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Headsup: Pass to Punch and All the Stops In-Between

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.

Hall Pass Blu-Ray
Sucker Punch Blu-Ray
Unknown Blu-Ray

Well, it’s the latest from the Brothers Farrelly, out from New Line, Hall Pass. The gist is this: Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are long-married friends who get given a one week pass off from married life so they can experience single life once more, ostensibly to see how it really is and get it out of their system. While on the surface this sounds funny, well, it’s from the Farrellys. And I’ve not been their biggest fan, even for their gross-out opus, There’s Something About Mary. So I’m not the best judge…I did feel compelled to check out the critical consensus on this one (just to check myself)–and they weren’t terribly impressed either. But regardless, maybe this sort of thing cranks your tractor and more power to you if otherwise. You can always watch it via Amazon Instant Video, for example, if you just want to check out the film. The main question here is the Blu-Ray and should you buy it. Well, even if this is your bag, wait. Surely a better version is coming. This extended edition is only seven minutes longer, comes with an additional scene and a gag reel. That’s all. Yes, it does come with DVD and digital copy and looks and sounds great, but…is this really a movie that screams hi-def? I ask you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sucker Punch appeared to piss a lot of people off when it hit cinemas. My review of it is probably the most mild I’ve seen. Regardless, even with some time for it to settle in my mind, I still think the film delivers on a bit of what the trailers promised: CG carnage. That’s in the action sequences, of course: the “real world” and the “really real world” sequences get a bit muddied with that. I do believe I can see what Snyder was intending to do…but I don’t think he achieved it. I do applaud him for making a blunder of ambition rather than sloth, though. The main thing here is the Blu-Ray, though. It’s not going to make you re-think the film entirely, but if you enjoyed it enough to purchase it you won’t be sad about it. Whereas the previously discussed film didn’t scream hi-def, this does and loudly. The Warner Brothers release answers the call and the whole thing looks and sounds pretty damn amazing. Again, this is the half-deaf, half-blind me talking, and I could tell there was a difference. So there you go. There are also animated shorts, a very brief behind the soundtrack featurette and an extended cut with seventeen additional minutes. The main attraction, though, is Zack Snyder’s Maximum Movie Mode, where picture-in-picture commentary, storyboards and Snyder coming on screen all are quite engaging. I would say if you enjoyed the film, the Blu-Ray is worth checking out, but replay factor enters into the purchase, even with this array of goodies. The Blu-Ray is the way to go if purchasing, but it’s worth the extra $5 to get the DVD and digital copy as well, methinks. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I do enjoy Liam Neeson and I’m glad he’s able to do…well, pretty much anything he wants these days, career-wise. And I’m glad we’re getting a sequel to Taken. But with Unknown, he was still doing action star again and believably so. He plays a guy who, after being involved in an accident in Berlin, wakes up to find he’s been replaced by Aidan Quinn. Which would ruin anybody’s day. Anyway, it’s not a bad little action flick, but ultimately nothing special. You have a decent plot with some wrinkles and it’s worth checking out if Neeson and this genre is your thing. As I stated in my review, it’s great to see Frank Langella and Bruno Ganz working, much less working in a scene together. The Blu-Ray, while lacking in any substantial bonus bits (two small featurettes is it), does look pretty fantastic and does come with a DVD and digital copy. I’m not certain who would find this enough of a thriller to plonk coin, especially with the scanty supplements, but if you must, hi-def would be the way to do it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Leverage Season 3 DVD
A Mind to Kill Series 3 DVD
South Park Season 14 Blu-Ray

It’s the third season of Leverage, and the kinder gentler TV version of The Suicide Squad continues. Although the band is slightly fragmented following the events of the previous season and somebody else is stepping up to pull the strings. The same array of fun caper television is in the offering and it works, partly because it brings a nice pop culture/comic book sensibility but not in a yawn-rific way like Heroes devolved into. This set from Paramount will appeal to fans of the show as it’s got not only the sixteen episodes across four discs but a really nice array of bonus bits. First up, and most importantly, audio commentary on every episode. There’s a featurette covering the two new writers who have come on board the show, a producer’s featurette, a writer’s room featurette, behind the scenes footage and a gag reel. The whole thing end to end has a fun feel to it, so that’s why I say if you’re into the show you’ll be into the set as well and will probably find it worth grabbing, if nothing else to support these maniacs. And for around $1.75 an episode (not counting bonuses), it’s not a terrible price point. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So I’m beginning to think there are three kinds of mystery shows out of the UK: Light, Heavy and Complicated. Light brings you Midsomer Murders, for example. Complicated are dark yet buoyed up by the intricacies of the plot and the characters–and I’m talking The Shadow Line or Luther here. And then there’s Heavy, where it’s clear there’s no hope. Wallander belongs there, as does A Mind to Kill. Here, the third series hits from Acorn Media, which has our protagonist, Bain, coming back to find his entire job setup changed, and yet there’s still bad guys that need catching and depravity that needs to be thrown into the light…or as much light as you can muster. There’s nothing in the way of bonus bits here, but even though it’s a price point of around $6 an episode may sound steep, bear in mind these are feature-length, so that’s something. So if you’re a crime TV buff, this is worth checking out…but you might want to snag them via Netflix and decide if the replay factor warrants snagging permanently. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The fourteenth season of South Park is here on Blu-Ray from Paramount with all fourteen episodes across two discs. This is a weird one, since you’ve got the 200th and 201st episodes which are censored (hence the lack of “uncensored” on the cover, no doubt). This was the season with the epic celebrities vs. South Park free-for-all (the aforementioned two-parter), and then the three-part superhero sequence, plus a litany of pop culture lampoonings that cover everything from Inception to Tiger Woods to Facebook. As always, there’s brief commentaries on every episode by Parker and Stone, as well as deleted scenes and “The Coon” superhero episode from the previous season. The price point per episode here is around $3, so the question comes as to whether or not hi-def is what you need. Granted, yes, the transfer looks quite good, but the show’s never screamed hi-def to me. The DVD is less than $2 an episode, so you will have to judge for yourself. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Beverly Hills Cop Blu-Ray
Rocky Blu-Ray
Tigerland Blu-Ray

Beverly Hills Cop was great–and it’s still great. It’s Eddie Murphy before he was lost to animation paycheck land and was just flat out funny. And it blows my mind every time I think that Stallone was supposed to play Foley. Anyway, the original is still the best: the fish out of water comedy puts Murphy as a cop from Detroit in the middle of Beverly Hills going about an investigation his own way. And hijinks ensue. The Blu-Ray here looks and sounds great and is basically a straight port of the contents of the previous collector’s edition DVD release. You get the director’s commentary, a casting featurette, a retrospective on the beginning of the franchise, and a music featurette with Harold Faltermeyer. The question is hi-def and how badly you want it. Me, this is nice to have in hi-def but it’s not critical. So if you have to double-dip, just factor how much you want it. However, if you haven’t purchased before, this is the way to go: it’s only about $3 more than the collector’s edition DVD, so it’s easy to step up. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Rocky hits Blu-Ray again in the Digibook configuration–and it’s Rocky, so do I really need to even provide a brief synopsis? Didn’t think so. This is a limited edition Digibook setup with “exclusive photos and trivia,” but the problem is this…that’s it. I’ve never been huge for the books and such that come with discs, so that doesn’t hold a lot of water for me. And the hi-def upgrade doesn’t appear to do that much for me…again, this doesn’t scream hi-def. That would be all well and good but the previous Blu-Ray version still exists–with its same lack of bonus bits–and is $10 cheaper. So if you do feel the need to upgrade to hi-def (knowing a better version is forthcoming at some point) then go for that one. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Tigerland hits Blu-Ray from Fox and it marks two things for me: one, a decent Joel Schumacher film and two, Colin Farrell’s arrival. So what happens when you’re training to go to a war that you know is already FUBAR? It has a tendency to hurt morale, you might say. That’s the case with Farrell’s character, who simply Isn’t Having It and has ways of helping you deal with your little draft problem, so to speak. At first this looks like it just might what we’ve been dealing with before–straight port of DVD features. And there’s some of that: the Schumacher commentary, a featurette, and a casting bit with Farrell. But hey, there’s also new stuff: a featurette regarding the real Tigerland training area, and new chats with Schumacher and the screenwriter. These are not small snippets of featurettes, either, so that’s good. Now, the only thing is…is there enough replay factor and such even with bonus bits to make you buy or double dip if you already own the DVD? I figure if you’re a big enough fan, go for it, but the stuff on here while good is not anything I would personally want to revisit often enough to put in permanently on my shelf. But as always, that’s just me. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ambassador DVD
Wake Wood Blu-Ray
Wild Cherry Blu-Ray

The Ambassador is another release from the MGM Limited Edition Collection, by which they mean the numbers created are “limited” to those ordered. It’s burn-on-demand, in other words. Which, apart from the lack of features, I never have a problem with. It’s at least a legit solution for people who want these things on a decent Region 1 release. Here we have Rock Hudson’s last film, in which he plays an advisor to Robert Mitchum in the titular role, whose wife (played by Ellen Burstyn) winds up having an affair with someone in the PLO. Did I mention Mitchum’s ambassadorship is with Israel? Yeah. Complications? Yeah. Anyway, it’s intrigue and all that and not a completely stellar film but worth checking out for anyone who appreciates the actors involved–and you should. The lack of bonus bits as always makes it hard for me to recommend a purchase for anyone but the hardcore, but if you can rent it or Netflix it then by all means. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Wake Wood is the answer to the question of “What happens when you cross Pet Sematary with British folk horror sensibilities?” Well, kinda. The core horror of the loss of a child is what’s at play here, with Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle as parents who have lost their daughter. In the titular locale, they meet up with Arthur (Timothy Spall), who clues them into a little thing they can do there: they can give you three more days with a lost loved one. And you really don’t need me to spell out all the things that can and do go pear-shaped with this scenario, yes? This is out from Hammer and Vertigo, being distributed by Dark Sky on Blu-Ray. The hi-def presentation is acceptable but it didn’t blow me away–nor do the bonus bits. You get some deleted scenes and the trailer. Horror fans that the setup appeal to (or the notion of Gillen and Spall operating under the Hammer banner) would do well to at least give the film a watch…but check the replay factor before making the plunge. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Wild Cherry is the answer to the question of “What happens when you cross Pet Sematary II with British folk horror sensibilities?” Kidding. It’s actually the answer to the question of: “So…another teen sex comedy, anyone?” These can fall into two categories…the raunch either works or it doesn’t. And I have to say I need a good solid ratio of comedy to raunch. Or to put it another way, putting bodily fluids on the screen doesn’t automatically send me into gales of laughter. So this one is not going to be in my wheelhouse, I can say. The gist is: three virgins who happen to be seniors in high school learn that their respective virginities are targets for the football team, who feel that all the senior girls must get bedded or the season will be lost. So they decide to get some payback for guys acting like…well, guys. Anyway, the hi-def presentation here is acceptable, but then again, is this something that you want to put alongside an Attenborough documentary? Probably not. No bonus bits apart from the trailer. If you must, I would say rent it. But only if you must. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Bordertown Complete Series DVD
Falling For a Dancer DVD

Bordertown is a 1995 Australian miniseries about a town there, post-World War II, that sees an influx of various and sundry people coming in from around the world and looking for a new start. Despite Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving having top billing on the cover, they’re not the focus of the series–they just happen to have the biggest names. The show deals with the array of characters, and episodes pretty much stand by themselves with some throughlines happening. As Doc said in his review of BFS’ previous release of the title, the writing is what is key here alongside the ensemble’s performances. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth checking out. Now the question is whether or not it’s worth owning–because the price point does put it at around $3.50 an hour. And it doesn’t appear to be available for Instant Video or Netflix. If you can rent this or the previous release, I would recommend that before buying, because replay factor is key with such things. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Falling For a Dancer is also from BFS, a re-release of the four-part series from 1998 starring Liam Cunningham and Elisabeth Dermot Walsh, but which has a rather young Colin Farrell in at as well, who’s on the cover because he’s, of course, Colin Farrell. Walsh plays a young woman who falls for an actor, winds up pregnant and then, this being the 1930s in Ireland, gets shipped off to a middle-aged farmer who already has kids to be his wife. So her life goes from good to crap fairly straightaway, although being a young and rather attractive lady, she attracts other men with ideas and the situation just goes from there. Romantic series like this just aren’t my bag, so I’m not the best judge–but I would say if you enjoy a good romantic show, this might be worth checking out. This does appear to be available via Netflix, so check it out there before deciding if you want it permanently. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer DVD
Cat o Nine Tails Blu-Ray
Nesting Blu-Ray

The thing that amuses me most about Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer is the idea that–and I think I mentioned this on the contest page–I can see somebody renting it thinking it’s the John C. Reilly comedy by mistake, much like my parents once rented From Dusk Till Dawn because “that nice George Clooney” was in it. So. Anyway, the setup is that Brian Krause plays a guy who snaps and goes Sweeney Todd, killing and serving people up for others to nosh upon. Danielle Harris plays a reporter trying to get at the bottom of the story and Lance Henriksen is the guy they find who’s willing to talk about the murder sprees. While the setup and framing of the story is different from your usual serial killer slasher fare, and it will no doubt appeal to people who just like to pop in a bit of gore for the hell of it, I don’t know that there’s anything here that compels (for me, anyway) a repeat viewing or shelf space. There’s only a behind the scenes featurette as far as bonus bits go. You can snag it via Amazon Instant Video if it’s the sort of thing you just want to try out. Although if you must purchase, it’s currently less than $12. So that’s something. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Cat o Nine Tails is an early film by Dario Argento that while, when I usually say Argento you say horror, it’s more a suspense flick than anything else. The shot is this: a blind crossword puzzle creator and a reporter stumble upon a mystery regarding a break-in and corresponding murders and decide to work together to get to the bottom of it. And yes, the blind puzzler is Karl Malden, which is a bonus for the film. He’s great and the film is decent. Is it mind-destroyingly awesome? No, nor was it really meant to be. Just a capable suspense film. That being said, it’s worth checking out for fans of Malden or Argento. Now one that can be said is that while the bonus bits are pretty much a port of the previous ones on the Blue Underground DVD–mainly video interviews with Argento and others plus radio interviews with the two stars–and the audio is okay, the video looks clear as hell. Again, this is half-blind me saying this, so it must be good if I can tell the difference. If you already own the DVD, I’m not sure I can tell you to go ahead and dip again–but if you do decide to own, the Blu-Ray is only $5 extra, and the upgraded video makes it worthwhile IMO. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Nesting also hits Blu-Ray from Blue Underground and the first thing that bothers me is the title: it suggests–to me, anyway–one of those animals attack movies and seems like it should be about killer roaches or rats or something. Instead, our protagonist, who decides to go out to the country to try and get over her agoraphobia and writer’s block, has to deal with a haunted house. John Carradine makes a very brief cameo. This isn’t a film you would necessarily seek out–even if you’re a haunted house movie fiend, I would put it towards the bottom of the queue. However, as part of a Halloween film fest, it’s worth a watch in such a context. It appears to have the same bonus bits as the DVD, which have trailers, TV spots and deleted and extended scenes. Also I must admit while the video isn’t as good as Cat above–at least to my eyes–it looks damn good for a film from thirty years ago. Again, if it’s the sort of thing you must grab, go for the Blu-Ray…it’s only an additional $5 over and above the DVD. But that’s me. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Good Night, Gorilla DVD
I'm Dirty and I Stink DVD

Scholastic Storybook Treasures has collected a number of stories into handy boxed sets, which I believe have been made available in other sets. It’s a bit confusing because A) I don’t believe I received the previous versions, and 2) they have the same name but a different subtitle. So one could be Good Night, Gorilla… and More Wacky Animal Adventures (like the one we have here) and another could be Good Night, Gorilla…and the Temple of Doom. This first set has sixteen different stories across three DVDs plus Spanish versions of some of the stories and an interview with a couple of authors. There’s also a subtitled read-along feature to help with their reading prowess. Same thing holds true for I’m Dirty & I Stink, which has no subtitle but in addition to the cover art could have used “…and more stories about trucks and such” or something to help people out. This second set has twelve stories across two discs. These are animated versions of the books that are no substitute to you reading to your kids, so just bear that in mind. But anything that can help with reading is welcome. Like most stuff for kids, if your kids dig it, you’re probably going to have to plonk down coin. Since they’ll generally watch it until it disintegrates. (Click here to buy Good Night, Gorilla from Amazon.; Click here to buy I’m Dirty & I Stink from Amazon.)

Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan
Titus: Neverlution

Clockwork Rocket is the latest from Greg Egan and the first book in his new Orthogonal series. This science fiction book from Night Shade puts you in a new universe with new rules of physics and a protagonist that’s a new sort of alien. And into this comes Hurtlers, meteors coming to muck up everything. Trouble is: our heroine and her people don’t have the science necessary to prevent the oncoming disaster. However: if they can send a craft on a high speed trip, it’ll go fast enough that it comes back in just a few years even though generations will pass on board the ship. Ship returns bearing the gift of science that can save everything. Seems simple enough, right? If hard, mad sci-fi lit is your back, then Egan’s work will appeal to you highly. It’s currently in hardcover which is around $16.50 as I type this…but it’s also available for the Kindle which is just $3.99. So depending on your opinion of ex-tree vs. digital, that might save you some bucks and still get you the sci-fi fix this brings. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Christopher Titus returns with Neverlution, his latest comedy album: two discs of nineteen tracks of the man attacking anything that he feels…well, needs attacking. That could be everything from terrorism playing out to children who need a smacking to politicians to racists. It’s not just incoherent ranting, however, but actually funny at the same time. Some comedians forget to keep that part in. Fans of that sort of humor will find plenty to please them here–and fans of the man himself will be pleased that they stayed on board. The MP3 version of the album is slightly less expensive ($7.99) but if you want the physical copy it’s only a few bucks more. Plus it seems to have a track missing from it that’s only the CD. So forget I said anything. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.