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The Week in Stuff: May 25, 2010 – Brooks, Zombies and Vampires All on Blu-Ray

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Avatar Blu-ray Cover Art
Louis L'Amour Western Collection DVD Cover Art
Valentine's Day Blu-ray Cover Art

[ad#longpost]So Avatar is out on Blu-Ray–and this version we were sent contains both Blu-Ray and DVD versions of the film. From what I understand, they’re selling like mad. The industry claims this is driving purchase of Blu-Ray players. But here’s the big that doesn’t make sense: why? This film is best experienced in a big screen, 3-D, hi-def environment. Unless you have gobs of money to burn, you probably hit two out of three of those criteria. If you do have gobs of money to burn, please come talk to me and I would love to help you with that. But even beyond that–I’ve heard there’s a longer cut of the film that might hit cinemas so we get the hullaballoo all over again. And then there’s the admittance that this is going to be a bare bones release just to get it out there, so that a ubermondo release can come later. Why wouldn’t you wait for that one? Just do yourself a favor–go for the Blu-Ray version if you must. This is out from Fox. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

if you’re a sucker for westerns, Louis L’Amour, or men who wear mustaches well, you may want to check out the Louis L’Amour Three-Movie Western Collection. This set from Warner Brothers includes the film The Sacketts, featuring Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott, and Jeff Osterhage as brothers looking to make money from cattle and gold out west. Next up is Conagher, with Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross in a frontier love story. Last but not least are Yul Brynner, Richard Crenna, and Leonard Nimoy in Catlow, the story of a very wanted outlaw trying to pull off a gold heist. The first two are made-for-TV movies, with the Brynner film being a feature release. No special features, but it’s a good price for three movies regardless, especially considering they were all previously individually released on DVD with prices comparable to what it takes to snag this boxed set. So if this is your bag, it’s worth considering. If you’re uncertain whether or not it’s worth snagging permanently, give it a Netflix beforehand. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The star-studded cast of Valentine’s Day is impressive. I could list them for you, but it’s just basically the contents of Garry Marshall’s Rolodex. It’s out on Blu-Ray from New Line Cinema, a combo pack that comes with both DVD and digital copy as well. There are a bunch of extras: commentary by director Marshall, The Garry Factor and The Stars Confess Their Valentine’s Day Stories featurettes, a music video, blooper reel, and a Sex and the City 2 sneak peek, as well as additional scenes. The DVD extras are limited to deleted scenes and a trailer for Sex and the City 2, so if you’re a sucker for extras, it might be worth the extra $5 for the Blu-ray. If you’re going to buy it. And really, the people who would buy this sort of film already know who they are, so we’ll just leave it at that. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Invictus Blu-ray Cover Art
Edge of Darkness Blu-ray Cover Art

The moment you said Morgan Freeman I was in. This is for Invictus, of course, which means you also get Matt Damon with both of them directed by Clint Eastwood. It’s out from Warner Brothers on Blu-Ray, which is again a combo pack with DVD and digital copy along for the ride. The Blu-Ray version is superior to the DVD flavor: you don’t just get a rugby featurette, you also get a picture-in-picture making-of with Eastwood and others, as well as a featurette in which Freeman met with Nelson Mandela. The Blu-Ray is only $5 more as I write this, so it’s a good buy if you’re looking to own this. And if you’re not certain whether or not you want to own it, then Netflix or another rental platform of your choice is the best bet. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Mel Gibson’s latest thriller, Edge of Darkness, is also out on Blu-ray. It’s a remake of the BBC miniseries of the same name (also available from Amazon). In addition to the obligatory DVD and digital copies of the film, there are a few extras. These consist of deleted and alternate scenes and “Focus Points,” which is a fancy name for mini-featurettes covering a bunch of different topics: the miniseries and the adaptation thereof, the musical score, a profile of the director, a featurette focusing on Mel himself and more. Now we didn’t get a copy of the DVD, so I believe you only get the deleted and alternate scenes on it–and it’s $10 cheaper. I will say this is probably the best version of this release we’re going to get–so if you’ve seen the film in the cinema or already rented it, it might be worth the extra coin. Just a thought. (Click here to buy it on Amazon.)

Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense DVD Cover Art
Doctor Zhivago DVD Cover Art
Daria: The Complete Animated Series DVD Cover Art

Released on DVD by IndiePix, Icons Among Us: Jazz in the Present Tense answer the question of: Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane but now what? It’s a look at what’s happening in the genre today, featuring everybody from Bill Frisell to Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis to Medeski Martin & Wood. The main special feature is a series of performances from five groups, plus an additional Mardi Gras Party performance from 2002. If you’re trying to get a primer as to what’s happening in modern jazz, then this might be worth at least a rental. In fact, I would recommend that and then exploring further into the artists that catch your ear. The hardcore fan of the genre might find it worth owning. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Dr. Zhivago is out in a 45th Anniversary Edition on DVD from Warner Brothers. It’s big, it’s epic, it’s got Omar Sharif, Julie Christie and Rod Steiger in it. And the DVD edition here is pretty choice: remastered, the commentary from previous releases is here with Sharif, Steiger and Lady Sandra Lean (wife of David Lean), a previously available hour-long docu, a scad of “vintage featurettes” and the new two-part retrospective, “Doctor Zhivago: A Celebration.” Now, if you previously bought the two-disc special edition, are you missing anything? That’s a good question. I never got that edition so I don’t have anything to reference. I find conflicting reports of an audio-only track that focused on the award-winning Maurice Jarre score and an intro by Sharif. But again, it’s sorta hard to know for certain without having a copy here. Also, for epicness, if you’re going to plonk down the coin, why wouldn’t you just go all out and get the Blu-Ray? They didn’t send it, so I can’t speak to it directly, but it would stand to reason that the picture would be improved in that medium. For around $8 extra, it’s worth considering, I would think. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Daria: The Complete Animated Series is out at last from MTV and Paramount, and you have to give them some credit. Fans have been yelling for this damn thing for a while now. Most studios would release the series season by season or even better yet, in non-season volumes, making the fans wait and squeezing them for dollar after dollar. Nobody’s saying the studios shouldn’t make money, but some studios take it to extremes and just act like dicks. I think we can all think of some examples, so no need to list them here. Instead: boom. An entire series boxed set, including the two movies, the pilot episode, music video, intros, interviews and more. I did say “some” credit, though, right? Right. The hardcore aren’t going to be happy because apparently the DVD is stripped of the music that was originally used in the series–the old “music royalties would make it too expensive to release” routine. I don’t have a dog in this fight and I don’t know how important the music was, frankly. But if the concept of getting the whole series as is is appealing, then go for it. This is going to be your best bet, since it doesn’t air anywhere anymore. If you’re going to take issue with the “complete” part of the name, then keep waiting, I would advise. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

History of the World Part I Blu-ray Cover Art
High Anxiety Blu-ray Cover Art
Robin Hood Men in Tights Blu-ray Cover Art

So here we are with your friend and mine, Mel Brooks. Having debuted in the Blu-Ray variation of The Mel Brooks Collection, some of the single titles are getting broken out for the first time in hi-def. And they’re the same basic releases as you had in the big boxed set. There’s my favorite of the three, History of the World: Part I (featuring one of my favorite Dom DeLuise lines ever: “WASH THIS!!”). It comes with a trivia track, a musical featurette and a making-of featurette. There’s also an isolated score track. High Anxiety, the Hitchcock spoof, with a featurette about just that, a trivia track, isolated score and more. And lastly, the beginning of the end: Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Yes, it had moments, but they were just moments. And yes, Spaceballs was also a spoof but that’s like trying to compare Airplane! to Meet the Spartans. This release comes with a featurette, HBO special, Brooks commentary track and isolated score. Now, here’s the thing. The Blu-Ray boxed set has these three films plus six others. Including Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein to name just a couple. I urge you before you start buying these things in singles–not all of which are available to buy yet in hi-def even–to seriously consider it. If you only buy four singles out of that boxed set, you’re rapidly approaching the price of the whole damned boxed set. Sure, they might not all be keepers, but there’s no Dracula: Dead and Loving It, is there?
Click here to buy History of the World Part I on Blu-Ray from Amazon.
Click here to buy High Anxiety on Blu-Ray from Amazon.
Click here to buy Robin Hood: Men in Tights on Blu-Ray from Amazon.

City of the Living Dead Blu-ray Cover Art
Django Blu-ray Cover Art
True Blood: The Complete Second Season DVD Cover Art

Blue Underground continues to roll out their titles on Blu-Ray with a pretty formidable array of features. City of the Living Dead, the Fulci classic, hits with just such a plethora. First of all, it looks about as good as it could possibly get–and really, a spaghetti horror flick isn’t going to be CG 3-D clear even in hi-def. So. Second it’s got a making-of featurette with a slew of folks involved. I didn’t get a copy of the DVD that streeted this week as well, but it appears that this feature is shared between the DVD and Blu-Ray releases. However, the other solo interviews and the Fulci retrospective featurette appear to be Blu-Ray only. For the hardcore fan, the Blu-Ray being $8 more is not a bad deal for this stuff. And I would be amazed if a better edition came down the pike at a later date. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Django is hitting Blu-Ray from Blue Underground as well. This is the spaghetti western with Franco Nero as a guy who keeps a little friend in a coffin. And hijinks ensue. This Blu-Ray edition has what we previously saw in the two-disc DVD release a couple of years back. You get interviews with Nero and the assistant director, an additional short film (“The Last Pistolero”), and a vintage docu about the genre. There’s also trailers and an optional intro by Nero. If you’re a spaghetti western buff, then this is probably a no-brainer for you. It looks good, has a decent array of features, and the price is comparable to what you’d pay used for the out of print 2-disc DVD. Rent it first if you don’t know what you’re in for. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

True Blood: The Complete Second Season hits DVD and the second season already had reruns, so if you missed them, this may be your best bet to catch up before season 3 starts in June. This set actually has a decent amount of features for a TV series still in production. There’s a special edition of “The Vampire Report,” a featurette regarding “Fellowship of the Sun” rules, and audio commentary on seven episodes. However, it appears the Blu-Ray set is far superior in its features. I can’t speak to them directly, since I don’t have that set in my hands, but an “enhanced viewing” mode is there which features branching out to expand the experience of watching an episode. And since if you’ve been around any length of time you know that I’m big on the features, it’s hard for me to recommend this set–seriously, the Blu-Ray is just $7 more as I type this. Fans of the show will want to snag the hi-def set, if you’re not sure whether or not it’s your bag or not, Netflix it to give it a go first. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

1 comment

  • Well that’s kind of a kick in the Nards. Daria‘s music was pretty essential to the flow and atmosphere of the show. Damn it.