PLEASE NOTE: “As an Amazon Associate, [Need Coffee] earns from qualifying purchases." You know we make money from Amazon links,
and I know you know this, but they make us say it anyway. More info, click here.

Headsup: Pirates, Talking Animals, Young Werewolves and More…

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.

Lion King 3D Blu-Ray
Beauty and the Beast 3D Blu-Ray
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D Blu-Ray

[ad#rightpost]So a lot of people grew concerned when The Lion King was announced to be hitting cinemas in a 3D version for a limited engagement. What they didn’t have the opportunity to do is see exactly what the 3D conversion process could do to a film. At the first D23 expo, I saw a screening of bits from Beauty and the Beast, re-rendered in 3D. And it looked pretty damn amazing. So I was actually looking forward to it. My review of the 3D Lion King experience is here, but the gist is this: 3D was pretty cool, but it’s no substitute for the “real thing.” And that’s the thing: you can have your cake and Edith too in this instance, since Disney has released Lion King and Beauty to 3D Blu-Ray in massive sets that have every sort of version you might want. And because King made so much damn money on this new run, they’re launching other films in the 3D format to cinemas–including Beauty which, inexplicably, they had decided to take straight to video.

But for now, we get home cinema. And let’s start with Lion King, which looks just about as badass as you would want. The regular film looks fantastic and the 3D version does not embarrass itself. It amps up the depth when you want it and never tried to get silly with itself. It’s not a gimmick, it’s just a new and intriguing way of watching the film. And worth it. This set comes with 3D Blu-Ray, 2D Blu-Ray, DVD and digital copy. The bonus bits are impressive as well: a commentary from producer Don Hahn & the co-directors; a retrospective that charts the project from development as a film right through to its Broadway incarnation; a memoir from Hahn about the production; deleted and alternate scenes; “The Morning Report” (taking the song from the stage musical and animating it); bloopers, outtakes and a huge art gallery. Other bits that you might remember from the previous releases–other deleted scenes, making-ofs and music videos and whatnot–you can access online via the “Virtual Vault.” Is it as good as having it on an actual physical disc? No. Do they still get partial credit for including them in some form or fashion? I speak for all bonus feature junkies when I say: yes. This is a must-own for anybody who gives a damn about good Disney–remember that this was the last great cel animation hurrah for a long time. Even if it were bare bones, the audio and video alone would be worth snagging this for. And I seldom, if ever, say that. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Next we move to Beauty and the Beast, and the only thing sad about this is that I have yet to see it in its entirety on the big screen in 3D. Because dammit, it looks just as amazing as the teaser at D23 had me hoping it would. I know I constantly harp on stores to play BBC nature documentaries if they want to sell Blu-Ray and hi-def home cinema systems, but if you want something besides giraffes and whales and such, then pop in the ballroom dance sequence from this. Seriously. What you’ve got here is 3D Blu-Ray, two regular Blu-Ray discs, DVD and digital copy. On the bonus front, from what I can tell, this is a repeat from the previous Diamond 2D only release: storyboard picture-in-picture, audio commentary from Hahn and the co-directors, the largish behind-the-scenes docu, deleted scenes, a music featurette, and scads more. So that being said, if you don’t have 3D capability, then there’s no need to snag this. The non-3D, non-digital copy might do you. However, if you do have 3D capability, then this is another no-brainer. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

When it comes to the fourth Pirates movie, On Stranger Tides, I have mixed feelings about this beast. I’m talking here of the Blu-Ray 3D, Blu-Ray 2D, Digital Copy + DVD version that amounts to five discs of stuff. The film itself was just okay. Which is saying something considering how god-awful the second and third films were. The first film I hold up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark as just a fun, perennial, I-could-sit-down-and-watch-this-any-day-of-the-week lark of a movie. Just fantastic. And they’ve never been able to capture that magic in a bottle again. This is the film that Ian McShane as Blackbeard couldn’t save and Geoffrey Rush barely had a chance to do much in (he’s just not that interesting…how the hell do you make Rush uninteresting?). And Depp is Depp and he has his moments, but they’re just moments. Anyway, that’s the bad news. The good news is the 3D presentation here is pretty awesome–for a live action film. Not awesome enough to make me rethink my take on the film, but it’s not painful to rewatch either. If you enjoyed the film, then you’re going to love this release. As to to the bonus bits, there’s extras here that aren’t on the regular Blu-Ray release. You’ve got an audio commentary with the executive producer and director, an array of interviews and behind the scenes footage, a “Fountain of Youth” featurette, a spotlight on Blackbeard, a mermaid featurette, deleted and extended scenes, Disney second screen, and more. If you are a fan of the film, you’ll want to own this. The 3D version is only $6 more so the bonus features make up for that even if you don’t have 3D at home. If you’re not a fan and just want to check out the once and know the repeat factor won’t justify purchasing, go ahead and give it a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Batman Year One Blu-Ray
Young Justice Season 1, Vol. 2

The latest DC Universe animated film is based on the Frank Miller/David Mazzucchelli classic, Batman: Year One. The comic tells the story of both Bruce Wayne’s first days as Batman as well as Jim Gordon’s career with the Gotham Police. There’s been scads of different versions and angles of Batman but this was a full-on, dramatic grim and gritty origin story–and it rocked pretty damn hard. So like any other adaptation of such a series, this can easily fill one with trepidation. Especially when you hear that Kevin Conroy and Bruce Greenwood (the acknowledged best voices for Batman and Gordon) are nowhere to be found. While Ben McKenzie (who’s playing Batman) is okay, you’ve got Bryan Cranston as Gordon–and Cranston pretty much rocks all. Fans of the comic arc will probably be pleased as it does its best to adhere to the writing and artwork. There’s a Catwoman animated short, a decent array of bonus bits as well: an audio commentary, a Batman retrospective, a discussion with the DC team, and a couple of episodes from previous Batman animated series. As to the Blu-Ray vs. DVD question…the price is the same, so it makes no sense to not go hi-def if you have the capability. Fans of the comic might want to own, but I would recommend renting it or Netflixing it first to ensure that there’s sufficient replay factor to snag it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The second volume of the first season of Young Justice from Cartoon Network and Warner Brothers. In this array of four episodes, you see the team facing down the likes of Amazo, Cheshire, Klarion the Witch Boy and Black Manta as they continued to deal with being young and being would-be metahuman badasses. It’s a decent adaptation of this “type of comic” and is going to appeal to anyone who’s a fan of either Young Justice or a variation of Teen Titans. The trouble is–as you probably already caught–it’s just four episodes. And there’s no bonus bits. Which seems a bit steep for around $2.50 an episode. Especially when a more complete boxed set is due at some point in the future. Hold off unless you simply can’t. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

A Better Life Blu-Ray
Planet Earth Special Edition Blu-Ray
Rosemary and Thyme Complete Collection DVD

A Better Life is out on Blu-Ray from Summit Entertainment. The setup is this: Carlos is an illegal immigrant living in Los Angeles, trying to make a better life for himself and especially his son, Luis. However, Luis is being drawn into gang life. Carlos wants to prevent this and to improve things figures out a way to purchase his own truck for landscaping. Then the truck winds up stolen. He and Luis must try to find the truck and get it back while trying to reconnect. What I find interesting is–because this is a Big Drama, director Chris Weitz is always listed as “Director of About a Boy.” Nothing wrong with that, it’s a good movie. But funny how nobody says “Co-director of American Pie” in there as well. Not saying they necessarily should: I just get amused by the little things. Anyway, for those looking for a drama about the situation facing illegal immigrants in this country (there’s a reason why he can’t just call the cops, as you might easily guess) this would be worth picking up. The hi-def setup works well enough and it’s not without bonus bits: a director’s commentary and deleted scenes. While it’s worth exploring via Netflix or a rental, replay factor rears its head when we’re talking about a $23 purchase (as I type this). If you find it’s something you’ll revisit, then take the plunge: the extra $5 or so for the Blu-Ray vs. the DVD would be worthwhile. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Let’s be clear about something. I am a sucker for BBC nature documentaries and when you put David Attenborough’s voice on them, it’s pretty much a slam dunk for me. Those consist of the very small list of “Don’t care who you are, own the damn thing” list of Blu-Ray releases. And I’m not one of these people who when reviewing these things to feature them on the site–I am not going to dive into 1080x vs. 1081p or whatever the hell it is. Because I don’t understand any of that and I think most of us just care if it looks and sounds good, right? Well, here’s the news: what you originally bought Planet Earth for–for it to look and sound good–that’s still there. It still looks and sounds pretty damn good in my estimation. I know the back of the box promises “newly encoded to take advantage of recent innovations” but I can’t tell the bloody difference. So why would you want to snag this? A crapton of additional bonus bits. You get four new bonus programs: “Great Planet Earth Moments,” “Snow Leopard,” “Secrets of the Maya Underworld” and “Elephant Nomads of the Namib Desert.” Five episodes get a producer’s commentary, more behind-the-scenes production featurettes and more. So here would be my recommendation: re-gift your existing set to somebody on your Xmas list, then take that money you would have spent and put it towards this. Granted, if you just do not like these sort of programs (and if that’s you, what’s wrong with you?) then this will not change your mind. But if you do, then they’ve made it worth your while to double dip IMO. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

We’ve commented before about how you can build a mystery/crime drama with just about any amusing angle you want. With Rosemary & Thyme, you have two gardeners who solve crimes. So if you have a huge green thumb and a desire for a whodunit, then this is obviously the show for you. Or, as most people who just like to devour mystery-crime shows, you just like to plow through them (no pun intended). I’ve found that while such people appreciate shows that try to redefine the genre or knock it out of the park, they look upon shows that are just capable (and fun as well, if they can manage it) as being another copy of a book they can just relax with and not become too taxed by. Nothing wrong with that. And that’s what we have here with this show: they get to use awesome places around Europe as a backdrop and basically just amuse themselves and you. What we have here is the collected series with all three series–twenty-two episodes across seven discs. With Acorn Media, you sometimes get nothing in the way of bonus bits–but here at least you get a brief interview with stars Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris. There are some other text-on-screen bits as well. Fans of the genre will want to check this out–but sample it before you decide to buy. The cost per episode is around $3.25–which isn’t bad, especially if you consider what it would cost you to snag the individual boxed sets for each series. You save a ton by doing it this way. But if you already own those sets, no need to repurchase. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Faces in the Crowd Blu-Ray
Howling Reborn Blu-Ray
Red State Blu-Ray

Faces in the Crowd casts Milla Jovovich in the role of a teacher who survives an encounter with a serial killer but thanks to a blow to the head gets “face blindness,” or to put it another way, she can’t identify anyone’s face. So she’s fairly useless as a witness and can’t even tell when the guy comes after her again. A decent thriller that won’t redefine the genre, but will be worthwhile for anyone who just likes to dabble with rentables or fans of Jovovich. It’s good especially for the latter because she’s basically been Action Woman for the last long while (from what I remember seeing her in), so this is a nice change of pace. The Blu-Ray out from Millennium has good video and audio but the straight-up Blu-Ray copy that I was sent is a bit of a conundrum–it’s $8 more than the DVD/BD/digital copy edition. Which is only $4 more than the DVD/digital copy version–so you can guess which I would send you to if you wanted to buy. And that being said, I would advise you to rent/Netflix or Amazon Instant Video it if you want to sample it before buying. (Click here to buy the Blu-Ray only version from Amazon. Click here to buy the DVD/BD/Digital Copy version (recommended) from Amazon.)

The Howling Reborn hits Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay and it’s substantially more a rental than the above thriller. You’re dealing with a kid who discovers that he’s a werewolf and that significantly complicates things like his love life, and his desire for meat, and body hair. This is touted to be a “reboot” of the original (and quite excellent) 1981 Joe Dante-directed The Howling. But I forget the part where Dee Wallace is going to school apparently. Anyway, if you’re terribly cynical you might think this is just an attempt to hit the werewolf subgenre and tap into some Twilight-y sort of cash. You would not be entirely wrong. While there are certainly worse werewolf movies out there, this is watchable but not entirely commendable. The Blu-Ray itself looks and sounds fine and isn’t bare bones as one might expect: it has a commentary with the writer/director and also actress Lindsey Shaw. There’s also a making-of. If you’re a werewolf fiend or just need something to watch one weekend night perhaps with alcohol as well, then you could do a lot worse. But it doesn’t seem to me the kind of thing anyone but a completist would actually want on their shelf. It’s available on Amazon Instant Video for a one-time hit. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

There’s a difficulty in talking about a Kevin Smith film. Especially nowadays, more on that in a minute. But really, despite the fact that I like the guy, he seems like a decent sort, was friendly enough to talk to and seems like a hoot–some of his films work better for me than others. And my Smithian likes and dislikes don’t mesh with others all the time. So it’s a mixed bag. The problem with Smith these days is that he seems to be a filmmaker working out what he wants to do next. Whereas Cronenberg, as an example, seems to have transitioned from body horror films into really well executed dramas, Smith doesn’t seem to know what he’s transitioning to–he started off as well-written comedy guy and now he’s moved to stuff like Cop Out and now Red State. The film deals with three teens who get captured by a fundie religious cult and their kidnapping sets in motion events that will bring the cops and the ATF down on the cult’s compound. And there will be guns and death and other such fun things. Fans of Smith will want to watch this–but it’s definitely a transitional film. I think points are due to Smith just for trying Something Different. The Blu-Ray is out from Lionsgate and looks and sounds fantastic. It comes with a fairly extensive making-of, a series of SModcasts used as commentaries, deleted scenes, Smith’s speech from Sundance (over a half-hour by itself), and a convo with the star of the show–the most excellent Michael Parks, who plays the cult leader. I would advise people–even Smith completists–to sample the film before buying. But if you do want to take the plunge, then Blu-Ray is your best bet, if for no other reason than the DVD at this point is actually $1 more. Go figure. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Cream: Royal Albert Hall 2005 Blu-Ray
Dream Theater: Live at Budokan Blu-Ray
Father of Invention Blu-Ray

Cream returned to the Royal Albert Hall in 2005 for four shows. And by Cream, you know who I mean–kids, ask your parents: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. And even decades later, they’ve still got it. While “Sunshine of Your Love,” as an example, feels nice and laid back and bluesy…you then have “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” which feels even harder and bluesier than before. And here’s another thing I like: I always judge you by how much noise you’re making vs. how many people on stage. Trios have to be tight because you have nobody to fall back on if you get someone weak in the mix–but these guys are solid. Other tracks you want are here, including “Born Under a Bad Sign,” “Crossroads” and, of course, “White Room.” There’s nineteen live tracks here plus three alternate takes. Also as a bonus bit: interviews with the guys. The video and audio are both solid on this Blu-Ray release from Eagle Vision–and the price point is more than reasonable–you’re paying well less than a dollar per track. And what’s more: again, the DVD is more expensive. Fans, check it out if you’re wary (or–cough cough–search YouTube for samples) but feel free to plunge with no guilt. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

We’re looking at the same thing with Dream Theater and their Live at Budokan concert release, which is debuting on Blu-Ray from Eagle Vision. Except this is missing the four decades and reunion part. What I mean is that it’s a solid release for fans of the band. This was recorded during their Japanese tour in 2004 and features eighteen main tracks. Fans will expect certain tracks and a number of them are here, including “In the Name of God,” “As I Am” and “Hollow Years.” The release is fairly stacked as far as bonuses go for most live concert home video releases: a decently-sized tour docu, small segments with John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess on their instruments, a Mike Portnoy drum solo, an opening video and a multiangle version of the “Instrumedley” track. The video and audio here are both excellent, and again, fans should be fine if they want to plonk down coin for this since it’s around $1 a track and it’s cheaper than the DVD. So if you know what you’re getting, go ahead and do so. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Father of Invention is a film I hadn’t heard of…which is odd considering the cast and considering it’s Kevin Spacey, who is fantastic. He’s playing Robert Axle. He hit huge by working products via infomercials and creating must-have gadgets. Trouble is, one of them went very much awry and caused people to get maimed. Not good. This landed him in jail where he’s spent the last few years. Now finally out, he has to try to put his life back together: with no money, a daughter he’s estranged from, an empire that’s been absconded with and other such fun revelations. Spacey is always wonderful to see work and you get a number of good showings in other roles as well: Heather Graham as the daughter’s roommate and Johnny Knoxville as Spacey’s new boss are two examples. The release looks and sounds fine for hi-def, although this isn’t a film that screams for it–and it only has a brief making-of to boast of. I would recommend this as a rental for Spacey fans first and foremost, and from there they can decide if they want to purchase or not. I don’t have the DVD here to compare it to, but the DVD is $5 less and, like I said, not every film has to be hi-def. So bear that in mind when making your decision. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)