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The Week in Stuff: June 29, 2010 – From Earth to Olympus

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How the Earth Changed History Blu-ray Cover Art
Creation DVD Cover Art

[ad#longpost]How the Earth Changed History hits Blu-Ray from BBC Home Video. And if there was ever a company that demanded my attention from hi-def before all others, it was BBC. Because they brought us the likes of Planet Earth and Life and Jesus, that is some gorgeous stuff. My vision is terrible and my hearing isn’t great either, so it took awhile for the hi-def revolution to catch up to me: and BBC led the charge. So it’s only natural (no pun intended) to consider other nature programs on Blu-Ray from the BBC to be created equal. Well, not as such. While any BBC nature show is going to be head and shoulders above its stateside competition, this isn’t the same. The video quality isn’t as uniformly awesome and the shows themselves–while sounding awesome in concept; showing us how stuff like water and fire helped mold history–are also less than uniformly awesome. That’s not to say they’re not worth checking out, especially if you’re Into That Sort Of Thing, but Iain Stewart is going to get compared to Attenborough just by what he’s doing and it’s not fair to compare this to other programs that took years and years to put together, but it’s going to happen anyway. If this is your bag, then a rental would be in order–I can’t honestly tell if it’s aired yet on the National Geographic Channel (which seems to be its TV home stateside). (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Creation interested me from the word go, since it’s about Darwin and because somebody had the good sense to cast Paul Bettany. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I’ve liked Bettany from the first time I saw him, in A Knight’s Tale. I think he’s a fantastic actor who can do comedy or drama or whatever you want. He can also be scary as hell, as he was my pick for The Joker. This DVD from Lionsgate presents he and Jennifer Connelly as The Darwins, which sounds like a lead-in to some sort of terrible sitcom. The film is of interest to the same people intrigued by what I was, and the DVD has a decent array of bonus bits: director’s commentary, a making-of docu, and a mini-slew of featurettes. Worth a rental first, and then if you decide it’s a keeper, then by all means keep it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Crazies DVD Cover Art
The Crazies Blu-ray Cover Art

The Crazies remake is out, which is not news because you’ve probably seen it, seen our contest for it, our read my interview with Breck Eisner. It’s a remake of a lesser known Romero film, which I honestly need to rewatch because I remember it as being a bit silly–but I did watch it when I was much younger, so who knows? Anyway, it’s a solid horror flick with some great touches to it. I recommend it out of the starting gate as a rental based on that. The fact that Deadwood alum Tim Olyphant is in it gets it bonus points as well. The Anchor Bay release is available on DVD or Blu-Ray with audio commentary from Eisner, as well as a behind the scenes bit. There’s other featurettes, including one on makeup and one on Romero, plus more. There’s really no feature difference between DVD and Blu-Ray, so it’s entirely up to you as to what platform you have. The Blu-Ray is only $4 more as I write this, and that’s the platform I watched it on. So I can vouch for it. (Click here to buy the Blu-Ray from Amazon. Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon.)

Uncle Sam: I Want You... Dead! Blu-ray Cover Art
It Came From Kuchar DVD Cover Art
Don McKay Blu-ray Cover Art

Blue Underground continues to roll out Blu-Rays that will blow your mind. Check this out: from the people who brought you Maniac Cop comes the tale of a dead soldier who leaves his grave, dresses up as Uncle Sam and deals out his own particular style of patriotic justice. Opposing him? Isaac Hayes. Is there anything about that setup which is not appealing (in a twisted, adverse video kind of way)? I ask you. As is the case with Blue Underground releases, this keeps the features from the previous DVD version–and they’re nothing to sneeze at. You’ve got two commentaries, one with the director, writer and producer and another…with the director and Isaac Hayes. There’s a fire stunt featurette with commentary from the stunt coordinator, a deleted scene, gag reel and more. Now, there is a particular audience that this thing is aiming for and even if you think you’re in it, you might want to check it out with a rental first. But that’s just me being cautious and frugal with your money. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

It Came From Kuchar is the tale of twins, George and Mike, who apparently started making films as teenagers not having really any formal training in how to make films but not caring that they didn’t have any training. They apparently served as an influence on many filmmakers and it’s one of those things I feel terrible not knowing about, seeing as how their filmography has such amazing titles as “The Naked And The Nude” and “Death Quest Of The Ju-Ju Cults.” This documentary is out from IndiePix and takes a look at their life/lives and films. It also comes with a commentary with the director and the brothers, plus deleted and extended scenes. I would say this is a definite rental for anybody who gets excited at titles like the ones listed or likes the concept of filmmakers creating whacked out films that were presented with the likes of Warhol and Brakhage. If you’re a hardcore fan of the brothers, then you can dive in for the full purchase. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Don McKay is a janitor who left his hometown years ago. Summoned to return by his reportedly dying ex-girlfriend, he finds himself in the middle of a mystery where nothing is as it seems. Thomas Haden Church is the titular character and that was enough to get me excited about the film. I’ve always dug Church, ever since Wings and then later The Specials, but he was a revelation in Sideways. So I love watching him work. This release is out from Image on Blu-Ray and also features Elisabeth Shue, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Keith David and M. Emmet Walsh. As far as bonus features go, you’re looking at a director and producer’s commentary and deleted scenes. As far as whether or not you should purchase, the problem I have here is that the Blu-Ray is twice as expensive as the DVD, as I write this. So one would need to be familiar with the film and like it enough to trade in $30 for the privilege of having it on their shelf. Give it a rental first, especially with that price point. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ben 10: Alien Force Volume 7 DVD Cover Art
The Closer Season 5 DVD Cover Art

Volume 7 of Ben 10: Alien Force is out from Cartoon Network and is the continuation of the long-running series; this DVD release contains the first seven episodes of the third season. This kicks off with the return of #1 baddie, Vilgax. Hence the two parter “Vengeance of Vilgax.” The thing I’ve never understood with some animated series is why they want to tell you it’s five episodes plus two bonus episodes. That’s not a special feature: it’s just seven episodes. Even the guy with the English degree can do that math. The real feature is an “Alien Database” where you get to read up on the aliens in the show. While the other thing I can never really understand is releasing individual volumes instead of a season boxed set, this one isn’t terribly priced: it’s $10.99 as I write this. That’s about $1.50 an episode, which isn’t bad. And until there’s a Blu-Ray release–which is unlikely to have a huge array of new bonus bits–this is the best you’re going to get. And another factor: I don’t think this is airing currently, at least from what I’m able to see. So DVD is the way to go for the fan of the show. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The fifth season of The Closer hits from Warner Brothers on DVD. We’re talking fifteen episodes across four discs. You get no commentaries, but you do get unaired scenes, a locations featurette and a gag reel. This is released in time for the sixth season to hit starting July 12th. And in case you’re not certain whether or not you want to own these episodes–or just need a refresher–they appear to be doing a marathon on July 12th leading up to the season premiere. The price for the set is $25.99 as I write this, which is just under $1.75 an episode. Which isn’t bad, considering. It all comes down to this: if you’re a fan and want to have this on the shelf, then pick it up. I don’t think you’re going to see anything else until Blu-Ray hits. Otherwise, TNT is very good about repeating episodes (they appear to be replaying season one episodes currently) and you’ll catch up eventually. Or HD versions of the entire series so far is available from iTunes–catch that here. You must decide. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Blu-ray Cover Art
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief DVD Cover Art

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief is out on Blu-Ray and DVD from Fox. And it’s a no-brainer which one you should go with. The DVD only has five deleted scenes, a quiz, and a small featurette about bringing the book to the big screen. The Blu-Ray has an additional five deleted scenes, plus the quiz and book featurette, plus additional mini-featurettes. Oh and the DVD and a digital copy. So it’s sort of senseless to not spend the extra $8 and get the full package. Now–that being said, a couple of things to bear in mind. First, obviously, is whether you dig the movie or not–and viewing the film will give you that knowledge. Second, this is a bit of a light presentation in my opinion. No commentaries, and the featurettes really are smallish. The film has made enough money at the box office that a sequel will be coming, so I’m thinking the better version will come out then. Can you wait long enough to find out? Only you know that for certain–but seriously, if you do buy, take the slight step up and go hi-def. It just makes sense. (Click here to buy the Blu-Ray from Amazon. Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon.)