Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector’s Edition
Rated PG for some scary images
Appropriate for all ages
Available August 26, 2008 on DVD and Blu-ray disc
Believe it or not, this classic Disney film is now 15 years-old. A couple of years ago, Disney decided to re-release it into theaters with a new 3-D print. Gone here is the 3-D, but the movie looks and sounds better than ever with this new transfer (especially on Blu-ray). In case you haven’t seen, Nightmare tells the story of Pumpkin King Jack Skellington as he tries to hijack Christmas from Santa Clause. The result of this cross between Halloween and Christmas is one of the greatest animated films of all time as well one of the best musicals ever put to film. The features are largely the same as were on the special edition launched a few years back. What makes this one worth buying is the new commentary with Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman, as well as the original poem and concept art the film was based on, read by Christopher Lee. The Blu-ray and Collector’s Edition DVD also include a digital copy for your Ipod or other movie device. Movie: A+ Extras: A
The Presidents Collection
Available August 26, 2008 on DVD
Now that the Olympics are officially over, it’s time that the world puts it’s eye on who will be the next American President. Just in time for the race to heat up, PBS home video is releasing this huge box set containing bios of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Truman, The Kennedys, LBJ, Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush. 15 discs in all, this set will provide the history buffs out there with about 35 hours worth of great documentaries. I can’t say I made it all the way through the collection, but I certainly plan to by the time November rolls around and I’m very thankful that the set has been made available like this. A
What Happens in Vegas
Starring Ashton Kutcher, Cameron Diaz, and Rob Cordry
Rated PG-13 for some sexual and crude content, and language, including a drug reference
Appropriate for ages 15+
Available August 26, 2008 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc
Joy and Jack (Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher) are two lonely souls that get way to drunk one night in Las Vegas and end up married to each other. The regretful couple decide on a divorce, until Jack wins $3 million dollars on a slot machine. Without being able to end the marriage amicably, a judge orders the two to live together for six months and attend marriage counseling, or neither get any money. In order to get the other to quit and walk away, they each set up strategies and traps.
With a plot like this, the movie can’t help but be a predictable mess. Anyone could read the above summary and be able to guess where the film ends up. Since there is no way to make the film unpredictable, you would think that they would at least make the movie funny. Unfortunately, Diaz is unconvincing in her role and almost seems incapable of adding humor to the mix here. Instead, the filmmakers inject humor by relying on Kutcher, his loser friend and attorney Rob Cordry, and their hanger-on Zach Galifianakis. This formula provides for a couple of laughs, but gets old quick and makes you wish the film would end sooner. I will admit that there are a couple of good bits by Rob and Zach on the extra features, but not enough to make it worth the rental, purchase, or the time spent watching. Movie: D Extras: C
South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season
Appropriate for ages 17+
Available August 12, 2008 on DVD
Ten years ago if you would have told me that South Park, the immature but funny cartoon about a group of delinquents living in South Park, Colorado would still be making clever, witty, social commentaries in 2007, I would have scoffed. After all, how long can people watch a show about fart jokes and crude humor? Now, over a decade later, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are still churning out thought-provoking yet hilarious episodes season after season. This season touched on such social issues as homelessness, racism, homosexuality, the presidential race, and the destruction of our imaginations. Of course, the silly stuff like the world’s largest fecal output, guitar hero, and head lice are still making us laugh as well. While the special features are scarce, I highly recommend you watch each episode with it’s respective mini-commentary. Instead of long, drawn-out ramblings from the creators, Trey and Matt give us great insight into the season through 5-minute-long discussions at each episode’s beginning. Episodes: A Extras: A-
Directed by and starring Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle)
Rated PG for language, thematic material, some rude humor, and brief smoking
Appropriate for all ages
Available August 12, 2008 on DVD and Blu-ray disc
In case the Olympic games in Beijing fail to give you your China fix, never fear – famed Chinese director/actor Stephen Chow is here to give us his version of ET. With big adult hits like Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer behind him, he decided to make a childrens film next. But this is no ordinary kid flick. CJ7 follows the life of a father and his son living in extreme poverty in China. The father, played by Chow, works hard at a construction job so that his son can go to a private school and have great opportunities. When he is unable to buy his son a popular toy that he wants, he stumbles across a strange alien pet in a junkyard. Calling it CJ7, the alien befriends the boy, causes tons of mischief, and teaches everyone a lesson in life. This is a truly weird little film that is worth watching not because of it’s terrific filmmaking or storytelling (it has neither) but rather for it’s creativity and uniqueness. The pic is in Chinese with subtitles as well an English dub for those that either can’t read yet, or don’t want to. Movie: B Extras: C-
Starring Karl Markovics, August Diehl, and David Streisow
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Rated R for some strong violence, brief sexuality/nudity, and language
Appropriate for ages 17+
In German with English Subtitles
Available August 5th, 2008 on DVD and Blu-ray Disc
Winner of the 2007 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, The Counterfeiters tells the true story of Salomon Sorowitsch (Markovics), a Jewish counterfeiter from Berlin sent to a concentration camp during World War 2. Instead of being put into the main camp, though, the Nazis send him to a special area where he will lead a group of Jewish bankers and currency experts to develop a counterfeit British Pound and U.S. Dollar in the hopes flooding the market and destroying the Allied powers economically. Here, Sorowitsch and his men must walk the thin line between giving the Nazis what they want, so they are not killed, and stalling them long enough to outlast the war. The Counterfeiters is not the least bit a depressing film, but rather a thrilling tale of the struggle to survive and subvert. The acting is top notch and the story-telling keeps you on your toes throughout. The DVD and Blu-ray are loaded with special features and a very interesting commentary from director Stefan Ruzowitzky.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor D+
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Luke Ford, and Jet Li
Directed by Rob Cohen (XXX)
Rated PG-13 for adventure action and violence
Appropriate for ages 13+
The Story: Many years have passed since the adventures of the second Mummy outing, and now college-age son Alex (Ford) joins his parents (Fraser and Bello) to stop a Chinese emperor mummy (Li) from destroying the world.
The Good: Were you to watch this film with the volume off, it might be a fairly good adventure film. The special effects are top notch, the sets are impressive, and the overall production is strong.
The Bad: Turn the volume up and what you find here is a mix of terrible writing and acting. Coming from the writing team of Miles Millar and Alfred Gough (Herbie Fully Loaded), the dialogue here is atrocious, filled with too much exposition, too many clichés, and not enough imagination. The overall story isn’t bad, but trodding through it with these words is just tedious.
As for the acting, while Rachel Weisz says she didn’t reprise her role due to her pregnancy, I can just see her looking at this script and then making any excuse not to come back. Replacing her is the typically good Maria Bello, but between the bad accent and the worse script, I wish they had dumped the character all together. Fraser is very average (which is to be expected), but my problem with him lies more in the fact that he doesn’t pass for the father of a twenty-something co-adventurer at all. I’m sure that with a stronger script, the acting could have been better. After all, there is some decent talent here, but with the material given the acting is bound to be pretty lame.
The Summary: Let’s just pray that Mummy 4 stays buried.