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Headsup: If They’re Not Wearing Masks, They’re Toting 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.

Friday the 13th: Ultimate Collection DVD
Green Lantern Extended Cut Blu-Ray
Jem and the Holograms: Complete Series DVD

[ad#longpost]There’s a special place in my heart for the original Friday the 13th franchise. Did it get repetitive and silly? Did it become a parody of itself? Did they really think making Jason fight a chick with telekinetic powers was a good idea? Admittedly yes to all of the above. But the point is it really didn’t matter with time: sitting through one of these and complaining that it wasn’t high cinema is a lot like going to see a Michael Bay film and wondering why physics has wandered off in search of a sandwich. And we especially appreciate the franchise here, since we’ve been basically ripping off their sequelized titles for 32 Days of Halloween for years now. Now the obvious question is: hey, these have all been released previously in deluxe editions. Is there anything new here? Well…not really, no. You get a booklet with info on each film and you get a limited edition replica of the hockey mask. However, it’s a replica and not a life-size replica. So it might be fun to hang on the wall but don’t expect to be wearing it, except maybe as a knee-guard or something. And it is limited, reportedly the set as a whole is set at 50,000 copies. But beyond that, it’s the same deluxe editions that have been released before. If you already own those, no need to double-dip IMO…although if you don’t and would want to snag the entire franchise in one fell swoop, this is the way to do it, even with the drastically reduced prices of the individual deluxe edition titles. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Green Lantern was, sadly, not a good film. Ryan Reynolds was doing his best. I even liked Mark Strong (and I’m in the minority on that, apparently). But the story was just unbelievably lame and made the mistake so many would-be franchises do…rather than saving something for the second film they want to cram as much in as possible. So what could have Warner Brothers’ film to stand up to the barrage of goodness from Marvel instead just falls completely apart. So some sympathy for the people putting together this “Extended Cut” release. First up, we’re dealing with the Blu-Ray/DVD/digital copy combo version here. As for the extended portion of things, you get roughly nine minutes of additional footage that most importantly fleshes out the “oh God, really, are we doing the daddy issues plot?” that was so annoying in the theatrical edition. One thing of note is that you get the “Maximum Movie Mode” where you get picture-in-picture commentary and branching featurettes, storyboards and other goodies. I enjoy these just because it’s the sort of thing Blu-Ray is made for and you know me to be a bonus bit junkie. There’s a featurette talking about the history of the character, a Justice League digital comic, deleted scenes and an animated preview for the new series. I realize some people enjoyed the film and good on you if you did. I think you’ll probably enjoy this disc better than most in that case and if you get as psyched about the maximum mode as I do, you might consider purchasing. However, there’s nothing on here that will change your mind if you’ve already made it up. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

My prior exposure to the 80s-tastic series Jem and the Holograms is fairly limited. I was out of the window of avid cartoon watching, much less catching a show like this, that seemed so obviously setup to appeal to girls who played with dolls just like us boys really wanted to have our G.I. Joe and Transformers dolls (sorry, action figures) try to kick the crap out of each other. So I’m coming at this long after the fact. Jerrica Benton uses the computer her late father left her to become Jem, the lead singer of the Holograms, setup to make money to support the other thing Jerrica’s father left her: a foster home for girls. All sixty-five episodes are here across eleven discs–and first things first, a fan of the show who’s been dying to get at these (the seemingly out of print first two seasons on DVD are the cost of this entire set) will want to own just to get the lot in one set. There are some bonus bits here on this Shout Factory release: featurettes with new interviews, vintage commercials featuring the toys, a video jukebox which gives you access to the musical numbers, storyboards, and more. A commentary would have been nice, even on a single episode, but no dice. If you’ve ever wondered what the big deal was, rent or Netflix the first season (re-released at the same time as this set) but if you’re a fan, then this set is good enough to warrant coin plonkage with no guilt. Adjust the height of your hairdo accordingly. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Blood Simple Blu-Ray
Dressed to Kill Blu-Ray
Straw Dogs Blu-Ray

MGM has been releasing films to Blu-Ray, and we begin here with Blood Simple, which streeted the same day as the four-film Coen Brothers Collection. Notable not only for being the first time the Brothers Coen found themselves in the director’s chair, it’s also a damn fine bit of thriller/noir action. The gist is this: Dan Hedaya thinks one of the employees at his bar is having an affair with his wife. He’s right. And the detective he hires to “take care of things” for him takes care of things all right, but in a very different direction than what was anticipated. Of course, among the other cast members are Frances McDormand and M. Emmet Walsh. It’s quality. This single-disc release is identical to the one in the Collection, coming with a commentary that’s…well, the closest thing we’re going to get to a Coen Brothers commentary. It’s probably best left at that. It also has the trailer. The only issue I have with this single disc version is if you have any desire to snag the other three films in the Collection (Miller’s Crossing, Raising Arizona and Fargo) you save coin by just going ahead and snagging the set at once–which is what I recommend fans do. If for some reason you only dig this film, then yes, it’s worth owning. The notion of additional bonus bits becoming available is a good one but probably not going to happen. (Click here to buy the single disc from Amazon. Click here to buy the Collection from Amazon.)

While we’re talking about thrillers, we go to Dressed to Kill, directed and scribed by Brian De Palma. The murder of a housewife puts a call girl, who was first on the scene after the deed, into the middle of serious danger. Some mysterious woman is stalking her, the housewife’s son is trying to help her deal with things and the housewife’s therapist seems to have issues with another of his patients. The cast includes Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson and Nancy Allen and the plot is mad and on the twisty side. The Blu-Ray here is the uncut version of the film and is thus unrated. This hi-def presentation is pretty good considering the film isn’t a spring chicken. I don’t have the previously released DVD special edition here to compare it to, but it appears these bonus bits are the same: a making-of docu with a slew of interviews; a featurette that takes you through the three versions of the film (the third being the TV version); a featurette regarding the cuts to lose the initial X rating; actor Keith Gordon reflects on the film and there’s also the trailer. So the main reason to snag it is the hi-def upgrade–and for a DePalma fan or a fan of the film itself, that might be worth doing. If you don’t already own the film, the hi-def upgrade is only about $5, so it only makes sense. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I admittedly have not seen the remake of Straw Dogs, and I’m trying to reserve judgement, but I have trouble trying to figure out just how you remake this. Not technically, I mean. It’s fairly easy to just reshoot the thing, but the film is difficult to contend with (what with, you know, its statements regarding sex and violence) as it stands…seeing it redone just seems odd. But I try to remain open minded. The shot is this: Dustin Hoffman plays a mathematician who goes back to his wife’s hometown and finds that the locals there aren’t very welcoming. At least not in the way you’d like. And it turns into an exploration of what man is capable of doing when threatened. This Blu-Ray release is bare bones but looks good enough…I just find it a bit depressing that the bonus bits that were on the long out of print Criterion Collection edition have never seen the light of day again. If you can snag that set for cheap, do so. But what you do gain with this, for a very reasonable price, is the hi-def version of the film which Criterion could not bring you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc. Season 1, Vol. 3 DVD
Scream 4 Blu-Ray
Sanctuary: The Complete Third Season Blu-Ray

Another four episodes of the latest iteration of Scooby-Doo are here on DVD. It’s Mystery Inc. and this is the third volume. Considering the first season went for twenty-six episodes we’re not even halfway through it yet. And considering they started with Volume 1 back in January, it’s going to be a while. Here we have giants, a mysterious dog, insects and more…not to mention to overall season-wide mystery they’re trying to uncover. I suppose if you’re hard up to just get the entire thing, you could buy it via Amazon Instant Video for just around $1.60 an episode. Which is frankly significant enough over the course of buying the DVDs to consider it if you want it for your kids or just for yourself. $1.60 vs. $2.50 each. For twenty-six episodes, that price difference will add up. I would advise if you want a physical product to wait for a full season, since there’s the chance of getting some bonus bits with that…and there aren’t any here. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Scream 4 shows that franchises simply don’t die, they just go into hibernation until they think it’s safe to come back out again. I appreciate the potential of this series, because the first film was a breath of fresh air for a tired slasher genre. However, they’ve never quite hit that peak again. The shot here is that time has passed (as it does) and Sidney (Neve Campbell) returns home while on a book tour and guess who else stops in? Yes, Ghostface. And hijinks ensue. If you found yourself pleased with what the franchise was doing at the end, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised here. But if you’re looking for a jolt like the first one gave us, well. Anyway, the Blu-Ray from Weinstein and Anchor Bay is not bare bones: it’s a really great hi-def outing. It has a Craven commentary with cast members, deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, and a making-of. If you are going to own, the $4 or so you have to pay extra for Blu-Ray is a no-brainer. As to owning it, it’s a replay factor thing from what I can tell. If once is plenty, then rent it or Netflix it and call it a day. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The third season of Sanctuary is here with twenty episodes across six Blu-Ray discs. When wrapping up the madness with Big Bertha, Will gets a message to Helen re: an enormous city that is so important it could form a basis for a multi-episode arc. Which it does, naturally. For those unaware, the Sanctuary is an organization that seeks out Abnormals (oddly powered critters–and Jiminy Cricket says that you are a human critter, so…) and either works to help them or help the world from getting toasted by them. Fans of the show will be pleased wit the treatment by Entertainment One here in this set: the video and audio both seem up to par. The are a number of featurettes and docus, covering FX, actress Amanda Tapping taking the directorial reins for an episode, a featurette on creator Damian Kindler, a music featurette, a behind the scenes bit for the “Normandy” episode, deleted scenes, outtakes and more. That more contains commentaries from cast and crew on seven episodes. The price is currently unavailable on Amazon, but if we go with the price from for easy math, you’re looking at around $2.50 an episode. Which if you’re a fan and this possesses sufficient replay value, it might be worth considering. There’s nothing here to give one pause and it’s probably the best version of this you’re going to see for some time. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Jackie Brown Blu-Ray
Pulp Fiction Blu-Ray

Jackie Brown was executed by Quentin Tarantino in order to help give Pam Grier’s career a shot in the arm. Yes, Robert Forster too and all due respect but yeah, Pam Grier. When Jackie (Grier) gets busted, it puts her in the middle of criminals, arms dealers, ATF agents, and other such people who you don’t want to be in the middle of. At least not in bulk. And because this is Tarantino, and because this is based on an Elmore Leonard novel, things aren’t going to be simple. I have heard people be all over the map about this film–that it was great, that it was a letdown after the film we’re about to talk about in a minute, and all the spaces on the spectrum in between. If you are the sort of person that would want to experience this in hi-def, then you’re luck, because it’s here. It’s here and it delivers the video goods, which is what we look to Blu-Ray for. Well, we also look for bonus bits because we figure if you have more room on the discs, then fill it. They do…most of these are repeats from the previous DVD release: a retrospective, interviews (with just about everybody), a bit from At the Movies and their review and more. The one new bit is the “Breaking Down Jackie Brown” roundtable, where a bunch of critics talk about the film for forty-five minutes or so. If you already own the previous DVD release, then the question is largely one of the A/V upgrade. If you don’t and do want to purchase, it doesn’t make any sense not to: the Blu-Ray’s actually cheaper than the DVD at this point. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Now we come to it: Pulp Fiction. The movie so good it was ridiculous. That’s my opinion, I urge you to go out and form the same opinion on your own. And I’m not even sure how to properly synopsize the film–saving Travola’s career by getting him on the dance floor again, Sam Jackson being so Sam Jackson it’s positively mental, the needle…you know. If you haven’t seen it, just…see it. Please. Here we’ve got excellent audio and video for the hi-def. And we’ve got new bits as well as tried and true bits from previous releases. New stuff first: a retrospective with interviews and a critics roundtable similar to (but shorter than) the one mentioned above. There’s also behind the scenes footage, a docu from the early 00s with interviews and whatnot, deleted scenes, a production design featurette, a segment from At the Movies focusing on Tarantino, footage from awards shows and Cannes, and an appearance Tarantino made on The Charlie Rose Show. Again, if you already own the previous DVD release, then the question is whether or not to double dip. I would say yes, because it just looks so damn good. But judge for yourself. If you don’t own it at all and want to, again, the Blu-Ray is only $2 more than the DVD as I type this. So it doesn’t make sense not to own it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

B-52s: With the Wild Crowd! CD
Breakfast at Tiffany's Blu-Ray

While I have been aware of The B-52s for some time–and not just because of ScottC’s tribute to Fred Schneider on most every episode of Weekend Justice that Scott appears on, I survived the 80s after all–I’ve never delved into their catalog. So listening to With the Wild Crowd!, their recent live album, recorded this past February, gave me two bits of insight. One, what I heard about these guys being a party band (not necessarily a band that creates parties but one that seems to spontaneously generate them wherever they go) appears to be quite accurate. And two, these guys have been going since 1976 and they haven’t lost it. Not, at least from what I can hear, one bit. You get over an hour of music with eighteen tracks. They give you what you want–with tracks like “Private Idaho” and “52 Girls”, along with “Love Shack,” “Planet Claire” and the inevitable “Rock Lobster” rounding things out. It’s a fun live album that sounds pretty damn good. It’s out from Eagle Records. The MP3 download is available, but the CD itself is just three dollars more. Fans should definitely own. (Click here to buy the CD from Amazon. Click here to buy the MP3 download from Amazon.)

For the 50th Anniversary of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Paramount has given it a Blu-Ray debut, restoring it for the occasion. For those unaware of what we’re dealing with here, Audrey Hepburn plays a woman looking for That Right Man (With Money). Young George Peppard (yes, Hannibal, friends) is the not-quite-successful writer who lives in the same building and gets stuck in the gravity well of Audrey’s character’s life. And it’s…Audrey Hepburn, who can blame him? Hijinks and learning and growing up and all manner of things that sound ridiculous when you type them ensue. Also along for the ride are Buddy Ebsen, Mickey Rooney (oh boy) plus an appearance by Alan “Fred Flintstone” Reed. The main thing you’re getting here is that digital restoration. And it looks pretty damn impressive to half-blind me, anyway. From what I can tell, there’s nothing new in the features world, as all of these have appeared on previous releases, although some have been converted to hi-def. There’s a commentary from producer Richard Shepherd, a retrospective bringing together people from the party sequence, a music featurette focused on Henry Mancini, a featurette covering the oh boy from earlier (hint for those who haven’t seen the film: Mickey Rooney was playing a character called “Mr. Yunioshi”), a general retrospective and more. Fans of the film, of which there are many, will want to snag this for the video and audio upgrade. For those with less dramatic an attachment, rent it first to see if it’s worth double dipping for. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Doomed to Die DVD
Master of the World DVD
Raiders of the Seven Seas DVD

The MGM Limited Edition Collection continues to crank out titles that have been sorely missing from Region 1 (legit) options. In some cases, you have films that just haven’t been available previously, like John Payne, Donna Reed and Lon Chaney Jr. in Raiders of the Seven Seas. It’s a pirate flick, which is usually all the synopsis you need. However, Payne plays Barbarossa, taking control of a ship and taking the daughter of the ruler of Tortuga as well, resulting in hijinks. Worth catching for pirate genre fans or for anyone who appreciates catching Lon Jr. in a non-horror role. For Master of the World, you get a Jules Verne tale in which Vincent Price plans to bring peace to the world through war. Where have we heard that before? This appears to have hit Region 1 before but was until now out of print, unless you count PAL versions elsewhere. Again, Price turning it up to 11 is what you show up for. Well that and flying machines. And lastly we have the most problematic of the titles in this go-round, Doomed to Die with Boris Karloff in his final film playing Mr. Wong. The issue isn’t the fact that very non-Chinese Karloff is playing Chinese Wong–not to say it doesn’t exist, but it’s pretty obvious what you’re in for when you see the cover art and hear the release date is 1940. No, the problem here is that you have options for Region 1 DVD that get very convoluted. And I haven’t seen the others so I can’t make comparisons in picture quality or whatnot, but considering this film is over seventy years old, I was happy with what we got here. Also, it makes sense to go ahead and crank out the final Karloff title since the others have already seen release through this program.

Now, these are discs designed with the fan in mind…i.e. somebody who is a completist for any of the reasons above and wants an official copy for their library. There’s no bonus bits on any of the discs but it’s unlikely a better edition is going to come along. So take that under consideration. (Click here to buy Doomed to Die from Amazon; Click here to buy Master of the World from Amazon; Click here to buy Raiders of the Seven Seas from Amazon.)

Black Zoo DVD
Phantom of Hollywood DVD
Sweet Hostage DVD

From MGM’s manufactured on demand line to Warner’s Warner Archive we go, with three titles released for the season and, from what I can tell, they’re all making their Region 1 DVD debuts. First up, Black Zoo, in which we see a very dark version of the upcoming feel-good holiday film, We Bought a Zoo. In this case, Michael Gough plays a guy who already owns a zoo. In fact, he runs a cult based out of his zoo where people worship animals. And to press the point further, he uses the animals to kill people that he deems in need of killing. Nice. It was directed by Robert Gordon (It Came From Beneath the Sea) and is recommended for anybody who wants to see Gough in horror form, long before he was Alfred. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Next, there’s the TV movie The Phantom of Hollywood where you take real-life events and you capitalize on them for filmic purposes. In this case, the MGM backlot was being torn down–so that got used to stand in for Worldwide Studios, who is selling their own backlot to land developers. This is complicated by the fact a squatter has been living on the property and doesn’t want it to be sold. Yes, as the title makes clear, we’re in for a version of the tale of Leroux’s Phantom (that, or the plot to the failed Andrew Lloyd Webber musical sequel). Notable for sporting a cast including Jack Cassidy, Jackie Coogan, Peter Lawford, Broderick Crawford and others. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Lastly, we have Sweet Hostage, a very…odd TV movie starring Martin Sheen as a disturbed escapee from a mental institution and Linda Blair as the young lady he kidnaps. You can probably guess at the odd WTF nature of the film when you look at the cover art: bound wrists holding a flower, sultry still-too-young-for-it-to-not-be creepy smile from Linda and the two warring taglines. “When he captured a girl…he unleashed a woman!” And “At first she was too frightened to feel anything but fear.” The film is a bit of a mess as well and is too TV movie to be true exploitation and vice versa. Probably worth watching for completists of either actor. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

As is more often than not, these titles have no bonus bits, but are at least available on Region 1 DVD at last. I recommend sampling them before buying, but know that there’s probably not a better version coming (at least not until the Archive starts defaulting to Blu-Ray) and even then, how much of an upgrade would those be?