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Headsup: Of Warriors, Lawyers and Men Dressed as Dogs

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.

Red Scorpion Blu-Ray
Seeking Justice Blu-Ray
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]Ah, 80s action flicks. I’ve spoken of them before. If you are just now coming to them, there’s a good chance you won’t know what to think. Or you’ll despise them. But if you grew up with them, eating them up like VHS popcorn, then they hold a very special place in your heart. Take Red Scorpion for example, which puts Dolph Lundgren in the lead role after a memorable turn in Rocky IV (well, and Masters of the Universe…but memorable for different reasons). He’s Spetznaz and after a botched mission, his bosses’ response opens his eyes to what’s really going on in the conflict in question. So he decides to switch sides and open up several cans of fresh organic whoopass. And that’s pretty much all you need to know: Lundgren and Explodo. At least for the film. Synapse is the one putting this out, and they really do amaze me as the Criterion of films that Criterion probably wouldn’t think to touch. This Blu-Ray looks pretty damn amazing for a late 80s actioner–and this is me saying this, who normally can’t tell the difference unless it is damn amazing. That’s because the thing’s been digitally restored with a newly mixed soundtrack. You also get an audio commentary with the director, an extended chat with Lundgren himself, a location featurette with producer Jack Abramoff, Tom Savini stops by to discuss makeup and behind the scenes footage. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a DVD included. Sweet creeping Jesus. Basically, if you love this film or you are a member of the Lundgren Hardcore, then this was built for you. If you, like me, just love the mad nostalgia of such things, a rental will probably do you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Violence perpetrated against a love one is always a good justification for somebody to want a bit of an eye for an eye. That’s the premise behind Seeking Justice, where after wife January Jones is attacked, Nicolas Cage makes a pact with mystery guy Guy Pearce: we have people who will take care of your wife’s attacker if you owe us one. And I remember when I saw the trailer, it was pretty obvious where this was all going to lead. Sort of like the new Twilight Zone episode “Button, Button” but with, you know, guns. People seeking the film shouldn’t expect it to redefine the thriller genre, but mayhap some Cage and Pearce completists should put it on their list when their Netflix queue is looking shallow. Buying the Anchor Bay release is a harder sell, however, since the audio and video (which are quite nice) are about all it has to show for itself. A slight behind the scenes bit just isn’t enough. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows took the fun, fluffy and action-packed nature of the first film and tried to make, for lack of a better metaphor: explodo foie gras. They figured what worked once will work even better if we stuff the new film to bursting with everything. As a result, the whole thing is too loud, too jokey and too unaware of the fact that the BBC is kicking its ass. I’m not saying this as any sort of stuck-up Holmesian…I enjoyed the first Downey film. But apart from Jared Harris, there’s just not much that the film has to offer. If you did enjoy the film, however, then the Blu-Ray does have a few things. First up, the Maximum Movie Mode is Downey solo taking you through the film with certain featurettes, also accessible via the menu. Apart from that, the movie app lets you sync the Blu-Ray with a mobile device or tablet to get at the other bonus features, which means that if you don’t have one that will do the trick, you’re out of luck. Rent it if you just want to browse the features and the commentary but if you think this has replay value, then the Blu-Ray is the way to go. No sense in buying anything bare bones. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan Complete Series DVD
Superman vs. The Elite Blu-Ray
Journey DVD

The parade of Warner Archive Hanna-Barbera awesomeness continues with the release of the entire series of The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan. This being Hanna-Barbera, there’s not a lot new here: you have the sleuthing, the funny animal, the various kids, the transforming vehicle and musical numbers (because of course some of the kids in the family have their own band). Much is made of the fact that this is the only extant time an actor of Asian descent would play Charlie Chan–Keye Luke, who had previously played the #1 son in some of the films, voices Chan. Also on board are Don Messick (of course) and Jodie Foster (who voices Anne). All sixteen episodes are here across two discs–and if you’re a fan of the show or Hanna-Barbera in general, then there’s probably something here worth exploring for you. And this is probably the only way the show’s going to be available on home video for some time. But at less than $2 an episode, it’s actually not a bad deal, considering–even without bonus features. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Superman vs. The Elite brings the Joe Kelly story about the Authority analog, The Elite, and their much more with-extreme-prejudice methodology of dispensing justice coming into conflict with Superman‘s more Boy Scoutish way of doing things. What happens when people start to agree that wiping out villains is a better approach? That’s the question–and what’s the price of trying to do things the right way. It’s not the original comic, of course–but fans of it and of Superman will probably find a lot to like here. Myself, I wish they could just stick with known-quantity voices that work–that and the particular animation style and design of this one I find a bit distracting. I mean, it’s not as Saturday morning cartoon as some of the Marvel animated titles we’ve discussed previously…but it’s getting on up there. This Warner Brothers release comes in a combo pack with DVD and Blu-Ray both, and despite my misgivings of what’s on the screen–what is there looks pretty damn good. As far as bonus bits go, you have an audio commentary that includes from scribe (both times) Joe Kelly, a featurette about the original comics version of The Elite, two episodes from the Superman animated series, and more. Again, fans will want to check this out as a rental at least, but I say do it that way first and see if the replay value warrants plonking coin. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Journey marks the only other time that Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr (from The King and I) appeared on screen together. This time around she’s trying to get out of Hungary with a group of people trying to flee to Austria. They are stopped on the border by a Soviet major who is looking to ensure no one’s slipping through that shouldn’t be. Trouble is, there is somebody–an injured Hungarian who Kerr’s character is trying to smuggle out. So Brynner’s character holds everybody from leaving until he gets to the bottom of things, though his motivations aren’t exactly professional. While not the best drama in the world, the film is worth noting for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the film debut of Jason Robards (though credited as “Jason Robards Jr.”) and the first screen credit for a tiny Ron Howard. This is out from the Warner Archive so there’s no bonus bits–but it’s worth checking out for fans of Brynner and/or Kerr or anyone interested in the cinematic posterity of the actors listed. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Meatballs Blu-Ray
Wilfred Season 1 Blu-Ray
Workaholics Season 1 and 2 Combo Doggy Blu-Ray

Ah, Meatballs. The first major role for Bill Murray, a nice diversion from director Ivan Reitman and the film that kept the notion of summer camp innocent…at least until next year when a guy named Voorhees ruined it for everybody. The story is fairly simple: the goofball summer camp of North Star has Murray as the head counselor. Murray’s character of Tripper takes misfitish camper Rudy (Chris Makepeace) under his wing. All the while, pranks are played, gags fly by and there’s a rivalry with another nearby camp to play out. The Blu-Ray here from Lionsgate presents decent video and audio but, as with most films like this, it’s not going to be super sharp…it is from 1979 after all. The one bonus bit you have is the audio commentary from Reitman and co-scribe Dan Goldberg–and I no longer have my special edition DVD, otherwise I could check to see if it’s the same commentary–but I’m pretty sure it is. You are missing the docu from that release–but I don’t recall it being exceptionally earth-shaking, so I wouldn’t go out of your way for it. Again, does the film require Blu-Ray? Probably not. And you shouldn’t double dip if you’ve held onto your special edition DVD. But the Blu-Ray is only $9.99. A third of the price of the DVD in question, so if you do want to own it for a bit of nostalgia, it’s an easy enough decision. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

What happens when you look at the dog owned by the hot neighbor–yes, the one you have a crush on (the neighbor, not the dog)–and instead of a dog, you see an Australian man in a dog suit who likes to curse, smoke weed and do all the things that dogs would do if they actually were the humans most of them think they are? Well, you get Wilfred, for one thing. Named after the character played by co-creator Jason Gann and based on the Australian TV show. Elijah Wood plays the guy who may be going nuts and certainly isn’t completely sane given all of the shenanigans that Wilfred helps him get up to. All thirteen episodes are here across two discs on this Fox set. While it doesn’t scream for hi-def, the video and audio are both quite choice. You do get a few small features–no commentaries, alas–with bits of a Comic-Con panel, deleted scenes, some montages and a Q&A with Gann. Fans of surreal TV will want to check this out and then decide if it warrants the full plonk-down of coin. More extensive features would have made this an easier decision. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The overall thought behind Workaholics is something you know to be true: there are very few things that people will work harder at than trying to get out of working. Thus we have three friends and roommates who “work” as telemarketers when really they’re putting a great deal of time and effort into passing drug tests they should rightly fail, getting a passport quickly and learning about taxes in all the wrong ways. Previously you had the first season hit DVD but now Paramount and Comedy Central have collected the first two seasons–ten episodes each–onto this hi-def release. The video and audio are good enough–nothing spectacular–but it is an office comedy, so the level of CG robots is at a minimum. Bonus bits, you have a few things here: drunkmentaries on each episode (which is exactly what you think it is), a featurette about the creation of the show, deleted scenes and alternate takes, a live skit from the cast and some short pieces, plus more. Currently the Blu-Ray is just slightly more than a single season on DVD…so hardcore fans may want to own. Everyone else, catch an episode on TV or rent it to see if it cranks your tractor. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Deliverance Blu-Ray
Good Deeds Blu-Ray
Too Big to Fail Blu-Ray

Deliverance hits from Warner Brothers in a 40th Anniversary Blu-Book edition. I’m not sure anyone actually needs a synopsis, but just in case, here goes: four friends from the city decide to go canoeing in a back woods area that’s supposed to be destroyed soon by a dam. Just like Psycho did for showering, this film did for canoe and rafting trips. The granddaddy of the backwoods brutality subgenre, it’s what happens when you are out of element and faced with situations that tax your endurance and need for survival. And it’s pretty goddamn harrowing. The Blu-Ray comes with previous bonus bits: a four-part retrospective on the film plus a vintage featurette. There’s also the commentary from director John Boorman. New to this edition is a new retrospective with all four main cast members reflecting on the film. There’s also the commemorative book and what’s supposed to be an upgrade in the audio department…but I can’t tell the difference, frankly. If you are truly a hardcore fan of the film, then this might be worth your while to upgrade to or purchase. But if all you want is the film in hi-def, to be honest the previous Blu-Ray is now one-third the price of this one. Rent this for the retrospective but have the cheaper one to keep. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds had the majority of its posters featuring a sharp but conservatively dressed Perry standing and holding his briefcase…and that’s about it. I did wonder if this was going to be a bit of a departure film for him, but not so much. The deal is such: Perry plays Deeds, a guy who is exactly how his posture and fashion would make you think he is. Terminally straight-laced and predictable, he gets a different perspective on life when he runs into the free spirited character played by Thandie Newton. His life is turned upside down and you can probably write a good portion of the rest of the plot yourself. Two things of note: Phylicia Rashad plays his mom and she’s Rashad, so you know she’s fantastic. And Newton is always good in everything. The Blu-Ray from Lionsgate has excellent video and audio–though I wouldn’t say that this film necessarily craved that–but alas, only has two small featurettes to back it up. The Blu-Ray here is only about $6 more than the DVD, but I would say that hardcore Perry fans might want to own it…everyone else might be good with a rental if they’re curious. And next time, Mr. P…make sure all your posters for films with Newton in them have her on them. Because she looks freaking great on the front of this release. I’m Just Saying. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ah, the economic crisis. It completely screwed the pooch on a planet-wide scale and we’re still living in the shadow of that madness. You probably don’t understand exactly what the hell happened. Back when we had news that was worth a damn we probably could have been helped through it. But doing more than most to at least present what the hell happened and make it explicable is Too Big to Fail, the HBO presentation of what went down in 2008 and a notion as to why. Now, a drama about the financial crisis might sound about as appealing as tofu drenched in more tofu. And I would agree with you–but then I saw the cast on this thing: William Hurt, Paul Giamatti, Bill Pullman, Tony Shaloub, James Woods, Ed Asner…the list keeps going. Then put the guy who directed L.A. Confidential, Curtis Hanson, in the driver’s seat–and it’s probably the best movie about financial fuckery you’ll ever catch. While the HBO Blu-Ray (which also comes with a DVD and digital copy in a combo pack) isn’t terribly necessary from a hi-def standard–there’s a lot of indoor meetings with people in ties, very few explosions–it does look quite good, admittedly. Features are a bit shallow, though: there’s a making-of and a timeline–and that’s about it. A commentary with the author of the original book would have been quite interesting–or hell, him and some other analysts. Recommended to watch: even with this cast, though, not sure who will find enough replay value in it to own. Not exactly something one wants to relive repeatedly. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Hoosiers Blu-Ray
Yankles Blu-Ray

Hoosiers returns to Blu-Ray from MGM, basically trying to correct the mistakes of its initial hi-def release. More on that in a moment. But first: for those who don’t know, Gene Hackman plays a high school basketball coach in a small town in which basketball is a sacred institution. You know those types of places. Terrifying. Anyway, it’s the team that has something to prove led by the man who has something to prove and the assistant coach (Dennis Hopper) in need of redemption and the whole nine yards. (Sorry, wrong sort of metaphor.) You know how this sort of thing goes. But hey, it’s a sports movie. In fact, one of the best. The mistake the first release made was coming out missing the bonus bits from the previous DVD release: the writer and director commentary, the docu about the real story behind the film, deleted scenes and the actual championship game from 1954. Trouble is, while the video is good, it’s not great. And frankly, this isn’t a movie that screams hi-def to me, so I need to see some serious badassery to make me want to upgrade. That being said, if you do own the two-disc DVD, you’re probably fine where you are–if not, the Blu-Ray’s only about $2 more. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So what happens when you’re a baseball player who was once big time but, thanks to being in your cups behind the wheel a few times (and the resulting time in the Big House), you’re an untouchable? And I’m referencing the caste there, not the Kevin Costner flick. Well, you’re out and need to do something to take care of those pesky community service hours…and hey, here’s an orthodox Jewish team that needs a helping hand. It’s a Coach That Needs a Second Chance meets a Team That Needs Him…wow, didn’t we just talk about that film? But in a different sport. And without the payot. Well, in The Yankles it’s hard to get bent out of shape because, well, all sports movies sort of follow the same game plan (no pun intended) and this one does want to entertain. If you’re a fan/friend of the faith in question or just a baseball movie fan that wants something different, it might be worth a rental. The Magnolia release has deleted scenes, behind the scenes footage, extended musical scenes, a commentary with the co-writers/director and more. If this sounds up your alley, then a rental will probably do just fine for you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Heart: Strange Euphoria
Lenny Kravitz: Mama Said

Well, fans of Heart, Merry Christmas early, I guess. Strange Euphoria is the boxed set that they’ve been waiting for, even if they didn’t know it. An array of demos and rarities, it gives you the full array of what the band can get up to. All of this across three CDs, a DVD (containing a live show from 1976), and a book with plenty of info covering the contents of the set. And when I mean array, you’ve got everything from the opening “Through Eyes and Glass” (complete with flute) then immediately into the acoustic demo for “Magic Man” (effing fantastic)…then later you get stuff like a rather rocking live “Barracuda” and later still a demo of “Any Woman’s Blues” complete with horns. While the entire set shows the band experimenting with different styles, temps and attitudes–they all still sound like Heart. Which is interesting. But I will say this: while I have respect for Heart as a band (not sure how you can’t), I’m not a huge fan. Regardless of that, I can say that as a non-fan, this is a fantastic set. It’s exactly what a fan does want: i.e., not just a greatest hits with maybe a couple of B-sides thrown on to make it mildy salable, but a Criterion-level exploration of what the band is about. Recommended. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Lenny Kravitz is the guy that just won’t go away. Now I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, as he seems to have taken some of Hendrix’s DNA and combined it with various musical styles to create Mama Said, now being released in a two-disc deluxe edition from Virgin/EMI. If you’re uncertain what I mean, just listen again to “Always on the Run.” That’s a Hendrixian guitar being backed by some serious funk bass and horn action. But then later on you’ve got “All I Ever Wanted,” that musically feels a bit like Prince. So he’s all over the map. And fans will want to snag this new release, as the first disc is completely remastered and comes with three B-sides plus an unreleased 12″. The second disc has eight unreleased demo versions, five unreleased live tracks from Rotterdam in 1991 and then three Live in Japan B-sides. Thirty-five tracks in total and it’s less than fifty cents a track–and the CD’s actually cheaper at the moment than the MP3 download. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Entourage Season 8 DVD
Louie Season 2 DVD
White Collar Season 3 DVD

It’s the wrap-up of the series of Entourage proper (although the talk of doing a movie is nothing new…we’ll see if they put that together) with this, The Complete Eighth Season hitting HBO with all eight episodes across two discs. Following the drug issues of the previous season, Vince is now out and wants to get back into it. Meanwhile, his friends busy themselves throughout the season with relationship trials, job and financial issues and other such fun things. And of course, things are left open ended enough to where the film could happen if they wanted it to. The set is going to be of interest to fans of the show, though with a single farewell featurette with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews is going to be a hard sell to add on top of whatever replay value. But if you want a complete set, the price point is about $3 an episode on DVD. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Louis C.K. appears to be if not on fire then certainly smoldering rather nicely. You could definitely grill using him, is what I’m trying to say. When he’s not releasing his own comedy on the internet and making a good piece of coin from it and not announcing that he’s touring and selling the tickets himself online–he’s doing Louie, his FX show that is hitting DVD with all thirteen second season episodes. I don’t know when the guy sleeps. And I wouldn’t be surprised–since he’s already writing, directing, editing and starring in all the episodes–if he didn’t start playing all the parts shortly, a la Kind Hearts and Coronets or something. The guy’s a machine. And if you don’t find the episode where he and Dane Cook have a confrontation fascinating or the one where he’s dealing with a duckling stowaway to be a hoot…then well, not sure what to tell you. The show is, if not consistently funny, then consistently fascinating and watchable. And unpredictable. So that makes it better than most of what I’ve seen out there. This two-disc set comes with commentary from Louie on five episodes plus some footage from the premiere of the second season. Hardcore fans of the man will want to snag this–regular fans will at least want to rent and enjoy the bonus features. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The third season of White Collar hits DVD in a four-disc set from Fox, containing all sixteen episodes. This season, Beau Bridges’ Agent Kramer becomes an increasing concern, eventually leading to a finale that throws the series into potentially interesting directions. Fans will also note that numerous guest appearances happen this season, among them Eliza Dushku, Lena Headey, Ernie Hudson and Tom Skerritt. Bonus bits are slim but present: you have a brief cast trivia challenge, a small bit about creator Jeff Eastin’s love of Twitter, gag reel, deleted scenes and an audio commentary on the final episode. Price point is less than $2 an episode, so you’re not saving too much to buy the season from someplace like Amazon Instant Video. Those already caught up with the show might want to rent to check out the bonus bits, but unless you want the episodes on your shelf due to replay value, the rental will probably suffice. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Chicago in Chicago Blu-Ray
John Mellencamp: Its About You Blu-Ray
Kasabian Live at the O2 Blu-Ray

Okay, so I’ll admit it. I’ve got a weakness for Chicago. But my weakness for anything involving a great deal of horns is well established. So I don’t think any long time readers of the site will be surprised. This live concert of theirs, In Chicago, is from 2010 and features the standards that you would want: “Saturday in the Park,” “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It is?” and “25 or 6 to 4” among them. The last two songs bring the Doobie Brothers onto the stage (this was a tour the two groups shared). Fans of the band are going to dig this–from a musical perspective and even from a group vocal perspective–they haven’t lost much of anything. Occasionally on solo vocals you’ll hear a bit of strain, but it’s limited. They still bring a great deal of energy to the stage and the Blu-Ray catches it, with twenty-three songs provided. The video and audio are both choice–and musical performances are one place where I can see hi-def being usually warranted–and there is a good-sized interview of the band members. Again, fans will want to probably check this out and see if the replay value is there for them. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Fans of John Mellencamp will be interested to snag It’s About You, the documentary film that follows along with Mellencamp’s 2009 tour. Yes, you get some behind the scenes stuff. Yes, you get some concert footage. Yes, it’s all shot on Super8–which gives it a superb retro feel that actually translates very well to the hi-def format. But the real fun stuff comes when Mellencamp sets up his equally retro recording setup in various historical places (Sun Studios, or a hotel room where Robert Johnson recorded) to lay down the songs for his next album. That’s the part that seems to work the best and makes it worth renting for those aforementioned fans. With no bonus bits to speak of, only the hardcore may find enough replay value to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Kasabian performed at the O2 in London at the end of last year–and the results of the massive arena performance are brought to Blu-Ray by Eagle Rock. This Live at the O2 release is indicative of why I don’t go to shows anymore. I mean, seriously: you get everything on this release you would want from actually being there–nineteen tracks with all the rock spectacle that the stage show brings you. The circular lighting rig and screen for backing visual mayhem reminds me of Pink Floyd‘s setup, but if you put Jackson Pollock on speed in charge of visuals rather than Storm Thorgerson. And in addition to losing the crowds, you get a bonus tour docu. And really damn clear visuals and audio. This is one of the best live music Blu-Ray releases I’ve seen from Eagle Rock. And while I’m not a fan of the band–any fan would be hard pressed not to want to add this to their collection. The $12 price point (same as the DVD) is more than reasonable. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Alice Season 1 DVD
Rake DVD

I’ve said multiple times that I am very pleased that the Warner Archive exists. However, it’s weird to me that Alice, the classic TV series starring Linda Lavin, doesn’t have enough fan support behind it to warrant a “real” release versus MOD. But whatever, it is happening. And yes, you do get all twenty-four first season episodes across three discs. As a bonus, you get the pilot episode in which Alfred Lutter (the original Tommy from the film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) played Tommy–in the series proper replaced by Philip McKeon. The episodes aren’t remastered and look as good as you might imagine a series from the late 70s would look. Fans of the show will want to seriously consider snagging this–as the $1.25 an episode price point isn’t bad–and it actually beats buying the season from someplace like Amazon Instant Video. And I don’t believe you’re going to get hit later on with a massive boxed set with additional features. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Ever see an actor and you think, man, I bet they would rock if they had their own show? Well, I’ve sort of always thought that about Richard Roxburgh. Who? You know, Sanctum. Dracula in Van Helsing. Anyway, here he is in Rake, the Australian show in which he plays a brilliant yet beleaguered yet self-destructive barrister, trying to deal with…well, everything. At times dramatic and yet mostly, to my mind, darkly funny, all eight episodes are here across three discs from BFS. Also, there are plenty of known faces showing up over the course of the series: Noah Taylor, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, and Sam Neill. No bonus bits are here, and the episodes are a bit over $4 each when it comes to the price point. But I’m thinking anyone who appreciates court room shows will take a liking to this–so I recommend at least giving it a rental. From there, you can make the call as to whether or not to add it permanently to your collection. But however you watch it, make sure you do. It is an absolute hoot. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Demoted Blu-Ray
FP Blu-Ray
Thin Ice Blu-Ray

“From the Guys Behind the American Pie Series,” threatens the Blu-Ray cover art for Demoted. I say threatened because I’m one of the five people on the planet (apparently) who didn’t care for that franchise. No, not even the first film. There’s just something about me and gross out humor so that a film has to be very skillful to pull that particular sub-sub-genre of comedy off. I fully acknowledge that I may just not be in the demographic for such films. But it’s with the air of expectation that you should approach this, in which Sean Astin and Michael Vartan are living large as salesmen who have the boss’ ear and have David Cross’ character to kick around. Alas, circumstances conspire to put Cross in the driver’s seat and then our two “heroes” are cursed as the title lays out. Hijinks then ensue. Supposedly. The audio and video are only passable on this release and there are no bonus features. If you need yet another office comedy then it might be worth a rental, but save it for when your Netflix queue is shallow. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The FP concerns itself with a dystopian future in which all of society has broken down and gangs vie for control of turf using the combat arena known as “Beat Beat Revolution.” Yes, an arcade dancing game. And after one gang’s lead dancer–sorry, combatant–dies, his friend flees to exile and has to be coaxed back to save the day and redeem himself and others. Yes, as an initial concept–that’s pretty damn funny. However, rather than going in the direction of a straight-up parody, this thing tries to go so serious that it comes back around to comedy–and I don’t think it makes it. I am fully willing to admit that I may just not Get It. But so be it. For those who do find themselves amused, the Blu-Ray does sport a quite-good audio and video presentation, with a commentary, decently-sized making-of and a bit where the filmmakers return to the real FP, Frazier Park, to host a screening of the film. Rent it and try it for yourself, is my recommendation. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So what if you’re an insurance salesman who’s having a hard time of it and you find somebody you can rip off to get some money that you desperately need? And what if you enlist the services of someone to help you execute this particular ripoff, but they have ideas of their own that, shall we say, complicate matters to the point where body disposal becomes a topic of conversation? Well, if you’re Greg Kinnear and the guy you’ve tapped for is an unhinged Billy Crudup, then this must be Thin Ice, the re-worked film from Jill and Karen Sprecher that has its original director’s cut restored for this Blu-Ray release from Fox. Considering the setting and snow, the initial comparison to Fargo is inescapable, but the true fun is seeing those two actors (plus Alan Arkin, who is pretty fantastic in everything) work. Audio and video are both decent, though this isn’t a film that screams for hi-def, and apart from both versions of the film you get a behind the scenes segment, deleted scenes and a Sundance Premiere featurette. The hardcore fans of the actors may seek to own this, but all should give it a rental first to see if it stacks up. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? DVD
A Matter of Taste DVD
Voices of the Andes DVD

Norman Foster is an architect, which means that you’ve more than likely seen his work without knowing he was the guy who dreamed it up. The Hearst Tower in New York, for example. Or The Gherkin in London. An impressive individual–I don’t know that you can’t be uninteresting in some sense and also have the balls necessary to dream up giant buildings for people to move around in–How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? brings in footage of his work along with info on his life and words from his friends. From a “documenting” point of view–since this is a docu, after all–it does its job. But for me, a docu transcends when it goes to some place the filmmakers didn’t have planned from end to end. Or at least brings some controversy to the table as a side dish. You never want a film that says, “This guy is Awesome!” And the response is: “And?” Fans of architecture might want to rent this for the back story, but not sure there’s an audience beyond that. No bonus bits provided. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I’m not one for crazy food. Most places. There are a few restaurants I know well enough that if they have something on the menu, there’s a reason. That being said, not sure how I would take to the fare of food artist Paul Liebrandt, who in the docu from First Run, A Matter of Taste, is very busy creating dishes that sound like they could have sprung from a Monty Python sketch. “Eel, violets and chocolate,” for example. Regardless, this docu follows the chef over the years of being a head chef at a major restaurant, then getting dumped post-9/11 and then having to claw his way back to the top while trying to remain creative in his dishes. The DVD comes with extended interviews with three of the Michelin 3-star chefs featured and additional food footage. Fans of any of the umpteen food shows currently on television will probably appreciate this portrait and should give it a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Another quite beautiful documentary is available from First Run: Voices of the Andes. The idea was to take a trip along the Great Inca Road, the Qhapaq Nan, and film the people and stories found there. And the result is exactly what you might expect. But hearing from the actual people in the region is one thing; that coupled with the seriously breathtaking images of the film–that’s something else entirely. I thought this was going to be another “soaring over an area while somebody narrates something or other and isn’t this all pretty” sort of travelogues but it’s much more stirring than that. The sole bonus bit is a making-of. Anyone with any interest in South America and its people will benefit from at least a rental and/or viewing. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde: The Happy Prince
Return to Forever: Mothership Returns CD

I wasn’t previously familiar with the Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde, though familiar with Wilde himself. But I am definitely familiar with–and am quite fond of–the art of P. Craig Russell. He’s one of those artists with a distinctive fantastic style that, while I have a degree in English, I never really studied art–so about the only damn thing I can say for it is “Wow, isn’t that…good.” But this hardcover adaptation of “The Happy Prince” just needs better words than that, honestly. The story of a prince’s statue and a swallow trying to come to the aid of others is incredibly touching stuff, made even moreso by the fact that your two main characters aren’t exactly the stuff of expressions: a statue that never moves and a bird. And yet, this is Russell–so it’s incredibly impressive what he’s able to make of those limitations. And yes, the action shifts elsewhere in the city, but always comes back to the two leads. It’s as I said, extremely well executed. This is out from NBM and in hardcover–I would say it’s just right for someone who wants this as part of their collection. If you are concerned about price, previous editions have either been made available eventually as paperbacks or Kindle versions, so with some patience they might show up in a less expensive form. But it’s worth checking out, however you do it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I’m frankly uncertain how I’ve never heard of Return to Forever up till now. I mean, it’s Chick Corea’s group, right? Corea was in Miles Davis‘ band. And I’ve been listening to Miles since I was knee high to a fetus. Regardless, I find the new 2CD/DVD live set, The Mothership Returns, to be an excellent introduction. Joining this iteration of the band is Jean-Luc Ponty on violin–and Ponty I know as well. The trouble is: I’m listening through the album again as I write this up–and it’s hard as hell to describe. It’s probably the most jazz fusiony thing I’ve ever heard. Because it’s jazz fused with–literally–just about everything else. Just when I think I’ve got it pinned down enough to describe it, the damn thing skirts away. For example, I was hearing some Emerson Lake & Palmer in “Medieval Overture” earlier…but then it ran off into some crazed improv riff. Next song over, Stanley Clarke is beating the bass like he’s angry at Les Claypool or something. The second disc starts with “After the Cosmic Rain,” which starts chugging along like something out of an 80s soundtrack, then sounding like an even jazzier version of Zappa (Ponty, you say? Yes!). It’s all over the map–and it’s fantastic. At first I was thinking the DVD would have all live footage, but even better: an hour-plus docu, two huge live performances and then a trailer for an upcoming docu about the band. Nice. Quite recommended. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Delta Force Blu-Ray Missing in Action Blu-Ray Missing in Action 2: The Beginning Blu-Ray

A trio of Chuck Norris films are making their Blu-Ray debut, hitting from MGM and exclusively available at Wal-Mart. I guess the Chuck Norris demographic shops there. Not sure. Regardless, The Delta Force, Missing in Action and Missing in Action 2: The Beginning have all hit at once. Now, to level-set: these Chuck Norris action flicks from the 80s are…well, Chuck Norris action flicks from the 80s. Those were different times. We didn’t have the nice action flicks you have today. And these are all Cannon Group releases, that legendary company that brought you all manner of 80s mayhem. Delta Force is Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin working together against airplane-hijacking terrorists whereas the two Missing films concern a former POW going back to Vietnam to free other POWs, then the first POW escaping from his camp in the first place. Yes, it’s all a little confusing. If seen in the spirit they were meant to be at the time–mindless action films–they can be entertaining. The hi-def does the best it can with them–but they are what they are. Still, if you positively must own these, the Blu-Rays are cheaper than the DVDs of Delta and Missing 2. (Click here to buy them from Wal-Mart.)