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Headsup: Giant Martian Apes, Civil War Zombies & Other Obstacles in Life

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.

John Carter 3D Blu-Ray
A Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook

[ad#longpost]I know a lot of people enjoyed John Carter. I feel like I’m in the minority on this, but the classic Burroughs sci-fi story needed somebody to bring it to the screen who hadn’t been enamored with it their entire life. Why? Because I felt like if a relative outsider had approached the story they would have made sure that the audience, who are mostly going to be outsiders as well, would pick up on the story and run with it. I was lost the moment the second group of blue people showed up. Wait, who are these guys? You mean they’re not the same as the other blue people? That sort of things abounds. (Granted, my wife enjoyed it and she’s smarter than me, so take my opinion with an entire salt lick.) Regardless, fans of the film will want to rent this 3D 4-Disc combo and hardcore fans will want to own. The hi-def video and audio are amazing and the 3D is pretty damn sweet (upgrading from the two-disc to the four-disc is only about $7). The bonus bits are fairly extensive, with the Disney Second Screen giving you additional content while you watch the film and the audio commentary with director Andrew Stanton and the producers. There’s also deleted scenes with optional commentary by Stanton, a Burroughs featurette and a production diary. Again, your price point is that you’re paying less than $6 a disc overall, so the full-blown 3D combo is the way to go if you feel there’s enough replay value in the film to own it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

It is very odd to remember when Random House Audio sent me the first two audiobooks (on cassette, mind you) of A Song of Ice and Fire and I became hooked. That was aeons ago. Now the thing has blown completely up, what with the TV show and winning awards and such. And to further the madness, we have entered into a world in which the franchise has spawned two cookbooks, one official, one unofficial. Here we have, from Bantam, the Official Companion Cookbook, A Feast of Ice and Fire. And because you read this site, you too probably thought, “Weren’t those Mountain Dew flavors?” (Not exactly, no.) Anyway, you can tell this is official because Mr. Martin himself writes the introduction. Nice. And while I wasn’t drawn to the descriptions of food like, say, my brother Siege or the fine authors behind this tome, it is amusing to see food mentioned brought to life–mostly in both medieval and modern variations. The recipes are arranged by region (you even get sample menus arranging the dishes), and while the advanced proof I have was limited to black and white photos, the colors ones I’ve seen are quite sweet. Hell, even I want to try some of the stuff in here. I would say if you are a fan of the show/books and enjoy cooking, this is a no-brainer. Or if you are related to somebody that fits that description–congrats, your next gift idea is covered. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Collapsed DVD
Exit Humanity DVD
True Blood:The Complete Fourth Season Blu-Ray

End of the world movies are fun little roller coaster rides, normally. Because the world has not, so far as we know, actually ended–we can get all of the thrill with none of the apocalypse. That being said, you get a lot of them. And not all of them involve zombies, mind you. Take The Collapsed, out on DVD from Anchor Bay, for instance. There’s some sort of unseen force behind everything, on top of all the crazy folks and potential cannibals and whatnot. And a family of four is trying to get to safety through all this mess. Obviously low budget, it does the best it can and it would probably be worth checking out for anyone who’s hardcore for this particular sub-genre. It gets points for taking the action out into the open a lot rather than sticking to one location (which is gotta be easier on the cinematographers, I know). The DVD is fairly stacked, all things considered: two audio commentaries and additional things you can download. Give it a rental if it sounds up your alley. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ah, alternate history fun. We’re about to see a version of this hit with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. But with Exit Humanity, we get a post-Civil War zombie apocalypse and a man trying to fulfill a promise to his dead son in the midst of all the madness. Now when I say to you the words “modestly budgeted period piece,” you understandably can be a bit cautious. Because it’s so hard to get invested in a film where, to use a mangled metaphor, you can “see the zipper” of the time period. But the film does very well considering what it had to work with, both FX-wise and acting-wise, with Dee Wallace, Bill Moseley and Brian Cox on board. And it certainly takes some balls to tackle a project like this one. As for the DVD, it has two audio commentaries and a making-of. Zombie fans in the mood for something different should definitely check it out. A rental will probably do until the hardcore can decide if they are hardcore or not. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So the fourth season of True Blood has hit Blu-Ray from HBO, and it’s hard to keep track of everything that’s going on. Granted, not watching television like most humans, I am not as in-tune with the show. Vampires, werewolves, fairies and now witches, oh my. Yes, the witches step up this season as one in particular becomes the Big Bad with a serious agenda against our protagonists. Fans of the show will want to snag this (for the replay value, if it resonates with them) simply because HBO does an excellent job with their Blu-Ray bonus bits. The audio and video are both fantastic–and again, if my half-blind, half-deaf self can tell the difference, you know it’s choice. You also get six audio commentaries, a featurette focusing on each episode, a fourth season docu, and their Enhanced Viewing Mode. This gives you different character perspectives, bios, histories and other things that open up the episodes a bit. Episodes on the Blu-Ray are a little over $4 each, but this is HBO and you do get a lot of bonus bang for your buck. Again, fans should consider but if nothing else rent the Blu-Ray to experience the features. HBO really does a great job with these. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Act of Valor Blu-Ray
Bad Ass Blu-Ray
Burn Notice Season 5 DVD

I can see where you could get into trouble with Act of Valor if you didn’t know what you were getting into. An action film about Navy SEALs that uses real Navy SEALs to play the parts, uses live ammo in certain scenes…anyone going into a film like this expecting Saving Private Ryan needs their head examined. That being said, it does what it shows up to do extremely well. And you can’t even fault the SEALs for not being actors…because they’re not. But the script and editing could have both been tightened up. Regardless, those desiring splode will not be disappointed. This Fox release comes with a more than decent array of bonus bits: a directors’ commentary, deleted scenes, interviews with the SEALs, a making-of, a live ammo featurette and more. Fans of the film may find the array of bonus bits and replay value enough to own it. Not certain, but like splode and the military? Give it at least a rental. Methinks you will be pleased. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I don’t think anybody who reads this site is going to make any sort of mistake about this film. Let’s see: it’s called Bad Ass and it stars Danny Trejo as an elderly gentleman who runs about providing a beatdown delivery service. Is there anyone mad enough to expect high cinema out of this? There’s two types of people: the people who get excited at the prospect of this film and will probably enjoy it no matter what they determine the quality level to be and people who just don’t understand the appeal. To those former people, they might be interested in renting this Blu-Ray from Fox. The hi-def looks pretty good, actually. This film doesn’t scream for it, but it’s there nonetheless. There’s also a writer/director commentary and a short “Birth of a Bad Ass” featurette. Should B-movie watchers check it out? Oh sure. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The definition of a Guilty Pleasure Watch for me is Burn Notice. I mean, it’s got everything you could want. Badass spyness. Mild twistyness. An overall story arc. Bruce Campbell. But besides Bruce, the cast pulls off the most important bit: you actually give a shit. Yes, the slow progression of the overall arc means that you’re only (usually) 1% off the status quo, on the average, from episode to episode. But the fact that you’re enjoying the cast so much means that while you give a shit about them, you don’t give two shits about how repetitive it can sometimes get. They also throw you some nice curveballs, like how the season takes a left turn–and how Tim Matheson comes back (and I can’t get enough of his character, although he’s not directing an episode this season). You get all eighteen episodes across four discs from Fox. And bonus bits, which is nice: an extended episode, deleted scenes, a villains featurette, gag reel and one audio commentary on the final episode with Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan and creator Matt Nix. Fans probably have already seen the episodes and will want to rent it for the bonus bits, but will have to decide for themselves if the replay value warrants snagging the set. The price point is a little over a $1.50 an episode…so not terrible. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 8 DVD
Goon DVD

After the on-again, off-again madness of Larry’s marriage during previous airings of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the divorce is final and the eighth season says him becoming single and pursuing his life forward. There are always challenges–but we all have those don’t we?–like dating, having neighbors like Michael J. Fox and competing with Rosie O’Donnell for the same woman. Again, pretty common stuff. Fans of the show will continue to be pleased with the madness. And the HBO two-disc DVD set is not bad either: there’s a short guide to NYC with Leon Black (J.B. Smoove) but most importantly a huge roundtable with the cast of the show recorded live at the 92nd Street Y in NYC. Nice. If you are a fan of the show, that would be worth renting for–and if you are a fan, then you’ll know if the replay value is there to warrant you plonking coin. Current price point is about $2.25 an episode, which isn’t bad for HBO. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sometimes in life you just need somebody around who can punch somebody else. Effectively. This is quite true in ice hockey, where, well, that’s half of the reason the fans tune in. That’s the backdrop for Goon, where Seann William Scott plays a bouncer who gets spotted by a hockey coach who sees no talent for the game but a talent for beatdowns. So they put skates on him. Along the way you also have producer and co-scribe Jay Baruchel as his friend, Alison Pill as his potential girlfriend, Liev Schreiber as a thuggish foil and Eugene Levy as his dad. Nice supporting cast. The film should appeal to any fan of the sport or fans of Scott, who I think is a bit of an underappreciated actor. The DVD from Magnolia comes with deleted scenes, outtakes and a blooper reel, a commentary from Baruchel and the director and more. Rent it first to see if it belongs on your shelf. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Babar Classic Series Season 1 DVD
Sealab 2020: The Complete Series DVD
Beatles: Yellow Submarine Blu-Ray

After some releases earlier that had sporadic and random episodes from the show, Babar: The Classic Series hits with a season set–all thirteen episodes of the first season across two discs. This is out from Entertainment One. The cartoon, based on the books, tells the story of young Babar the Elephant and how his life, though with tragic beginnings, eventually led him to become King of the Elephant. Now his adventures involve dealing with the royal family of Rhinoland, dealing with the machinations of the hunter and, yes, even a space race. All the episodes are digitally remastered and restored and despite the lack of bonus bits, it’s a cute show. It’s got a positive message and it’s as I remember it: Not Annoying. Which is especially nice when you’re no longer in the single digit age bracket. Rent it to see if your kid enjoys it (or you–our readers are kids of all ages) and then plonk coin if you want it on your shelf permanently due to replay value. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Amazing what a single number can do. Warner Archive, as part of their mission to get the vast (and I’m talking vast here) array of Hanna-Barbera releases to DVD (hence the Classic Collection label), brings the entirety of Sealab 2020 to Region 1. Yes, the basis for the Adult Swim parody, Sealab 2021. In fact, I think there are probably some fans of that show who don’t realize it was actually reworking a previous series. It’s those people you need to buy this for, just to mess with their heads. But yes, it’s thirteen episodes of a very serious eco-friendly nature. But of the early 70s mindset, so it’s at times as subtle as being hit with an angry, over-caffeinated squid. While a curiosity for fans of Hanna-Barbera or fans of the newer show and worth a rental (just to see why it was so ripe for parody, if nothing else), it’s probably worth owning for the hardcore. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Strangely enough, despite being a complete Beatles junkie for most of my life–and being introduced to their live action work (especially the Lester films) early on–Yellow Submarine has always been this sort of odd thing out. Which makes sense. I mean, even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve seen the art from it. It’s pretty damn odd. And it’s basically an excuse to take Beatles songs and set them to trippy animation. And who can blame anyone for that? Cirque has done it live action. Anyway, the shot is this: EMI has released the film on Blu-Ray and damn, does it clean up nice. It sure as hell better, seeing as how the thing was digitally cleaned, frame by frame, by hand. No automatic software for this job. And it shows. It looks pretty amazing for an animated feature from 1968. And while the hardcore would want to own this just for the hi-def aspect, the bonus bits add some oomph to the package: audio commentary by production supervisor John Coates with Heinz Edelmann (the designer); a vintage featurette; storyboard sequences (two of which didn’t make it to the final film); pencil drawings; behind-the-scenes photos; a mini-slew of small interviews with participants and a collectible booklet. Beatles fans will want to at least give this a rental–but the hardcores (like me) will definitely want it on their shelf. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Coriolanus Blu-Ray
Hondo Blu-Ray
Memorial Day Blu-Ray

Coriolanus is one of those Shakespeare plays that nobody really does. I say that because I’m somewhat of a theatre nerd and I’ve never seen it nor hear much about it. But here we have Ralph Fiennes taking on the role and making his directorial debut. The gist is thus: Coriolanus is a master soldier and asskicker. He is betrayed by his city and decides to exact revenge, allying himself with his former enemy. Modernizing Shakespeare can fall apart, even with the best of intentions, like with the Ethan Hawke Hamlet. But Fiennes leads the cast and once you get used to the modern conceit, the entire thing rocks along, and it’s good to see Fiennes do something, you know, besides Voldemort. Or Hades. Also of note: Brian Cox and Vanessa Redgrave rocking the hell out of some Bard. Seriously. (And Gerard Butler’s not shabby either.) The Blu-Ray comes with a making-of and a commentary from Fiennes, though the making-of is brief and the commentary is for-the-blind. Shame, really. Shakespeare fans will want to give this a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The John Wayne-starrer Hondo hits Blu-Ray from Paramount. The Western goes like this: Wayne is Hondo, a rider who comes across the ranch of a woman and her son. The husband: back any time now, she says. Hondo’s not what he initially appears to be–or what she thinks he is. And to complicate matters, the local Apache population appears to becoming more violent–and the Army’s involved as well. So our hero and the family under his protection are caught squarely in the middle. The Blu-Ray looks damn good for a film from 1953 and the sound is decent. There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know about the film (this was shot in 3D? really?) and that’s all laid out in multiple bonus bits: Leonard Maltin is on hand for an intro and audio commentary (where he’s join by a historian as well as the actor who played the young boy). There’s also a making-of, a featurette on the screenwriter, a segment from Entertainment Tonight with Wayne’s son Michael, a featurette about the Apache and more. Western or Wayne fans probably already know the film, but I suggest a rental of this to get to know it better–or for the first time. Full-on fans will probably want to own this based on the bonus bits, although I’m sure at some point we’ll be getting a full BD 3D release–and that might be fun to see. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

As I said in my review of Battleship, it’s sort of hard to get too bent out of shape when something (TV show, movie, book, whatever) has the best of intentions when dealing with veterans and the military. Do I think the military can do no wrong? Of course not. But they’ve protected my freedom to post silly shit on a website, so the least I can do is give them respect. And that’s the core of Memorial Day, in which grandfather James Cromwell has to face the questions of his grandson–questions about the older gentleman’s WWII foot locker. The grandfather opens up and tells his story, and we also get the story of the older grandson’s dealings in the Iraq War later on. Is it a flawless film? No. But its heart is in the right place–and for the target audience, I think it will work. The WWII version of James Cromwell is portrayed by his son, John Cromwell. The Blu-Ray looks and sounds quite sharp, with an audio commentary and behind the scenes featurette. Give it a rental if it sounds up your alley. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust
Goat Rodeo Sessions Live DVD

Eventually, I suppose you run out of things you can do with albums. It makes perfect sense to re-release Ziggy Stardust (aka the much longer title that hardly anyone ever bothers to call it). It is, in fact, the 40th Anniversary. And it is, in fact, a badass album. It is David Bowie at the height of his massive powers. But here’s the thing–this single CD release is simply a re-release of the album, straight-up, with a new remaster for this release. And when I compare this version with the 1999 remaster, I wonder why they bothered. “Suffragette City” sounds more muddled this time around than before, whereas “Moonage Daydream” is exactly the opposite. And I can’t tell how this improves anything. Now I understand that remastering is largely a matter of personal taste–so sample it someplace like Spotify before you decide to buy. (It is largely an improvement IMO over the 2002 remaster. Wow. Why would you play “City” from inside a box?) (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Okay, this is not news: I dig the hell out of some strings. Get a quartet of incredibly talented string musicians in one place and I am a happy camper. Brodsky Quartet, Kronos Quartet, that sort of thing. But here’s a new entry into that arena: Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile give you The Goat Rodeo Sessions Live, which is sort of the all-string version of Oysterhead. The disparate styles and approaches shouldn’t give you something this awesome–but of course, it does. And the benefit of seeing them perform live is that they make it look so effortless and effortful at the same time. It’s pretty damn obvious they are Working It. And having a blast, to boot. The DVD is out from Sony Classical and comes with fourteen tracks (four of them listed as “bonus”). As always with these things, you can get the CD for a more portable way of hearing them. But this is worth watching at least once so you can appreciate their craft completely. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Half a Hero DVD
Great Diamond Robbery DVD

A pair of Red Skelton comedies hit from the Warner Archive, finally finding their Region 1 DVD debuts. We have the 1953 Half a Hero, in which Skelton plays the loving husband to harridan-in-training Jean Hagen, who wants what she wants and wheedles Skelton’s character to get it for her. From the better job, to the children, to the house and lifestyle they can’t afford…and a modicum of hijinks then ensue. Not enough for somebody like Skelton, unfortunately, and it becomes clear why this is an MOD offering with no bonus bits. The next year out came The Great Diamond Robbery, in which Skelton plays a diamond cutter who’s desperate to find his real family…so much so that he’s willing to be taken in by a gang of scammers posing as a family who really want to get at his money…and a huge diamond he has access to. Another round of modest hijinks ensue here as well. (Look for James Whitmore among the cast.) Both of these are minor comedies from Skelton and for the hardcore fan–certainly not the sort of thing that one wants to try out for their first Skelton film. Grab some of his television programs to break yourself in instead. (Click here to buy Robbery from the Warner Archive. Click here to buy Hero from the Warner Archive.)

House on Garibaldi Street DVD
Run for the Sun DVD
Winds of Kitty Hawk DVD

It’s 1960 and there are still a number of Nazis who haven’t been brought to justice following the atrocities of World War II. And Adolf Eichmann…the best way to put this into modern terms is that he was a Senior Project Manager for the Holocaust. After the war, Eichmann escaped to Argentina and lived there under an alias. However, a tip clued the Israelis into where he was hiding–and a team gets dispatched to find him, make sure he’s who they think he is, and bring him back. So yes, The House on Garibaldi Street, starring Topol as the man in charge of the team, is based on a true story. It finally hits Region 1 DVD from MGM’s MOD line, the Limited Edition Collection. Anyone interested in spy flicks will want to check this out, since you get all the intrigue, plus the basis in history. The hardcore might want to consider purchasing–but with no bonus bits, that’s a stretch.

Ah, The Most Dangerous Game. The short story by Richard Connell is required reading by everybody, but beloved by writers because of how deftly he handles…well, everything. It’s genius. One of the many cinematic versions of the story is Run for the Sun, which gives you a version in which Richard Widmark is the prey, and Jane Greer is along to be also prey. They crash in the jungle in exactly the wrong place and find themselves in the middle of a version of the aforementioned game. A capable interpretation considering it came out in 1956, fans of the story or Widmark will definitely want to give this a watch. It too is from the MGM Limited Edition Collection, so it has nothing in the way of bonuses. Check it for replay value before you plonk coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Another entry from the MGM Limited Edition Collection is the 1978 made-for-TV movie, The Winds of Kitty Hawk. As if the title didn’t give it away, it’s the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright (Michael Moriarty and David Huffman) and the lead-up to their first flight. While it’s not the entire story (bits have been trimmed to take it down to feature-length), plane buffs will appreciate this–although bear in mind how old it is and you’re not going to get CG-quality recreations of the planes and whatnot. Coming out of the MOD arena, this has no bonus bits, so it’s probably worth a rental. Only the hardcore would want to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)