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The Week in Stuff: July 20, 2010 – Pre-Raphaelites, Post-Humans and More

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Desperate Romantics DVD Cover Art
Last Chance to See Blu-Ray Cover Art
Being Human Blu-ray Cover Art

[ad#longpost]Desperate Romantics follows the private lives of the Pre-Raphaelites: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. The first clue is from the title of the book the six-part series is based upon. It covers how they went about painting, getting recognized for painting, and finding and generally falling over models for painting. Among other things. All six episodes are here across two discs and you also get an interview with Franny Moyle, who authored the aforementioned book. There’s also a behind-the-scenes featurette. What’s missing is all the supplemental material available on the BBC website, which is a shame since it’s already in the can. You art maniacs out there will find the series worth at least checking out as a rental, and then you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s shelf-worthy, based on the potential for repeat viewings. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

Some people might wonder why I so seldom just come out and say Buy This when it comes to these mini-features on DVDs. The reason is simple. I recognize that we have a wide variety of people who come to the site and I respect everybody’s pocketbook. So I reserve the Buy This flag for when I know that a vast majority of people are going to dig what I’m recommending. And now we’ve reached the threatened Blu-Ray edition of Last Chance to See, the update of the Douglas Adams/Mark Carwardine journey with Stephen Fry taking up the banner of Adams. The main difference between this and the DVD is just the hi-def, and it’s well established that I’m a sucker for nature shows on Blu-Ray. There’s no bonus bits but at only $2 more than the DVD, this is the way to do it. So unless you somehow can’t get drawn in by Stephen or an awesome nature adventure, then this isn’t for you. But I think it is. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

Also from the BBC it’s Being Human, which basically makes a show out of the scenario that geeks have thought of since time immemorial: what if a ghost, werewolf and vampire were all roommates? This first series consists of six episodes in which our heroes deal with how love can get you killed, how your past can get you killed (or perhaps re-killed), and how people like you can get you killed. Basically just your typical growing up and dealing with life (or unlife). You know how it goes. It’s so popular they’re going to fail to make an American version, if that tells you anything. The Blu-Ray comes with deleted scenes, behind the scenes bits, video diaries, character info and an interview with the creator…but no pilot episode. Which is odd. Currently the series is airing its second season on BBC America because they wisely want you to snag this to get the first season episodes. The Blu-Ray is only $5 more than the DVD as I write this, but fans of the series will want to pick this up. Other fans of the genre or the curious will want to rent. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams DVD Cover Art
Hell Girl: Two Mirrors
Golgo 13 Collection 1 DVD Cover Art

2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams is the sequel to the 2005 film which starred Robert Englund in the role of the mayor, now taken over by Bill Moseley. Whereas in the previous film the victims came to the lovely town of Pleasant Valley, in this one they decide to take it on tour…and wind up in Iowa. Isn’t that always the way? As you can imagine, hijinks–of the cannibalistic kind–ensue. If you’re checking out this film, then you pretty much know what’s in store: wacked out humor and gore. It ain’t Merchant Ivory. This DVD from First Look does have some extra bits on it, including a making-of and a commentary from writer/director Tim Sullivan along with cast members. Advising a rental for fans of the horror-comedy genre, and I know there are some among you who collect these things–so you can then decide to snag it permanently. (Click here to get it from Amazon.)

The second series of Hell Girl is Two Mirrors, and the second collection is out from Sentai Filmworks. The premise is this: if you hate somebody enough, you can gain the ability to be offered a deal: you can send them to hell. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, you can send them right to hell along with Leary and Scorsese. The trick is: when you die, you too will have to go to hell. This finishes up this particular series and has the anime standard bonus of clean opening and closing animation. This does not appear to be airing anywhere at present so the DVD is your only chance to catch it, from what I can tell. And at present the DVD set is roughly $3 an episode–but if that’s the only way to catch it, then that’s it. If you’re not familiar with the show, catch it from the beginning (via DVD) and see for yourself if you want to proceed. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

The anime of Golgo 13 (based on the manga/franchise/everything else of the same name) hits DVD from Sentai Filmworks as well. Golgo 13 is a mercenary/assassin/all-around badass who spends his time pulling jobs while having to deal with the FBI, CIA, local cops, other hitmen, criminals, and reporters. You know, the usual. You’re looking at the first thirteen episodes across two discs, with clean opening and closing animation your only bonus. More is always wanted, especially when you’re looking at a huge franchise spanning multiple media but so be it. Again, I can’t find a place where this is airing stateside, so this set, even though it’s $4 an episode, is your only way to snag it. This is the place to start off if you’re unfamiliar with the character and series, and then decide to shelf it if you feel such is warranted. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

The Losers Blu-ray Cover Art
Cop Out Blu-ray Cover Art
Karate Kid Region B Blu-Ray

The Losers was a fun movie. It wasn’t the comic book but I don’t think anybody was expecting it to be: the comic had a humorous side and the film ran with that, so that it was more like, in my opinion, The A-Team. But it was definitely worth watching. The Blu-Ray is out from Warner Brothers and sadly does not have a commentary, much less the commentary I would love. Well, two commentaries would be great: one with Andy Diggle and Jock, the comic’s creators and one with the cast. Instead, there’s the Zoe Saldana featurette that comes on the DVD–and the rest is all Blu-Ray exclusive: featurettes for training, action and location, plus you do get Diggle and Jock in a featurette. There’s also a deleted scene. I think it’s worth a rental, but if you want to own it–and you have hi-def–doesn’t make sense not to: it’s only $3 more than just the DVD and you get the Blu-Ray, DVD and digital copy. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

Cop Out was a decent buddy cop comedy. Bruce Willis was there, Tracy Morgan was good but Seann William Scott walked in and stole the movie from everybody. The main and really only feature here is Maximum Movie Mode, which expands the film and lets Kevin Smith throw more scenes, commentary and other stuff into your living room. There is over an hour of extra footage that Smith brings to the Mode which would be worthwhile for the Kevin Smith fan or somebody who really, really enjoyed the film. Smith fans will want to at least give the Blu-Ray a rental for this. This DVD+Blu-Ray+digital copy combo is a no-brainer over the deleted scenes-only DVD edition and it’s only $3 more. If you have to purchase, then this is the way to do it. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

The Karate Kid, the classic version, has just hit Blu-Ray on Region 2. I say Region 2…for some reason the Blu-Ray people have letters for their regions so it’s really Region B. Go figure. But good news is that Sony had the good sense to make this all-region anyway. And it’s still a good movie, 80s-tastic as it is. It’s not just the rah-rah for the underdog, it’s not that we all thought Elisabeth Shue was smoking hot, and it’s not even Pat Morita in a brilliant performance. It’s all of the above. Sue me. The Blu-Ray comes with one Blu-specific feature: Blu-Pop, which isn’t a frozen treat, it’s rather a pop-up track that brings you trivia and little video snippets of interviews and such. The rest appear to be features brought over from the previous DVD special edition (from what I can tell–I don’t have a copy here): a commentary with the writer, director, and also Morita and Macchio; making-of featurette; plus featurettes covering karate, the musical score and bonsai trees. A fan of the film will want to snag this–but if you’re uncertain if you should double dip (if you already have the Region 2 DVD, say) then rent this and check it out for yourself. (Click here to snag it from Amazon UK.)

Alter Ego 95
Back Issue 42

TwoMorrows brings the noise with two new issues in both hard copy and digital versions. First up, there’s #95 of Alter Ego, which gives you everything you ever wanted to know (and then some and then some more after that) of Not Brand Echh, the satire mag that Marvel put out for thirteen issues in the late 1960s, lampooning not only their characters but everybody else’s they could lay hands upon. Seriously, it’s an issue by issue guide to the series–very impressive. You also get the continuation of an interview with DC editor George Kashdan, a look at how EC recycled some of their stories and art, a look at Steve Gerber’s Crudzine zine (attention Rox) and more.

We also have issue 42 of Back Issue, their “Wild West” issue featuring Jonah Hex on the cover. And it features a pretty extensive interview with Hex writer Michael Fleisher. You’ve also got features on DC’s Vigilante plus their “Weird” western characters and Marvel’s Two-Gun Kid, Ghost Rider, Rawhide Kid and Red Wolf. If that’s not enough, they even talk about the Charlton western characters–which was all news to me. Plus Tim Truman’s Scout. All of this was very educational for me, as most of my experience with the western characters of the Big Two were from their weird transplants into other “mainstream” books. So get yourself educated. Find both of these mags at their website. They’re must-haves for self-respecting comic geeks.

Our Family Wedding Blu-ray Cover Art
Middle of Nowhere Blu-ray Cover Art

Our Family Wedding brings Forest Whitaker and Carlos Mencia together without their permission as their kids decide to get hitched. One of those kids is Ugly Betty‘s America Ferrera. It’s the standard mismatched in-laws comedy out from Fox on Blu-Ray. Fans of the players involved will want to perhaps rent this to judge for themselves but it didn’t exactly burn up the box office. This Blu-Ray edition has an edge on the DVD version in a couple of respects: first you get a digital copy. Second, the DVD has only deleted scenes and a gag reel whereas the Blu-Ray also comes with extended scenes and a featurette. As I type this as well, the difference is $3 more to get the Blu-Ray. So if you’re going to purchase, I think the decision is clear. But the true question is whether or not you want Mencia in hi-def. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

Middle of Nowhere puts Eva Amurri and Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) together. He is a kid who can’t get his act together. She is a kid whose mom’s (Susan Sarandon–her mom in real life as well–nice) financial irresponsibility will keep her from getting into college unless she can get creative. So they team up and get creative. The dramedy is out from Image Entertainment on Blu-Ray. You get the same features as the DVD–deleted scenes, a making-of and interviews–but the Blu-Ray is only $1.50 more. If you want to catch Yelchin in a film that’s not sci-fi-related for once, this is probably worth a rental for you. And if you do decide to purchase and can support hi-def, for the price, it just makes sense. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

Matlock Season 5 DVD Cover Art
White Collar Season One Blu-ray Cover Art
Two on a Guillotine DVD Cover Art

The fifth season of Matlock is out from Paramount and CBS DVD, with twenty-one episodes across six discs. This season has Andy Griffith’s character headed to Los Angeles for a two-hour “Matlock Movie Mystery,” but nothing really in the way of features. As always with shows like this, we look to two things: price and availability. Pricewise, it’s not a bad deal. As I type this you’re getting the season for around $1.75 an episode. And right now, sure, Season 4 episodes are airing on WGN America, so eventually they’ll probably get around to these. But that’s about it for finding them. I’m honestly surprised this isn’t in wider circulation. So for fans of the show, this is your best bet for catching it at the moment–and the price isn’t bad either. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

Next, Fox has the first season of White Collar on a three-disc Blu-Ray set. The deal is simple: Neal Caffrey is a crook. Peter Burke is an FBI agent. Instead of the latter sending the former back to prison–again–a deal is offered: if Caffrey will assist the FBI take down other crooks, Caffrey can stay a free man. This set has all fourteen episodes, plus three featurettes, a gag reel, deleted scenes and commentary on five of the episodes. Granted, right now the first season doesn’t appear to be airing anywhere, here’s where things get sticky: the Blu-Ray is much, much more expensive than the DVD. As I type this, $18 more, in fact. The per episode cost on the Blu-Ray is around $4. So the fan of the show needs to ask how much hi-def means: because the DVD is a more manageable $2.75 per episode. Hell, the Amazon Video on Demand price is $1.99. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

Two on a Guillotine is one of the latest offerings from the Warner Archive, the burn on demand DVD shop that Warner Brothers has setup for films and shows that might not have the following to warrant a full-on release. Here we have Cesar Romero as a magician who wound up beheading his wife in a trick gone wrong. He has now died and his daughter has to spend seven nights in a supposedly haunted mansion to get her inheritance. A reporter (played by Dean Jones–yes, Herbie‘s Dean Jones) decides to stay with her. And the whole thing was produced and directed by William Conrad–yes, Cannon‘s William Conrad. Hijinks definitely ensue. And if you haven’t decided that it’s worth checking out based on all that, then I don’t know what to do with you. (Click here to snag it from the WB Shop.)