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Headsup: People With Swords Plus Lizards With Guns

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.

Melrose Place: Sixth Season, Vol. 2 DVD
Top Gear US: The Complete First Season DVD
White Collar Season 2 DVD

[ad#longpost]So the penultimate season of Melrose Place hits DVD from CBS and Paramount and it’s indicative of the demise of soap operas. Eventually (even though in the case of daytime ones it can take decades), you’ll run out of crazed plot lines, backs to stab, etc. Heather Locklear and Alyssa Milano are still on the show along with a number of holdovers and some new cast members hit as well. It’s a prime time soap full of beautiful people. But everything has its fans…although this set won’t necessarily please them. I say that because you do get twelve episodes across three discs…and that’s it. So it’s over $2.30 an episode, which, granted, is what you would pay for it on a streaming service like Amazon Instant Video–but it’s available on Netflix streaming as well. The whole series is. So if you’re a hardcore fan and just want a physical copy then go for it, but everyone else should sample elsewhere for a taste or refresher. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So Top Gear USA has hit DVD with its first season and ten episodes across three discs. You have to know this about the original: it’s the one show that can be interested in cars. And it’s not even the fact that the hosts are cool to the point where I’m there just to watch them or their crazy antics. I am seriously engaged in thinking about cars while watching this–even if I might have no idea what half of the stuff they’re talking about is. So rather than bring over the original hosts, a la Gordon Ramsay, there’s an American version. And our three hosts over here simply aren’t the original guys. I haven’t caught an episode of Top Gear Australia yet to see how they fared. But they just don’t inspire in me the same giving-a-damn that they do across the pond. Granted, in trying to be fair, this is the first season of the show here–in the UK they’re in the midst of their seventeenth. Still, BBC Worldwide created this thing, so you’d think they’d be able to iron it out. Anyway. It’s here from BBC Home Video and you do get the episodes for about $2 each. So that’s not terrible. It comes also with a commentary track, behind the scenes snippets and a poolside chat with the hosts. Fans will want to pick it up to help support the series, but everyone else should check it out via a rental or Netflix. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

More television on DVD, we have the second season of White Collar on DVD: sixteen episodes across four discs from Fox. It seems that criminals doing good is a mini-trend on television at the moment–here we have Neal, a con man who’s decided to work for the angels initially because he needed to find his missing girlfriend. Now that game has changed (avoiding spoilers in case you’re not on board the show and don’t know the first season ender) and Neal continues to help the FBI while also conducting a different sort of investigation. Guest stars this season include Tim Matheson (who directed the episode he’s in–nice), Andrew McCarthy, John Larroquette and Billy Dee Williams. The set is around $1.50 an episode, which is not devoid of features: there’s an anatomy of an episode, some audio commentaries, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a featurette about Willie Garson’s character and more. My take on it would be replay factor–some shows you can pick up, throw in an episode and happily rewatch. It’s for fans to decide where they fall in this. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Black Death Blu-Ray
Limitless Blu-Ray
Season of the Witch Blu-ray

Certain people have certain weaknesses for certain types of film. One of mine is for “period” films involving swords. They don’t even have to be historically realistic films of this ilk–I’m fine with something like Legend or Willow or whatnot. I have no idea why, don’t ask me. But Magnet does have Sean Bean, known for working in such surroundings, in Black Death out on Blu-Ray. The setup is thus: the titular ailment is kicking Europe in the balls. However, there’s one town that does not appear to be affected…and Bean’s character has been dispatched with a team to find out why. Because, you know, necromancers are running about and other undesirables. This is a decent swordish flick with elements of action and horror thrown into the blender for good measure. It looks well enough in its hi-def presentation and this also comes with a digital copy. As for bonus bits, you get deleted scenes, a featurette, interviews, behind the scenes footage and more. How much of a guilty pleasure this genre of film is will determine how badly you want to own it (or perhaps how big a Bean fan you are). If you want to snag it for a watch first, Amazon Instant Video is a possibility. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Limitless is a film that does a lot of things right, I’m pleased to say–and it’s here in an unrated extended cut Blu-Ray from Fox. Bradley Cooper plays a shmoe who can’t get his act together…until he encounters NZT, a drug that he’s told is tested and all set (it isn’t) but will clear up his head and get him on the path to awesomeness. It does all of this, but the path to awesomeness is sometimes littered with debris and, you know, land mines. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and sometimes the buffet has blackouts, lost time and maybe murder? Cooper, who is one of those Actors That I Just Like, rocks the house and the film does as well. My review is here. This presentation is decent but doesn’t blow the doors off: the unrated and extended cut is just about the same running time…which means they added less than a minute of stuff to make it unrated. Ugh. There’s a couple of lightweight EPK bits, a director’s commentary and an alternate ending (which Wolven discusses in the comments of his own write-up of the film). It also comes with a digital copy and the hi-def admittedly looks pretty damn choice. This speaks to replay factor–Wolven owns it, I own it–because we will both no doubtedly watch it again. If it’s that film for you, I think the hi-def is the way to go because the presentation of the film itself is so good–and I think it works for this film, making the slight uptick in cost worth it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

What was I saying about fantasy films? Oh yes, that I’m a sucker for them. I’ll watch just about any of them once. And the trouble with Season of the Witch is that it falls into that category, mostly because it follows the Nic Cage track record of films that could have been so much more. The setup is this–Cage and Ron Perlman have decided The Crusades aren’t really their scene, so they take the task of delivering a suspected witch to a monastery. And hijinks ensue. This two-disc Blu-Ray set from Fox has the hi-def on one disc and digital copy on the other. The only bonus bits are deleted scenes, CG featurette, a featurette about the Crusade section, and an alternate ending. With a staggering 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, this isn’t going to be on a lot of people’s shelves, to be certain. It’s a shame that it looks good and sounds good, but that doesn’t save it. If you must just check it out, I suggest the Amazon Instant Video approach, and you can save $6 by snagging the DVD if you must own it when all is said and done. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Brave New Voices 2010 DVD
Rango Blu-Ray
When They Were Young Blu-Ray

Brave New Voices 2010 is an hour-long special that covers the National Youth Poetry Slam Championships and has four teams doing final battle during their “Grand Slam Finals.” It’s teens getting up and throwing down with spoken word/poetry bits. The hosts are Common and Rosario Dawson and Penn Jillette is among the judges. It’s a lot of ground to cover in just an hour (or fifty-five minutes as the case may be), so you get just the high points. There are two bonus bits: extra poetry footage and a discussion with the hosts and coaches. If you’re into poetry, then this can be seen one of two ways: kids expressing themselves or Expressing Themselves and your reaction to those notions is how you’ll decide to deal with this. I have to say, though: it’s $18. And I’m not sure if anyone feels that strongly about young poetry to want to own it, unless you’re one of the performers or their parents. It’s great that HBO has this out here, but rent it or Netflix it or some such and save some coin. Maybe if it was a much broader or less edited experience–but $18 for an hour is a bit steep. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Rango is a mischievous film. I say this because it was sort of hard to understand what it was about. But confused attempts at marketing it (is it a kids movie? western? head trip?) didn’t kill its box office and word of mouth saved it. It is, with Pixar’s cratering on Cars 2, a serious contender for Best Animated Film this year. The deal is this: Rango (played by Johnny Depp) is a lizard who has a simple life, then an accident leaves him stranded in the desert. Put onto a journey, he winds up in the odd town of Dirt, which has had its water supply threatened. He makes friends, makes enemies, becomes sheriff and then hijinks ensue. The film is just brilliant and the animation by ILM is just flat out stunning. And the Blu-Ray from Paramount is pretty damn sweet as well. There’s a series of short deleted scenes, a storyboard picture-in-picture option, a behind the scenes two-parter (priceless in that it shows the actors on stage acting out their parts–I would watch the entire movie just like this), a featurette about animals for kids and an extended version of the film with an alternate ending. Said extended version also comes with an audio commentary. This also comes with DVD and digital copy. This is a must-own for any animation fan. Period. You need this. But it so they’ll make more like it. I’m serious. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

When They Were Young is a docu taking you through stars of basketball and letting you see their path to where they wound up. Admittedly, only a few of the names on here mean anything to me–LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and That Guy Who Played Kazaam–but that’s because this isn’t for me. And that makes sense. Who but the hardcore fan would want to check out now-pros playing in high school and elsewhere? Who else would like to chart their course and progress? Serious fans indeed. And for those fans this release from Image also has Dwight Howard’s exercise routine, Shaq’s Top 10 Plays, and some other very small snippets. The core docu is only about an hour long, which is one thing–and while new footage seems fine this thing was cobbled together from numerous sources, so hi-def can’t help with that. However, the DVD is only about $1 less, so if you are serious enough about basketball to want to own, go with the hi-def. If it’s something you just want to check out once, Amazon Instant Video is an easy option. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Street Kings 2: Motor City Blu-Ray
Take Me Home Tonight Blu-Ray
Tekken Blu-Ray

Street Kings 2: Motor City is the direct-to-video sequel to the prior film that starred Keanu Reeves. As for how it links up to the previous film: it’s got that “we’ve got a screenplay called ‘Motor City’ here, how can we make it work? I know…” feel about it. What happens when the members of an undercover team of cops start getting whacked? The team’s leader comes back and joins up with a rookie in order to try to get to the bottom of things. If you’re a huge Ray Liotta fan or are just a fan of cop films to the point where you watch them like I watch horror movies (no judgement here, we’re all friends) then this might be up your alley to view it. And while the audio and video are nice enough in its hi-def incarnation here from Fox, you get a brief array of bonus bits: deleted scenes, murder scene featurettes, a writing featurette, a featurette covering the opening sequence and a location featurette. That’s about it. Worth a viewing if you’re one of the aforementioned genre diehards, but as for owning it? Replay factor kicks in hardcore. If you must, the hi-def is only $2 more and is your best bet. If you just want to watch it the once, consider Amazon Instant Video as one solution. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Take Me Home Tonight aspires to be a love letter to comedies of the 80s. The shot is this: Topher Grace hasn’t really figured out where to go with his life, except when his high school crush shows up and he decides that he’s really like to go that direction, thanks. Trouble is, he’s not wickedly successful or upwardly mobile, so he drops a tiny little occupational lie in order to get his foot in the door. When they get together later that night, hijinks most assuredly ensue. Again, this is nice enough in hi-def but does anyone really need a real 80s comedy, much less a fake 80s comedy, in hi-def? It doesn’t scream for it. For bonus bits, you get some: deleted scenes, a cast featurette, the ability to jump to various 80s songs in the film, and a music video. Replay factor rears its head here: unless you’re a Grace completist or just love the 80s that much, it’s probably best to own the classic John Hughes greats (which you can easily re-watch) rather than this. If you want to sample it, I suggest Amazon Instant Video and if you must own it, consider the DVD…it’s $7 cheaper. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

As we mentioned in the previous genres, somebody loves all of them. And when it comes to fu, those completists might want to check out Tekken. Based on the video game of the same name, it involves a world split up into areas ruled by different megacorporations. The one that controls the former USA is called Tekken and they’re a bunch of bastards who wind up killing our hero’s mom. Our hero then does what any good soon should do: find his way into the megatournament so he can kick some ass and take down the bad guys. There’s nothing new here and sometimes you don’t want anything new. You just want people pounding the snot out of his each other in a dystopian environment. In that regard, this Blu-Ray release from Anchor Bay delivers. I think it’s worth catching in hi-def if this is your thing just for the audio and video quality (which is nice), but as for owning it? Sadly, there’s a stunts behind-the-scenes docu…and that’s it. So not much to bolster it there. I would say watch it once and if you’re that enamored, buying is fine. It’s a hard call as to which format to get: the Blu-Ray also comes with DVD and digital copy, so it seems silly just to grab the DVD, even though it is less. For sampling purposes, you can check out the film via Amazon Instant Video as well. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Demob DVD
Harry In Your Pocket DVD
No Hero book

Demob is short for “demobilized.” Or, I guess, “demobilised.” World War II is over and soldiers are handed back to the society they left to go and defend. And two soldiers are having to make do: played by Martin Clunes and Griff Rhys-Jones. They spent some time entertaining during the war but after coming back the latter goes back to his family while the former goes and gets involved in the “slightly funny deal.” Either way, the opportunity arises to hit the stage once more. This is a six-part miniseries and it’s here on DVD across two discs. Fans of either actor, best known for their comedic turns, might do well to check this out: while funny, it’s got its dramatic side to it as well. However, there’s the replay factor here as well: especially considering the set is $35.99 as I type this. Which even if you look at the per episode cost, you can quickly see it’s around $6 each. I would try to rent it or Netflix it and if you need to own it–as this set has no bonus bits and I can’t tell the difference between it and the set that came before–grab the previous set used to save some coin if you feel the need to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

It’s Proto-Hustle! Well, kinda. It’s Harry in Your Pocket, which is about a young pickpocket and his girlfriend who get pulled into a team of cons headed up by James Coburn and Walter Pidgeon. The seasoned pros show the younger two the ropes, but what happens when the young pickpocket in question wants to step up–and isn’t too happy about the attention being paid to his girlfriend to boot? Well, that’s what we’ve got here, a comedic drama hitting burn on demand DVD from the MGM Limited Edition Collection. And it wouldn’t warrant much watching except that your two pros are handled by the two actors you have on board. If those two are your bag–or even heist and caper sort of films, or even the aforementioned Hustle, this might be worth a watch. Alas, with no bonus bits, it’s sort of hard to warrant the $18 price tag on Amazon unless you’re some sort of completist. You can, however, snag it via Amazon Instant Video for just $3 if you just want to look it over. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The cop/investigator in over his head and dealing with Really Weird Shit. I’m sure there’s a more succinct way of describing this particular subgenre, but I think that’ll do. That’s what you’re dealing with when it comes to Jonathan Wood’s novel, No Hero. The title refers to protagonist Arthur Wallace, a detective who is Just This Guy Y’know…until he gets tapped by a super secret government agency and thrust into a conflict between humanity and the Progeny. You can tell from their name they aren’t furry, happy go lucky creatures who want to give us hugs, right? No, we’re talking proper Tentacled Horrors From Beyond and whatnot. And hijinks ensue. If that aforementioned subgenre is on your hit parade, then this is definitely worth a summer read. If you don’t wish to grab the dead tree version, though it’s not terribly priced at moment (just over $11), you can snag the same book in a virtual form for less than $4 if you’ve got the Kindle. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Dangerous Babes Movie Collection
Ultraman Series 1, Vol. 2 DVD
Young Justice Series 1, Vol. 1 DVD

Now we have a couple of entries from Mill Creek Entertainment, starting off with the Dangerous Babes 12 Movie Collection. The deal with Mill Creek is this: it’s not about Criterion Collection-level video quality and features. It’s about giving you as much stuff as possible for as little money as possible. That’s how they’re able to cram all twelve films onto three discs. And of course, it’s a grab bag of content. The films involved are Blue Money, Click: The Calendar Girl Killer, French Quarter, Hot Target, Night Club (with Peter Jurasik), Noon Sunday, Separate Ways (with Karen Black and Sybil Danning), Sextette (the one with the serious cast: Tony Curtis, Timothy Dalton, Dom DeLuise, George Hamilton, Ringo Starr and Mae West!), The Sister-In-Law (with John Saxon), The Virgin Queen of St. Francis High, Weekend with the Babysitter and Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold. A couple of things here: first, the set says these films are hard to find. Well, not as such. A quick ping on Amazon and I found everything but Noon Sunday and while Yellow Hair is out of print, it’s easily grabbable used. But remember what Mill Creek does well: it gives you the content for cheap. It’s $8.99 for the lot. If you just want these films in a box and you want them quickly and you don’t care about remastering–you just want to see them–then this is exactly what you want. If you are instead a collector of such films (creations of Crown International Pictures…the people who brought you The Beast of Yucca Flats), then seek them out in better editions. If you want quick fast and now, then this will do the trick. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

This next one, Ultraman Series One, Vol. 2 is a bit of a puzzler and I’m going to admit my confusion here. Yes, it’s the nineteen episodes that make up the second half of the series. And it’s across two discs. And it’s the same budget pricing for $8.99. However, Mill Creek already released a complete series (all four discs) back in 2009–which is still in print. We didn’t get that set here, so I can’t compare this with that, but it appears that it’s the same enchilada as before. And the complete set is just over $10. Unless someone comes along to correct me, which I welcome–if you don’t already own the series from either 2009 or the 2006 release (which having more discs may be less compressed) then the complete series would be the way to go.

We come now to the first volume of the first season of Young Justice, a non-uber-cartoony cartoon that gives you the best of the comic title of the same name plus some Teen Titans action. Basically the setup is: the “sidekicks” of the Justice League thought they were going to be inducted into the League, but when they found out they were going to be sidelined (at least for longer than they thought they should have been), they struck out on their own. Mostly. The character designs are good and the series is not annoying. Fans who haven’t checked it out already should do so. The question is whether or not to do it via this release: it is only four episodes, after all. Episodes which are due to repeat on the Cartoon Network. And you get no bonus bits. And this isn’t hi-def. So…while DVD purchases do help fuel the fact that this has been renewed for a second season, it’s sort of hard to recommend it, at $2.50 an episode. Hold out for the inevitable Blu-Ray season release. If they’re smart, there will be one. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)