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Headsup: From Robot Jaegers to Robot Chicken

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.

Pacific Rim Blu-Ray

[ad#longpost]Thank you, China. Because you can appreciate a giant robots vs. giant monsters movie better than we can stateside (apparently), maybe Pacific Rim got enough box office to warrant a sequel. And yes, after checking with some non-geeks, the consensus was that the film “is another Transformers movie, right?” Don’t ask me to explain how that works. Regardless, it was the perfect blend of summer fun, adventure and property damage. Everything you would want from such a film. Plus Idris Elba. The Blu-Ray presentation is also everything you would want–the video and audio are tremendous. You get over an hour of “focus points,” i.e. featurettes covering everything from monster and robot basics to a focus on the music. And any release that has a feature called “Baby Kaiju Set Visit” is worth owning just on general principles. You also get a peek into Del Toro’s notebook (I’ve seen it before…it’s mad in there), a digital art featurette, small deleted scene snippets, a look at the drift sequences in the film and what all the bits wer in there, plus a blooper reel. The centerpiece of the whole shebang is, however, Del Toro’s commentary. The man doesn’t stop talking…and here’s the thing: he’s giving you so much excellent info, you don’t want him to. If the release had the commentary as its sole bonus bit, I would still tell you to own it. But everything else is high quality gravy. Yes, you should own this. It’s fantastic. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Magic City Season 2 Blu-Ray

1950s Miami is indicative of what you could find pretty much anywhere: beneath the glitz and glamour there’s generally a foundation of some relatively shady dealings. Case in point: hotel owner Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan from Losers and Watchmen) and mob high burrito Bed Diamond (Danny Huston, Stryker in the Origins: Wolverine flick) have entered into an arrangement. And so the stage has been set to provide capable drama for two seasons of Magic City (recently cancelled). If you dig the period television, then the sets and costumes will make up for anything you find lacking in the show itself, methinks. (Much in the same way that some people watch Mad Men for the art direction.) Well, and James Caan is in season two–and that uplifts just about everything. The only bonus bits for these eight episodes are some featurettes including one on costumes. But no audio commentaries. Fans of the show will want to shell out some coin for this to try and throw some coin Starz’ way so they can feel bad about canning it. But everyone else will be fine with a rental. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Robot Chicken Season 6 Blu-Ray Carol Burnett Show: Christmas With Carol

The thing about Robot Chicken is, if you’re honest, you’ve had some of these thoughts before. By “these thoughts,” I mean ludicrous taken-to-the-extreme scenarios in which pop culture icons (of varying degrees of obscurity) are (sometimes literally) skewered. I can’t be the only one. Of course, splicing Scooby-Doo with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a bit mental. And The Jetsons with Alien. But the show also gets points for breaking out some seriously weird stuff that few probably remember. M.A.S.K.? Shirt Tales? Wow. The thing about the show is that if something doesn’t work, just hang out for thirty seconds and the bit will probably retire and be replaced by something else. It’s like Henry Selick and Aardman got very, very drunk and decided to make a satanic remake of The Fast Show. Fans of the show will want to snag this release, as all twenty episodes have commentaries with a slew of participants (some of the episodes have additional video commentary sidebar bits). You also get a number of featurettes, most of which are brief like the comedic bits–covering Robert Kirkman talking about providing his voice to a chat with the first female writers on the show. There’s also deleted scenes and outtakes out the wazoo, ranging from animatics to fully animated lost pieces. Again, fans will want to own this–if you’re not hardcore for it, then rent it for the bonus bits. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Frighteningly, Xmas is almost upon us and the releases have already started. Time-Life and StarVista have out The Carol Burnett Show: Christmas With Carol. It’s a single disc, so your mind is probably going exactly where mine was before I saw the contents. The assumption is it’s either a collection of Xmas-themed episodes or, since an entire episode probably isn’t completely Xmas-related, the best bits of Xmas-themed skits and such from the run of the show. Oddly, the reality is: it’s a bit of both. You get two episodes plus some Xmas bits from two other episodes. Clocking in at around three hours, you do get some excellent classic TV comedy–with guest stars like Alan Alda, Jonathan Winters and Sid Caesar–but unless you’re a major fan you might want to rent it. If you are a major fan, and you snagged that Ultimate Collection earlier…this is now a disc they’ve added to that mix, so to keep your Collection up to date, you might want to own it. Good news is it’s only $9.99 so all things considered, the price is right. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Maniac Cop 2 Blu-Ray Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence Blu-Ray

When a cop is set up and sent to prison where he gets mutilated, he wants to get revenge on pretty much everybody. Thus the Maniac Cop trilogy was born. The first film starred Tom Atkins (Night of the Creeps) and Bruce Campbell (his own bad self) as cops trying to deal with this rogue and seemingly unstoppable force. The second and third chapters have now hit from Blue Underground as Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Collector’s Editions. Robert Davi and Claudia Christian join the cast for the second chapter, in which the titular bad guy seeks to finally get the revenge he wants on the people who set him up and the inmates who messed him up. This film comes with an audio commentary from director William Lustig and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), plus a Q&A with Lustig, a making-of and a deleted scene. In Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence, the question is asked: can an undead insane law enforcement official find love? This comes with a making-of and deleted and extended scenes. As Blue Underground often does, they give you the best hi-def presentation of these films, both audio and video, that you’re likely to ever get. I was never huge fans of either film, but I understand they have cult status for many…so if you’re in that particular club, then these releases are right up your dark, foreboding alley. (Click here to buy #2 from Amazon. Click here to buy #3 from Amazon.)

Family Tree Season 1 DVD

So Chris O’Dowd is doing well for himself. Not only is he in Thor: The Dark World but he is the lead in Christopher Guest’s show for HBO, Family Tree. In it, he plays Tom, who decides that he has to unravel a mystery left for him by his now-deceased great aunt. This will take him to meet other members of his family, who are all fairly odd individuals. Among the cast, you have Michael McKean, Ed Begley Jr., Kevin Pollack, Bob Balaban, Fred Willard and more. Alas, you also have Nina Conti in the cast, who I just find completely unfunny in general. But your mileage may vary. All eight episodes are here across two discs, with bonus bits including some bonus scenes, info on the series music and the footage they used on TV within a scene to represent the comedies that Tom’s dad enjoys so much. Four of those short bits. If you haven’t checked out the show, it’s worth doing…but without more bonus bits, I can’t point you towards buying it. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Clear History DVD

The fans of Larry David are legion, reaching from Seinfeld into Curb Your Enthusiasm, the latter of which has been running on HBO off and on since 2000. While you’re waiting for a ninth season of that show, and if you are one of those fans, you might want to check out Clear History, David’s recent TV movie. In it, he stars, not as the fictional Larry David of Curb, but a marketing manager who picks the exact wrong moment to quit his job and sell his stake in a company–which promptly goes sky high on the stock market, humiliating David’s character (Nathan) to no end. However, his former tormenter (Jon Hamm) manages to stumble upon Nathan in his new life (and identity) and Nathan decides he must retaliate. Again, it’s very Curb in nature, so it will appeal to fans. It’s also got a cast of tens, including Bill Hader, Michael Keaton, Kate Hudson and an uncredited Liev Schreiber. No bonus bits on the DVD, so a rental will work just fine for most everyone. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Horror Stories DVD Maniac Blu-Ray

Though the best horror anthologies have Peter Cushing in the cast, we still have Horror Stories, the recent entry from South Korea, having hit DVD from Artsploitation Films. Like a modern Scheherazade, a young girl is facing death and/or pain if she doesn’t tell some very scary stories. What results are four tales: two siblings wait for their mom to get home, two sisters are at odds over which of them can marry this certain guy, a sequence in which you figure somebody might say “I’m tired of this motherfuckin’ serial killer on this motherfuckin’ plane,” and an ambulance hurtling away from zombies with living cargo on board that might be about to be unliving. The release is a nice way to burn some time, seeing as how if a single story doesn’t crank your tractor, just wait for a bit. The framing story isn’t very strong, but it serves its purpose. Bonus bit has some interviews with the cast. Rental will do for most everybody. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So when I first saw the Blu-Ray of Maniac, first thought was: Elijah Wood? Really? Second thought was: wait, is this a remake? Turns out the answers are yes and also yes. The 1980 video store horror shelf staple is something I know I’ve seen, but I’ll be damned if I can remember much of it. The twist on the remake is that they decided to shoot the entire film from Wood’s character’s point of view. So instead of being able to see the killer lurking around behind the victim, you are the killer lurking behind the victim. Wood is only seen sporadically. The gimmick does at least elevate this above normal slasher-gore fare and Wood’s performance is worth checking out by his fans, who will be surprised at what they’re getting from him. This release comes with a commentary (which includes Wood), an extensive hour-long making-of, and deleted scenes. Worth a rental and Wood hardcores may want to own. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

First of the Summer Wine Series 1 DVD Indian Doctor Series 2 DVD

For people on this side of the pond, this is a tough one, since it’s a prequel to a long-running comedy that non-Anglophiles have probably never heard of. Last of the Summer Wine ran for thirty-one series between 1973 and 2010 and concerned itself with the shenanigans of three older men who Really Should Know Better. That’s the haiku-sized version. First of the Summer Wine concerns itself with early tales of the characters and ran for two series in 1988 and 1989. Specifically, it’s the run-up to World War II that’s the focus here. And Peter Sallis (Norman Clegg in the original but better known to audiences here as the voice of Wallace) is on board to play his own character’s father. I haven’t seen a lot of Last, but what I find is that this series serves as a great compliment to what I’m familiar with and know about the mothership show, and they managed to pull off tying in to the main series (mostly). This is due to Roy Clarke, the main show’s creator, being behind this one as well. Fans of the Last series will want to snag this in some form, but if you haven’t heard of the original, I’m not sure how well this will work for you. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Another series that probably isn’t widely known: The Indian Doctor tells the story of, well, the titular character in the 1960s who winds up practicing in a Welsh mining town. The first series had him slowly winning the culture clash and put him up against the owner of the mine. Now, he has two potential difficulties: first, an evangelist preacher he finds himself at odds with (Spaced fans, take note: played by Mark Heap) and…well, his mother-in-law is due for a visit. Oh, and did we mention there’s an outbreak of smallpox happening as well? Lovely. All five second series episodes are here on this two-disc set from BFS. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, find and start with the first series to get everything established: but after that, you might want to look this set up. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Gravity Soundtrack Paradise Soundtrack

It’s no secret, as I’ve mentioned it here before many times: for the most part, I don’t care about soundtracks or musical scores as an entity outside of the film–and still connected to the film. There are rare exceptions (Being John Malkovich, for example). For me, soundtracks become soundtracks for me to work by. And that’s certainly the case with the soundtrack for Gravity, with music by Steven Price. It’s a reminder of how badly I need to see this film, however, since not only am I one of five people who haven’t, but hearing tracks like “Debris” make me wonder what that must sound like in a nice, huge sound system. It’s also striking how it can go from stark and sometimes silent bits to huge walls of awesome noise. At times it’s like Philip Glass and at other times it’s like Simon Boswell. Whether you enjoyed the film or not, if you need background music to type by, this is highly recommended. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Just as the show itself is light and fluffy, the soundtrack to the BBC’s The Paradise is such that you can pretty much guess what sort of scene is taking place even without seeing the show, even without reading the track titles. And the score from Maurizio Malagnini has short bits that are easily digestible–no track goes over four minutes. This is less of a good writing soundtrack–but that’s for me. If you’re looking for a full-on orchestral score that can inspire certain stock scenes, then this will work fine for you. Fans of the show will probably want to check it out as well. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Lovelace DVD War of the Worlds PBS DVD

On one hand, the movie Deep Throat revolutionized porn. “Wait, you mean we can have lots of sex…and a plot to somewhat string it together? Wow!” On the other hand, the behind the scenes tale of the making-of, as has been delivered by the film’s star, Linda Boreman (bka the Lovelace of the title). You get the odd “My uncle’s got a barn, let’s make a movie” feel but then the dark turn as more about what went on with Lovelace and her sleazebag husband (played by Peter Sarsgaard) is revealed. Mostly a vehicle for actors to deliver excellent performances, fans of Amanda Seyfried (who plays Linda) will want to check it out. And as a final note, yes, it’ll take you a moment, but her mom is played by Sharon Stone. The sole feature on this Lionsgate release is a short making-of featurette. Rental should be fine for most. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

PBS’ American Experience takes on Orson WellesWar of the Worlds, seeking to contextualize how a “simple” radio show could apparently make large amounts of Americans go positively apeshit. You do get a bunch of people who manage to set the scene so that it does make sense, even to most modern minds that have no concept of historical context–although some recreations of protests received are admittedly just padding and a little weird. I would love to see what Welles would make of today’s 24/7 infotainment. The DVD comes with a making-of, outtakes and more. Catch it online or in a repeat, or if you really do love supporting PBS as a whole, buy it and donate it someplace. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Art of Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag I Give it a Year Blu-Ray

I would love to go back and find a “Art of” book for an old school video game. Because I wonder if you get the same sort of lush concept art and whatnot for, say, Pitfall Harry…and they just knew they were getting whatever-bit-it-was as the end product…or if that’s new. Because really, from what I can tell, a lot of what’s in Titan Books’ The Art of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag makes it to the (small) screen. And that’s why this book has two audiences (although in a Venn diagram you might be in both): one, you’re a huge fan of the game and you want to know from whence it came. Two, you dig the hell out of pirates. Because this really nice hardback book clocks in at nearly two hundred pages of the stuff that you would get on the Blu-Ray of the game, were the game a movie. And seriously, a lot of this stuff is stuff I would want on my wall…and I couldn’t play this game if you held a cutlass to my head. If you’re entrenched in the two aforementioned camps, definitely worth giving a look to. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

So your run of the mill rom com bores the shit out of you. I’m not sure who could blame you. They and zombie movies seem to be the cheapest things you can produce–and a rom com doesn’t play as well overseas. If you like the genre but love to see people screw around with it, then I Give it a Year is quite possibly up your alley. From one of the people behind Borat and Ali G, we meet a young and happy couple of newlyweds who are rapidly discovering that the whole opposites attract thing has an expry date. The couple is Rafe Spall (Timothy’s son, you would recognize him from The Cornetto Trilogy) and Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids). To give you an idea of the film’s quality, you also have in the cast Stephen Merchant (Ricky Gervais’ life partner), Minnie Driver, Olivia Colman (Broadchurch), Anna Faris, Simon Baker and Jason Flemyng. Nice. The Blu-Ray presentation from Magnolia has both excellent video and audio (though, to be fair, that’s not really necessary in most rom coms). You also get some bonus bits: outtakes, deleted and extended scenes, and a slew of interview segments. Again, if you want the genre subverted, then you’ve come to the right place. Rental will do for most people. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)