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Headsup: Vampires, Resurrected Cats & Redheads — All Dangerous in Their Own Way

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.

Dark Shadows Blu-Ray
Pet Sematary Blu-Ray Review
Red Lights Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]As I may have stated in my Wayhomer on the same subject, I have a passing knowledge of the original Dark Shadows, but I have no emotional attachment. So I went into the Tim Burton feature film version with a mild bit of hope and the knowledge that Depp was supposed to be a fan. And the further knowledge that like most things, regardless of anything else, Depp would be fun to watch. That last part was correct–the rest is sadly an atrocious waste of talent and time. A vampire brushing his teeth in a mirror? Really? How many times have I seen that? A where-the-hell-did-that-come-from reveal in the final battle along with one of the worst one-word pieces of dialogue you’ll hear this year? An insertion of sexual comedy that feels out of place–and trust me, I’m no prude–but just felt like, “Oh, well, you know a blow job joke would work great here. It’s like a Hangover movie!” Sigh. That all being said, if you did enjoy the film (and good on you if you could) the hi-def presentation here is quite nice looking and sounding, though a bit lacking. Yes, you do get “focus points featurettes” that can be accessed through the Maximum Movie Mode setup and a few deleted scenes. But the Maximum Mode isn’t very…Maximum. Other setups like this have involved a host and really showcase why you want hi-def (for me, it’s always the bonus bits)–here it’s just a picture-in-picture commentary track. Which is nice, don’t get me wrong, but it just doesn’t really wow me. Granted, I might be bitter because the film didn’t wow me either. For most people who didn’t catch this in the cinema, a rental will probably do just fine. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Not bad for a story that King initially thought was too horrific to publish. But Pet Sematary holds a warm spot in my heart because it was my first King book. And, honestly, the movie didn’t turn out half bad. With an excellent turn by Fred Gwynne, a really fantastic little kid playing Gage Creed and Brad Greenquist giving a creepy as hell showing as the ghostly Victor…it has a lot to commend it. Story, for the uninitiated, looks like this: the Creed family moves to a new home (always a mistake in a horror story) and, to make a long story short, a pet cemetery on an ancient burial ground is a bad idea. Especially when the ground brings things back…but not as you might wish them to be. Think “Monkey’s Paw” but stabbier. The features here–a commentary from director Mary Lambert, and three featurettes–are all ported from the previous DVD release. I find the hi-def treatment to be good, but not great. I would say if you already own the DVD, a rental might do you fine. If you want to purchase, just bear in mind the DVD is half the cost of the Blu-Ray. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ah, paranormal activity. No, not the film, the actual type of supposed phenomenon. That’s what the characters played by Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy are debunking in Red Lights. It’s from the director of Buried and out on Blu-Ray from Millennium. Everything’s going fine until an old nemesis of Weaver’s, a blind psychic played by Robert DeNiro, resurfaces. Then the urge to debunk him can’t be resisted by assistant Murphy, despite being warned off. Weaver is great and DeNiro is, well, DeNiro and thus eminently watchable, some people wanting to go along with the thriller route may be a bit taken aback by the end result of it all. That being said, the performances make it worth checking out at least once. This hi-def release is decent but not stunning from an audio/video perspective and it does come with a few extras: interviews with the cast and director, a making-of and some behind the scenes footage. Light in the bonus department. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Hawaii Five-O Season 2 Blu-Ray
Lucy Show Season 6 DVD
Magic City Season 1 Blu-Ray

If I were in the business of watching television on a regular basis, I can see the new Hawaii Five-0 becoming one of my guilty pleasure views. I was sort of sold on it from the first episode when the new McGarrett did this little casual step-leap to get out of the way of a car collision. It was just this side of ridiculous–the good side–and I’m fine with that. This second season (of which all twenty-three episodes are here across five discs) brings you McGarrett in jail, the team screwed, Terry O’Quinn on board as McGarrett’s former mentor, and…well, it just makes me happy that Wo Fat is back and Mark Dacascos is playing the role. (Kids, ask your parents. About Wo Fat, not about the Chairman from Iron Chef USA) Fans of the show will probably be pleased with this set, as it’s a little over $2 an episode price point-wise (and in total, only $5 more than the DVD). You also get a number of deleted scenes, commentary on two episodes, a season two overview featurette, as well as featurettes covering the season’s action and locations, a gag reel and more. Rent it if you feel replay value would not be enough, but the set itself is worthy. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

In the shadow of the milestone that was I Love Lucy, shows like The Lucy Show–or indeed anything that still showcased how damn funny Lucille Ball was–are often forgotten. However, Paramount has been throwing the show that followed Love for six seasons now and doing so in style. The final one is no different. I won’t go into the whacked out evolution of the show over the six seasons, but here you’ve got a slew of guest stars that help bolster the comedy (and got Lucy her fourth Emmy)–stars like Carol Burnett, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Frankie Avalon and others. The set touts its twenty-four episodes as “beautifully restored” and they look pretty damn good for being forty-five years old. But remember: I’m half-blind, but hell, they look all right to me. As far as bonus bits go, you get vintage openings and closings with sponsor tags in a lot of cases, a bit from The Carol Burnett Show featuring Lucy, a costume design featurette, a bit where she wins her Emmy for this season, bios for the guests, outtakes, and a different version of one episode in Italian. Nice. And considering you get all of that for less than $1.25 an episode, that’s a damn fine deal. Any Lucy fan will want to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Either unfortunately or fortunately, depending on where you’re sitting, period TV pieces appear to be doing really well. Whether it’s Mad Men or Boardwalk Empire, everybody thinks that period is the way to go. Where the unfortunately comes in is if all you’ve got going for you is the period setting, usually quite well executed, then you might fall on your face, like with Pan Am and Playboy Club. Magic City wants to bring the touch of ratings success to late 1950s Miami and does have some good things going for it. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as hotel owner and Danny Huston as Mob Guy are both excellent actors and work the parts for all they’re worth. But it just squeaks by into “guilty pleasure” viewing territory rather than becoming a dramatic powerhouse like it feels it wants to be. All eight first season episodes are here across three hi-def discs and further positive news is that the show looks pretty damn good in the format. The bonus bits are slightly sparse…you’ve got brief featurettes regarding costumes, cars, sets, music and such…but they’re disappointingly short. A full in-depth for the whole season would be nice and might make us forget there’s no commentary to be found. A rental will do for most–more bonuses would make this an easier sell, especially for a $4+/episode price point. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Martha and Friends Holiday Collection DVD
Pac-Man Season 2 DVD

You might be thinking Martha & Friends? What is this? I will tell you what it is not, first of all. It is not, as you and I might dream, an animated show in which a ten-year-old Martha Stewart is joined by her friends (among them a ten-year-old Snoop Dogg) and they go out and solve mysteries. There is a much cooler universe where that show exists and has been running for fourteen seasons. Alas, no, but it is still a terribly functional show in which the titular Martha & Friends solve problems and get very, very crafty. And not in a devious sort of way–in a hey, let’s decorate the tree like this kind of way. Exactly what you would expect from such a show, in other words. Four episodes are here, including ones for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas…and they’re very, very safe viewing for kids. And, well, if your kids like making stuff, they’ll probably dig this. I just think my idea was better. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Only the terminally dim at this point would be surprised to hear that a popular arcade game would be converted into every other type of product imaginable. And Pac-Man was quite possibly the most popular video game character of his day until Mario just kept rolling and overwhelmed him by sheer franchise numbers. So yes, of course, it was adapted into an animated series by Hanna-Barbera that lasted all of two seasons and twenty-one episodes. Introducing a Mezmaron big bad character that controlled the Ghost Monsters, the show turned out to be as repetitive as…well, a game of Pac-Man. So I guess you can say that it was true to the source material. This Warner Archive release has all sixteen adventures plus the special “Christmas Comes to Pac-Land.” As always, the fact that the Warner Archive is throwing these onto DVD as legit Region 1 release is worthwhile–but the show is worth revisiting for nostalgia value…and not much else, I fear. It just wasn’t very good–but I suppose there’s somebody hardcore out there that would want it. At a little over a dollar per adventure, it’s not terrible, but still, the replay factor precludes most everyone. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Rock of Ages Blu-Ray
Something Big DVD

Rock of Ages probably looked great on paper. After all, some high profile musicals got turned into high profile movies and did quite well. However, this 80s metal jukebox musical is a bit schizophrenic when all is said and done. You get a great performance from Cruise (who is always at his best when he’s being decidedly non-Cruise), you get the love duet from Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin you never thought you’d see–and you get moments of high comedy that are exactly what the entire film needed. Alas, it’s hit and miss. And the plotline of a major concert setup to save an ailing venue is flimsy to the point where it needs something to help it out. The release looks and sounds good enough in its hi-def form…it didn’t blow me away, however. As for bonus bits, you get additional footage to the tune of thirteen minutes for the “extended cut.” You also get two featurettes featuring old school rock musicians talking about the time period and the songs. There’s also a serious of non-spectacular behind-the-scenes bits. And that’s about it. The whole thing, film and Blu-Ray combined, is just okay…but not anything that I would think would warrant more than a rental. That being said, if you dig the era or the songs that much and want to own, the Blu-Ray treatment might be worth the extra $8 to you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Dean Martin plays a bandit who is on a timetable: his fiancee is coming west to find him–and he’s supposed to have achieved fortune or at least something in the years he’s been running around the West. So it’s time to shoot for Something Big–and that will involve a gatling gun, kidnapping one man’s wife to trade to another outlaw for said gun, and then an assault on a Mexican town that’s ruled by yet another outlaw. Ostensibly a comedy-western, it’s not exactly a high point of either genre but, depending on one’s mood and/or love for the work of Martin, a potential for a good time. This release is out on DVD from Paramount and has nothing in the way of bonus features–and I must admit I’d be hard pressed to say what should be here…though you’d think at least the trailer. Maybe even a featurette about the theme song. Something. Regardless, rent it if you appreciate either Martin or co-star Brian Keith and have a shallow Netflix queue. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Barrens Blu-Ray
Basket Case 3: The Progeny DVD
Chained Blu-Ray

Full Disclosure: I find it hard to take a movie seriously when the shadowy antagonist might or might not be a creature that I read about in a book by Daniel Cohen while in middle school. That being said, The Barrens, out on Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay gives some good moments for you True Blood true believers–Stephen Moyer makes the most of what he’s got here–but the entire “build up an atmosphere to huge sudden payoff” is almost now a subgenre in itself. And here it only works somewhat and doesn’t carry the viewer through to the end. The hi-def doesn’t really thrill me either, though to the release’s credit, you do get an audio commentary and a single deleted scene. Again, True Blood viewers seeking out more from that show’s stars might want to rent this–or anyone else who has a shallow Netflix queue for this holiday season. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

You know, when hard pressed to describe what the Basket Case franchise (I know, that in itself is weird to say) became with its third installment, The Progeny, I think I could only speak thus: “It’s like Night Breed as envisioned by Troma.” Twins Duane and Belial have a situation on their hands as Belial is headed to fatherhood via another mutant, Eve. After the delivery, the kids are kidnapped and mutant revenge is going to involve everything including but not limited to an insane showdown with the local evil sheriff. It’s so over the top, I’m not sure how you can fault it, honestly. It’s not the sort of thing one should watch while eating pasta, but it’s good clean insane fun of the sort that you might have once sought out in a video rental place. The Synapse release looks and sounds well enough–for something like this, a little goes a long way–but only has a trailer for a feature. A featurette about the batshit makeup might have been nice, but this is Synapse–if it existed, they would have thrown it on here. A rental is probably fine for anyone who wants to reacquaint themselves. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

You can be forgiven for thinking that Jennifer Lynch’s Chained is yet another horror movie that’s long on brutality, has a healthy array of gore, and is shallow when it comes to characterization. I mean, if you just hear that the plot concerns a serial killer who takes a victim’s son under his wing to be his slave and eventual protege–well, that’s not exactly uplifting cinema on the surface, right? Well, the not-exactly-uplifting part is pretty spot-on, but the facade of just-another-brutal-movie subsides when you hear that Vincent D’Onofrio is playing the serial killer. And D’Onofrio is fascinating no matter what part he’s playing, but damn he does creepy well. What you get instead of just relentless brutality with no characterization is a more subtle and still relentless brutality with plenty of characterization. When the boy grows into a young man, what is he going to choose for his path? Follow the maniac or try something different? And what the hell can you try different when you’re a captive, anyway? Bleak, yes, but the characterizations may carry you over any rough patches. This Anchor Bay Blu-Ray release looks decent enough but doesn’t exactly scream hi-def (in my opinion). You do get an alternate version of a scene and a commentary from Lynch and D’Onofrio. If you’re intrigued, then a rental might do you–but those with a need to own will want to go hi-def just because it’s only about $4 more and the DVD comes with. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Big Bad Beetleborgs Season 1, Volume 1 DVD
VR Troopers Season 1, Volume 1 DVD

When it comes to repurposing Japanese content, previously my experience began and ended with Robotech, a series I hold as near and dear to my heart. However, Saban Entertainment were masters at it. I knew about the Power Rangers empire–who didn’t? But they did it everywhere they could, it seems. I’m looking now at the first volume of the first seasons of both Big Bad Beetleborgs and VR Troopers, hitting DVD from Shout Factory. Both series apparently lasted two seasons (eventually running out of footage from their respective shows, so Wikipedia (which is always right) tells me) and both concerned youngsters taking on alter egos (that would conveniently shift into the stock footage). With Beetleborgs, these were little kids that were, Shazam-like, becoming heroes from a comic book that sort of looked like rejected dancers from Captain EO. Same thing with Troopers, except the shot was that these were virtual reality heroes protecting the real world from a VR world. With Beetleborgs, you’re looking at twenty-seven episodes across three discs and Troopers, twenty-six across the same. There are no bonus bits on either set, so this is really for the hardcore who want them on their shelf. And I know there are Saban hardcore fans out there. For them, I would say this: purchasing these will inspire Shout Factory to make more. Good news the price point isn’t bad…around fifty cents an episode. (Click here to buy Beetleborgs from Amazon.. Click here to buy Troopers from Amazon.)

Grande Illusion Blu-Ray
LOL Blu-Ray
30 Beats DVD

I admit that I’m sometimes loathe to see films that were previously handled by Criterion lapse to their “real” owners. Cool stuff never seems to make its way off of those out of print releases–and I’m looking at you, Silence of the Lambs. However, La Grande Illusion is something else: it’s a 1937 film by Jean Renoir that has been restored to an almost ridiculous degree through a lost-negative-then-found story that’s fairly insane, and addressed in one of the bonus bits. But again, if they had simply released this gorgeous hi-def version bare bones, fans of the film would want to own this regardless. That being said, Lionsgate does give you other stuff: both the 1937 and 1958 trailers, an intro, a featurette about the legacy of the film and Renoir’s influence, a writing featurette and one of my favorite things, film geek that I am: a restoration side-by-side comparison so you can truly appreciate what they were able to do. Fans of cinema should give this at least a watch and the hardcore will want to own this–no doubt right next to their Criterion edition. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So LOL seems like it could have been a good idea at the time. A French film a couple years back wins a couple of awards and does a decent amount of coin for a film with those whatyacallthem words at the bottom of the screen, right? It only makes sense to remake it, and do so by bringing over the original director/producer/co-writer, casting Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus (because she’s going to be a hot commodity, yes?) and then making the film…only to finally release it two years after its completion. Don’t get me wrong: Moore has had some choice acting moments and I don’t know enough about Cyrus to talk too much trash–I mean, if you were getting the paychecks, you’d have sung those songs too, right? Regardless, this teen angst parents-and-friends-don’t-understand-me flick doesn’t really offer much in the way that would let Cyrus do anything impressive–and Moore’s in about the same boat. You get the feeling that the initial idea might have actually had some promise–but after a very limited release and a cover of Cyrus lounging with that (sorry, but it’s true) freaking horrible title? Who was this made for, exactly? Anyway, if there is good news to be had it’s that the Lionsgate release is not devoid of technical and bonus things to recommend it: quite good audio and video, an audio commentary, and a few diminutive featurettes. Not sure who should rent this: even Cyrus faithful might be disappointed. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

30 Beats looks like it’s something that would be more in the realm of ScottC’s reviewing stable. However, I can predict what cursing would ensue when he realized that this is more about attempts at characterization than coupling between those characters. Oh sure, the idea that a heat wave in New York City could inspire a series of characters to interact with sex as the pretense makes a bit of sense (I guess) but the fact that you’re going through ten characters doing a baton hand-off over the course of eighty-eight minutes seems like you’re sprinting rather than actually enjoying the process. And many films have done the large ensemble bit with more finesse. In the end, though, I think the major thing is that for a film about sex, there’s so much in the way of talking it becomes a bit mind-numbing. Not that I want porn or even Skinemax Classic, but just…something interesting would be nice. The fact that you have no bonus bits make this a hard sell on even a day with air conditioning. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Jeff Dunham: Minding the Monsters Blu-Ray
Demetri Martin: Standup Comedian DVD

One thing cannot be denied: Jeff Dunham does fairly well for himself. I remember reading that he was recently (and maybe still is) the standup act raking in the most coin. And one thing is also for certain: he’s pretty damn funny. At times extraordinarily wrong, but still funny. And because it’s that time of year, Paramount and Comedy Central have released his Halloween-themed special, Minding the Monsters, to Blu-Ray. Your first reaction might be mine when thinking about hi-def standup routines–but relax, the Blu-Ray and DVD both are $9.99 at the moment, so why wouldn’t you? The main draw here is that his various puppets are showing up in costume–since that’s half the fun, I’ll just mention one as an example: grumpy old man Walter is a Frankenstein-inspired creation. Nice. And while the show is funny, to its credit, the bonus bits aren’t shabby: there’s a commentary, outtakes, a set tour, featurettes covering the creation of set pieces and the Frankenstein setup and more. Is it going to convert someone who hasn’t seen Dunham into a fan? Probably not…his initial specials seem to still do that trick rather nicely. But for an existing fan, I can see them enjoying this–and it’s cheap enough where a really solid fan might appreciate owning it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The latest from Demetri Martin, Standup Comedian, has hit both DVD and CD from Comedy Central. And I find it’s hard for me to point to a specific “kind” of comedian and say, “Yes, that kind. That’s the kind I like.” I know people divide comedians into “prop comedians” and “deadpan comedians” and “musical comedians” and whatnot, but I can never really draw that distinction. The only comedian that works for is Steven Wright, who is deadpan and FSM love him for it. All of that to say that I like Martin’s work and, suicide for somebody trying to talk to you about it (let alone capsule review it), I can’t tell you exactly why. Is it how he opens the show in a sendup of the British mode of introductions and then follows up with why it would be very easy for them to all die in the performance space? No idea. Is it the way he screws with language and points out how it, in turn, screws with us? That certainly doesn’t hurt. The DVD comes with a commentary (very short) and then a commentary on the commentary (also short), concepts that were rejected for the show, plus musical variations on jokes from the show. The DVD is only about $2 more than the CD, so for the visuals alone, I’d say it would be worth grabbing, though comedy is always nice to listen to on the go. Let your comedy-viewing/listening proclivities be your guide–but it’s worth checking out at least once. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)