Out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week: The latest installment in the other, other vampire franchise and an exercise in adapting a zombified version of "tag" to the silver screen -- plus the last season of Chuck, three new classic Who adventures, Fantasy Island, and a Twilight Zone compilation.
Conceptually, it's fantastic that Kate Beckinsale and Underworld are still persevering in a genre culture oversaturated with vampires and their supernatural nemeses. But this movie clearly has no story to tell and does little to develop the franchise.
Format: Blu-Ray, 3-D Blu-Ray, and DVD.
The story: When human forces discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans, a war to eradicate both species commences. The vampire warrioress Selene leads the battle against humankind.
Starring: Kate Beckinsale (Selene), Stephen Rea (Dr. Jacob Lane), Michael Ealy (Detective Sebastian), Theo James (David), India Eisley (Eve), Sandrine Holt (Lida), Charles Dance (Thomas), Kris Holden-Ried (Quint), Jacob Blair (Officer Kolb), Adam Greydon Reid (Med Tech #1), Catlin Adams (Olivia), Robert Lawrenson (Waterfront Cop).
Directed by: Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein.
Features: Filmmakers' Commentary; Selene Rises (1080p, 12:14); Casting the Future of Underworld (1080p, 12:33); Resuming the Action (1080p, 8:52); Building a Better Lycan (1080p, 10:20); Awakening a Franchise, Building a Better World (1080p, 18:53); Blooper Reel (1080p, 3:21); Music Video (1080p, 3:25); Cracking the Underworld; Previews; UV Digital Copy.
Over the years Chuck not only wasn't afraid to diverge from its existing premise, it reveled in it -- the original concept, of a computer geek forced by a download into his brain of a government threat matrix called the Intersect into being a bumbling spy, really only lasted the first season or two. By the fifth season, Chuck is not only a master spy going freelance, with his former minders as his loyal colleagues, but he's now no longer the intersect. He even looks completely different, a symbolic manifestation of his and the show's spiraling transformation. It's a truism that television series change as little as possible for fear of losing their audiences, and the best you can hope for is glacial shifts over several seasons most of the time; kudos to a series that had the cajones to aggressively evolve and stay great enough that fans came along for the ride.
Format: Blu-Ray (4 discs) and DVD (5 discs).
The story: Chuck is back with new missions, a new business -- and no Intersect. The stakes are high as Chuck sets out to become a full-fledged spy. But without the CIA as backup, Chuck will have to rely now more than ever on John Casey, Sarah Walker, and a new Intersect -- Morgan Guillermo Grimes. Across this final season, Chuck will find that his wits, his friends, and his family are the only backup he needs.
Starring: Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Ryan McPartlin, Joshua Gomez, Adam Baldwin, Sarah Lancaster.
Features: Audio commentaries on the final two episodes by executive producers and cast members; Extended version of the series finale; Six behind-the-scenes featurettes: - Chuck: The Final Episode, - Sandwiches and Superfans: The Saving of a Show, - Spy Tunes: Scoring the World of Chuck, - Chuck: The Beginnings, - Chuck: Through the Years, - Chuck: The Future; "Declassified" scenes; Gag reel; Full versions of the Buy More TV commercials with Big Mike and Captain Awesome.
The striking contrast between Seventies and Eighties Doctor Who is obvious in these coincidentally concurrent releases. Yet the parallels are interesting. There are cheap sets aplenty in both "Eden" and "Dragonfire"; in one you're distracted from them by Tom Baker showboating, in the other by an interesting story involving an evocatively played villain and a fiesty waitress (new companion Ace). "Eden," somewhat unusually for Seventies Who, directly tackles a social issue (drug trafficking); "Happiness Patrol" has unmissable political indictments including a harridan Thatcher figure. All three have monsters lovable in their own way: the bell-bottomed Mandrels, the "dragon," and especially the Kandy Man, one of the Eightes' most memorable monsters. The last two are being sold together as the "Ace Box" -- which, like the previous "UNIT box", is a terrible misnomer that implies inclusion of seminal episodes but does not (in this case, "Dragonfire," yes; "Happiness Patrol," no, compared to others from the following season that are more definitive of her character).
Format: DVD only.
The story: In "Nightmare of Eden," Two spacecraft fuse in a hyperspace collision. Fortunately the Doctor, Romana and K-9 arrive to help. But when a crewmember is found clawed by a ferocious animal, it seems there's something even more frightening stalking the corridors.
"Dragonfire": The penniless and desperate Sabalom Glitz has only one option to leave Svartos: find the fabled 'Dragonfire' treasure concealed somewhere in the depths of the planet. Joined by Ace, a teenage waitress with a love for explosives, the group ventures off to uncover lost riches, not knowing that Kane, Iceworld's ruthlessly intimidating overlord, will gladly murder them all to gain possession of the Dragonfire himself.
"The Happiness Patrol": There's no sadness on Terra Alpha. Anyone feeling remotely glum disappears. Quickly. Having heard disturbing rumors, the Doctor and Ace arrive to topple the entire regime overnight.
Starring: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward; Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Bonnie Langford.
Directed by: Graham Williams; Chris Clough.
Features: "Nightmare of Eden": Digitally remastered picture and sound quality; Commentary with actors Lalla Ward (Romana) and Peter Craze (Costa, a smaller part as a customs inspector), writer Bob Baker, effects designer Colin Mapson and make-up designer Joan Stribling; The Nightmare of Television Centre; Going Solo - Writer Bob Baker; The Doctor's Strange Love; Ask Aspel - Lalla Ward.
"Dragonfire": Audio Commentary by Sophie Aldred, Edward Peel (Kane), Ian Briggs (writer), Ian Cartmel (script editor), Dominic Glynn (incidental music composer) and Chris Clough (director); "The Big Bang Theory" (explosions in Dr. Who); Deleted and Extended Scenes.
"The Happiness Patrol": Audio Commentary. Sophie Aldred, writer Graeme Curry, script editor Andrew Cartmel, composer Dominic Glynn and director Chris Clough; Happiness Will Prevail (23 min), a making of documentary; When Worlds Collide (46 min) documentary on politics in Who; Deleted and Extended Scenes (23 min); "Blue Peter", with Ace.
What's most interesting about this movie is that it's a loose adaptation of the Live Action Role-Playing game, or "moderated tag" as the website calls it, of the same name that was all the rage on college campuses a few years ago, itself an iteration of the urban zombie walk social phenomenon (you know something's really hot when it shows up on Castle). As a film version of a zombie-fighting IRL game, it has a sense of humor, as you'd expect.
Format: Blu-Ray, DVD, and Comic Book + DVD.
The story: Students on summer break are exposed to a deadly virus that is spread rapidly through direct human contact. They spread the infection to their fellow classmates and other unsuspecting townspeople. A campus security guard, obsessed with conspiracy theories, leads a group of students as they and a small band of uninfected townspeople attempt to discover the source of the "zombie" virus and save the world.
Directed by: Brian T. Jaynes.
Starring: Madison Burge, Melissa Carnell, Frederic Doss, Chip Joslin.
In retrospect it becomes a bit harder to tell, but one of the amusing things about Fantasy Island was that it contained many people who had been famous or were going to be famous, but almost never people who were famous at the time; and you never knew whether you were going to get exactly what you expect from that actor (okay, with Don Knotts you knew) or a chance to see them play against type and reputation.
Format: DVD only (6 discs).
The story: It's the place where your dreams become reality. The second season of this series saw fantasies from all walks of life granted and featured guest appearances from big and rising stars, including Cassandra Peterson, Sonny Bono, John Astin, Jonathan Frakes, Barbi Benton, Cyd Charisse, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leslie Nielsen, Mamie Van Doren, Don Knotts, Cesar Romero, Janet Leigh, Toni Tennille, Mary Ann Mobley, Roddy McDowall, Regis Philbin, Annette Funicello, and more.
Starring: Ricardo Montalban, Herve Villechaize.
True fans will most likely have the complete series on disc, but for the casual Twilight Zone fan, or for gift-giving, these best-of compilations are a useful alternative.
Format: DVD only (5 discs).
The story: Special collection of classic episodes from Rod Serling's legendary series and explore the fantastic and the frightening. Episodes: The Passerby, The Grave, Death's Head Revisited, The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank, Perchance to Dream, The Hitch-Hiker, King Nine Will Not Return, Shadow Play, Third from the Sun, The Shelter, To Serve Man, The Fugitive, Nick of Time, The Prime Mover, It's a Good Life, The Mind and the Matter, The Last Flight, Once Upon a Time, A Hundred Yards Over the Rim, The Trouble with Templeton.
Starring: Lee Marvin, Cliff Robertson, Cloris Leachman, Buster Keaton, Lee Van Cleef, Dennis Weaver, Buddy Ebsen, Richard Conte, James Best, Bill Mumy, Fritz Weaver.