - The Complete Seasons 1 & 2 - Buy from Amazon
A TV show based on a movie that wasn't a big hit to begin with. Weird Science is simple wish fulfillment with a computer generated Genie and is no better than most other such movies. The TV series was able to take this premise and run with it for three or four seasons. Unfortunately it lasted five. (By the end it was just a shadow of itself.) Fans of the show should be pleased with the 4-disc set as it includes four audio commentary tracks on three episodes (including two on the series premiere), as well as a trivia game. I don't think many fans will need to grab the whole series and some might end it here.


Filed under: Video Releases, Resident Evil: Extinction, War, Shoot 'Em Up, September Dawn, Jimmy and Judy