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Headsup: From Young Vampires to Old Dracula

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.

ACDC: Let There Be Rock Blu-Ray
True Blood Season 3 DVD

[ad#longpost]AC/DC: Let There Be Rock is now on Blu-Ray in a limited edition tin (limited to 90,000 copies) that also comes with a DVD as well as a booklet, a guitar pick and some collector’s cards. For those who don’t know the significance, this is the 1980 concert film. The focus is on the concert, which is as it should be. Granted, this is a 30th anniversary edition, so the primary source material does show its age, even in a hi-def setup. The array of bonus bits is decent: featurettes regarding members of the band, certain songs and also a retrospective on the band as a whole. Now the obvious bit is this: an existing fan of the group will no doubt want to snag this. I don’t think this will convert anyone–but then again, I’m not a fan myself, so I’m a bit biased. Granted, the $30 price point (which it is while I type this) isn’t too bad, so the fan will find it easy to plonk down coin. And it’s only $4 more than the DVD, so if you’re going to go, go all the way. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The third season of everybody’s favorite vampire series, True Blood, has hit DVD from HBO. Here you’ve got the expansion of the show’s mythology, adding, among other things, werewolves. Plus a Vampire King. You get all twelve episodes across five discs. With each episode comes an Anatomy of a Scene featurette as well as additional Post Mortem bits. There’s also six episode commentaries. I can’t speak for the Blu-Ray version, but the video and audio seemed fine on my setup here. And I would think if you wanted to own, the Blu-Ray does have some additional bits and is only $10 more. As it stands, on the DVD the episodes are only $2.50 each, which is not bad. Replay factor comes into play–there are those who love the hell out of this show and they would want to buy. But the curious might want to at least give it a try, starting with the first season or just the show in general via Amazon Instant Video. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Jackass 3.5 Blu-Ray
Platoon Blu-Ray
Red Riding Hood Blu-Ray

What unnerves me about Jackass, and this latest iteration of the franchise, 3.5, is that as pointless and inane as I find it, it appears to be growing on me. I do not understand this phenomenon, so please do not ask me to explain it. I’m sure it has something to do with the damage I have done my brain with chemicals, even legal ones (which I limit myself to), over the course of my lifespan. Regardless, there it is. And let me also say to MTV and Paramount: it’s positively genius to follow up a feature film with a direct to video release–as I’m assuming these were both shot using the same $20M budget that Jackass 3D had. And that did $170M+ worldwide…so money made from this is just gravy on top of…well, gravy. And I’m sure a fourth feature film is coming. Now, that all being said: this is the stuff that didn’t make the 3D feature film, so it’s A) a huge conglom of outtakes along with details about them and 2) pretty much only for the hardcore. If you watched 3D and thought, “Yeah, I’m good, thanks,” then this probably isn’t going to be your bag. Bonus bits include deleted scenes and outtakes (of outtakes) along with a short bit regarding the European promotional tour. The main thing is a featurette about the origins of the franchise. The Blu-Ray itself looks and sounds well enough, but I wouldn’t think hi-def quality was the first thing on the mind of somebody wanting to snag this. Speaking of snagging this, it’s currently a Best Buy exclusive–although the content itself is available via DVD and Amazon Instant Video. Suggest trying it out and seeing for yourself if it has the necessary replay factor for coin plonkage.

Platoon is twenty-five years old, amazingly. The Oliver Stone-directed Vietnam war classic with Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen and others (including a role from Corey Glover). Sheen plays a young man who goes into the Vietnam conflict filled with naivete and that…changes. That’s…probably the nicest way of summarizing that. This is the film’s Blu-Ray debut and it doesn’t bring anything new to the table beyond the hi-def nature of its existence. Again, I’m not the best person for judging such things…but it looks to me like it’s not got the best picture in the world, but then again, I mean…well, it’s supposed to be getting in with the grit of war and all that. So if it was crystal clear I think that would be betraying its nature, not to mention its source. Bonus bits have all been brought to the table in some DVD iteration previously. You get: two audio commentaries, one with Stone and one with their military advisor; deleted/extended scenes with optional Stone commentary; and an array of featurettes covering the making of the film and the time period. If you don’t already own a version of the film, this would be the one to go for: it’s less than $3 more than the previous DVD release as I type this, so that’s a no-brainer. And if you’re a fiend for war films, you might find the hi-def upgrade worthwhile. But if you are content with your DVD copy, then you might hold off. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So let’s say you’ve directed Twilight and that went fairly well for you, so you want to do something else that will appeal to pretty much the same audience. What to do? Go not just with werewolves, but also a classic werewolf tale: yes, Red Riding Hood. Oh, and keep the romantic triangle thing with brooding young men. That seemed to work as well. Amanda Seyfried is the titular Red, and Gary Oldman is doing the best he can as Reverend Hale. Red, aka Valerie, is in love with one brooding guy but betrothed to another. Then her older sister has to go and get killed by the local werewolf, who’s decided to come out of retirement and throw everybody for a loop. And things just proceed from there. I suppose on one hand, your enjoyment will be dependent on how much you dig the Twilight-verse…but then again, this film was not successful…but not the near $400M successful like the first Twilight. So. The Blu-Ray has an array of bonus bits beyond just having DVD and digital copy along for the ride. Seyfried, director Catherine Hardwicke and the two brooders are on board for a picture-in-picture commentary that runs out to hit other featurettes as needed. There’s an alternate cut with a different ending, deleted scenes, a gag reel and lame music videos. If you’re going hi-def–which looks rather nice…the film was designed to be watched this way, so the colors could really go “Hi, how are you?!”…then this edition is the way to go. It’s only $3 more than the Blu-Ray only version, which is only $5 more than the DVD version. Replay factor, of course, comes to play here. If this is your thing, is it so much your thing for around $23 to have this on your shelf? Only you can say that. Another option is to sample it via Amazon Instant Video and then run out to go for bonus bits if it cranks your tractor. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Gettysburg Blu-Ray
Gods and Generals Blu-Ray

It was the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War recently. Warner Brothers created new Blu-Ray editions of both Gettysburg and its prequel, Gods and Generals. Notable here is the fact that these could be consider the uber mongo editions of both titles…if for no other reason than their combined running time would hit you up for over nine hours. The setup for Gettysburg is exactly what the film would imply: the titular battle. Then Generals covers Stonewall Jackson and many other battles, including Antietam (now in this cut of the film, anyway). And the casts for these things are huge. I don’t have the previously released DVD versions here to compare to, but the picture and sound seem well enough. I would have thought they’d have split the feature up across a couple of BD discs, but they’re probably saving that for the next release. Again, it looks like from a bonus bit standpoint, both releases carry over everything from their previous standard def versions. On Gettysburg, you’ve got an audio commentary, a making-of, an on-location featurette and a 1955 docu on the battle itself. The new bit here is that this version of the film has seventeen minutes of new footage. On Gods and Generals, you’re looking at the previously available featurettes, including a making-of, a look at trying to recreate the period, and a short bio regarding Jackson. This is where the major new stuff arrives, with an hour of new footage and a new audio commentary. There’s also a new intro from Ted Turner, who funded the thing. To own or not to own? Well, you might want to own them just because it will take a while to get through them, frankly. But any Civil War aficionado will probably want to plonk down the coin for the extended Generals, if not the hi-def upgrade for both. (Click here to buy Gettysburg from Amazon. Click here to buy Gods and Generals from Amazon.)

Firm Blu-Ray
Hustler Blu-Ray
Terminator Blu-Ray Book

The Firm is hitting Blu-Ray as a Best Buy exclusive–and I could have sworn this was released in hi-def before, but I hallucinated it. The film that blew John Grisham up in our faces even more than he already was, Tom Cruise plays a young lawyer who gets snapped up by a superstar firm. His career is going gangbusters but then he finds out that the old adage about sometimes things being “too good to be true–or at least not without a price” is true. So he finds himself in A Dilemma. And hijinks ensue. It looks like you can snag the disc for as little as $12.99 but I have two concerns about this. I mean, if you’re a Grisham or Cruise nut, then be my guest. The film’s solid. The supporting cast rocks balls. But it’s not anything that I would consider to have a huge replay factor–and maybe that’s me. Not helping matters is the fact that while this hi-def non-hallucinatory debut looks and sounds pretty sharp, it’s got zilcho in the way of extras. Surely a better version of this is coming.

Ah, The Hustler. Paul Newman, excellent. Jackie Gleason, also excellent. Put them together and a movie that involves a sport (I believe pool is considered a sport–I don’t keep track of such things) is actually intriguing. Newman plays a small-time pool hustler with big dreams of taking down Minnesota Fats (Gleason), the best pool player around. And then things just get messy from there. It’s a damn good movie, again, and the sequel (cough) never happened. Unless you consider its startlingly good cinematography. Otherwise, no. The great news is that this looks fantastic in hi-def, so upgrading for the fan of the film would be a no-brainer even without the bonus bits in store. Previously available and re-released here is a commentary (which includes Newman–excellent), interviews, some retrospectives, a featurette about hustling, the Biography episode covering Newman, then a commentary on the trick shots by a pool expert–who then turns around and recreates them. New is a career retrospective for both Newman and Gleason, plus an audio interview with author of the original novel, Walter S. Tevis. If you haven’t seen the film, you simply must. And if you dig it, this is definitely worth owning. Hands down, an excellent release from Fox. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

This is an MGM/Fox release and it’s a puzzler. This is, like The Hustler, a “Blu-Ray Book” edition of The Terminator. And yes, the original film, in which Schwarzenegger and Jim Cameron made sci-fi geek history. The film (and its immediate sequel) still hold up like nobody’s business, make no mistake. But it appears this is the fourth time it’s available on Blu-Ray, and there’s nothing new here. Deleted scenes, an FX/music featurette and a retrospective featurette. The same features we had in the initial hi-def release five years ago–and no improvements to the video or audio. I looked around a bit to confirm this, because I, being half-blind and half-deaf–as you know if you’ve read enough of these–don’t trust myself to those odd little glitches and twitches that you videophile maniacs can sense from the next room over. Anyway, you can still get the previous DVD/Blu-Ray combo version for $14…so I’m not sure that the bonus book portion of this is worth the additional $9. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Cosmos: Beginner's Guide DVD
Genius of Design DVD
Last Place on Earth DVD

The Cosmos: A Beginner’s Guide out from Athena is exactly what it purports to be: Adam Hart-Davis tackles six episodes (across two discs), each with a different focus. That can go from the search for life in the universe, looking out into space to actually going and exploring the rest of the place. He and his co-presenters then delve. The two good things about the show is that it manages to get A) the information out in a way that’s accessible without feeling like, you know, you’re B) being spoken down to. Which is important if you’re trying to have a show worth watching. This is a nice docu, yes, but its replay factor is probably best for teachers and the like. If you want to check it out, though, it’s actually cheaper at the moment to buy the DVD than to snag it from Amazon Instant Video. Odd, but truth. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Genius of Design is also out from Athena and again, the clue is in the title. It’s a five episode series (across two discs) that covers the history of not exactly making things but making them better. Putting ketchup in a bottle? Common sense. Putting ketchup in a bottle that sits upside down and is squeezable? That’s design at work. This set covers design as it purports to everything from war to flatpacking Swedish furniture. It can give you a nice feel for why things are setup the way they are, what lasts and what doesn’t. If documentaries are your thing, then this is worth checking out. The main thing here is that it’s over five bucks an episode, so Netflix might be the way to go. Replay factor comes into play here–while it’s interesting, is it the sort of thing you’re going to want to watch again? (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

No idea why I have such an interest in polar exploration, frankly. I think it’s probably because I watched a Shackleton docu and said, “Holy crap.” And I added it to my list of “Fascinating things I’d much rather just watch things and read about than actually do.” Add to the list of things to watch the 1985 miniseries The Last Place on Earth, hitting DVD from BFS, with all seven episodes across three discs. What’s interesting catching this DVD now is that this is based on the book by Roland Huntford, who apparently pissed a lot of people off by saying that Captain Scott wasn’t all he was cracked up to be (that’s the very abridged summary)–and now there are reactions to that and it goes back and forth. Anyway, I’m digressing–this is the miniseries that covers the Amundsen-Scott race to the pole. Among the cast members are Sylvester McCoy, Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy and Max Von Sydow. If you’re a fan of the polar regions, then this is worth checking out. At around $5 an episode, however, with no bonus bits, the replay factor should be your guide as to whether or not to throw down the coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles DVD
Old Dracula DVD
Savage County DVD

When you’re a kid, you don’t worry about where things might spring from. Nobody looks at Gigantor and Frankenstein Jr. and says, “Hey, that’s not only similar but that’s just one too many giant robots.” Because you never have too many giant robots. Same thing with The Impossibles: a rock band that can turn into superheroes, going for the best of both animated worlds? Sure. Why the hell not? Childhood was awesome. Anyway, these two properties appeared together in various segments of the series which now finds its complete self on DVD thanks to the Warner Archive. All eighteen episodes are here across the disc collection. Sadly, because this is out of the Archive, you get no bonus bits. I would love to hear from the creators of the show what went into this mad hybrid thing. As a result, I think it deserves to be seen by retro-animation geeks, but only the true Hanna-Barbera completist will want to own. (Click here to get it from the Warner Archive)

So I was trying to figure out why, even though having a great appreciation for the works of David Niven, I had never heard of Old Dracula until I saw it as part of MGM’s latest barrage of burn-on-demand titles. Because, sadly, this has no bonus bits, I did some poking about–the film was originally titled Vampira but was renamed after the success of Young Frankenstein. (Get it? Well, it was the 70s. So.) Dracula, played by Niven, has his wife in cold storage after she fell ill–despite being a vampire–and has been searching for a way to revive her. He does but at a cost supposedly fraught with comedic possibilities: she becomes a black woman. (Get it? Well, it was the 70s. So.) And thus, hijinks ensue. Well, wow. I think it’s probably a good idea for Niven fans to watch this–you’ll appreciate what he can do with a bad situation. As for purchasing it outright, well, it appears to be unavailable on Netflix as I write this, nor is it on Amazon Instant Video, so a purchase might be your only crack at it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Savage County is a web series that eventually was turned into a TV movie that has now hit video from MPI and MTV New Media, among others. And you might be looking at the cover and thinking, “Man, this looks like backwoods brutality…” And you would win the slightly melted into slag kewpie doll, because that’s the deal. Young people trespass on a lunatic family’s property for kicks and literal kicks start happening. And smacks with a shovel. And other instruments of death and torture and more death. And I really wish I could say more about it but…that’s literally all there is to it. It doesn’t go anywhere new or different but it’s sort of hard to get too upset with it because you get the distinct impression it was never meant to. It’s hard also to recommend you catch it, even on Amazon Instant Video, because in a subgenre as crowded as this one, if you are so strapped for content that you need this…you probably need to get out more. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.