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Headsup: Swords, Aliens and Effective Chaps

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.

Conan the Barbarian 2011 Blu-Ray
Our Idiot Brother Blu-Ray
Super 8 Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]Surprisingly, Conan the Barbarian, aka Conan Begins, had all that it needed to be not just meh but fantastic. You had an excellent cast, led by Jason Momoa, who is good enough in Game of Thrones but here at least gets to, you know, speak a bit more. You had excellent FX. You had an interesting setup. What you wound up with was a film that started off well, stumbled in its second act and completely fell to pieces in the third act. Making it eminently watchable on DVD/Blu-Ray…and that’s about it. But it is worth checking out for the Evil Sand Dudes that appeared in the trailer (the second most awesome fight sequence in the film) and the coming of age sequence with young Conan Leo Howard (which was the best part of the entire film–and if the entire film had lived up to it, it would have been the best sword and sorcery film in aeons). This Lionsgate release is a 3D BD/2D BD/DVD/Digital Copy combo. And right out of the starting gate we should say that the video and audio
are quite impressive. The film comes with two audio commentaries, one with the director and one with Momoa and Rose McGowan. There’s also a Conan retrospective featurette, a Robert E. Howard bio featurette, and action and fight featurettes. And the 3D BD combo pack is only $5 more than the 2D, so seriously, it just makes sense to snag this. I would say it’s worth checking out for the visuals and the two scenes I mentioned–view those first and see if it warrants you plonking coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Our Idiot Brother casts eminently likable Paul Rudd in the title role. He proves himself worthy of the title when he goes to jail for selling weed to a uniformed police officer. That’s not “uniformed” as in “formed the one time,” that’s “uniformed” as in “clearly a cop.” He gets out of jail to find his world gone mad: his girlfriend has someone else, has the Idiot kicked out of his home and, to add insult to injury, has possession of Idiot’s dog, named Willie Nelson. Nice. He then has to fall back on the relative kindness of his relatives: three sisters who each don’t want to have anything to do with him. This hits Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay and does not arrive bare bones, luckily enough. You get a director’s commentary, a few deleted and extended scenes and a short making-of. If a comedy with an utterly naive means-well sort of protagonist is your thing–or, let’s face it, you just like Paul Rudd–then you might want to give this a spin. It doesn’t exactly scream hi-def from where I’m sitting, but the presentation here is pretty darn good, video and audio-wise. Again, the Blu-Ray is just $5 more than the regular DVD, so it make sense to snag it that way if snagging is at hand. Just watch it first and check your replay factor before committing–that’s my advice. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The best thing about Super 8 is that it’s a Spielberg movie made for our time…in a time when Spielberg can no longer make Spielberg movies. I know, it’s a depressing thought, but it’s accurate. But J.J. Abrams has crafted an excellent love letter to Spielbergian cinema with this. A budding young amateur filmmaker is in the right place at the wrong time and witnesses a massive train derailment, almost getting himself and his young “crew” killed. Trouble is, there was more to that crash that met the eye–and things just get weirder and weirder as time progresses after the accident. Eventually it becomes clear that he and his friends need to Take Steps or there are going to be some Serious Problems. There’s your spoiler-free synopsis. Here you have a two-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo from Paramount that is pretty damned awesome. This film does scream hi-def and not just so you can watch Abrams dry-hump lens flares. You want to see it as awesome as possible. And the good news is there’s bonus bits. There’s an entire featurette about the train sequence, a commentary with Abrams and crew, deleted scenes, and a number of featurettes–everything from a focus on the lead Joel Courtney, to the musical score to Abrams reflecting back on where the ideas for the film came from. It’s a nice little package. Could there have been more? Always more. Is it possible a better copy will be coming? Yes, but not sure when. The Blu-Ray is the same price as the DVD so snag it now–and do snag it. Any genre fan needs this on their shelf. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Reggie Perrin Set 1 DVD
Pie in the Sky Complete Collection DVD

When it comes to Reggie Perrin, the first set of which (and, in fact, the complete series) is on DVD from Acorn Media, you might think, haven’t I heard that name before? And yes, you have: because this is a remake of the classic late 70s Brit series, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin which starred Leonard Rossiter. However, creator of the original, David Nobbs along with Simon Nye (Men Behaving Badly) and star Martin Clunes do give it a decent go. The shot is this: Clunes plays Perrin, a marketing executive who’s seemingly cut off from just about everything: wife, boss, co-workers, the lot. Midlife Crisisville. How he goes through his days with only, at times, his fantasies to keep him going–that’s how it plays out. This has got both series on here: twelve episodes across two discs. The only bonus bit is a behind-the-scenes photo gallery. Fans of British sitcoms, Clunes or the original series will want to check this out at least once. The latter two categories might want to snag this based on replay factor. It’s a little less than $3 an episode, so make sure you want it on your shelf before plonking. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Speaking of fans of things, you can look for fans of food, crime stories and Richard Griffiths to want to spend some time with the Complete Collection of Pie in the Sky. Griffiths was a detective inspector–but running a restaurant was his passion. So he retired and went to go pursue his dream. Of course, like that Godfather sequel that I don’t like to talk about: just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. He’s good, so the Powers That Be want to keep him on call. So he gets to juggle both food and crime. This boxed set contains all five series–and it’s fairly formidable: forty episodes across thirteen discs. There’s not much in the way of bonus bits: an interview with Maggie Steed (who plays Griffiths’ wife) and some other text-on-screen bits. I will say this: while there’s really no need to double dip, if you have ever wanted this on your shelf, now is the time to snag it. Amazon has it for just over $42, so it’s just a bit over $1 an episode. You cannot beat that with a big stick. Recommended to at least be checked out, again, by those crime show viewers who like something a bit unique. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Adventures of Tintin Season 1 DVD
Tom and Jerry Fur Flying Adventures Vol. 3 DVD

As the feature film bears down upon us and it’s already made back its production budget with worldwide box office before the damned thing even hits our shores, the animated version of the comic strip that spawned the film hits DVD thanks to Shout! Factory. It’s The Adventures of Tintin Season One with thirteen episodes across two discs. And this is the early 90s version of the animated show…the first three stories of which, based on the original comics, served as the basis for the film. (It gets a bit confusing, but we have a primer here. Never fear.) Tintin is a reporter who is frequently caught up in adventure along with his companion, the dog Snowy. Everything from gangs to espionage to lost treasures gets treated here, in animation that is very close to the original strips. It’s no substitute for the real thing, but it deserves credit for trying to stick to the source material as best as an animated series could. There are no bonus bits to be had here, but the price is quite reasonable and you’re paying just over $1 an episode. Rent it if you want to sample the animation before the stop motion film–and then decide if the replay factor warrants a purchase. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

A third volume of Tom & Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures has hit DVD from Warner Brothers. The setup is pretty basic: an array of fourteen animated shorts, some classic, some recent. They’re presented on a single disc with no bonus features. Let’s leave aside the question of pairing the new with the old because that actually doesn’t enter into it. The real mystery here is…why? Ordinarily a release like this would be good for somebody with kids who just wants to throw some cartoons at them. But in light of the fact that the Golden Collection‘s first volume has hit on both Blu-Ray and DVD…and really, for twice the price of this one you can get nearly three times the amount of content, not to mention bonus stuff…why would you? And yes, if you want to spend about that amount and nothing more…the Chuck Jones Collection is just $11. I’m just saying. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Another Earth Blu-Ray Combo Pack
5 Days of War Blu-Ray
Sarahs Key Blu-Ray

The story is one that’s been played with all over the map, in sci-fi stories, in comics, in sci-fi comics…an alternate reality in which there might be a different version of everybody. A different version of You, in fact. One that maybe made different choices. Or, more to the point: better choices. Such is the setup for Another Earth when the titular object basically shows up. It’s called Earth 2 (natch) and it’s a symbol for a lot of things involving our protagonist Rhoda, who made a drunken stupid choice that wound up fatally changing her life, another’s life, and ending some other people’s lives. In the genre of interesting indie sci-fi that wants to use the notion as a thing to hang a story on rather than a “ROBOT! CHECK OUT THE ROBOT! WOW!” sort of bit (which is all well and good on its own), this is worth checking out for anyone who likes this sort of thing. If you want Will Smith to ride a rocket and punch the alternate Earth in the face, then best stay away. This Fox release comes out in a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy combo pack. Apart from some nifty shots of Earth 2 in the sky, it doesn’t scream hi-def and it looks okay but not stunning. As far as bonus bits go, you get some Fox Movie Channel promotional bits, very short featurettes regarding the making-of and the science in the film as well as deleted scenes. Worth renting as mentioned above, check it to see if replay factor would warrant owning. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Renny Harlin is Action Guy. He’s the man who brought you stuff like Die Hard 2 and Deep Blue Sea. He is no stranger to the Explodo. So what is he doing with a journalist protagonist trying to get the word out about what’s really going down in the Russia vs. Georgia conflict? He’s creating an action film in 5 Days of War that has some more theme to it than usual, but fear not people who appreciate his name: you get splode, yes, but you also get the atrocities of modern urban warfare. In other words, collateral damage. And thus our hero’s need to get the word out the world. The Blu-Ray is out from Anchor Bay and gives a decent showing of itself on hi-def, as one would hope given its action-oriented nature. Both video and audio are quite good. As far as bonus bits go, you do have some deleted scenes but the centerpiece is a commentary from Harlin himself. Fans of the director will want to check this out for that reason if nothing else. Worth renting for that reason, but check it for replay factor before plonking down coin. That being said, if you do purchase, the DVD is only $3.50 less than the Blu-Ray as I type this, so it would be worth upgrading to hi-def for that little coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sarah’s Key stars Kristin Scott Thomas as an American reporter living in Paris who decides to write a story about the 1942 roundup of Jews by the French. Roundup as in, “preparation for transport to the camps,” you understand. What she uncovers is a story about an apartment that came into the possession of her family about the same time–and also a young girl named Sarah who was trying to protect her little brother from being taken. Telling the stories of 1942 and the present day, Thomas’ character keeps delving…and not everyone is happy about what she’s finding. This hits Blu-Ray from The Weinstein Company and Anchor Bay. The hi-def presentation is quite good, even though this wouldn’t be at the top of my list for necessary hi-def (if we’re trying to save money, mind you), it’s nice to have it. Initially, you may find disappointment when you see a single bonus bit listed on the back of the box: “The Making of Sarah’s Key.” This because most making-ofs are eight minutes long if you’re lucky. This, however, clocks in at over an hour and takes you through the source material novel with scads of interviews and some rehearsal footage. If the idea of a historical drama along those lines sound compelling, check it out. But consider the replay factor before you buy. Also, the DVD is around $12 cheaper at the time I write this. Something to bear in mind. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Big Country Blu-Ray
Quigley Down Under Blu-Ray
Taking of Pelham One Two Three 1974 Blu-Ray

We’re back with another three MGM titles hitting Blu-Ray. Here we start off with the large western, The Big Country, starring Gregory Peck as a guy who just wants to take his retirement from the sea, head out west and be with his soon-to-be-wife on the ranch that her father owns. Of course, nothing’s ever that easy. Especially in large westerns. There’s a feud between two families, a water and land dispute and because the guy’s Gregory Peck, everybody wants to try and test and/or question his manhood. Also in the cast are Charlton Heston, Burl Ives and Chuck Connors, among others. Fans of the large western might want to consider hi-def if they were to own this–but rent it first and try it out. The western is a genre in which people can go many different ways depending on personal taste. The good news is that currently it’s $9.99 at Amazon, only a dollar more than the DVD. Which is good, considering the only bonus bit is a vintage making-of featurette. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Cosette is a big Tom Selleck fan, having grown up watching Magnum. So I can say with some authority that her choice for Selleck is “Magnum shorts,” followed by chaps. This is a just a great, solid western with Selleck in Good Guy Mode and Alan Rickman in joyous Very Bad Guy Mode. Is Quigley Down Under perfect? No, but it’s fun. Selleck is the titular Quigley, brought to Australia to deal with a ranch owner’s problem. Trouble is, the problem isn’t wild dogs…but aborigines. As in, hire a guy who’s good with a gun to take them out from a long distance. Quigley doesn’t take to the idea, and things just go downhill from there. Again, hi-def and western are a very personal choice but I’d vote for this one. It looks absolutely great. Sadly, the only bonus bit you get is a short vintage featurette. Still, this is one of those fun westerns I would own personally…and at only $3 more than the DVD, it seems to make sense to go for it. Your mileage may vary. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Next we have the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three from 1974, with Robert Shaw in the Travolta role and Walter Matthau in the Denzel role. The setup is pretty simple: Shaw is Mr. Bad Guy, taking a subway train hostage and giving the city of New York one hour to give them a million dollars…otherwise they start killing a hostage every minute. Matthau leads up the Transit Authority side of things, trying to keep the situation from getting any uglier. Worth checking out because anything with Matthau and Shaw singly is worth checking out, much less together. The video here is good but it didn’t blow me away–but this is the point where I show you if my contact lenses got any thicker I wouldn’t be able to blink, so take it with a grain of salt. This doesn’t scream hi-def to me anyway, but maybe that’s me. You get bare bones on this–no bonuses. Worth seeing–but a lack of bonus bits make me question the $15.99 price tag for hi-def. But if the reply factor works for you, then good on you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Carjacked Blu-Ray
Hot in Cleveland Season 2 DVD
Look Season 1 DVD

Maria Bello plays a mother with some issues. Namely she’s out of money, low on petrol and sanity, and trying hard to keep from losing her son to her ex-husband. Then she winds up getting, yes, Carjacked by Stephen Dorff. And thus the game is afoot…how to keep her and her son alive with an armed criminal trying to call the shots. A direct-to-video thriller that’s worth renting if the idea of the two stars playing out such a scenario appeals, it’s not going to do anything to blow holes in the genre, but it’s not really meant to. Although the film doesn’t really call for hi-def IMO, the video here is quite good. The one bonus bit you get is some behind the scenes footage. Again, worth renting if it’s your bag, but would take a serious completist to place on their shelf. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Two things I find amusing about Hot in Cleveland. First, that TV Land appears to have figured out an interesting formula (and I can’t remember where I first read somebody laying this out, but this isn’t original in my head): take actresses best known for being in sitcoms previously and create a League of Extraordinary Ex-Sitcom Stars type show. I mean seriously: you get fans who miss Just Shoot Me, Frasier and One Day at a Time and fans of Betty White (i.e. everyone). Whatever, it seems to be working. Second, the idea that three people from Los Angeles would decide to stay in Cleveland when their flight to Paris is forced to land there…makes me think the show was originally slated to be set in Paris but the budget forced them to change venues. Yes, I know that’s not what actually happened, but sometimes I just think things. With this Paramount release, you get all twenty-two second season episodes across three discs. The bonus bits are some very short interviews, some bloopers and other featurettes. There’s also the pilot for The Exes, a new TV Land series. If this is the sort of thing that works for you, then buying isn’t that bad despite a lack of substantial bonus bits: it’s less than a dollar an episode as it stands currently. But do bear in mind that TV Land has a tendency to repeat shows. Just saying. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Look is a Showtime series that spins out of Adam Rifkin’s original film, which questions surveillance and privacy (or the lack thereof) by showing us multiple characters and storylines via the cameras that spy on us everyday–security, traffic and others. The usual suspects get trotted out: sex, adultery, nudity, what really goes on behind the scenes at restaurants and more. And the various storylines will, given patience, start to play off each other. Eleven episodes are here across two discs from Image Entertainment, which hits DVD with no bonus features. The episodes are just $1.50 each at present when buying the DVD, and this appears to be the only way at present to catch the show. I would suggest renting it first to ensure it’s your bag–and to check replay factor. Just because the price is good, doesn’t mean Netflixing it isn’t a good idea anyway. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Pearl Jam 20 DVD
Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas 78 Blu-Ray
Usher OMG Tour Live From London DVD

My history with Pearl Jam is an odd one. I say that because I was full-on-board with Ten, which has one of the best review lines ever. I think it was Rolling Stone–and I’m paraphrasing–but it said that the album just made you want to stand on a mountain and yell. And it did. It was solid, eminently playable and holds up. Unfortunately, with each successive album there were less and less songs that seemed interested in working for me and as a result I fell by the wayside. Indeed, every now and then I’d find myself surprised they were still around. But they are, and good on them. In fact, twenty years they’ve been around: hence the title of this docu by Cameron Crowe. What the fan should find here is archival footage, some interviews and a good time hearing stuff that, for the most part, they already know. But what I’ve found about the best docus is that they ensnare even somebody who couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the subject. Take King of Kong for example. Sure, I played Donkey Kong. But what do I care about the game? Take that story, however, and spin it into a story about people and our obsessions and you’ve got me. The bonus bits are some featurettes, mostly featuring the individual members of the band. While the Blu-Ray version of this apparently does not hit until January, according to Amazon, if you pre-order it you’re paying $3 less than the DVD. So sight unseen, I would send you that direction instead if you wish to buy. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Fans of The Rolling Stones are definitely going to want to check out Some Girls: Live in Texas ’78. This Blu-Ray release features the band rolling out tracks from that album back when it was new, as well as smacking some classic tracks like “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” The new tracks include now-staple “Beast of Burden,” along with “Miss You” and “Shattered.” The things to bear in mind is that this is indeed an archival live performance, so don’t expect it to have been shot on the Red camera or anything. That being said, the presentation here is as good as you’re going to get, audio and video-wise. And in addition to the seventeen concert tracks, bonus bits are provided by Eagle Vision: a contemporary interview, interviews from ABC News, and some of the band’s SNL performances (including one with Dan Aykroyd). Serious fans of the Stones will want to own, but I leave that up to individual tastes as I would consider myself the casual fan. The Blu-Ray is the way to go, since it’s only $2 more than the DVD, but I would point out there’s a CD/BD version (which I did not receive but I assume would have added replay value) which is a bit more but might be worth it for the hardcore. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Most of my exposure to Usher has been, admittedly, through mashups. So I’m coming into checking out his OMG Tour: Live From London tour pretty much unaware. I am not an Usherologist, but here are some things I can tell you. I think the faithful will be pleased: the concert video seems to give them what they would want–indeed, what anybody wants from a concert video. I’m talking about a satisfying live music experience without having to be arsed to pay concert prices and actually fight crowds to show up. That’s what I want–I figure it’s fairly universal. Second, it’s not without bonus bits–and not even just extra tracks disguised as bonus bits: you get a making-of featurette. Granted, it’s not much, but it’s something. Replay factor comes to the fore for this Eagle Vision release: once seen, is the sort of thing you’ll want to check out again? And if you do want to snag it, the Blu-Ray is only $3.50 more. So there you have it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Chillerama Blu-Ray
God Bless Ozzy Osbourne Blu-Ray
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil DVD

Chillerama is a horror/comedy anthology movie. In this case, the frame story is about a drive-in that’s about to close, and the owner decides to show an array of films from his personal collection. They are “Wadzilla,” about sperm gone kaiju; “I Was a Teenage Werebear,” with bear being used in the “largish bearded homosexual man” context; “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein,” in which the Nazis are after what Anne Frankenstein’s family knows–how to create re-animated soldiers; and “Zom B Movie,” which is exactly what it sounds like. If you haven’t figured it out yet, there’s a reason why this was released unrated. If this sort of chaos sounds appealing–a giant sperm attacking New York and a creature named Meshugannah fighting Nazis–then you’re in for a treat. But it’s not for everybody, nor is it for anybody expecting a straight-up horror anthology. Not sure who would stumble upon it thinking that given the cover art, but I’ve heard of stranger things happening. While this normally wouldn’t scream hi-def for me, it is nice to be able to check out the extent to which the different “films” within the film play with color and how each “print” looks. For bonus bits you get a picture-in-picture commentary from the directors, and a feature for each “film.” With “Wadzilla,” “Werebear” and “Zom B Movie,” you get deleted scenes. With “Diary” and “Werebear,” you get behind the scenes and making-of material. There’s also some interviews. This is definitely worth renting and if you’re hardcore behind this sort of thing, you might want to purchase. All I can tell you is: know what you’re getting into. And the Blu-Ray is only a $1.50 more than the DVD. So if you do purchase, that’s the way to go. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

What’s interesting about the docu God Bless Ozzy Osbourne is that it’s apparently using the meaning of “God Bless” as used here in the southeastern United States. By anyone unfamiliar, I mean when you say “God Bless Ozzy Osbourne,” you’re actually saying “Ozzy Osbourne is so stupid.” I’m not saying this in a mean way…it’s usually said with an air of “the poor dear.” And here that “poor dear” outlook is extended to his family. This is the story of what Ozzy was like before he got his head together–or at least as together as one’s head can be who has spent most of a life altering it chemically and otherwise. Family members are on hand to tell very candid tales of what dear old dad was like and Ozzy denies nothing. So it’s pretty revealing stuff from a guy who’s had a crapload of stuff revealed already. This Blu-Ray Eagle Vision release also comes with deleted scenes and a Q&A with Ozzy and son Jack, who produced the film. Fans of the man will want to check this out–not sure about owning it, though. Only the hardcore would find replay value, methinks. The Blu-Ray is only $3 more than the DVD if you do wish to purchase, though. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Well, I waited and it arrived. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, the utterly mental film that is not only funny but turns a sub-genre on its head. That of backwoods brutality, which is so overused it’s ridiculous. A pair of hillbillies go on vacation to a house in the woods. They are mistaken for madmen by a group of college students and the students think they’re in a different movie…with hilariously lethal results. And Magnolia does it justice with a decent array of features on DVD: a commentary with the director and the titular actors, wall to wall like you like it. You get a making-of, storyboards, outtakes, and a version of the film re-cut so that it shows you only what the college kids saw. Nice. I wish I had seen the Blu-Ray to tell you about it–it appears the features are the same–but it’s only $3.50 more than this release, so bear that in mind if you want to own. But any horror comedy fan will want to see it at least once. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)