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Headsup: From Monstropolis to Neverland (With Stops in the Middle East and the Old West)

By Widge - posted 03.18.13 @ 7:21 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.

Monsters Inc 3D Blu-Ray
Peter Pan Blu-Ray

In anticipation of the June release of prequel Monsters University (which I am feeling great trepidation about), Disney and Pixar released a 3D version of Monsters Inc. to cinemas and now it hits 3D Blu-Ray in a five disc "Ultimate Collector's Edition." That's Blu-Ray, 3D Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital Copy and a second Blu-Ray for bonus bits. The main thing you'll be wanting to know about the 3D is this: yes, the door chase sequence is pretty damn badass. Both video and audio are as amazing as you would want them to be. The good news is that the feature film is strong enough to warrant a double dip for any Pixar aficionado--or anyone who appreciates a good animated flick to showcase their 3D rig. For the rest of us, though...I hesitate. And the reason is that you don't get a lot of new stuff: I didn't go line by line through my existing Blu-Ray copy but I think you're looking at a sneak peek at the prequel, the latest Toy Story short, and the company play. You do still get the audio commentary, the retrospective roundtable, featurettes and so forth. Pixar maniacs will want to snag this--if you're not a fiend for it, however, you might consider a rental first to see if you want to upgrade. And if you don't own the film yet--well, then it's a no-brainer. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Getting more of an upgrade is Peter Pan, partly because it's making its hi-def debut from Disney in a three-disc "Diamond Edition" (Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy). And yes, it looks and sounds excellent--the only gripe I have is that for restored films: I'm sorry that studios got out of the habit of putting restoration featurettes in place so we could better appreciate what we're getting. But you also get an upgrade from the previous DVD Platinum Edition: there's primarily a new deleted scenes/songs section and a "Growing Up With Nine Old Men" docu wherein the kids of the classic animators compare notes. Nice. And also "DisneyView," where you can put the black bars on either side of the screen to good use. But yes, you still have the commentary, production featurette, story treatments, and more. This one is an easy recommendation to upgrade--it's a classic, they've taken good care of it, and they even added a bit to their previous release. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Arbitrage Blu-Ray
Argo Blu-Ray
That Obscure Object of Desire Blu-Ray

Fans of Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon should grab Arbitrage, the blink-and-miss-it theatrically released film now out on Blu-Ray from Lionsgate. Gere plays a gajillionaire who's got everything--a business deal that's going to make him a huge profit, a kind and beautiful wife (Sarandon), and a daughter who's helping him run things. Of course, there are some snags: he's trying to finish the deal before his fraud gets exposed, he's got a mistress and that relationship is going to complicate things a bit--and the person investigating the weirdness on the company books? Yeah, the daughter. While this film doesn't scream hi-def, it looks and sound well enough--and it actually does come with some bonus bits: a director's commentary, deleted scenes with commentary, a character featurette and more. Most folks would probably be fine with the aforementioned grabbage taking the form of a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Blowing up on the awards front is Ben Affleck's Argo. The shot is this: Iran blows up (just about) and Americans at the Tehran embassy are taken hostage. Six manage to sneak out and find sanctuary with the Canadian ambassador. Now the CIA needs to get in and get them out before they're found. And Affleck's character decides to pull a bit of Wag the Dog and invent a fake film as cover to go into Iran and get the fugitives the hell out of there. Again, it's blowing up. You've got Affleck's directorial prowess, you've got a serious screenplay and you've got a ridiculous cast of riches. To go along with this, Warner Brothers gives it a respectable showing on Blu-Ray. The hi-def video and audio are both excellent and there's a commentary with Affleck and scribe Chris Terrio. You also get a picture in picture feature that brings real-life participants in the mayhem to the fore--this along with a featurette along the same lines. There's also a 2005 docu on the subject and a production featurette. Fans of the film or Affleck might want to consider a purchase--but at some point, especially now that it snagged the big statue, there will be some sort of Uber Mondo Edition. Just bear it in mind. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Luis Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire, another Criterion Collection fugitive, now hits Blu-Ray from Lionsgate. The story of a somewhat crazed relationship that can't seem to be escaped is told to passengers on a train by the man in the scenario--trying to explain why he just drenched a battered woman with a bucket of water. A story about love and the foolishness around love, it's an askew little gem. The hi-def presentation is decent enough but didn't blow me away--but it doesn't really scream for it, so that's fine. Bonus features are quite respectable: a featurette with the actresses playing the same lead, an interview with the film's co-scribe, a Bunuel retrospective and an interview with Bunuel friend and director Carlos Saura. Fans of Bunuel might want to own, but most people would be fine with a rental to start off with. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Deathtrap Blu-Ray
Easter Parade Blu-Ray
Thief of Bagdad Blu-Ray

There are films with mad twists that make your eyelashes hurt. And then there's Deathtrap, based on Ira Levin's play, which predates so much of the insane last minute twist fun--and deftly keeps you wondering just what in the hell is going on. Most of the fun comes from seeing Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve on screen together, though Dyan Cannon is great fun as well, playing Caine's wife. The shot is simple: Caine plays a playwright who can't seem to get a hit. A student, played by Reeve, has written a damn fine script that Caine intends to steal as his own...disposing of Reeve in the process. And hijinks ensue. This is one of the inaugural Blu-Ray releases from the Warner Archive, and it's an interesting choice. I say this not because the transfer is bad--on the contrary, for a MOD setup it's quite good--but because this isn't something that shrieks hi-def to me. But the lack of bonus bits makes it a hard sell, especially when the DVD is so cheap. So if you haven't seen the film, do so, it's a lot of fun. Hardcore fans who need the hi-def upgrade should consider. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Movie musicals have been trying to make a comeback of late--though I doubt we'll ever get anything like the Golden Age of movie musicals, when MGM was really cranking them out. Of this, we get Easter Parade, a jukebox musical of Irving Berlin tunes that stars Fred Astaire as the guy in a couple/double act whose partner (Ann Miller (Kiss Me Kate) in her breakout role) has decided to, as they say, take the Fleetwood Mac's song's advice. Astaire decides to take the, as they say, Henry Higgins advice and grab a nobody dancer and make them a somebody dancer. Enter Judy Garland. This Warner Brothers hi-def upgrade from their previous nicely-featured DVD edition does give you one really good thing: it looks good--but not an amazing leap-up from the DVD (at least to my beleaguered eyes). You get the commentary with Astaire's daughter and Garland's biographer, the making-of docu, the radio adaptation audio and more...but you don't get the docu "Judy Garland: By Myself," which had been on the DVD...and is actually listed on the Blu-Ray case. Pulled at the last minute for rights reasons? Don't know. I would say if you're a movie musical nut or an Astaire and/or Garland completist, you might want to purchase outright...but those looking to save coin should rent first and see if the upgrade is worth it for themselves. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Bored with CG and would like to go retro with your fantasy film viewing? Boy, are you in for a treat: the 1924 Douglas Fairbanks silent flick The Thief of Bagdad has hit Blu-Ray from Cohen Media Group. And it's a hoot. Fairbanks plays Ahmed, who being a proper and master thief decides to do the equivalent of a huge heist and steal a princess. Of course, it's never that easy--and a quest begins to, dare I say it--earn the princess instead of just flat out stealing her. First of all, come on, it's from 1924--and it looks like they've restored the hell out of it. Again, I wish we had a comparison featurette so we could see the details of the hard work they've obviously put into it, but so be it. I have to say, as much as I love film posterity--the video and audio on this make it worthwhile out of the starting gate, but throw in a commentary from a Fairbanks biographer and some productions stills and you get a bonus. And again, you want more bonus bits--who doesn't--but the film is almost ninety frickin' years old. So we cut it some slack. Fairbanks fans or old film buffs will want to snap it up--everybody else should at least give it a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Anger Management Season 1 Blu-Ray
Bonanza Season 5 DVD
Family Matters Season 3 DVD

After the train wreck/meltdown/media frenzy that surrounded Charlie Sheen and his exit/ejection from Two and a Half Men, the scramble was on to take advantage of his new-found fame/infamy. There were his podcasts, his live show, and now Anger Management on FX. I mean, let's be honest: if he hadn't had such a spotlight on him after his antics, would he have been picked up for a show? Probably not. But here, he plays Charlie, a therapist, who is strictly in Standard Sitcomsville. And it feels like, what with Martin Sheen and Denise Richards both showing up, that this is everybody's way of trying to bring the real Charlie back to Earth. And hell, I hope he gets back here. The set here comes with a gag reel, a featurette focusing on Charlie and a featurette focusing on the patients on the show. The price point is around $2.50 an episode currently (and the DVD and Blu-Ray are the same price at the moment), so a rental is best for most--though the Charlie hardcore may wish to buy. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The bonanza of, well, Bonanza official releases from Paramount continues--with both volumes of Season 5 hitting in a value pack. As mentioned before in these--that's just taking them and shrinkwrapping them together. The result is you get all thirty-four fifth season episodes across nine discs. And because there have been "unofficial" releases before--Paramount is trying to seal the deal with some bonus features--and give them the points they deserve: along with the show's original bumpers, you get an excerpt from The Andy Williams Show with Lorne Greene and Dan "Hoss" Blocker, a CBC featurette on Greene, audio commentary on one episode by Bonanzaologist Andrew J. Klyde, and a bit from the show Highways of Melody with Michael Landon. The serious fan of the show is going to want to seriously consider this as a purchase. The regular fan might be content with waiting for it to come around on TV Land (which airs the show), but the hardcore will see the bonus bits and the price point of less than $1.50 an episode and jump at it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The third season of Family Matters hits from Warner Brothers, with all twenty-five episodes across three discs. Through this season, Urkel deals with an orangutan, hypnosis, death (of a beetle) and the terrifying Urkelbot. If you just want to reacquaint yourself with the show--then a rental will probably do you, seeing as how there's no bonus bits (I'm almost surprised this wasn't a Warner Archive release, really). And there's the fact that the show currently airs on BET. That being said, at about $.99 an episode, anyone even approaching hardcore is going to want to grab this to support the ongoing series of releases of this show and others like it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Cover of Snow Audiobook
Skulls: An Exploration of Alan Dudleys Curious Collection by Simon Winchester

Nora wakes up after a pretty good night to find that the morning brought the end of her life as she knew it: her husband, seemingly out of the blue, appears to have sedated her so she would sleep through him hanging himself. As she begins to ask the questions of did he or didn't he actually kill himself--or did he have help and, most importantly, why did it happen in the first place...because this is a thriller and a mystery--she starts to uncover lots of questions, lots of secrets and an unhealthy dose of danger to life and limb. It's Cover of Snow, the debut mystery from Jenny Milchman, hitting the world of unabridged audiobooks on CD as a Books on Tape exclusive. Read by Cassandra Campbell, it's a good choice for those of you out there (and you know who you are) who devour the genre like it was going out of style (it isn't). (Click here to buy it from Books on Tape.)

I really love the work of Simon Winchester. Partly because his books are so bloody fascinating but partly because I normally check him out via his audiobooks--and he reads them in a fantastic British accent. So when I saw he was basically writing a book around Skulls, I knew it had to be worthwhile--because I've yet to come across a topic that he hasn't made fascinating. Even moreso is when you find out what the rest of the title means--An Exploration of Alan Dudley's Curious Collection. Dudley is a collector who has over 2000 skulls and got so obsessed with collecting that he wound up getting in trouble over a howler monkey and being arrested. In addition to very sizable pics (from photog Nick Mann) taking you through pretty every sort of animal that could have a skull, Winchester gives you the rundown on just about everything you need to know about them: their breakdown of parts, their iconography, their usage in places like the arts...the whole nine. Out from Black Dog & Leventhal, it's quite possibly one of the strangest coffee table books you could hope for and perfect to alarm your in-laws next time you have them over. Recommended. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal
James Bond Archives by Taschen

Chronicle Books has released a must-have for any self-respecting Jim Henson/Muppets aficionado. Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal takes Henson's diary and notes and puts them alongside craptons of sketches, stills, hand-edited script pages...you name it. They went through the Henson Archives and basically give you a guided tour of a good portion of it right here. The famous IBM film in which a proto-Cookie Monster eats a talking machine bit by bit? That's here. Set shots from The Cube? That's here too. Storyboards from the bicycle scene in Muppets Take Manhattan? Got it. There's too much to take in, even in multiple sessions. It's best to just digest a few pages at a time, because it's just so damn awesome. The only thing better would be for Archivist Karen Falk to give you a tour herself. Highly recommended. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

If you know Taschen, you probably think "large coffee table books" and "huge price point." But let me tell you this: if you want to make the year of a James Bond junkie, then their recent James Bond Archives will blow their damn minds. Visually stunning, you've got the title cards on the table of contents to take you through each of the films--including the original spoof version of Casino Royale and the odd man out/Thunderball remake, Never Say Never Again. Accompanying the scads of production photos, stills, documents and artwork is an oral history of Bond where you hear from just about everybody. It keeps rolling throughout the book, only interrupted by a Playboy interview with Ian Fleming and a Rolling Stone interview with Connery. And it takes you all the way through the most recent, Skyfall. Is it pricey? Yes. Is it big? Oh yes. Is it 600 pages and could be used by James Bond as a lethal weapon? Oh yes. Recommended for the hardcore. Seriously. This is every bonus bit the DVDs never gave you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Girl Model DVD
Lighthouses of Australia DVD
Photographic Memory DVD

Do you like your documentaries to go to a Dark Place? Well, you're in the right place if you're considering Girl Model. We already know that as models get younger the creepy rheostat gets turned up. Taking that to its logical conclusion, this docu follows a thirteen-year-old would-be model from Siberia and on to Tokyo, where she's dropped without anything, not even somebody who knows the language. This, thanks to a former model who's now a "scout," seeking out new talent that can be exploited. The one thing you might be left wanting on is that this docu is there to report about this story...not chase down other questions you might left wondering about beyond its scope. Whether or not that's a strength is up to the individual viewer. Bonus bits on the DVD include eight bonus scenes. Worth a rental for any interested party, but hard to say who would want to own. High school guidance counselors who want to give a word of warning? Maybe. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I know it's hard to believe: but there was a time when lighthouses were more than just a setting for suspense and horror films. They were actually used to help ships not kill themselves. And while I've never been to Australia, my understanding there's a lot there that wants to kill you and plenty of (as the description of this BFS title says) "remote, unspoilt and inhospitable places" for the deed to happen in. But what you have with Lighthouses of Australia is a tour of these locations for those who might be into the structures themselves but don't have the ability to get halfway round the world to see them. A decent enough travel docu, it gives you exactly what the title promises. Hardcore fans of the architecture might want to own but most people will be fine with a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So let's say you're an established docu maker and you're having some trouble dealing with your young adult son. What do you do about it? Well, you try to find answers in your own past, retrace your steps when you were his age, and seek out your former mentor and also your former lover (note: two different people). And, of course, make a docu out of it. If you're Ross McElwee, at least, that's what you do. And that's Photographic Memory in a nutshell, the act of looking forward and backward at once and trying to learn something in the meantime. Definitely worth a rental for anybody who has been on either end of the parent-child relationship, staring across the gulf and thinking, "What the hell are they on about?" (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Gordon Ramsay: Cookalong Live DVD
Gunsmoke Season 7, Vol. 1 DVD
Mannix: Final Season DVD

I've always liked watching Gordon Ramsay. Whether he's freaking the hell out on Hell's Kitchen (on either continent) or doing the same on his UK show The F Word, he's a terribly entertaining cooking volcano. However, shows like Cookalong Live and also his more recent Ultimate Cookery Course show a different side to him: one that doesn't flip out and swear every thirty seconds. And this brings to light something that I knew already: he knows his stuff and, better yet, he can bestow that knowledge at will. The premise is simple: in an hour, he steps you through (and this was recorded live) prepping a three-course meal. This is the original eight episode run of the series (some Xmas specials have followed but they aren't included on this release) and they're spread out over four discs. The release is pricey but I will say that Ramsay is both good at what he does and entertaining. Rent it and see if it's up your alley. (And seek out Ultimate Cookery if you like this--maybe BFS will get us that as well). (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Season 7 of Gunsmoke is when it made the leap from a half-hour show to an hour-long one but still managing thirty-four episodes. You can see for yourself how well the transition was handled (slightly shaky). The first seventeen episodes are here across five discs and you get the standard array of James Arness, Dennis Weaver and western goodness. Your only bonus bits are the previews that aired with the episodes as well as some vintage advertising. The price point per episode is around $1.60 each, which isn't terrible. Currently TV Land is showing some episodes if you're just trying to get your fix or a rental would do as well. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Paramount releases the final season of Mannix on a six-disc set that brings you the final twenty-four episodes. Apart from blackmail, smuggling and murder, you get guest stars like Mako, Anthony Zerbe, Gerald McRaney, Robert Loggia and Tom Selleck, just to name a few. Also, did you know Mel Torme provided the story for the opening episode of this season? It was news to me. The price point per episode is less than $2, which is decent for a set like this. Sadly, no bonus bits are included. If you've come this far with amassing your collection of the show, there's no reason to stop now. If you just want to sample it with no need for replay, then a rental should do you just fine. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Beast Beneath DVD
Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead Blu-Ray
Possession Blu-Ray

Family. They can be such a trial. Especially when one of your own ancestors has hidden a treasure and you might just have the map for it...but because it's family, there's always complications. You know, like a curse. And major evil. And the Beast Beneath. Yes, there's a lot of the low budget limitations on display here: acting, scripting and FX. And a lot of younger viewers might not be able to find anything worthwhile. However, this to me takes me back to my younger days, and finding really terrible gems among the offerings of places like New World Pictures. If you too can appreciate such things, then this Entertainment One release might be worth a rental or to snag it via streaming at some point. No bonus bits provided. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Here's the thing: everybody's tried to remake Night of the Living Dead. That's because it's a famous title and it's in the public domain. And the original is just so damn good, they're really setting themselves up for chaos and madness. Well, and direct to video moneymaking, admittedly. However, give some credit to the makers of Mimesis, which at least try to give the thing a different spin: instead of doing yet another direct remake, they've taken characters who are fans of the original film and put them into a "real-life" kill or be killed version of it. Sort of like one of those zombie races but without all that pesky running. Again, the concept is a really good one--the execution not so much. And I'm not just saying that because I love the hell out of the original. It felt like more could have been done, even on this budget. You do get a commentary track with the director/writers, but this Anchor Bay release is fine as a rental for the zombie hardcore. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I'm not sure why there's a resurgence in possession movies, but here we have The Possession, based on a supposedly true story about an evil box auctioned off on eBay. And that is already reaching heights of hilarity (browse the haunted dolls for sale on the site if you really want some chuckles). Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick have a daughter who gets possessed by the evil spirit inside a box and they must go through the exorcism subgenre paint by numbers to try and resfcue her. That's really about it. Personally I would recommend digging out your copy of The Exorcist and just rewatching instead, but if you don't go in expecting anything other than a fairly rote delivery, then you might enjoy yourself. There's two audio commentaries--one with the director and one with the writers--and a featurette about the "real" story. Rental for most everybody on this one. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Package Blu-Ray
Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden Blu-Ray
Special Forces Blu-Ray

In the wake of The Expendables being a viable franchise, all kinds of action stuff appears to be happening. Especially now that you can take a decently low budget, throw a couple of names on it and make money in foreign markets. Thus we have Steve Austin playing a guy who works for a big bad, getting involved with making a delivery to the character played by Dolph Lundgren. And because he didn't learn from Jason Statham, he has to peek at what he's delivering and hijinks just ensue from there. It's standard direct to video action fare--and if you want to see these two guys in the same film, then this Anchor Bay release is right up your alley. With no bonus bits to commend it, it's a rental for fans or general action junkies. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The TV movie Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden may have been politically motivated to get made and aired on National Geographic right before the election and it may have been released to Blu-Ray when it was to get it out ahead of Zero Dark Thirty, but regardless, it does aspire to tell the titular story and does a decent job...for a TV movie that's up against a big budget Hollywood flick for attention. Yes, you're not going to completely get your Clancy on, so to speak, but with a couple of action sequences (including the raid in question) and behind the scenes machinations, it might be worth a watch for those interested in such things. The Anchor Bay release comes with a making-of, so replay factor is probably not going to be huge--a rental will do for most interested parties. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

When a journalist is taken by the Taliban, France sends some French commandos (I know, they weren't likely to send Texan ones) to get her out and back to safety. However, things are never that easy. And our heroes find themselves lost somewhere between Pakistan and Afghanistan with the Taliban on their asses. Do they run...well...keep running? Or do they stand and fight? With a dramatic edge that doesn't always work, you can lean on the action pieces to get you through it, as well as a respectable array of actors, led by Djimon Hounsou. The Entertainment One release also has a respectable array of bonus bits: a feature length making-of docu, brief array of deleted scenes and a brief interview with an actual French commando. Probably worth a rental for most action junkies...no idea if there are French commando hardcore fans out there, but I wouldn't be surprised. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: The Visual Companion
King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Visual Companion, which is nice for an overview of the characters and features a foreword by Martin Freeman. It's mostly stills from the film and nothing you haven't seen before, with the biggest bonus being that it's not presented in a high frame rate. I think the best part is you actually get some information on the dwarves, which although visually setup to be different from one another, after seeing the film I couldn't have named the majority of them in a lineup. Those wanting production art or sketches or something from a full-on "Art of" book will be disappointed, but those just wanting a visual overview will find what they're looking for. The orcs in the book look better than those in the movie. Go figure. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

One of the things that Michael Jackson was always known for was his completely mental and yet awesome clothing. And the best thing about The King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson, out from Insight Editions, is you realize that seeing them in performance and on the screen is almost doing them an injustice. I don't think you really get how badass some of these garments are until you can see them up close and personal like you can in this book. And the book is by Michael Bush, who worked personally with Jackson on the clothing. Want to see the Captain EO outfit? Got it. Want a dissection of how to make the famous glove? Got it. Want full color pictures of seemingly every mad outfit the guy ever wore? Yeah, got it. Including the one where the back is covered in spoons. You heard me. Beyond just Jackson fans, this is a coffee table art and fashion book. I don't even follow fashion that closely (I mean, look at me) and I got sucked in. Worth a look for anybody who's into this sort of thing. Fascinating stuff. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Game Change Blu-Ray
Lightning Bug Blu-Ray
Trouble With the Curve Blu-Ray

If there's one thing Julianne Moore can do, it's apparently transform herself. Previously she had the thankless task of becoming Jodie Foster's Clarice for the lamentable Lecter sequel. And now she becomes Sarah Palin--both embodying the governor and former VP candidate and also still being recognizable as Moore. That performance is at the center of Game Change, which tells the story of McCain-Palin ticket and the behind the scenes mayhem that ensued. Also of note, Woody Harrelson and Peter MacNicol turn in excellent performances--and I'll watch Jamey Sheridan in anything. For anyone who wants to see past the curtain of politics, this is worth checking out. The Moore hardcore might want to own as well, but alas, there's only about ten minutes of featurettes on this HBO release...which means it's a rental for most everybody else. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Image Blu-Ray release of Lightning Bug is new to me--I was unfamiliar with the 2004 film from director Robert Hall (Laid to Rest) that marked his directorial debut. It's a semi-autobiographical film about a kid growing up in small town Alabama who wants to get out via his love and expertise involving horror movie makeup. (Hall got his start as a makeup FX guru.) Trouble with Being in a Small Town plus the lurking dread associated with an ass of a stepfather mean that we're headed towards something--and we hope it involves getting the hell out of Dodge at some point. The Blu-Ray comes with two commentaries (one solo with Hall and one with Hall, the producer and two of the actors), a making-of, deleted scenes with optional commentary, outtakes, an extended cut of the film and a retrospective featurette. Those wanting a small town drama that has horrific elements that are more real than most genre films might want to give this a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I'm sure I'm missing a tick since I have no great love of baseball. I know, I know, but most team-based sports haven't worked for me. I'd much rather just save myself the time and find out the score once it's over, assuming I was interested in the first place. So while yes, you've got the All Things Must Pass motif going on with Clint Eastwood's baseball scout in danger of being put out to pasture and you've got the parent/child relationship thing happening--since Amy Adams, the estranged daughter, is brought in to try and help her aging father--but the background may be what leaves me cold. Performances by the likes of them and John Goodman--and a slowly-showing-up-everywhere Justin Timberlake are all capable, but it works just fine as a rental--this is underscored by only having two small featurettes on board this Warner Brothers release. Baseball or Eastwood fans should rent--purchase is only for the seriously hardcore. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Fun Size Blu-Ray
Ghoul DVD
Tiny Toon Adventures, Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues DVD

Ah, that classic setup of teen hubris: when stuck with Plan A and you really want Plan B, you combine them both in order to spontaneously generate hijinks. Such is the case with Fun Size, out on Blu-Ray from Paramount and Nickelodeon: Plan A is our protagonist, Wren, wanting to go to the Halloween party when Plan B is that her mother wants Wren to watch over Wren's little brother. You can probably anticipate where it's all headed: the brother gets lost and things just escalate from there. You probably, though--unless you saw the trailer--wouldn't have been able to anticipate the giant restaurant mascot humping a car. This might be good for the right teen (note the PG-13 rating) but if they're too old they'll have seen this sort of thing before. It's a fine line. The bonus bits include a making-of, a spotlight focus on Jackson Nicoll (the little brother), gag reel and deleted scenes. Even the most ardent fan will probably be just fine with a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I have not read Brian Keene's novel, Ghoul, but I'm aware of it. And I'm also aware of the rule of thumb that the best story size for adapting to a feature length film is a short story. There's so much going on in a novel, it's very difficult to fit enough of it into the film and not lose what made the book itself so worthwhile. So not having read the book, I get the feeling that the people behind this made-for-TV version (hitting DVD from Image) did the best they could with trying to pack five pounds into a three pound bag. I have a feeling that fans of the novel will find enough to enjoy and fans of kids-vs.-monsters flicks (Guillermo Del Toro included) might find this worth checking out as a rental. Comes with a behind the scenes featurette. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

While I've complained multiple times about studios releases volumes instead of seasons, rather than thinking of Tiny Toon Adventures, Vol. 3: Crazy Crew Rescues as a volume, think of it as your second season release plus four. Because you get all thirteen episodes plus four from the third season across two discs. Some things of note: you get the "Elephant Issues" episode which got pulled because beer was involved. You also get nothing in the way of bonus bits, but at less than $1/episode, and this being the first Tiny Toon DVD release in three-plus years, it's hard to get too pissed off. Chances are you'll see an eventual Volume 4 finish off the series--and I doubt you'll get a complete series set which will cause you to double dip, so I think you're safe. The video quality isn't astonishing, but for those who just want to relive the series, with the price point as it is, it's hard to argue. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Irelands Secret Sights DVD
Undefeated Blu-Ray
Yardbirds: Making Tracks DVD

BFS Entertainment offers up Ireland's Secret Sights as a 2-disc DVD set. Originally broadcast on Irish television, from what I've been able to tell, this is the first series of an ongoing program hosted by photographer Rob Vance (who's published a number of books covering his work in Ireland) and has all eight of the first series' episodes. Since he's been going around taking shots of such titular locations, Vance is well equipped to take you on a tour of them--and enlists historians to help him take you through each locale's significance and through them builds a proper history of Ireland. Those interested in Irish history will want to give it a rental--but with no bonus bits, the replay factor is definitely called into question. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

It's no secret that I know little about sports. We even addressed that above. However, school sports, it seems to me, when used properly can help teach kids rather than just give them something they'd rather be doing than geometry. Undefeated is a docu that looks at a high school football team that went from bottom of the barrel to being winners--thanks to a volunteer coach. The docu takes you through the story of how the players' lives changed both on and off the field thanks to somebody being a coach in every sense of the word. Nice and heartwarming, it's a decent docu but certainly not requiring a hi-def presentation. The Anchor Bay release does come with an audio commentary by the directors, deleted scenes and a short making-of. Fans of football or school sports might want to grab it as a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Okay, I will admit this: I didn't even know the Yardbirds were still around. Oh sure, we're not talking the band with Clapton, Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page still on board. You still have original members Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty...but they've supplemented the lineup with three new members. Which is nothing new--lots of bands do this. The good news is that with this live Making Tracks DVD release, you see that they're still able to produce exactly what you want: rock. Nice and pure, high quality rock. You get the tracks you want, like "Drinking Muddy Water," "I'm A Man" and even "Dazed and Confused." And it's solid. You get a total of seventeen songs (two by The Jim McCarty Band) and a tour docu along with band interviews. If you can't make it out to see them live...then this is worth picking up at least as a rental to get the experience. Hardcore fans will definitely want to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Back Then DVD
Ozombie Blu-Ray
Thunderstruck Blu-Ray

It is true that the past repeats itself. It's also true that if it can't repeat itself it'll just rear up again and try to bite your ass. That's the premise behind Back Then, where a guy who's left the awkwardness and heartbreak of his teenage years behind him...only to have the #1 heartbreaker return for Round 2. Did I mention that Guy has a best female friend who he confides in? You can probably see where this is going. And that's who this is for: anyone who can see where it's going and doesn't mind. The fact that there's no bonus bits on here at all mean that it's a rental on the best of days. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Of all the variations on the Osama Bin Laden movie theme that could have transpired, I must admit I never expected Ozombie, in which Osama, after the raid, comes back as a zombie to wreak havoc. Even if you assume that there's some merit in the concept (eh...not much), the end result is hilariously bad. I know I've been saying that horror movies, and especially zombie movies, can be really cheap to pull off and thus are popular (and can easily make money). But this one's budget looked non-existent. At times Zombie Osama looks like a vampire from the original Fright Night. However, my recommendation is this: grab some friends. Grab some alcohol. Put this on. MST3K the hell out of it. It's really the safest way to experience it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Just when you thought the youth basketball movie and the "Freaky Friday" kiddie subgenre had both been played out (no half-pun intended), they slap them together to make Thunderstruck, out on Blu-Ray from Warner Brothers. The shot is this: actual basketball player Kevin Durant magically gets his prowess traded with a kid's--and the kid is crap. So while the kid gets to soar to magical heights of school athleticism hitherto unknown, Durant now has to get his abilities back before he's out of a job. Relatively harmless, it's good for the kids--but not much else. You get a number of featurettes on the release as well as some deleted scenes. Most everyone--including those of you with kids--will be fine with a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

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Widgett Walls is Need Coffee's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He is the author of the novel Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, and two collections of short stories, Magnificent Desolation and Something Else: The Complete First Season. He is also co-author of the children's book There's a Zombie in My Treehouse! All of those books are available in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon. He is also the narrator and publisher of the first unabridged recording of Seneca's letters, available here. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook. (If you befriend him on Facebook, do say you came via Need Coffee.) He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He hardly ever sleeps.

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