April 2015 DVD Reviews

1066: The Battle For Middle Earth
BBC Entertainment
Street: 03.24
This is the story of the Norman Conquest of England as told through the eyes of villagers and farmers that took part in the epic battle. The Norman Conquest was an invasion and occupation of England by armies of Normans, Bretons and the French led by Duke Williams II during the 11th Century. 1066 sports impressive acting, production value and fighting. I was just about to give this DVD a positive review… that is, until the producers or whoever is involved in marketing this decided to pull the wool over the viewers’ eyes by trying to pass it off as something involved in The Lord Of The Rings universe. Let’s start with the whole “Middle Earth” thing.  Since the title of the movie was called 1066 in the film, it seems they didn’t have time to even add it on the movie itself—they simply threw “Battle For Middle Earth” on the DVD cover. Then there’s the cover itself, which looks exactly like the poster for LOTR. Last but not least, the narrator on this film is no other than Mr. Bilbo-friggin-Baggins himself, Ian Holm. Sad that they didn’t think this film could hold its own. –Kenny Tadrzynski

Doctor Who: Last Christmas
BBC Entertainment
Street: 02.17
It’s been quite a long time since Doctor Who as a series has divided the fanbase. Once Matt Smith departed and was replaced by Peter Capaldi in the leading role, millions of fans weren’t sure what to make of the transition or the most recent season. Nor were they entirely sure what to make of the dynamic interactions between himself and Jenna Coleman as the current companion, Clara. When Season 8 came to a close, we were left with two certainties: Coleman would be departing shortly after this Christmas special, and Nick Frost was playing Santa Claus because … timey wimey stuff. Aside from the sci-fi story at the North Pole and Frost bringing his own brand of humor to what is intended to be a cheeky holiday role, the episode has more than its fair share of heartwarming and tearjerking moments. The series does a fine job of putting a cap on a number of things while also giving fans what feels like a better ending to the season than what we received. But when you compare it to all the specials that have come before it, it’s about middle-of-the-road. If you’re a collector of the Doctor, you’ll need to snag this, but for causal fans it isn’t all that necessary. –Gavin Sheehan

Dungeons & Dragons the Animated Series: Beginnings
Mill Creek Entertainment
Street: 02.17
I often expect cartoons from this era to fall under the curse of so-bad-it’s-good, but Dungeons & Dragons the Animated Series honestly kind of rules. It follows the adventures of a group of six friends who take a ride on a D&D-themed rollercoaster and, inexplicably, end up in a desolate hellscape with only an enigmatic old wizard named Dungeon Master and a few magic weapons to protect them from the forces of evil. While the snarky dialogue gets a little old at times and the party’s pet unicorn definitely sounds like Mr. Smee’s worst sheep impression, this show actually captures the look and feel of old-school D&D. The self-contained adventures in each episode bear the hallmarks of Gary Gygax (who produced and wrote for the show), giving this series the feel of a diverse and well-thought-out campaign. The last episode on this disc, “Quest of the Skeleton Warrior,” sits among the coolest 30 minutes of cartoon history, featuring the titular skeleton warrior fighting an evil sorcerer with magical sword lasers. The DVD itself contains only the episodes themselves and no special features, but who needs special features when you’ve got monsters, magic and corny jokes to enjoy? –Henry Glasheen

Fireball XL5: The Complete Series
Shout Factory
Street: 03.10
The most amount of exposure average TV and film viewers have to marionette programming in their memories is either Thunderbirds or Team America: World Police. Back in the early ’60s, however, television was loaded with shows featuring puppets having grand adventures across the globe. Fireball XL5 was the creation of Gerry Anderson, who pretty much founded “Supermarionation,” the art form that would make most of these kinds of shows possible. The short explanation of the series is that Fireball XL5 is the name of the ship piloted by a handsome male captain, and there is a beautiful science officer (filling stereotypical gender roles at the time, like making coffee), an old man charting the stars, a monkey-alien and a robot with no personality, roaming through space having as many adventures as one can have while being tied to strings. The show has some fun and creative moments, but also has some racist, stereotype aliens and too many uses of the word “space.” This is probably best watched with a couple of beers and knowledge that this era of television was trying A LOT of things to get ratings. –Gavin Sheehan

Horrible Bosses 2
Warner Bros.
Street: 02.24
I was not a fan of the first Horrible Bosses, so naturally when I heard they were making a lazily named sequel, I ignored it. The bad ratings certainly helped with my decision making as I sat smugly behind my computer congratulating myself on not throwing more money into the Hollywood machine. I was wrong. Horrible Bosses 2 is a funny movie and a HUGE improvement over the first, I think we can thank director Sean Anders for that by focusing more on laughs and less on the lame plot. Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman reprise their roles as friends and now business partners who create a bathroom accessory called the “Bathroom Buddy.” Approached by father/son investors Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz, the three friends think they finally made it until their investment partners rip them off. The DVD’s bonus features consist of deleted scenes and various featurettes as well as the film itself being an extended cut. The plot is secondary in this sequel and rather boring, but it’s made up with funny, raunchy humor. Plus there is the added bonus of hearing Jennifer Aniston talk dirty—oh, so dirty. –Kenny Tadrzynski

James Brown: Live at the Boston Garden April 5th 1968
Shout! Factory
Street: 12.09.14
As music fans, we’re always exalting the power of music, but on the night of April 5, 1968, that power was proven. One day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, the black communities in every major U.S. city were in turmoil. In Boston, afraid that Brown’s scheduled concert may insight violence, city authorities considered canceling the show until Tom Atkins, an African-American city counselor, came up with the idea of broadcasting the concert on TV, enticing people to stay home for the night. While Brown performed, the city was able to stay calm in this time of strife. James Brown may have had troubles in his life, but for one night, he was a city’s savior. In this video, you see a man that is exhausting every bit of his talent and ability to reach out and make a difference, and it’s only through his sheer magnetism that he accomplishes it.  –James Orme

Marvel Knights: Wolverine Versus Sabretooth: Reborn
Shout! Factory
Street: 03.24
One day, it would be nice to see Wolverine and Sabretooth sit down over a beer and talk this whole “nemesis” thing over. However, given the eye-rolling dialogue of Wolverine Versus Sabretooth: Reborn, it’s unlikely that they’d get much farther than “Hello.” There’s not much here in the way of story—just enough to provide a transparent excuse for Wolverine and Sabretooth to go claw-to-claw—but story isn’t really the draw here. Despite a noticeable repetition of character animations in the fighting sequences, the Marvel Knights team really does make the fight scenes look stylish and cool, so if you’re here for the grudge match, you’ll find yourself happily entertained. However, Wolverine spends more screen time facing off against Romulus in this series than he does against Sabretooth, who just kind of shows up periodically. Then there’s the business with Remus, Romulus’ sister, who appears solely to play love interest for Wolverine. It’s sad that a character who is ostensibly on par with the primary villain (sorry, Sabretooth) only serves as narrative window-dressing, especially when she is the only meaningful female character in the series (sorry, Dagger). Wolverine Versus Sabretooth: Reborn is a fun ride, but it lacks genuine substance. –Henry Glasheen

A MusiCares Tribute to Paul McCartney
Shout! Factory
Release: 03.24
MusiCares is an organization devoted to the health and safety of individuals in the music industry. In 2012, MusiCares named 18-time Grammy-winner Paul McCartney, their Person of The Year. They hosted a gala event and tribute concert in honor of McCartney’s career and achievements. Celebrities from around the globe gathered to indulge in nuanced renditions of Beatles and McCartney classics including “Blackbird,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “We Can Work It Out,” and “Yesterday.” Over a dozen musicians took the stage, including solo and accompanied performances by McCartney, who performs a never-before-heard song written especially for this night. A MusiCares Tribute to Paul McCartney features artists like Alicia Keys, James Taylor, Coldplay, and Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Neil Young fist pumps, saying “All right, Pauly!” during one of the most enthusiastic tribute songs of the night. A number of artists kept it classic, but others adapted McCartney songs to fit their voice and style, some nailing it, while a few did not. A MusiCares Tribute to Paul McCartney is available on Blu-Ray and DVD, with cinematography that grabs the essence of the night, capturing everything from up-close and well-executed instrumental solos (e.g. guitar, piano, bass cello, saxophone) to the many reactions of McCartney that night and faces of true McCartney fans. –Lizz Corrigan

Mystery Science Theatre 3000: Volume XXXII
Shout! Factory
Street: 03.24
Continuing the bold mission of releasing everything MST3K has to offer, Shout! Factory brings us Volume 32 of the long-running parody series. This collection brings the films back down to earth with four extremely terrible films. Space Travelers—the only Oscar-winning film to be lambasted by the series—the first ever Hercules film from the Italian 19-film run and two crime dramas in the form of Radar Secret Service and San Francisco International. Of course, the bonus features help make the DVD set worth the price, including a couple of new introductions from Frank Conniff, old trailers and a UK run with Conniff and Trace Beaulieu. But the most interesting addition to this set is a history of Satellite News, the first official website (endorsed by Best Brains) for the show that was created by fans to report on show news, long before you ever knew what the internet was. For any collector of the show, this volume is an absolute must. For the casual fan, there’s at least two films in here you need to check out—but you’ll need to watch it to figure out which two. –Gavin Sheehan

Regular Show: Mordecai Pack
Warner Bros.
Street: 01.27
Regular Show is anything but. Starring a blue jay named Mordecai and his raccoon friend Rigby, the two get into wacky and surreal adventures, all while working as groundskeepers at their local park.  The weirdness doesn’t stop there. Their boss is a talking gumball machine and their friends consist of a high-fiving ghost, a Yeti named Skips, (voiced by none other than Mark Hamill), a green, flabby nasally voiced manchild known as Muscle Man and Pops, an extremely thin, happy man who has a giant head. In one episode, a country club steals poor peoples’ belongings, turning them into toilets to launch into space. In another, they have a guys’ night where the only way to prove your manliness is to chug milk in under an hour. In my personal favorite episode, a bank robber from the ’70s  has been hiding in the shag carpeting in the interior of his car. The Mordecai Pack includes 16 episodes collected from Seasons 3-6. Reminiscent of Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job,  Regular Show: Mordecai Pack has killer song choices and is best served with an ounce of OG Kush. –Andrea Silva

Rye Coalition: The Story of the Hard Luck 5
Director: Jenni Matz
MVD Visual
Street: 05.30.14
The Hard Luck 5—a fitting nickname. The story of this Jersey City quintet sounds like countless other musicians’ tales I’ve heard before: a group of friends started jamming in a basement with their mind set on playing music and having fun. Riding on the coattails of the American hardcore and grunge movements, they became associated with what became known as the emo movement. We follow these Jersey City rockers as they trek their way through underground stardom to their major label signing and all the mishaps and hardships they encounter in between, including interviews with Steve Albini, Dave Grohl, and Jared Warren. This is a must-see for any fan of underground music—Rye Coalition are amazing musicians with an amazing history to match, and this documentary will make you want support your local music scene even more. –Eric U. Norris

The Best Of: Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego
Mill Creek Entertainment
Street: 02.21
For those of us who grew up on the PBS game show bearing the name of  this cartoon thief, the prospect of having an actual animated series was a blessing. Mixing elements of the popular computer game, the fantasy crime agency from the game show and educational writing resembling that of The Magic School Bus, the series made great strides to bring historical information to Saturday mornings. Yeah, the animation wasn’t that excellent, and in many respects, the stories didn’t hold together very well, but the show did wonders to bring as many educational facts to kids in the 22 minutes they had. This “best of” DVD has 10 episodes, most of them being from the first season in 1994, but that’s about all you’re going to get from this DVD. There are no bonuses talking about the show’s formation or even its impact. This is a great DVD for fans of the series, but it would have been far more satisfying if Mill Creek had released the entire series. –Gavin Sheehan