September 1, 2009

DVD Pick of the Week: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection

Welcome back! Well, to some of you, anyway. To the rest of you, glad you decided to stop by and I hope this humble column helps you navigate the stacks of new releases each week. My goal is to point you toward titles of interest and warn you away from those films that seek to do nothing but leech away your time and give you nothing in return.

Full disclosure: I have not seen many of these titles, and what follows are not necessarily reviews, but opinions based upon what I know of the titles I pluck from the new release lists I peruse. The opinions I give based on the new releases are my own, and my recommendations are based on my personal interest. In any case, I hope you enjoy and perhaps find something you like or a title to point me towards.

This week there was no single title that jumped out at me. However, there is a trio of compilations coming out that look fantastic, and if I didn't already own many of the titles I would be jumping all over them.

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Murder Mysteries (The Maltese Falcon / The Big Sleep / Dial M for Murder / The Postman Always Rings Twice). This is the set most likely to find its way to my collection, seeing as I only have two of the films, The Maltese Falcon and Dial M for Murder. This a really nice collection. I am a particular fan of Maltese Falcon, which is worth the cost of this set on its own (just $20 at Amazon). If you are looking for some classic mysteries, you cannot go wrong with this set.

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Science Fiction (2001 A Space Odyssey / Soylent Green / Forbidden Planet / The Time Machine). If murder mysteries are not your thing, perhaps science fiction is. This set gives a nice cross section of classic science fiction, with the undeniable classic 2001, the fantastic Shakespeare in space of Forbidden Planet, the Heston romp Soylent Green, and the HG Wells adaptation The Time Machine. A variety of styles, all well worth your time.

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Horror (House of Wax / The Haunting / Freaks / Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). Continuing the genre theme is this horror set, with the great Vincent Price in House of Wax, a classic haunting tale with The Haunting, the controversial Freaks (which employed actual circus freaks, and is a particularly haunting film), and Lon Chaney in the great story of Jeckyll and Hyde. It is so hard to go wrong with these releases.

Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season (also Blu-ray). Cross Buffy and the X-Files and you may get something like Supernatural. The main arc that has thread its way through the first four seasons is set to wrap up in the upcoming season, but there is room to move forward should the show get renewed. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles play demon hunting brothers caught in a war between Heaven and Hell. It is a lot of fun to watch as the big picture tale has developed past a monster of the week format. This is a show that you should definitely look into.

Heroes: Season 3 (also Blu-ray). I loved this show during its first season, but it seemed to lose its way in the second. The third switched everything up again and appeared to get the show back on the right track. Will I be purchasing season three? Not right away, perhaps down the line somewhere if season four continues the upward trend.

Gladiator (Blu-ray). This is a wonderful film and one of the first to bear Paramount's "Sapphire Series" tag, but it also looks like a title that the more discerning home video advocate may want to avoid. Word is spreading that the transfer is sub par and one of the worse high definition transfers yet. I have not seen it and cannot judge, but there is enough buzz to make me wait it out.

Braveheart (Blu-ray). This is the other title to come out under the "Sapphire Series" banner and does not seem to be afflicted with the bad buzz that Gladiator has. Perhaps it is time to revisit Scotland.

State of Play (also Blu-ray). This is a pretty good one. It shows the power of the pen as Russell Crowe seeks to help an old college friend, now senator, caught in the middle of the fray. Is he doing the right thing? Are the right people being protected? Not a great film, but definitely a solid thriller and worth a rental.

Rescue Me: Season Five, Volume One. One of the best and most underrated shows on television, this firefighter drama has announced that it will end with the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Dennis Leary stars as a seriously troubled firefighter on a show he co-created in honor of the many firefighters he counts as friends. It is a wild show, you never know what may happen.

Earth (also Blu-ray). This documentary did well when it was on theater screens earlier this year. I never did get around to seeing it, but it did look pretty good. It follows a polar bear family, and elephant family, and a whale family on their migratory pattern. Should look great on Blu-ray.

Sugar (also Blu-ray). This looks like a good one. A young Dominican ball player comes to the US to play minor league ball in a way to save his family back home. The name is derived from the man's nickname, Azucar, which translates to "sugar."


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