DVDizzy.com Presents: September 2006 DVD Roundup

UltimateDisney.com's September 2006 DVD Roundup, with reviews of Stick It, Stay Alive, Goal! The Dream Begins, Kinky Boots, The Miracle Match, and Power Rangers Mystic Force: Dark Wish

The six subjects of our September DVD Roundup have more in common with each other than our past capsule review lineups have. The only trait all share is that they have come, or are coming, to DVD this month from Disney's home video branch, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, but there is no shortage of small groups into which you can break the six down.
Like "almost-Disney", a group that applies to a pair of Touchstone-branded flicks -- the gymnastics comedy Stick It and the soccer drama Goal! The Dream Begins -- which both seemed like they might be ushered to theaters under the "Walt Disney Pictures" banner from pre-release reports. Those two have sports in the foreground and they're not alone; independent film The Miracle Match was acquired for video distribution and it too focuses on soccer, specifically a 1950 World Cup match pitting the U.S. versus the U.K. Of course, the British call the game "football", not soccer, and that is where most of Goal! takes place. It's also home to Kinky Boots, a PG-13-rated comedy about a struggling shoe factory which is saved by serving an unlikely niche demographic. Then, there's Power Rangers Mystic Force: Dark Wish - The Blockbuster, another international production of sorts, whose subtitle seems facetious, since made-for-TV productions generally do not bust blocks (the Disney Channel's mega-hit High School Musical notwithstanding). The Rangers are not alone in that regard, though; the horror flick Stay Alive relaunched the Hollywood Pictures brand with a whimper. In fact, the combined North American gross of the five subjects which did see the inside of a theater is a little less than what The Benchwarmers earned.

Still, just as box office success does not equal quality, the reverse holds true; these films need not be written off by their low-key returns. Instead, like practically all others, they now have a second shot to woo audiences in the comfort of their homes. But, which are worth your time and which will waste it? Read on for our candid critiques of all six. And enjoy!

Page 1: Stick It | Stay Alive: Unrated Director's Cut | Goal! The Dream Begins
Page 2: Kinky Boots | The Miracle Match | Power Rangers Mystic Force: Dark Wish - The Blockbuster

Index of all our DVD and Blu-ray Reviews

Stick It
103 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Theatrical Release Date: April 28, 2006
Writer/Director: Jessica Bendinger
Cast: Jeff Bridges (Burt Vickerman), Missy Peregrym (Haley Graham), Vanessa Lengies (Joanne Charis), Jon Gries (Brice Graham), Gia Carides (Alice Graham), Julie Warner (Mrs. Charis), Annie Corley (Officer Ferguson), Polly Holliday (Judge Westreich), John Kapelos (Chris DeFrank), Kellan Lutz (Frank), Svetlana Efremova (Dorrie), John Patrick Amedori (Poot), Nikki Soohoo (Wei Wei Yong), Maddy Curley (Mina Hoyt), Lee Garlington (Head Vault Judge)
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 (Reduced, Discontinued, Replaced by
DVD + Digital Copy in 2009) / DVD Release Date: September 19, 2006 / Black Keepcase with Side Snaps / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Sneak Peeks: Goal! The Dream Begins, "Grey's Anatomy" The Complete Second Season, anti-piracy, Kinky Boots, Twitches, Hannah Montana: Livin' the Rock Star Life

When a bicycle stunt ends in thousands of dollars of property damage, tough teenager Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) is forced to choose between juvenile detention and VGA, Vickerman Gymnastics Academy. She opts for the former, which makes her sentenced to the latter in what she considers cruel and unusual punishment.
There, Haley is thrust back into the highly competitive world of elite gymnastics, where she has a reputation to live down for walking out in "Worlds" (a big-time global championship competition) and disqualifying her team not long ago. While engaging in rigorous training to get back into top-form, Haley must endure several personalities in this relentless environment. Most notable is coach Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges), a man who convinces every mother her daughter is Olympic-bound, a tradition that pays off, literally. There are also her dedicated peers, including former teammate Joanne (Vanessa Lengies), an airheaded nemesis who is anything but quick to forgive Haley's past breakdown.

With a familiar redemption tale at its heart, Stick It spices up this standard story with a music video style of filmmaking. Visual tricks (most often speed increases) are called upon, as are upbeat pop-ish selections, some fun and several reconfigured. This prevailing flair makes the film stand out, but keeps it from being very easy to warm to. The casual teenage girl narration by Peregrym seems designed to compensate for a thin story, but doesn't add much. A comedic tone doesn't wholly alleviate problems, either, as the catty interactions and fast-paced modern dialogue exchanges are neither as fresh nor as funny as they may have been in 2000's similarly-designed Bring It On, also written by Jessica Bendinger, who makes her directing debut here. Even so, the loud, comic tone makes scattered stretches of sentimentality a bit tough to swallow. And the ultimate destination -- all taking task with the sport's arbitrary scoring system and the silly regulations that govern them -- feels a lot less than what the film has been leading up to.

The feature presentation earns full marks for flawless picture which showcases the high-quality visuals and an active surround track with a surprisingly potent subwoofer. The widescreen-only DVD is pretty packed with goodies, each of which has a title inspired by a phrase from the film. In "Skinny Fat" Deleted Scenes, one finds a worthwhile lot of nine sequences which run 13 minutes long. There are a few extensions, but most are parts excised in full. A fair amount of this material is even more entertaining than what made it into the final cut, which makes the regret expressed in the accompanying pair of optional commentaries understandable. (Dang "Time Police"!) "Buttaharas" Bloopers & Outtakes (3:32) serves up the usual supply of flubbed lines, goofy faces, and the like.

Missy Peregrym plays Haley Graham, the protagonist of Touchstone Pictures' "Stick It." Personalities clash, but Haley does find common ground with slick coach Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges). In this amusing deleted scene, checking out proves a challenge for "Vick", as his gymnasts pretend to be his daughters and plea for him to buy Red Vines and other candy.

Next and most substantially are two feature-length "Read My Mind" audio commentaries, both very screen-specific. The first teams up writer/director Bendinger with actresses Missy Peregrym and Vanessa Lengies. Theirs is a relaxed discussion, recorded in advance of the movie's theatrical release. While giggling is abound, so is inside information such as on the difficult training sessions. Like most cast commentaries, this is an easy listen, and the participants even try to avoid covering things covered in the other track. That other commentary, recorded a day earlier, features Bendinger with cinematographer Daryn Okada and editor Troy Takaki. It's more technical in nature, as lots of details behind the details are given. At its worst, this one is overly explanatory and approaches narration. There's a lot of gymnastics talk, and much congratulatory name-dropping from the director, who at least redeems herself by admitting that she would change a few things if she had the final say.

Three other supplements skew towards gymnastics enthusiasts. The montage "Hard Corps: The Real Gymnasts of Stick It" (4:25) gives credit to the Olympians who stood in for the leading ladies and those who portrayed supporting characters. "The Elites: Full Routines" and "The Judges Table: Slow Motion Uneven Bars", running just shy of 9 minutes each, feature extended coverage of two gymnasts' routines seen excerpted in the film and slowed-down green-screen footage of three performances (by a pair of two different stunt gymnasts) set to music, respectively. Most viewers will be fine to skip these, leaving only hardcore fans of the sport to study/admire every move, and if they have the determination, endure reverent and dull optional commentary from the crew lineup.

Rounding out the package are two music videos. The unusual "We Run This (Stick It Edit)" (4:15) finds hip-hopper Missy Elliott leading a high school band and dancing about high steel beams in a performance of the film's energetic, Sugarhill Gang-sampling opening credits tune. The other, "Crowded" (3:15) by Jeannie Ortega featuring Papoose, offers a more conventional mix of movie clips and staged singing; its blend of female vocals and rap is, like the video itself, less than inspired.

There are some laughs to be had in the harmless outing that is Stick It, which, while foremost serving a single demographic (teenage girls), does enough to entertain those removed from it in a single viewing.

UD Rating: Ό out of 5

Stick It DVD cover
Buy Stick It on DVD from Amazon.com Marketplace
Buy Stick It in DVD + Digital Copy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: Make It or Break It: Volume 1 • Whip It • Ice Princess • Annapolis • High School Musical (Encore Edition)
The Comebacks (Unrated) • 10 Things I Hate About You (10th Anniversary Edition) • Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen
Flightplan • Popular: The Complete Second Season • Felicity: The Senior Year Collection • Freaky Friday (2003)
Starring Jeff Bridges: The Men Who Stare at Goats • Tron • Iron Man

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Stay Alive (Unrated Director's Cut)
101 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (Theatrical Cut: PG-13) / Theatrical Release Date: March 24, 2006
Director: William Brent Bell / Writers: William Brent Bell, Matthew Peterman
Cast: Jon Foster (Hutch O'Neill), Samaire Armstrong (Abigail), Frankie Muniz (Swink Sylvania), Wendell Pierce (Detective Thibodeaux), Jimmi Simpson (Phineus Bantum), Milo Ventimiglia (Loomis Crowley), Maria Kalinina (Countess Elizabeth Bathory), James Haven (Jonathan Malkus), Alice Krige (The Author), Sophia Bush (October Bantum), Adam Goldberg (Miller Banks)
2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English); Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $29.99) / DVD Release Date: September 19, 2006 / Black Keepcase with Side Snaps / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Sneak Peeks: Apocalypto, "Lost": The Complete Second Season, Goal! The Dream Begins, Stick It, anti-piracy

By Aaron Wallace

Stay Alive marks the end of a 5-year hiatus for Buena Vista's Hollywood Pictures. Unfortunately, the label's return is to something less than glory, at least as far as this horror flick is concerned. The movie centers around a group of avid video gamers who stumble across one game in the black market that takes realism to a whole new level. The movie's tagline is all one really needs to know to understand the plot: "You die in the game - You die for real." The movie relies entirely on formula. In the tradition of the classic slasher, characters find themselves alone and, one by one, die. Rather than having a conventional murderer, the story takes its cue from The Ring: a spirit haunts the world from inside an electronic medium. Though watchable for a while, the movie runs out of steam long before it ends and quickly wanders off into the realm of the absurd. The acting is passable, but the story is thin and difficult to follow. By the time the credits rolled, "Stay Alive" felt more like a challenge of personal endurance than a title.

If you want to own the movie in its original aspect ratio, you'll have to go with the Unrated Director's Cut, as the separately-sold fullscreen DVD claimed the theatrical cut (and only the theatrical cut). Unfortunately, the latter wasn't sent out for review. The director's cut is fifteen minutes longer and apparently quite a bit different as well. It's certainly bloody and profane, moreso than might be expected from PG-13 origins.

Talk about your multiplayer capability! Hey, try to stay alive, ok? One of several possible main menus, viewers can choose from a limited number of options to create an avatar.

There are but two bonus features included, one of which is a feature-length audio commentary from writer/director William Brent Bell and his co-writer, Matthew Peterman. The track is annoyingly immature, laced with profanity and even one audible emission of gas. The other is a very brief featurette entitled "Visual Effects Reel" (1:32), which is basically one flashy montage of video game graphics created for the movie. The DVD does get credit for a 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack and a 2.35:1 transfer that looks as good as it should for such a recent movie, as well as a very creative (though somewhat confusing) menu system that recreates some basic features of a video game.

UD Rating: Ύ out of 5

Stay Alive: Unrated DVD cover
Buy Stay Alive: Unrated Director's Cut on DVD from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: Dark Water: Unrated • The Brothers Grimm • Tron • The Village • Herbie: Fully Loaded
Samaire Armstrong: Dirty Sexy Money: Season 1 • Dirty Sexy Money: Season 2
Surrogates • Disturbia • Friday the 13th (2009) • The Watcher in the Woods
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy • The Pacifier • Mr. 3000 • The Haunted Mansion • Crimson Tide: Unrated Extended Edition

Goal! The Dream Begins
118 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 (US Theatrical Cut: PG) / US Theatrical Release Date: May 12, 2006
Director: Danny Cannon / Writers: Dick Clement, Ian Le Frenais (screenplay); Mike Jefferies, Adrian Butchart (story)
Cast: Kuno Becker (Santiago Muρez), Stephen Dillane (Glen Foy), Anna Friel (Nurse Roz Harmison), Marcel Iures (Erik Dornhelm), Sean Pertwee (Barry Rankin), Robert Dixon (Bobby Redfern), Gary Lewis (Mal Braithwaite), Miriam Colon (Mercedes), Tony Plana (Hernan Muρez), Stephen Graham (Des), Lee Ross (Bluto), Kieran O'Brien (Hughie Magowan), Ashley Walters (Carl Francis), Frances Barber (Carol Harmison), Alessandro Nivola (Gavin Harris)
2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish, French); Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 (Reduced from $29.99) / DVD Release Date: September 12, 2006 / Black Keepcase / Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Sneak Peeks: The Heart of the Game, "Lost": The Complete Second Season, The Miracle Match, anti-piracy, "Grey's Anatomy": The Complete Second Season, Stick It, Disney's Wide World of Sports

Fueled by the fact that one of the world's most popular sports has yet to receive a proper dramatic filming, the makers of Goal! set out to fill a cinematic void. Theirs is the tale of Santiago Munez, an illegal Mexican immigrant living in Los Angeles.
An opportunity arises for Munez (played by the older-than-he-looks Kuno Becker) to escape a life of poverty and long workdays by trying out for Newcastle United, a professional soccer (football to them) team in northern England. With little money and no legal papers, Santiago arrives in the UK under the recommendation of a Scottish former talent scout (Stephen Dillane) and is thrust into a starkly different world. There, being a foreigner is only one of the many obstacles he must overcome, from the firm disapproval of his father (Tony Plana) to a personal crutch (asthma) to the high probability of failure and what that would entail.

As it chronicles Santiago's fight to make the reserve team, his rise to first team, and his coping with the double-edged sword of iconic fame that comes with it, this fictional saga relies on formulas that are common to real-life inspirational sports dramas and generically-manufactured tales alike. That renders this outing a predictable one, down to a standard-issue but investable romance with a team nurse (Anna Friel). Still, the movie manages to remain both relatively likable and engaging. Mixing things up slightly is that the drama centers on a team sport but focuses squarely on an individual. There is a lot of on-field action, but it is filmed to emphasize the visual poetry of the game, and much of it boasts authenticity (as far as I could tell) thanks to the cooperation of the English football league. There is also enough human drama through the identifiable protagonist to ground the proceedings and keep them interesting for those ambivalent to sports. Furthermore, it is well-structured, so that the inspirational speeches and range of emotions are mostly hinted at and not hammered home as they have been in earlier films.

The Dream Begins is actually the first installment of a planned trilogy, something that seemed unlikely when it was announced and is now doubtful to be repeated with Disney planning to limit Touchstone output. While its North American box office earnings amounted to a pitiful $4 million, that is more of a reflection of the U.S. being one of the few countries where soccer has never caught on to a grand scale than it is of a public condemnation. The film fared better overseas, where it was released over seven months earlier and accumulated 85% of its total gross. The DVD presents the PG-13-rated European cut; strangely, the film was trimmed to a PG in its quasi-native country, yet it retained the Touchstone branding and was never marketed for family audiences here. There are a fair amount of off-color remarks sprinkled throughout, enough to merit the stronger rating but still offering a presumably tame depiction of the world of pro sports. I can't compare the two versions, but American reviews suggest a minimal difference of about one minute in length.

Santiago (Kuno Becker) is approached by Glen Foy (Stephen Dillane) with an offer he can't refuse. Alessandro Nivola plays Newcastle's star player Gavin Harris, whose penchant for partying gets Santiago in trouble. The aforementioned standard-issue but investable romance involves Santiago and team nurse Roz (Anna Friel).

Released exclusively in its wide 2.40:1 original aspect ratio, Goal! exhibits impeccable picture quality. In the sound department, there are some peaks and valleys in the dynamics, but the elements themselves thankfully depart from convention. Instead of an overbearing score and gimmicky gameplay sounds, there are Oasis songs and a more introspective mix. The movie has a fair amount of dialogue in Spanish (especially in its early moments), which is translated only in a secondary English subtitle track. This track also points out locations and match-ups throughout the film; note that selecting the first scene instead of "Play" does not activate this track, at least it didn't for me. Player-generated subtitles may irk some, but this appears to have been done to enable a full Spanish version without textual interruptions or a language barrier. The English-language dialogue itself is heavily accented enough (most characters are hard-to-understand Geordies) to make the standard subtitle track occasionally useful (when used in tandem with "rewind").

For a movie whose stateside gross was little more than half of what Hoot, Doogal, and Phat Girlz each took in, Goal! has been treated to a pleasantly surprising slate of supplements. The featurette "The Beautiful Game" (6:47) looks at the importance of "football", which we're repeatedly told is sacred to most countries aside from the U.S., particularly in Newcastle. Another, "Behind the Pitch" (10:57), focuses on the aspects driving production; it is pretty informative and avoids the now-clichιd tendencies to praise one another. A full-length audio commentary teams up a trio of soft-spoken British blokes -- director Danny Cannon alongside screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais -- and is about what you'd expect. There's a bit of name-dropping, but more often, there are intermittently entertaining anecdotes and screen-specific observations which should satiate those who care to view the film with its creators chatting through it. The Happy Mondays music video for "Playground Superstar" (3:50), bounces back between lead vocalist Shaun Ryder in a bustling bar and film footage. Finally, "Golden Moments from the FIFA Cup" (3:25) holds World Cup highlights from the '50s through the 2000s. Potent though this disc may be, it loses a trio of features from the Region 2 disc (issued in advance of the U.S. theatrical release), including a trailer for the sequel, Goal! 2: Living the Dream, set to open in Europe early next year.

The back of the case proclaims Goal! "The Best American-Made Sports Film Since Miracle", which is an odd compliment considering the span is just two years and the fact that Goal! hardly feels like an American-made film. Still, if you can bring yourself to see "yet another inspiring sports drama", one immersed in a sport you might very well not care about in the slightest, you may be pleasantly surprised by Goal!, a decent movie and decent DVD which both deserve a chance.

UD Rating: ½ out of 5

Goal! The Dream Begins DVD cover
Buy Goal! The Dream Begins from Amazon.com

Related Reviews: The Greatest Game Ever Played • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy • The 3 Wise Men • Valiant • Annapolis
King Arthur: Director's Cut • Carolina • Around the World in 80 Days • The Mighty Ducks • Classic Cartoon Favorites: Extreme Sports Fun

Continue to Page 2 >>

Page 1: Stick It | Stay Alive: Unrated Director's Cut | Goal! The Dream Begins
Page 2: Kinky Boots | The Miracle Match | Power Rangers Mystic Force: Dark Wish - The Blockbuster

Index of all our DVD and Blu-ray Reviews

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Roundup posted September 20, 2006.

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July 2006 DVD Roundup • May 2006 DVD Roundup • Summer 2006 CD Roundup
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