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Headsup: Where Do They Get Those Wonderful Toys?

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.

Toy Story 3D Blu-Ray
Toy Story 2 3D Blu-Ray
Toy Story 3 3D Blu-Ray

[ad#rightpost]We’ve always talked about the fact that limitations lead you to creativity. Take the case of Pixar, looking to do their first full-length animated feature and knowing full well that they couldn’t pull off humans well enough to make them the stars. Why not go with toys, like in their short “Tin Toy”? Toys are plastic. Toys don’t have to be life-like. There’s no Uncanny Valley for toys. And history is made. They made the first film, then they did the unthinkable and made a sequel that’s even better (IMO) than the first. Then they did the even more unthinkable and produced a third film that is just amazing. Utterly and ridiculously good, with more to say about growing up and growing older and What That Means than 99% of all “serious” films out there. But before the film came out, Disney/Pixar announced they were 3D-izing the first two. I got to see them at the first D23 Expo before they hit cinemas, and while it’s obvious that they weren’t built from the ground up to be 3D (and they lack the giant vistas of, say, Lion King, which wasn’t either), they looked great. If anything the 3D did call to mind the fact that some of the character designs (like the dog) are a big clunky. But nobody gives a damn–the films are still so good.

So the new 3D Blu-Rays…should you care? Well, you’re talking to somebody who has held on their Ultimate Toy Box Set because he couldn’t eek every single bonus bit out of the later editions. But first, let’s attack all three from a video and audio perspective. Because as you know, with me, this is short and sweet. They’re fantastic. If anything, as you get more towards the third film and the technology (and everything else) improves, everything else looks and sounds better as a result. No surprise there. No surprise also that your 3D effect, while good in the first two films, is best in the third film which makes full use of depth because the damn thing was built to be 3D. Please note that if all you want are the Blu-Ray 3D versions, Disney has that–although price-wise, you’d be better off buying the three individual films, nabbing the 3D discs out of them and handing the non-3D rest to somebody with kids.

Let’s sprint through the highlights of the bonus features–I’ll tell you why in a second. Commentaries on all three films–audio for all three plus a picture-in-picture commentary on #3. Pixar commentaries are awesome things. Do not pass them up. The making-of featurettes on Pixar are also worthwhile since you get to see what the film started out as and where it ended up. It’s never an easy process. There’s also design featurettes, galleries, deleted scenes, the outtakes reels, and of course the Pixar shorts.

Why a sprint? Because here’s the thing: these are just the previously released Blu-Rays of the three films plus the Blu-Ray 3D. Nothing wrong with that. But I’m just saying: there’s nothing bonus here beyond what was previously released. If you have the 3D capability, your best bet is buy these sets and do like I said, strip out the 3D BD discs and give the rest to somebody you know. Maybe work it out for Christmas or something. If you don’t have 3D and have no intention of getting 3D anytime soon, then either keep the ones you have or buy the standard 2D BD releases used. A lot of people are going to be unloading them to get these. But if you do have 3D…get them. These are must-owns and exactly the sort of thing you want to show off your top-end home theatre rig with. Trust me. (Click here to buy Toy Story 3D from Amazon; Click here to buy Toy Story 2 3D from Amazon; Click here to buy Toy Story 3 3D from Amazon.)

Essential Daffy Duck DVD
Cars 2 3D Blu-Ray

There’s another Essential Collection out, this time for Daffy Duck. Normally I’m not fan of “essential” releases, because usually I want the Whole Damn Thing Releases. Which is why I enjoyed the Looney Tunes Golden Collections (but wished they would just release a freaking in-chronological order version–they’re not even doing that with the upcoming Blu-Ray Platinum releases, dammit) in at least they seemed to be covering everything. However, you can say that, yes, there are twenty shorts on here which have seen release before. But the first one has not, and that’s a bit mind-boggling: “Porky’s Duck Hunt,” which is the character’s first freaking appearance. Among the shorts and such are bits that originally appeared on Space Jam, Duck Dodgers and others. So having all of those in one place is nice. Also, apparently making their DVD debuts, are Daffy’s Easter Special and “Thanks-for-Giving” Special. So it’s a mixed bag, really…you get some things you haven’t had before and some things just in a convenient package…and the price point puts it at $1 a toon. If you’re a Daffy completist, then this is handy. If you think it’s nice to have just place it on your wish list for later (Note how last year’s Essential Bugs is currently at $10? Yeah.) (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

And now we come to it: Cars 2, the first Pixar movie to break my heart…in a bad way. My review of the film was difficult–it’s truly the first film where I just didn’t want to get in the car afterwards. Better that than have to say critical things about my favorite studio in the world. And this from a guy who will defend the first film against all comers. But let’s try to stay on the positive side here: when I was a little kid, I played with Hot Wheels cars like crazy. If I had seen this film, I probably would have dug the hell out of it. So it’s in that vein I would say: if you know one of those kids, then there’s a reason to own this. Granted, some people liked the film just fine–and there is another bonus to owning it: the 3D. It is one of the few worth-it 3D theatrical releases of the year and the Blu-Ray follows suit. It looks and sounds stupidly amazing. Which, again, if you just need discs to show off your high-end rig, this might be worth a consideration. We’ve got the five-disc 3D combo pack here…and the thing to bear in mind, if you’re bitching about multiple discs, is this: the BD 3D has no bonus bits usually (with this release, you get a short), but that’s to leave room on the disc for all the 3Dness. Your bonus stuff comes on the two accompanying BD 2D discs. There’s also a DVD and a digital copy disc. Bonus bits include an audio commentary from the directors, a Mater short and the genius “Hawaiian Vacation” Toy Story short. The majority of features come in the form of an interactive globe: you go to the location, like London or Tokyo, and you get deleted and extended scenes for that locale. Or featurettes, art, or set explorations. There’s also a sneak peek at the upcoming “Cars Land” park attraction…I saw some models of this at D23. It looks like it’s going to be cool as hell. Now, should you own it? Well, I look at this way: if you’re going to own the film, you might as well plonk down the extra $5 and get the full five-disc combo vs. the two-disc BD/DVD. The combo at its current price point is just $6 a disc. And that’s hard to beat. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

In Treatment: Season 3 DVD
League Season 2 Blu-Ray
Placebo: We Come in Pieces Blu-Ray

The third season of In Treatment hits DVD from HBO with twenty-eight episodes across four discs. Gabriel Byrne is Dr. Paul Weston, a psychotherapist who hears from different patients on different days of the week and those patients stick with him through the season. However, this series is different in that it airs every night (although with this season they’ve cut back to four nights a week) for a number of weeks and tells its stories in that format. A must-watch for any fan of Byrne and indeed, a spotlight for the immediate supporting cast, Wire favorite Amy Ryan, Debra Winger, Irrfan Khan and Dane DeHaan. The show focuses on the sessions, with some time spent on Weston’s own therapy (with Ryan’s character), his health concerns and his own broken life. The only trouble with this release is that it has nothing in the way of bonus bits. Which sort of ultimately puts it in the rental/Netflix category for everyone, even the fan. You would have to have heavy replay factor to consider purchasing, despite its reasonable less-than-$1.50-per-episode price point. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.

Sports and shows about sports–or even shows peripherally about sports one step removed, like The League–generally escape me. It’s a fantastic show or movie on the subject that manages to capture my attention. I’m just not a sports guy. I can at least appreciate that some people like to watch games and get involved in it, to a sometimes insane extent. However, the concept of doing something one step removed like fantasy football is a bit weird. But a show that was only about that would probably escape most everybody. This show is about the pastime of fantasy football, but it’s mostly about a bunch of guys acting like asses to each other–which is what, for the most part, guys do. FX’s series returns for its second season on Blu-Ray with thirteen episodes across two discs. As to the show itself, if any of the above sounds potentially appealing, it’s worth checking out an episode to see if it’s your thing. The bonus bits included are sparse but mostly effective: deleted scenes, a commercial from the character Taco, Taco’s songs, alternate takes, a gag reel and a Bob Ross parody bit. Now here’s the thing: few shows have a replay factor, at least in my mind. And fewer need the hi-def treatment. That all being said, if you’ve sampled and want this on your shelf, the $5 extra you’ll pay for the Blu-Ray is a no-brainer. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Placebo was one of those bands that I somehow missed–but I have people like Tuffley around me who can catch me up to speed. I leapt onto the music with a vengeance, as their songs about betrayal, despair and, well, dealing with betrayal and despair appeal to me greatly. So I was pleased to hear of Eagle Rock’s Blu-Ray live release, We Come in Pieces. Shot in Brixton in 2010, it’s a frenetic, mad concert film that features new songs from their latest, Battle for the Sun, but enough of the classic stuff not to alienate folks. Yes, “Teenage Angst,” “Bitter End,” and “Every You Every Me” are here, as well as a serviceable Nirvana cover of “All Apologies.” Yes, I would have liked some other older tunes like “Centrefolds” and I’m not sure how you can not do “Without You I’m Nothing,” but c’est la guerre. In addition to the twenty main tracks, there are six bonus tracks from other stops on the tour. You also get the hour-long tour docu, “Coming Up For Air,” and the short film “Trigger Happy Hands.” My main problem is that the video is very distracting from the band–the editing never stops. One second we’re out in the audience, the next what’s on the screen behind the band appears to be in front of the band, next somebody’s on screen out of focus, and so forth. I understand you don’t want to just set up a single camera and shoot proscenium, but Jesus, give it a rest, would you? Fly some cameras over the audience, put a couple of cameras on stage–you’re done. That’s a show worth watching. When I can’t see the band–well, that’s my problem with going to live shows, anyway, right? And what live Blu-Rays and DVDs are supposed to fix, right? Anyway, big fans of the fan might want to own, but I say sample it first. It’s a shame there’s not a simple music CD version of the show, because that would be worth owning outright. And the Blu-Ray is only $4 more than the DVD, so if you are going to buy, go for the hi-def. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 6 Blu-Ray
Lie to Me: The Third and Final Season DVD
New Tricks: Season 5 DVD

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is FX’s mental non-family dysfunctional family comedy about the guys who run a pub in, yes, Philadelphia. And besides that, get up to a ridiculous amount of shenanigans, including buying a shrimp boat, getting married and trying to figure out who got Dee pregnant. All twelve episodes are here across two discs and fans of the show should not be disappointed at the maintained level of insanity, which includes a fan film of “Lethal Weapon 5” (contained in its extended form as a bonus bit). Now, the show looks and sounds pretty good, but remember what I said above about TV shows and Blu-Ray. Maybe it’s because when I started watching TV as a kid (back in 1844, on a Wednesday) there was no widescreen and all the TVs looked like shit. So to people with a more refined visual palate, maybe they need that. That being said, as is increasing the case, the Blu-Ray is only $4 more than the DVD, and the price per episode is still a decent $2.25 or so each. Other bonus bits include commentary tracks on four episodes, a drunken trivia game, deleted scenes, character podcasts, blooper reel, and the pilot episode of other FX show, Wilfred. Replay factor is in full effect here–if this is the sort of thing you’d like on your shelf, it’s reasonably priced and has a decent array of bonus bits. But if you’re uncertain, sample it or catch a repeat before plonking the coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Lie to Me is one of those shows that could have been simply guilty pleasure. In my world, there’s basically three types of TV show. There’s the full-on can’t miss column, where we put stuff like The Wire and the first season of Deadwood. Then there’s the guilty pleasure shows. This can be anything from Leverage to Law & Order. Shows you watch just to be entertained and not to have your socks blown off. The third column is pretty much everything else. Lie to Me was nearly in the first column for one reason: Tim Roth. Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the supporting cast and I appreciated what they were trying to do with them–but Roth sold this show for me. I found him completely believable in the part of Dr. Lightman and was sad to hear that this was the final run. Fox has thirteen episodes here across four discs and the series ends unresolved, sadly. But fans of the show are going to want to watch the episodes regardless, in order to get their last taste. The only bonus bits are deleted scenes and a short “in character” featurette with Roth, which I could’ve sworn I’ve seen before elsewhere. Anyway, the price point isn’t terrible, at around $2.50 an episode, if you want this on your shelf. But make sure you do–with more bonus bits I might be more inclined to say buy, but only a true fan will want to plonk down coin for something this thin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Acorn Media continues to release sets of New Tricks, which is good because the thing continues to roll out, with seasons planned through 2013 at least. For those unfamiliar, the setup is fairly simple: when a case gets given up on by the police, Sandra Pullman is on hand with her three colleagues, all retired cops, who go after it and try to get it solved. Episodes include a real viricide on stage, a magic act gone wrong and going up against the Ministry of Defence on a case involving a soldier. Guest stars this season include Julie Cox, James Fox and Claire Bloom. The show is primarily for people who, like we’ve talked about many times, love crime shows. And it’s not for every crime aficionado either: our own resident guru in the genre doesn’t exactly care for it. But to each their own. And you do get a bonus bit: a brief behind-the-scenes featurette. The episodes are priced at just over $3.50, so it’s something you want to make sure you’re a fan of and you have significant replay factor for. Before you buy, sample it via rental, Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Crazy Stupid Love Blu-Ray
Little Help Blu-Ray
Top Banana DVD

Another entry in the Ryan Gosling Will Be In Every Movie This Year If It Kills Him marathon, it’s Crazy Stupid Love out on Blu-Ray in a combo with DVD and digital copy. It’s from Warner Brothers. The shot is simple enough to setup: Steve Carell plays a guy who is told by his wife (Julianne Moore) that she wants a divorce and has been having an affair. In the wake of this personal disaster, Carell’s character is befriended by the aforementioned he-god Gosling, who, ladykiller that he is, wants to help Carell get through it. In the meantime, Gosling’s character has his own situation to contend with (Emma Stone). The sort of romantic comedy for people who achieve nosebleeds at the thought of the abbreviated “rom-com”–it’s also a good role for the needs-a-good-role post-Office Carell. Even fans of the film, though, who think it has replay value should consider, though: it is $24.99. It only has deleted scenes and a couple of brief featurette-ettes (the ones too fluffy to be real featurettes). Hard to say if there will be a better version later…just consider how much you want it before plonking coin. We’re in personal choice land, like usual. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Speaking of Office alums, Jenna Fischer plays against type in A Little Help. She’s a drunk who finds her life suddenly changed when her husband dies, leaving her a widowed mom with a son to raise who’s got issues because, well, his mom’s a drunk and family life hasn’t been great. The son, in fact, builds a lie around his father’s death in order to give himself a new backstory at a new school. And things progress from there. Since I had never heard of the film before it showed up here, I thought it was a comedy. Look at the cover art. Comedy. Tagline. Comedy. Even the copy on the back of the Blu-Ray. Comedy. But it’s not. And it seems a bit shitty that when Fischer is trying to do something that proves she can do more than be in The Office, they try to tag it as a comedy in order to sell more. I understand why…just saying it’s a bit shitty. The video and audio look well enough, but just like they’re interested in selling you something, I’m interested in saving you money. It doesn’t really need to be on hi-def (few indie dramas do), so considering you only get some brief interviews as the only real bonus, consider going for the DVD if you must own this. But view it before making a decision–once might be enough for most. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The MGM Limited Edition Collection continues to roll out films that otherwise wouldn’t see physical DVD release. Oh yes, they’re manufactured on demand, but if you want it, this is the legit way to get it. And here’s a bit of theatrical posterity: this is a Broadway show shot, in essence, proscenium and not an adaptation of the show for the screen. It’s Top Banana, starring Phil Silvers. The shot is this: he’s got a great show on television but his sponsor wants a romantic angle, so he brings in a young lady to play his romantic lead. But then real life romance gets in the way…like it always does. No bonus bits, which is par for the course, but it’s a shame–as some context for the proceedings would have been helpful and expanded its audience. If you’re looking for fresh comedy, then this probably isn’t the place to look. This is for those who would enjoy a time capsule of stage comedy from the 50s–and fans of Silvers. Those two camps are going to want to have this on their shelf, no doubt…everyone else will be fine with a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)