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Headsup: The Full Spectrum of Cute Animals to Zombie Horror

There’s a lot of stuff that comes out all the time, and the companies are want your attention and mostly…your coin. But, you know, it’s your coin and you have to take care where you spend it. With these posts we try to take you through recent releases so you can make up your mind. 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.

Bambi Blu-Ray
Walking Dead Season 1 Blu-Ray
Who Do You Think You Are? Season 1 DVD

[ad#longpost]The Bambi Blu-Ray from Disney is pretty badass. I know, it’s weird talking about a cute movie starring a deer as badass, but well, it is. Everybody knows the film and everybody’s seen it–so much so that it’s almost like something you’d buy just to have (because you feel you must) and then just leave it on the shelf. But no, don’t do that. You’ll be missing out. Yes, it’s a must-own release but not just for the film–for me, as always, it’s the bonus bits that sell it. First and foremost, you’ve got “Inside Walt’s Story Meetings.” This basically takes the film and dramatizes story meetings held at Disney to develop the film–they can do this because they have transcripts of the actual meetings. And the guy they got to play Walt sounds just like him. Anyway, you not only get picture in picture stuff playing along with the film, but when you see the option, you can branch for more information. It’s an animation geek’s dream. There’s additional items like the “Second Screen,” which enables you to sync up watching the film while getting extra stuff on your iPad or laptop, deleted scenes and a song, and previously available features: these include a making-of, info on the multiplane camera, a trip into the archives to look at artwork and the classic short “The Old Mill.” It also comes with the DVD version of the film for people who haven’t upgraded yet–but it’s releases like this that finally convinced me to make the plunge. This Disney release is highly recommended. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Well, The Walking Dead. We’ve talked about it extensively on podcasts, but here it is on Blu-Ray and DVD from Anchor Bay. The gist is simple: the zombie apocalypse happened and our hero, Rick, was in a coma during the first part of it, so we join this end-of-the-world already in progress. (Yes, it’s like 28 Days Later but the WD comic and that film came out about the same time so they were independent ideas.) The series is so freaking smart, it pains me. It makes it clear from the beginning disturbing sequence what you’re in for and then quickly makes it clear from the first episode that just because you read the comic–you don’t know what’s coming 100% of the time. So far, yes, it’s only six episodes, but…yeah, they’re pretty damn good. If you are a fan of the genre, you want to own this: not only because it’s quality but because we want them to continue making them, let’s face it. Both Blu-Ray and DVD versions come with an overall making-of plus individual episode making-of featurettes, a look at the series with creator Robert Kirkman, a makeup featurette, the San Diego convention appearance from folks and extra footage. Now here’s my one caveat: there’s nothing on here about the second season except an annoying nag-screen when you go to bonus bits, so could a special edition version come out before the fall? With maybe a commentary or two? Maybe, but I think that’s wishful thinking. The Blu-Ray is only $5 more than the DVD as I write this, so if you have the setup, I’d encourage you to make the hi-def purchase. (Click here to buy the Blu-Ray from Amazon.; Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon..)

Who Do You Think You Are? is the American adaptation of the British show of the same name. I’ve seen some episodes of the original, and it makes sense to port it over (it’s been ported multiple places)–basically you’re taking a notable type person and letting them explore their genealogy. This time around you get seven episodes including Sarah Jessica Parker, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon and Spike Lee. This show either works for you or it doesn’t: personally I’m fascinated to see other people explore their family trees. It makes sense to watch someone else do it, when you don’t have time to do it yourself. I guess. The only thing about this release from Acorn Media is the replay factor–once you’ve seen an episode, are you going to revisit it? There’s no bonus bits either, which is a shame, because you know there has to be some additional usable footage somewhere. And it’s currently around $28 as I type this, which is around $4 an episode. My take on it is it’s worth sampling if you haven’t caught it on NBC, then choose. The second season is currently airing on NBC and will no doubt hit from Acorn Media in a while. (Click here to buy it on DVD from Amazon.)

Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol Blu-Ray
Top Gear Season 14 Blu-Ray
Top Gear Season 15 Blu-Ray

Yes, I finally watched Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol after being harangued about it by the Weekend Justice League for a few weeks. BBC Home Video releases it stateside on Blu-Ray and the way they’ve set it up is rather clever. I was expecting it to be more of a straight port of the Dickens story, which I have some familiarity with. But they managed to take the essence of that classic story and give it a true sci-fi twist that makes total sense. And has at least one really great twist on a ghost that I just applaud. And Michael Gambon makes a kickass surrogate Scrooge, that’s for damn sure. Now, it goes without saying that this is not a good place to hop onto Who (I’d recommend doing what I did, and getting on board at the beginning of the Matt Smith season–but everybody has their own indoctrination plan) but existing fans definitely want to check this out. I’d want to own it, just because from a writing perspective I want to study it further, but that’s me. Watch it for yourself and judge. Bonus bits include the episode of Doctor Who Confidential that is a behind-the-scenes look at this special, plus a version of a live event that they did at the Albert Hall called the Proms, which featured the three leads and a bunch of music both classical and from the series. Nice. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Top Gear, the prime version anyway, continues to rock everyone’s faces off. Season 14 and 15 have hit Blu-Ray and I’m going to go ahead and tell you: if you like the series, you want these. Starting with Series 14, you’ve got six regular episodes plus the Bolivia special (in which our three heroes attempt to drive a thousand miles from the Bolivian rainforests to the Chilean coast) and, a selling point with me for this particular set: the Polar Special. This is where Jeremy Clarkson and James May, in a Toyota Hilux, race Richard Hammond, on a dog sled, to the magnetic North Pole. If you’ve never seen a special, this is the one to catch. If you’re a fan of the show and you want to turn on somebody new, this is the special to show them. It’s…just mental. And it was released stateside on Blu-Ray a few years back for about five minutes then went out of print. So this is a fantastic bonus bit. In addition, the Bolivia special gets an audio commentary, celebrity lap footage, and a number of behind the scenes mini-featurettes. It’s brilliant. The Series 15 set is not as loaded, but I still enjoy it quite a bit. You get all six episodes, a James May featurette regarding his commute, behind the scenes footage, outtakes and extended scenes. I wish we had another audio commentary on something but alas. If you have to pick just one go for Series 14. The Polar Special is…amazing. But I would recommend snagging them both unless for some reason you don’t find the same level of replay factor that I do. (Click here to buy Series 14 from Amazon.; Click here to buy Series 15 from Amazon.)

Bill Moyers: In Search of the Constitution DVD
Bill Moyers: A World of Ideas: Writers DVD

Here we have a pair of rather extensive explorations by journalist Bill Moyers. They’re both primarily a series of interviews with various folks on the subject matter at hand. The first is In Search of the Constitution, where he goes to everyone from Supreme Court justices to regular joes to find out their thoughts on the document and its history and interpretations. From 1987, it’s got none of the clever editing that even something like a stately BBC docu would have these days, so it is what it is. It’s also a snapshot of a discussion from 1987, so you’re not going to find recent cutting edge discussions going on either, for obvious reasons. Bits of this would probably go over well in a civics class, assuming they still teach such things. That’s eleven episodes across four discs for roughly ten hours of material. The A World of Ideas: Writers is exactly what you might imagine: talking in depth with writers about, well, a bit of everything. Among those talking with Moyers are Isaac Asimov, E.L. Doctorow, Joseph Heller, August Wilson and Tom Wolfe. There’s also a series of bonus interviews with other authors, like Barbara Kingsolver and Alice Walker. This set is sixteen episodes, also across four discs, which clocks in, with extras, at over ten and a half hours of material. This set will be fascinating to anyone who likes reading and wants to peel back the covers, so to speak. The barrier to entry is, of course, cost. The Writers set is around $60 as I type this on Amazon, with the Constitution set at around $80. And while the material is very interesting, again, we go back to my old spectre of replay factor. Is it worthwhile to own this outright rather than just renting or Netflixing and going through it that way? Well, one instance that I’ve already mentioned: if you’re an educator of some sort and can use bits in your classroom, then it seems like it might be worthwhile. But otherwise, do throw it in your rental queue of choice when you feel like sitting back and watching some heads talk. (Click here to buy In Search of the Constitution from Amazon; Click here to buy A World of Ideas: Writers from Amazon.)

Around the World in 80 Days
Glorious 39 Blu-Ray
Sunday in New York DVD

Around the World in 80 Days is no stranger to being adapted–here we have the 1989 TV miniseries version, starring Pierce Brosnan and Eric Idle, along with a veritable crapload of other celebrities, including–but not limited to–Peter Ustinov, Roddy McDowall, Henry Gibson, Christopher Lee, and Jack Klugman. Brosnan is Fogg and Idle is Passepartout and, well, you no doubt know the gist. It’s based on the Jules Verne novel in which our hero, Fogg, makes a bet that he can get around the world in, well, you follow it. This two DVD set from Entertainment One gives you the entire series, clocking at just under five hours total. This is a tough one, since there are so many entryways to get you to this DVD. There’s the fun involved in watching a film with so many famous faces. There’s the fun inherent in Verne’s story. There’s the major cast: a recently post-Remington Steele Brosnan and an always welcome Idle, complete with funny accent. The good news is if you grab this via Netflix or something similar, then the barrier to entry is not bad: $15.99 as I type this. I would suggest watching first and then making the decision. No bonus bits are here to assist you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Glorious 39 has a young woman who stumbles upon a conspiracy regarding England and its (at that point, anyway, this film taking place in 1939 pre-declaration of war) non-involvement in World War II after people start turning up dead. Which is never a good thing. The cast is most welcome, including Bill Nighy (who I just want to be in everything), Christopher Lee (who actually is in everything), Julie Christie, David Tennant and Jeremy Northam. The Blu-Ray comes with both behind the scenes footage and an array of interview with the cast and director. Worth catching for the cast alone for those of you who sometimes find yourselves wondering what to put into your Netflix queue next, it’s not the best historical thriller that you’ll run across. Would definitely encourage you to view it before making the plunge. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Warner Archive brings you Sunday in New York, an interesting if overly-innocent sex farce. Bearing in mind this is 1963 and you just couldn’t get away with much. Jane Fonda is a virginal woman who wants to get advice from her older brother (Cliff Robertson) because she’s been having guy problems (Robert Culp) and complicating matters is her meets someone (Rod Taylor) while off to visit brother. I know you’re thinking: hey, nice cast. And yes, nice cast (let us not forget that Jim Backus appears as well). But apart from being a historical curiosity due to the odd way in which the subject is dealt with, there’s not much to commend the film. Granted, this being from the Warner Archive, this is the only form you’re apt to see it in, but it’s not available from Netflix or the like (from what I can tell, anyway) to check out. If you are a completist of some sort and need to finish off some form of collection, then I won’t stand in your way. But beyond that, there’s not too much to compel one to snag it. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Kites Remix Blu-Ray
Murphy's Law Series 3 DVD
Unstoppable Blu-Ray

Kites is being presented on Blu-Ray by Image Entertainment in an interesting way: it’s The Remix. What does that mean to you, the consumer? It’s got the Bollywood version (original) and a “remixed” English language version that is a full half-hour shorter and was designed to have less Hindi music. You can see Adarsh’s review of the original version here. Which leads me to ask the obvious question: what’s the freaking point? Bollywood films are Bollywood films. You go to a Bollywood film to see one, and it’s telling that while the original version was the first Bollywood film to break the box office top ten domestically, the remixed version was a non-starter. I appreciate them trying to break through like this (with Brett Ratner‘s help) but seriously, the way to get at American audiences is to explain to them what the original is, not try to give them an American-friendly version. Anyway, that being said, it’s good to have Blu-Ray Bollywood, for the original. I would say this should not be your entry point to Bollywood cinema (I’d vote for Devdas or Lagaan, personally) but if you dig it already then this is worth a rental. Decide at that point if it’s a keeper. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The third series of Murphy’s Law hits DVD from Acorn Media. The shot is this: James Nesbitt plays Tommy Murphy a badass undercover cop and this time around the six episode series has him going through a single case. Basically, he sees an opportunity to go into deep cover to expose a major player and jumps at the chance. And mayhem proceeds from there. This hits on two discs and at a little over $28 (as I type this), there’s two ways to think about this. One is that it’s nearly $5 an episode, which is pricey. The other is that, well, it’s a six hour long-form miniseries/movie–and then, for some odd reason, that seems more palatable. The other thing is that you actually get the majority of your sixty minute episode, not an hour program that’s really 35-40 minutes like over here. So in that respect, it’s reasonable. Granted, this appears to be available from services like Netflix–so it’s probably best to sample before buying, but fans of gritty cop shows should definitely check it out. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

As I mentioned on a previous podcast, I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why I found Unstoppable as enjoyable as I did. Granted, there’s Denzel–and he’s good in everything, even the crap movies. Chris Pine is good and it’s nice to see him doing something while waiting for his next turn as Kirk. Rosario Dawson heads up the supporting cast as well. But none of that was it. And indeed, the setup, even though based on a true story, felt somewhat corny and contrived to me. I think it’s because–once they started describing this runaway train carrying toxic chemicals and hurtling towards a large city center as a missile the size of a skyscraper–I realized this was just a really stylized Irwin Allen film. I have a terrible weakness for Irwin Allen disaster flicks. Also helping matters it the fact that Tony Scott shot a vast amount of this stuff practically. So the film is not only worth catching, but I definitely recommend catching the behind the scenes featurette–where you can see just what mental (as in bloody mad) lengths they went to in order to shoot this thing. It also comes with an audio commentary, an anatomy of a derailing scene, a stunt featurette, script featurette and more. I would say give it a viewing and if it cranks your tractor that much, then purchase–but personally I’d watch the behind the scenes stuff again before I would the feature film. If you do wish to purchase, the Blu-Ray is the way to go, as the DVD has less bonus bits and is only a savings of $3. (Click here to rent it from Amazon Instant Video; Click here to buy it on Blu-Ray from Amazon.)