You say you still have a ton of Christmas shopping to do?
A&E just might be able to help you to play Santa for that special home theater fan on your Christmas list. Here are some excellent suggestions from us here at Upcomingdiscs. This is not a paid advertisement. Each of these titles comes highly recommended. Continue reading to find out how A&E can help you out with those last-minute Christmas shopping needs. Don’t forget to order through Amazon and help us at Upcomingdiscs to bring you another year of reviews and contests. Look for some incredible A&E giveaways for our 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways.
Farscape was at once one of the freshest and most unique shows to ever reach television. It was often experimental, and while it often went quite astray, it was that willingness to take chances that ultimately allowed the show to become so compelling. It only lasted four years and ended rather badly on a cliffhanger. After a strong rescue campaign mounted by the feverish fan base, at least the cliffhanger was finally resolved in a mini-series. In that short span, Farscape has left an incredible impact on not only science fiction, but television in general. It dared to be honest, and it never talked down to its audience. It trusted that people were intelligent enough and had the attention span to appreciate the nuances that made this show so intriguing. I’ve never seen a cast and crew put so much trust that those on the other side of the glass would “get it”. Perhaps that really was the show’s downfall, in the end. Maybe not enough people ever did “get it”. Likely, not enough people tried. But for those of us who did make the effort, we were rewarded with truly intelligent drama and more than a little bit of fun along the way. It’s been gone now for nearly a decade. There have been several DVD releases, and I’m one of those who bought those incessant one or two disc collections. The full series took up more space on my shelf than any other show I owned. It was a frelling frustration, but Farscape just had to live here, since it couldn’t live any longer on television. Now we can all rejoice. Thanks to A&E, we can turn that 3 feet of shelf-space into just a few inches. Plus, we get to rediscover Farscape all over again, this time in high definition. All I can say is…
“Prepare for Starburst…”
The show ended not because of falling ratings. The show’s fans are about as loyal as the Star Trek crowd. The numbers held pretty much steady throughout the show’s run. The problem was twofold. It cost a lot of money, and Henson admits that the network lost money on the series each year. The network was also trying to grow. It wasn’t good enough for the suits to hold on to an audience. It was decided that the show had reached its maximum potential. I’m not sure that was true. As the network grew I think more folks would have found it. There is still hope, more so than for the network which fills its schedule with paranormal shows and wrestling now. There hasn’t been a good show on the network since the Stargate franchise wound down. There is talk of an internet series. I’ll be keeping my eyes open. I do suspect Farscape will return one day in some form or another. Until that time we now have a different network, A&E to thank for giving us these beautiful episodes to enjoy for cycles to come. “Okay, Alice. Once more into the looking glass…”
This is absolutely one of our top picks for the science fiction fan on your Christmas list.
WWII In HD Collector’s Edition
They’ve been called The Greatest Generation, and who are we to argue the point? Sitting here writing reviews from my comfortable seat in a state-of-the art home theater, I’m in no position to lay claim to the title. They fought in the bloodiest conflict in modern human history. Over 20 million were killed. That’s a staggering number. If you’re like me, it’s not even real. I can honestly say that those facts have never really reached home as much as they did while watching this footage.
World War II has been a favorite topic for Hollywood films since before the war itself ended. There have been some truly remarkable efforts and some equally unremarkable disasters. Many of these films have been long forgotten. Heck, many of them deserve to be forgotten. But something that should never be forgotten is the stuff of this footage. To do so would be a sacrilege of the worst kind. But these war films, no matter how startling the scenes, no matter how real we might think they are, no matter how visceral the experience might appear, nothing can ever capture the reality like this footage has done.
If it offers nothing else, this set offers a comprehensive overview of the important events of the war. Unless you are somewhat of a WWII expert, there will be some things in here that you did not know. That was certainly true for my experience. With the age of the footage, you might be asking yourself why you shouldn’t just pick up the DVD release. It’s a good question. I’ve looked at that release as well. It’s actually pretty good for a standard-definition DVD. Still, what I found most important was the texture of the images. The stark reality comes through in this Blu-ray in a way that a DVD just can’t deliver. Obviously, if you do not yet own Blu-ray, you have no choice, and I still think you’ll be awed by the series. But there is no denying that Blu-ray takes you through a time portal and drops you off squarely in the 1940’s.
Mike Hammer The Complete Series
Hammer (McGavin) was a tough-as-they-come detective. He didn’t fall for the usual cons, and he had street smarts. If he had a weakness at all it was for the “chickies”, the dames, the women. McGavin couldn’t pass up a pretty face or a compelling sob story. When he was caught out in the cold it was usually because one of these girls put him there. He was fast with a gun. He didn’t mind throwing a guy out of a ten-story window if it got the job done. When Hammer was on the case it usually meant bodies. There was rarely any bad guy still standing to put in a cell. His best friend was Captain Pat Chambers (Burns) of homicide. He would often lean on his buddy for information. If you’ve ever seen Rockford you’ll recognize the relationship right off the bat. When I hear their conversations about Hammer wanting a plate run or a fingerprint identified, it sure brings back memories of Jimmy and Becker.
The show was only a half hour, so there isn’t any time for fluff here. The episodes get right to the point and often begin with the action already in stride. It’s no big deal to have Hammer shooting it out with some bad guy in the first frames. Hammer offers up a narration that comes right out of the film noir mold. The voice and inflection will further remind you of Kolchak. It’s my guess that some heard these narrations and decided that was the voice of Kolchak. There’s even a Hammer episode where he’s trying to convince the cops that an elder Jack the Ripper might be in town and responsible for a series of dancer slashings.
The city of New York is heavy in the background just as the cities always are in the traditional film noir tradition. This movie follows the mold pretty closely and might be the most successful attempt of translating that genre onto television screens. It was also one of the first big shows without a network. It was strictly a syndication series that still managed to find enough viewers to keep it solid for two full seasons. It was also the first extremely violent show on television. There were outrages across the nation. TV Guide called it the worst show ever on television, while others touted the excess of sex and violence. Tame by our standards, the show didn’t pull any punches…or bullets.
The Official Major League Baseball World Series Film Collection
Are you shopping for a huge baseball fan? This is the best gift any fan of the sport could ever hope to receive. The massive collection includes 21 discs with World Series footage going as far back as there were cameras to capture the action. You get hours upon hours of vintage footage that highlights the great plays and players in the history of baseball’s classic championship series.
But that’s not all. The entire set comes inside a wonderful coffee table book that contains incredible pictures and a history of the series. You’ll get a time-line and a complete guide to every game going back to 1903 when Boston beat Pittsburgh.
I guarantee you that any sports fan on your list will display this gift proudly for years to come. There are even DVD spaces for you to include future discs on future games or your own World Series memories.
If that baseball fan happens to be a Yankee fan as well, you can also pick up:
Yankeeography: Pinstripe Legends
This sturdy collection gives you 16 discs that cover the entire history of baseball’s winningest team. The discs cover the milestone games and championships. There are documentaries on 37 of the team’s brightest stars throughout history.
The set, like the World Series Collection, comes in a wonderful 32-page coffee table book that provides more great stills, stats and memories from the team. This release covers Yankee tradition like no other release has ever done.
The Universe Complete Series on Blu-ray
“In the beginning there was darkness. And then bang, giving birth to an endless expanding existence of time, space, and matter. Now, see further than we’ve ever imagined. Beyond the limits of our existence. In a place we call The Universe.”
The History series lasted for five seasons. The show used modern space photography, computer-generated images, and demonstrations, along with respected scientists to explore the various aspects of our universe. While more time is spent in our own back yard exploring our solar system, the series did take us to the outer reaches of space, going back about 13 billion years. That’s as far as we’re able to see. The show was narrated by Erik Thompson. Of course, there is plenty of narration by the scientists.
The episodes do provide a wealth of information. I’ve been a big astronomy reader over the years, but the subject is ever-changing, and shows like this offer many new and fascinating facts. Combine that with some truly spectacular images, and you get a series that just might be worth watching. There is a lot of repetition. You can tell where the commercial breaks were, and the show recaps after each break. Of course, watching the Blu-ray, it feels like an instant repeat of what you just saw. I know that there is care not to edit out stuff when releasing it, but I think we’d all forgive a quick snip of the regurge stuff. They also tend to be a bit more dramatic than they need to be, particularly on the doomsday scenario stuff. I thought I was watching the trailer of the latest disaster film at times. These guys sure know how to keep you awake at night. We all know by now from watching movies that “Earth has had its ups. Earth has had its downs. We never know what’s going to be around the next corner. And a lot of it’s bad.”
Robotech The Complete Series
The beginning story is really just the tip of the iceberg. This is a sweeping space opera and moves at a slow and plodding pace. No, not the pace of Dragonball Z (where one fight takes half a season), but slow enough to actually develop the story and its characters. This is rare for animation which often races at full speed for 22 minutes at a time and hopefully they get in a few tidbits of characterization along the way. I think that is one of the reasons that immediately drew me into this show.
Robotech is a force in animation even today. The whole reason so much anime exists here in America can at least be partly attributed to the success of the Robotech television series. If it wasn’t for creative genius Carl Maeck, there is a distinct possibility we as Americans might be forced into more G.I. Joe and Transformers spinoffs and remakes than we can stand. Robotech was more than just cartoons, however; it was a show with characters and a story that can still be appreciated today.
The box set is downright impressive. The audio is perhaps the best I’ve seen for animation that exceeds 25 years old, and the extras set is beyond impressive. It could arguably sell by itself if the movie and deleted scenes were cleaned up by adding footage (movie) and subtitles (deleted scenes). But we get all of the complete episodes, four discs of extras, and a beautiful box for about $60 dollars on Amazon. If you like Robotech or even animation at all, you owe it to yourself to procure a copy. I give it one of my highest recommendations possible. It’s that good. Enjoy.
(by Michael Durr)
Baseball’s Greatest Games DVD Collection
A while back we ran a contest where we gave away several discs that contained some of the most exciting games in baseball history. These games were released individually as full broadcasts on one DVD. Now A&E has decided to put the collection together in one special sweet baseball collection. Just in time for the dramatic end of this year’s World Series, you now have a chance to stretch more than that seventh inning. You can keep the baseball season going for as long as you like with these classic games. You get the entire television broadcast and a special audio that contains the home team’s radio broadcast. For Phillies fans that means getting to hear the late great Harry Kalas once again.
I’m beginning to have high hopes for this relationship between A&E and Major League Baseball. There are a ton of moments out there that each fan would love the chance to relive or share with your own kid someday. This is a huge step in that direction. The games are all worth another look, and some of them will hold special meaning to many of us out there. What more can I say other than, “Play ball”.
1960 World Series Game 7 – The Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Yankees.
1975 World Series Game 6 – The Cincinnati Reds vs. The Boston Red Sox
Wrigley Field Slugfest – The Philadelphia Phillies vs. The Chicago Cubs
1985 NLCS Game 5 – The St. Louis Cardinals vs. The Los Angeles Dodgers
1986 World Series Game 6 – The New York Mets vs. The Boston Red Sox
1991 World Series Game 7 – The Minnesota Twins vs. The Atlanta Braves
1992 NLCS Game 7 – The Atlanta Braves vs. The Pittsburgh Pirates
1993 World Series Game 6 – The Toronto Blue Jays vs. The Philadelphia Phillies
2003 ALCS Game 7 – The New York Yankees vs. The Boston Red Sox
2004 ALCS Game 4 – The Boston Red Sox vs. The New York Yankees