Out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week: The genre-redefining fight for the Iron Throne escalates, plus a cavalcade of legendary names -- William Adama, John Galt, Flash Gordon, Steve Austin, Connor MacLeod, and Franco Nero.
One of the most palpably ambitious, creative, thrillingly merciless, and spellbinding fantasy series ever produced. One of the few must-have box sets of the year. Nuff said.
Formats: DVD and Blu-Ray (5 discs).
The story: From the scheming south and the savage eastern lands, to the frozen north and the ancient Wall that protects the realm from the mysterious darkness beyond, the powerful families of the Seven Kingdoms are locked in a battle for the Iron Throne.
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Iain Glen, Jack Gleeson, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Sophie Turner, Aidan Gillen.
Directed by: Alan Taylor, Alik Sakharov, David Petrarca, David Nutter, Neil Marshall.
Features: 12 Audio Commentaries (Discs 1-5; In-Episode Guide (Discs 1-5, HD); Character Profiles (Disc 1, HD, 16 minutes); Histories & Lore (Disc 5, HD); War of the Five Kings (Disc 5, HD); Creating the Battle of Blackwater Bay (Disc 5, HD, 31 minutes); Game of Thrones Inner Circle (Disc 5, HD, 24 minutes); The Religions of Westeros (Disc 5, HD, 8 minutes); Hidden Dragon Eggs (Discs 1-5, HD).
However much we play the should-have-been game (as in, this is the Battlestar franchise entry we should have gotten instead of Caprica--or, at the very least, to replace Caprica), the question now is: Is B&C only for the die-hard BSG completist? Does it speak to the casual fan, or the everyday sci-fi consumer? And the truth is, it's actually hard to answer even those questions without falling back on playing that "should-have-been" game. Because what we got was sort of the zombie B&C, the kind of reduced-wattage, slightly-less-carefully-made show that results from a disappointing pilot that went unsold somehow going into production anyway. (But then, some people voice similar sentiments about BSG season 3, so this isn't a new experience for Adamaphiles.) If you go in with low expectations you can definitely have a good time, but you might still be wistful for the alt-universe version that was a bit more deserving of the BSG name.
Formats: DVD and Blu-Ray.
The story: As the battle between humans and their creation, the sentient robotic Cylons, rages across the 12 colonial worlds, a young, talented fighter pilot, William Adama, finds himself assigned to one of the most powerful battlestars in the Colonial fleet: the Galactica. Though Adama quickly finds himself at odds with his co-pilot, the battle-weary officer Coker, the two men must set their differences aside when a routine escort mission with an enigmatic passenger (Lili Bordan, Silent Witness) turns dangerous and becomes a pivotal one for the desperate fleet.
Starring: Luke Pasqualino, Ben Cotton, Lil Bordan, Mike Dopud, John Pyper-Ferguson, Zak Santiago.
Directed by: Jonas Pate.
Features: Blood & Chrome: Visual Effects (HD, 23 minutes); Deleted Scenes (HD, 29 minutes).
Speaking of zombie productions, this Razzie-nominated sequel (for worst director and worst screenplay) is the answer to the seldom-asked question, "What do you get when the first entry in your trilogy is a colossal failure but the producer is so committed to the franchise that he makes the second film anyway on less than half the budget with C-list writers, cast and crew?" Fortunately, as I said, that question isn't broached very often at all, especially now that Part II has still managed to eat two thirds even of its decimated, inadequate budget.
Formats: DVD and Blu-Ray.
The story: The global economy is on the brink of collapse. Unemployment has risen to 24%. Gas is now $42 per gallon. Brilliant creators, from artists to industrialists, continue to mysteriously disappear at the hands of the unknown. The motor is dead... there is no one left to decipher its secret... and, someone is watching. It's a race against the clock to find the inventor before the motor of the World is stopped for good.
Starring: Samantha Mathis, Jason Beghe, Esai Morales, Richard T. Jones, Kim Rhodes, Patrick Fabian, Ray Wise, Diedrich Bader, Bug Hall, D.B. Sweeney, Paul McCrane, Arye Gross.
Directed by: John Putch.
Features: Behind The Scenes of Atlas Shrugged Part II: Sean Hannity Extended Segment; Deleted Scenes.
Given the entries under this title that we've gotten since, on both film and TV, these classic Buster Crabbe serial yarns remain, sort of by default, the definitive live-action evocation of this still-viable space opera idea, the quintessential American jock drawn into a nasty galactic conflict and shouldering through on pure guts and common sense. Don't expect these public domain reissues to be improved-quality remasters, but it is the first time the three 1930s Flash serials are all in one shelvable box.
Formats: DVD (4 discs).
The story: Cartoonist Alex Raymond's intrepid interstellar invader took the comics page by storm in 1934 - and, two years later, he made the leap to the silver screen in the smiling person of Olympic swimmer-turned-actor Buster Crabbe. The original 13-episode serial, Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers, introduced Flash, his winsome platinum blonde girlfriend Dale Arden and visionary scientist Dr. Alex Zarkov as they save the earth from evil Emperor Ming The Merciless with the help of Ming's daughter Princess Aura. It spawned a pair of sequels: Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938) and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940).
Starring: Buster Crabbe, Jean Rogers, Frank Shannon, Charles Middleton, Priscilla Lawson.
Directed by: Ford Beebe, Frederick Stephani, Ray Taylor, Robert F. Hill.
Features: None, but includes an illustrated 24-page booklet that fleshes out Flash's multimedia odyssey and includes original Alex Raymond cartoons.
It's been taking a long time, but The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman have both been dribbling out at one season per year or so, which is pretty standard for shows that are still in production but kind of poky (ironically enough) for a 47-year-old classic. So, here's the 21 eps of season 3, when SMDM was arguably at its strongest. While you're waiting for season 4 to come out, I guess you can go back and watch that Lee Majors episode of Jake 2.0. Oh wait! You can't, because Jake 2.0 is not out on home video. What the heck is up with that, anyway? Are we going to have to wait four decades for Jake 2.0 on video? Jeez.
Formats: DVD (6 discs).
The story: Under the watchful eye of OSI director Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson), Steve repays his debt to the taxpayers by taking on perilous missions of a highly classified nature. Back from the dead is Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner), who can't remember her bionic soul mate. Emotions frayed, Steve keeps busy by retrieving the Liberty Bell and a feral child raised by wolves. Later, Austin goes mano a mano with the legendary Bigfoot in a clash for the ages.
Starring: Lee Majors, Lindsay Wagner, Richard Anderson.
Directed by: Dick Moder, Jerry London, Cliff Bole, and others.
Features: Audio Commentaries On Selected Episodes From Writer/Producer Kenneth Johnson And Director Cliff Bole; The Two-Part Premiere Of The Bionic Woman Series.
A SyFy Original eco-shocker from the director of Loch Ness Terror, Ice Quake, and Stonehenge Apocalypse. What greater recommendation do you need? Oh, and check out the latest addition to the Syfy Original Greg Evigan I-Used-to-Be-on-TV Club: Adrian Pasdar! Poor guy.
Formats: DVD and Blu-Ray.
The story: When a fringe scientist releases a prehistoric seed, it unleashes a horrific root system that rips through Nevada like an earthquake and devastates everything in its path. Now a hard-nosed government agent (Adrian Pasdar of ''Heroes''), a desperate plant expert (Stefanie von Pfetten of Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief ) and a pair of young environmentalists must find a way to stop its destructive growth. The military cannot kill it. Shattered chunks regenerate to thousands of feet tall. But is this biblical green behemoth headed for an even more catastrophic life source?
Starring: Jesse Moss, Stefanie von Pfetten, Adrian Pasdar, James Morrison.
Directed by: Paul Ziller.
Features: None listed.
The "Renegade Version," released in 1995, is a re-edited director's cut of the universally unloved Highlander 2: The Quickening (1991), reconstructed with scenes moved and removed and 18 minutes of additional footage. Considering that the original film is incoherent, over-exposited, and in service of a laughable concept, not to mention in places visually execrable, any re-edit would have to be an improvement, however slight; and in fact this edit fixes some of the problems of the original studio hack job. If you're interested in a better-than-worst Highlander 2, though, you might want to look for a second-hand copy of the currently out of print 2004 special edition, which has the same recuts and some updated effects as well.
Formats: DVD and Blu-Ray.
The story: It's 2024 and Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) and Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez (Sean Connery) are back to save planet Earth from an evil corporation.
Starring: Sean Connery, Christopher Lambert, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, John C. McGinley.
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy.
This intimate little Italian thriller features Django (1966) star Franco Nero, now something of an Italian film institution (and Vanessa Redgrave's husband); the lead role was written with Nero in mind, says the writer-director.
The story: The year is 2033, three years after an unknown bacteriological attack wiped out almost 80% of the global population. Cities are no longer a safe place to live as rotting corpses are spreading new diseases. A city called New Birth City was set up by what's left of global government and military, a place where humanity could survive and search for a cure. Two Oxford professors headed the research, and two years after the outbreak one of the professors died leaving Dr. Cornelius Van Morgen, a world renowned biologist to continue the research. Dr. Cornelius Van Morgen chooses five people from among the survivors and puts them up in an old country house where his deceased colleague had set up a research laboratory.
Starring: Franco Nero, David Wurawa.
Directed by: Marco Rosson.
Features: Behind-the-scenes Video, Deleted Scenes.