The weekend’s here. You’ve just been paid, and it’s burning a hole in your pocket. What’s a pop culture geek to do? In hopes of steering you in the right direction to blow some of that hard-earned cash, it’s time for the FRED Weekend Shopping Guide - your spotlight on the things you didn’t even know you wanted…
(Please support FRED by using the links below to make any impulse purchases - it helps to keep us going…)
A long, long, long time ago, at the birth of DVD, one of the earliest releases was a cult classic musical comedy that happened to have had its original downer ending reshot and replaced with a happy ending right before it was originally released in theaters. For the DVD, a black & white workprint of the original ending - which featured spectacular practical miniature effects as the film’s monsters took over the world - was included. And then the DVD was pulled, the original ending was removed, and the film was re-released on DVD, making the first DVD release a collector’s item. Over a dozen years later, that ending has been completely restored and finished off for the Little Shop Of Horrors: Director’s Cut (Warner Bros., Rated PG-13, Blu-Ray-$34.99 SRP), available in lovely high definition for both the original and theatrical cuts, plus a new introduction from Frank Oz and the brilliant effects supervisor who created the now restored sequence, Richard Conway. It also carries over the audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and featurette from the original release. Get this, already.
Thinkgeek time! Worried you or those around you may have had a bit too much to drink? Or want to stop yourself before you get into bad territory? Well, you can estimate your blood alcohol level with the BacTrack Breath Alcohol Detector ($29.99 SRP), which tests in the 0.00-0.40% range. Simply blow into the mouthpiece and get a quick reading of whether you’re soused or not.
I don’t know what I was expecting from the documentary Nina Conti: Her Master’s Voice (Virgil Films, Not Rated, DVD-$19.99 SRP), but what we get is a fascinating, heartfelt, and sometimes brutally honest tale of inspiration and obligation, as ventriloquist comedian Conti makes a journey to the US in order to take the puppets bequeathed to her by her late mentor Ken Campbell to their own final resting place. Instead, we see Conti coming to grips both with the complex man who inspired her, and her relationship with her own creations. Just watch it. Bonus materials include an audio commentary, a performance, an interview, and even a séance.
While many an armchair collector will snatch up animation cells as some sort of investment, or will cover the idea that they own what is actually seen in the final product, I am a much bigger fan of original production art - the true expression of the artist’s craft, while cells are merely a tracing of that spark. A lot of that very beautiful original production art, from sketches and layouts to model sheets and doodles, is captured in the beautifully conceived A Disney Sketchbook (Disney Editions, $50.00 SRP), which presents all of this art as if you are flipping through actual art pages full of pencil drawings. More volumes of this, please, as this merely whets the appetite.
Disney in the 70’s was an awkward company, desperately trying to maintain the magic post-Walt while churning out a massive amount of live action family films. A few, like Bedknobs & Broomsticks, combined live action, animation, and music in an attempt to repeat the alchemy of Mary Poppins. One attempt that is flawed but is a dear, dear favorite of mine is Pete’s Dragon (Walt Disney, Rated G, Blu-Ray-$29.99 SRP), the tale of an orphaned boy named Pete, on the run from an evil foster family with his dragon Elliott by his side, who arrives in a sleepy seaside town and turns things on their ear. The music’s fun, the performances are a hoot, and there’s some genuine sentiment in there. Oh, and the new Blu-Ray remastering looks stunning. Get this.
I haven’t really been taken with a Wes Anderson film since Rushmore, as each of his subsequent efforts come across as increasingly affected in attempt to capture a Hal Ashbyian ideal. That said, the most enjoyable film so far has to be Moonrise Kingdom (Universal, Rated PG-13, Blu-Ray-$34.98 SRP), which at its very base is a simple love story between a pair of kids running from a lot of problems on a small, isolated island. Yup, that’s pretty much it. It’s quaint and affecting. Bonus materials include a clutch of featurettes.
The 4th season’s heady, happy high of founding Sterling Cooper Draper Price goes darkly sour as Don Draper drifts into an abyss all his own in the wheels within wheels 5th season of Mad Men (Lionsgate, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$49.99 SRP), which is definitely a season that deserves another watch, particularly in the always snazzier high definition of Blu-Ray which allows the visual style of the show to shine. Bonus materials include audio commentaries, featurettes on everything from the history of the period to composer David Carbonara’s score, and a gallery of Newsweek covers.
It’s not the most appealing character design, but while Pixar’s intent is to pull the heartstrings as much as entertain, Dreamworks’ Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Dreamworks, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$39.99 SRP) really just wants to entertain and make you laugh.. And it largely succeeds, bringing our still-on-the-run zoo escapees under the big top. Bonus materials include an audio commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes - and if you act fast, your very own rainbow wig, just like Marty the Zebra wears.
Spinning off from Tim & Eric, John C. Reilly’s daft, disturbing creation Dr. Steve Brule gets his very own series and very own DVD release with Check It Out with Dr. Steve Brule (Adult Swim, Not Rated, DVD-$19.97 SRP), which contains all 12 episodes plus a small clutch of bonus features. So yes, do check it out.
While not a classic, A League Of Their Own (Sony, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$19.99 SRP) certainly has become a fixture in the pop culture firmament, so it’s arrival in high definition is certainly welcome. Bonus materials include an audio commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, interview, and a music video.
After Anne Hathaway was a princess but before she was a Catwoman, she was the titular star of the fairy tale Ella Enchanted (Lionsgate, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$14.99 SRP), which finds its way into high definition. Its tale of a young woman given the gift of obedience by her Fairy Godmother when she was born, who then determines to return the more-curse-than-gift, is a fun little romp. Bonus materials an audio commentary, featurettes deleted scenes, and a music video.
If you’ve ever wanted to know exactly why anyone would choose to cooperate with the rise and run of the Nazi regime, Nazi Collaborators (Shanachie, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) is a definitive, comprehensive, haunting, and infuriating look at the citizens and circumstances that led to the support of such base evil.
Long before he became Bond, Daniel Craig starred as an Inspector investigating the mysterious murder of a body found in the titular The Ice House (BBC, Not Rated, DVD-$19.97 SRP), which just so happens to be that of a husband missing for over 10 years. The disc also contains a featurette on the author of the original novel, Minette Walters.
And for this week’s soundtrack pick, we get a brand new, expanded edition of John Carpenter’s original score for The Fog (Silva Screen, $17.09 SRP), featuring both the remixed soundtrack album done in 2000, as well as the original score cues from 1980.
This week also brings a pair of classic TV releases from the CBS vaults, with the second volumes of both Gunsmoke: Season Six (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$36.98 SRP) and Perry Mason: Season 7 (Paramount, Not Rated, DVD-$55.98 SRP). While Perry Mason is featureless, Gunsmoke contains the original sponsor spots.
Did you know there was a high-spirited western starring Dean Martin and Brian Keith? Neither did I, but once I found out about Something Big (Paramount, Rated PG-13, DVD-$19.99 SRP), I knew I had to see this flick about a man (Dean) who wants to go out in style, even if it means robbing a stagecoach and running off with a girl, hotly pursued by her fiancé (Keith).
It’s a shame that Alcatraz (Warner Bros., Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$49.99 SRP) ended its run after only a handful of episodes, as it was nice to see Sam Neil and Jorge Garcia working together, even if the JJ Abrams fueled plot - about a mysterious group of prisoners from the infamous penitentiary repeating their crimes in modern San Francisco - was another overwrought puzzlebox. Bonus materials include a featurette, unaired scenes, and a gag reel.
Even when a series gets cancelled, it’s still a safe bet that you may very well see a DVD release, particularly if the show made it a full season - as NBC’s take on the John Grisham novel The Firm (E1, Not Rated, DVD-$39.98 SRP) did. The 6-disc set contains all 22 episodes plus cast & crew interviews and featurettes.
You can’t get further from 24 than Keifer Sutherland’s touchy-feely role in the goopy sci-spirituality mess that is Touch (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$49.98 SRP), which finds him the father of an emotionally challenged son that has the mathematical shining to see how every life on the planet connects. And then they go all Touched By An Angel. Bonus materials include an extended pilot episode, featurettes, and deleted scenes.
So there you have it… my humble suggestions for what to watch, listen to, play with, or waste money on this coming weekend. See ya next week…
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