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By Widge - posted 12.01.11 @ 9:50 am
There's a lot of stuff that comes out all the time, and the companies are want your attention and mostly...your coin. But, you know, it's your coin and you have to take care where you spend it. With these posts we try to take you through recent releases so you can make up your mind. If you find the info here to be of use, do us a favor and purchase stuff from Amazon through us. Especially if you were going to buy the stuff anyway. That gives us kickbacks, which help pay for things. Like the server. And coffee. And therapy. We thank you.
The Street is a Drama series with a capital D. It moves around a street in Manchester, showing you the lives of the various people you meet. "Who are the people in your neighborhood?" Apparently flashers, thugs, cowards and racists. To name a few. Yes, everybody's got something going on to add to the drama in this anthology series. And it gives actors so much to chew on, it's no wonder the won Best Drama Series awards. The BFS release here is all eighteen episodes--three series worth--across six discs. That on its surface might not sound like a reason to check it out--but the cast list might help with that: Matt Smith, David Thewlis, Jim Broadbent, Jane Horrocks, Bob Hoskins, Timothy Spall and Anna Friel all appear. This is probably something you should rent or Netflix before purchasing though: with no bonus bits and a pricepoint that puts it at around $4 an episode, make sure it's something that has sufficient replay factor for you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
The remake of V ended with a second season that involved something having to do with the Visitors getting emotions and wanting a human soul and...something. The original was a lot simpler, honestly: David Icke's worst nightmare comes to Earth to feed. We steal some guns and ships--fighting! Why mess with a good formula? Points for bringing back Jane Badler (original big baddie Diana) in a role, though. You get ten episodes from Warner Brothers across two discs. The hi-def video and audio look okay but not fantastic, although this is a series that you would want to lend itself to the Blu-Ray treatment. The DVD is only $2 cheaper so this version is definitely the way to go. For bonus bits, you get: a second season retrospective, blooper reel, deleted scenes, a visual featurette and more. The question of replay factor is here, certainly: it's almost $3.50 an episode. So just bear that in mind. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
The first season of Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1, i.e. Season 8 of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, hits DVD from Adult Swim and Warner Brothers. Considering the overall content of the show hasn't changed that much, the title change was just basically to give them an excuse to freshen up the opening. Oh, and change it so they're in Seattle instead of New Jersey. Except the houses look exactly the same. And if there's anything I appreciate, it's elaborate and silly jokes. So it's business as usual with the madness, including a tattoo that can project cannibalistic tendencies, Public Enemy identity theft, and sentient smartphones that want to rule the world via shapes. Lovely nonsense. The set here comes with the ten episodes from the first season under the new title, then seven that didn't make it onto the last Aqua Teen release. In addition, there's the latest chapter in the "Terror Phone" franchise, "Terror Phone 3." The price point on this set is a good one, a little over $1 an episode. So if you're a fan who finds you want this on your shelf, it's safe to snag it. However, if you don't know what you're in for, watch an episode on Adult Swim to acclimate yourself. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
How to Train Your Dragon was the surprisingly effective, well-crafted film from DreamWorks that proved they had managed to at least enter the same arena as Pixar. Here we have their holiday release, Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury, finding our characters mostly where we left them following the film. It's the festive holiday season of Snoggletog (if you're avoiding the term Christmas, I guess it doesn't matter what you call it, so hell, go hogwild, right?). And while the Vikings are prepping for it, the dragons inexplicably take to the air and leave. Even Toothless (once he gets some help from Hiccup). The mystery is there to be solved as to what the hell happened and where the hell they've gone. My problem with this release is that your feature, Gift, is twenty-two minutes long. Beyond that, you've got another animated piece called "Book of Dragons," teaching you about various sorts. There's also deleted scenes, games and interactive bits for the kids, a sneak peek at the live arena show, lessons on how to combat dragons and an access code for the online game. Despite the fact it looks and sounds great and is a welcome return to that world before we get the sequel...wait. Before the second feature film hits, there's going to be a bundled boxed set with the first film and all the other accoutrements included. If you have a kid and they can't wait, then you're doomed and so be it. But if not, hold off. It'll be released before you know it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
Bones hits its sixth season on Blu-Ray from Fox with all twenty-three episodes across four discs. And when you have a forensic anthropologist and FBI agent working together (they fight crime!) you'll be expecting stuff like a sniper, body parts all over the place, and the setup for a spinoff. Fans of the show, it seems from my experience running into them, are either fans of the show or fans of star David Boreanaz. And all I have to say is: whatever cranks your tractor. It doesn't stretch to redefine the genre, nor was it meant to. Its desire to please is why it's still around, frankly. And the set here won't blow you away, but it will be worthwhile for the hardcore fan. Two extended episodes are here, along with an FX featurette, a behind the scenes featurette, gag reel, a pilot for an another series (The Killing). You also get two commentaries, one with stars Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel. I did say "hardcore" fan, because for the most part there's the matter of replay factor along with the fact that the set isn't brimming with bonus bits. If one watch does the trick, then you're probably fine to rent. The show doesn't scream hi-def--though both video and audio are decent--but the Blu-Ray is only about $3.50 more than the DVD as I write this (less than $1 an episode on hi-def) so if you want to plonk the coin, it's a really good price, honestly. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
I don't make a point of watching a lot of shows. I just don't have the time. So if you get me praising a show and watching it religiously...take that as Something. I'm talking about Idris Elba and Luther, the first season of which is some of the most intense television I've ever seen. Ever. So good was it that I both wanted more but also would have been happy to leave it alone, because...if you've seen it, you must ask: How the hell do you follow that? This second series, all four episodes of it, is here across two discs from BBC Home Video. While it's not as dead-on as the first series, it does not slack off and is still worthy. I recommend it to Everyone. What's obnoxious is that A) there's no Blu-Ray option (there's none for Region 2 either) and 2) no bonus features. And at a $26.99 price tag...that's nuts. Even for this. Honestly, if you don't Netflix it, then snag the Season for $6 from Amazon Instant Video. But just See It. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
I've appreciate Brenda Blethyn ever since I first encountered her in Mike Leigh's Secrets & Lies. So the prospect of her starring in the crime drama Vera as the titular investigator should be appealing to everyone who's a fan. She tackles everything from suicides by the wrongly accused, a series of serial killings and an injured boy who witnessed his mother's murder. All four episodes of the first series (a second series has been reportedly commissioned) are here on four discs from Acorn Media. If you look at it from the standpoint of a per-episode cost, then the nearly $6/each price point seems a little steep. But this is one of those feature-length episode shows--each episode is almost ninety minutes. So in that respect, it's not too shabby. I would recommend it be viewed by crime shows fans of fans of Blethyn herself. But check your replay factor, because sadly that's all the set has, making it a harder sell. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
If there's one thing they do on UK television that's excellent... That's a stupid thing to type, frankly. They do a ton of stuff on British television that's excellent, so it's silly to say one thing. Let's rephrase it this way: one thing they seemingly do a lot of and do well on British television...documentaries. Granted, it's somewhat easier to have a well to draw on with documentaries when you're in Europe since it's just older than here. There's more stuff to document. I'm thinking of one in which they went down below a car park in the middle of London to show you a bit of a Roman wall...just because they could. And their docus will either appeal or not. So if the notion of focusing for six seasons on the coastline of Britain and its neighbors sounds like a winner, then you're in. And if not, you're not. It's a BBC nature docu so the vistas and whatnot are in evidence and look good, but it's not to the level of a must-own like an Attenborough-driven entry or something. And the other thing that sort of bugs me is that the title of this BFS release is Coast. When in actuality, it's only the fourth and fifth series of the six that I just mentioned. Now granted, that's nothing to sneeze at: sixteen episodes across eight discs. Sixteen hours of content. But still, call it what it is. Not sure if BFS doesn't have the rights to the prior seasons or what. Regardless, the price point per episode is a bit under $4, so check your replay factor before you purchase. Unfortunately, I don't see it on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, so rent it before plonking the coin just to make sure it adequately cranks your tractor. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
We've talked about it on Weekend Justice before--how does the story of How I Met Your Mother, which was ostensibly supposed to be about that...kinda...stretch out to six-plus seasons? Because nobody really cares about getting there, apparently. They're too busy enjoying the ride, and the characters and actors accompanying them on the ride. That's the situation here, as the show is seemingly no closer to solving the mystery. Instead, there's shenanigans with sex, kids and Rox-like museum transgressions. The set here has twenty-four episodes across three discs and is not bare bones, so might be worth it for the fan of the show: three commentaries, a making-of the "Subway Wars" episode, a behind the scenes on the "Glitter" episode, deleted scenes, a gag reel and an extended performance of "Stand By Me." If the replay factor holds and you want this on your shelf, it's worth doing: right now it's just at about seventy cents an episode. Not shabby in the least. All others should sample earlier in the show before diving in. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
Queer as Folk is probably best known over on this side of the pond as the Showtime version that lasted for five seasons. However, it was originally a UK series with some familiar names behind it. First of all, it was written by Russell T. Davies. Yes, that guy who went on to do Doctor Who. And it starred Aidan Gillen. Yes, that guy from The Wire. And also Charlie Hunnam. Yes, that guy from Sons of Anarchy. So even if you didn't know the Showtime show, but wanted to get backstory on the filmographies of those guys...here you go. The setup is this: Gillen plays Stuart, a gay man in Manchester who's got a good friend in Vince (Craig Kelly) and a new conquest in Nathan (Hunnam). When the show first hit, it was a Big Deal in being a Gay TV Show. Don't be confused by the fact that it says "six episodes" while there are actually ten. Apparently the first series' eight half-hour episodes were turned into four hour episodes...and the second series had two episodes which were an hour each. So if you think of it as ten episodes, the price point is just $2/each, which isn't bad. Then you have bonus bits: deleted and extended scenes with commentaries, a behind the scenes featurette, interviews, a booklet of content from Davies. From what I can tell, any previous Region1 releases are fairly costly--and bare bones, so if you're a fan of the show it's worth snagging. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
MGM has released a series of films to single-disc Blu-Ray: Hannibal, the Silence of the Lambs sequel; Manhunter, the original appearance of Hannibal before Hopkins took over the role; and Robocop 2, which introduced Frank Miller to the world of screenwriting. Yes, the first two share a franchise (sorta). Some people will defend the Brian Cox version of Lecter against the overwhelming odds of Hopkins supporters. Some people will try to defend Hannibal even, despite the fact that it was people doing the best they could with an absolute shamble of a source material (like to see someone argue otherwise, really). And yes, Robocop never really got a fair shake after the first film, many would agree. But the main thing these three titles have in common this time around is they are single disc releases from previously released boxed sets (the Lecter films in 2009 and Robocop in 2010). Also, they are all bare bones releases. And, lastly, at least two of them--the Lecters--has bonus bits in their DVD incarnations. Robocop 2 gets off the hook because, as near as I can tell, it's never had any bonus bits. The other Lecter films have had commentaries, featurettes and at least Manhunter has a director's cut version out there.
So why would you purchase them? Good question...in the Lecter films, you just shouldn't. You can get the Lecter Blu-Ray Collection for less than the price of the two films combined and get Silence in hi-def to boot. The entire Robocop trilogy on Blu-Ray is only $8 more than getting this one film...and you get both the first and third films along with it. (And I'll add: the Criterion version of Silence is uber-cheap used and has one of my favorite commentaries of all time. So.)