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Headsup: Nothing Spreads Like Fear…Except Dinosaurs and the Midsomer County Homicide Rate

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.

Contagion Blu-Ray
Mildred Pierce Blu-Ray
Primeval, Vol. 3 Blu-Ray

[ad#rightpost]Not everybody enjoyed Contagion…as a straightforward outbreak drama (not a “thriller,” mind you), it may not have been what everyone was expecting. But I enjoyed the ensemble cast and the near-factual-without-going-mocu touch to the whole thing. The shot is this: Gwyneth Paltrow’s character comes home from a trip sick with a superbug–she’s one of the first casualties in what becomes a worldwide pandemic. (No spoilers…it’s in the damn trailer.) If anything it’s troubling in how it’s probably accurate as to how the world would react. Sadly, the Blu-Ray release looks and sounds pretty damn good but beyond that has little to offer: a real-world featurette about the situation as its stands for dealing with pandemics, another brief look at the real world people who consulted for the film and a small PSA. Anything would have been better–especially a commentary from Soderbergh and/or putting the experts on there talking about how things would have been better/worse in real life. If this is supposed to get people talking, which it seems to have been. Worth a watch, but not worth owning with so little in the way of bonus-ness. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Mildred Pierce is the HBO miniseries that walked away with five Emmys (including one for Kate Winslet, playing the titular role), based on the 1941 novel that was previously filmed with Joan Crawford as a feature. The twist here is that…if you’ve read the novel, there is no twist. They’ve tried to adhere completely and faithfully to the original book. The gist is thus: Winslet as Pierce, gets away from her cheating husband and tries to raise her two children and make ends meet on her own as a single mother while not losing her supposed middle class station in life. All this while trying to deal with her eldest daughter (older version played by Evan Rachel Wood), who is a complete and total bitch. The five-hour miniseries comes here from HBO on Blu-Ray and DVD in one package and has bonus bits as well: two audio commentaries, an “Inside the Episode” featurette focusing on each one in turn and then a making-of. As for the hi-def treatment, the audio and video quality are excellent, but this isn’t a make-sure for Blu-Ray ownership. That being said, the DVD version is only $5 cheaper. What I would say for potential owners is: replay value. Watch it first–because whether or not you want this on your shelf is probably going to have to do with the performances of the two leads and your reaction to them. Myself, I would think a rental and a watch-through would be enough–worth doing, but enough. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Primeval‘s third volume hits and the initial response is…confusion. Because this is Volume 3 not Series 3 (which previously hit DVD in Vol. 2–the first two series were in Vol. 1) and the first one to hit hi-def. Got all that? Would have been just bloody easier to call it the Complete Fourth and Fifth Series, right? Right. Anyway, this has the show being revived after its cancellation and picking up where it left off with a new setup and direction and characters (not to spoil anything if you’re not following the show, but eventually the loose ends get a bit tied up). The shot is a team in Britain that’s trying to deal with rips in time that allow Bad Things from other eras to arrive and try to eat you. Which is never a good day at the office. And in hi-def any seams that you find will be forgivable–beyond that, it looks pretty damn good–considering it’s British TV SF, and anyone worth knowing knows that it’s come a long way. So be happy. Thirteen episodes are presented here across four discs. There is a small bit of bonus-ness: episode prequel webisodes and a making-of for the new series. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Delocated! Seasons 1 and 2 DVD
Division III: Footballs Finest Blu-Ray
I Dont Know How She Does It Blu-Ray

You know most times you see a show or a book or a something and when confronted with the premise you think, “Damn, why didn’t I think of that?” You would be a very rare person indeed if you can say that when checking out the Adult Swim show Delocated!, which has its first two seasons here on DVD. (The third season starts next month.) The shot is this: “Jon” divulged some information that got him in trouble with the Russian mafia, sending he and his family into witness protection. However, he then accepted a deal for his family to star in a reality TV show about their lives–which they do wearing ski masks and having their voices surgically altered to protect their identities. Throughout the various insane shenanigans “Jon” has to deal with divorce, family, making ends meet–and oh, yeah, the Russian mob still wants him dead. If the premise alone drew you in–and you’re normally a fan of Adult Swim’s mental fare–this is worth checking out. The set does have deleted scenes, outtakes, the demo reel that was used to pitch the show, and commentaries. So the fan of the show will find it worthwhile to pick up. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Let’s talk demographics for a moment. I’m not that much into sports. If you want to talk to me about American football, you need to remind me–about every five minutes–that it’s not the one with the puck. I’m also not one to completely dig a movie that sets up a football team with the name “Blue Cocks” for reasons you can see coming a mile off. That’s not to say I can’t enjoy a football comedy: one of my favorite sports movies ever is Wildcats. This is not Wildcats. No, this is lowbrow comedy starring Andy Dick as a terrible choice to coach a Division III football team–and he either succeeds or the entire football program gets shut down. And considering his claim to fame as a coach is almost murdering an entire Pee Wee football team…well, yeah. This Blu-Ray hits from Image and looks pretty good–bonus bits include outtakes, deleted scenes, and an audio commentary with stars/co-writers Andy Dick and Marshall Cook. If you enjoy sports comedies of this sort, then this is probably worth a watch…but you’d need to be an Andy Dick completist, IMO, to want to purchase. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The trouble with Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays the protagonist at the center of I Don’t Know How She Does It is that really, she’s in a film called “I Don’t Know Why We Should Give a Shit.” (And I have no real problem with Parker, who for me will always be the ditzy girl from L.A. Story.) So you’re well-to-do and busy and because you feel driven, you are sacrificing your family for such things. You and your husband don’t seem to have enough time to do all the things you want to do. Man, that’s rough. Which leads me to wonder–who is this film for? Is it for any woman out there to say, “Man, at least I’m not her?” I have no idea. Regardless, if you’ve seen the trailer–or even if you haven’t–my synopsis more than explains what’s what with the film. If Parker shedding tears because she botched something about one of her kids works for you…then go for it. It doesn’t exactly scream for hi-def treatment but if you want this, then it’s only $3 more for the Blu-Ray. The one bonus bit is a discussion with Allison Pearson, who wrote the original novel. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ray Charles: Live in France 1961 DVD
Paul McCartney: Love We Make Blu-Ray

What’s this? Ray Charles? I already like it. Live Ray Charles? Brilliant. Live Ray Charles from 1961? Excellent! Never before seen live Ray Charles? Holy crap, yes! And that’s what we have from Ray Charles: Live in France 1961. His first ever live European shows, from July 18-22, 1961 give us twenty-five tracks–almost two hours–with Ray and the Raeletts and his badass backing band. You get tracks like “What’d I Say,” “Sticks and Stones” and “Georgia on my Mind.” And yes, don’t panic if you see that the songs are played multiple times–this is Ray Charles. Every performance is something unique and special. I’m a big fan of anything that preserves music for posterity and any fan of Ray will feel the same. The fan will definitely want to own. This is out from Eagle Rock…no bonus bits besides the extra tracks that I counted above…but really, the whole thing’s a bonus. So I say yes. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Love We Make tells the story of how America reacted to the tragedy of 9/11 and it does so through an unlikely focus: Sir Paul McCartney. Paul was in a plane on the runway ready to go when the attacks happened over a decade ago. Wanting to do something to help, he decided to put together a benefit concert–that quickly turned into a much larger benefit concert. The story of him prepping for the show is what serves as the “excuse” to get a docu crew (the same crew that covered the Beatles all those years ago) to follow him around, but it’s in Paul talking to “regular people” and celebrities alike that we get a snapshot of what the general feeling was like here at the time–and all this without becoming a depressing film that is hard to watch. Instead, it documents the respectful way in which one performer tried to do something to help–and who came along for the ride. This is out from Eagle Rock on an excellent hi-def release (with a great transfer of the black and white original (with some color bits at the end) with no bonus bits. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Darker Reality DVD
Dont Let Him In DVD
Gurozuka DVD

I’m probably not in the demographic for A Darker Reality, in which a serial killer played by Daniel Baldwin–who’s got eight-five kills to his name, “The Ghost,”–has women locked in a basement and proceeds to torture them, while the authorities seem helpless to stop him. Did I say “undue”? Yes. I appear to have done that. If you are in the demographic for it, you might want to check out this Phase 4 release…but be worried if it’s the sort of thing you care to own. Bonus features include a trailer and deleted scenes. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Again, we seem to have a plethora of people who haven’t watched enough horror movies. So that’s why a couple and the girl’s sister go out to a place in the middle of nowhere, along with a new beau the sister’s just picked up. And then they allow a bloodied stranger into their midst. Oh, did I mention there’s a serial killer on the loose in the area? A serial killer by the name of The Tree Surgeon? I’m torn between thinking we’re really running out of serial killer names and… “Wasn’t that a Flash villain?” Anyway, this slasher flick, Don’t Let Him In is a rental if you’re thick in the genre and want to catch something somewhat different from across the pond. (In fact, the Region 2 Blu-Ray seems to give “The Hollow” as an alternate title–makes me wonder if they changed the name to make it a bit more Let the Right One In/Let Me In-sounding.) But I can’t see it having replay factor for even the hardcore, despite having a decent array of bonus bits: an audio commentary, behind the scenes featurette and a making-of. It’s out on DVD from Anchor Bay. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Gurozuka answers the prayers of anyone who says, “Man, we haven’t had a good J-Horror flick featuring a creepy mask in ages!” It also, again, features a lot of characters who obviously haven’t seen enough horror films, of the J-variety or otherwise. A movie club of teenage girls go to a locale and intend to shoot a short film. It’s a short film based on actual events that happened at said locale. To members of the same club. One of which wound up missing and one of which wound up insane. At what point would you have gotten the hell out? Anyway, you do have a creepy mask, you have a series of disappearances and murders and things just proceed from there. This Synapse release brings the 2005 film to the U.S. for the first time and it comes with a trailer and a making-of. While not the strongest J-horror film out there, if you’re a completist in the genre, you’ll want to give it a watch. But probably best to start off with it as a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Midsomer Murders Set 18 DVD
Midsomer Murders: Barnabys Top 10 DVD

We have a pair of Midsomer Murders releases…Set 18 contains three feature-length episodes, which comprise the back half of the twelfth series from 2009/2010. Whew. Did you get all that? Watch for guest stars like Jenny Agutter and Rik Mayall in the episode “The Creeper” as well as David Ryall in “Small Mercies.” As we’ve outlined before, the thing about the show is that it’s the Brit Law & Order…not in the way the front of the box probably implies but in that every actor alive has pretty much been in one. And they are well crafted, capable little mysteries for fans of the genre. This DVD set from Acorn Media comes with an interview with lead Barnaby’s partner–Jason Hughes. As for Barnaby’s Top 10, it’s one of the smartest for-the-fan releases around…in that star John Nettles has recently exited the show, but he introduces his ten favorite episodes and gives some background on each. Now…the intros are the only new item here–if you’re a hardcore fan of the show and own them on DVD, you’re not going to find anything new. I would go this way: if you want an intro to the show itself, this is a great sampler plate. But if you go the hardcore route, you’ll want to rent this and then buy the sets by themselves. But smart play by Acorn Media for creating this. (Click here to buy Set 18 from Amazon. Click here to buy the Top 10 set from Amazon.)

Dolphin Tale Blu-Ray
Mile in His Shoes DVD
Sinners and Saints Blu-Ray

Dolphin Tale is exactly what you think it is: a feel-good family film about an animal in need and a young human also in need who desperately wants to save said animal. And through the animal, the good in mankind. Or society. Or whatever. It doesn’t matter. The film is there to do its thing and you can either go with it or not. If you’re a kid, though, it would melt your uncalloused heart. I’m just saying. Synopsis then: Winter is a dolphin with no tail who is basically going to be toast without one. However, a young boy convinces a prosthetics expert to make Winter a new tail. And things progress from there. This Blu-ray comes with the DVD as well…and ordinarily a family film wouldn’t scream hi-def for me, but the water sequences look great in hi-def and it might be worth springing the extra cash for it. Bonus bits are sadly light, however: a featurette on the opening sequence, a small piece about the real Winter, a behind-the-scenes bit, a gag reel and more. If you have a kid, they might want to snag this. And you could do worse, so no worries. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

It occurs to me that you never see a feel-good story about teens and say, foosball. But regardless, Vivendi brings the feel-good faith-based TV movie A Mile in His Shoes to DVD. This stars Dean Cain as a minor league baseball coach who stumbles upon an amazing new pitcher. The trouble is, this amazing new pitcher has Asperger’s and his family isn’t sure about him getting out to play baseball. And if you can’t figure out where things are going from there, then I don’t know what to tell you. The DVD comes with a making-of, a trailer, and a Thomas Kinkade painting gallery…because this is a Thomas Kinkade Presents Production. If my description thus far sounds right up your alley–or in your strike zone or some other sports-related pun that I don’t actually understand–then it might be worth a rental. However, even the best feel-good sports movies I can’t watch more than once, so YMMV. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sinners and Saints wears its intentions on its sleeve. Well, case. “A city under siege, a man with nothing lose.” If that invokes a craving for Gritty Cop Drama (GCD), then you might be happy with this as a rental. The shot is this: Cop #1 has lost his son, his wife and more recently his partner (the first and third of those being fatal). So he’s not doing well. He’s got himself a new partner and a new series of crimes to investigate. But because this is a GCD, things are never as simple as “just a new series of crimes.” Things go deep and get dark and get nasty. The film was obviously shot on a reasonably small budget, but as long as you go in with your expectations set–and enjoy the bumps on the ride as part of the ride–it might be worth renting. Bonus bits include a short behind the scenes featurette and some deleted scenes. Also: Method Man’s creepy makeup job. Just damn. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)