We kick off this round of mayhem with Identity
, which is probably best described to people on this side of the pond as “That cop show with Tommy Carcetti and/or Littlefinger in it.” He plays Bloom, a Detective Inspector who’s just spent fifteen years undercover. And now he’s in a unit dedicated to smacking down on identity theft, hence the title, but of course he’s playing a conflicted character who may or may not have other motives going on. You know the type. It’s not a bad show, it just really needed to calm down a bit. The first episode, for example, seems to give the IT specialist character something to say about how easy identity theft is every other line…while all the other characters seem to address it every fifth or sixth line. Guys, we get it already. It’s in the freaking title. It does manage to find a bit more footing but only just. The Acorn Media set comes with the complete series–all six episodes–across two discs. Text bonus interviews and filmographies are the only additional bits. I would say it’s, again, worth watching–especially for those who dig British cop shows or anyone who wants to see Gillen (or Keeley Hawes from Spooks
, for that matter) in a different role. Replay factor enters into the DVD purchase…especially when you can get it via Amazon Instant Video for about $10 cheaper
as I type this. Sample at least one episode that way before you plonk any significant coin, I would say. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.
What happens when you give a comedian a small budget but pretty much complete freedom to make the series he wants to make the way he wants to make it? You get Louie, the latest series from comedian Louis C.K. Airing on FX, it’s actually something that you’ll want to try if you’re sick to damn death of every other sitcom on television. Each episode is a pair of related (or not) short segments that feature his stand-up, him dealing with being a divorced dad with two kids, and dealing with…well, everything. Other comedians. Dating. Career. And it does so without being neat or tidy or easy, which is…well, most every other sitcom on television. I would say even if you don’t know his work or even if you don’t normally like his work, you owe it to yourself to check it out…just because it’s outside the box enough where it deserves attention. This two-disc set from Fox is a flip-disc setup with Blu-Ray on one side and DVD on the other and has all thirteen episodes. If you want to delve into the commentaries, you’ll find the majority of episodes have them, and Louis is game, covering everything from the technical to the trivial. There’s also a good chunk of deleted and extended scenes with context provided by Louis and also a small writer’s featurette. The show is worth sampling, however you choose to do so, via Amazon Instant Video or Netflix or what have you. If it’s your kind of thing I think buying this would be a good way to show support. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
Back to Acorn Media and Athena for 20th Century With Mike Wallace: America at War. This is taken from the series that hit the History Channel in the 1990s and is a mixed bag for its ten episode and three disc setup. You could very easily dismiss the entire thing as, well, a series of documentaries from the mid-90s about war. Thus you get outdated analysis, stats and more. However, if you look at this as capturing it for posterity–something we applaud here and can’t really get too pissed about–then that’s something to consider. Granted, considering that limits its audience, even if you factor in stuff that you would want to make sure was moved to DVD (like interviews with veterans), then you have to wonder who wants to snag it for its $35+ price tag. Good question, considering the replay factor involved. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
While we’re talking posterity, kudos to Behind the Burly Q, this documentary out on DVD from First Run. Long, long before it was a mildly unsuccessful Christina Aguilera film, burlesque was a little bit of comedy and a lot of pretty women doing extensive stripping routines. The story of this type of performance gets the focus here and manages to round up seemingly everybody left to talk to on the subject, including Alan Alda, whose dad was a comedian in the shows. There’s also interviews with some of the dancers, a ton of archival footage and more. It’s worth checking out for anyone with any interest in the history of stage performances in America, or vintage erotica. It’s available via Netflix but if this is your bag, you’ll want to have this on your shelf because for you the replay factor due to the content will be high. On top of that you get three small featurettes, which includes a look at costuming, and also some bonus interviews. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
The first season of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded is out on DVD from The History Channel and New Video and I want to state this up front. I don’t know that I will ever forgive this guy for what he did to the DC Universe in Identity Crisis, even after the reboot happens and everybody becomes a 17-year-old skatepunk. So I warn you in advance I’ll want you to watch this and buy this just to prevent him from tampering in comics. There’s a conspiracy for you. And that speaks to the series, in which the High Weirdness side of history (the Illuminati, the Freemasons, D.B. Cooper, etc.) comes out to play. And you know what: awesome. Having given up on Coast to Coast Radio, somebody needs to take this baton and run with it. But like with most things, the believers will find plenty to run with on their own, the skeptics won’t find anything really new, and very little, at the end of the day, will be decided. So while the promised investigations take place, nobody promised you a ruling. All of that to say, if you dig High Weirdness and don’t mind a lack of conclusion, then this might be up your alley. But do please buy two copies and watch it every chance you get. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
If you’ve been on the site for any length of time, you know I get very excited by BBC nature programs. With good reason. Because they rock balls. The worst they’ve ever done is pretty good. But you get me a David Attenborough narration, hi-def badass presentation, and a decent array of animals to parade across the screen and I’m set. Especially when you keep hearing that Madagascar is such a fascinating place due to it being cut off from the rest of the world so that evolution can do its thing there. I first heard this–I think–in Douglas Adams‘ Last Chance to See and it bears out here. This three-part series does not disappoint in the least. To my half-blind and half-deaf self, it sounds and looks great. And the content is up to snuff with previous BBC docus. The mini-making-of bits are as fascinating as what happens in front of the camera and there’s a bonus episode about lemurs. The standout among the bonus bits for me, though, is the excellent special Attenborough and the Giant Egg in which Attenborough relates the story of how he found the remnants of an elephant bird egg and he tries to get to the bottom of what exactly it was and what happened to the elephant birds. (And if you dig that, find his Life Stories podcast–great stuff.) So yes, I’m going to say that everybody should watch this at least once, in hi-def, and if you’re as jazzed as I am, then you should definitely put it on your shelf permanently. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
The second Diary of a Wimpy Kid film, Rodrick Rules, hits Blu-Ray thanks to Fox. Our hero, Greg, is entering seventh grade and having to deal with his older brother, Rodrick, as they…well, act like brothers towards each other, with their parents trying to keep the peace and some modicum of sanity. They do this by trying to force the brothers to get along, which only leads to additional levels of pranks and hijinks. As one would expect. This set does come with DVD and Digital Copy as well, with the hilarious sticker on the front saying it’s a $70 value, if you purchased it separately. I have no idea why anyone would do that. Anyway, the hi-def version looks great and sounds well enough, and there is bonus-ness to be had: audio commentary with author Jeff Kinney and the director, some small “summer vacation” sketches, deleted scenes, gag reel, an alternate ending and more. My thought is: if your kid liked the first movie, they’ll probably enjoy this one. Adult appeal is probably limited, as most of us don’t want to be reminded of how crap middle school was. Good news is if you do need to purchase this, it’s only $19.99 as I type this. So that’s something. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
The trick with Happy Thank You More Please is not debating whether or not to include spaces in the title or not (I went for the latter so it doesn’t kill lineation). It’s whether or not the film works and you’re up for yet another film about life and being young and all that rot. I find that films like that either click for you or they don’t. And if the very notion of seeing some people strugging with shallow meaning irritates you because you’ve got your own meanings of relative depth to contend with well, there you go. The deal here is that our hero Sam finds a young boy on the subway. The kid’s separated from his folks, so Sam lets him stay with him for the time being–and we thus meet Sam’s friends and relationships, wherein all the other stuff springs in. This Fox Blu-Ray seems fine, although it’s not the sort of film that screams hi-def, and comes with an audio commentary from the director and producer, along with deleted scenes. I would say give it a rental first, as the replay factor involved would make me question whether or not you should plonk coin. But again, for this one you must decide. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
There have been some great crossovers in history. The X-Men and the New Teen Titans. Abbott and Costello meeting Frankenstein. And of course, The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones. This is the 1987 TV movie, which I could have sworn happened long before then…I probably hallucinated it. But yes, through the inclusion of a time machine created by Elroy in the future, the families end up visiting each other’s time periods, enjoying hijinks and Learning Something. This is a Warner Archive release as part of their ongoing effort to get all the Hanna-Barbera stuff out the door, which we applaud. However, it just seems like there’s a lot that could have been done from a bonus perspective here as is often the case with animation. But oh well…the important thing is this is the first and possibly only way it’s going to hit legitimate Region 1 DVD-dom. Fans of the series will want to at least re-watch this and then probably decide if they want to take the plunge. Completists will want to own–I doubt this is going to get anything other than a Blu-Ray release once the DVDs run out and even then, I’m not sure how much hi-def upgrade you’ll experience. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex hits Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay Entertainment and Bandai with the TV movie/sequel to the 2nd GIG series, Solid State Society, plus the OVAs they created from both series of the show. Part of the first series became The Laughing Man and 2nd GIG was reworked into Individual Eleven. I’m not the resident expert on the series or anime in general–I leave that to Dindrane–but I’ll give you a quick spin here. Set in the (frighteningly now) near future of Japan, Laughing Man kicks off with a super-hacker who can mess with anything cybernetic and needs to be brought down. This can be a problem when, you know, our heroine Motoko is a cyborg. With Individual Eleven, the titular group is bringing terrorism inside Japan’s borders and causing problems with an already volatile issue: the immigrants who have been allowed in to help a shortage of manpower. And then with Society, Motoko has left her post with the anti-terrorism group, but a new hacker on the scene creates a Godfather III situation and she gets pulled back in. These releases bring nothing new to the table in the way of bonus bits–they appear to have the same features as the previous DVDs possessed. There’s a making-of and interview featurette and a short animated film on each of the reworked series and Society has additional featurettes: creating a robot working model and one covering the cars of the future. Granted, I haven’t seen the DVDs that most Shell fans might own…so I can’t really compare video and audio but I will say what I see here is pretty good in hi-def. You get what you want: excellent animated mad Japanese sci-fi. So. For fans who have not yet purchased this on DVD, the Blu-Rays are just $9 more per. So that’s easy enough, I would think. However, the big question is for people who already own the DVDs–I would say rent or Netflix one and then see if you find it warrants double-dipping.
The Island is Michael Bay’s last film before descending into Transformer-ville. The gist is simple: a seeming utopia exists wherein people exist, protected from the outside world which has been ravaged by pollution. Ah yes, you caught that I said “seeming.” Well, it seems the people in this utopia are actually clones grown for just such an emergency when the original thems will need a body bit or something. Then, well, it’s harvest time. One clone gets it into his uppity head that he might want to re-write the ending and then hijinks ensue. The Blu-Ray presentation is what you want from a Bay film: looks good, sound good, and gets loud when it needs to. Bonus-wise, it’s a port from previous releases, featuring primarily a Bay commentary, an action featurette, a making-of featurette and some animatics. The main question here is replay factor, since if you’ve already seen the film, do you want to plonk down the coin? The Blu-Ray from Paramount is only around $6 more as I type this, so that’s a fairly easy jump. If you’ve already grabbed the DVD, you’ll have to decide how big a fan you are before going in again. I will say this is probably the last version of this you’ll need to own for a while. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
SyFy cheese reaches a new level when you’ve got not just the madness of Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, but also the fact is stars–as rivals–Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Anyone else notice that she’s gone back to being “Debbie?” Anyway, Gibson is a snake fiend/animal activist who releases snakes into the wild as a hobby. Tiffany is a ranger who tries to counter the snakes with uber-gators. However, the two keep fighting each other and getting bigger and nastier, with armies of scaly bastards trying to wrest control of the area from the other. As for the hi-def presentation on this Blu-Ray from Image, it’s decent…but part of the problem is that the FX, Velveeta as it is, seems to pop out in places. And if I can see that, you know it’s pretty…well, out there. The only bonus bit is a making-of featurette. On one hand, if you’re signing up for this film with this cast, you’re probably wallowing in the gleeful badness…and if that’s the case, then rock on with your bad self. But I question how many times you will choose to wallow. Bear in mind if you want to grab it once, you can do so via Amazon Instant Video. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
The final season of Stargate Universe has hit DVD from MGM and it’s the end of Stargate as we know it for the time being. Probably until somebody reboots the film franchise, I would think. Anyway, our array of heroes left a planet base in an awful hurry (attack, destruction, unstable planetary core, you know how it goes) and wind up on an ancient starship that’s just sort of trundling along (at a very high rate of speed, to be fair) and doing its thing. They don’t know where the hell they are, how to control the ship, and how to repair it since it’s a fixer-upper opportunity. This has all twenty episodes across five discs and will appeal to fans of the show as it’s fairly stacked with goodies. Each episode has audio commentaries from cast and the producers, interviews, a special featurette covering the finale, and more. There’s also a slew of featurettes, everything from various folks directing episodes to FX and more. The set is currently going for $31.99 as I type this, which isn’t bad considering that about you’re paying around $1.50 an episode. That’s decent. And when you couple that with the bonus bits, it would be worthwhile for any fan to own. The only thing that’s not available is a Blu-Ray version, so if there was any reason to wait, that might be it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
As we’ve mentioned before, MGM has gone the Warner Archive route and thus hitting shelves with burn-on-demand versions of DVDs that would normally not see the light of day (at least in Region 1’s corner of the world–normally, more on that in a moment). This is a mixed bag because on the positive, they’re legit releases of films that obviously have audiences out there–and usually have stars involved that you can’t imagine why these things haven’t hit DVD before (again, more on that in a moment). On the negative, you get the films and nothing else–but really, most of these things probably wouldn’t get the full mondo grande treatment if they did have a full-on release. So.
Let’s start off with Charlton Heston in The Call of the Wild. This is the novel by Jack London, of course, and it’s been made and remade six ways from Sunday. There was even a family-friendly 3D version in 2009, for crying out loud. This version has been released on DVD before, since it, like the novel, has found itself in the public domain. I’ve seen (if memory serves) two different versions of this, and this does look better than any of the others–and is in widescreen–so it has that going for it. It’s also more true to the book than others, so it has that going for it as well.
We also have the mind-numbingly awesome cast list of Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn and James Mason in The Destructors. What do you do when you’re Anthony Quinn and you’ve lost two agents to a drug lord played by Mason? You hire assassin Caine to take the guy out, that’s what. Wouldn’t you? Even with the cast in place and some enjoyable action bits, the real reason to watch is Caine, who is having more fun than should be legal (helped by the fact he’s playing a criminal, natch). But worth watching? Certainly.
Less happy is The Happy Thieves which sports both Rita Hayworth and Rex Harrison as a pair of, well, read the title, and they have a bit of a problem. They’ve parted ways with a target item and now have to make the buyer whole again by taking on another caper. So it sounds sort of like Oceans 2 or something, yes. But as caper flicks go, this is only okay, as it just doesn’t deliver completely in any direction, even allowing for its age. Laugh-wise, caper-wise, speed-wise, it just isn’t there.
Now the thing with these is that they are around $20 each, so they’re not necessarily priced for somebody who just wants to grab a watch. Granted, they’re not hanging around on Netflix either. I would say that completists who want to grab them would do well to do so: they’re the best DVD presentation we’re going to get. And again, one day there will be a Blu-Ray version of these titles, but really, the video on these is nothing to complain about, all things considered. So you’re probably fine with them as is. But just be sure you’re good with getting no bonus bits.