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Headsup: Two Fists of Flying Circus!

Trying to figure out what’s coming out and what you should buy vs. rent vs. back away from slowly is not for the faint of heart. It’s okay, though: I’m a professional. Here we go.

The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus Collector's Edition DVD cover art
Monty Python Fluxx game cover art

A&E returns to the Python well with The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus Collector’s Edition, a twenty-one disc monster of a set that contains every episode of Flying Circus and then, in a separate book that comes out of the box shown (“Monty Python’s Everything Else”), you get, well, just that–everything else. Monty Python Live is included, as well as each of the individual members’ “Personal Best” collections. Now, you might be saying, “Widge, is there anything new in here? I own the 16-Ton Megaset, why should I snag this?” As well you should ask that. The only thing that’s new and never before seen are the two docus included on separate discs, “Before the Flying Circus” which attempts to show the roots of the show and then “Monty Python Conquers America,” in which their storming of American shores is recounted. Beyond that, that’s it. And my understanding is that the episodes have been remastered and restored and whatnot, in preparation for being released on hi-def at some point in the future. If that is accurate, then I see no indication that we’re getting any version of those episodes here in lo-def. So while it’s a very nice set–I especially like how it’s compact, but only a completist who has no intention of upgrading to Blu-Ray at any point in the future would want to snag this. It’s $89.99 on Amazon, and while the Personal Best bits are nice for what they are, I would recommend aiming instead for the 16-ton Megaset. It’s priced at $57.99 and you can snag it here. I would recommend holding out for the Collector’s Edition in Blu-Ray–or at least the remastered episodes. Oh, and one last bit? My favorite perk of the set is the discounted Spamalot tickets, good January 6th through March 29th. But bear in mind, the show closes January 18th. So. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

[ad#longpost]While we’re on the subject of Python, let’s go over to Looney Labs and their new variation of Fluxx. Fluxx, for the uninitiated (ScottC is the one who got me started on this thing) is basically a card game version of Calvinball. The path to winning the game can change from play to play, so can the worth of your cards, or basically anything you’ve got going on. It’s anarchy barely held in check by whatever cards are running the show at that particular moment. In other words, it’s a chaotic good time. I had tried out the zombie variation of Fluxx, and now they’ve gone and created a Monty Python Fluxx, which is basically like taking mental gasoline and throwing it on the kitchen fire that is the usual Fluxx whacked-outed-ness. It’s an all Python version of the game, which will have fans rather pleased. It’s $20 from Looney Labs for the game, and I think if you have lots of card madness going on at your game night, breaking this out would be worthwhile. (Click here to buy it from Looney Labs.)

IM Pei Complete Works book cover art
Night Gallery Season Two DVD cover art
Wagon Train: The Complete Color Season DVD cover art

I.M. Pei is one of those artists that even if you don’t know him…you know him. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum? That’s his. That glass pyramid at the Louvre, where beneath is supposed to reside the remains of Mary Magdalene? Yeah, that’s his. I bet he didn’t even know he was a member of the Illuminati. Anyway, when the book says “Complete Works,” it means it. That encompasses not just the many, many works that have gotten made, but also the unbuilt ones–like, for example, the Hyperboloid, which, honestly, sounded like a Doctor Who villain. That was supposed to go up in New York City. The book is heavy as hell and chocked full of more than 340 pages of text about each project, plus scads of pictures from the design phase to the finished project. If you’re a fan of architecture or of the man himself–which you might have been and just not known it–then you want to give this a look. It’s out from Rizzoli–and for $53.55 (what it’s listed at on Amazon at the moment), it’s pricey, but there’s a lot there. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The second season of Night Gallery is here from Universal. Twenty-two episodes across five discs. And I don’t know about you, but that would probably be enough for me, since I’m a Rod Serling freak. But there’s some goodness here to sweeten the deal. There’s three commentaries with a pair of Night Gallery historians, which is nice. There’s also three commentaries with Guillermo “When The Hell Does This Man Ever Sleep?” Del Toro. Then on top of that there’s a retrospective featurette and a look at the paintings of the series, and specifically this season’s. Sure this isn’t as perennial as Twilight Zone, but the beautiful bit of a genre anthology series is you get to sample bits of weirdness as you go, so they don’t necessarily have to fire on all cylinders. And I’m biased anyway. But if you’re a fan, it’s currently at $39.99 on Amazon and this is probably the best version we’re going to see on DVD. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

An hour-long series being promoted to full color and also being extended to an hour and a half? Sounds mental, but that’s exactly what happened with Wagon Train, whose 1963-1964 season is here in its entirety across eleven discs–thirty-two episodes in all. That is a huge freaking series. But if that wasn’t enough, Timeless Media has put sixteen bonus episodes from the other seven seasons (there were eight seasons in all) on four DVDs. And then there’s an additional bonus disc with interviews with actors Robert Fuller and Denny Scott Miller. That’s a total of sixty-five hours of content, this is all new to DVD from what I understand, the color episodes being remastered and the bonus black and white episodes taken from the masters. Guest stars in this season include everybody from Ronald Reagan to Peter Falk and from Burgess Meredith to Annette Funicello. Whew. It’s currently $95.99 on Amazon. Now, true, that’s pricey, but if you are a fan of the show, this is probably the best treatment this season’s going to get on DVD. It’s about $2 an episode, even though the majority of those are super-sized. If you go by the hour of content, it’s under $1.50. So take that under account. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Gregory Peck Film Collection DVD cover art
Sukiyaki Western Django steelbook DVD cover art
Streets of San Francisco Season 2, Vol. 2 DVD cover art

The Gregory Peck Film Collection is perfect if you’re starting from scratch and want to get a Peck collection right here and right now. It comes with six films: Arabesque (with Sophia Loren); Cape Fear (the original, of course, with Robert Mitchum); Captain Newman M.D. (with Eddie Albert, Tony Curtis, Angie Dickinson and Bobby Darin); Mirage (with Walter Matthau); To Kill a Mockingbird (nuff said); and lastly, The World in His Arms (with Anthony Quinn). The good news is that beyond Mockingbird and Fear, the other four films are hitting Region 1 for the first time. The bad news is that there’s nothing new under the sun as far as special features go–it’s everything that came on the two previously released titles: commentary from director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan Pakula on Mockingbird; making-of for both Mockingbird and Fear (although the Mockingbird one is feature length); a docu about Peck’s life; production photos for Fear and more. The good news is that if you haven’t bought the Legacy Series Mockingbird, this has everything from it on this. Cape Fear I can’t speak to because I don’t own that edition, but I imagine it’s the same. So if you’re starting from scratch, this is a gold mine of Peck films. Now…what if you are wincing at having to repurchase those two films to get the other four–well, it’s $41.99 on Amazon as I type this up–and that’s not terrible. But chances are this is the only way these films are going to appear. If it makes you feel any better, Universal at least had the good taste to change the DVD labels so that they don’t remind you you re-purchased every time you look at them. Also, each of the films comes in a slimline case with the poster art from the film on it, which is quite appealing. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sukiyaki Western Django gives me pause. Because on one hand, it’s directed by Takashi Miike, who’s a lunatic. Have you seen Audition? Christ. Anyway, it’s your traditional western, complete with gunfighters, badass gunfights, except there’s more swords than you would normally have in, say, Sergio Leone. Two clans of gunfighters are worked over and played off by another new stranger (also with guns). This comes in a steelbook case and on the discs it has a making-of, premiere and festival footage; and a weapons and CG making-of bits. This is out from First Look, and I would recommend it as a rental for anybody who’s either a western movie or samurai movie fan or just wants to see Quentin Tarantino speaking Japanese. Only if you’re hung up on it should you purchase: It’s $20.29 at the moment on Amazon. So that’s pretty much for fans only. (You could get the non-steelbook packaging, but that’s really no savings.) (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The rest of the second season of Streets of San Francisco is here with twelve episodes across three discs. It’s Karl Malden as the Seasoned Cop and a young-as-hell Michael Douglas as the Rookie Cop. And I’m dying to use the “They Fight Crime!” joke but I already did that previously. So damn. This is out from Paramount/CBS DVD and it comes with no features. It doesn’t appear to be airing anywhere (although if the remake ever comes to pass, they might run it somewhere) so for now, if you want it, this is your only way. It’s $27.99 on Amazon at the moment, so I would say rent it first if you’re uncertain about owning. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Living Colour CBGB Live CD cover art
Star Trek: The Original Series Remastered Season 3 DVD cover art

Living Colour still rocks ass. Honestly. When Collide0scope hit a few years back, it was like they had just gone to get a sandwich after finishing the Stain sessions. And now, two years after that last full new studio album, they hit the stage at CBGB’s like bats out of hell–and MVD Audio has released the 2005 set on CD. They launch into “Type” like they’re attempting to wrench the head from your shoulders if you dare to try and bob your head along. Corey’s voice is still badass, as evidenced when I saw him more recently in Jesus Christ Superstar. Will Calhoun is smacking the shit out of the drums. Vernon Reid is on hand for your funked up guitar weirdness and Doug Wimbish provides the foundation. They’ve still got it and they spend most of the set messing with their older tunes, “Ignorance is Bliss” being the only Stain track and “In Your Name” from Collide0scope. For example, in the aforementioned “Type,” there’s a spoken word break, then a reggae break. Of the tracks, “Terrorism” is the only one that doesn’t ring a bell. But be prepared for long, long reworkings of both “Sacred Ground” and “Open Letter to a Landlord.” When Vernon finally starts the end with the blistering opening of “Cult of Personality,” you’re pretty much exhausted just from listening. These men are madmen. All I ask is next time: “Sunshine of Your Love” live, guys. Please. I want to hear you set that bastard on fire live on stage. Well done. Fans should buy already. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Star Trek is about to be reborn at the hands of J.J. Abrams. Whether it’s Star Trek Begins or Star Trek Returns remains to be seen, but in the meantime, Paramount has re-worked the original series. Reworked as in updated the FX so that phasers look more like the phasers in your imagination and the Enterprise is a CG-realized starship now, for example. Otherwise, nobody’s changed out the phasers for flashlights or retroactively changed up history or any silly shit like that. They’re just remastered and the episodes look better than the last time they hit DVD. Trouble is, this is them hitting DVD again, so should a fan buy this? Well, a lot of the features are ports from the previous release of this season, including both versions of “The Cage,” featurettes on Koenig, Doohan and Takei, and so forth. What you do have new is a retrospective from Bob Justman, producer and more of “Billy Blackburn’s Treasure Chest,” where we learn what being a background player for years on Trek will get you–that’s right, a spot on the DVD. I don’t like the packaging. The front of it flips forward, revealing a paper box out of which you pull the plastic holders for the discs–and I just know that I’m going to wind up scratching one of these damn things. Back to the question: buy or not? Well, I figure that the Blu-Ray version will be out around the time as the new movie or immediately following–that would be the smart thing to do, methinks. So you can probably expect all of this and more on those, so my conservative inclination is to tell you to hold off if you can. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Closer: The Best of Sarah McLachlan CD cover art
The Universe: The Complete Season One Blu-Ray cover art

Sarah McLachlan has released a greatest hits album from Nettwerk entitled Closer, since this is her celebrating twenty years in the business. Most of the songs you would expect are on here, including “Vox,” “Hold On,” “Building a Mystery,” “I Will Remember You” and so on. I’m a little surprised that “Ice Cream” isn’t on here, although perhaps she figures that five or six different versions of that floating around is sufficient. Oh wait, sorry, there’s a 2-CD version of this that has “Ice Cream” on it–I’m only sitting here with the single disc. There’s also two new songs, “Don’t Give Up on Us” and the texting friendly “U want me 2”. This disc serves a few purposes, I find. One, it reveals that she hasn’t lost any of her voice. Two, it reveals that she hasn’t really moved that far away from where she started, at least not musically. If anything, she’s less likely to use a lot of layered voices, but beyond that–if you mixed up the songs and handed them to somebody and told them to put them in chronological order, they’d be hard pressed to succeed. That is, unless they had some sort of ear for production and could tell in that way. I’m not saying that the disc isn’t nice if you don’t already own the albums, but the new songs just didn’t move me enough to say pick this up for them unless you’re a Sarah completist. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Blu-Ray flavor of The Universe is out from The History Channel and while it’s no Stephen Hawking book or Cosmos, it’s a well executed primer on space–and looks damn good to boot. Hence the desire for hi-def for something like this. I’ve said multiple times that all the Circuit Citys and Best Buys of the world just need to snag stuff like this and Blue Planet and Planet Earth and show them in hi-def on all their televisions…and they’d sell a crapload more. This season of the series covers subjects like The Sun, the life of a star, and the eschatological “The End of the Earth,” because nothing drives ratings like armageddon. This also comes with a bonus docu, “Beyond the Big Bang.” While I dig series like this I also understand that a major portion of why we should buy things comes into play here: the rewatch factor. This isn’t the sort of thing you’re going to break out once you’ve watched it through most likely, so I question whether or not anything beyond a rental is warranted here, as tasty looking as it might be. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)