Headsup: We Speak of Mermaids, Vampires and Zombies

An ongoing attempt to help you cope with the sheer amount of stuff people want you to buy. Should you? I’ll try and help.

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning DVD cover art
Gangland: The Complete Season One DVD cover art
Leatherheads DVD cover art

Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning is yet another of what we’ve come to know and fear as cheapquels, true. But at least the new Dixar regime tried to retool it and make it a bit more palatable before releasing it. And the original Ariel and Sebastian are back, and I’m always a sucker for Sally Field, who’s playing the new villain. Now kids are going to enjoy this no matter what, and if you do have kids, then as we’ve discussed so often with these, you’re already doomed. But adults are going to look at the idea of the King having banned music from the kingdom and Ariel’s goal of bringing music back to the hearts and non-ears of her fishy friends and think… “Isn’t this Footloose in Atlantis?” The release comes with deleted sequences in storyboards, a behind the scenes bit, a look at the Broadway musical, and more. If you can get away with a rental for your kids, do it. If you can’t there’s no shame in buying. (Click here to get it from Amazon..)

The first season of Gangland hits this week, with thirteen episodes giving you everything you need to know to get paranoid about street gangs. You get over ten hours of episodes discussing everything from heroin dealers in Harlem during the 1970s to the Hells Angels to skinheads. And if that wasn’t enough, you can learn how gang members are joining the military just to get skills they can bring back to use on the streets. Sleep well, America! Anyway, this History Channel boxed set comes with additional footage from the regular show. Should you buy it, though? At the moment they’re not repeating them. And I think you would be a serious reality TV junkie or gang history enthusiast to want to do more than rental. But interested parties who missed it on regular telly should rent. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

While it’s probably not going to be anybody’s favorite football movie (can anything top The Longest Yard? Think hard before you answer…), Leatherheads deserves some points just for hearkening back to the screwball comedies that simply aren’t done anymore. The kind with fun, fast dialogue, dashing leading men and wonderfully bright and caustic leading ladies, you know? George Clooney stars and directs, and John Krasinski and Renee Zellweger are here as well, which you can figure out means romantic triangle before even seeing the trailer. This Universal release comes with deleted scenes, a making-of, a featurette on the game sequences, another on the visual FX and then a commentary from Clooney and producer Grant Heslov. It’s not a bad DVD but it didn’t make back its money theatrically, so this is probably the best edition you’re going to get. So worth a rental, but Clooney completists might contemplate owning. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Mother of Tears DVD cover art
The Nightmare Before Christmas DVD cover art
Schoolhouse Rock: Election Collection DVD cover art

Mother of Tears (Ken and I have decided we think it’s cooler if it’s pronounced “tears” as in to shred a piece of paper rather than “tears” as in to cry) is the latest from classic Italian goreslinger Dario Argento. What happens when an American art student who opens up something that shouldn’t be opened, namely a Giant Can of Evil Whoopass against humanity. How all hell has broken loose and started offering up franchises and she’s got to stop it before it’s…TOO LATE! Starring Dario’s hot in that type of hot you never learned about living in a God-fearing American household daughter Asia and also Udo Kier, who gives a +5 creepy modifier to any film just by being involved. If he were the key grip, the film would just feel creepier. This is out from DIMENSION EXTREME (some emphasis mine) and comes with a making-of and a convo with Argento. It’s a definite rental, especially because we’re approaching That Time of Year. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

Long have I bitched and moaned that Nightmare Before Christmas (Dindrane’s review of the special edition here) was out of print for freaking ever. It just doesn’t make sense to have this title out of print, even if you’ve got something larger and better coming down the pike. Well, the larger/better is here, with a 2-disc “Collector’s Edition.” And credit goes to Disney for making it a 2-disc set, since the third disc is just for the digital copy, which is quickly the “Scene Selection” of DVD features. (Does anyone actually make use of the damn things?) Anyway, apart from the uber mongo edition in a head of Jack Skellington that we discussed previously, this set does come with a nice case (with Jack’s head in a more modest setup). It also comes with a new commentary from Tim Burton, director Henry Selick and music-guy and singing voice of Jack, Danny Elfman. There’s a look at what they do with the Haunted Mansion during the holidays, the original Burton poem read for you by Christopher Goddamn Lee, and the original making-of bit. Also from the last release are Vincent and Frankenweenie, deleted scenes, art galleries, animation tests, storyboard to film comparisons and more. Missing is the original commentary from Selick and the cinematographer, and I hate to see any commentary get shunted. Still, the decision about whether or not to buy this is, for me anyway, a no-brainer. It’s one of the most solid Burton films (probably because he didn’t direct it), is stop motion, features Danny Elfman, and celebrates Halloween. What’s there not to enjoy? (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

Now they’ve re-released some of Schoolhouse Rock on DVD in time for the elections. Hence, The Election Collection. Basically you’ve got sixteen songs from the series, one of which is a “new” bit called “Presidential Minute.” That’s it. The trouble with this, which costs $14 at Amazon at the moment, is that the full collection is available for a dollar more with all forty-six songs with extras. So if you’re going to buy one, why wouldn’t you go for that one? (Click here to get it from Amazon. Or get the full set instead.)

Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire DVD cover art
Sundown DVD cover art
Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fourth Season DVD cover art

Okay, so Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire isn’t exactly concerned with the “rise,” per se. In fact, the first episode is “The First Barbarian War,” so you can sort of see where it’s leaning. With a logo that’s reminiscent of both Rome the dramatic series and 300, you can also see where the marketing is leading. But still, we’ve all seen History Channel docus so we know what to expect so nobody can be surprised. This is a thirteen episode set, though, across four DVDs, so there’s at least a lot of content here if it’s your sort of content. Total time clocks in at over ten hours, and the one bonus bit is an episode of Modern Marvels covering “Barbarian Battle Tech.” The set itself is $40 as I write this, and it’s worth a rental, again, if this is your thing, but unless you think you’re going to get a lot of re-watch out of it, rental should be sufficient. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

It’s amazing that Sundown has taken so long to get to DVD. Rights issues? Must be. But here we’ve got “The” Bruce Campbell playing a Van Helsing in the same film as David Carradine is playing a master vampire. And just the premise is enough: some vamps want to live in peace and just drink synthetic blood (ah–maybe they were able to justify releasing this now that True Blood has everybody excited–and telling me to watch it?) and others want to say fuck it and start popping open humans again. Not only is this 1990 film (which I hadn’t heard about until I saw the press release–had you?) out from Anchor Bay, which with this cast would be cool–it’s out in a special edition. Commentary with the director and cinematographer, and interviews with Carradine, The Bruce, and M. Emmet Walsh. Bruce completists will want to pick it up–everyone else should at least rent it. Because Halloween, you know. Is near. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

Desperate Housewives returns to DVD for its fourth season with all the packaging hullaballoo, first of all. It’s the “Sizzling Secrets Edition,” featuring the five ladies in “paper doll” mode: you slide the clear plastic outer cover off and the blue outfits turn to gold and red. Catchy. Dana Delany joins the cast, as does Firefly‘s Nathan Fillion as well as a gay couple. This season is also the one that brings in a tornado–an event so impressive story-wise that I heard about it and I don’t even watch television, much less this show when it airs. The good news is that the set is actually pretty stacked, so it’s worth considering for fans if they want to snag it to own or just rent (again, it goes back to your personal sense of re-watchability here). There’s a look at how an episode gets made from start to finish, there’s also commentaries–featuring the actors behind the couples in the show providing audio commentary on one of five episodes. Plus two other non-couple commentaries and more. Again, you might want to rent first, but at less than $40 as I write this, it’s less than $2.50 an episode. So that seems fairly reasonable. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Brothers and Sisters: The Complete Second Season DVD cover art
Eli Stone: The Complete First Season DVD cover art
Copycat DVD cover art

I honestly hadn’t heard of Brothers and Sisters before we were sent the first season. Now that’s not terribly surprising because I don’t watch broadcast television–I don’t even have cable. But Jesus, the cast in this thing: the aforementioned Sally Field, Matthew Rhys, Calista Flockhart, Ron Rifkin, Rachel Griffiths, Balthazar Getty, and Rob Lowe. It won Sally Field an Emmy and is dependent on its writers because without a good story why would somebody tune in for Yet Another Family Drama show? This set comes with sixteen episodes across five discs for a total of over eleven hours of main content. For bonus bits, you’ve got audio commentaries on some episodes, a guest stars featurette, a food featurette, a set featurette, deleted scenes, blooper reel and also a series of recipes are included in the box. As always, buying the set or not depends on how big a fan you are. At $37 currently, it’s not unreasonable, but if you can get the same amount of enjoyment from a rental, then feel free to pursue that. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

Update: BTW, for those of you wondering where the hell Chevy Chase has been–which would be all of you–here you go:

It’s terribly odd to see that George Michael is a recurring character on a TV show. Playing himself. Not that I have anything against George Michael, mind you. But the fact that he’s playing a hallucination of somebody who might be either mental or a prophet just shows the whacked out quirksville that this thing is. Jonny Lee Miller is Eli Stone, who sees Mr. Michael often, along with seeing all sorts of other crazed shite. Trouble is, some of the shite turns out to be useful foreknowledge. Which always messes with your world. The show also has Natasha Henstridge and Victor Garber among the cast. This thirteen-episode set has four discs included. You also get an extended version of the first episode with commentary, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and four featurettes. It’s less than $30 as I write this, so a fan of the show might want to snag this–this has that feel of a show that will need some help to stay around as long as perhaps the fans might like. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

Copycat is a telling title in that everything about it screams that it’s a staple of the serial killer subgenre. A journalist seeks out the serial killer who killed her mom and figures out that the killer in question is looking at the famous serial killers that preceded him and using their work as inspiration and examples. So the stage is set for the cat and mouse game one watches this films for. Again, we’re approaching Halloween, so this Lions Gate release might prompt a rental. No features. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Reprise DVD cover art
Dororo DVD cover art
Living Dead book cover art

You know, people give Morrissey a lot of shit. But he’s got some good music. I particularly like “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful.” That’s what I thought of when I first heard about Reprise from Miramax, in which two young novelists diverge in their shared path: one gets successful, one doesn’t. Fast forward to later, when the fallout of what’s happened to them has to be dealt with, not only in their relationships but professionally and creatively, and that’s the thrust of the film. The bonus bits are a mixed bag, as one is a spliced together vid of all the instances where somebody apologizes in the film. Those sorts of things are rarely effective. There’s also a casting featurette, a talk with the actors and crew, deleted scenes and more. Worth renting for those interested in good foreign cinema. Subtitles are your friends. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

What happens when you have forty-eight pieces of you stolen by demons? Why, go kick some demon ass and get your bits back, of course. That’s the premise in a nutshell of Dororo, released at last on Region 1 DVD by Universal. This is based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy, and was later an anime series. Now it’s live action time, with all of the mayhem that such a thing entails, plus demons and blades. Fans of the original or of Tezuka himself will want to at least give this a rental, but unless it really cranks your tractor, it’s hard to say sure, go ahead and buy it, because it’s $25 and only has the film on it. No special features. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

So, zombies. We’re rather fond of zombies, if you hadn’t noticed. So when Night Shade Books said they were putting out an anthology of dead-lit, The Living Dead, I wanted to check this out. Especially when you consider the names of folks who have stories in here: Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Joe Lansdale, Harlan Ellison…it’s an extensive list. I wondered if this would be new material or existing stories–and it’s all existing, from what I can tell. The King story is exactly the one you’d expect, for example, “Home Delivery.” And it’s still excellent. In fact, this is almost one of those Mammoth books, except that it’s all dead and moving around inside. The price on Amazon is just over $10 as I write this, which for 350 pages of A-grade zombie goodness isn’t bad at all. Something to bear in mind for the bibliophile zombie-fiend on your gift list. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

By | 2017-09-24T23:12:22+00:00 September 23rd, 2008|Headsup|0 Comments

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