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Catching Up With The Weeks in Stuff: August 24-31, 2010 – From Acoustic Pixies to Diminutive Thieves

There’s a lot of stuff that comes out each week. It’s especially daunting when a pair of conventions puts us behind on telling you about them. Ahem. Regardless, take this as your quick reference guide that will help you with answering the all important question: Should I spend my money on it? If you find the info here to be of use, do us a favor and purchase stuff from Amazon through us. Especially if you were going to buy the stuff anyway. That gives us kickbacks, which help pay for things. Like the server. And coffee. And therapy. Thanks.

The Sweeney: The Complete Series Three DVD Cover Art
The Sweeney: The Complete Series Four DVD Cover Art

[ad#longpost]BFS rounds out the rest of The Sweeney with the third and four series on DVD joining the previous two boxed sets we discussed before. Just like before, the sets are not cheap: the first in this batch is $52.49 and the other is $53.99 as I type this. Which is around $4 an episode, also like before. Despite the fact that you get only episode introductions and nothing extensive in the way of features, face facts: if you want it, this is the only path to getting it. It’s not being shown anywhere this side of the Atlantic. And if you want your primary source material for anything that calls back to 70s Brit cop shows. Fans will want to save their pennies. Non-fans will want to rent the first series to at least be familiar. (Click here to snag Series 3 from Amazon. Click here to snag Series 4 from Amazon.)

Alter Ego #96 Cover Art
Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season One Part One DVD Cover Art
Ben 10 Alien Force Volume 8 DVD Cover Art

Here’s what I love about Alter Ego, from TwoMorrows. Sure, you get detailed looks at books that you’re familiar with–and then there’s stuff like Issue 96, in which Archie’s Mighty Crusaders are featured. And here’s the thing: I’ve never heard of the bloody Mighty Crusaders before. Oh sure, I’ve heard of Archie superheroes like The Fly and The Shield and whatnot, but not the fact that Archie tried to go head to head with the Big Two for the spandex crowd. Fascinating stuff. And in depth, just like you would imagine. And for me, like reading about an alternate universe of comics. And you know, I’m a sucker for those stories. In addition, there’s a tribute to many of the recently fallen, including Dick Giordano. As always, a must-read for fans of when comics didn’t suck. (Click here to snag it from TwoMorrows.)

The latest animated Batman show has hit DVD with Batman: The Brave and the Bold…and this is the first part of the first season on DVD from Warner Brothers. In this case, it’s what comic fans would expect based on the title: team-ups. Across two discs, Batman interacts with Aquaman, The Atom, Blue Beetle, Bronze Tiger, Deadman, Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Red Tornado, and Wildcat. The show is not unpleasant, though it’s certainly removed from the darker tone of previous incarnations of the hero–and you know exactly which one I’m talking about. I say that so if you’re not familiar with this version of the Caped Crusader, you might want to check out an episode on the Cartoon Network before actually plonking down coin or something. However, if you want to buy…this isn’t a bad set to do it with. Granted, you get no bonus bits, but it’s $15.49 as I type this–about $1.20 an episode. So that’s not terrible. And at least at the moment, they’re showing all second season episodes on television, so this is the only way for the fan to own it. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

Volume 8 of Ben 10: Alien Force has hit DVD from Warner Brothers and Cartoon Network. This contains five more episodes and one bonus episode from the third season of the series–or in normal speak, it’s six episodes. No idea why having six episodes on a volume qualifies as a “bonus” but whatever. That being said, the one bonus that’s actually a bonus is the alien database, a staple of this series on DVD. Fans will want to snag this, as they’re not showing these particular episodes on Cartoon Network at the moment…so this is currently your only way to legitimately snag them. It’s $11.99 as I type this, which means you’re looking at just at $2 an episode. You’ll have to determine whether or not it’s worthwhile, but I advise anyone who hasn’t gotten into series yet to just dive right in–rent or Netflix it first, or catch an episode on the television first (of all places). (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

$5 A Day Blu-ray Cover Art
Gossip Girl Season 3 DVD Cover Art
City Island

When you think about actors who you can’t seem to predict what they’re going to do next: two names spring to mind for me. The first is John Malkovich. The second is Christopher Walken. Not necessarily in that order, depending on the day. Case in point: here he is in $5 a Day, out from Image, playing a con man who is trying to reconcile with his son during a cross country trip. Complications are that he wants to make the trip for the titular expense plan–and Walken’s character is dying. Part of the scheme to make it for just $5 a day involves driving a car that’s a Sweet n Low advertisement on wheels. That’s why the Blu-Ray comes with a coupon for Sweet N Low. No, seriously. Also in the cast are Alessandro Nivola, Amanda Peet and Sharon Stone. Among the features are director and cast interviews and still galleries. I think all Walken completists will want to check out the film, but I recommend they watch it to judge the replayability before purchasing. The Blu-Ray is about $9 more than the DVD as I type this, so there’s also the hi-def ownership thing as well. Judge for yourself if a Sweet N Low car needs to be in hi-def. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

The third season of Gossip Girl has hit DVD from Warner Brothers. And the fourth season has just started, so most recently the third season was in reruns on The CW so people could catch up. You have five discs here, with twenty-two episodes across them. It’s basically young beautiful people in Manhattan and Drama. The DVD set has a bit of bonus stuff to speak of: there’s an interactive experience–“Gossip Girl Mode” for the sixteenth episode in the season, which provides trivia and bits of background. You also get a featurette, two music videos, a gag reel and unaired scenes. Like most shows–especially most high-end soap operas–the fan must decide about whether to purchase or not. The price as it stands is less than $1.75 an episode, which is reasonable. But there’s the replay factor to take into account, and especially the fact that the reruns aren’t long gone. Rabid fans will want but everyone else should consider if a rental would work. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

City Island is out on Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay. Andy Garcia stars as a corrections officer who really wants to act. (He’ll later want to direct, but again, that comes later. Maybe the sequel.) He wants to act, yes, but isn’t exactly comfortable with people knowing about it, so his wife (Julianna Margulies) actually thinks that he’s having an affair when he’s sneaking out for acting classes. The comedy comes with an audio commentary with the writer/director and Garcia. The Blu-Ray also comes with a digital copy, a featurette group discussion “Dinner With the Rizzos,” and deleted scenes. Also of note is the inclusion of both Alan Arkin and Emily Mortimer. Fans of Garcia will want to check this out and decide if they should purchase–but something to bear in mind is that the Blu-Ray is only $4 more as I type this. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

The Good Heart DVD Cover Art
None But the Lonely Heart DVD Cover Art

The Good Heart drew my attention for two really compelling reasons: one, Paul Dano, who came to prominence with There Will Be Blood. And two, Brian Cox, who is freaking fantastic in everything. And you cast them as a pair of men who’ve essentially given up on life, with the older actor serving as the mentor to the younger? Sounds like a good recipe to me. This is out from Magnolia on DVD and comes with a behind the scenes and a featurette. Recommend it especially to fans of the actors, but also recommend a rental before you decide whether or not to commit and buy. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

Another piece taken from the Warner Archive, finally hitting DVD–at least legitimately–it’s None But the Lonely Heart. Another version had a complainer on Amazon that it had simply been recorded from TMC and then burned to DVD. Criminy. But that just shows some demand is there and that’s where Warner Archive comes in. Yes, it’s a burn on demand DVD–but it’s a way of getting access to this Cary Grant flick from 1944. He plays a ne’er do well who tries to straighten up when faced with his seriously ill mother. Sure, it’s bare bones–no features are there to be found. But for the Cary Grant completist, I think they know how to proceed. (Click here to snag it from the Warner Archive.)

Pixies Live: Acoustic and Electric Blu-ray Cover Art
The Great Rift Blu-ray Cover Art

I have to say, this is a pretty extensive Blu-Ray release for The Pixies, this Live: Acoustic and Electric. It’s out from Eagle Vision and compiles the contents of what were originally two separate DVD releases. So points for convenience out of the starting blocks. The performances are from 2005, and you get a “standard” live set plus a separate acoustic set–apparently their first ever acoustic set. So between the two sets you get fifty-one songs. And if that wasn’t enough–because let’s face it, nothing’s ever enough–there’s a bonus set from 1986 with twelve songs. And on top of all that there’s a behind the scenes featurette. Now, it’s nice to have this on Blu-Ray, but there’s nothing new for the fan apart from the upgrade to hi-def. They’ll have to decide for themselves if that’s worth double-dipping for. However, if you don’t already own both DVD releases and are a fan, this would be definitely worth considering. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

The Great Rift hits Blu-Ray from the BBC and you know I’m a sucker for BBC nature shows. Especially when they look as good as this–it’s the genre that’s a no-brainer for hi-def. This time around the focus is on The Great Rift Valley and the various types of life that exist there. In addition to the three episodes, you get behind-the-scenes bits regarding the filming. Which sometimes are my favorite parts of these things. As for snagging this for yourself, I would say if you’ve got all the obvious suspects (i.e. anything narrated by David Attenborough) and still don’t have enough, then consider it. The Blu-Ray is only two dollars more than the DVD as I type this, so if you’ve got the hi-def rigging, it might be worth taking the plunge. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

Dorian Gray DVD Cover Art
Time Bandits Blu-ray Cover Art
Survival of the Dead DVD Cover Art

The latest version of Dorian Gray stars Ben Barnes as the titular character and has Colin “I’m frequently game for anything” Firth as Lord Henry. Also along is Ben Chaplin. It’s hit DVD thanks to E1 Entertainment. Oliver Parker, who previously directed Firth in Wilde flicks Ideal Husband and Importance of Being Earnest, is here for a commentary with scribe Toby Finlay. There’s also behind-the-scenes featurettes, a making-of, deleted scenes and a blooper reel. I would say the curious should go for a rental for this, because even though they get bonus points for the extras, there’s always the question of the replay factor. And once you’ve gone through it once you can decide if you’re good or if at some point you’ll require it again. (Click here to snag it on Amazon.)

This is a tough one for me. It’s not because of the film. Time Bandits is near and dear to my heart, probably because it’s the perfect example of me seeing a film before I was ready to. I saw this when I was very young and barely had a clue as to what the hell was happening. It was only on re-approaching when older that it began to make sense. Such is Gilliam, I guess. No, this is tough for me because I’m a sucker for the Criterion Collection–this is not news–and the features that were previously on their release of that film just aren’t here. More to the point, the commentary from Gilliam and company is AWOL. In its place you get an interview with the man. Now on one hand, dammit. But on the other hand, to upgrade to the hi-def version of the film, out here from Image Entertainment, will run you $9.99. So I guess my bitching ends. (Click here to snag it from Amazon. And BTW, the out of print Criterion is available starting at around $11. Just saying.)

Here we have Survival of the Dead, which we would have called, in the Corona Coming Attractions days, Night of the Living Dead 6. Hard to believe, really. Let’s get the basics out of the way first: the DVD is out from Magnolia, and actually has an array of stuff on its two disc span. There’s an intro by The Man Himself, a commentary from Romero and crew, a featurette, a docu, a short film, some behind the scenes bits, storyboard comparisons, and a bit on how to create your own zombie bite. I think the trick is this: if you can handle the “reboot” that we experienced in Diary of the Dead (not a fan myself), then this might be up your dark and winding alley. The features make it worth a buy for the fan, but I caution fans of Old School Romero to give it a watch before committing. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

Machine Gun McCain Blu-ray Cover Art
The Good, The Bad, The Weird Blu-ray Cover Art

Blue Underground continues to raid vaults around the world to bring you obscure films and usually in hi-def. Here it’s Machine Gun McCain, an Italian gangster flick starring John Cassavetes and Peter Falk. Also along for the ride are Britt Ekland and Gena Rowlands, but it’s Cassavetes in the title role and a thundering Falk that are the standouts. Basically, McCain has spent twelve years in jail and gets out, only to be in the middle of mob dealings. These don’t end well, so he gets pissed and does what his name implies. The Blu-Ray comes with an interview with the director and the presentation for hi-def is about as good as you could possibly get for a film of this vintage. If you’re a fan of the genre, you might want to consider buying, and further consider the Blu-Ray version, since it’s only $3 more than the DVD as I type this. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)

And lastly, it’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird, a western/action/comedy about three outlaws in 1930s Manchuria who all want to get their hands on a single map. And hijinks ensue. This MPI release will please a lot of fans of the genre with the film itself. The features are mostly stark, with some behind the scenes footage, and interviews with the director and the three leads. The good news is that the Blu-Ray is reasonably priced–and three dollars less than the DVD as I type this. As always, though, unless you’re sure you’re up for rewatching this–i.e. a fan and you know what you’re in for–then it would be worth checking out in a non-permanent way. But if you want to take the plunge, the Blu-Ray is the way to go. (Click here to snag it from Amazon.)