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January 28, 2008

"I'm a god. I'm not *the* God... I don't think."

Here we go again with another week of new DVDs:

Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Vol. 5

Bordertown (2006)

The Comebacks (2007)

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 6

Daddy Day Camp Aren't you glad this one's also available in Blu-Ray???

El Cid (1961) First DVD release for the Bronston/Mann epic. DVD Savant has a review here.

Emergency!: Season 4

Groundhog Day - 15th Anniversary Edition The third and perhaps final DVD release before the inevitable HD version(s).

The Invasion (2007) Also Blu Ray.

King of California (2007) Also on Blu-Day.

The King of Kong (2007)

Mansfield Park (2007 UK TV)

Lake Placid 2

Monty Python's Life Of Brian - The Immaculate Edition New special edition, also in Blu Ray.

The Nines (2006)

Pioneers of Television (2008, PBS)

January 23, 2008

"Welcome to the magical world of ponies!"

Late entry this week; first week of classes for the semester here at the U....sounds like a good excuse at least!

Here's the whole list of new DVDs and the "highlights."

4 by Agnès Varda

Adrift in Manhattan (2007)

Barney Miller: Season 2

ER: Season 8

The Game Plan (2007) Also on Blu Ray...what a great showcase for HD!

Hawaii Five-O: Season 3

The Hunting Party (2007)

Hustle: Season 4

Miss Julie (1951)

Saved From The Flames - 54 Rare and Restored Films 1896 - 1944

Saw IV And another classic comes to Blu Ray!

Sydney White (2007)

This Sporting Life (1963)

Torchwood: Season 1

January 20, 2008

TOS Rewind #14: Shore Leave

The episode: Shore Leave (12/29/1966). The drink: White Russian (I'm holding a beverage here!).

A friend of mine once came up with a term for this kind of episode: Jiffy Trek. The "jiffy" episode is usually pretty lightweight and doesn't advance the story arc of the show. This sums up this one pretty well. There is some light character development and lots of jokes. Even though this episode isn't one of my favorites, I still enjoy seeing it. Growing up, much of it was a bore for me, save for the extended fistfight sequences between Kirk and his old nemesis Finnegan. Kirk and an Irish guy rolling around in the dirt classic!

The characters get a little bit of fleshing out: you meet two people from Kirk's past (what's with the costume the actress playing Ruth is wearing?!?!) and some fun bits of Sulu playing with guns. The woman, Angela, is the same person as Angela Martine from "Balance of Terror." If you recall, she lost her fiance' in the episode. Funny how she's already rebounded to a new crewman. To be fair, this episode wasn't produced in this order and I don't think the script was written with this intent. I have to admit that I still get a kick out of the Kirk/Finnegan scenes; they're really fun. The other amusing scenes involve McCoy and Kirk. They have some funny lines and I love it when McCoy reappears with the showgirls on his arms. When one of them goes to Spock, Nimoy barely suppresses a smile. Tee hee.

One of the things that bugs me about this one is the subplot about the planet draining the ship's energy. I know they had to do something to keep a bit of tension going, but this just seems like a weak contrivance. The music in this one is a mixed bag, literally. Some of the cues work well, but other parts of the show feel like the cues were just thrown together. Seeing how good the music works in the best Trek episodes, this is a small disappointment.

So, this one is just OK. I appreciate it more watching the run in broadcast order since this one comes after a string of fairly serious episodes. The pacing works and perhaps this is one example where the network put a small amount of thought into which ones to air when.

And now on to Eric:

This will be another short review. Not because “Shore Leave? is a bad episode, it’s just not a fave. When one of the first things we see is a giant, obviously fake, white rabbit and a little blonde girl (Alice from “Through the Looking Glass?) it’s a little hard to regard the episode as something other than camp. This is unfortunate, however, because the premise is actually quite interesting—a planet created by an advanced race for the sole purpose of providing a simple, carefree source of entertainment and relaxation. Cool. But dangerous (or at least unsettling) if you don’t know what’s going on.

Such an imaginative idea really is no surprise given that the episode was written by SF vet Theodore Sturgeon (who also wrote the second season episode “Amok Time?). My understanding, however, is that Roddenberry wrote (or rewrote) the screenplay. In fact, supposedly, he was sitting in a trailer on-site pounding out the last acts of the script as the first acts were being shot. But I digress.

Besides having an interesting premise, this episode also provides a great opportunity for very economical character development: Sulu collects antique guns, McCoy has a streak of gentlemanly lechery, and Kirk, when he was a plebe (or first year cadet) at Starfleet Academy, was tormented by an upperclassman named Finnegan. This is nicely consistent with what’s revealed in “Where No Man Has Gone Before? (i.e. that Kirk was an extremely serious student). We also meet one of Kirk’s long-lost conquests: Ruth. Following the academy years theme, I had to wonder if she was the blonde lab assistant Gary Mitchell mentions in “Where No Man Has Gone Before.? In any case, there were several nice character moments. For example, I really like the way Spock maneuvers Kirk into going down to the planet for shore leave.

Here’s a wild idea--maybe this episode was a way to talk about tripping on LSD without having the crew drop acid. It was the 60s after all.

No? Okay. It was worth a try.

So, there’s nothing wrong with this episode, it’s just a little too campy (or perhaps silly) to be a favorite. Maybe it would be if the production hadn’t been rushed or had been approached differently. Oh well, at least it wasn’t “Spock’s Brain.?

Next time: “The Galileo Seven?

January 16, 2008

"Does your mother know what you do for a living?"

Let's talk HD format war for a second. In case you hadn't heard, Warner Bros. decided to end the stalemate in the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray format war last week by declaring they'd go Blu Ray exclusive within six months. It seems that, sooner or later, HD-DVD is going to go away. IMO, they made this choice not a moment too soon. Why? Two reasons:

1) Apple just began video rentals over iTunes. Now, Apple isn't the first to do this, but having rentals on such a popular service pushes movie downloads further toward the consumer mainstream. This is just the beginning. I don't know how long it will take for downloads to become popular for movies, but I believe it will become mainstream sooner or later. This is a problem for those who want HD media to succeed; and when I say HD media, I mean HD on discs. Apple is offering movies in HD resolution (Microsoft already had them via its XBox console), 720p. Now, this isn't the same quality as you get on HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, it's more akin to broadcast HD quality. 720p isn't mind-blowing, but it's better than standard DVD and may be good enough for most people. If the various electronics companies and studios want HD on disc to be anything more than the Laserdisc of the 21st century, they need to stop screwing around and get the format out there before iTunes and Co. make "just OK" HD the norm. I am attracted to the idea of getting movies, especially rentals, electronically, but know it will be a long time before downloads have full 1080p/lossless audio. The bandwidth just isn't there yet.

2) Simple: I want to start buying movies in HD, but don't want to invest in a player while there are two formats!

OK, on to the usual:

Here's the whole list, and here's the highlights:

'Allo 'Allo!: Series 7

Alex Haley's Queen

Already Dead (2007)

Breaker Morant (1980, also on Blu Ray)

Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956)

Extras - The Complete Series

Family Guy: Blue Harvest (2007)

Good Luck Chuck (2007, also on Blu Ray)

Mr. Woodcock (2007, also on Blu Ray)

The Naked Prey (1966)

Post-War Kurosawa Box

The Rockford Files: Season 5

She's Gotta Have It (1986)

Suburban Girl

January 7, 2008

"I hate posses."

Let's get right into it with the new DVDs of the week:

3:10 To Yuma (2007) Since Warners is attempting to end the HD format war, I"m going to start mentioning Blu Ray releases. This movie is also being released in Blu-Ray Disc (BR).

Boogeyman 2 Electric Boogeyloo???

Gunsmoke: Season 2: Vol. 1

Joshua (2007)

MI-5: Volume 5

SunshineSunshine (2007) Also in Blu Ray.

White Noise 2 (2007)

Zodiac (2007)

January 2, 2008

"Everytime I pass a library I get an anxiety attack."

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all had a nice holiday. Needless to say, there wasn't much happening last week in the realm of DVDs (other than lots of them being bought), so I took the week off. We journeyed to the land where I grew up: Rapid City, SD. We had a nice time hanging out with the family and just being away from the everyday stuff. We even saw a movie, the masterpiece, National Treasure: Book of Secrets. My oh my, what a silly film. It's one of those movies I actually find fun to watch with the right people. We all got a good chuckle out of the preposterous story and dumb dialogue (I'm not sure the rest of the theater understood what we were laughing about).

While most of the family was playing in church Christmas Eve, my Dad and I got to wait for a while for my brother's incoming flight at the fabulous Rapid City airport. The real upside to this time waiting was that we had time for a scotch at the bar where we ran into the former basketball coach from my old high school. He and my dad (former band director, same school) know each other, even if they aren't exactly friends, but they had a nice chat. The coach, who I hadn't seen since I graduated, went out of his way to say how much he appreciated the pep band being at the games. I don't think this guy is such a smooth character that he would have bothered to say this if he didn't mean it. I really thought this was a nice thing, particularly due to the fact that my friends and I in band didn't exactly "feel the love" from the jock side of the school. Not that we really cared, but it was a good thing and made the evening somehow worthwhile.

So, let's see what we've got for new stuff this week (I've combined the releases from last and this week):

American Pie Presents: Beta House Ah, another installment in the AP empire.

Eastern Promises (2007)

Galactica 1980: The Complete Series I used to love the original BG show when I was a kid. Needless to say it hasn't aged that well, but I thought this follow-up show was bad even in 1980.

The Heartbreak Kid (2007)

The Kingdom (2007)

Lost and Found: The Harry Langdon Collection

Resident Evil: Extinction

Seasquest DSV: Season 2

Shoot 'Em Up (2007)

War (2007)