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Headsup: 3D Dogs, Chickens, Guinea Pigs and Other Mayhem

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.

Bolt 3D Blu-Ray
Chicken Little 3D Blu-Ray
Meet the Robinsons 3D Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]Disney is relentless with getting the 3D Blu-Rays out before the holidays. With the Toy Stories out of the way, they’re moving down the line and hitting my favorite in recent non-Pixar memory, Bolt. We honestly went into this with expectations low–and were blown away by how much fun the film is. The shot is thus: Bolt is a dog who has been utterly convinced in his own superpowers, unaware that he’s actually an actor on a television show. When he’s separated from his human, Penny, he decides he must do whatever it takes to find her and rescue her. And of course, it has one of the coolest animal “sidekicks” of our still-fresh millennium: Rhino the hamster. The 3D video and audio on this hi-def release are impressive, make no mistake. But at the end of the day, I was looking forward to the bonus bits. Sadly, all we have is the same bonus bits from the last Blu-Ray release, which are pretty sparse. A new animated short featuring Rhino, a voice featurette, a design featurette, a chat with the directors, deleted scenes, art galleries and music video related nonsense. No commentary. Seriously, a Disney release with no commentary? What’s up with that? Anyway, your four discs are basically one for each type: 3D BD, BD, DVD and digital copy. If you haven’t already bought the movie on Blu-Ray, this is honestly your best bet. Because you only save a dollar by getting the previously released three-disc set and then it’s only a six dollar jump from the single-disc Blu-Ray from last year. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

While technically a decent foray by Disney into CG animation sans Pixar, you can tell it’s not Pixar by the story. Here’s the deal: just like the original story, Chicken Little gets whacked on the head and is utterly convinced that the sky is falling. Mocked by all, he tries to get on with his life only to learn that the sky is actually falling, so to speak: the aliens are coming. Interesting how even six years is enough to make certain elements of the CG animation look dated. But so be it. When the 3D works on this release, it works. When it doesn’t, it just sort of sits there. That being said, the film looks and sounds great once you’re no longer concerned with it popping out at you. Bonus bits are, again, the same as the previous Blu-Ray release. There’s a crew commentary on this, a Q&A that allows you to ask predetermined questions of the crew as the film progresses, deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurette and little else. It burns me this has a commentary and Bolt does not, but oh well. What’s interesting is that there’s no digital copy with this release: it’s just 3D BD, BD and DVD. And just as above, if you don’t already own it on hi-def, it’s only a couple of bucks more to have the 3D. But again, this is an own only for fans of the film. If you’re uncertain, rent it first to acquaint or reacquaint yourself as needed. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

A mental time travel story, this was the transitional film when Dixar was born. John Lasseter stepped in to try and assist the film by making it much more palatable than it would have been otherwise. Of course, we’re talking about Meet the Robinsons in which Lewis, a young orphan inventor gets swept into an adventure when a new device is stole by a mystery man. Chasing said mystery man is Wilbur, who’s from the future–and Lewis holds on as best he can. Again, we’re looking at a digital copy-less three-disc set here: 3D BD, BD and DVD. The 3D video and audio are both solid and considering how much futuristic and wild stuff is on the screen, the hi-def is warranted. And again, you’re looking at the previous round of features on this release–they’ve just slapped a 3D BD in the bundle. But so be it. You do get a director’s commentary on this (grr), deleted and alternate scenes, a featurette about real world inventions, and not much else. Here’s where things diverge–the Blu-Ray is about ten dollars less than the bundle. So if you just want hi-def and don’t care for the 3D, you might go that route. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

G-Force 3D Blu-Ray
Robot Chicken Season 5 DVD
Star Wars: Clone Wars Complete Season 3 Blu-Ray

Some films you just know weren’t designed with you in mind. And I think you probably felt the same way, seeing the trailer for G-Force, about a team of genetically enhanced guinea pigs out to save the world despite the fact their special unit has been disbanded. So yes, it’s a talking animal Mission: Impossible with all of the explosions and action sequences that such madness can convey. It also gains points by having Bill Nighy, a Disney/Bruckheimer veteran at this point–and anything with Nighy can’t be all bad. What we have here is a 3D Blu-ray release with regular BD and DVD and, again, no digital copy. Considering it’s Bruckheimer and there’s so much splode, the hi-def is warranted if your kid enjoys the film. The bonus bits are the same on the previous Blu-Ray release: a picture-in-picture director-led commentary, an FX/animation featurette, deleted scenes, blooper reel and a featurette about the director’s son, who came up with the original idea. As to what to buy–well, if your kid wants it, what can you do? The question is price–the DVD is only about $6. The single Blu-Ray release is almost $40. However, the two three-disc combos (this one and the previous one without 3D and with digital copy) are $30.99 and $27.99 respectively. So if you just want to shut your kid up, go with the DVD. If you think they need quality, pick the BD set that works best for you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The thing about Robot Chicken is it’s about three plaid suits away from being like the inside of my head (since it’s normally like a Spike Jones routine). I say that because it’s toy stop-motion animation soaked in pop culture references like somebody was using the subgenre as a Shamwow. And it’s rapid-fire, just like the inside of my head. If something doesn’t work, relax, it’ll be gone in a minute. That is the nature of the Chicken. And with the fifth season hitting DVD, they have some of the episodes that still haven’t aired, so the fiends among you might consider purchasing just for that reason. Another reason to purchase: bonus bits. All twenty episodes have commentary, there’s an exclusive uncensored MP3 download, 52 deleted animatics, 7 deleted scenes that made it as far as the full animation phase, a number of behind the scenes featurettes and more. So it’s fairly stacked for the fan of the show. It’s at a bit over $1 an episode, bearing in mind that an episode is eleven minutes long. But still, throw in the bonus bits and you have a friend to talk to. If you’re a fan, this is worth adding to the shelf. If you’re uncertain, hell, search YouTube some clips if you want to know what you’re in for. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The third season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars hits Blu-Ray with all twenty-two episodes, which cover people going all over the place. Mysterious planets! Diplomatic missions! Kidnapping! Wookies! I still can’t get used to the animation models, but whatever. A lot of Star Wars fans I know cling to this show like it’s a lifesaver and they’re trying to keep from going down for the first time. Well, there were three prequel films–so fourth time, I guess. But there’s a lot to be had here for the fan. The video and audio are both well enough in hi-def, and you do actually get a pretty vast array of bonus bits all things being equal: the “Jedi Temple Archives” form the center of it. It gives you over two hours of deleted scenes, animatics, character turnarounds, art, concept work, storyboards and a crapton more. It also says “exclusive to Blu-Ray for a limited time” on the back of the box, which means…what? That it won’t be on the next edition of the Blu-Ray…or it will eventually wind up on the DVD version as well? No idea. There’s also a series of five behind-the-scenes featurettes. Most fans will probably want to own this to add to their shelf…but check your replay factor to be certain. Around $1.50 an episode isn’t bad, but still, we have to check these things. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Alleged Blu-Ray
Atlas Shrugged Part 1 Blu-Ray
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Blu-Ray

Re: Alleged…on the surface, the prospect of having a straightforward telling of the Scopes Monkey Trial (Inherit the Wind is fairly straightforward but the names have been changed to protect the yadda yadda) sounds pretty good. The prospect of having Fred Dalton Thompson and Brian Dennehy play the opposing lawyers sounds even better, especially when you consider that Dennehy has recently played William Jennings Bryan on Broadway. Colm Meaney is always welcome also. But if you’re going to tell that story–tell the story. Even if you’re going to tell a story about journalistic integrity with the trial as the backdrop, then by all means. But when you take sidebars down a road with a different plot in order to let you Make A Point, apparently about faith, then…yeah. So if you’re showing up wanting what I would show up wanting from this film, you might be disappointed. That’s all I’m saying. The only bonus bit is a discussion guide for churches and home group study. This is a film that doesn’t scream hi-def to me, but the DVD is only $4 less, so bear that in mind. And there’s a question of replay factor. I would say definitely rent before purchasing–and then if you must purchase then choose your medium based on your budget. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The first part of Atlas Shrugged is out on Blu-Ray from Fox and it’s interesting what people take away from the book. Some people see a tome dedicated to mankind being populated by bastardic assholes, whereas I see it as a liberating metaphorical treatment of what people are really like. And as I said in my Wayhomer review of the movie, it’s not like I eat infants, or whatever people think Rand-likers do. Regardless of what you think of the book, it turned out far better than the previous iteration with Angelina Jolie was going to be–the screenwriter got the centerpiece of the book (which doesn’t take place in this first part of a planned trilogy) completely factually wrong. It’s like somebody saying that when Frodo puts the ring on, he goes to a happy bunny-filled place where sexy hobbit chicks feed him caramels. Seriously, it was That Wrong. Anyway, if you want to see an interesting way to translate a novel to the screen, this is something to watch, politics and philosophy aside. Bonus bits include a brief docu and a commentary track from the filmmakers. In all seriousness, if the idea of Rand gives you hives, then just stay away. The film won’t do anything to fix that and it’s not my intention to give anybody a bad time. Fans of the film will want to own in order to try and bring about Part 2. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Oh Warner Brothers, now what are you going to do? After extending out the seventh book to an eighth movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 has hit Blu-Ray in a two-disc Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet streaming copy edition. Still on the trail of Horcruxes with Voldemort after them, things start to head towards Crisis on Infinite Hogwarts, in which the final battle between good and evil magic happens. Well, this is the film that got the most critical love, it seems, and will be nominated for Best Picture (though I’ll be amazed if it wins that award…might win something else though). And all the Harry Potter home video releases go out of print on December 29th in an attempt by WB to squeeze sales. Which is, silly, really. But regardless. The film comes with Maximum Movie Mode, WB’s fantastic interactive commentary, a chat with Rowling and star Daniel Radcliffe, featurettes, a “final farewells” sequence for the cast and crew, deleted scenes, “The Women of Harry Potter” featurette, a featurette focused on the goblins and more. This is one of those films that does scream hi-def, so if you have any intention of owning it, do so now. Because otherwise WB will remove them from shelves and wait until whatever Rowling’s new Potterverse book is before re-releasing them. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here Experience Edition
Best of Pink Floyd: Foot in the Door CD

So if you’ve been around for a while, you know I’m a Pink Floyd fiend. So now that EMI are re-releasing everything, my brain is exploding. Case in point: all the albums are getting the “Experience” treatment. As an example, we have the Wish You Were Here “Experience Edition” release. Normally, we view re-releases with some skepticism, but this is pretty much blown away when you realize we’ve got a second disc of six unreleased tracks. Among them are three live tracks, including “Raving and Drooling,” which would eventually become “Sheep.” You get an alternate version of “Have a Cigar” and a very interesting alternate take of the title track with violinist Stephane Grappelli. Again, that entire second disc is all new material to us. So for those of you who aren’t up for the Immersion Edition for whatever reason, there’s this. Then there’s another compilation, A Foot in the Door, meant to be a sampler plate for the entire body of their work, but lacks “Arnold Layne,” their first ever single. What’s that about? There’s only one song from the Barrett era, “See Emily Play.” Stuff like that. It feels like you really need two discs to do a proper sampler, and “Best of” is very subjective IMO. That being said, they’re all good tracks but this isn’t the way to introduce someone to Floyd. (Click here to buy Wish You Were Here: Experience Edition from Amazon. Click here to buy A Foot in the Door from Amazon.)

Living Ghost DVD
Quatermass Experiment DVD
Vlog DVD

Two more entries are here from The MGM Limited Edition Collection of manufactured on demand titles. These are unrestored, uncleaned-up, no frills legit Region 1 releases that they’re putting out there to satisfy the audience that wants them–but there’s not enough of an audience, in their opinion, to cover the cost of a full-on release. First up, the mystery from 1942, The Living Ghost. A wealthy guy goes missing and a detective gets tapped to locate him–and the guy turns up but with brain damage. And winds up killing someone. But considering the fact he’s in a “zombie-like state,” is he to blame or merely the tool in the hands of a far more sinister power? Moohaha. With emphasis on the haha, since James Dunn is playing the detective for laughs. If you like vintage horror mysteries, then this is worth a watch, but probably only then. Not sure who would have the replay factor on this to the extent that they would want it on their shelves. But you never know. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

A different scenario exists with The Quatermass Xperiment, the 1955 film based on the 1953 TV miniseries about a spacecraft that crashes to earth, leaving its one survivor dazed and unable to say what happened…to the other occupants of the crash, who aren’t anywhere to be found. This is notable because it’s the first real Hammer horror movie, and its success is what drove them into that genre. It and its original version influenced a crapload of genre TV and film to come. Of course, the BBC has the original rights so a double-set is out of the question, but that would be very nice. This is one where a better release is surely warranted. But I’m sure if enough people buy this one, they’ll eventually hit with a more special edition. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Next we have Vlog the 2008 horror film that was originally a webseries in which a model, following the Blair Witch reality model and playing a character with her own name, gets killed. On camera. Then we get to back up and see what led up to this happening, both with Brooke’s other vlog entries and her getting somebody pissed off enough that somebody is killing her closest friends and all. I understand that there is a new sort-of term called “Vlogging,” but “Vlog” just sounds like the lead creature in a 1950s atomic monster movie. So maybe that’s what has me concerned. On one hand, I fully support people getting out there and making low-to-no budget films. So I don’t want to bash this Anchor Bay release for being what it isn’t…it’s an attempt to create a horror film with brutal killings (since that’s relatively cheap to do). I will say that you’d have to be a true horror completist to want this on your shelf, though. The only bonus bit are bonus vlog entries from our star, which doesn’t help much. Give it a Netflix or rental if the spirit moves you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Fresh Fields Set 2 DVD
Stan Lee Universe

Fresh Fields is the tale of the Fields, a couple with an empty nest. Anton has work to keep him busy, but Julia stays at home and needs something to keep her busy. That quest forms the basis of the show–and her attempts at finding something often clash with her hapless put-upon husband. In this second set of the full series (which contains all fourteen episodes of the third and fourth series across two discs), you’ll see them contend with unwanted house guests, dieting, catering as a side business, and local politics. It’s your standard sitcom that doesn’t really take any risks and you can see where things are coming from a mile off…but sometimes that’s what you want. There’s a reason the show was so popular and spawned a sequel. The price point per episode on this is actually quite decent: around $2 each. So if you did want to add this to your shelf, you wouldn’t have anything to be concerned about. Just be aware that it’s bare bones feature-wise, and I advise you to have sampled the series before taking the plunge. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Stan Lee Universe is another example of TwoMorrows doing what they do best: taking a subject and giving you Criterion Collection-level attention to throwing everything they can at you. In this case, it’s Stan the Man that’s in focus. And at over 170 pages, you’d think: seriously, is that enough to tackle such a guy? And the answer is: yeah. Wow. The back of the book calls this “The Ultimate Vault of Lee-Rarities,” and that’s easy to see why. You get rare interviews with Stan, interviews about Stan, correspondence between Stan and scads of people (including James Cameron and a polite but cool non-rejection letter from Stan’s secretary to Oliver Stone in 1973), some projects that never saw the light of day…the list goes on and on. Some high points: info about the screenplay Stan wrote for director Alain Resnais (!) and a transcript of a radio interview with both Lee and Kirby. There’s something on every page that is soaked in awesome. Like I’m fond of saying, TwoMorrows are the curators of comics. So if you have any affection for Stan and what he did to shape/warp your life, you need to check this out. Excellent stuff. (Click here to buy it from TwoMorrows.)

Jeff Healey Band: Full Circle: The Live Anthology CD-DVD set
Peter Gabriel: New Blood: Live in London DVD

Fans of the The Jeff Healey Band will be pleased to see this 3CD/1DVD set out from Eagle Rock containing three live concerts. It’s Full Circle: The Live Anthology. You get them live from 1989 at the Montreal Jazz Fest, also at the St. Gallen Open Air Festival from 1991 (this is the concert available on both CD and DVD) and then again at the Hard Rock in Toronto from 1995. That’s a total of thirty tracks in all with minimal overlap. Some stand outs: the versions of ZZ Top’s “Blue Jean Blues,” The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues.” And what I’m reminded of, even though I have an appreciation for the band and was always aware of them–was damn, Healey could play. What also strikes me is that, in a lot of his performances, the songs start off tame…and once they get going, Healey just blisters the hell out of them. This is an excellent set for the fan and they should consider owning–especially when you look at is less than $1 a track, which is what you would pay for songs on iTunes…and hey, consider the DVD concert as a bonus. Shot mostly from the stage (apart from some establishing “hey, look there’s a crowd” shots from time to time), it gets you up on the stage with them. Very nice. Again, recommended for the fan. Fans of blues in general should check it out in some form. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Peter Gabriel is a musician I’ve followed more closely over the years after discovering him…what, in the early 80s? Even when I haven’t exactly loved his material, he’s never been uninteresting. And his live performances are always impressive (with the possible exception of Still Growing Up…I found the Segway dance of “Games Without Frontiers” laughable). But here what he’s done is it’s just him and an orchestra. So he’s managed to hit me where it counts: I love orchestral stuff and I love a goodly number of Gabriel’s songs. Seriously: who wouldn’t want to hear “San Jacinto” with an orchestra (Gabriel can still wail on it), or “Digging in the Dirt.” Hell, even “In Your Eyes,” possibly the most overplayed of his pieces, becomes new again when you smack it with strings. Sure, there’s some omissions: I think an orchestral “Steam” would have been amazing, for example. But still, what we have here–twenty-three tracks (twenty-two and a bonus)–is impressive. If you’re familiar with the double-stage staging of Secret World Live, for example, don’t be thrown by the fact that there are some visuals…but this is different from your “normal” Gabriel show in that there’s just an emphasis on Gabriel and his ginormous backing “band.” Fans will want to own, most assuredly. If you just enjoy Gabriel from time to time, you need to hear this. Especially “Jacinto.” Just wow. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Frostys Winter Wonderland DVD
Smurfs Holiday Celebration DVD
Twas the Night Before Christmas Blu-Ray

Keep your breathing even. We’re going to see a lot more of these Christmas DVDs and Blu-Rays before we’re done. In this case, we have a trio of releases from Warner Brothers. Let’s start with Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, the sequel to the original Frosty cartoon–this time the kids make him a wife, which is then brought to life. So it’s kind of like Rankin-Bass’ version of Bride of Frankenstein. Anyway, Jackie Vernon is back as the voice of Frosty with Andy Griffith narrating, Paul Frees as Jack Frost and Shelley Winters as Crystal. There’s just one bonus bit about the history of snowmen. While this is nice to have, let’s face it: it’s twenty-four minutes long. Having it on a release by itself is a bit weird. What Warner Brothers really needs to do is put out a Blu-Ray boxed set of all their animated Christmas properties. Then it makes sense to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Then we have The Smurfs Holiday Celebration, which has the two Christmas specials from the animated Smurfs show in the 80s. There’s “The Smurfs Christmas Special,” in which Gargamel teams up with a stranger to, in effect, cancel Christmas for the blue little people. And then there’s “‘Tis the Season to be Smurfy,” when they’re helping out an older couple unable to afford Christmas. Now, these are two specials and in total, they’re less than fifty minutes. Granted, they’ve not been released to DVD before from what I can tell, but, again, a boxed of Smurfs Specials would make more sense. I’m sure once they release more of the animated series (only Season One is out now), they’ll get to the rest of these. Wait. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

And lastly, Twas the Night Before Christmas, out on Blu-Ray. I understand this isn’t the highpoint of Rankin-Bass, but there’s just something about the plot, which has Santa getting pissed that someone wrote in to the local paper proclaiming that everyone in the town of Junctionville thought Santa was a fraud. I mean, he sees you if you’re sleeping, he knows if you’re awake, but he doesn’t know that one person shouldn’t screw stuff up for everyone? He’s worse than even the FCC. Anyway, again, we’re looking at twenty-four minutes here. And a short “Comic Book” about holiday traditions worldwide. While nice to have on Blu-Ray, it’s far too bare bones to warrant plonking down this much coin for so little in the way of content. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)