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Headsup: Inspired By This Post, We Need a “Herman’s Exorcists” Mashup

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. We thank you.

King's Speech Blu-Ray
Manchurian Candidate Blu-Ray
Mao's Last Dancer Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]The King’s Speech had one of the best leading performances last year. Colin Firth, of course. (My review is here.) Suddenly you find yourself on the throne of England facing down the barrel of World War II and this wasn’t supposed to be your job–makes for a bad day. No wonder the poor guy had a stuttering problem. The film is quite excellent and gets better on a repeat viewing. (The rest of the cast, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush especially, deserve all kudos as well.) The Blu-Ray here is from Anchor Bay and has a decent array of features: a commentary with director Tom Hooper, a making-of, a Q&A with the cast, actual speeches from the real King George VI and highlights from the real Lionel Logue (Rush’s character). The film is, I think, a must watch for anybody and it’s probably a keeper for anglophiles among you (a broader spectrum than that, actually, but they’re the definites). The Blu-Ray is only $6 more than the DVD setup, so if you’re going to make the plunge you might as well go all the way. I’m not sure we’ll see a better version than this release, so I my theory is you’re safe to purchase. If you just want to sample first, you can always snag it via Amazon Instant Video. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The original Manchurian Candidate is here, hitting from MGM and starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury. When Harvey’s character suddenly becomes a really amazing guy instead of the bastard he once was, Sinatra’s character figures something must be up in steps in. And he steps in it. Cold War conspiracy, satire and excellent performances are the rule of the day in this hi-def upgrade of what is essentially the same line-up of items that were on the previous DVD release. You do get the commentary with director John Frankenheimer, plus interviews with cast and crew, including Sinatra and Lansbury. There’s a couple of interview outtakes and that’s about the size of it. Basically as far as owning it, the replay factor is what is at play here–plus how much you want the hi-def. Yes, it’s a definite video and audio upgrade from the original release, but the lack of new features always skews me and you know this. Especially considering that as I type this the original special edition DVD is less than $8 and this Blu-Ray is over $40 (can’t be right). If the price comes down a considerable amount then consider it if you feel it’s worthwhile. But otherwise, no need to double dip. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So after the trauma of Black Swan, if you’d like a biography that doubles as a drama and ballet film with no mad transformation sequences, why not check out Mao’s Last Dancer? Based on the true story of Li Cunxin, who was tapped as a child to be trained as a dancer, it takes Cunxin’s character from China and his training and then years later to Houston where he’s brought in for a brief visit. Once there, though, he finds a woman, finds America, and has to make some hard decisions when his three month stint is up and he’s expected to return home. This is currently a Blu-Ray release from Fox as a Target exclusive and as far as the audio and video go, it’s quite good in both respects. As to purchasing, there is nothing here bonus bit-wise except for a small making-of featurette. So I would say you would really need a replay factor for the film before plonking down your coin. If you want to sample the film first, you can rent it from Amazon Instant Video.

Growing Pains Season 2 DVD
Murdoch Mysteries Season 3 Blu-Ray

Long before we lost Kirk Cameron to insanity, he played the son of a crazy-young Alan Thicke in Growing Pains. Lasting seven seasons, it covered the Seaver family and the patriarch/psychiatrist dad (Thicke), his wife and their three (at this point) kids. Although I was aware of the show when it aired, I didn’t watch it that often, though I know there are many fans out there. There must be, for Warner Brothers is doing these as a full-on set rather than going through Warner Archive. All twenty-episodes from the second season are here across three discs, but you get nothing in the way of bonus features. And when you consider that, price point-wise, as I type this it’s just over a $1 an episode to own the set…that’s not bad at all. If you don’t remember it and want a refresher, I would say snag it from Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. But if you do want to purchase, it’s not a bad deal, even with no bonus bits. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The third season of Murdoch Mysteries hits Blu-Ray from Acorn Media, with thirteen episodes across three discs. Detective Murdoch is the man from the title and he’s solving crimes in Canada towards the end of the 19th Century, incorporating cutting edge (from the day) bits of science to help Fight Crime. The show is based on the novels by Maureen Jennings and has our hero coming face to face with H.G. Wells and Tesla (the guy, not the band). I would say the show should be sampled for any crime show fanatic who wants something a little different–the era this is set in makes it novel and worth checking out, especially for those genre-fiends. To own, though, that’s always the question. First, there’s the price point: the episodes are around $4 each–which is not abnormal for Acorn–and the only bonus bits are some featurettes and an alternate ending for the last episode. You save around $17 by going for the straight DVD version, but you are sacrificing the hi-def audio and video, which are effective on this set. How much that means to you is your personal choice. I would advise you to catch it via Netflix or Amazon Instant Video to see if it cranks your tractor, and if you, like a lot of crime fans, can sit down and watch shows again and again, you might consider throwing coin at it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Herman's Hermits: Hold On!
IMAX Hubble
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Blu-Ray

I didn’t even know Herman’s Hermits had their own film before this arrived on my doorstep. It’s Hold On!, and I suppose it makes sense: throw a popular band into some caper and script and whatnot are all secondary. Just make sure there’s the prerequisite amount of insane fans. This setup is odder than most, since it’s based around the idea that NASA is concerned about naming a rocket after the band and send someone to see if it will cause a problem to do so. Oddly, the thing that bothers me most is that the space capsule is called “Hermits” and not “Hermit.” But that’s the danger of having a degree in English. Anyway, this is out from the Warner Archive and is finally hitting Region 1…I’m not even sure if it was ever available on VHS. Replay factor is at work here, although a completist fan of the band will want to own. It’s worth watching just for the sake of posterity, but sample it before you take the plunge. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

IMAX Hubble is out from Warner Brothers on DVD and there’s a few problems with it as we’ve talked about before with such things. First of all, the gist: in 2009, the Hubble telescope needed to be repaired. Part of this docu concerns that and the other part talks about the images Hubble has brought us. To be clear, there is nothing about this that is not awesome. The trouble is, it’s almost too awesome for this delivery method–and by that I mean a forty-plus minute docu that could easily be feature-length and an IMAX show that is, at least if you’re watching it at home, not on IMAX. And there’s nothing IMAX does better than images that simply must be freaking huge. So that’s two strikes against it, plus the fact the DVD is obviously not hi-def. As to whether or not the Blu-Ray or Blu-Ray 3D is worthwhile (at $27 more and $37 more than the DVD respectively) I cannot say since they didn’t send them. The only featurette is a small behind the scenes one. I would say it’s worth renting or Netflixing to catch the imagery, but even the hardcore will find it hard to add this to their shelf. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The problem with me talking about Justin Bieber is I barely understand Justin Bieber. I am on the Net almost all the time and it wasn’t until long after he blew up that I had any idea that he even existed. That whole YouTube sensation business completely passed me by. Granted, I am not exactly in the youngster’s demographics (not just because I feel compelled to refer to him as “youngster”–something I, for the record, seldom do) but still, I do try to keep up with what’s happening. Regardless, he’s blown up to the point where he needed a 3D docu/concert film in order to tell his story. What’s odd is that it seems like Never Say Never should have leaned more towards the concert film than the “how he made it” docu aspect…because most of the people this film is geared to, Bieber fanatics, already know the story by heart. What they probably have not all done is seen a full-on concert. So I think it’s a bit misguided, but again–I’m outside the demographic. The thing still made close to $100M worldwide and that’s on a very small budget. So more power to them. Also odd is the fact that the bonus bits are so light–are they planning to release an uber mongo edition later? No idea. You get a bit with Justin and his dancers, an acoustic performance, a small bit about him getting his haircut, and a BD-live director’s commentary. You’d think a full concert film would have made an excellent second disc but all you get here is the DVD and digital copy. The BD is only $4 more than the DVD, so doing the hi-def option is fine, but I think only the diehards are going to want to own outright. If you just want to sample it, you can go for it from Amazon Instant Video for just $4 and call it good. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos Complete Series DVD
Marlowe DVD
Soldier in the Rain DVD

I have no idea why, but I thought Karate Kommandos, the Chuck Norris animated series, lasted longer than five episodes. Granted, it was probably following the G.I. Joe model of a five-part miniseries/pilot season and just didn’t make the cut. But still, I think between the toys and the comic and whatnot, I just always assumed it ran at least what we would consider to be a full season. The deal is this: Norris is leading a team of warriors against VULTURE, the evil organization that somehow sounds a helluva lot less scary than “Cobra.” Because this is a release from the Warner Archive, there’s just the five episodes and that’s it. However, I suppose we should be happy it’s getting an official Region 1 release at all. Now here’s the thing: at roughly $20, it’s $4 an episode. That’s pricey. And only the serious Norrisologist is going to want to add this to their collection. It’s probably worth watching once for the sake of curiosity, to be sure. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

One thing the Warner Archive is great for doing is bringing to light films that I didn’t even know existed: for example, I was unaware James Garner had played Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in a film that also stars Carroll O’Connor, Rita Moreno, Jackie Coogan and Bruce Lee. Yeah, that’s Marlowe from 1969, based on the novel The Little Sister. Marlowe is looking for a missing person but of course nothing ever stays that easy, so there’s murder, blackmail and martial arts. Of course. Being a Warner Archive release, again, we get no bonuses just the satisfaction of knowing that it’s gotten a Region 1 release. At $19.95 from the Archive, it’s not a terrible price, all things considered, but I would advise checking it out first before purchasing. Fans of Chandler/Marlowe probably won’t find this their favorite adaptation but should see it for curiosity’s sake. Garner fans will be pleased and I think fans of Lee will be interested in seeing him post-Kato pre-Enter the Dragon. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

What was I saying above? A Blake Edwards film starring Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen (with Tuesday Weld and Tom Poston as well) with music by Mancini and based on a William Goldman novel? Yeah, yet another one I believe I had heard of…but had no previous access to. Some people complain about the Warner Archive, but this is why it works for me. Gleason and McQueen both play soldiers–Gleason an older seasoned soldier who knows how to work the system; McQueen ready for his stint to be done so he can get out of the service. They become friends and compatriots and hijinks ensue. No surprises: no bonuses. However, it’s here and completists in the Gleason, McQueen and Edwards camps will want to at least give it a viewing if not own. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

The Holy Mountain Blu-Ray
El Topo Blu-Ray

The work of Alejandro Jodorowsky was long one of those things that I heard about but never saw. We reported about his version of Dune that never actually happened. But Anchor Bay finally released the films to DVD a few years back and now they are available on Blu-Ray at last. I’m speaking specifically of the surreal non-western western El Topo and the WTF-laced journey to enlightenment The Holy Mountain. Basically, these are both essential watching for your cinema historical knowledge, but just be prepared for the grotesque and the weird and the potentially off-putting. Because Jodorowsky frankly just doesn’t give a damn. He has a point to make and he shall make it. From what I can tell, since I didn’t get the DVD versions to compare here, the audio and video here is the same transfer used on the DVD…but it looks great here. Especially considering we’re talking about we’re talking about indie films from the 70s. The features appear to be the same as the DVDs, both getting commentaries from Jodorowsky and photo galleries with excerpts from the original scripts. Mountain also gets a trailer, deleted scenes with commentary, a bit regarding the restoration process, and a bit regarding the tarot. Topo also comes with an interview with the director. Worth watching once, cinephiles will want to own. They probably already own, in fact. I would advise to definitely watch before purchasing–even if you want to upgrade to hi-def, watch first and make sure it’s a jump up for you. (Click here to buy The Holy Mountain from Amazon.; Click here to buy El Topo from Amazon.)

Inferno Blu-Ray
The Inheritance Blu-Ray
The Rite Blu-Ray

A young woman discovers that the building she lives in in New York might just be one of a few key locations regarding the world being ruled by evil and whatnot. She writes to her brother to tell him and then by the time he arrives, he is among the missing. And things just progress from there in a tale involving witchcraft, murder, and conspiracy. It’s Inferno and that’s Dario Argento at the helm, so you know no matter what the film’s going to be damn well interesting. And it is: horror fans, especially fans who know what an Argento film entails, should check this out. And it’s worth checking out in hi-def. It looks excellent considering it was out in 1977 and people who don’t already own the DVD release will want to snag this Blue Underground upgrade. I could have sworn I had the DVD around here but perhaps I was confused. From what I’ve been able to tell, the interviews with stars Leigh McCloskey and Irene Miracle are both new to this release, while the interviews with Argento and AD Lamberto Bava were previously released–as well as an intro from Argento. Horror films should check it out at least once–and then they and DVD owners can decide about a hi-def upgrade. If you haven’t previously purchased, then this is the way to go since the price difference is so slight. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So what is The Inheritance? It’s the story of five cousins who show up in the middle of nowhere for a family reunion, presumably because they haven’t seen enough horror movies. Anyway, what awaits them is a family secret, of the better-off-you-don’t-know-kind, blood and horror. Keith David is on hand to provide gravitas the way only he can, but the end result is not a make sure you see it horror flick. Instead, it’s something to catch if you’ve emptied your Netflix queue and consider yourself a horror completist. The Blu-Ray presentation from Image looks okay but not great, and it comes with no bonus bits to help bolster its case. If you do need to buy the Blu-Ray is actually significantly cheaper than the DVD, so there’s that. Also you have the option to catch it via Amazon Instant Video, which will probably be sufficient. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

One sure fire way to get my attention is to cast Anthony Hopkins, even if you’re making an exorcism movie, which is a subgenre of horror that’s in definite need of a kick in the ass. Are there other subgenres that are ruled so completely by a single film? Oh sure, every zombie movie has to acknowledge Night of the Living Dead, but that first Romero flick doesn’t just make everything that came after it look like attempts to Do That Again. Maybe I’m utterly off base here, but I wonder. Anyway, the shot is that seminary student who is having a crisis of faith winds up getting exorcism training from a full-on exorcist expert (Hopkins). And they find themselves dealing with a case unlike all others. I know, it doesn’t seem to promise much, does it? Regardless, the Blu-Ray looks and sounds pretty good and actually comes with a bit of bonus stuff. Additional scenes are here plus an alternate ending and a small featurette on the “real-life” exorcist that the film is based on. The last two items there are exclusive to the Blu-Ray. I would say it’s a watch if you’re into that sort of thing or love Hopkins, but check it out via rental or Netflix or Amazon Instant Video before you plonk the coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)