Catching Up At The Video Store: High-Def Hijinks!
Article first published as High-Def Hijinks! on Blogcritics.
Sometimes, you don’t have anything unreservedly special in mind when it comes to sitting back and watching a little leisurely television viewing: you simply want to be entertained. As it stands, there are about a bazillion Standard-Definition out there — whereas the illustrious world of High-Def offers decidedly less options to choose from. At this particular instant in time, Blu-rays are usually not grouped categorically or by genres as their regular DVD counterparts are. And so, here are six completely random titles now available on Blu-ray from video stores near and far.
· Murdoch Mysteries: Season 3 (2010) (Acorn Media)
The Short Version: What a bunch of hosers, eh!
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Canada’s popular television series, based on the works of Maureen Jennings returns once more for another round of Victorian-era forensic fun. This season starts off with our hero, Inspector William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) waking up in England without his memory and with police the world over after him for some unknown reason (wherein former Red Green co-star Patrick McKenna guest stars). From thereon in, things go back to normal: Murdoch returns to the Great White North and promptly resumes outwitting his superior (Thomas Craig), passive-aggressively flirting with lady doctor Julia Ogden (Hélène Joy), and mentoring young naïve Constable Crabtree (Jonny Harris). Acorn Media presents Murdoch Mysteries: Season 3 in a 3-Disc set with a handful of brief special features.
· Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010) (Well Go USA Entertainment)
The Short Version: Donnie Yen is back to kick some ass.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Chen Zhen, the fictitious hero that has been portrayed onscreen in Asia more times than most American heroes have anywhere ever (by the likes of Bruce Lee and Jet Li), comes to life one more time to defend his country from all kinds of baddies. This time, it’s Donnie Yen taking the helm, reprising a role he previously played in a 1995 Hong Kong television series. A wealthy playboy by day, Zhen dons a black mask at night; fighting off oppressors from Japan, England and even China itself in 1920’s Shanghai. While its story may follow the same lines and arcs of many other HK flicks (think Black Mask, by way of the Ip Man movies), Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen nevertheless emerges as a fun ride. Available in a Collector’s Edition as well as a regular release.
· Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man 3D (2000) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Short Version: As if people in clown makeup weren’t scary-looking enough, now you can see ’em in 3D.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: While the idea of watching a group of fey European artistes prance around and dance about for 40 minutes is undoubtedly not everyone’s idea of a good time, it should be said that Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man 3D can pry a little bit of awe out of just about anyone with its uniquely-fascinating interpretation of life (and all the mystery contained therein). Originally shot for IMAX 3D screens in 2000, the striking visuals and sounds of this strange and often-moving motion picture (as narrated by Ian McKellen) are now available for 3D Blu-ray players and TVs, although you can watch this one in 2D and be just as freaked out by the people in frightening makeup.
· Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2011: The 3D Experience (2011) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
The Short Version: Boobies. Booties. 3D. Need I say more?
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Even as a kid, the concept of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue baffled me. “Why,” I asked myself, “would I want to look at these scantily-clad beach bimbos when I could just hork a copy of Penthouse from the local store and get my jollies from that instead?” Well, despite the fact that I still love nudity and porn to the nth degree, I have to admit that, sometimes, less truly is more. While not at all risqué, filthy or even wholly interesting, Sony’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2011: The 3D Experience does at least manage to entice viewers with its beautifully-photographed scenery, accompanied by some very flattering figures. Now, if only they had hired a bikini consultant that wasn’t colorblind…
· Robin of Sherwood: Set 1 (1983-1984) (Acorn Media)
The Short Version: No Disney. No Ridley. No Costner. No problem.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: The character of Robin Hood has been featured in more television, film and radio adaptations than Chen Zhen could ever hope to be. But, as anyone that’s ever seen the recent Ridley Scott version or revisited the once-thought-to-be-superior Kevin Costner version knows, making something bigger doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be better. Robin of Sherwood, a British TV series from 1983 and 1984 offers up a remarkable variation on the character; one that isn’t afraid to throw in a little mysticism every now and again, either. Michael Praed takes the lead here, with young Ray Winstone cast as Will Scarlet and beautiful Judi Trott as Marion. Acorn Media’s 4-Disc set brings us all 13 episodes from Series 1 and 2 as well as numerous special features. Recommended.
· Camille 2000 (1969) (Cult Epics)
The Short Version: A ‘60s Technicolor trip in HD.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: The ‘60s are held in high-esteem for many different reasons — from cultural revolutions to political protests. And then, sandwiched in-between ‘em all are the movies and music of the period: films and tunes alike that not only reflect every aspect of what the ‘60s are best-known for today, but which carry with them their own unique flavor. One great example is Radley Metzger’s Camille 2000, a film laced with sex, drugs, mod fashions and some swingin’ music to boot. Danièle Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo and Eleonora Rossi Drago star in this slice of arty erotica, and Cult Epics brings us a never-before-seen extended version (supervised by Metzger himself) with a number of intriguing special features, including some rough footage of a striptease by Silvana Venturelli.
Like I said, these are all completely random titles. Happy viewing, kids.