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Headsup: Of Cowboys, Killers and Karloff

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.

Burn Notice Season 4 DVD
Entourage Season 7 DVD
ER Final Season 15 DVD

[ad#longpost]The fourth season of Burn Notice hits DVD from Fox. This is one of those guilty pleasure shows for me. It doesn’t really set out to change the face of action television or anything, it just brings you a non-building-tanks-out-of-rusty-matresses version of A-Team…and Bruce Campbell. If you have a problem and the normal authorities can’t or won’t help (and if you can find him), Michael Westen might kick some ass on your behalf. This season there’s a new member of the team and a new overarching mission to find an uber-terrorist before more people get hurt. You get all eighteen episodes across four discs here and they even threw you some bonus bits. There’s a commentary on the last episode, a round of deleted scenes, a stunts featurette, a gag reel and Campbell taking a look at his character. And Campbell is a genius. If you’re a fan of the show, you might want to consider the DVD set–even if it’s not something you’d normally plonk down coin on…since the price point is just at $1 an episode. Which is not bad at all. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The seventh season of Entourage hits DVD from HBO with all ten episodes across two discs. This time around, Vince has a life-changing accident that sends him careening down a different road and his friends have this to contend with along with their own problems. Shenanigans abound along with celebrity cameos, including everybody from William Fichtner to Jessica Simpson and John Cleese to Eminem. At present, if you are a fan of the show, you might want to consider purchasing since you do get some bonus bits: behind the scenes featurette, a featurette covering Sasha Grey and her persona on the show, and audio commentaries on three episodes. Right now, the DVD makes episodes around $2.25 each, so if you want to purchase, that’s not terrible. The Blu-Ray, however, is just $4 more–they didn’t send me a copy of that to look over but it’s worth considering. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

It’s the final season of ER, the medical series that started off amazingly well and then just sort of…lingered for a long damn time. Fifteen seasons in fact, and that’s the one we have here: the final season. The one thing they do try to do, which most series don’t, is wrap up as many plotlines as possible, even bringing in characters from years back to give us one last look. That includes George Clooney, Anthony Edwards and Alex Kingston. There’s twenty-two episodes across five discs and there’s a bit of bonus-ness in the offering: outtakes and a retrospective featurette. If you’re a series completist, then you’ll want to grab this. And even if you went away at some point during the series, I think it’s worthwhile to check it out just for the guest appearances. It’s less than $1.50 an episode, so if you do decide to plonk down coin, it won’t be terrible to do so. Just bear in mind at some point the series will be available in hi-def–that’s a given. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Adua e le Compagne DVD
Comancheros Blu-Ray
Usual Suspects Blu-Ray

Raro Video has brought Adua e le Compagne (“Adua and Her Friends”) to DVD in a fairly excellent edition. The film concerns Adua and three friends, all prostitutes, who are left without employment when the legalized brothels get shut down. They decide to change industries and open a restaurant, only to find themselves faced with having to get on their backs once more to get what they need to get into a kitchen and serve food. Their relationships with each other and the men in the world that they must contend with form the basis for the film. Considering this is a 1960 black and white Italian film, the audio and video presentation seem pretty damn good–even to my screwed up eyes and ears. It’s not devoid of bonus bits, either: film historian Maurizio Poro is on hand to introduce the film while they’ve also included a bit from the film Amori de Mezzo Secolo by the same director. There’s also a booklet that comes along with, giving analysis of the film. From what I can tell, this is the first Region 1 release–and it doesn’t appear to be available in many other forms. (Netflix does have it, though.) I would say sample it that way and if you’re an Italian film buff (or a fan of Marcello Mastroianni and/or Emmanuelle Riva) then you might want to consider a purchase. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Comancheros hits Blu-Ray from Fox in an edition that is pretty badass and I’ll tell you Wayne fans out there that you’re going to want to sang it. Setup is this: Wayne’s character is a ranger who has to team-up with a former bit of prey, a womanizing gambler, in order to take down a gang of outlaws. Lee Marvin also stars. And hijinks ensue. I’ve seen so many of these Blu-Ray digibooks show up with no features I was almost ready to write this one off, but not so fast. First up, there’s an audio commentary (yes!) that has bits of interviews snippetted together from actors Stuart Whitman, Nehemiah Persoff, Michael Ansara and Patrick Wayne. There’s also two featurettes: one on the history of the west and the film and one about John Wayne’s time at Fox. They’ve also included a digital gallery of a Comancheros comic, an audio interview with Whitman, Movietone newsreels and trailers. Plus the digibook. And the thing looks and sounds amazing. It’s only $23.99 as I type this, but I would say western or Wayne fans will want to plonk down the coin, if nothing else to encourage more packages like this one. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

What was I saying about digibooks just getting no features? Well, that’s one thing for The Usual Suspects, which hits Blu-Ray–again–with only a book with photos and trivia as an upgrade to its previous hi-def release. And yes, the film is a heist classic with a trick up its sleeve that blew your mind when you watched it the first time and should continue to blow your mind with how well it’s executed on multiple viewings. However, the disappointment is that MGM hasn’t seen fit to port the features from the previous DVD release to Blu-Ray yet. So no commentaries, no deleted scenes, no nothing. That would be one thing if the price was the same as the previous release…but this is $7 more. If you absolutely need this in hi-def, grab the previous version (which is still in print). But if you can, hold out for a better release. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

American Dad, Vol. 6 DVD
Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III Blu-Ray

The sixth volume of American Dad brings you all eighteen episodes from the show’s fifth season, here from Fox on three DVDs. I was never a fan of the show myself–and haven’t liked Family Guy since that show’s Monkey’s Paw-esque return. But some people enjoy watching what was ostensibly all the political and social satire that MacFarlane couldn’t fit into Guy. So we try not to judge too much. I mean, let’s level-set here: we’re not talking about a Criterion Collection of Deuce Bigalow or anything. For people who do appreciate this sort of thing, this DVD release has some treats in store: audio commentaries on select episodes, the option to listen to the uncensored audio track on some episodes (although I think the bleeping is actually funnier in most cases–this being one of them), deleted scenes, a making-of for the post-apocalyptic episode and more. The audio and video both seem fine on the release. As for price point, this comes out to just over $1.50 an episode, which isn’t bad. And it’s not likely to hit Blu-Ray soon and if it does, unless you’re a serious completist, you’ll probably be fine with this. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The end of the Robot Chicken: Star Wars trilogy is here, with Episode III hitting Blu-Ray from Adult Swim and Warner Brothers. Basically we get the tale of the Emperor’s story throughout the trilogy as other bits of madness from that toy universe are thrown about as well. It’s Robot Chicken, after all. Any fan of the show and/or Star Wars will want to see more of this skewed take on Lucas’ work…the trick is going to be in how much the less-scattered format works for you and how much replay factor you feel compelled to assign to the disc. On one hand, the special is an hour–but remove the commercial breaks so that takes your running time down. And it’s $13.99 as I type this on Blu-Ray–which might seem steep were it not for the cavalcade of bonus bits. Four commentaries are available, as well as “Chicken Nuggets” which let you branch off into informative tidbits. You also get a series of featurettes, deleted scenes, animatics and footage from Star Wars Celebration V. There’s also a featurette covering bits of the Robot Chicken Skate Tour from 2009, time lapse footage, a short gag reel and more. Considering the Blu-Ray is only $3 more than the DVD…if you do wish to buy, this would be the way to do it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Dinocroc vs. Supergator Blu-Ray
Dinoshark Blu-Ray

The array of creature features coming out from the “Roger Corman Presents” banner of SyFy originals, hitting Blu-Ray via Anchor Bay, are a godsend to people who dig bad movies about animals attacking us and/or each other. Especially when you consider it’s brought about the return of the “vs.” concept of battling creatures. Who can resist that? Okay, yes, well, some of you, fine. But others appreciate a good bad movie. First up we have Dinocroc vs. Supergator, in which David Carradine plays a millionaire who wants to grow giant animals. You know, like you do. And of course it’s only a matter of time before the titular monsters get loose and start wreaking havoc. Exactly what you want from such a film. The only real bonus bit is an audio commentary and while the hi-def is nice, and less than $5 vs. the DVD, it’s not essential. The real question about purchasing is how much replay value you get out from such a manic “vs.” sort of film. You know who you are. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.

The same holds true for Dinoshark, same setup and same banner–the only difference being there’s a solo creature and it’s not fighting anything else (yet). If you can guess the setup from Sharktopus then you’re halfway there with this one: shark + dinosaur = yes. And humans trying to stop these creatures who have thawed out. That’s really the only plot you need to know: us vs. killing machines of the deep. And you wonder why I go nowhere near the water. Again, we have an audio commentary and the hi-def seems to just make you realize how lame some of the CG is…if that matters. You are watching a Roger Corman film called Dinoshark after all. This time around the hi-def is only $5 more, so you need to ask yourself just how many times you’re going to want watch the thing before you plonk down the coin either way. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

B.B. King Live Blu-Ray
Deep Purple: Phoenix Rising Blu-Ray

The main thing you need to know about Image Entertainment’s B.B. King Live on Blu-Ray is that, well, the title says it all. It’s B.B. Effing King. He’s live. And this is a concert from 2009. He’s in his mid-eighties. And he’s still up and playing on stage. So on one hand, nobody can bitch–the man’s performed more than the majority of humankind. And better than most, to be certain. Anyway, the point is the show is just under an hour and it’s obvious that King is, well, in his eighties and no longer in his prime. But he’s still feeling it, so it’s easy to feel it as well. Helping him feel it are Terrence Howard and Richie Sambora. The audio and video are good enough but the thing is that the DVD is just a dollar cheaper, so you might as well grab the hi-def for that price difference. Sadly, there are no bonus bits. A brief interview with the man himself would be nice…hell, I’m surprised they didn’t even try the “add extra tracks and call them bonuses” trick. King completists will want to own this, but fans will want to give it a watch before plonking coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Deep Purple: Phoenix Rising out on Blu-Ray from Eagle Vision is a no-brainer for fans of the band. Now, admittedly, I am passing familiar with the band but thus not to the point where I can pinpoint the various incarnations of the group. But the Mark IV incarnation is what we’re dealing with here, and there’s quite a bit to chew through. First up, there’s the Rises Over Japan thirty minute live concert film which has never been released before now. It’s from 1975 and looks and sounds well enough considering its age, but it is, you know, an older concert film. Going hand in hand with this, there’s a feature-length docu called Gettin’ Tighter which covers the era in question. And man, what an example of rock excess. Money lost, a life lost, arrests, drugs, mayhem…the works. All this coupled with more rare audio and video. And if that wasn’t enough, you get eight remastered live audio-only tracks, an archival interview and more. A fan of the band is going to want to watch this, as I said–but also I think anyone with an interest in that era of classic rock, as the docu really gives you a sampling of the madness. If you’re going to stick this in your library, the hi-def is only $4 more and for the fan would be worth it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Mr. Wong, Detective DVD
The Mystery of Mr. Wong

Boris Karloff? Don’t mind if we do. And we’re pleased to see these two titles as part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection. These are the first two Mr. Wong films that Karloff did, Mr. Wong, Detective and The Mystery of Mr. Wong. There are three others that came after. In Detective, three businessmen wind up dead in locked room situations that only Wong can unravel. And in Mystery, a stolen gem finds its way to a collector, who winds up dead. And then as the gem passes about, it invites more carnage until Wong can figure out who’s behind it all. Now a couple of things–first, Karloff is obviously not Asian. And these are films from the late 30s, so…well, nobody gave it a second thought. But Karloff isn’t playing it terribly offensive, so that’s something. as we’ve mentioned before, these “Limited Edition” releases are burn-on-demand releases so you get no bonus bits, much like the Warner Archive. Now what’s interesting is that there’s a complete collection of all six Wong films out from VCI that’s less than $15. I can’t compare the video quality or anything because I don’t have that set…these look pretty good considering they’re, you know, seventy years old and all. But I figure the Karloff completist will want to own these–but they might be fine with the VCI set as well. So it’s a conundrum that I’m afraid I can’t get to the end of. You can always sample them via Amazon Instant Video as well (here’s Detective and here’s Mystery). (Click here to buy Mr. Wong, Detective on DVD from Amazon.; Click here to buy The Mystery of Mr. Wong on DVD from Amazon.)

Boondock Saints Blu-Ray
Cedar Rapids Blu-Ray
Eclipse Four

The last time two guys decided they were on a mission from God, they were tearing up cop cars left and right, getting smacked by a penguin and hanging out with the likes of Ray Charles and James Brown. But these two guys, Irish twins, are on a different mission from God: one involving guns and justice and lots of both. It’s, naturally, The Boondock Saints, hitting Blu-Ray once more from Fox. This time around it ports previous bonus bits, including two commentaries–one from director Troy Duffy and also one from Billy Connolly. There’s also outtakes, deleted scenes and the extended cut of the film. The only new thing is a retrospective, which does have the director, both brothers and David Della Rocco. It’s not a small thing, but it doesn’t really warrant going back to purchase this if you already own the previous Blu-Ray release. Granted, if you don’t already own it in hi-def, the price point is virtually the same between the two, so if this is your first time, go ahead and grab this one. But otherwise rent it or however to watch the retrospective if you’re a fan and leave it at that. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

After a limited theatrical release, Cedar Rapids hits home video from Fox (specifically we’re talking the Blu-Ray flavor here) because of star Ed Helms and The Hangover Part II. And rightly so, since this has Helms front and center, playing a small town insurance guy who heads to the sprawling metropolis of the titular city in order to attend a convention. And oh, all the shenanigans and parties. The mostly naive small town guy going to the “big city” vibe might work for you–and you might be a fan of Helms, and if so, this is worth a watch. And the setup here isn’t a bad one: you mostly get snippets. Deleted scenes, a gag reel, featurettes, interviews, and more are here. Now, here’s the thing: replay factor is in play, because even if you’re a Helms fan, I’m not sure this is one you want on your shelf. And again, the video and audio seem to be fine…but this doesn’t scream a hi-def requirement to me. And the Blu-Ray is about $11 more than the DVD. So just bear that in mind. Just giving it a watch via Amazon Instant Video is an option as well. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Eclipse Four is the latest Night Shade Books anthology to bring you new science fiction and fantasy stories. It’s part of an award-winning series and utterly unthemed, unlike a lot of the anthologies we talk about in here. And it features a number of authors, including Caitlin Kiernan, Emma Bull, Andy Duncan, Nalo Hopkinson and Michael Swanwick. It’s a great sampler for checking out new material, and it’s well priced at just over $11–less than $1 a story. And of course, Kindle owners can grab it for that device and save a few bucks.