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Headsup: Peculiar Places Like London, Paris & Jupiter

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.

J. Edgar Blu-Ray
To Kill a Mockingbird Blu-Ray
Track 29 DVD

[ad#longpost]People give Leonardo DiCaprio a lot of crap. Seriously, you might not be among them, but a lot of people seemed to have stopped with Titanic on making up their minds about the guy. I think he’s excellent and I’ve been on board since Romeo + Juliet. Here he plays the titular J. Edgar in the Eastwood-directed biopic, which tries to serve as both a look at Hoover’s life and career and also a history of his driving the FBI to becoming a federal agency of real power. DiCaprio’s performance is worth catching regardless, but it almost feels as if the two topics should have somehow been divided so that a better focus could be given to both. The film looks well enough, though it’s not one that really screams hi-def…and it doesn’t help matters that the one bonus bit is a featurette/overview of the man that runs less than twenty minutes. Worth renting, but only Eastwood or DiCaprio completists will probably want to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Universal hits the ground running on its 100th Anniversary assault home video classic re-issue agenda with a Blu-Ray/DVD combo of To Kill a Mockingbird, the utterly and ridiculously classic film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, an Alabama lawyer during the Great Depression who defends a black man from a charge of a crime he didn’t commit: rape. Of course, that’s not the whole film. It would take way too much time to go through all the themes that are present in both book and film–everything from race to growing up to justice to on and on. Suffice to say, you’ve seen it. If you haven’t, then what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously. This Blu-Ray set contains the contents, bonus-wise, of the previous Legacy Edition: a commentary from the director and producer; a feature-length making of docu; a retrospective with the actress who played Scout; a Peck-focused docu; and also Peck’s Best Actor acceptance speech, AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, and an excerpt from the tribute to him held by the Academy. In addition, you do have the audio and video in hi-def–which looks excellent–and a “U-Control” picture-in-picture Blu-Ray exclusive, where you can get extra bonus insight into the film, led by Peck’s children, Cecilia and Anthony. If you are a fan of the film–and you should be–seriously consider upgrading to this. It’s extremely reasonably priced at $17.99 and belongs on everybody’s shelf. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Nicolas Roeg’s mindgrope Track 29 is hitting Region 1 DVD at last, giving people a glimpse at the film (if they’re coming at it from the Roeg fan point of view) or just want an early Gary Oldman performance. Either way, you have Oldman playing Martin…a guy who comes into the life of a couple played by Theresa Russell and Christopher Lloyd. Lloyd has more time for his model trains and the woman he’s having an affair with than he does for his wife. And his wife is still dealing with her rape and subsequent child…given up for adoption…which could be Oldman. Yes, it is going to get Weird. If any of the names involved with this film (besides Roeg, of course) are what draws you in, then just understand it’s not going to be Normal. But if you’re willing to go on the ride, it might be worth checking out. The one downside is that there’s no bonus bits on the DVD…so rent the film to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you buy. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Rhapsody in Blue DVD
Thirteen Women DVD
You Cant Get Away With Murder DVD

Rhapsody in Blue, the George Gershwin biopic, hits from the Warner Archive on DVD, giving it a legit Region 1 release. Not that the 1945 film had many bootleg copies running around, mind you, but you take my point. Robert Alda (yes, father of Alan) plays Gershwin and the film tells his life story, also featuring performances by people playing themselves, like Al Jolson. Also appearing are Anne Brown, the original Bess (as in “Porgy and…”) and actress/singer Hazel Scott. Music/musical fans will want to give it a watch and Gershwin completists may want to consider owning, though as always replay factor does enter into it. But the completists among you may want it on your library shelf just because. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Bogart fanatics should rejoice as another Warner Archive release is the 1939 You Can’t Get Away With Murder, featuring the man himself as a criminal who takes a young man under his wing behind bars…which direction will the youngster turn? To a life of crime or to Doing What’s Right? This is before Bogart hit big, and if you didn’t know the film had an agenda by the time you saw it was credited to a guy whose title of “Warden” is on the cover art, well, then good morning. No bonus bits here, but a nice bit of cinematic history worth renting for fans. Full on completists will want to consider owning. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

When it comes to the Warner Archive release of Thirteen Women, the 1932 thriller, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is you’ve got something for Myrna Loy fans to rejoice about, since here she is pre-Nora Charles. The bad news is what I uncovered when looking at the running time. 59 minutes? What? Yes, this was a pre-Code film that got cut and re-released three years later, post-Code. That’s from Wikipedia (always right). So you’ve got the cut version of the film here. Granted, I don’t know if the cut footage even still exists, but it is disappointing. (There appears to be a PAL DVD that says it’s 73 minutes long…and if that’s the case, terribly disappointing.) The shot, though, is this: Loy is seeking revenge after getting the cold shoulder from a sorority. And the revenge is downright murderous. Worth a watch for Loy completists or people who want to check out what remains of a pre-Code thriller. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

In Time Blu-Ray
Resurrect Dead DVD
Zone Troopers DVD

In Time has at least an interesting premise: it’s the future. Time is now currency. The poor have no time, the rich have stolen time. And after a run-in with a time-rich individual, Justin Timberlake’s character goes on a quest to upset the apple cart, so to speak. Unfortunately, the world-building is shallow and the script really wants to hammer home the metaphors and everything suffers. Especially the viewer. Sadly, this Fox release doesn’t have much to offer–apart from looking and sounding great in hi-def. You get a docu/backstory thing, some deleted and extended scenes and that’s it. Well, a DVD and digital copy are here as well. If you’re a sucker for slick-looking sci-fi (depth optional), then this might worth a snag from Netflix or something when your queue is also shallow. But I don’t know that even completists would find replay value in it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Here’s a film that made me very happy: Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. As I’ve mentioned before: I have an affinity for what I refer to as High Weirdness. UFOs, Bigfoot, ghosts…the lot. Oh sure, I think a huge amount of it is Unproven Bullshit…but it’s fun nonetheless. Entertainment value. The idea, though, that you could get some High Weirdness that is actually true? Fantastic. And that’s the shot with this: in which a series of tiles were found mysteriously in the asphalt of many U.S. cities…and some cities in South America as well. All of them reference the “Toynbee Idea” and want to promote the idea of resurrecting the dead on the planet Jupiter from Kubrick’s 2001. Yes, yes, I know it sounds already like it’s bullshit–but it’s not. The film focuses on one and then later three people who decide to once and for all get to the bottom of just who the hell has been perpetrating this. It leads them from a short wave enthusiasts convention to David Mamet and lots of places in between. And after you reach the hour mark, things really start to kick off. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Comes with an audio commentary with the trio of sleuths and the director, a gallery of tiles, and a music featurette. Recommended to at least watch. Freaks like me will want to own. And what occurs to me is this: RAW would have freaking loved it. (Click here to buy it on DVD from Amazon. Click here to snag the Amazon Instant Video option.

Sci-Fi B-movie fans, rejoice. As part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection, they’ve given you a legit Region 1 release of Zone Troopers. It’s 1944 and a group of American soldiers finds themselves lost behind enemy lines…and then stumble upon a wrecked spacecraft. And Nazis. And an alien. And things just get nuts from there. It stars a veritable array of “Oh, That Guy” cast members, including Tim Thomerson, Art La Fleur and “Timothy” Van Patten (now better known for directing episodes of Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire). It’s also a gem of low budget sci-fi 80s-ness. Those who are already excited by this are the true demographic, though I recommend you sci-fi bad movie geeks give this a watch. It’s a hoot. No bonus bits. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Bullseye DVD
Getting It Right DVD
Nutcracker The Motion Picture DVD

I don’t know why, but when I first saw information about Bullseye, which stars Michael Caine and Roger Moore, I assumed it was a much older film. It’s probably because I had never heard of it before, despite it being, as far as I can tell, the only feature film these guys have done together and being a comedy from the director of Death Wish (!). But no, it’s from 1990. The shot is this: Caine and Moore play two former criminal partners who are brought back together to impersonate two scientists who they are dead ringers for (also, natch, played by Caine and Moore). All this to get at the scientists’ brand new energy source. And hijinks ensue. However, there’s a reason why a film with these two actors didn’t get heard of much upon release–and is part of MGM’s MOD Limited Edition Collection–it wasn’t that much of a winner (no director’s name pun intended). Worth renting for any completist fan of either actor, but uncertain who would ultimately find the replay value to warrant a purchase. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I remember when I first saw Getting It Right. What struck me more than anything else was this completely mental punkish girl who played in the film…some woman by the name of Helena Bonham Carter. I think this was the film that convinced Zeffirelli to have her play Ophelia in his Hamlet. Just a hunch, though. The shot is this: Jesse Birdsall plays a hairdresser who at age 31, is still a virgin. His life is pretty static. However, he winds up at a party where he meets women who will change his life: played by Carter and Lynn Redgrave. They start him on the path to Coming of Age. Also in the film are John Gielgud, Peter Cook and Jane Horrocks. I rather enjoyed the film–enjoyed the performances, and I would recommend a viewing for anyone who wants to see where both Carter (and Horrocks) were in 1989. And of course, any film with Gielgud and Cook both? Score. Now, this is part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection, which means it’s MOD and with no bonus bits. That being said, give it a rental and if you enjoy it as much as I did, you might want it on your shelf. But give it a watch first. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Yet another version of Nutcracker, though this one says “The Motion Picture” on it. It’s from the MGM Limited Edition Collection. Supposedly written closer to the original story than any version before it, it still needs something to make it stand out from all the other versions–which it feels like there’s one filmed about every five years or so. And this doesn’t take account of all the staged versions during the holiday season. The thing that makes this stand out is that the design work was done by Maurice Sendak. If you’re a Sendak aficionado, you might want to check this out as a rental before purchasing…it’s not the best version, but his design work makes it worth a watch for fans. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Age of Heroes Blu-Ray
Answers to Nothing DVD
Phantom of the Opera: Royal Albert Hall Blu-Ray

Age of Heroes has everything you want in a WWII movie. A unit is put together with the purpose of going to Norway to investigate/steal this odd new device the Germans are using called “radar.” The 30 Commando unit are the guys for the job. Sean Bean is involved and armed. The guy behind the unit is some dude by the name of “Ian Fleming.” Yes, I know: this all sounds appealing to anybody who just wants to watch the good guys fire machine guns at the bad guys. Sadly, you know you’re in trouble when Ian Fleming, who’s given prominence in text on the back of the box, isn’t one of the lead characters. Not that I expect him to be out there banging Nazi heads together or anything, but still. You go from what has a lot of potential that’s something better suited for a rental (for Bean completists) to a wait for Netflix when your queue is feeling shallow. The Blu-Ray is a solid $8 more than the DVD release, and the hi-def video is not great–and I know that my inability to pick out details at certain points in the proceedings aren’t just due to the fact I need better contact lenses. For bonus bits, there is something: a docu about the actual 30 Commando unit does have interviews and you get deleted scenes, bloopers and behind the scenes footage. However, there’s nothing here that would I feel would urge someone to purchase for addition to the library. Even a completist in any regard would be hard-pressed, methinks. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So Answers to Nothing has hit from Lionsgate on DVD. The shot is that a girl has gone missing and that forms the backdrop for a bunch of interlocking character stories, led off by a shrink and his wife (played by Dane Cook and Elizabeth Mitchell). There’s a boatload of characters here, from the detective working the missing girl case, to the patient of Cook’s character who is a black woman who hates black people, to Cook’s character’s mom. Of course, the interlocking stories thing is something Paul Haggis made cool with Crash and many have tried it. But films such as this…well, let’s just say that Cook completists might want to check it out to see him in a dramatic role. But despite the bonus bits that are on here–a decent amount of them: audio commentary with the crew, deleted scenes and an alternate ending–anyone would be hard pressed to want to own it. Rent it if needed. B006O51XVA

Here is something that is probably not a surprise: I have a sincere appreciation for Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Phantom of the Opera. That’s probably because I understand what it is: big giant plastic theatre Spectacle. Is it High Art? No, nor was it meant to be. However, the staging for the original Broadway production is Freaking Amazing. The falling of the chandelier? Yeah, that’s pretty cool. For me, the beginning in which the chandelier repairs itself was even better. And other things, like when Raoul dives into the damn stage. Anyway, all of that to say I’m on board with the notion of a big Blu-Ray release of the show, like this from Universal, in honor of the show’s 25th anniversary. Yes, there have been some changes, but it’s not completely mind-destroying IMO. You get the show, plus Webber and original cast members putting in an appearance with other special guests. There’s also a behind the scenes featurette which forms the only real bonus bit. The video and audio are both properly amped up for a hi-def release as well. And when you consider it’s about $2.50 more to upgrade to hi-def as I write this…that’s a no-brainer. Fans will want to have this on their shelves…it’s no substitute for the live show, but what is? If you’re uncertain, give it a rental before deciding whether or not to buy. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I Aint Scared of You: A Tribute to Bernie Mac DVD
Michael Moorcock: London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
Son of No One Blu-Ray

Let it be known if for some reason you did not already know: Bernie Mac was one funny bastard. Here we have, out on DVD from Image, his tribute, I Ain’t Scared of You. It covers his life and career and lets you hear from friends and family, including the likes of Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Rock and Steven Soderbergh. You also get lots of footage, including early performances. The show is an hour long and on DVD comes with additional bonus material and extra interviews. The DVD is worth a watch for any fan, as you get some insight into where he came from and get to see the archival stuff that hasn’t been released before. Hardcore fans may want to own, but definitely rent or stream it first to give it a shot. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Wow. That’s what I think when I start perusing Michael Moorcock‘s collection London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction, out from PM Press. It weighs in at over 360 pages, and may not seem like much (or I don’t know, maybe it does–depending on your fear of the written word (or perhaps just your reading speed)), but take a look at the table of contents and you’ve got a buffet of stuff here. Diary entries, book intros, reviews. He writes on people, politics and music. I am thin on my Moorcock–I admit it freely–but the really scary bit is that you get to the afterword and you find that this is mostly stuff from the last five years or so, and is a companion to a larger collection put out earlier (and with no input from the man himself). Criminy. Not to be missed, just to point out a couple: Moorcock writing about being a child at Christmas during the Blitz and his review of a couple of books on Elvis that’s just fantastic in its ability to transcend. Fans of Moorcock–this is a no-brainer for you. And honestly, if you want just good, sold non-fiction writing–no-brainer as well. Highly recommended. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Son of No One is out on Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay, and it’s another story about a Cop With a Dark Secret to Hide. Channing Tatum plays a guy who is given the task of re-opening a murder investigation when new information from somewhere comes to light, suggesting that Al Pacino, who had the case initially, covered things up. But of course, because it’s a Dark Cop Drama, it’s never that easy and hijinks are guaranteed to ensue. Here’s my main question, though: what’s with the mustaches? Both Tatum and Pacino are wearing them…and neither should be. I know that shouldn’t vex me so, but it does. Pacino in a beard? Yes, of course. Just mustache? Heavens, no. Anyway, if you’re into the genre–or would like to see Tatum in something that’s a stretch from fare like G.I. Joe and The Vow (or even 21 Jump Street), then it’s probably worth a rental. It’s not bare bones, coming in with a commentary and deleted scenes…but rent it and check your replay factor before you buy. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)