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Headsup: Mummies, Genies, Ninjas & Beasties

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.

Angels Crest Blu-Ray
Chinatown Blu-Ray
Roadie Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]There is something to be said for the dramatic punch of losing children. And I don’t just mean, you know, misplacing them in the mall temporarily. I mean Losing Children. Because we all feel, on some deep primal level, that it’s simply not supposed to happen. We’re supposed to be the ones getting buried by them, etc etc. Anyway, Angels Crest involves A Stupid Decision that ends up with a small boy dying. The film concerns itself with what happens in the small town atmosphere in the wake of this tragedy. Though it has an impressive cast list–Jeremy Piven, Elizabeth McGovern, Mira Sorvino–it doesn’t take the notion and, for lack of a better term, run with it. The hi-def treatment does look and sound quite good–not that a film like this necessarily calls for such–and to Magnolia’s credit it’s not bare bones. You get deleted scenes with commentary from the director, interviews and more. If indie drama is your thing, you could give it a rental…but I would tell you to check out The Sweet Hereafter instead. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

When you start thinking of films regarding the occupation “private eye,” then Chinatown is up at the top. Or damn near it. Jack Nicholson rocks as Jake, the guy who starts investigating a case only to, as is the time-honored tradition, wind up as a much bigger endeavor than anyone could have anticipated. It’s just a freaking classic of the genre. And it’s hitting Blu-Ray from Paramount. What you have is a port of the features from the previous Centennial Edition…but those were fairly good to begin with: Robert Towne and David Fincher are on hand to give a commentary; and four featurettes that take you through the creation, the making-of, the music and covers the legacy of the film. The fifth thing is a longer look at the L.A. aqueduct. So the bonus bits are the same…what you do get is a hi-def upgrade for video and audio. It’s not the crispest thing ever…but I don’t know that you really want this to look overly sharp, if that makes any sense. At present, this is cheaper than the DVD that spawned it, so a double-dip is reasonable and a first purchase is a no-brainer. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Spend twenty-four hours in the company of a rock and roll roadie at the end of his roadie career. That’s the setup, after Jimmy (played by Ron Eldard, Super 8) gets canned by Blue Oyster Cult, the band that’s kept him employed for two decades. With nothing in the way of career prospects, he goes home to Queens for some quality time with old friends and family. Well, no, in reality he goes home because he has nowhere else to go and this is a Dealing With Life sort of film. Worth seeing for anyone who appreciates Eldard’s work or appreciates a good acting/character study. The only bonus bit is an HDNet feature on the film. The deal is it’s worth a good rental but check it out before purchasing…it’s not a film that screams hi-def, at least to me. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Bob: The Complete Series DVD
Eagleheart Season 1 DVD
South Park Season 15 Blu-Ray

Sometimes lightning doesn’t strike a third time. That’s what you can say about Bob, which was Bob Newhart’s follow-up to his first two classic runs of sitcom mayhem, The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart. Here, he plays a greeting card artist who gets tapped to revive a comic book character. There are reasons to snag this, even for someone beyond the Newhart fan. You get appearances by Tom Poston, Dick Martin and Lisa Kudrow. You even get a study in how a show can be completely retooled to try and save it–as the second season had an almost completely different cast and setup that the first season–bringing in Betty White, for example. All thirty-three episodes are here across four discs and there are actually bonus bits, which is decent: brief interviews with Newhart and White from Entertainment Tonight and a digital version of the first issue of the Marvel comic they did based on the “Mad Dog” character from the show. Fans of Newhart will want to check this out, but as to how much they need to own it, that’s up to the individual. It never really caught fire but it did have a bit of a following. And it’s less than $1/episode, so the price point isn’t bad either. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ah, Chris Elliott. I’ve liked him ever since “The Fugitive Guy” on David Letterman, aeons ago. (Kids, ask your parents.) Here, he joins the live action stable at Adult Swim with a cop show parody by the name of Eagleheart that features Chris playing Marshal Monsanto, who has a penchant for getting his partners killed (good thing he has two of them now). Together with straight laced Susie and even dimmer bulb Brett, They Fight Crime. And cause a helluva lot of carnage. The show here is all twelve episodes from the first series with a freaking ton of bonus bits. Twenty audio commentaries, to start with. No, your math isn’t faulty. Some of the episodes come with cast and writers commentaries both, mixed and matched. You also get bits of the unaired pilot, deleted scenes and outtakes, their 2011 New York Comic-Con Panel and more. It’s a pretty stacked DVD and though the episodes are of the short eleven-or-so minute variety, you’re looking at a bit over a dollar an episode–and for the amount of bonus bits in store, for the fan of the show, it’s probably worth owning. If you’re uncertain, though…grab it on TV or rent it to give it a test drive first. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

With long-running TV shows, it appears that you get three types of people who have an interest in them. Either they’re still enjoying the show, they used to love the show but it’s since fallen out of favor with them, or they only sort-of-not-really enjoy the show but keep watching out of habit. (I always relate this to my habit of buying Green Lantern comics for years after I should have stopped, hating myself the entire time.) I say this because that seems to be what I hear from South Park fans (and former fans). As the show’s fifteenth season hits Blu-Ray, it’s either hit or miss with folks. As for me, I’m just wondering if there was this much poo humor from the beginning and maybe I’m getting old. Anyway, this set comes with all fourteen episodes from the fifteenth season–all of them uncensored across two discs. In addition, you get a making-of that takes you through the six days they use to go from start to finish on an episode (plus a supplemental making-of that focuses on a single episode), deleted scenes and mini-commentaries from Trey and Matt. As the show is hit and miss, you probably already know where you stand on this–and whether or not the replay factor would work for you. I’m pretty much in the watch-it-once camp on this show myself, but rent it or sample it and see for yourself. The Blu-Ray is $7 more than the DVD–and it looks great (though this is one of the few animated shows that doesn’t, IMO, need hi-def) but YMMV. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Neverland Blu-Ray
Strip Nude For Your Killer Blu-Ray
Pharaohs Curse DVD

Neverland is another SyFy original miniseries in which they take a classic bit of literature and give it the old SyFy Twist. I bet you didn’t know that Peter Pan and Hook were acquainted with each other before falling out of London and into Neverland. And I bet you didn’t know how Peter got his powers and such. Well, that’s all the stuff this wants to answer and more, with Rhys Ifans as Hook and Bob Hoskins playing Smee again (no, you’re remembering correctly–he was Smee in Hook). Charlie Rowe (Golden Compass) plays Peter and Keira Knightley provides the voice of Tinker Bell. The shot is this: when you go in with SyFy, you know what you’re getting–although this is not in the “Original Movie” category and instead a miniseries…which means they do have a budget for once. Pan Purists (they probably do exist) will have an aneurysm, but if you are a fan of the story and not so tied to it you might find this version amusing. It does look and sound great on Blu-Ray and comes with a director’s commentary, interviews, a green screen featurette, art gallery and more. I don’t know that it’s the kind of thing I’d want to watch twice but if it’s you, then more power to you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Something must be said for a film that makes no bones about what its intentions are. A 1975 giallo film called Strip Nude For Your Killer is about as subtle in promoting its agenda as…well, something that’s not subtle. Something that shows up with a Powerpoint presentation. Or maybe just a flipchart, since we’re talking mid-70s. The shot is thus: murders start happening which include models and those who work with them. The killer? A figure clad in leather and wearing a motorcycle helmet. (Streethawk? Is that you?) The aims? To show homicide and nudity with a happening soundtrack. All of this succeeds on this Blue Underground release. Not the best of the genre but a decent outing. The same can be said of the Blu-Ray: you can’t get pissed because it’s not the crispest looking thing in the world, since, well, it’s from 1975. Also, there must not be a lot in the vault to trot out, since Blue Underground will trot anything and everything normally. Here, you get a couple of interviews. Now…this is the same spread (no pun intended) that was on the DVD that came out a few years back. I don’t know that the hi-def upgrade is worth double dipping in this case, and indeed the DVD is nearly half the cost of the Blu-Ray. So the giallo completist will be hard-pressed to warrant snagging this over the less-def edition. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Pharaoh’s Curse is one of those lost gems of the horror 50s, now resurfacing on a Region 1 DVD release thanks to the MGM MOD Limited Edition Collection. The gist is this: because they didn’t learn anything from messing around in tombs–or at least they didn’t watch the mummy movies of a couple of decades prior–a team of archaeologists find that one of them is now transformed into a living mummy–and not just any living mummy, but a blood-sucking living mummy! That’s right, when bandages aren’t enough, throw vampirism in there as well. A fantastic C-grade flick, those of you who are in the right demographic for this are already nodding. Bear in mind, though: no bonus bits (probably aren’t a lot of them to be had–trailer, maybe?). Rent it before deciding if you need to add it to your collection. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Girls Just Want to Have Fun Blu-Ray
Sitter Blu-Ray

Ah yes, the time honored tradition of “borrowing” the title of a popular song in order to give instant familiarity to your film. That’s the case, naturally, with Girls Just Want to Have Fun, a film that I had somehow put completely out of my mind. In this Footloose-esque film about girls who want to dance and Various Powers That Be That Don’t Understand And Wishes They Wouldn’t (or at least let other girls have more “fun” than them), you get a way-pre-L.A. Story Sarah Jessica Parker and a way-pre-Mad About You Helen Hunt as two friends conspiring to get on the local dance show. If they can just get past the other popular girl in school, parents, boys and all that other nonsense, then they just might pull off their madcap schemes. It’s 80s fluff and there’s a reason you probably didn’t know it existed. This Image Blu-Ray release comes with nothing in the way of bonus bits and doesn’t look terribly exciting (though it doesn’t really scream for hi-def, does it?). Of course, the odd bit is that the Blu-Ray is cheaper than the DVD at the moment by about $6…so if you do need to buy, you know what to grab. But I’m thinking a single rental to slake whatever curiosity you have should be sufficient. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Here we have The Sitter on Blu-Ray. The story is this: Jonah Hill plays a slackmonster who gets talked into a babysitting gig, which he becomes conflicted about when it conflicts with his ability to get sex from his girlfriend. Well, it happens. He decides to err on the side of penis and loads up the kids for a little field trip and then, as you might have expected, hijinks ensue. The main thing to bear in mind about the film is one line from the trailer. If a little girl confessing that she “sharted” is amusing, then you’re probably good for the long haul. If not, then you might still want to tune in for Sam Rockwell, who is watchable in damn near everything–and after Moon has pretty much earned a solid pass from me. The audio and video on this release are both okay, but this isn’t a film that screams hi-def to me, so that’s not that big of a deal. As far as bonuses go, you get a range of extended, deleted and alternate scenes. You get both the theatrical and the unrated cut (which tacks another five or so minutes onto the film). You also get a gag reel, a making-of, and more–the more also contains the DVD and the digital copy. Jonah Hill completists might want to consider owning, but even if this is the sort of thing you want to grab and watch (we don’t judge) then I’m still not certain about replay value. But to each their own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Seasons of New York

We all know that inside our brains we have neurons connected together by synapses and forming a neural network. Sebastian Seung, author of Connectome, is helping to map the brain and all of its various bits and bobs. For those keeping score, a human brain has around 100 billion neurons. So it could take some time…but luckily, Seung is helping to bring computers in to try and do it faster. This could lead to all kinds of breakthroughs, everything from why we are the way we are to the ability to back yourself up to tape (a la Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom). A nice round-up of where we are now with the science and a guide to where we might end up–one that doesn’t melt the brain by using crazed jargon to discuss the brain. Recommended for those wanting to catch up on what might save us from brain rot. It’s out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I love visiting New York, though I’d never really be cut out to live there, I think. Too many people squeezed into one place–both its glory and the thing about it that would make me insane. One of the many things I enjoy about the place, though, is how beautiful it can be. And thus, this Universe release, Seasons of New York, gives you a photo book filled with shots of the city through all four seasons, showing off the variety of gorgeous scenes you can get. Lots of Central Park, to be sure, as well as making lots of use of the colorful foliage that shows up in the green spots you do get. Plus some awesome winter shots that go positively monochromatic. This is a great book for anyone who’s an New Yorker expat and wants to remember what things are like back home…or anyone who wants to glimpse without having to necessarily go there. You know, like me. And be among people. Recommended along those lines. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Lost Angels DVD
Pray For Death DVD
Sergeant Deadhead DVD

Do you remember that time the Beastie Boys met Donald Sutherland? No? Well, not all the Boys, at least not on screen: Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz made his feature film debut as a “troubled teen” who gets institutionalized and is thus in a Very Bad Environment in Lost Angels. His only ally: a psychiatrist played by Sutherland. Fans of the Beasties might want to check this out to see him in his first time on the big screen (he was apparently in an episode of The Equalizer) but may want to give it a rental. Only true completists will want to have this on their shelf with no bonus bits. Kudos to MGM for putting it out, though. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sho Kosugi. There’s a reason why I got so psyched about seeing him in Ninja Assassin a ways back. Anybody who delved into stacks of VHS fu back in the 80s knows Kosugi and, further, knows that he is a badass. So that’s why it’s awesome that MGM is releasing to legit Region 1 DVD Pray for Death. Kosugi plays a guy who emigrates to the States, wants to just get along with his family and relax. But it’s Never That Simple. And this is a cautionary tale for mobsters and ne’er-do-wells. You never know when they guy you are pushing…IS A NINJA. Classic. Our own Bob the Zombie agreed here. Anyway, the true fu aficionado will want to heavily consider this…although what I really want is a boxed set of Kosugi with some bonus bits. Maybe if the sales are enough, they’ll go for it. We shall see. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The guys at the MGM Limited Edition Collection are stealing my schtick. Here we’re talking about Sergeant Deadhead, which features Frankie Avalon as the titular character, who goes up into space with a chimpanzee only to have his mind and the chimp’s swapped. The spiel on the back of the DVD then says “Complications ensue.” In other word, hijinks. And how can you have anything but when you’ve also got Cesar Romero, Gale Gordon, Harvey Lembeck, Buster Keaton and others along for the ride? I think you can already guess–along with the American International banner on here–that we’re not talking about sterling comedy, but a throwaway affair that might net some amusement–and that’s about it. It’s good to have for posterity, of course, finally on a Region 1 DVD release, even one that’s MOD. But with no bonus bits, the $20 price tag is going to seem steep for all but the most ardent Avalon completists. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

James May: Man Lab Series 1 DVD
Phil Collins: Live at Montreux 2004 Blu-Ray
Shazzan: The Complete Series DVD

I do like all of the presenters from Top Gear. They each have their own style. But there’s just something about James May that I find so terribly earnest, that I enjoy him no matter what he’s presenting, whether it’s his excellent Toy Stories series or his moon documentary. This, though, is a series about retaining manly skills that are being lost as we hurtle towards the future. Hence, the first series of his Man Lab. All three episodes are here, taking you through such tasks as disarming a bomb, building a bar and dueling. There are no bonus bits on this BFS release…and while it’s excellent to see this hitting stateside, I fear it’s a bit pricey on a per-episode basis…over $7 each. So while it’s definitely worth renting or snagging temporarily some other way–as I don’t believe this ever aired over here–only a hardcore May completist would own, again, strictly from a cost standpoint. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

At the risk of drawing ire…I’m not sure where the Phil Collins hate comes from. You know what I mean. Sure, he’s so 80s it’s ridiculous…but what’s wrong with that? Beer commercial or not, “In the Air Tonight” is a great song. His covers of “Groovy Kind of Love” and “You Can’t Hurry Love”? Decent, both of them. And yeah, disposable hits like “Sussudio” and “Invisible Touch”…enjoyable. Sure, it’s not the sort of thing I’d just throw on whenever, but if I were to be presented with a track here and there, I would be fine with it. That being said, a decent time is to be had with this Live at Montreux 2004 Blu-Ray release from Eagle Rock. Not only do you get twenty-four tracks from 2004, but they also include thirteen tracks from 1996 (as a bonus), where he has a big band backing him up. What you wind up with is close to four hours of music. Not bad. And at $16.99, the price point is quite decent as well, with the audio and video both very respectable. Collins fans will want to pick this up, people like myself will at least want to give it a watch. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Friends of Hanna-Barbera can continue to rejoice as Warner Archive keeps rolling out titles under their “Classic Collection” banner. Here we have all thirty-six episodes of Shazzan. Two kids are transported back in time to ancient Egypt after finding the two halves of a mysterious ring and joining them to summon the genie of the title. They also have a flying camel named Kaboobie. No, seriously. The series has our two young heroes entering into various hijinks that require them to get their fat pulled out of the fire by their genie friend. It’s a 60s Saturday morning cartoon, though…not sure what else you want. It is an Alex Toth creation and your friend and mine, Kaboobie, is voiced by Don Messick. The price point here is more than decent–less than $1 an episode–but still, only your true fan of the show or an HB completist is going to want to plonk down the coin. Find an episode online and sample it before doing so. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Ian Anderson: Thick as a Brick CD
Titanic Soundtrack: Anniversary Edition

Musical sequels are…interesting, to say the least. They seem to come out of nowhere…at least, that’s how it seems to me. Like the recent Alice Cooper Nightmare follow-up. “What?” I think is the normal reaction. So when I heard that Jethro Tull head burrito Ian Anderson was doing a sequel to Thick as a Brick, that was my reaction to a tee: “What?” Does it really need a sequel? And how the hell do you follow-up their album-length prog rock classic? Well, I’ll still take the original (my second favorite Tull to Aqualung) but I will say I was surprised how well Thick as a Brick 2 (Brick Harder?) holds together. It follows possible futures for Gerald, the fictional boy who formed the basis for the first album–four decades later. It’s got enough classic Tull to it to make it flow from the original but it’s not so I Can’t Believe It’s Not Tull to distract from the album itself. Anderson’s vocals are still pretty solid and his playing is still bang-on. Tull fans will want to check it out–even if you’ve maybe been not entirely pleased with Anderson’s solo career, I think this one will please. (Click here to buy the MP3 from Amazon. Click here to buy the CD from Amazon.)

Okay, we’re friends here. We can admit something. Whether you dug Titanic or not (I did), I think we all agree: that Celine Dion song will make the most sane, civilized person want to bunch a bunny in the face. Let’s grant that and move on. Because this is the 100th Anniversary of the Titanic, the movie is out in 3D and the soundtrack is re-released in different versions. The Anniversary Edition, which is what we have here, has something fantastic on it–which I prefer even to the commendable James Horner score: a second disc of authentic period music performed by I Salonisti. Who the hell are I Salonisti? The quintet of musicians assembled to play in the film (who did actually play) and who play songs that are supposed to be on the required be-able-to-play-this playlist for the White Star Line. And it’s all really glorious stuff. I can’t speak to the four-disc version, but this two-disc version is quite tasty (and worth snagging for the second disc alone) and the Anniversary Edition is presently going for $12 at the moment. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)