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Headsup: Jarvis, Execute the “Frustrate DC” Protocol…

Iron Man 3 Blu-Ray

So, Iron Man 3 kicks off the second phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know there’s some division among people as to what they did with this film–stuff we can’t go into here for spoiler reasons–but I’m on the side of enjoying it. After rewatching #2 in prep for The Avengers, I figured the worst thing you could say about #2 is that, well, it wasn’t the first film. And the first film was a pretty mind-blowing experience. I think #3 here ranks higher than that–it’s not the first film, no, but it at least shows that the people running this train are aware that, unlike the comics, we can’t just have Tony facing down Other Guys In Armor every time he shows up. Because that would get old as hell. I was sent a Blu-Ray disc to check out the setup, and it’s a decent haul: the main event’s audio and video are very solid and, for fans of the film, worth snagging on their own. The commentary with writer/director Shane Black and writer Drew Pearce takes a while to get going but when they are actually delivering info, it’s good stuff. Other small bits include a gag reel, deleted scenes, and a behind the scenes featurette. Highlights include the One Shot “Agent Carter” which brings Hayley Atwell back in the role–and is pretty sweet (and might be a fifteen minute TV pilot?)–and also a breakdown of how much of the Air Force One attack was actually shot. I got the same feeling from it that I got from the semi-flip in Dark Knight…sort of not surprised to learn it was real. But all the people involved are fairly insane. Again, if you’re enjoying the Marvel CU, then this is worth snagging. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Boardwalk Empire Season 3 Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]While the third season of Boardwalk Empire was still a very enjoyable watch and possessed not only some excellent twists but a penultimate episode that was so goddamn good, I’d recommend watching the thirty-four episodes leading up to it just so you could then watch #35. Granted, #36 didn’t deliver on the promise of its predecessor, but that’s a lot of what the show had going on this season–great setups with questionable payoffs. The most damning question–and this is relatively spoiler-free–how does all this go on for so long without a certain person utilizing the services of a certain sniper? Still, fans of the show who are already enjoying the fourth season (raises hand) will want to snag this. In addition to looking and sounding fantastic, it has a solid array of bonus bits. Six commentaries are here (including some members of the cast), a featurette with directors taking you through certain scenes, a word from executive producer Martin Scorsese, an interactive bit that lets you in on the real world history that ties in to what you’re seeing as you watch the episodes, and a series of featurettes going through many aspects of the world back then. I find the show very enjoyable and worth watching–which is saying something considering how little spare time I have–so I would recommend it to anyone. If you haven’t started at the beginning, though, do so. And even if you don’t want to add this to your shelf, a rental for the bonus bits is in order. HBO delivers some good stuff. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Arrow: Complete First Season Blu-Ray

If there’s one thing I’ve said more than once about Arrow, The CW’s take on Green Arrow, is that even if it makes you unhappy–the Green Arrow movie that had been in the works would have made you downright pissed. (Briefly: Oliver Queen is behind bars at a Supermax prison where he then has to fight a slew of DC villains. Yeah.) In this, trying to blend the soapy shirtless ways of The CW with the real world grit of Christopher Nolan gives you an Oliver Queen who comes back from being on an island to fight crime in his city. You get, in various versions, Merlyn, Deathstroke and others…and I dunno, I commend them for taking a character that most non-comic fans haven’t heard of and crafting a fairly successful show out of it. As to enjoying it, it doesn’t work for me as a sustainable watch, but your mileage may vary. The Blu-Ray set here is solid when it comes to your hi-def audio and video presentation. The extras are mostly a slew of deleted scenes, but you do have featurettes: a making-of, a fight featurette and a convention panel. No commentaries to be found. Hardcore fans of the show will want to own, but everyone who’s merely curious will want to start with a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Spartacus: War of the Damned Blu-Ray

Once, a roomful of people saying “I’m Spartacus” one after the other was the main reference people had to the legendary Roman slave who rebelled against his masters. Re-envisioned for modern audiences, now Spartacus is known for 300-esque blood-drenched battles and massive amounts of sex. No wonder the Empire fell if people were that busy shagging. Anyway, the series comes to an end with War of the Damned, the third (fourth if you count the prequel series) and final season. And, you know, not to spoil anything, but they didn’t diverge from history that much; Nick Fury doesn’t show up at the end and recruit him, in other words. All ten episodes are here across three discs and the hi-def is no doubt critical to fans who want to see all the carnage as clearly as possible. Major point of happiness: audio commentaries, ten in all, with pretty much everybody showing up for at least one of them. There are a number of featurettes, covering effects, their exercise regimen and other things…but these are all quite short. Fans of the show will want to own and complete their collection; moderate watchers will want to rent to get at the bonus bits. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

South Park Season 16 Blu-Ray

The sixteenth season of South Park is on Blu-Ray and the good news is if you’re a believer, then you’re getting more of what you showed up for. If you’re not, then this isn’t going to do anything to convince you. They have a well-oiled machine and it keeps chugging along, tackling such subjects as trick or treating via telepresence, how kids sports are far too nice and unrealistic and also the joy or non-joy of mobility scooters. All fourteen episodes are here and, yes, admittedly it’s not the sort of show–thanks to its low tech-based animation–that requires hi-def, but the DVD is $9 less than the Blu-Ray, so you be the judge. (You’re saving about $.75 an episode, if that helps.) As far as bonus bits go, again, it’s nothing new: mini-commentaries from Parker and Stone and some deleted scenes. The fan might want to own this but the non-fan will be fine with passing or renting. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Davincis Demons Season 1 Blu-Ray

Though the title might seem to suggest it, DaVinci’s Demons is not a Dan Brown prequel. Whether or not it would be better off as such is open to your interpretation. What it is instead is a way of creating another period series that you can then pepper with nifty sets and costumes, not to mention sex, violence and profanity. Thus we have a rather young Leonardo working on human flight, a way for humans to pass underwater, and also, naturally, war machines. All this while dodging different levels of intrigue and seeking out The Book of Leaves, because he’s been told he must. Don’t let Dindrane hear me say this, but I don’t necessarily have a problem with shows wearing their historical accuracy on someone else’s sleeve. However, when you’re going to “sex up” the story–at least have the sense to bring somebody like Jeremy Irons on board–the reason why Borgias is quality guilty pleasure viewing. At present, this qualifies as “just another one of those cable period shows.” What you can say is that the Blu-Ray does deliver for those that want this enough to have on their shelf: the hi-def audio and video are excellent. All eight episodes are here and half have audio commentaries, the main dish of your bonus bit array. There’s also some deleted scenes and some mini-featurettes covering costumes, musical score and the like. If you’re hardcore for the series, I can see owning this–but if you’re uncertain make sure you rent it first and try it out. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Haven Season 3 Blu-Ray

Most people you know probably have Troubles, too. But they’re a bad back, or a fear of heights, or acid reflux even. If you live in Haven, though, your Troubles are a bit more…pronounced. They can hurt you just by touching you, or they resurrect the dead, or they make everybody drop over in a coma. You know, that sort of Trouble. But yes, in this town, our hero Audrey is trying to keep things under control while trying to figure out just who the hell she is and why the hell she’s actually there. That’s the throughline and along the way there’s all these Troubled People that need to be dealt with, giving you the episodic setup. Fans of the show will have to decide for themselves if they’re in for the long haul or if they’ve hit the breaking point. The set here is good for the hardcore fan, since you’ve got your hi-def audio and video very capably setup for these thirteen episodes. You also have a decent array of bonus bits: six audio commentaries, a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, the panel they had at New York Comic-Con, interviews and more. Again, the hardcore fan might want to consider owning, but everyone else will probably be fine with a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Parades End DVD

So Benedict Cumberbatch appears hell bent on being everywhere. Yet another stop on his everything world tour is the BBC/HBO miniseries Parade’s End, based on the novels by Ford Madox Ford. Cumberbatch, the man with the most English name on the planet, plays an incredibly English individual who is on the cusp of everything changing. He’s not thrilled at the prospect, but he’s just trying to do the right thing…by his wife, by his would-be mistress, and by his country (which is why he volunteers to fight in The Great War). Also in the series are Rebecca Hall, Rupert Everett, Miranda Richardson, Jack Huston and Janet McTeer. Oh, and the adaptation was scribed by Tom Stoppard. So if that cast, Stoppard, or the prospect of such a period piece appeals, then by all means, check it out. Alas, the DVD release is bare bones, so only the hardcore Cumberbatch Cultist will want to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Behind the Candelabra DVD

So Behind the Candelabra, which apparently–oddly–Soderbergh, Douglas and Damon had to work hard to get made, has hit and won multiple awards. What seemed to me an unlikely trifecta, it just goes to show that talent is eager to get at something you wouldn’t expect from them. I never would have thought of Douglas to play Liberace, nor Matt Damon to play his young lover. Soderbergh, well, he’s all over the map so I guess that makes total sense. Even if you have no interest in Liberace, the film is worth checking out for the performances (Debbie Reynolds as Liberace’s mom? Nice) and for the fact it’s reportedly Soderbergh’s last for a while. The DVD from HBO has a making-of…and that’s it. So unless you’re hardcore for the subject matter or any of the participants, a rental will probably work fine. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

From Up on Poppy Hill Blu-Ray

Life when you’re young and hurtling towards adulthood is confusing enough. And especially if you’re having to act the part of a grown-up on one hand (running a boarding house) while still going to school on the other hand. That’s the situation of Umi in From Up on Poppy Hill, who then comes across Shun, a boy with whom she strikes up a friendship. But life gets even more confusing and complicated and they have to make sense of what’s going on while dealing with the world moving on around them. This being a Studio Ghibli production, I’m sure they should be happy that giant animals don’t move in to complicate matters or that a huge earth spirit is camping out in the pantry…or something. But yes, Hayao Miyazaki is scribing on this film with his son, Goro, helming. The English dub is an option here, with a cast that includes Anton Yelchin, Gillian Anderson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Dern and Chris Noth. The Blu-Ray release looks and sounds fantastic–even though Hayao himself isn’t running the show, it looks just as gorgeous as you would expect Ghibli to be, even one that strays from the fantastic. Bonus bits include: the whole film in storyboards, a featurette with the director, a featurette on the city of Yokohama where the story is based, a featurette covering the English dub cast and more. Ghibli and Miyazaki fans will want to continue their collection with this release. If you don’t know Ghibli, I’d probably point you to My Neighbor Totoro or Princess Mononoke first, but this should definitely be visited. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)