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Headsup: Of Bats, Birds, Sharks and Dudes

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.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold Season 2, Part 1 DVD
Hey Arnold Season 1 DVD
Rio Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]Has there ever been a super hero with as many interpretations as Batman? And you know what I mean, we can go from the light-hearted goofy of Adam West to the dark realism of Nolan’s version to the holy crap that’s dark version that Frank Miller gave us. What I’m saying is that I don’t recall Wolverine solving a crime with the Scooby Gang, if you follow. Anyway, the lighter side of the Bat continues in this first part of the second season of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, out on DVD from Warner Brothers. And the best thing about the show is that it follows that idea that the original comic did: how in the hell can we get Batman to team up with so-and-so? Like using time travel to meet up with Enemy Ace. Or having dinosaurs and the Challengers of the Unknown. You also get villains you’d never think would see animation, like Doctor Double X, for crying out loud. And Earth-2 favorite baddie Per Degaton. Bonus points for having West and Julie Newmar provide voices as Bruce’s parents. Anyway, twelve episodes of the season are here across two discs. No bonus bits and the price point puts it at a little over a dollar an episode. And they are repeating them–eventually–on the cartoon network. If you’re a fiend for the show or have a kid who digs this version of Batman, then by all means, it won’t kill your wallet to snag it. But as always, replay factor is the ultimate yardstick. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

What I remember most about Hey Arnold was that it seemed to get a foothold with an older audience to some degree, even though it was a Nickelodeon show. I never watched it at the time because…well, who had time for television? But the show endures and was released at one point in the past as a burn-on-demand title via Amazon. Now it’s been picked up by Shout Factory and thus the first season hits with all twenty episodes (the majority of which contain two stories) across four discs. The show is quirky, filled with off-kilter characters and stars a kid whose head is shaped to the point where you figure Gort’s probably going to show up soon via the bridge of poor Arnold’s nose. The set has no bonus bits but sports decent audio and video for a DVD release–no complaints that I could see on my what-most-normal-people own setup at home. And the price point is decent as well–right now it’s about $1 an episode at Amazon. I’m not aware that it’s airing anywhere currently and it’s almost $2 an episode to stream it, so if you’re a fan, want it on your shelf or just want to spring it on your own kids buying it seems the best option. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Rio had a surprisingly good run at the box office and got surprisingly good reviews for an underlying story that looks like something we’ve seen many, many times before. But it just shows, as I maintain, that not every movie has to completely redefine the genre. Sometimes it’s fine for a movie to be, well, fine. The shot is that Blu thinks he’s the last male of his kind and is jetted to Brazil to meet the last female of his kind and thus birdnapping and hijinks ensue. If you’re not completely enjoying yourself then you can take heart in the great visuals–it’s Brazil, there are birds, colors are going to be somewhat utilized, shall we say. That comes through loud and clear on this Blu-Ray from Fox with its excellent video and audio. Hi-def always stands out when it comes to nature, animation and animation about nature. The three disc set (sporting also DVD and digital copy) is fairly stacked: Rio/location tours, vocal featurette, behind the scenes footage, a music featurette, and more. The fact that there’s no commentary leads me to believe there will be a better more substantial Blu-Ray at a later date–probably about the time the sequel hits. That being said, the release is $19.99 as I type this, which is only $5 more than the DVD. So it makes sense to get the hi-def even if you don’t have the rig yet. If you dig this movie enough to own it, then no shame in doing so, and I don’t know that the sequel’s been announced yet, so plenty of time for Blu-Ray to get replaced. Or something. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.

The Bang Bang Club Blu-Ray
Everwood: The Complete Fourth Season DVD
Tactical Force Blu-Ray

The Bang Bang Club takes you to Apartheid South Africa, right before the free elections and Mandela’s release from prison. Four photographers, the titular circle, are documenting the violence and madness as it occurs. They’re photographers in the middle of conflict, which means they’re putting themselves in harm’s way to get that perfect snap. While the film is about all four, it focuses primarily on the characters portrayed by Ryan Phillipe and Taylor Kitsch. One of them copes better with what’s going on around them than the other; take a look at the cover art and take a wild guess. The film hits Blu-Ray and DVD from Entertainment One with the same array of features, which is not slacking: decent length making-of, an audio commentary with the director, deleted scenes, and interviews with cast and crew. For people interested in this period of South African history and the tumult involved in it–this is worth checking out. As to purchasing options: I had both versions here and was able to compare them side by side (well, one after the other), and I could see a difference in the video quality for the Blu-Ray that would be easy enough to justify plonking down the extra $4 to go hi-def (since both have the same features). Before that, though, I would recommend checking out the film via rental, Netflix or you can snag it from Amazon Instant Video to see if you would want it on your shelf. (Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon.; Click here to buy the Blu-Ray from Amazon.)

The final season of Everwood, the fourth season, hits DVD from Warner Brothers with twenty-two episodes across five discs. What we have is a soap opera that died when The WB was assimilated into the CW. Centered on the Brown family…they came to the town of Everwood at the beginning of the first season and with this last one, things get wrapped up. People return, family relationships get strained and/or rekindled, and everything more or less resolves by the final episode (with an alternate ending in case the show survived to Season 5). Other bonus features–which are always impressive to see on a lot of television boxed sets, let’s be real–are a number of unaired scenes. Fans of the show will want to at least pick this up as a rental in order to get at those–however solid fans will want to put this on their shelf. In poking around, I don’t see this in repeats anywhere (at least here in the U.S.) so this is your only shot at this for the moment. Will it eventually make it to Blu-Ray? Yes. But probably not for a while, probably with no additional features, and probably with not enough of a video/audio upgrade to warrant double-dipping. You could even snag this on Amazon Instant Video…but why? The episodes are about $1.25 each on DVD. So if you want it on your shelf, physically put it there. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sometimes you just want films in which people get smacked and guns go off and there is violence and yay. You want to leave your brain at the door, or in this case over by the coffee maker next to the fridge, and just watch some mayhem. If that appeals to you, or you were thinking during The Expendables that Steve Austin really needed some more screen time, then congrats: Vivendi brings you Tactical Force. In it, Austin heads up a SWAT team on a training exercise that turns deadly when two rival gangs show up and our guys wind up in the crossfire. If you’re an Austin fan or just like the mayhem, then this is probably worth renting. The Blu-Ray here does look and sound pretty good, all things considered, and has a short behind-the-scenes bit and a fight montage, but that’s it as far as features go. You would need to be seriously jonesing to want to own this–and I speak of replay factor. Myself, I can’t just watch mindless action over and over again. It has to be exemplary mindless action. And if this falls into that bucket for you, then rock on. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Best Horror of the Year, Vol. 3
Reef Blu-Ray
Vanishing on 7th Street Blu-Ray

Ellen Datlow is on hand to edit the third volume of Best Horror of the Year, out from Night Shade Books. You get seventeen short stories including entries from Richard Christian Matheson, Stephen Graham Jones, Tanith Lee and Joe R. Lansdale. The best thing about such anthologies is it helps keep you up to date with what’s going on with authors that you are more familiar with and then can introduce you to new voices. You may not enjoy every story…and you may be familiar with others that should have made the cut, but it’s worth checking out for the horror lit fan. And it’s a nice quality paperback book for under $11 from Amazon as I type this. In fact, there is a Kindle version, but it’s about $8. So for $3 you get a real dead tree book–I’d go for that option unless portability is your key factor. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Well if Open Water did anything it took the shark attack subgenre of the When Animals Attack overall genre to a new low budget level. There’s no need to have a lot of running about and such, just put people in the water and wait for them to get gobbled. Now that’s not really my idea of suspense…it’s almost like torture porn without tying the person down, if you catch my drift. Definitely no pun intended. Here the shot is that a boating accident leaves some friends stranded on their capsized vessel. They can either stay and hang out and maybe–maybe–get picked up, or swim several miles to safety. And of course, you and I know better than to even put ourselves into that situation since Things Live in the Ocean. Anyway, hijinks and lots of swimming eventually ensue. Again, if that sounds like your idea of a good time, you might want to give it a go. You’d have to be a serious shark completist to want to plonk down coin, methinks: you get a making-of featurette and, of course, you get a decent video and audio setup because it’s hi-def. Rent it, Netflix it or grab it from Amazon Instant Video if you want to just give it a watch. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Vanishing on 7th Street pits a small group of survivors against darkness, because if the light goes out then…well, so do you. I hate it when that happens. But yes, that’s the deal: a massive power outage plunges the city into darkness and the next morning only a few people who had access to independent light sources were able to survive. They take shelter in a bar fed by a generator but need to keep their heads about them else they’ll get eaten by…well, something. Anyone who likes to delve into odd post-apocalyptic setups (is “everybody’s missing” a subgenre?) might want to give this a watch, but I don’t know if the replay factor would warrant the same ability I have to turn around and re-watch, say, The Omega Man or 28 Days Later (which I know is more a zombie film, but hey, that opening empty London sequence, right?) The Blu-Ray from Magnet is not bare bones, so it has that going for it: primarily a director’s commentary but also alternate endings, behind the scenes featurettes, interviews, and more. There’s also a digital copy of the film. Give it a watch before you decide to plonk coin…but the DVD only saves you $5, so it might be worth the upgrade to hit the hi-def if you must have it on your shelf. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Paul McCartney: McCartney Archive Collection
Paul McCartney: McCartney II Archive Collection

Out from Hear Music and Concord are two more of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection releases, for his self-titled release and the sequel to the same. What’s great about these releases is that they are what you want in something considered a special edition. The assumption is that you, being a Sir Paul fan, probably have these on CD already and want to upgrade your library with these new versions. Well, first of all, reason #1 is they’re remastered. And reason #2 is both albums come with a second bonus disc with extra stuff. On McCartney, you get seven additional tracks: two outtakes, three live tracks, one mono version and “Maybe I’m Amazed” taken from the One Hand Clapping documentary. On McCartney II, you’ve got eight additional tracks: a previously unreleased orchestrated version of “Blue Sway,” a live track, three other previously unreleased tracks, a live track, a B-side and “Wonderful Christmastime.” All I have to go on are the two-disc editions of these titles, but considering the price of moving up to the four disc versions, I think these are your best bet. Yes, you could save money by grabbing the MP3 versions, but II doesn’t have all the tracks available digitally, so physical copies are your best bet. I think the McCartney completist will easily justify grabbing both of these and replacing their previous versions. (Click here to buy McCartney from Amazon.; Click here to buy McCartney II from Amazon.)

Conan the Adventurer: Season One DVD
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-Ray
Outcasts BBC Blu-Ray

If you think about it, two things that probably don’t go together very often are the phrases “Conan the Barbarian” and “family friendly.” But that’s what happened here with Sunbow’s animated version of Conan the Adventurer (we see what you did there) which hit Saturday morning cartoons (kids, ask your parents) in the early 90s. I frankly had never heard of this thing before getting the DVD. Instead of Conan’s family dying around him, they’re just turned to stone and capable of being restored to life. What is best in life is hanging with a Gleekian sort of bird sidekick. All thirteen episodes are here across two discs from Shout Factory. You get no bonus bits and the video and audio are serviceable: I mean…it is a cartoon from the 90s that hasn’t been cleaned up any, so not sure what we can expect out of that. You’re getting the episodes for a little over a dollar each, so the price point isn’t bad if you want to grab this…but that’s where I’m having the problem. Unless you’re a fan of the series or just a Conan completist, then not sure if owning this should be your intent. However, if you like Conan, you should watch an episode just to be able you said you did. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The latest entry from the DC Animated line is out from Warner Brothers: Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. It’s an interesting way to get a collection of stories from the history of the Green Lantern Corps told by having them told to a new recruit. Fans of the comic will enjoy this methinks, as you get the tale of Mogo, a tale of Abin Sur, an origin tale for Kilowog (voiced by Henry Rollins, naturally) and more. The set comes with DVD and digital copy as well as the Blu-Ray. Bonus bits are a profile of the Corps, a sneak peek at two other DC Animated titles. The Blu-Ray exclusive stuff is actually where the meat is: a commentary with Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio, a featurette on the history of the comic, bonus cartoons and more. Again, Lantern fanatics will want to own but the more milder fans will at least want to give it a watch. The fact that it does have the bonuses make the $17.99 price point easier to justify, which is less than $5 more than the DVD, so going hi-def would be the way of it. If you don’t know about plonking down coin yet and just want to check out the feature, rent it, grab it elsewhere or snag it via Amazon Instant Video. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So the world is screwed and we need a new place to live. Given this scenario,the Americans go into the past (Terra Nova) while the British TV answer is to travel to a new world–I’m sure there’s a thesis waiting to be plucked from that analysis. Anyway, the latter is where we are with the BBC and Outcasts, which I’ve seen described as an eight-part sci-fi drama serial–which is a kind way of saying it only lasted one season. Even the cover art doesn’t say “the complete series” on the cover as though they were trying to put across it was a miniseries from jump…a miniseries with ongoing plotlines and cliffhangers that never get resolved. Anyway, while not the best British sci-fi drama ever made, fans of genre work from across the pond will probably want to give this a watch, as long as they know going into it they won’t find out what happened next. The two disc set comes with a featurette with interviews and also a set tour. While I found the video and audio to be good, it didn’t blow me away. If you want to sample it, rent it or snag it via Amazon Instant Video. If you are going to buy it, even though the price point is close to $5 an episode, hi-def is the way to go: as I write this the DVD is actually slightly more expensive. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Big Lebowski Blu-Ray
House of Fallen DVD
Meet Monica Velour Blu-Ray

Suffice to say my opinion on The Big Lebowski wins me few friends. As much as I enjoy the work of the Brothers Coen, some of their beloved films just don’t work for me. This is one of them. It felt more they had taken leftover ideas from other films and tried to stitch them together. I found myself wanting a film about John Turturro’s character because he interested me a hell of a lot more than The Dude and Friends. I realize that many people worship this film and the beauty of films is that there’s enough out there to make everybody happy. That being said, I look forward to your emails. Because it does have such cult status with so many, Universal did the smart thing and released it to Blu-Ray with all the previous extras and some more. First up, there’s interviews, a retrospective, a featurette covering the dream sequences, a making-of, a snippet from a docu about the Lebowski Festival convention, and photos by Jeff Bridges. Exclusive to the Blu-Ray is a “What’s My Line?” complete the dialogue trivia game for one or two players. There’s also a text-based feature that will track profanities and other bits of dialogue on the screen for you. And admittedly, dealing with profanity in the film can be amusing. There’s also a feature that will identify for you the music bits playing, plus the most attractive feature, since it’s what you get instead of a commentary: a picture-in-picture branching bit which will let you dive into behind-the-scenes stuff during certain scenes. As if that wasn’t enough for people who dig this film, it comes in “limited edition” book packaging and has a digital copy. Now ordinarily, this isn’t the sort of film that would cry out for hi-def, but it’s Coen Brothers…so it’s visually different from anything else around it. So I would say if you are going to purchase, go for the hi-def now that it’s a re-viable option (was available as HD-DVD, previously). And it’s only $10 more than the previous DVD release. If you’re truly in the cult for this film, then yeah, you’re going to want this. It’ll make a nice companion to the bowling ball edition you no doubt purchased as well. And good on you for doing so. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about subgenres recently and wondered how sub- you can go. It appears to me that we’ve got some sort of “When Angels Attack” subgenre, between the Christopher Walken Prophecy and more recently Legion and others. Some angel, fallen or just pissed off, is out to do humanity (or just individual humans) harm. And we have another entry here with House of Fallen, out on DVD from Phase 4 after being completed in 2008. The shot is this: angels. The fallen variety. They’re here and they look like us. Kind of like Wings of Desire but we can actually see them and they’re very unpleasant. They torture, they terrorize, they freak people out by looking pale and scary. In the cast are Corbin Bernsen and C. Thomas Howell, the latter of which is freaking me out by having aged. Granted, if I was in The Hitcher, the experience might have aged me too, but seriously. Cover art I have seen leads me to believe there is an unrated version running around but the DVD I have here is rated R. It also comes with no bonus bits which makes the $20 price point a bit steep. If this subgenre has some appeal to you, then you can rent or grab it via Amazon Instant Video to sample it before plonking down coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

There’s very little I remember from the traumatic experience of seeing Sex and the City 2…but one thing I think I recall through the haze is that Kim Cattrall was entertaining. No surprise there…she was in Big Trouble in Little China, a personal favorite of mine. So anyone wanting to see what Cattrall can do outside of playing Samantha Jones should grab, in some form, Meet Monica Velour. The shot is this: nerd directly from high school is obsessed with a porn legend from the 70s. When he finds out that she’s making an appearance live on stage in a strip club, he drives out to see her and strikes up a friendship. The story of two people from different stages of life coming together and learning something about themselves and each other has been done before–and better–but again, Cattrall is worth checking out in the role. The release does come, on both DVD and Blu-Ray, with a director’s commentary that also includes Cattrall herself, who apparently fought to get the picture made. There are also deleted scenes. Between the DVD and Blu-Ray, I would say stick to the DVD…you do save $5 if you wish to plonk the coin and it doesn’t yell for hi-def. The bonus features are the same. If you just want to check out the feature, you can snag it via Amazon Instant Video, and I would recommend doing so to check the replay factor before you purchase. (Click here to buy the Blu-Ray from Amazon.; Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon.)

1 comment

  • Watch Hey Arnold RIGHT NOW goddamnit. That is a fricking fantastic show. Watch the movie too.