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AUGUST 16-31, 2007: NEWS ARCHIVES
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August 31, 2007 - Our latest review looks at Warner's landmark recent box set, Popeye the Sailor, Volume One: 1933-1938. The 4-disc collection delivers the Fleischer Studios' first 60 animated shorts featuring the squinty, muttering seaman whose popularity rivaled Mickey Mouse in their shared heyday. In spite of some formulas, the cartoons featuring Popeye, antagonist Bluto, love interest Olive Oyl, Wimpy, and Swee'Pea hold up not just for historical and cultural reasons but as entertaining cartoon storytelling. In addition to a pair of Technicolor Arabian Nights-themed two-reel shorts, the set delivers two substantial documentaries, eight topic-specific Popumentaries featurettes, sixteen significant pre-Popeye bonus shorts, and 22 commentary tracks. Don't miss our complete Popeye: Volume One DVD Review!
August 30, 2007 - In our newest DVD review, Reuben Gutierrez covers The Last Day of Summer, one of two Nickelodeon Original Movies released to DVD this week by Sony. This one applies Groundhog Day's again-and-again formula to a boy (Jansen Panettiere) anxiously on the verge of entering middle school who's happy to indefinitely extend his summer vacation. The DVD delivers a 16x9/Dolby 5.1 feature presentation and serves up a music video, blooper reel, and making-of featurette. Read the full review.
Disney has just issued a Ratatouille DVD and Blu-ray Press Release.
August 29, 2007 - Reuben Gutierrez takes a look at "Handy Manny": Tooling Around, the recently-issued 5-episode compilation of Playhouse Disney's animated series. The show, about a helpful bilingual repairman and his talking tools, imparts some knowledge of Spanish phrases and hardware onto its preschoolers. The disc includes a multi-level set-top game. Read the full review.
August 28, 2007 - Check out our All DVD Schedule for an overview of today's various high-profile DVD debuts.
Leslie Iwerks, the producer/director of 1999's The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story, has made a new documentary on animated filmmakers. The Pixar Story covers the 20-year-history of California's computer-animation pioneers, from their 1980s shorts to the industry-revolutionizing features that began with Toy Story. The 88-minute independent film will be opening in theaters this fall, but now through Thursday it can be seen at Laemmle's One Colorado theater in Old Pasadena, CA. For more on the film, check out Variety's review.
Our newest DVD review looks at today's new release, Return to Halloweentown. This fourth installment in Disney Channel's 9-year-old autumnal series recasts Marnie, drops her younger sister, and limits Debbie Reynolds to two minutes of screentime. But not all is lost as Marnie (Aquamarine's Sara Paxton) and Dylan (J. Paul Zimmerman) enroll in Halloweentown's Witch University, where three evil sisters and a conspiratorial administration threaten the Piper siblings. The "Ultimate Secret Edition" DVD loses points for failing to provide the 16x9-framed version despite having room for it, supplying only a promotional 6-minute featurette. Read on...
August 27, 2007 - Albert Gutierrez's latest DVD review looks at "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide": Special Field Trip Edition, which holds the hour-long final episode of Nickelodeon's middle school sitcom and two bonus episodes. More...
Cover art and a look at the contents have just been posted for December's Wave 7 of the Walt Disney Treasures, which slightly and creatively depart from the usual lithograph inclusions. Gold-colored The Adventures of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit includes an Oswald button and sketch litho. The long-delayed Disneyland: Secrets, Stories & Magic provides the promised replica of a vintage Disneyland E-Ticket plus a lithograph featuring concept art of the Anaheim institution's iconic castle. Finally, the 30-short compilation The Chronological Donald, Volume 3 provides a reproduction of the poster art for Inferior Decorator. Preorder theses sets and take a look at the packaging and enclosed goodies right here.
Details have come in on the December 11th DVD/Blu-ray debut of mega-event Disney Channel sequel High School Musical 2. Each release will offer an Extended Edition of the TV movie, with a never-before-seen music sequence. They'll also offer a sing-along feature, karaoke, rehearsal cam footage, bloopers, and music videos. Costing $5 more than the DVD's $29.99 list price, the Blu-ray version will boast 1.78:1 high-definition widescreen video and uncompressed 5.1 audio in addition to the standard DVD's Dolby 5.1 tracks in English, French, and Spanish. Click here for cover art and to preorder.
Also arriving on November 27th is Wish Gone Amiss, a compilation of the wish-themed episodes of three Disney Channel series ("Hannah Montana", "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody", and "Cory in the House") that joined for a special weekend of programming last month. The disc (SRP: $19.99) will include the extra "I Wish I May, I Wish I Might: A Guide to Making Wishes" hosted by "Hannah"'s Jason Earles. Click here for cover art and to preorder.
Cover art has been posted for Return to Never Land: Pixie-Powered Edition. This single-disc reissue of 2002's theatrically-released Peter Pan sequel lands on November 27th with "Lost Treasures" plus the new "Tinker Bell's Challenge Game" and "Magical Fairy Moments" features as its supplements. Click here to view.
August 26, 2007 - The fourth quarter's biggest Disney DVDs are now up for preorder at Amazon.com: Walt Disney Treasures: Disneyland - Secrets, Stories & Magic, Walt Disney Treasures: The Chronological Donald, Volume 3, Walt Disney Treasures: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Ratatouille (also on Blu-ray), Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1 (also on Blu-ray), "TaleSpin": Volume 2, "DuckTales": Volume 3, Return to Neverland: Special Edition (November 27), High School Musical 2: Extended Edition (also on Blu-ray), and Cars (Blu-ray).
August 24, 2007 - Don't miss our Blades of Glory DVD Review. Will Ferrell and Jon Heder star as champion figure skaters who, banned for life, unite to form the world's first same-sex pairs team. The comedy flows from more than just this premise; thanks to a terrific cast, well-structured story, and technical adeptness, the movie is a lot of fun. DreamWorks' DVD includes an array of entertaining bonus features, including cast interviews, deleted scenes, a reel of alternate takes, and more. Read the full review.
August 23, 2007 - We've updated our General DVD Upcoming Schedule with dozens of newly-slated releases for August, September, and October.
An insert inside Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dream announces that the critically-reviled 2002 sequel Cinderella II: Dreams Come True will return to DVD for a limited time as a Special Edition being released on December 18th.
Next week alongside Will Ferrell's latest comedy, Paramount is revisiting one of the numerous '90s movies spawned from a recurring "Saturday Night Live" sketch. A Night at the Roxbury marked the first leading film role for Ferrell, who plays one of two club-hopping, head-bobbing brothers who dream of getting inside the Roxbury and opening up a nightclub of their own. Delivering stellar video/audio and coming in at a low price, this Special Collector's Edition reissue of Roxbury falls short in the bonus features department. Continue...
Albert Gutierrez's new DVD review looks at The Ultimate Gift, an inspirational and heartwarming PG-rated drama about a series of challenges a young man (Drew Fuller) must face in order to claim his inheritance from his late, wealthy grandfather (James Garner). In spite of some unbelievable characters, the life-evaluating story helps the movie, which co-stars Abigail Breslin, Bill Cobbs, and Brian Dennehy, resonate with viewers. The disc includes a modest selection of extras. Read on...
August 22, 2007 - Disney/ABC's Golden Globe-winning dramedy "Ugly Betty": The Complete First Season gets covered in our latest DVD review by Kelvin Cedeno. America Ferrera stars as a homely 22-year-old who takes a job at a fashion magazine. With eye candy uncommon for the medium and a strong sense of humor, the hour-long series elevates its unlikely source material (a Colombian soap opera) to new heights. Buena Vista's six-disc, 23-episode set includes four audio commentaries, three featurettes, 21 minutes of deleted scenes, and outtakes. More...
August 21, 2007 - Our newest DVD review looks at "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch": The Second Season, Paramount's recent 4-disc release of the Melissa Joan Hart sitcom's 26-episode, 1997-98 TGIF run. With smart writing, a unanimously talented cast, sufficient effects, a big imagination, a consistently entertaining atmosphere, and a vast roster of noteworthy guest stars, the series holds up as plenty diverting ten years later. While the DVD boasts terrific picture and sound, it delivers no special features, loses a few scenes, and most unfortunately, drops almost all of the recognizable '90s pop songs the show regularly employed for montages and such. Read the full review.
August 20, 2007 - Kelvin Cedeno takes a look at Little Einsteins: Rocket's Firebird Rescue, the fifth DVD release in the franchise and only the second that makes its debut on DVD. At 51 minutes, it doesn't quite realize the package's claim of a "full-length" adventure, nor is there enough to sustain a single narrative at double-episode runtime. The disc also boasts the recently-aired episode "Rocket Soup" and a Magic Mission Mode to enhance the educational value of repeat viewings in one of two ways. Read on...
Halloween is still more than two months away, but it's the fashionably early theme of "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse": Mickey's Treat, the third DVD release given to the hit computer-animated Playhouse Disney series. Like last fall's Christmas disc, this one only observes the holiday in one standard-length episode, as two other episodes (on Goofy's magic act and Daisy's pretend-doctoring) round out the feature. The DVD does, however, deliver some worthwhile seasonal supplements: the episode "A Little Einsteins Halloween" plus printable autumnal recipes and character jack-o-lantern stencils. Read the full review.
August 19, 2007 - Our newest DVD review by Aaron Wallace looks at The Lookout, a sparsely-attended but critically-praised 2007 drama from Miramax. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a young man whose life and mind are turned upside down by a car accident. The protagonist becomes a central to a group of acquaintances' plan to rob the small-town Iowa bank where he works as a nighttime janitor. Click to read the full review.
August 17, 2007 - DVD artwork for "Scrubs": The Complete Sixth Season has been added to Upcoming Cover Art. Streeting on October 30th, the 3-disc set will include audio commentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes, alternate lines, an extended interview with actress Judy Reyes, and a featurette on the making of the episode "My Musical."
Kelvin Cedeno looks at Disney's recently-released Darkwing Duck: Volume 2 in our latest DVD review. The reference-filled, early-'90s series about a crimefighting duck returns to DVD in the way it first surfaced: 3 discs, 27 episodes, nary a special feature, and spotty picture, for a reasonable going price of less than $1 per half-hour installment. See the full review for the usual mix of critical analysis, episode synopses, screencaps, and DVD criticisms.
In their ongoing efforts to raise interest in its supported next-generation format, Disney has announced four more titles scheduled to arrive on Disney Blu-ray in 2008: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Spring), National Treasure (Summer), Finding Nemo (Fall), and, coinciding with a standard DVD, Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition (October).
August 16, 2007 - Buena Vista has announced release dates for upcoming Disney Channel DVDs: High School Musical 2: Extended Edition will debut on DVD and Blu-ray on December 11th, while February 12th brings "Handy Manny": Fixing It Right and "Little Einsteins": Race for Space.
UltimateDisney.com is developing DVDizzy.com, a spin-off DVD news/reviews website to provide coverage of high-profile releases from other major studios. While UD will continue to cover all things Disney, the expansion will bring the type of comprehensive critiques and schedules you've come to expect to other significant movies and TV shows from outside the Walt Disney Company. Once this general DVD site launches, it will co-exist with UD.
Recent Disney DVD and Movie Reviews:
• The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Sweet Suite Victory - Disney Channel's hotel sitcom comes to DVD for a fifth time and the second time all by itself. The disc serves up three episodes from the first two seasons plus a blooper reel and a genuinely challenging trivia activity.
• "The Muppet Show": Season 2 - Arriving two years after its predecessor, this 4-disc, 24-episode set is happily not subjected to any segment cuts that Season 1 suffered. The usual supply of comedy and music gets a boost as the fantastic cast of characters are joined by some well-known human guest stars, including Julie Andrews, Elton John, Steve Martin, Bob Hope, John Cleese, Don Knotts, and George Burns. In addition to fine picture and sound, the DVD delivers the rare Valentine's Day pilot with Mia Farrow, Weezer's "Keep Fishin'" music video, and new tongue-in-cheek interviews with the characters.
• "8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter": The Complete First Season - John Ritter stars as an overprotective father working at home and trying to make sense of his three children in one of the rare successful family sitcoms this decade. Guest stars are plentiful and the low-priced set serves up a 10-minute blooper reel in addition to 28 episodes offered in 16x9 and Dolby 5.1.
• "The Tick" vs. Season 2 - Adapted from Ben Edlund's modest comic line, this mid-'90s Fox Kids cartoon improves quite a bit in its sophomore year, straying from formula and being struck by innovation while remaining an affectionate send-up of superhero fare. There's a Christmas episode, a "Cops" parody, and more hijinks against unusual villains new and returning. Despite improved picture and sound, and 12 uncut episodes, the 2-disc set is missing something.
• "Cory in the House": All-Star Edition - The spin-off to "That's So Raven" is treated to its first 4-episode compilation, which includes guest appearances by The Rock and Raven herself, each of whom is the focus of a brief bonus featurette.
• Baby Einstein: Discovering Shapes - The 24th and latest DVD volume in the multi-million toddler franchise bears striking similarities to a 2002 release in the line, but this one adheres more closely to the established format of puppets, real-world imagery, and learning through repetition.
• "Home Improvement": The Complete Seventh Season - In its penultimate year on the air, the Tim Allen family sitcom introduces change to its core characters, yielding a midlife crisis, a Goth phase, drug experimentation, and a political conscience. Buena Vista's 3-disc set serves up the 25 episodes of the 1997-98 season with surprisingly erratic picture quality and an 8-minute blooper reel.
Recent Non-Disney DVD Reviews:
• Dark Crystal: 25th Anniversary Edition - Jim Henson's PG-rated 1982 fantasy tells of a decaying world, opposing races, and an ancient prophecy. The director's usually stunning puppetry comes to life in an interesting universe where subplots and themes help one overlook slow pacing. The latest re-release provides a new commentary and 36 minutes of featurettes in addition to resurfacing c ontent like workprint scenes and an hour-long TV special.
• Back to School: Extra-Curricular Edition - In his most famous starring role, Rodney Dangerfield plays an uncouth millionaire who joins his son for a year of college, with predictably diverting results. MGM's single-disc reissue grants this blockbuster 1986 comedy a long-overdue, properly-framed 16x9 transfer and 40 minutes of bonus features, most catching up with living cast and crew.
• Wild Hogs - Touchstone's blockbuster PG-13 comedy finds four suburban middle-aged men (Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy) hitting the road for a cross-country motorcycle trip in which they encounter fierce bikers, a quirky small town, and numerous broad, physical, and homophobic gags. The standard disc includes a director and writer's commentary plus 26 minutes of bonus video including deleted scenes and outtakes.
• Vacancy - Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale play a soon-to-divorce couple forced to spend a night at a seedy motel where they quickly realize they're in trouble. Relying more on suspense than gore, this gripping R-rated survival story evokes fear from atmosphere and a voyeuristic design. The DVD includes both widescreen and fullscreen presentations plus an insightul featurette, a short alternate opening and deleted scene, and extended "snuff films."
• Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters - Cartoon Network's long-running, low-budget animated Adult Swim comedy leaps to the big screen, as three anthropomorphic fast food items ponder their origins while an intergalactic exercise machine threatens the world. Graphic R-rated feature arrives in a two-disc set that includes the series' first 23-minute episode, deleted scenes, an 80-minute "deleted movie", a 26-minute featurette, a commentary, music videos and performances, an art and music gallery, and amusing promos.
• Labyrinth: Anniversary Edition - Inspired by The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland but delivering its own compelling original story, Jim Henson's PG-rated 1986 fantasy gets a 4th DVD release and its first two-disc set. The film tells of a teenaged girl (Jennifer Connelly) journeying through an elaborate maze and encountering colorful locals en route to saving her baby brother from a Goblin King (David Bowie). Life-like creations, an imaginative design, some catchy music, and a witty screenplay all spice up the flick, which is treated to an audio commentary and an hour of new documentaries (featuring screen tests) in addition to ported material.
• "Full House": The Complete Seventh Season - In its penultimate year on the air, this conventional '80s/'90s family sitcom continues to supply entertaining hijinks, with the Tanner girls tackling grade school, junior high, and high school issues while sharing screentime with Uncle Jesse and Becky's toddler twins. Reasonably priced, though bonus-less.
• Disturbia - Shia LaBeouf headlines this captivating PG-13-rated suspense, which practically remakes Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window with teens and a distinctly contemporary suburban setting. Far better than that suggests, the film raises the bar for suspense, while adding some romance and comedy to the mix. DreamWorks' fairly loaded disc provides an entertaining commentary, a subtitle fact track, a making-of featurette, a music video, a short gag reel, 4 deleted scenes, and the trailer.
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