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Headsup for February 24, 2008

An ongoing attempt to make sense of the onslaught of new swag that people want you to buy. Should you? I’ll try and help.

Dr. Johnson
The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway Audiobook Cover Art

The book is Dr. Johnson’s Doorknob and Other Significant Parts of Great Men’s Houses by Liz Workman. And on first glance, it looks like something that somebody might have started a blog about: going around and taking pictures of personal items that ordinarily one wouldn’t think about. If not a blog, at least a Flickr group. Anyway, it’s because of this book, out from Rizzoli, that I can say I’ve seen Edgar Allan Poe‘s doorknob (quiet, Scott), Victor Hugo’s soup tureen and Darwin’s mantelpiece. Fascinating catalogue of stuff you wouldn’t normally think about being important–and that’s just the point. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I have to be careful with Hemingway. Stuff like his Nick Adams stories make my spleen hurt. But small doses of Hemingway I find I’m okay with. So an hour of a reading of his story, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, I’m fine with. Especially when it’s read by Charlton Heston. Manly man Heston goes well with manly man Papa Hemingway. It’s the story of a man facing his own death and coming to grips with the fact that he hasn’t lived as much as he’s wanted to. Not in quantity, but in quality. Now, if this sounds like a good deal, here’s something to bear in mind: Harper Audio put out an Ernest Hemingway Audio Collection that contains this plus Old Man and the Sea (also read by Heston) plus some readings by Papa himself. And while its out of stock at Amazon when I’m writing this, you can get it new for $12…and this single disc is around $10. So. Your choice. (Click here to buy it from Amazon or Click here to get The Ernest Hemingway Audio Collection instead.)

Lillie DVD
Rosemary & Thyme The Complete Collection DVD Cover Art
Rough Diamond DVD Cover Art

Lillie is a Masterpiece Theatre production starring Francesca Annis as the titular Lillie Langtry, a woman who tried (and succeeded) to machete her own path (not literally) in Victorian society. She did this by refusing to play by the accepted rules of what a woman should and shouldn’t do, taking the rather married Prince of Wales as her lover (among others), took care of her own business affairs and more. This series has thirteen episodes, clocking in at over eleven hours of content, across four discs. This was previously released by Goldhil, I believe (Igraine’s review of it is here), but the features appear to be fairly similar on this Acorn Media release. You’ve got here an essay on Lillie’s impact and cast filmographies. Probably worth a rental if you appreciate period dramas. (Click here to buy it from Amazon)

What happens when you decide to take a mystery series and mix it up with this? Rosemary & Thyme, which has the novel notion of gardening sleuths. Rosemary Boxer (is the last name another Simon & Garfunkel reference?) is a former plant biologist and Laura Thyme is an ex-police officer. Together–they fight crime! In gardens! Now you don’t have to watch Mystery! and worry you’re missing something on HGTV–brilliant! This is the complete series, all three seasons, twenty-two episodes in all, with over eighteen hours of content. This does have some bonus bits on it: an interview with the stars, production and location notes, photo galleries and more. It’s out from Acorn Media as well. If the idea appeals to you, might be worth a rental, especially if you’re a mystery junkie. If you’re a fan of the show, now’s the time to buy it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon)

Sir David Jason stars as Des, and he’s a lot like an evil version of Columbo. No, I’m serious. Columbo would make you think he was this kooky scatterbrained detective asking just one more thing and then just one more thing and then–gotcha. Des seems like a harmless old man but he’s really a master criminal who wants to score on people who deserve to be taken. The series aired in the UK as “Diamond Geezer,” but is renamed here as Rough Diamond for this Acorn Media release. Maybe because the term “geezer” isn’t looked upon as favorably when used to describe someone on this side of the pond? Or because we’re so dumb over here we might think he was an elderly superhero made of diamond? I don’t know. Regardless, this is all four episodes that have been produced to date (the pilot plus three) and it clocks in at about five hours. Comes with text interviews with the cast. (Click here to buy it from Amazon)

Beowulf Unrated Director
Hustle Complete Season Four DVD Cover Art

Okay, I’m not a fan of Zemeckis‘ CG-fetish. Apart from turning Crispin Glover into Grendel and turning Ray Winstone into a trimmer warrior, for the most part you’ve got a bunch of actors who are playing…CG-ized hollow-eyed versions of themselves. It’s an improvement over The Polar Express‘ world of zombies, but Beowulf would have been best served using a green-screen technique a la 300 or Sin City in my opinion. Regardless, the script written by Roger Avary and The Neil is worthy, but when you’re looking at the cast doing photo shoots in perfectly good costumes, you have to wonder what the point of mo-capping the whole thing is. Additional scenes and some featurettes are here as well. If you enjoyed the film, you might want to pick this version up–you’d think they’d release a three-disc set loaded with extras in the future, but they haven’t done that yet for Express, so I think you’re safe for the moment. Released from Paramount. (Click here to buy it from Amazon)

And we’ve got, from BBC, the final series of Hustle. I say final series–due to the fact that they can’t seem to get everybody’s schedules to line up, it seems–but you never know with these things. With Adrian Lester out of the show, Ashley Walters steps in as Billy Bond, a new character. This time around they wind up in Los Angeles, they stop in at Las Vegas, and Robert Wagner guest stars at one point. Six episodes are here, and if you’re a fan of the series (enough to own them instead of snagging it from AMC), then you want to go ahead and pick it up. Based on past experience, this is probably the best edition of this you’re going to get. It does come with a behind the scenes featurette. (Click here to buy it from Amazon)