New on DVD

New on DVD

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

In an attempt to recapture the franchise magic Disney had with Pirates of the Caribbean, they went to the hit video game Prince of Persia and spent an estimated whopping $200 million on this mystical tale of a young boy from the streets who is adopted by the king and eventually goes on a journey to save the kingdom from a very evil Ben Kingsley.  While considered a flop, especially since the advertising budget probably cost more than the gross, it was a pretty entertaining film overall.  Sure the heroine should have been changed out and the climactic sequence was way too nutty to be believed, but Jake Gyllenhaal is a wonderful hero and Kingsley as the villain serves as the perfect snake in the grass.  B

America: The Story of Us
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

This nine plus hour documentary from The History Channel chronicles the history of The  United States from its earliest settlers until today using epic reenactments and state-of-the-art special effects.  Beginning with a unique introduction from President Barack Obama, the film also utilizes some of the most respected names in politics, military, Hollywood, and education to tell stories and to move the narrative forward.  As for me, I’ve always wondered how they built the Statue of Liberty, Hoover Damn, the railroads across America, and other great American milestones.  I didn’t actually think I had time to watch all nine hours of the set when I started, but upon putting the first disc in I couldn’t wait to finish and check out each special feature to boot.  This is one you’ll want in your collection so you can watch now, with you kids, with your grandkids and for generations to come.  One side note.  I watched the first three episodes on DVD and the last sections on blu-ray, and this is definitely a disc that you can tell a huge difference in the quality between the two.  A

The Twilight Zone: Season 1
Available on Blu-ray

Rather than cycling through the HD masters from when the DVD set came out back in 2004, they decided to produce brand new 1080p film transfers using the original camera negatives and magnetic soundtracks for this official HD release of the first season of the ground-breaking television television show.  After all, what would our sci-fi and horror entertainment look like right now were it not for The Twilight Zone in 1959 and 1960.  This definitive collection contains some of contents of that 2004 DVD release, but also a lot of new material including the rare, unofficial pilot episode “The Time Element.”  With 19 commentaries, tons of interviews, Rod Serling lectures, 18 radio dramas, and 34 isolated music scores, this is probably one of most complete television seasons on blu-ray I’ve ever received as a critic.  A

Letters to Juliet
Rated PG for brief rude behavior and sensual images, some language and incidental smoking
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

When a writer (Amanda Seyfried) and her chef fiance go to Verona for their pre-Honeymoon, they separate for a few days to follow their interests.  While there she finds a note a young girl wrote to Shakespeare’s Juliet 50 years ago asking for help and decides to write her back.  When this now older woman (Vanessa Redgrave) comes back to Verona to follow up with the letter she wrote, the writer, the older woman, and the woman’s grandson take off on a search to find her lost love from 50 years ago.  While the trailer for this film serves as essentially the Cliffs Notes version, its simplicity is acceptable given that it is somewhat likable.  While it has its funny moments, its not really a romantic comedy and that’s a good thing since it doesn’t have much potential to be funny and any physical humor would have just turned it into another Leap Year, and that’s the last thing we need.  Then again, there wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry between Amanda Seyfried and either of her leading men.  The only chemistry felt was that between her and Redgrave and between her and Italy.  That made the whole climactic sequence a mess and pretty stupid seeing her up on the balcony.  Sure you know where they are going and the filmmakers thought they were being clever, but it only felt forced and like they were trying to fit a theme that was only there in title and maybe in a Taylor Swift song.  C+

Glee: The Complete First Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Theater geeks like me and millions of Americans came out of hiding this year to watch this sometimes brilliant high school comedy musical which incorporates pop and Broadway music into school life.  Not to be confused with High School Musical (I think you can still get beat up for thinking Glee is cool but not HSM), Glee is a very original, and when you think about it very difficult piece of television production considering each week is a brand new musical event.  Sure there are a lot of eye-rolling moments and many times I think to myself that I’m watching a cheesy show about teenagers, but then Jane Lynch pops up on screen and makes me laugh myself silly right before I’m completely moved by a rousing rendition of one of my favorite Journey tunes.  Does that make me a gleek?  A-

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