Author - Thespia

Headsup: Sky, Space, and San Francisco

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the third title featured below. The opinions I share are my own.

Castle in the Sky Picture BookPrincess Mononoke Picture Book

Starting with its premiere feature film Castle in the Sky in 1986, Studio Ghibli has enjoyed decades of producing highly popular anime feature films, including The Cat Returns, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, Spirited Away, and the highly celebrated Princess Mononoke, which marks the twentieth anniversary of its release this year. Castle in the Sky follows the adventures of a young boy and girl as they try to protect a magic crystal and find a mysterious floating island all while dealing with pirates, a group of military agents, and a weapon of mass destruction, among other challenges. Another adventuresome pair appear in Princess Mononoke, which tells the story of an unlikely partnership between a cursed prince (Ashitaka) and a feral girl (San / Princess Mononoke) as they join forces in an attempt to stop the destruction of the wild lands. Now out from Viz Media are hardcover picture books of Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke, which feature the stories from the films presented in a family-friendly oversized hardcover format along with easy-to-read text and full-color pictures from the films themselves.  Both publications are currently on Amazon: the Castle in the Sky Picture Book (112 pages) is available for $13.59 and the Princess Mononoke Picture Book (232 pages) is available for $20.39.

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Headsup: Decepticons, Diamonds, and Dystopia


Transformers 4K Transformers - Revenge of the Fallen 4K
Transformers - Dark of the Moon 4K

Out now on 4K Blu-ray are the first four Transformers films, each in a 3-disc combo pack which includes a digital copy and a host of extras.  Transformers (2007) features audio commentary from director Michael Bay, a Transformers Heads Up Display, and featurette compilations “Our World” (exploring the world of Transformers), “Their World” (examining the Autobots and Decepticons), and “More than Meets the Eye” (a look inside the desert attack scene, including concept boards), along with some Easter eggs.  Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) boasts an audio commentary by Michael Bay, Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman along with deleted and alternate scenes, Easter eggs, and multiple featurettes (including “Deconstructing Visual Bayhem” with commentary by pre-vis supervisor Steve Yamamoto, “25 Years of Transformers”, and “The Matrix of Marketing”, among many others.  Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) doesn’t have the audio commentary or Easter eggs featured in the previous two sets but does include multiple featurettes— notable among them are “Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon”, “Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now”, and “The Art of Cybertron.”  Rounding out the release is Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), which (like Transformers: Dark of the Moon) doesn’t have audio commentary, Easter eggs, or alternate and deleted scenes.  Extras on this one include the behind-the-scenes special “Evolution with Extinction: The Making of Transformers: Age of Extinction” along with some featurettes about the design of the film and the action sequences.  You can find the Blu-ray 4K Combo sets of TransformersTransformers: Revenge of the FallenTransformers: Dark of the Moon, and Transformers: Age of Extinction on Amazon for $19.99 each.

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Headsup: The Sissi Collection

Sissi Collection Blu-ray
If you’re someone who enjoys period foreign films, you’ll be excited to hear that The Sissi Collection starring Romy Schneider is now out (for the first time in a Blu-ray set) from Film Movement.  Throughout the trilogy, Schneider portrays Princess Elisabeth (“Sissi”) of Austria, whose 44-year reign from 1854-1898 made her the longest serving Empress in the country’s history.  The collection includes the three titular Sissi films directed by Ernst Marischka (and produced almost exactly one hundred years after Elisabeth became Empress):  Sissi (1955) Sissi: The Young Empress (1956), and Sissi: The Fateful Years of the Empress (1957).  All three films have been restored in 2K and are presented in both 16:9 widescreen and the original theatrical full screen aspect ratios.  As a special bonus, the collection also features the 1962 film Forever My Love (a condensed version of the Sissi trilogy dubbed into English and originally released by Paramount Pictures) and the 1954 film Victoria in Dover (where Schneider stars as Princess Victoria of Britain).

Bonus content also includes “From Romy to Sissi” (a 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette) and “Sissi’s Great-Grandson at the Movies” (an excerpt from the documentary film Elisabeth: Enigma of an Empress).  In addition, the five-disc set is presented with a twenty-page collector’s booklet, which includes a new essay by critic Farran Smith Nehme.  It is important to be aware that the trilogy of Sissi films (along with Forever My Love and Victoria in Dover) were already released as a DVD set back in 2007, so be aware before purchasing for your home library or a gift that the main difference between the two releases content-wise is the “Sissi’s Great-Grandson at the Movies” feature and the collector’s booklet (the previous set was also only available in DVD format).  The new release of The Sissi Collection is currently available on Amazon with the DVD set priced at $39.99 and the Blu-ray set at $48.42.

Headsup: Androids, Animation, and Anime

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the first two titles featured below. The opinions I share are my own.

Westworld Season One 4KIn a time when Artificial Intelligence has gone from science fiction to a viable business tool, “Westworld” is an immersive fantasy role-playing game where guests have the opportunity to explore the best and worst sides of themselves without moral or legal consequence— as far as they know.  Based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name, the HBO series features an awards-laden cast led by Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins, Golden Globe winner Ed Harris, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Evan Rachel Wood, and Golden Globe nominee Thandie Newton.  Westworld: Season One is now available on 4K Blu-ray, regular Blu-ray, and DVD.  The 4K and regular Blu-ray sets also include a collectible booklet that mimics a corporate guidebook for new Westworld employees and the 4K is housed in a special limited-edition tin.  All three formats boast a wide array of bonus features, including featurettes about the main title sequence, the symbolism of the player piano and Ramin Djawadi’s score, Artificial Intelligence, and the Westworld set.  Additional extras include a behind-the-scenes look at the first week of filming, examinations of key scenes from the season, an audio commentary on the season’s final episode by the co-creators and showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, and a gag reel.  Amazon and iTunes both offer the season digitally (for $38.99 and $32.99, respectively), with Amazon including the Westworld Comic-Con panel and season trailer and iTunes including no bonus features.  If the (almost two hours of) bonus features are important to you, though, the best option is still getting the season in disc format— on Amazon you can get the 4k Blu-ray set for $44.99, the regular Blu-ray set for $36.99, and the DVD set for $34.99.

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Headsup: Kicking Butts and Shrinking Butts

Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Lost Christmas Richard Simmons: Sweatin to the Oldies 30th Anniversary Batman vs. Two-Face Blu-Ray

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the third title featured below. The opinions I share are my own.

If you’re in the mood for some laughter, music, and classic lighthearted fun this coming holiday season, you will be happy to know that Time Life just released The Carol Burnett Show: Carol’s Lost Christmas on DVD. Spanning three holiday shows (which haven’t been seen in over 40 years) from the first four seasons of the series’ run, the collection features treats such as Jonathan Winters as a weird-doll-collecting Santa, a serenade by the Bob Mitchell Singing Boys, a courtroom sketch written by Neil Simon, a performance by 16-year-old Julie Budd singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and much more. The DVD runs a little over two hours and is available on Amazon for $8.29.

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Headsup: Jokers, Singers, Killers, and Queens

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the fourth title featured below. The opinions I share are my own.

Red-Christmas-Blu-rayIt’s almost Halloween, and what does that mean?  HOLIDAY SEASON IS COMING!!!!  A film drawing from both the spectacle of Christmas and the horror of Halloween is Red Christmas from Artsploitation Films (how much do we love that name?).  The cinematic debut of television director and actor Craig Anderson, the film tells the story of a family in a remote house during Christmas who must fight off a deformed and mysterious  attacker bent on revenge.  Starring genre icon Dee Wallace (The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, E.T., Cujo, Critters), the film was an official selection at multiple festivals, including Fantasia Film Festival, Frightest: London, Buried Alive Film Fest, and Los Angeles Cine Fest.  Red Christmas is being released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 17 and offers a fair selection of bonus features.  Leading the extras are a director’s audio commentary, “Dee Wallace Speaks!” (a twenty-minute interview between Director Craig Anderson and Dee Wallace), and a ten-minute interview between Craig Anderson, Sam Campbell, and Gerald Odwyer.  Additional extras include a mini-interview (2 minutes) with Craig Anderson, a deleted scene, and a blooper reel.  Pre-order Amazon pricing on this one is pretty wonky as of this writing, showing the DVD available for $17.99 and the Blu-ray for $11.99… not sure if this is based on typos or what, but I’d say if this film is up your alley and you like having stuff on Blu-ray, grab it before someone makes a pricing correction.

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Headsup: That’s Life… Being a Drunk, Being a Girl, Being a Ninja

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the first four titles featured below. The opinions I share are my own.


Shameless Season 7 Blu-rayA remake of the British series of the same name, Shameless is a comedy-drama series that follows the misadventures of alcoholic single father Frank Gallagher (Oscar nominee William H. Macy) and his six children. In Season Seven, Frank wakes up from being in a coma for the past month only to realize that no one came looking for him when he went missing (having been tossed into the Chicago river). Things aren’t calm for the rest of the clan either, as they deal with relationship and job problems, the challenges of single parenthood and post-rehab life, and important decisions such as whether to get circumcised and if starting a topless maid service is a savvy business decision. Now out on DVD and Blu-ray is Shameless: The Complete Seventh Season, featuring all twelve episodes of Season Seven. Special features include two new featurettes, “Growing Up Shameless” (where Emma Kenney and Ethan Cutkosky discuss their amusing real-life journey growing up on the set of Shameless) and “The Shameless Politics of Frank” (which examines Frank’s politics while drunk and sober), along with some unaired scenes.  The season is available digitally on Amazon (which includes “The Shameless Politics of Frank”) and on iTunes (which includes both featurettes) for $29.99, but the cheaper option on this one would definitely be to get it in disc format—on Amazon you can currently snag the DVD for $22.99 and the Blu-ray for $27.99.

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Headsup: The Vietnam War

Vietnam War Ken Burns Blu-RayAn epic documentary a decade in the making, The Vietnam War is the latest work by Ken Burns and Lynn Novik which takes a 360-degree look at the conflict that would cost the lives of millions and create one of the defining periods of the twentieth century.  The film features digitally remastered footage sourced from all over the world (some of which has rarely been seen since it was originally shot)  as well as accounts from over ninety witnesses from both sides, including both political proponents and opponents and combatants from either side of the battle line in Vietnam.  Filling out the picture of the devastating epoch are television broadcasts, pictures from some of the period’s most acclaimed photojournalists, clips of home movies, and audio recordings of conversations from the political administrations of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

Permanently intertwined with the events of the period was, of course, the music of the day.  The documentary features over one hundred and twenty evocative songs from the era, including music from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding, Santana, Joni Mitchell, and others.  No work would have Ken Burns’ stamp of approval without an epic score, and this one is no different—-in addition to music from the era of the Vietnam War, the film features original music composed (and recorded) by Academy Award-winning composers Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor along with pieces by David Cieri and Doug Wamble.  It also boasts some new music arranged by Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who also recorded it along with the Silk Road Ensemble.

The Vietnam War is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, which includes all ten parts of the series presented this month on PBS as well as over one hundred minutes of additional footage (adding up to around eighteen hours total across ten discs).  Extras featured on these collections include a 45-minute preview program, a couple of featurettes on the present lives of two of the interview participants, and some additional bonus content.  If you’re a big fan but missed seeing it this time around on PBS, you will have another chance to see the documentary for free starting October 3rd (when the series will re-air on a weekly basis through November 28th).  However, if you don’t want to risk missing one of the ten installments or if you want to be able to take a mental break without sacrificing the opportunity to see it in its entirety (this is really heavy stuff, after all), you may want to consider getting the series in disc form and watching at your leisure.  If you think one of the disc sets might be right for you, you can grab the DVD and Blu-ray on Amazon (for $59.16 and $74.29, respectively).  The Vietnam War: An Intimate History (a companion book to the series authored by the film’s writer Geoffrey C. Ward) is available on Amazon as well.

Headsup: Gut Punches and Belly Laughs

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the first three titles featured below. The opinions I share are my own.

Arrow Season 4 Blu-RayArrow (the CW series based on the DC Comics character The Green Arrow) follows Oliver Queen, a billionaire playboy who has a double life as a masked vigilante protecting the city from criminals. In Season Five, Oliver has the additional responsibility of being the newly appointed mayor, and he must learn to fight his enemies both day and night. In addition, with Team Green Arrow down to just himself and Felicity (and with Damien Darhk’s defeat at the end of Season Four), a new wave of inexperienced vigilantes has come to light. As he tries to maneuver around the would-be-heroes, Oliver must also face a dangerous new adversary, all while trying to reconcile his dual roles as public leader and masked protector of the city.  Out now is Arrow: The Complete Fifth Season, available on DVD and Blu-ray.  The set includes all twenty three episodes of the fifth season along with a fair collection of bonus features.  Included in the extras are the DC superhero crossover event with Supergirl and The Flash along with three featurettes (“The New Team Arrow”, “Allied: The Invasion Complex (Arrow)” and “Returning to the Roots of Arrow: Prometheus”).  Also included are the 2016 Arrow Comic Con panel along with some deleted scenes and a gag reel.  Those who prefer streaming can get the season digitally on both Amazon and iTunes for $29.99 (Amazon includes the Comic Con panel while iTunes offers that as well as the three featurettes).  If you want to hold out for one of the disc formats (along with the complete host of extras), you can snag the DVD and Blu-ray on Amazon (for $32.99 and $36.99, respectively).

Lethal Weapon Season 1 Blu-RayIf you like buddy cop action-comedies, you may be a fan of the new series Lethal Weapon (Warner Brothers’ television reboot of the film franchise of the same name).  The show follows the story of by-the-book veteran LAPD detective Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) who is partnered with impulsive Navy SEAL-turned-police officer Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford), who has joined the LAPD after the death of his wife and their unborn baby. With lots of emotional baggage and clashing styles of operation, Murtaugh and Riggs must learn how to navigate car chases, shootouts, explosions, and other sticky situations, all while figuring out how to avoid killing each other in the process. Available now is Lethal Weapon: The Complete First Season, which features all eighteen episodes from the show’s inaugural season along with some extras.  Bonus features include an extended (uncensored) version of the pilot episode, a featurette about reimagining the story of the classic films (“Reloading Lethal Weapon”), some deleted scenes, and a gag reel.  Those who want the digital version can get it on Amazon and on iTunes for $24.99. (Be aware that bonus features are pretty sparse on both of these options, though– iTunes features the extended version of the pilot, a two-minute trailer, and a tw0-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette, and Amazon only has the extended pilot and the trailer).  The hard copy versions are out today on Amazon— as of this writing the DVD is going for $29.24 and the Blu-ray for $28.85 (yes, the Blu-ray is currently lower than the DVD).  Even with the scarcity of bonus features on the streaming options, it’s also good to note that all you get extras-wise by opting for the disc format (apart from the deleted scenes and gag reel) is the “Reloading Lethal Weapon” featurette, so it’s up to you to decide if you think it merits the $4 difference in price.

Big Bang Theory Season 10 Blu-RayStarring the highest paid television actors in the U.S., The Big Bang Theory is about to premiere its eleventh season and is still going strong.  Based around a quartet of endearing geniuses and their love interests living and working in Pasadena, CA, the show has garnered huge ratings (and huge profits) for Warner Brothers and CBS over the past decade.  Season Ten sees the characters shifting living situations, rebooting a wedding, and gearing up for the arrival of the show’s first baby.  A love letter to all manifestations of science, comics, fantasy, and general nerd-dom, the explosion of this (aptly-named) show’s popularity is a big part of the reason many now say we live in the Age of the Geeks.  Out now on DVD and Blu-ray is The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Tenth Season, which includes all twenty four episodes of Season Ten along with a handful of extras.  Leading the list of bonus content are four featurettes: “#JustAskBBT”, “Mad Props”, “The Ever-Expanding Universe of the Big Bang Theory”, and “Who’s the Baby Now?”.  Extras also include coverage of the 2016 The Big Bang Theory Comic Con panel (I’m surprised that crowd even let them leave) and a gag reel.  It’s a little sad that on this one they didn’t do some sort of commentary or additional interviews (especially considering the show has featured brilliant guest stars such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and many others).  Even without that, if you’re one of the fans that made up this season’s average nineteen million viewers, you’re probably looking to get the season regardless.  If that’s the case, you can get the season on disc on Amazon (where the DVD is currently $28.99 and the Blu-ray is $32.98).  Things get really interesting when you consider going the streaming route, though– Amazon offers the season digitally for $29.99 (which includes the Comic Con panel), but iTunes is the clear winner, offering all the bonus features except the gag reel for only $9.99.  At basically one-third the price of getting it on DVD with almost no loss of content, I’d say the iTunes option is the way to go.

Best of Carol Burnett ShowOn September 11, 1967, a variety show (created almost solely due to a contractual obligation the network owed its young star) aired for the first time on CBS, and television would never be the same.  Fifty years later, The Carol Burnett Show still enjoys its place as the gold standard of variety shows, earned over an eleven-year run so popular that many joked that “CBS Network” really stood for “Carol Burnett Show Network”.   As a celebration of the show’s fiftieth anniversary, Time Life is releasing The Best of the Carol Burnett Show, which features sixteen episodes (some of which have not been seen since their original airing).  Classic sketches such as “Mrs. Wiggins,” “The Family,” and “The Stomach Turns” are included along with commercial and movie parodies, along with appearances from guest stars such as Rock Hudson, Rita Hayworth, and Liza Minnelli (among many others).  Fans will be glad to know that included in the list of episodes are the series pilot (featuring Jim Nabors) and the double-length series finale (who will ever forget Carol tearing up as she sang I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together in her charwoman rags to close out the show?).  Also included on the disc are some exclusive new bonus features, including never-before-seen bloopers, a new interview with Carol Burnett about her time on the show, and two featurettes created especially for this release (“Eleven Years of Laughter on The Carol Burnett Show” and “The End of Eleven Years: Saying So Long”).

The collection will be available on October 3 with a suggested retail price of $59.95 for the six-disc set.  Releasing at the same time will be two other configurations— a four-disc set (exclusively available through Wal-Mart, priced at $39.95 suggested retail) and a single DVD ($12.95 suggested retail).  Mega fans will also be excited to hear that on December 3rd CBS is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark show with its airing of The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special, featuring some members of the original cast along with guest stars such as Bernadette Peters, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, and others.

Laugh-In Season 1 DVDAnother show celebrating its golden anniversary this year is Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, the iconic and groundbreaking show of the late 60s/early 70s that set the stage for decades of comedy television to follow.  Originally airing as a stand-alone special on September 9, 1967, the show was such a success that it was turned into a series, replacing The Man From U.N.C.L.E in the Monday night time slot on NBC.  Hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, the show would start the careers of stars such as Goldie Hawn, Lily Tomlin, and Richard Dawson (among others).  As part of the celebration of its 50th anniversary, Laugh-In: The Complete First Season is now available on DVD, which showcases the first fourteen episodes of the show’s run (featuring guest stars Pamela Austen, Ruth Buzzi, Arte Johnson, Gary Owens and others) as well as bonus content including the pilot episode from 1967, highlights from the 25th anniversary cast reunion, bloopers, and a new interview with creator and executive producer George Schlatter.  The set is currently available on Amazon for $14.89.

For those who are super-duper fans, Time Life is also currently offering up the entire series of Laugh-In as a box set, including all 140 episodes (over half of which have never before been released on any format) along with a bonus DVD, which features some of the extras mentioned above as well as interviews with Lily Tomlin, Dick Martin, Gary Owens, Ruth Buzzi, and others.  The set also includes Laugh-In Memories, a 32-page collectible booklet with archival photos, jokes and one-liners from the show, notes from George Schlatter, and other fun tidbits.  The Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Series set is currently available through Time Life and retails for $249.95.

Headsup: Ingenious

If you enjoy watching brilliant people do brilliant things, one or both of the releases below may be for you:

Elementary Fifth SeasonFirst we have Elementary, the modern-day telling of the story of Sherlock Holmes, a brilliant but flawed detective.  In this Americanized version, Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) works together with Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) to solve some of the most baffling cases presented to the NYPD.  In the fifth season, Holmes and Watson come up against everything from a dangerous drug gang bent on murder to a serial bomber to a rogue intelligence agency.  (Added to that challenge are the truly bizarre methods used, including snake venom-laced meals, invisible gunshots, and a superbug introduced into the city’s water supply.)  With disparate personalities but a shared love of resolving complicated cases, the partners are on a constant quest to solve the puzzles presented both by criminals and by their own relationship.  Out now on DVD is Elementary: The Fifth Season, which features all twenty four episodes of Season Five along with almost an hour of bonus content.  Three featurettes form the bulk of the special features, including “Flashbacks” (where the production team discusses re-creating props to support the Byzantine story and how it worked into the show’s fictional timeline), “The Fifth Elementary” (a behind-the-scenes look with Lucy Liu and Aidan Quinn as they each take a turn directing), and “Reasoning Backwards” (a discussion with show runner Rob Doherty and the writers about creating the complex crime-based storylines).  In addition to the featurettes are some deleted and extended scenes and a gag reel.  Elementary: The Fifth Season is available on DVD on Amazon (currently priced at $29.87).  You can also get the Season Five streaming option on both Amazon and iTunes for $34.99, but the only bonus feature on these is a 4-minute “Top Moments of Season Four” special.  With a price at $5 less and fifty minutes more content than the streaming option, the DVD is the best choice on this one all the way around, unless you’re simply out of space on the shelf.

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