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…)
Beyond the broad strokes, the man that was Abraham Lincoln has largely been replaced by the myth, which has overshadowed the nuts and bolts politicking needed to govern during a time of immense turmoil. The human accomplishment is fully illuminated by Steven Spielberg’s most engaging film in years, as Daniel Day-Lewis brings Lincoln (Dreamworks, Rated PG-13, Blu-Ray-$45.99 SRP) to life as he tries to navigate the passage of the amendment abolishing slavery in the final four months of his presidency. The 4-disc set is loaded with contextual documentaries that alone are worth the price of admission.
In an age where the original Star Wars and Raiders Of The Lost Ark can look like brand new films, it’s odd to see just how much grain is present in the high definition release of Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Touchstone, Rated PG, Blu-Ray-$26.50 SRP). I can only assume a lot of it comes from the post-production processes needed to incorporate the animated characters, which involved not only the animation, but special effects and shading passes from ILM. Still, the film does look and sound better than the original DVD release, and it remains a touchstone of a flick whose cross-company character collection we probably won’t see again. Bonus materials are all holdovers from the original DVD special edition, but at least the Roger Rabbit animated shorts have been restored (and, frankly, look a bit better than the feature itself).
There probably hasn’t been enough time to put the events in their proper context, but there’s no denying the power behind the methodology presented in the hunt for the world’s most wanted man in Zero Dark Thirty (Sony, Rated R, Blu-Ray-$40.99 SRP). Regardless of the politics and the compromises and ethical morass, there’s a very real quality to the bureaucracy and workaday drudgery in the hunt that tones down the sensationalism. Bonus materials include a clutch of featurettes.
By today’s standards, Porky’s (Fox, Rated R, Blu-Ray-$16.99 SRP) is rather tame, but while it’s raunchiness is what most people think about, it’s got the same kind of sly comic sensibility and odd warmth as director Bob Clark’s masterpiece, A Christmas Story. Give it a spin in this new high definition edition and see if you agree. Bonus materials include an audio commentary, featurettes, TV spots, and the theatrical trailer.
It’s always wonderful to see classic noir films hit Blu-Ray, as the high definition really drives home the beautiful cinematography to be found in many, and that includes the new edition of Elia Kazan’s harrowing Panic In The Streets (Fox, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$24.99 SRP), which finds a killer (Jack Palance) on the run after being exposed to a deadly & highly contagious plague, as a medical examiner (Richard Widmark) tries to track him through New Orleans before an epidemic breaks out. Bonus materials include an audio commentary, featurettes, and the theatrical trailer.
While not as sparklingly brilliant as Armando Iannucci’s The Thick Of It, his team’s take on the US political machine, Veep (HBO, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$49.99 SRP) is still a winning satire, deconstructing the politics of the junior power position - the Vice President - ably handled by Julie Louis-Dreyfuss. Bonus materials include audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and more.
Very few things in life are completely dependable, but danged if Shout Factory hasn’t proven just that with their continued (and regular) releases of the original riff-fest via Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXVI (Shout Factory, Not Rated, DVD-$59.97 SRP). The four never-before-released episodes include The Magic Sword, Alien From LA, Danger! Death Ray, and The Mole People. As far as bonus features, we’ve got a featurette on The Mole People, interviews with Magic Sword’s Bert I. Gordon and Alien From LA’s Albert Pyun, MST Hour wraps, and a spotlight on Mike Nelson.
Looking to increase your knowledge about a given pop culture topic? Then you’ll probably want to snap up a trio of titles newly releases by Applause books which provide a myriad of answers to frequently asked (and even infrequently asked) pop culture topics. First out of the gate in what I can only hope is an ongoing series are the Doctor Who FAQ, the Film Noir FAQ, and the James Bond FAQ (Applause Books, $22.99 SRP each). If it’s a bit of trivia you should know, you’ll probably find it in there.
It’s hard to top the 2003 editions of his films, but Criterion has been doing just that with another film from the Charlie Chaplin library, the latest being his controversial black comedy Monsieur Verdoux (Criterion, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$31.99 SRP), about a man willing to go to any lengths to support his family. The film looks marvelous in high definition, and bonus features include a pair of documentaries, an illustrated audio interview, radio ads & trailers, plus the usual essay-filled booklet.
If you’ve yet to experience the quirky joy of the cases of country solicitor Peter Kingdom (Stephen Fry), rectify that oversight with the complete collection of Kingdom (BFS, Not Rated, DVD-$69.98 SRP), which brings together all 3 seasons of wonderful dramedy.
Beloved and much-missed, the late legend Levon Helm was remembered with the appropriately powerful Love For Levon (Time Life, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$39.99 SRP), a star-studded tribute concert that looks and sounds absolutely stunning on Blu-Ray, in a set which also includes the complete concert on CD. Get it.
Howzabout a bit of a UK TV-on-DVD round-up for all of you Anglophiles out there? What’s odd is that our first UK release is actually the American version of a UK show, which makes its home video debut in the UK - MTV’s remake of The Inbetweeners (Channel 4, Not Rated, DVD-£19.99 SRP). Back to the domestic product, we’ve got the complete ninth series of Shameless (Channel 4, Not Rated, DVD-£17.00 SRP), the first series of My Mad Fat Diary (Channel 4, Not Rated, DVD-£19.99 SRP), the wonderfully Lynchian Utopia (Channel 4, Not Rated, DVD-£14.00 SRP), and the trashy seventh series of The Only Way Is Essex (Channel 4, Not Rated, DVD-£14.00 SRP).
Lego irreverence returns to a galaxy far, far away with Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out (Fox, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP). A comic adventure which takes place in the wake of A New Hope as “Death-Star-Blower-Upper” Luke Skywalker is hounded by fans while Vader & Maul vie for the Emperor’s attention. Lego fans will also be delighted that the disc also comes with an exclusive Darth Vader minifig.
The cases of Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle make their way to DVD in Foyle’s War: Set 1 (Acorn, Not Rated, DVD-$49.99 SRP), which collects 4 feature-length mysteries plus exclusive interviews with series creator Anthony Horowitz.
The fundamental problem with This Is 40 (Universal, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$34.98 SRP) is that I could not, no matter how I tried, find it in me to care one bit about the horrid, unrelatable characters we’re meant to be relating to (Paul Rudd & Leslie Mann), as they face a midlife crisis both individually and as a couple. There’s just nothing there to care about, and in true Judd Apatow fashion, there’s quite a lot of nothing to not care about. Bonus materials include deleted scenes, an audio commentary, featurettes, a gag reel, line-o-rama, and more.
The problem with Star Trek: Enterprise (Paramount, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$119.99 SRP) wasn’t so much that it tried to reinvent Trek history pre-Kirk, it’s just that it did it so poorly. It also was the first Trek series whose ensemble cast was less than the sum of its parts, a ham-fisted assembly of cliches and awkwardness. And, again, the writing was just poor. But considering it was actually shot in HD, it’s no surprise that we get the first of its 4 seasons on Blu-Ray after The Next Generation starts rolling out but before the much better but much harder to master in high definition Deep Space Nine or even Voyager. This new set is packed with a new 3-part documentary on the genesis of the show, deleted scenes, commentaries, a making-of featurette, and an interview with creators Brannon Braga and Rick Berman.
The fine folks at Mill Creek continue to release a broad mix of titles and beyond reasonable prices, with new releases including TV titles like Roseanne: Season 7, Roseanne: Season 8 (Mill Creek, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP each), That 70’s Show: Season 7, That 70’s Show: Season 8 (Mill Creek, Not Rated, DVD-$14.98 SRP each), and the mini-series The 10th Kingdom (Mill Creek Not Rated, DVD-$9.98 SRP). They’ve also got beautiful high definition virtual tours of National Parks with Glacier: Crown Of The Continent and Voyageurs: Spirit Of The Boundary Waters (Mill Creek, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$9.98 SRP each). Finally, they’ve even got a high-def Steven Seagal double feature with Attack Force/Into The Sun (Mill Creek, Rated R, Blu-Ray-$9.98 SRP).
If for no other reason, watch the second season of The Borgias (Showtime, Not Rated, Blu-Ray-$54.99 SRP) for the glorious scenery chewing of Jeremy Irons as power-hungry patriarch Rodrigo Borgia, who’s now the Pope. Bonus materials include interviews, featurettes, and bonus episodes of Californication and House Of Lies.
Sure, it came in the wake of Pokemon madness, but every children’s series has a fanbase, and that includes one that will be thoroughly excited by the release of Digimon: Season 1 Volume 2 (Flatiron, Not Rated, DVD-$19.95 SRP) and the complete Digimon: Season 2 (Flatiron, Not Rated, DVD-$79.95 SRP). While Season 1 is featureless, Season 2 throws in a gallery and a 32-page character booklet.
Based on the novels by Kerry Greenwood about a thoroughly modern Melbourne woman in the 1920’s who happens to be a lady detective, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (Acorn, Not Rated, DVD-$59.99 SRP) is a feisty little show worth a spin.
For your modern TV choices this week, how about the complete first season of Men At Work (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$35.99 SRP)? Or the entire run of the short-lived The Mob Doctor (Sony, Not Rated, DVD-$35.99 SRP)? While the latter is featureless, the former includes outtakes and deleted scenes.
Alan Silvestri supplied some of the most memorable scores of the 80’s - including those for the Back To The Future films - and he returns to score Dreamworks Animation’s new animation hit The Croods (Relativity Music Group, $15.99 SRP), which also features a new song from the near-ubiquitous Owl City.
And speaking of soundtracks, this week’s soundtrack round-up includes Alex Heffes’ score for Emperor (Lakeshore Records, $9.49 SRP), Antonio Pinto’s score for Snitch (Lakeshore Records, $15.17 SRP), John Debney’s score for The Call (Lakeshore Records, $17.48 SRP), and Jamie Christopherson’s score for the video game Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Lakeshore, $8.99 SRP).
Shortly after the release of the first Thor film, Hot Toys released their 12″ take on the character, which certainly was a lovely representation of Chris Hemsworth’s god of thunder. For the thunder god’s appearance in The Avengers, the character’s costuming underwent a slight revision, brightening up the colors a bit and taking him into a more primary territory, while also losing the helmet. All of which means we get a brand new Avengers: Thor ($199.99 SRP), featuring an even better head sculpt (hard to believe it was even possible), along with two main accessories - his might hammer, Mjolnir, and the tesseract container (with tesseract). So is it worth adding another Thor to your shelf? Definitely.
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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