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Headsup: The Rabbit, The Fairy and an Abundance of Cats

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.

Looney Tunes Platinum Collection Vol. 2 Blu-Ray
Secret of the Wings Blu-Ray 3D

[ad#longpost]The bad news first. The bad news is that the second volume of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection continues the first volume’s technique of jumping around all over the place…we still do not have nor will we have at any point in the near future…a chronological release of all the Looney Tunes shorts. That’s about the worst you can say…and hell, if they do release all of them eventually you can just watch them in the right order if the spirit moves you. What you do have is some of the best and some more obscure shorts, with fifty of them across three discs. If you’re buying this for the hi-def aspect, you won’t be upset either because these things look better than they ever have–and we’re talking films from pretty much every era and thus age…but they’ve done the shorts proud here. Audio track seems excellent as well. Extras…are extensive. You get a scad (sorry, I kept losing count) of commentaries, with participants like Michael Barrier, Jerry Beck, Paul Dini, Chuck Jones, and others. A few shorts come with music-only tracks as well. You also get featurettes on Leon Schlesinger, Bob Clampett, the Chuck Jones “Wabbit Season” trilogy of shorts, and the character Bosko. Two docus about Tex Avery are included as well as a chat with the man himself. There are additional shorts, even–Friz Freleng MGM shorts, several from Avery, and several shorts from wartime. Plus more. It’s…sort of overwhelming and if you were smart and snagged the first volume, then I can tell you get the same and more of it. A lot more. These are classic shorts and everybody needs them. And apart from the order of release, there’s a lot to be happy about with this Warner Brothers release. Highly recommended. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

One of the smart marketing things Disney has done recently has been to start heavily targeting specific demographics. The Disney Princess line is for girls are who are into princesses, the fairy line is…well, you see where this is going. Secret of the Wings is one of the Disney Fairies releases and, to my knowledge anyway, the first to go DTV 3D. The setup is thus: there’s always been a clear separation between Pixie Hollow and the cold locale of the Winter Woods. Fairies just don’t cross over from one to the other–but when Tinkerbell does anyway, she discovers something magical and strange…and things just proceed from there. Not being in the target demographic for such a film, I can only make an assumption as to how well it will go over…and I’m thinking it’ll do fine. It’s not going to blow a kid’s mind but it’s not going to completely annoy them either. The hi-def and 3D are both worthwhile and look and sound fantastic…but that being said–the fact that there’s really just a “bonus adventure” on here (a sport-themed short–and we don’t discuss music videos) is a bit weird. Especially when you consider you’ve got a four-disc combo pack here. Yes, granted, that’s mostly to handle all four ways of watching the film, but still. That means you’re paying about $7.50 per version, when you probably only need two at the most. I would say rent the 3D and try it out (if you’ve got the gear for it) and see where that takes you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

90210: Fourth Season DVD
Alcatraz: Complete Series Blu-Ray
Mad Men: Season Five Blu-Ray

So we’re entering a world where we don’t just have TV remakes to contend with…but TV continuations. The new Dallas has been picked up for a second season but I think 90210 was one of the first of this new breed. And it’s firing on its fifth season as we speak. Here the fourth one is on DVD from Paramount with all twenty-four episodes across six discs. Now high school is over and our heroes are having to deal with what comes next: the terrors of college, adult life and the real world. Well, as real as it gets in a prime time soap. The good news for fans of such things is that the set is not without merits for them: two episodes come with commentaries, set tours, gag reel, deleted scenes and featurettes covering important stuff like hair and makeup plus music. Not being snarky, hair and makeup is probably more crucial to fans of this show than say, Walking Dead. I’m Just Saying. And at about $1.25 an episode, it’s not a bad price point if somebody finds enough replay value to put this on their shelf. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Alcatraz was shut down in 1963 because it was unsafe. Well, that’s what they wanted you to believe. Instead, what really happened is that the entire inmate and guard population disappeared. And certain people have been waiting for them to come back…and it’s started. Criminals from 1963 are reappearing, untouched by aging, and starting where they left off. Or…starting something else. A cop, an expert on the prison and an FBI agent are trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. So…thirteen episodes and that was it. Hence this is “The Complete Series.” The good news for fans is that some questions get answered; the bad news is they’re going to be left wanting more–and not all the questions get resolved. The other good news is that Warner Brothers provided an excellent release, especially for something that was going to be one shot: the video and audio are both quite good. You get no commentaries, but you do get a number of deleted scenes, a gag reel and a behind-the-scenes featurette. Fans may want to at least rent it to get at the special bits (or revisit the show) and others may want to rent and see about replay factor before purchasing. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I can see where Mad Men works for some people, but it never really caught me. I can certainly give it props for amazing production design and costuming, which it continues in this, the fifth season out on Blu-Ray from Lionsgate. And of course, it has incredible moments for its actors–still giving Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss much to chew on, not to mention giving some “well, that was interesting” moments to the likes of John Slattery. All thirteen episodes are here across three discs with commentaries from cast and crew on all of them, plus an art/design featurette, a featurette on the Capote ball, two featurettes focusing on the musical score and a gallery of Newsweek magazine covers from the time period. I’m very pleased with the price point on this as well: for $2 an episode at the present time, it’s the same price as the DVD. So that’s a no-brainer. And I know that hardcore fans of the show (I don’t know many people who feel simply “meh” about the show) will want to own it. They can do so with a clear conscience–it looks and sounds great and has an excellent price. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ghost Hunters: Season Seven, Part 2 DVD
Holliston: Complete First Season Blu-Ray
Sherlock Holmes Miniseries Collection DVD

So Ghost Hunters is still on the air…presumably because they haven’t really found any evidence of actual ghosts yet. Because, you know, if they had, I’m sure they’d be too busy picking up all manner of scientific awards and grabbing grant money to make another season. I’d say I don’t mean to be snarky but, well, I do. If you like watching people walk around in the dark and hear noises and then wonder what they are and/or point scientific looking equipment around and seem to draw conclusions from them, then this is the show. Image gives you thirteen episodes of the seventh season across the four disc set with bonus footage as the only feature. Don’t get me wrong: I was a paid subscriber to the Art Bell show for years, so I see no reason not to watch this sort of thing for pure entertainment purposes–but I’m not sure who needs it on their shelf permanently. A rental will be more than enough, I would guess. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The concept of Holliston is fantastic. Two aspiring horror directors (played by actual horror directors) work a local access horror show while trying to put together their soccer-centric horror flick. Apart from the girlfriend situations, which are normal sitcom fare, you’ve might have the following reactions when you check out the cover art. “That looks like Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.” (It is. He plays their boss.) “That looks like that guy from Gwar…what was his name again?” (Oderus Urungus. And yes, that’s him. He plays lead character Adam’s imaginary friend as himself.) Those two cast members make the setup incredibly weird and give it its funniest moments. The reason, however, that the end result doesn’t work for me is the feel of the show. The laugh track is godawful. I don’t know if they meant for the laugh track to make the show sound way funnier than the show actually is on purpose or not…but that doesn’t work for me. And everybody plays things like an 80s sitcom on crack…which sounds good on paper but just feels wrong…unless by Urungus, who, because he’s in full Gwar gear, sends it up brilliantly. So…conceptually, it’s ridiculously brilliant. But in execution, I just can’t get into it. And this, honestly, makes me sad. This Image release comes with commentaries on all six episodes, deleted scenes, a number of behind the scenes featurettes and some promos. So the set itself is good. That being said, it is all of six episodes, so the price point per episode is…large. Even the most hardcore of fans should probably give it a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

One look at the cover can tell you whether or not you want to take the time to check out the two TV movies presented by Mill Creek on the Sherlock Holmes 2 Complete Mini-Series Collection. After all, that’s Christopher Lee as Sherlock and Patrick Macnee aka John Steed as Watson. As long as you go into it understanding that this is from 1991 and Lee is neither Robert Downey Jr. nor Benedict Cumberbatch, then you’ll probably be fine. This is from the middling school of Holmes–not really dead-on with the books but just sort of there. And it’s nice to see this cast in place for it, regardless. The DVD release comes with extra footage placed back into the films that didn’t see broadcast stateside. Rent them if you’re a Holmes enthusiast and don’t mind checking out other versions. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Airborne DVD
Cabin in the Woods Blu-Ray
Excision Blu-Ray

So what happens when there’s a storm on the way, but one last plane manages to take to the air? Well, eventually something starts making the passengers either disappear or go murderously batshit, leaving those who are still unaffected to try and solve what’s going on before they too get overwhelmed. The film and DVD in question is Airborne. It does make sense that “airplane horror” has gotten some popularity with filmmakers…think “mostly takes place in one enclosed space”…but people interested in this film either have an empty Netflix queue or are just that happy to see Mark Hamill and Alan Ford getting paychecks. (And we like it when they can eat, after all.) It has its moments but not proportionally enough of them for a seventy-eight minute running time. The fact the Image release has no bonus bits at all doesn’t help it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

How you can be a horror fan and not enjoy The Cabin in the Woods, I have no idea. I was positively gleeful from just about start to finish. And I will tell you this: if you haven’t seen it, do so soon–because the less you know about the film, the more glee I believe you will experience. But yes, if the mere title and the original trailer let you know that A) there’s a bit of Evil Dead playing out here and 2) that’s not all, then you’re set. Just grab something like, oh, say this Blu-Ray and enjoy. And that’s quite easy to do, since the hi-def treatment is sweet, audio and video both. You get both an audio commentary and a picture in picture commentary, a half-hour or so of a making-of, a Q&A from WonderCon and more. If you’re uncertain, then by all means rent and try it out. However, this is a highly recommended flick from me and I think it might just hit perennial Halloween viewing status. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Well, whatever you were into when you were a kid, it probably wasn’t impromptu overly-fantasized surgery. (I said probably.) But Pauline in Excision (played by AnnaLynne McCord from 90210) really, really wants to do some slice and dice. And she’s an outcast at school, has problems with her parents (especially her mom) and feels generally alienated and weird. Carrie with scalpels? A bit. But yes, be prepared for gore and oddities, both in-dream sequence and out, and you might come through okay. The Anchor Bay Blu-Ray looks and sounds excellent and comes with a commentary from McCord and writer/director Richard Bates, Jr. Also look for a supporting cast that has Traci Lords, Ray Wise, Malcolm McDowell and John Waters on board. For most horror fans, a rental will do just fine. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Vol. 2 DVD
Perry Mason: Season 7, Vol. 2 DVD
Streets of San Francisco Season 5, Vol. 1 DVD

Yes, yes, I know that you and I know James Arness best as The Thing From Another World, but I hear tell that he had a small role in a little series called Gunsmoke. Episode-wise the longest running series on television (twenty seasons and 635 episodes), the second half (the back nineteen episodes) of the sixth season are on this three disc DVD set from Paramount. This marks the last of the half-hour black and white episodes–the seventh season would see the show expand to an hour-length program. And Arness would be on board for the whole damn thing…including five TV movies afterwards. It’s the archetypal western but done, very very well. And considering the show’s age, the black and white episodes look excellent on the set. The price point per episode is less than $1.50, so that’s not bad at all. And while they are running episodes on TV Land, any hardcore fan who wants to own can do so with a clear conscience. Anyone who just wants to indulge in some nostalgia can rent. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Perry Mason returns with another twelve episodes, finishing up the seventh season in this second volume from Paramount. They’re all here across four discs. There’s only so much you can say about the show, but the main thing is…Raymond Burr positively rocks. Oh sure, like every courtroom drama some episodes are better than others, but overall it’s still solid and that’s mostly, IMO, due to Burr. For a series from the 1960s, it looks and sounds quite good–and you do get guest stars such as Billy Mumy, Ryan O’Neal and Jerry Van Dyke. The price point is slightly high–close to $3 an episode–but the hardcore fan may find it worthwhile to own. Rent or Netflix it first if you just want to take a test drive. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

What happens when you’ve just won an Academy Award for producing? Well, you don’t hang around the Streets of San Francisco, that’s for sure. That’s why Michael Douglas left and Richard Hatch took over as Karl Malden’s partner for this, the final season. All twenty-four episodes are here across two volumes, which are sold either separately or shrinkwrapped together for the full season. Guest stars for this go-round include Ned Beatty, Mark Hamill, Norman Fell, Dabney Coleman, Don Johnson and scads more. No bonus bits are here but fans of the show will want to check it out–at a $2/episode price point, the offering isn’t a bad one, especially for fans. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Lieutenant Complete Series Part 1 DVD
Lieutenant Complete Series Part 2 DVD

Hard to believe but Gene Roddenberry did stuff that wasn’t Star Trek. The first show he created and had hit the air was The Lieutenant, starring Gary Lockwood (2001) as the titular soldier. The shot was thus: it’s the Marines…and the country is at peace. For the most part. It is the Cold War, after all. So how does the Corps operate in such a scenario? Along with Lockwood you had Robert Vaughn and Richard Goldman (Six Million Dollar Man) on board. Warner Archive has released the Complete Series (it only ran for the one season) on two volumes, giving you all twenty-nine episodes across eight discs. And you can look for some familiar faces: Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy and Walter Koening all put in appearances. And you actually get a bonus bit on this: the feature film version of the final episode, which was shown internationally. If you purchase both titles, you are looking at $2.75 per episode, which is pricey…but might be worthwhile for the Trek hardcore who want to see where Roddenberry was first experimenting with ideas in a non-genre environment. And this is the only way to get at the series in a legitimate Region 1 release. Everybody else will probably be fine with a rental.

Frank Zappa: Baby Snakes CD
Frank Zappa: Joes Garage CD
Frank Zappa: Man From Utopia CD
Frank Zappa: Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch CD

As I’ve said elsewhere, I came to Zappa late. Like in the past two or three years. Even though I had, of course, heard his stuff before…but for some reason I never felt drawn to enter into his oeuvre. I think what did it for me at last was the realization that Zappa’s mad compositional style made him the father (or at least the crazy uncle) of bands I adore like Mr. Bungle. And yes, he’s frequently funny and rude…but behind that, there’s a slew of musical genius happening. Complicated, crazy music. And now UME and Zappa Records have spent the year basically re-releasing every damn thing under the sun, leaving people like me struggling to keep up. Here’s some of the most recent titles:

Baby Snakes is the soundtrack to the film, which contained a slew of live Zappa. And live Zappa is just as good (and sometimes better) than studio Zappa. Because it’s one thing to play something complicated and wild in the studio…but to turn around and pull it off live, that’s something else. In fact, I heard this soundtrack before I had heard some of the studio versions. Like the hilarious “Titties ‘N’ Beer,” the musician-crushing “Black Page,” and the manic, fun “Dinah Moe Humm.” Also re-released is the complete Joe’s Garage, Zappa’s rock opera about Joe, who creates a band and winds up in prison. And things just get weirder from there. Well, they start out weird, since you have “The Central Scrutinizer” narrating the story–a whispering, all-seeing presence. This album is what gives you “Catholic Girls,” “Keep It Greasey,” “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?” (one of my favorites, but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking of) and the guitar-rific “Watermelon in Easter Hay.” Sure, as a rock opera it’s all over the map (sprawling over three original releases which were the individual acts–all collected here) but it’s a damn fine map.

Next, we have 1983’s Man From Utopia, which brought you “Cocaine Decisions,” the rambling and insane “Dangerous Kitchen” not to mention the utterly wrong “Jazz Discharge Party Hats,” (which a live version of it–the first Zappa I ever heard) which features mental guitar overdubbing. And lastly, 1982’s Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, with three tracks from the studio and three tracks live. It brought you the collaboration with daughter Moon Unit, “Valley Girl” (which, in retrospect, I no doubt heard on Doctor Demento at one point…but didn’t recognize/register it as Zappa, if you know what I mean). Also on this album is “Teenage Prostitute,” another Zappa staple.

The man thing to be said about this is that a lot of these titles appear to be out of print. Ship and Baby Snakes look to be out of print and Garage…surely it’s been out on CD before but I couldn’t find it. For anyone looking to snag these albums and been holding off because the versions available were too pricey or you just couldn’t find them…now is your chance. Any Zappa you like is Zappa worth owning, but if you had to pick just one, I’d go with Baby Snakes. A nice slice of Zappa’s music, all live and fantastic.

Doors: Live at the Bowl 68 Blu-Ray
Magical Mystery Tour Blu-Ray
Classic Albums: Peter Gabriel: So Blu-Ray

What I find most impressive about the Eagle Rock Blu-Ray release of The Doors: Live at the Bowl ’68 is the extent to which they’ve tried to make the show accessible to an audience over four decades later–many of whom probably didn’t get the chance to catch it themselves. Not only do you get The Doors live, which gives you an excellent feel for the band–probably more than the studio albums, I would think. There’s just something so raw about how they can go from drone to all out assault–check out the deceptively long intro to “When the Music’s Over,” that opens the show. (Not to mention the “We want the world…” section of the same.) But get ready to be attacked. Also, apparently bits of the show were lost to technical issues–and engineer Bruce Botnick (who was there and recorded the show at the time) has used bits from other shows to recreate the lost bits here. I guess if you wanted to be a mad purist about it, you could have had some of the sections with bits missing as they really are as bonus features…but the pure recorded experience is less what’s being presented here, but more what must have happened on the night. Hence the interviews to record the memories of band members and others. You also get a featurette about The Hollywood Bowl itself and an awesome restoration featurette. Also two additional songs from television appearances are here as well. Video is…well, I mean it’s four decades old, like I said. In 1968 the term “Blue Ray” could have been mistaken for a description of a car. But the audio sounds damn fine. Doors fans will want to own this (I think it’s the first Doors concert to hit Blu-Ray) and the curious will want to rent. An excellent performance, saved for posterity. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The thing you need to know about Magical Mystery Tour is that it was written by The Beatles, directed by The Beatles and belongs to the cherished subgenre I refer to as “Chaos on a Biscuit.” A TV movie that basically sank like a stone because people had no idea what the hell it was supposed to be, it (sort of) concerns the titular tour, undertaken by Ringo and his Aunt with a bunch of other people, taken from strange place to stranger place. Also: music. One of my favorite bits is Victor Spinetti as a drill sergeant (“Why?”). The Blu-Ray release from EMI has been restored and thus looks better than any that went before it–and sounds freaking amazing. Also, you get a commentary track with Sir Paul, a short making-of bit, a featurette on the supporting cast members, outtakes, and other short bits of additional footage. Is it weird? Yes. Is it something that our readers, well-versed in Python and other such Brit madness will probably better appreciate now than it was taken in then? Absolutely. Worth watching at least once (if nothing else to contextualize the songs from the album) and Beatles fans should definitely own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I’ve written before about how Peter Gabriel showing up completely changed my view of music. This is the guy who, via his Last Temptation of Christ soundtrack and his RealWorld music label, opened up the rest of the world to my ears. However, he had to get in first, yes? And the album that got him in for me was So. I’m not sure if it was “In Your Eyes” or seeing the mad videos of stuff like “Big Time” or “Sledgehammer” that got me in the door…but once there, I was hooked. And now the Classic Albums series turns its lenses on this and does its thing. “Its thing” is taking you through the creation of it and talking to the people who were there…including the man himself. Also in front of the camera: co-producer Daniel Lanois, badass bassist Tony Levin, badass percussionist Manu Katche and several others. The process of the song creation and the painstaking detail that had to go into working with the technology that they had at the time is explored as is Gabriel’s process. If anything, there’s so much ground to explore, you wish there was more time. And you do get that to some extent, with thirty-five minutes of additional footage that goes into both “Time” and the “Sledgehammer” video. The Eagle Rock Blu-Ray presentation is nice here–this was originally for television and not HD, so don’t expect it to be more than adequate for archival footage and talking heads…but that’s really all you need. (And considering the DVD would only save you about $2, to hell with it.) Full-on Gabriel fans will want to own this but even people just interested in 1980s music or album creation in general will want to at least rent it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Everybodys Fine Blu-Ray
Hanging Tree DVD
Lake Effects DVD

The best way to take a Hallmark film and elevate it is to put Robert DeNiro in it. Yes, that’s overly simplistic, but take the writing down a peg or two and leave out the cast and…well, you could be close. The setup of Everybody’s Fine deals with a widower, played by DeNiro, who decides to visit his kids after they decide they can’t visit him. His health problems exacerbate the melodrama as does a revelation that comes late in the film. Not a feel good holiday film, but there is something to be said for DeNiro, since he owns the material as best as one can. The Blu-Ray release from Lionsgate has a making-of for the Paul McCartney song from the film and deleted and extended scenes. Most everyone who wants to see this will be fine with a rental. Only DeNiro completists will want to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The mysterious and manipulating Doc Frail has moved into the vicinity and taken up practice. Trouble is, this being late 19th century Montana, the whims of the masses are often mistaken for law. And Frail isn’t the friendliest type. Thus forces in the town start to work against him while he takes a woman into his car who’s recovering from a robbery. The Hanging Tree could have been just another western but you’ve got Gary Cooper as Frail, plus Karl Malden and George C. Scott (in his screen debut). So they’re able to take a good story and elevate it considerably. This is out from the Warner Archive and thus has no bonus bits, but it’s worth a rental for those who want to see a different role from Cooper or for Western genre enthusiasts. (Click here to buy it from the Warner Archive.)

Take “family coming together in the midst of adversity” with a dash of “estranged child from out of town” and then baste it with “estranged child now has to learn to love small town life again.” If that sounds like a dish that you would enjoy–namely, you know, the cinematic equivalent of plain oatmeal, then go for Lake Effects. Some people enjoy the blandest things for comfort food. Learning what it means to be a family is cloying enough, but in the hands of the Hallmark Movie Channel it can be positively deadly. But to each his or her own kick. This Anchor Bay release comes with a making-of and deleted scenes. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Freddie Mercury: Great Pretender Blu-Ray
Gary Moore: Blues for Jimi Blu-Ray
Last Days Here DVD

So the good news, as I may have mentioned elsewhere and before, is that there is a Freddie Mercury biopic coming–and Sacha Baron Cohen is on tap to play the man himself. And that, my friends, is genius. However, until then, Mercury and Queen fans should check out The Great Pretender, the docu out on Blu-Ray that tries to get behind the protective mask that Mercury put up about himself. It does this through archival footage with him, interviews with his friends and colleagues (including other members of Queen)–and rather than just talking about his time with that legendary band, it also goes into his solo work. A lot of this footage is apparently unseen so that makes it a must-watch for fans and potentially something to own. It certainly looks and sounds well enough for a hi-def program that skips around through all types of footage. And this Eagle Rock release does have some bonus bits: extended interviews and a look at an attempt to recreate “Barcelona,” the collaboration between Mercury and Montserrat Caballé. I say rent it to try it out and plonk coin if the replay value works for you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Hendrix fiends are going to definitely need to check out Gary Moore: Blues For Jimi, a 2007 tribute concert in which Gary Moore leads a band in surprisingly faithful and capable array of Hendrix staples, including “Purple Haze,” “Foxey Lady” and “Manic Depression.” I say “surprisingly” not as a dig at Moore, but just because…well, you know how normally when you hear somebody covering Hendrix, you can tell right away it’s not Hendrix…and in fact, they have a tendency to flourish in some other direction because they know they’re not. Moore instead tackles it head-on and his guitar work is fantastic. If anything, his vocals at times are a bit lacking, but the guitar is what you showed up for, so who cares? And then, Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell of the Hendrix Experience show up and back him up on three tracks. And that’s when the place really lights up. “Red House” is a slow, awesome groove, “Stone Free” is stark and fantastic and “Hey Joe” slowly grinds wonderfully. The whole damn show is pretty sweet, to be honest. The hi-def here from Eagle Rock doesn’t look spectacular, but the audio–which is what you showed up for–is where the release really shines. No bonus bits, but still: Hendrix and blues fans will want to at least rent, if not own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

If you want a docu about the dark side of rock and roll, look no further than Last Days Here, out from MPI on DVD. The band’s name was Pentagram, and they have a bit of a cult following–which is interesting, considering the band has had a highly volatile roster, except for one guy: frontman Bobby Liebling. Part of the reason the band has had such a hard time moving out of obscurity is the fact that Liebling can’t get his shit together, partly because he’s consumed so much in the ways of drugs that even Keith Richards himself thinks the guy should slow down. Seriously, if we could somehow get this guy’s DNA and Richards’, we could create an unstoppable army. This docu covers Liebling’s story and how a fan is trying to get him to get it together enough to at least, you know, move out of his mom’s basement. Fans of metal will be intrigued to see this–it’s not a docu that transcends completely but it is well executed. Bonus bits include deleted scenes. A rental will do for most unless you’re one of the Pentagram faithful. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Care Bears Original Series Collection DVD
First Christmas DVD
Go Snoopy Go!: Happiness Is Peanuts DVD

People very seldom ask me, “Where did the origin of the Law of Relative Development come from, Widge?” But if they did, I could point to American Greetings–when you’re creating characters for greeting cards and then adapting them to an animated series and toys…then, well, all bets are off. And that was in the 80s, mind you. Before things really got crazy. Anyway, the reason I bring this up is seeing Care Bears: The Original Series Collection from Lionsgate cross my desk. Sixty-four episodes are here across six discs including the “Nutcracker” feature. The video hasn’t been cleaned up–it looks like thirty-year-old animation to me, but that’s fine. It’s not like this needs a huge restoration. And at about $.40 an episode, if there are any hardcore fans out there–or just somebody who wants to share this with their own kids–this is a great way to do it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

When a shepherd boy is blinded and needs time to recover at the local convent, he gets help from a friendly nun played by Angela Lansbury and learns something–and by extension, helps us learn, naturally–something about the true spirit of Christmas. There are many Rankin-Bass stop motion animated specials, and some are better than others. This doesn’t reach the classic levels of a Rudolph or Frosty, but The First Christmas doesn’t sink to the depths either. What is discouraging, however, is the fact that the special is twenty-four minutes long…which isn’t really worth a standalone DVD release, much less have it be priced at $12 (and that’s with discounts). This belongs in a boxed set with other specials like it, not alone and paired with a bonus bit about homemade Xmas cards. Skip it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Again, we have bits of an animated show in a relatively low-cost DVD release. In this case, we’re talking animated Peanuts and the latest release from Warner Brothers is Happiness Is…Peanuts: Go Snoopy Go!. While it is technically correct that this is an all-new collection, as stated on the box, its central bit is the special “It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown!” which appeared previously on DVD (and I believe is out of print–or at least hellaciously priced on Amazon, either way). You also get five episodes of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, which has yet to hit DVD. All of the content here is available from places like Amazon Instant Video–but that being said, the DVD is priced low enough where it’s six in one, half-dozen in the other. My only concern would be this: eventually, there’s going to be a complete series release of the animated show on DVD–and while it may not have bonus bits that you’re missing here, it may be a better price point overall. If you absolutely can’t wait, then sure, snag this or even Netflix it. But if you can hold out for a complete set, that would be advisable. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe DVD
Key and Peele Season 1 Blu-Ray
Shaquille ONeal Presents: All-Star Comedy Jam Live From Orlando DVD

With most comedians…if I told you they opened up with talking about having another kid, you’d probably not get very excited. But there’s something about Jim Gaffigan where he can take the most mundane, used-up sort of topics and make them new again. It’s a combination of his lazy everyman delivery and his sense of the slightly surreal. And when he does trot out something familiar–“Oh, he’s doing that voice already…”–it’s done with enough spin so that it’s not boring. In fact, Mr. Universe is pretty much as hilarious as you’d want it to be–and has all the food jokes you’ve come to love and expect. There are no bonus bits on the DVD (or the CD, naturally) but the feature is enough. And if you snag it from his website for just $5, he makes a donation to a veterans’ charity. Nice.

It must be hard as hell to write a decent sketch comedy show. I say this because there are so few out there. And even when you have a huge network backing your plays, a history to live up to, and, in theory, the money to hire great talent…for some reason, you can even fall flat. I won’t mention any names, because that would be indiscrete. SNL. But with Key & Peele, you get some really great moments that show promise for additional funny. If you haven’t experienced the show yet, I urge you to Google “Obama Anger Translator” and see them in action. Some bits are clever–something like Bobby McFerrin taking on Police Academy‘s Michael Winslow in sound combat is so genius, the moment you know what’s coming, you think “Of course.” And it’s clever and they execute the parts well, but it just should be funnier. Regardless, for the fan of the show, this Comedy Central Blu-Ray has good news: excellent audio and video, four audio commentaries from the guys, an outtakes reel, additional Anger Translator sketches, an interview and more. Price point is about $1.75 an episode, so if the replay factor is in your favor, there’s no reason not to. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

I had no idea that Shaquille O’Neal had moved into producing live comedy shows. I guess I haven’t been paying attention to his Twitter. Regardless, he takes the All-Star Comedy Jam on the road–this iteration Live From Orlando and hosted by Gary Owen from the Tyler Perryverse. The other four comics are Capone, Lil Duval, Jay Pharoah and Tony Roberts. And comedy is a very subjective thing–though I can say that personally, my favorite of these is Pharoah, as his impressions are preternatural in their quality. But any fan of the comics involved will probably want to check this out. However, it’s probably best as a rental as the running time is just over and hour–and for five comics, that’s cutting it a bit close IMO. The only real bonus feature as well is a behind-the-scenes featurette. Good for a rental for fans, but if you do want to buy something, find and grab one of their solo efforts. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Ella Enchanted Blu-Ray
Garfield Show: Holiday Extravaganza DVD
Heathcliff and Dingbat Show DVD

In a post-Shrek world but still before things went fairy tale crazy (with not one but two networks wishing they had Fables as a show), we have 2004’s Ella Enchanted, which puts a slightly different spin on the Cinderella story. This puts Anne Hathaway in a relatively cute tale that has Ella trying to lift a curse that was placed upon her…making her obedient across the board. It’s a story that could have gone a completely different direction, to be sure. The fairy tale send-up might be a little dated now but it still holds charm for people who are, again, fairy tale or princess crazy. And being PG, it’s not terrible for the young, either. This Lionsgate Blu-Ray looks and sounds quite good and has the same features as the previous DVD release: audio commentary from actors Hathaway and Hugh Dancy plus director Tommy O’Haver, plus deleted and extended scenes with commentary by O’Haver and Dancy. There’s also an EPK featurette and a red carpet bit. Ordinarily, I would say in such a case that there’s no need to upgrade or even buy hi-def…but this is a fantasy fairy tale movie, so the upgrade might do some good for fans. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

The Garfield Show is out from Vivendi on DVD with seven holiday-themed episodes–well, six and a bonus episode, which is a lame way of saying seven episodes and making it look like your DVD has bonus bits…which it doesn’t. The thing about this show is that whenever I’m watching it, I feel like I’m watching the cut scene of a video game…because the thing is CG. It just looks and feels wrong, never mind the fact that Garfield actually talks. The one thing that I do like about the show is that Frank Welker delivers an excellent Garfield voice–no surprise there. Maybe it’s just because I’m used to the strip and the cel animated version and kids won’t care, but to me the CG looks cheap and wrong. That being said, they don’t appear to be doing season releases of these–just themed ones, so if your kid wants to snag these, this may be your only choice. The price point isn’t bad but try to get them hooked on the previous show if at all possible instead. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Here’s what amuses me about the Warner Archive release of The Heathcliff and Dingbat Show: the question that first entered my mind was “Who the hell is Dingbat?” And Warner apparently doesn’t want to push the cartoon dog’s inclusion into this, because he and his cast are shunted to the upper left of the cover. There’s two tiny frames from his half of the show on the back of the box. Hell, the Wikipedia entry barely mentions it. But you have thirteen episodes of Heathcliff and then Dingbat (a vampire dog) and his friends (a morphing skeleton and a talking jack-o-lantern–no, really–and the show’s backup segment switched to Marmaduke for the second season) across two MOD discs. And if nothing else, it’s worth checking out for the vocal talent brought to the table, starting with Mel Blanc as the cat himself, Henry “Fred Flintstone” Corden, June Foray, Don Messick and Frank Welker all make appearances as well. Well, voice-wise. You get no special features, but fans of the cat might want to check it out as this is probably the best Region 1 release we’re going to get. And the three members of the Dingbat Fan Club will want to purchase, no doubt. (Buy it from Warner Archive.)