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Headsup: Leading Ladies, Leading Vampires and a Rogue Sandman

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.

Iron Lady Blu-Ray
Logans Run: Complete Series DVD
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Best Buy Exclusive Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]The phrase “tip of the iceberg” comes to mind when talking about The Iron Lady, the film that surprised…well, me anyway…by giving Meryl Streep her third Oscar (she’s one away from tying Katharine Hepburn). Nothing about her performance–I just try to predict the awards using mostly box office and politics. Speaking of politics, what you have here is the biopic about Margaret Thatcher, one of the most polarizing figures of 20th Century politics. From what I’ve been able to glean, looking from this side of the pond, the only thing that comes close here is the general feeling about Reagan. But there seems to be a lot more concentrated venom for Thatcher. Regardless, the film here does sort of just scratch the surface of what should probably be a television maxi-series, giving us touches of her life from World War II up until the present day when she’s battling dementia. And regardless of how you feel the film was handled (the positions on it are across a wide range) it’s pretty unanimous that Streep is fantastic. The Blu-Ray presentation looks fantastic–and even though this isn’t a film I would think would scream hi-def–it hollers it pretty well. Bonus bits are short: a making-of that encompasses most of the content, plus mini-featurettes covering things like the performances of Jim Broadbent and Alexandra Roach. Worth a rental, and biopic fans or Streep fanatics will want to own. And some more bonus bits–a commentary, perhaps, or even some more background that would help us over here better contextualize things–would make it easier to swallow for $19.99. But it’s not terrible as it stands. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I’m not quite sure how I had somehow escaped the knowledge that the Logan’s Run movie had been sent to television. I’m not surprised, mind you. But it did amuse me to no end to see a terribly young Gregory Harrison playing Logan when I snagged the set and perused the cover. If you’re only familiar with the film, you might be amused to learn that on the run from being executed after hitting age thirty, Logan and Jessica are joined by Rem, an android. They then are on the run from one of Logan’s co-workers (Logan, of course, used to chase runners for a living) who wants to impress the old guys who run things back home. Yes, some slight departures. But the series is content to run around and deal with a spot of time travel, aliens, mad scientists…the usual. It stopped airing after eleven episodes…and this set has an additional three episodes (that apparently never aired stateside) across its three-disc presentation. And that’s really it’s only bonus offering. You’re looking at a little over $2 an episode at its present price point, so that’s not terrible. But it’s really for the true fan–and rent it first to see if you’re among them. Worth renting regardless for the fun retro sci-fi value. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

It’s no secret that I thoroughly enjoyed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. After finding the first film tolerable, finding the second film infuriating and then skipping the third film (because, well, they’d gotten me twice and shame on me), Tom Cruise brought out the big guns to park my ass in a seat: he got Brad Bird to direct. Well, that got my attention and good thing too. Because the film is an absolute hoot. If the opening sequence before the titles doesn’t rope you in, then you might as well flee, because this just isn’t for you. But it’s such a fun action-adventure film, that it makes sense when you watch the bonus bits and learn that Bird had Indiana Jones in mind–a character that’s overmatched and is in True Jeopardy but keeps going, despite repeatedly getting his own ass handed to him. The Blu-Ray we’re talking about here is the three-disc Best Buy Exclusive, which I would recommend getting. The extra hour of bonus material is worth it. You get no commentary on the film, but you do get Bird’s commentary on deleted scenes. You also get a wealth of behind the scenes featurettes. One of my favorites: the car collision sequence doesn’t work on the first take. You get to see what happens next. Also, footage of Tom Cruise swinging outside the 126th floor of a building is nothing to sneeze at. Fun film with an accompanying fun Blu-Ray presentation. Highly recommended.

Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous DVD
Mo Willems Pigeon and Pals: Complete Cartoon Collection Vol. 1 and 2 DVD
Regular Show Slack Pack DVD

The release of Astonishing X-Men: Dangerous marks the latest Shout! Factory/Marvel Knights motion comic release, taking the story arc by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday and bringing it to semi-life on DVD. The situation is this: someone or something inside the X-Family, as it turns out, is not very nice. In fact, it’s downright lethal. And once it puts its cards on the table, those X-Types are going to have to watch their asses…because this enemy knows their strengths and weaknesses intimately. So the good news is if you liked the story arc that this is adapted from–you’re getting that, for the most part. The motion comic thing doesn’t really work for me…because the audio work isn’t stellar and I don’t know about you…but I get better motion and audio in my own imagination when I just read the original comic. But to each their own. What isn’t helping matters is that this comes with no bonus bits, so even if you are gung ho and want to give it a watch…it’s hard to recommend it for a purchase. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Fans of Mo Willems will want to check out this Scholastic Storybook Treasures set for kids: Mo Willems’ Pigeon and Pals: Complete Cartoon Collection, Vol. 1 & 2. Yes, this is the man who gave you the Pigeon character from Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! And also Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed–those and four other stories are animated on this two disc set. In addition to the stories, perfect for kids, you get some bonus bits: a Spanish version of the Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale story, featurettes that give you some background on Willems and how he got started in children’s books, as well as a read-along feature. If your kids are already fans of his work, then it’s a no-brainer, but if you’re uncertain, rent it first and see. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Another day, another inexplicable random array of episodes of a Cartoon Network show. This time it’s the Regular Show, with this twelve episode “Slack Pack,” pulling from the show’s first two seasons. The show is…odd, to say the least. Mordecai the Blue Jay and Rigby the Raccoon work at a park and try to get out of work however they can, which is, as we all know, more work most times than actually working. There are other bizarre characters in their lives, like Skips the Yeti (voiced by Mark Hamill) and Mr. Maellard the Lollipop Man (voiced by David Ogden Stiers). Fans of insane animation will want to check it out–however, your best bet is to tune into the Network proper. The only bonus bit here is a short promo piece–and that’s it. This is a release to draw out the people who can’t wait to purchase things…but I advise you to wait and get the season sets if you truly want to own this for yourself. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Dark Shadows: Best of Barnabas DVD
Dark Shadows: Fan Favorites DVD

Dark Shadows, the 60s soap opera that decided to go weird and thus made its mark in television history. Vampires, ghosts, witches, werewolves and more. The lead vampire was Barnabas, played by the sadly recently deceased Jonathan Frid. And as we prepare for the Tim Burton feature film version to play fast and loose with the concept–and as we realize nobody can really afford the complete series giant coffin boxed set–MPI is kind enough to release two sampler compilations that give you a taste without having to…well, I was heading towards a vampire pun without meaning to and I shall stop. Anyway, you have Fan Favorites and The Best of Barnabas, with the titles telling you the synopsis right there. Yes, they’re hopping around as far as the selection goes, but introductions are provided to give you a bit of context so you’re not completely in the dark as to what’s going on. Sorry, punning again. Each disc comes with nine episodes and no bonus bits beyond the intros…but as a sampler plate, they do all right. And the “Favorites” release is only a $1 an episode, so it’s worth considering. Rent it at least and then soap/paranormal TV aficionados may want to consider owning. (Click here to buy Fan Favorites from Amazon. Click here to buy Best of Barnabas from Amazon.)

Bounce Blu-Ray
Kate and Leopold Blu-Ray
Laverne and Shirley: The Fifth Season DVD

So a very unlikely way to find love and whatnot is to inadvertently get someone’s husband killed. Flippantly put, but that’s the gist of Bounce: Ben Affleck‘s character stays behind and sends someone on in his stead on a flight–so he can enjoy the layover with some female company. Trouble is, the flight crashes and Affleck’s character is now racked with guilt. So much so that he seeks out the guy’s widow and…nothing really truly unpredictable proceeds to happen. Affleck and Paltrow don’t deliver their finest hours here but honestly, it just feels like a Lifetime Movie to me…you know, the sweet and hanky-devouring but utterly unrealistic sort of flick? Yes, that sort. This Blu-Ray release is out from Miramax and Lionsgate and looks decent enough for hi-def (though this release doesn’t really need hi-def IMO). You get a direct port of the two-disc DVD set’s bonus bits: audio commentary with the director and producer; scene-specific commentary from the director plus Affleck and Paltrow; deleted scenes also come with commentary; gag reel and a behind the scenes bit and more. While I said this wasn’t really a hi-def sort of film–at present it’s just a few cents more than the DVD, so if you did want to buy this, your path would be clear. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Kate & Leopold Blu-Ray release finds Hugh Jackman as Leopold moving through a a portal in time forward from the 19th to the 21st century. He runs into Meg Ryan and the two strike up a romance, because that’s simply what you do in Meg Ryan films. How does he reconcile himself to a life in the future? Can she find love despite wanting a career? And what century do you finally settle down in? A decent time travel romance flick (yes, that’s an existing sub-genre), it looks well enough on Blu-Ray, though it doesn’t blow your mind. (And it’s not a film that screams hi-def to me, anyway.) You do get a port of the features from the original Director’s Cut DVD release: audio commentary with the director, featurette, deleted scenes with optional commentary and a short costume featurette. True fans of the film might want to consider it if they haven’t snagged it already: it’s only $7.99 at the moment. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The fifth season of Laverne & Shirley hits DVD from Paramount. The last Milwaukee season leads in with the second part of a two-parter from Happy Days (the first part of which they were kind enough to include on the set as its main bonus besides a gag reel) and then has various and sundry hijinks for the girls, including the two-part Army sequence guest-starring Vicki Lawrence, plus guest appearances from others including Ted Danson and Ed Begley Jr. While never groundbreaking television, it was never meant to be…it’s just a light sitcom that has a great deal of nostalgic value for many. If you are among those many, you might consider snagging this: the price point puts it at a bit over $1 an episode–not bad. And that’s twenty-five episodes across four discs. For anyone else unfamiliar with the show, rent a bit of Season 1 to acclimate yourself and then see if you want to delve further. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Skin Deep Warner Archive DVD
SOB Warner Archive DVD
Victor Victoria Warner Archive DVD

I’m sort of stunned to see Blake Edwards films coming out from the Warner Archive, to be truthful. My understanding is that it’s for DVDs that Warners wants to give a legit Region 1 release to…but not one that has enough sales to warrant a full-blown release. Either that or they’re shifting some catalog titles to the Archive to see how it goes. Either way, this is Blake Goddamn Edwards we’re talking about. And the three titles here are nothing to sneeze at.

Let’s start with Skin Deep, an underrated John Ritter-starring gem where he’s playing a guy who has issues about relationships and sex that he’s trying to work through, with mixed results. Granted, yes, if you’ve seen the film (or not) there’s a much ballyhooed scene that I won’t even talk about lest it spoil things for people who haven’t seen it, but goddamn, that’s the first time since Arthur I remember laughing so hard at the movies. Just that oh-crap-I’m-going-to-hurt-myself sort of laughing. It’s that good and Ritter’s that good. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

S.O.B. isn’t my favorite Edwards–the film concerns a movie producer who’s just had a tremendous, Ishtarian flop and figures the way to turn his luck around is also to assist with changing the image of his wife, America’s sweetheart (played by Julie Andrews). There are some great bits in the cast, headed up by Richard Mulligan as the producer. But for me, it’s ultimately hit and miss with the hits and misses coming at about fifty-fifty. That all being said, the funny bits make it definitely worth watching. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

And of course we have Edwards’ classic, Victor/Victoria, with Andrews back in the title role(s), playing a woman who must play a man who must play a woman. Look for Robert Preston and James Garner in freaking fantastic roles as well. This is the only one of the three releases to sport a bonus bit: a rarity for the Archive–but it’s a port of the Edwards/Andrews commentary from the original release. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

The good news is that these titles are back in print. The perplexing news is that they’re out from the Archive, but c’est la guerre. I would say watch all three and then purchase as you see fit. If they had more in the way of bonus bits, they would be a much easier sell. But as it stands, if you already own, no need to revisit–and if you don’t, at least consider them.

Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno - Conversation Piece Blu-Ray
Westward the Women DVD

Here I was trying to sit and think about what I know Burt Lancaster for best–but damn, there’s just so much. The hits just keep on coming: everything from Gunfight at the OK Corral to Dr. Moreau to, hell, Field of Dreams. He was excellent–and I urge you, if you’re a Lancaster fan, to check out Conversation Piece (original Italian title: Gruppo di Famiglia in un Interno). Here he plays a professor whose peaceful life is overturned by new tenants that he takes on, and how he deals with having this disruption. It’s not the sort of role that initially springs to mind for him–at least for my mind, anyway. But the Raro Video release here does it justice–the hi-def setup is solid. You also get a short interview with a critic who gives you some background on the film. There’s also a small booklet with additional info. Lancaster fans will want to rent it but if they decide to add it to their collection–the Blu-Ray’s currently cheaper than the DVD, so that’s a no-brainer. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The 1951 wagon train flick Westward the Women hits DVD thanks to the Warner Archive. The shot is this: if you think Mars needs women they don’t have anything on the guys in California during the time of the Old West. A bride recruitment drive in Chicago turns up well over a hundred women ready to make the dangerous trek west and marry some guy they’ve never met. (Well, hadn’t been invented yet, so what could you do?) Trouble is, they run into some trouble en route and head wagon train meister (played by Robert Taylor) finds himself woefully in short of manpower. You can probably see where this is going: the women step up and insist that they press on, despite the danger. An impressive film just for the fact that rather than playing lip service to the danger, there are serious casualties on the way westward. Making this a rarity are bonus bits: a film historian audio commentary and a vintage making-of featurette. Fans of westerns will want to give this at least a watch and then determine if they want to plonk it into the libraries. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Jeff Healey Band: Live in Belgium DVD
Madonna: Truth or Dare Blu-Ray

Well, we recently told you about a 3CD/1DVD set from Eagle Rock covering The Jeff Healey Band, Full Circle. But some people just can’t get enough–and if you snagged the last release and still crave more live music, then Live in Belgium might be right up your alley. For one thing, it’s a CD/DVD release, so as I prefer, you get the best of both worlds: concert video…then dump the songs on your iPod for easy listening while on the go. Healey’s guitar work is pretty damn fantastic–I still dig how he seems to effortlessly jam the living shit out of “Roadhouse Blues,” and “Angel Eyes” still sounds excellent for a late 80s love ballad. It’s all good stuff. The fan of Healey’s work is going to want to snag this–and at $17.99 for both CD & DVD (and the same thirteen tracks on both), the price point isn’t terrible. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The docu/concert film Madonna: Truth or Dare has hit Blu-Ray thanks to Lionsgate. On one hand, it’s supposed to give you a behind the scenes look at the tour but also at her life–and remember, this was 1991–the Blond Ambition Tour–and Madonna was huge then. She’s still potent but–kids, ask your parents–back then it was insane. Technical issues, concert footage, celebrities, supposedly candid moments…it’s all here. And I never got caught up in the gravity well of her celebrity, so it wasn’t for me…and really, still isn’t. This is primarily for somebody who believed and wants to revisit or still believes and actually wants the film in hi-def. I wondered about how it would look, knowing that a good portion of it was grainy black and white–and it looks good enough, especially for the in-color concert bits…but I don’t have a DVD version here to compare with. That being said…at $7.99 and the same price as a DVD, it only makes sense to grab this if you want it. That also being said, there’s nothing in the way of bonus bits on here…so even at that price, make sure it’s something you want on your shelf before plonking coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Gwyneth Paltrow 4-Film Collection DVD
Nicole Kidman 4-Film Collection DVD
Renee Zellweger 4 Film Collection DVD

Lionsgate has released three “4-Film Collections” which give you films featuring three different leading ladies. They’re mostly bargain repackagings of what’s come before, but the Kidman and Paltrow collections are $14.99 at present with Zellweger coming in at $17.99…so even with the later at $4.50 a film, that’s not a bad deal. And these come with some bonus bits, so it’s not like you’re just getting the four films and nothing else. As is the norm with these, the mixing of the bag involved is part of the thing.

With Paltrow, you have Shakespeare in Love, Emma, Bounce and View From the Top. Of note here for Shakespeare is a costume featurette, a director’s commentary and deleted scenes. Bounce comes with a commentary track and View comes with a number of featurettes. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

With Kidman, you get Cold Mountain, Rabbit Hole, The Others and Dogville. Dogville has a commentary track and Rabbit Hole has one as well with deleted scenes. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

And with Zellweger, you get Bridget Jones’s Diary, Chicago, Cold Mountain and New in Town. New has a cast and crew commentary plus deleted scenes; Diary has a director’s commentary as well as featurettes; and Chicago comes with a commentary, a behind the scenes featurette and a deleted song. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

All three are straight-up repackaging of previous releases, right down to the disc art. So there’s nothing new under the sun here…however, the price is right if somebody wants to kick off a collection or needs these particular titles. No reason to double dip, however.