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. This time out we’re taking a look at some boxed and gift sets that loom before us like the holidays…
It Takes a Thief hits Region 1 DVD in a complete series boxed set from Entertainment One. The title pretty much says it all, but let’s expand a bit. When the Secret Intelligence Agency (I see what you did there) needs stuff stolen, they call upon the best in the business: Al Mundy. In return for a get out of jail free deal, he steals stuff while working for the government, all while playing the role of an international rich-as-hell playboy. Like you do. Playing the thieving spy-type is Robert Wagner, working his way out of 60s doldrums and doing so in style.
[ad#longpost]The show lasted three seasons and sixty-six episodes, all of which are presented here across eighteen discs. Along for the ride are Malachi Throne (possibly one of the coolest names in show business, he was in for the first two seasons) and Fred Astaire (as Mundy’s dad starting in season three). Before we get out of the starting gate, fans of the spy/espionage genre and/or Wagner himself are going to want to snag this–this is the first time it’s hitting DVD, and while it’s not packed to the gills, they’ve done all right by this forty year old series. The video and audio are remastered well enough but not painstakingly–but really, anyone who is used to “vintage” (gah) television will be fine. Other bonus bits include a feature-length version of the pilot, an interview with Wagner and an interview with producer Glen A. Larson. Non-disc bonuses are a collectible booklet with essay, a four-piece coaster set and a limited edition senitype.
If you’re uncertain about it, Netflix it first for a sample. But serious fans will want to seriously consider plonking coin. And at around $1.50 an episode, the price point is good. A nice set. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
Farscape hits Blu-Ray from A&E in yet another set that feels like it could serve as body armor: eighty-eight episodes across twenty discs. The shot, for anyone who doesn’t know, is this: John Crichton decides to test out a theory of his and winds up going through a wormhole, ending up on the other side of everywhere. Because this is a sci-fi property, he winds up in the midst of a conflict between the beings on board the ship known as Moya and the military group known as the Peacekeepers. Things don’t get any easier from there plus he has no way to get back home. I will say this for the series: huge credit goes to trying to make aliens that actually are more different from humans than just a ridge on somebody’s nose, know what I mean? But that’s the benefit of working with The Henson Company.
The set has a frankly ridiculous amount of content, most of which is ported from the previous DVD release. You get audio commentaries on select episodes (total of 31) across all seasons; a behind the scenes special entitled “Farscape Undressed” which they refer to as “rarely seen;” interviews with Brian Henson along with many of the cast members; featurettes involving villains, FX and the fan efforts to save the show; docus that cover making-of; retrospectives; craptons of deleted scenes and TV promos; an entire alternate version of the Season 2 premiere; director’s cut scenes with comparisons; bloopers and more. The one new bit is a retrospective, “Memories of Moya,” that lasts over a half-hour.
So the main newness here, for you fans who bought some version of the DVDs before (I know there’s been a few), is hi-def and that retrospective. The show screams for the hi-def treatment but the visuals on this release don’t blow me away. The press release says of the episodes, that they are ” optimized for HD from the European PAL masters â€“ the highest quality available source elements.” As you know, I’m not the best person to judge hi-def unless it’s popping off the screen at me. If my contact lenses were any thicker I couldn’t blink. And I don’t have any of the previous releases here to compare side by side. Before making the plunge, I would suggest whether you’re thinking of single or double dipping, rent or sample the Blu-Ray in some form and judge for yourself. Fans will want some version of this set, be it DVD or Blu-Ray, but I leave the ultimate decision of which must-buy in their hands. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)
Paramount is re-releasing It’s a Wonderful Life on Blu-Ray in time for the holidays. The timeless classic about the difference one life can make and the value of that life is in the same hi-def release that we had last time around: a two-disc affair that sports both the black and white and colorized editions of the film. I know: colorized, a word we often hate to even say around here. But while there’s no substitute for the black and white version, the color version is worth a watch if you want to give it a different spin…they’ve actually done a damn fine job with it. The two bonus bits are a making-of docu and a tribute to Frank Capra. The new things are part of the gift set itself: a bell ornament and a commemorative booklet. They’re both neat, I suppose, but not worth double-dipping for. Indeed, bear in mind that the regular Blu-Ray is a few bucks cheaper (Click here to buy the Blu-Ray by itself from Amazon. Click here to buy the Blu-Ray gift set from Amazon.)
While we’re talking Christmas and boxed sets, we might as well move to some by Gordon Ramsay. Now, admittedly, most reality television gives me hives–and most cooking shows I could give a damn about–but with Ramsay, there’s just something about him I like. I watched the entire first season of the American Hell’s Kitchen, for crying out loud. Is he an asshole? Yes, undoubtedly. But an asshole who’s striving to be best or at least putting on a pretty good show for the cameras about it. What you have with Ultimate Christmas is two episodes of him doing very little shouting and instead preparing holiday dishes. Granted, he always states that what he does is within reach of normal people…but I have my vast doubts. The only bonus that comes along with this BFS release is a separate case containing five laminated recipe cards. And while we’re on the subject, another show of his that I enjoy is The F Word. Basically, he takes over a restaurant and uses the kitchen to make teams face off–either across the whole series, as in previous seasons–or in this one he’s setting local restaurants of different styles against each other. In between all this madness he’s chatting up celebrities and doing dessert challenges–and somehow amidst all the chaos it works. You get twelve episodes here across four discs. Sadly, no bonus features–I bet the outtakes would be amusing–so you just have the episodes. And with that price point, it’s about $2.50 per. Check the show out before you purchase and test it for replay factor. I find it’s nice to have on if I just need background TV stuff going on while I’m working on something else…but your results may vary. (Click here to buy Ultimate Christmas from Amazon. Click here to buy F Word Series 5 from Amazon.)