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Headsup: The Dark, The Night and The Man With No Name

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.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark DVD
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night Blu-Ray
Super Hybrid Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]Well, the remake sort of fizzled a bit at the box office–I haven’t seen it in the prep for DragonCon–but if the original is more your style then you will be pleased with the release of a special edition of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark from the Warner Archive. No, that’s not a typo: a special edition from the Warner Archive. More on that in a minute. This 1973 made for TV movie has a bit of a cult following and just goes to show: sometimes things are bricked up for a reason. That’s what our heroine Sally learns when she finds a “fireplace” that’s been bricked over and is warned to leave it be. And you can guess what happens next. Well, part of it. What lives down there is probably a bit surprising. But anyway. We’ve featured a number of Warner Archive titles and they’re generally bare bones affairs that we’re just happy to have on legit Region 1 DVD releases at all. That changes here with an audio “fan” commentary from reps from Dread Central and Fangoria, as well as scribe of Final Destination Jeffrey Reddick. If you’re a fan of the original film, which many appear to be, including our own Rox, then this would be worth checking out. However, this was previously released in a non-remastered, non-commentary version a couple of years back from the Archive, and I would recommend renting this before deciding if the upgrade would be worth it. I don’t have a copy of the previous release here, so I can’t do a video comparison–but I mean, it’s a TV movie which is almost as old as I am (which is…you know, old) so you can’t expect much without a full restoration, which is probably not going to happen. The commentary alone won’t be worth double-dipping for. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

I understand that the comic book basis for Dylan Dog: Dead of Night is an Italian comic that’s been running for forever and a weekend. I say I understand it because I could have sworn I owned and read it at some point but only have the vaguest notion of a memory about the paranormal P.I. hero. So I can’t speak to how well it adheres to the storyline of the comic, though the notion of a go-between and detective caught between the world of the living and the myriad versions of the dead and whatnot sounds well enough…but lacks execution. Routh seems like a helluva nice guy but deserves better, frankly. The film completely died, he said without a trace of humor, at the box office and is best checked out when there’s nothing else in your Netflix queue. Alas, there’s not much to even talk about when it comes to owning vs. not, because Fox has given us a completely bare bones Blu-Ray release with decent enough video, but that’s all to commend it. Which simply isn’t enough. I’m not sure that even some flavor of completist would want to snag this one. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Give credit to Super Hybrid for doing one thing–and this isn’t a spoiler because it’s in the trailer–what’s better than a single type of evil car? A car that can shapeshift into other kinds of cars! It’s almost like they approached this with the same eye towards merchandising that spawned Cars 2–how do we create multiple evil car toys. But basically a car gets impounded and is in the garage with a captive audience (read: buffet) and let the games begin. Fans of SyFy level mayhem will probably enjoy renting this for a night’s MST3K and alcohol-infused enjoyment, but it’s not the sort of film that would lend itself to multiple viewings. The only bonus feature is a making-of and the video and audio are good enough but the package plus the film isn’t enough to warrant the $20 or so (as I type this) that it would require to place this on your shelf. But again, fans of schlock will want to rent or Netflix it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

A Fistful of Dollars Blu-Ray
For a Few Dollars More Blu-Ray

MGM continues to roll out titles to Blu-Ray, taking the first two films in the “Man With No Name” trilogy to single releases where previously it appears they were only available as part of a trilogy boxed set. These are the films that gave us the spaghetti western and gave us Eastwood as we know him. So even if you don’t dig westerns (and if you don’t, then what’s wrong with you), you can at least appreciate the importance of these films. In the first film, A Fistful of Dollars, Eastwood’s nameless stranger sees an opportunity to pit two families against each other and make a bit of coin. In the second, For a Few Dollars More, Eastwood is back and Lee Van Cleef is in the mix as well, as they are both after the same bounty. The good news is that both of these releases look and sound well enough and come stacked with features. Both have a commentary with a film historian, Christopher Frayling, who also provides access to his archive of material for both films. He’s on tap with a featurette about how the first film stacks up with its source material, Yojimbo and a retrospective by Eastwood for both films. Also, others are on tap to give a retrospective, plus coverage of the TV censorship of the first film and information on how the American release of the second film was altered slightly. Those are the major items. The bad news is–and it’s not really bad news, I guess–but these are identical to the releases on the previously mentioned boxed set. And I’m not sure why you would want the first two films and not The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as well. You don’t really save any money by buying them piecemeal. If you already own the Blu-Ray set, then you’re good to go. If not, though, I’d advise you to go snag it instead. (Click here to buy Fistful from Amazon.; Click here to buy Few Dollars More from Amazon.)

Prime Suspect: Series 1 DVD
Prime Suspect: Series 2 DVD

With the American remake set to start next month, Acorn Media is following up on their release of the entire collection of the UK Prime Suspect by rolling them out in individual series collections. It’s Dame Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennison, trying to be a good cop in a situation where she’s a rare participant in a male-dominated occupation. From what I’ve been able to gather, the progression of the series on home video goes like this: Anchor Bay had it, then HBO had it, then Acorn Media picked it up before the final series was released and then turned around and did the entire collection thing. Now a few things we need to run through: if you like Mirren or cop shows, then you want to watch this in some form or fashion. You just do. However, I understand that it got a bit chopped on PBS and renting it through something like Amazon Instant Video is $5 an episode. So if you just want to check it out, then Netflix it. However, if you want to own it, the Acorn Media releases appear to be your best bet. I have not seen the HBO releases, which you can still find on Amazon for a reasonable price, but I have found a few instances of people complaining about aspect ratio and picture quality and such. So caveat emptor and all that–I don’t have it here I can pop in and compare for myself. However, if you want to own the entire series, then the complete collection is the way to go–you save a bundle of coin. But if you for whatever reason just want the first two, then this is a nice way of getting them both and being done with it. Just make sure the replay factor warrants you doing that, as they’re not cheap. (Click here to buy Series 1 from Amazon.; Click here to buy Series 2 from Amazon.)

Born to Ride DVD
Bretts Complete Collection DVD
Wish Me Luck Series 3 DVD

Born to Ride is out on DVD from Image Entertainment, and I feel before we dive in I should say two things. One, this is blatantly an attempt to take something involving bikers and draw in people who dig the popular Sons of Anarchy. Exhibit A: the tagline is “Anarchy is their middle name.” Two, it stars Casper Van Dien, who catches a lot of crap for his choices of projects and his own acting chops…but I must say while I was going around and actively interviewing people, he was the nicest actor I ever got a chance to sit down with. So I will, to a certain extent, defend the guy. The setup is pretty basic: Van Dien and a buddy find themselves on the wrong end of some material that could get bad guys in trouble and them, the erstwhile good guys, dead. Hijinks and chases ensue. As the film isn’t really a complete biker movie, I’m not sure it would appeal to those folks. I would think it’s best suited for Netflixing when you’ve run out of stuff in your queue. Cannot recommend purchasing as there’s nothing in the way of bonus bits here. Sorry, Casper. (Click here to buy it from Amazon. If you must.)

The Bretts is a British drama about a theatrical family with some problems. The problems are the matriarch and patriarch, veterans of the stage, are past their expry date and watching their normal jurisdiction be eaten away by a new medium: films. It’s the 1920s, you see. Their kids go different directions with their lives, including among them a playwright, a stage actress and a screen actor. You’ve got some of the class comparison of Upstairs Downstairs (this was co-created by a writer from that show) as well as the comedy/drama of being alive and trying to cope in changing times. Plus you get a lot of content regarding the theatre. That’s going to be the brunt of my recommendation. People who are involved in theatre and enjoy movies and TV about the same (Midwinter’s Tale and Slings and Arrows immediately spring to mind) will probably want to check this out. You can Netflix it to sample–and if you do want to plonk down the coin, then this Acorn Media set is one of the most reasonably priced they’ve had in some time. For nineteen episodes across six discs, it’s just around $2 an episode currently on Amazon. But do sample before you take the plunge and investigate its replay factor for yourself. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The third and final series of Wish Me Luck hits DVD from Acorn Media with eight episodes across two discs. The show concerns British women who work undercover as part of the resistance against the Nazis in World War II. And in this final set of shows, as word of Allied advances reaches our heroes in occupied France, the Nazis turn into even bigger bastards than before (which didn’t seem possible) and there’s going to be a great deal of mayhem before everything gets resolved. For people who enjoy WWII drama, this is definitely something to check out, although I would advise trying it via Netflix or elsewhere before buying. It’s true that, again, the price point isn’t terrible–around $2.50 an episode for the DVD from Amazon as I type this–but with no bonus features at all, it’s hard to justify owning unless it completely and thoroughly cranks your tractor. So check it before you plonk coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Born to Raise Hell Blu-Ray
Daydream Nation Blu-Ray
Passion Play Blu-Ray

You can almost create a direct-to-video Steven Seagal movie using some form of Mad Libs. The only things that seem to change are the locale and the baddie and/or type of baddie. And perhaps Seagal’s type of good guy. Well…and Seagal is about to be sixty, FSM bless him. Here he’s a good guy going after a drug trafficker as well as seeking vengeance on a super bad guy (think drugs + rape + murder as super-sized badness, I guess). I’m not sure who Born to Raise Hell is supposed to be on the shelf of. Perhaps there are Seagal completists out there who want the entire library and if so, more power to them. But in my mind, these throwaway action flicks are maybe good for a chortle-filled watch and that’s it. I can’t imagine any replay factor on these latter Seagal films. And while the audio and video on this hi-def release from Paramount are decent…being throwaway means this film isn’t exactly screaming for the treatment. That being said, the Blu-Ray is only $1 more than the DVD at present…so if you had to purchase, you could go that route with little guilt. However, there’s zilcho in the way of bonus features, so again, you’d be hard pressed to find a better deal than Netflix. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

You might have been looking for a high school teen film that involves a girl from the city who’s been moved to a small town only to seek out love (mayhap from a teacher) while a serial killer is on the loose. Or you just might want to see something else Kat Dennings has been in besides Thor. Either way, Daydream Nation is here from Anchor Bay on Blu-Ray and DVD. The film is trying very hard to be indie and might be worth a watch if quirk-fest is a subgenre you enjoy. The Blu-Ray presentation here is okay, but it’s not a film that, to me anyway, screams hi-def. This coupled with the fact that the DVD is about $15 less than the hi-def variation (and there’s only a terribly brief behind the scenes bit anyway), if you must purchase then go for the DVD route. However, Netflix it or Amazon Instant Video it first to check for replay factor. If you want to view it, once may be plenty. (Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon.; Click here to buy the Blu-Ray from Amazon.)

Just like the above setup, but going in the opposite direction for another Blu-Ray release, this time from Image, it’s Passion Play. This puts Mickey Rourke, Bill Murray and Megan Fox into the same film as Kelly Lynch and Rhys Ifans. Now, there’s nothing so odd about that cast…it’s actually a pretty enticing line-up talent-wise. Well, maybe not for Fox. But Rourke as a down-on-his-luck jazzman who is on the run from a heavy (Murray) and falling for a winged woman (Fox) from a carnival? Again, it sounds like might be weird enough to work. Alas, those dreams will be dashed to bits in a barrage of weirdness that might work from somebody like David Lynch…but not so much here. While the presentation is good on Blu-Ray, the lack of bonus bits and the lack of appeal to anyone but a completist for any of the actors listed narrow the playing field for this one. Definitely Netflix it if you’re curious. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Be Cool Blu-Ray
Blue Valentine Blu-Ray
N-Secure Blu-Ray

Travolta has had the most interesting of careers when it comes to charting his ups and downs. We’ve discussed it at length so I shan’t rehash the whole thing…but just when you think he might be onto something, the material just lets him down. Thus we have Be Cool, the sequel to the quite well received Get Shorty. Whereas the first film dealt with Travolta’s Chili (that’s a character name, not a menu item) breaking into the movie industry, here he’s facing down the music industry. The sequel did not fare as well as its predecessor, despite the impressive cast. It’s hit Blu-Ray from MGM and while the hi-def video and audio upgrade might be nice, this isn’t a film that screams for it. It doesn’t scream for anything new in the way of bonus bits, either, since this is all stuff you’ve seen before: a making-of docu, deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes regarding the dance sequence and some of the cast and more. Now, on one hand, the Blu-Ray’s only $15 as I type this…but the DVD is only $4 for crying out loud. So if you already own, unless you really love the film, no need to double dip. But even if you just want to sample and haven’t seen it, hell, buy the DVD…it’s only $1 more than getting it via Amazon Instant Video. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Blue Valentine was the feel bad romance of last year, cutting back and forth between the beginning and end of the marriage of characters portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, each pretty much acting their asses off. If you ever found yourself getting angry at feel good rom-coms that seem to wrap everything up at the end with a lovely little sparkly bow, then this is the film for you. Thanks to the direction and acting, it feels terribly, Terribly Real. The Blu-Ray out from Anchor Bay looks pretty good from where I’m sitting: video and audio are nice, plus we get bonus bits. An audio commentary from the director and co-editor, a making-of, deleted scenes and a “home movie.” Now, to the purchase question, as we must always move. First up, the depressing nature of the film means it might not warrant multiple viewings–it might be like I am with Requiem For a Dream. I own a copy out of respect for the film; don’t know if I can pop it in again sometime when I just need something to liven up the day, if you know what I mean. So I would say definitely watch before buying. If you do decide to plonk the coin, the Blu-Ray is honestly your best bet–sure, it’s not a film that screams hi-def but it is only about $3 more than the DVD as I type this. So that’s something. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

N-Secure, which sounds like it would be some sort of technological thriller…or something, is instead a thriller about an overly possessive and controlling man and the people around him, who he increasingly seeks to mess with to his own ends. Those ends get a bit more steep as his betrothal to one woman comes to an end due to infidelity…so the next woman in line gets even more stringent and manic demands placed upon her. Alas, the Sleeping With the Enemy vibe has been done before and better, which gives this an extremely limited appeal. I always try to recommend everything to somebody…but is there a completist fan of the Bad Significant Other subgenre? I don’t know. Regardless, let’s assume you did want to check this out–even though the Blu-Ray from Fox looks and sounds good, the only bonus bit is a television show appearance on Steve Harvey with members of the cast. Netflix it or grab it via Amazon Instant Video if you must. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Best of The Littles
The Littles: The Complete Series

1983 through 1985, I went through Saturday mornings in a bit of a fugue state, it seems. I recall The Littles–I recall the opening credits. I recall the theme song which gets lodged in your head to the point where you have to use the ultimate earworm crowbar (“The Girl From Ipanema”) to get it out. But I cannot testify to the fact I ever watched a single episode. Looking over the Saturday morning schedule about that time, I have no idea what I could have been flipping to or from, but I swear I never actually watched this show. I just…sort of watched around it. No idea. Anyway, the shot is this: The Littles live in the house of the Bigg family, and the son of the Biggs, Henry, knows little people live in the walls. However, it’s his secret. And adventures and hijinks thus ensue. Mill Creek, who throws you things for a helluva price, does so again with two releases of the series. The Best Of contains ten episodes of the show and The Complete Collection is exactly what it says: all twenty-nine episodes plus two feature films collected across three discs. It appears a similar collection was sold a few years ago and is still available, but I don’t have it here and can’t make any comparisons. What I can say is that the complete collection here is about a third of the price of the previous release. We’re talking less than $6 for the entire series here. Are there bonus bits? Not beyond the feature films, no. Is the thing lovingly restored and Criterion-ready? No…but it’s an entire Saturday morning cartoon from the early 80s for six damn bucks. So whattaya want? And here’s the thing: yes, the best of might be a great way to sample it to see if your kids dig it…but it’s only a dollar more to snag the entire series. So if you were going to plonk down coin, why wouldn’t you just grab the whole thing? (Click here to buy the Complete Collection from Amazon; Click here to buy the Best Of from Amazon.)

Beyblade: Metal Fusion, Vol. 4 DVD
Hoodwinked Too Blu-Ray

There’s a lot of things you have to hand to the Japanese. One of them is that they never seem to run out of novel things that can be turned into media franchises. Take Beyblade, for instance (one of Din’s favorite anime series). It’s an action/battle series based around the idea of using tops to fight. Tops, as in the spinning kind. It’s apparently done well enough to spawn multiple TV series, video games and of course, the original manga. What we have here is from the series that kicked off with a new array of characters, Metal Fusion. Vivendi has put out the fourth volume of the anime with seven episodes, all from the first season. Alas, there’s nothing in the way of bonus bits. As to purchasing, if your kids are into the show, then you’re doomed regardless. And if they are into it, best to buy than have to re-rent from Amazon Instant Video or elsewhere. But I would advise beginning from the beginning of the show if not this iteration of the show and not leaping in with this. Then check for replay factor and go from there. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Hoodwinked Too!: Hood vs. Evil reunites the team from the first film and pits them against the Witch, who has kidnapped Hansel and Gretel. Hayden Panettiere takes over for Anne Hathaway as Red and the rest of the vocal cast is pretty cool. The story idea is a good one too and is in little danger of being mined to death. However, the thing that kills me about this film is the animation. Seeing as many films as I do in the cinema, I get exposed to a goodly number of trailers. Most of them are ones I don’t necessarily want to see multiple times. Every time I saw the weird bulbous and swollen yet somehow blocky character design of this film hit the screen–I winced. I realize CG animation probably isn’t cheap/easy to do, but really…any other problems the film has I can’t even get to because of the visuals. This Blu-Ray release from Anchor Bay has decent audio and video but nothing to really crank one’s tractor…that might be back to the bland visuals which I just can’t get around. You also get a voice featurette, storyboard sequences and production artwork. If you’re just curious, you can check it out via Amazon Instant Video, but if you do need to buy it–again, maybe because of kids–I would say save the $4 and grab the DVD instead. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

American: Bill Hicks Story Blu-Ray
Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery: Graphic Classics, Vol. 21

Bill Hicks is one of those comedians who you know even if you don’t know you know them. He influenced scads of comedians who came after him. It’s his voice sampled on Tool’s Aenima. And he’s what I think of as what Robert Anton Wilson would have become if he was younger, angrier and went into stand-up. What this BBC Home Video Blu-Ray release of American: The Bill Hicks Story does is give you a documentary to kick your ass. You get the story of Bill’s life and comedy told via interviews, his own performances and also animation. The documentary itself is worth checking out, but this two-disc set is formidable. You get a half hour of bonus Bill footage plus three hours of extended interviews. There’s audio journals from Bill as well as deleted and alternate scenes. There’s also a plethora of featurettes going on, most of them having to do with the rollout of this film and Bill’s family. If you are a Bill Hicks fan, and if you’re a fan of comedy I don’t know how you couldn’t be, then you must watch this. Your level of fandom will inform your purchase decision. Me, I would have this on the shelf but some people are fine probably going through it once. The Blu-Ray is actually cheaper than the DVD (so that’s that decision covered) but if you do want to just check out the docu itself, you can snag it via Amazon Instant Video (it’s free for prime members). (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The latest volume of Graphic Classics covers Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery, and I actually dig the hell out of this. Comic adaptations of Poe stories and poetry, covering everything from “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” to “Masque of the Red Death.” The adaptations are all pretty solid and they’re going as much as possible from the original text, although some decisions I find a bit odd. Making the protagonist of “The Tell-Tale Heart” into a shotgun-toting mohawked punk girl is a bit weird (did she have to a mohawk? maybe that was it) for example. But the artwork ranges from the okay to the excellent. I’m particularly pleased with “Berenice,” which isn’t my favorite of Poe stories but the art helps me with that. “Rue Morgue” is also excellent. I would recommend this for Poe fans and especially for youngsters you want to get involved with Poe and you need something more than straight text to do so. Straight text is preferable, of course, but this will help as needed. You can snag that from the Graphic Classics website.

Camille 2000 Extended Version Blu-Ray
Lickerish Quartet Blu-Ray

There’s porn and then there’s erotica. And then there’s “vintage erotica.” And you don’t even have to check out something like early 20th century risque pics to find it…the 60s and 70s had plenty of interesting bits of “vintage erotica.” Especially if you want to tack the word “art” onto there. And I don’t mean to imply that films with lots of sex or sexuality can’t be art…but there’s art and there’s Art, if you know what I mean. When the director–in this case, Radley Metzger–wants to say something, make you think, as well as turn you on. What we have here are two Blu-Ray releases from Cult Epics, the company that is well suited to bring you this sort of cinema. We have Camille 2000 and The Lickerish Quartet. With the former, you get a tale of a woman addicted to sex and money who gets involved with a new man–as opposed to the man she was already in with. New man wants her and her to want him alone…but things are never that simple. Quartet is about a family: mother, father, adult son, who invite a stranger over to their castle to just sort of, you know, hang out. Of course, she looks just like the actress in a stag film they all watched together (because that’s a family thing to do, right?) and things just start to get strange from there. While the films are frequently erotic and sexy, if you’re looking for just something to…ahm…achieve Shangri-La with, then you’re probably going to be disappointed. Metzger wants to engage your brain as your other…organs. Especially with Quartet where reality starts to fall apart and fantasy starts to stalk the characters. Both releases are restored and look fantastic–and believe me, if you are into this sort of film, you want them to look fantastic. I’m not even talking about for the flesh, I’m talking about for the fascinating cinematography. I know, that’s like when I swear up and down I read Playboy for the articles, but you’ll just have to trust me. Camille is also restored with twelve additional minutes of footage. Both films also have a commentary from historian Michael Bowen and Metzger himself. Also on Camille, you get a restoration featurette, alternate and cut scenes, a making-of and more. With Quartet, you have a making-of, “cool” versions of love scenes that were toned down for wider release (the film is already pretty tame by today’s standards, so…), and a sound and dubbing featurette. Again, if you enjoy vintage arthouse erotica, then these films are probably must-watches if not must-owns. Cult Epics has done an excellent job of making them easy to plonk down coin for. (Click here to buy Camille from Amazon.; Click here to buy Lickerish from Amazon.)