On the Shelf this week, we’ve got some boldly going, we’ve got the complete history of the worst camp in the history of the world, we’ve got a favorite of two different holidays, and we’ve got more TV than you can shake a moderately-sized stick at. When and how you obtain this stick is your own business, and nobody will look down on you.
A lot has been said about J.J. Abrams’ follow up to his 2009 cinematic reboot/alternate universe take on Gene Roddenberry’s beloved space adventure. Having recently been voted the worst Star Trek film of all time by a fan poll (of fans who apparently haven’t seen Final Frontier, Generations, or Nemesis), it seems that this film is destined for the pile of stink. While I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you Star Trek Into Darkness isn’t intensely flawed, from its reliance on the past to its severe third act problems to its again dumbing-down everything for the lowest common denominator, I am going to say that is by no means the worst Star Trek film, nor is it a bad film beyond those things. I had a whole lot of fun watching this in the theater. It was colorful and fast-paced and the effects were really terrific. Tell me you didn’t enjoy the battle sequence on THAT ONE PLANET (spoilers) or the scene in which THOSE TWO PEOPLE (spoilers again) jump through space to get to the other ship. You’ve also got some pure, unadulterated Cumberbatch going on, and that’s definitely got to be worth a few points.
Where the movie falls down, it does fall down hard. The incredibly convenient resolution, coupled with the complete and utter ridiculousness of being so close to that which we’ve already seen and yet slightly different as to be only momentarily shocking, prevent it from being a great, or even a particularly good movie. But, I imagine it’s simply the freshness of the sting that’s to blame for the vitriol it’s receiving right now. In another few years, we’ll forget what we hated about it, or gloss over it the way we do dumb episodes of the series, and just chalk it up to a decent premise turned into a bad script.
Now, when it comes to the Blu-ray and DVD, about this, I think, we deserve to be angry. It’s been widely reported that the regular Blu-ray release only has a minimum of the available special features: only seven 2-8 minute EPK (electronic press kit) featurettes which are fairly entertaining, but entirely too short. These are only on the Blu-ray release, mind; nothing on the DVD is worth anything. If you want anything approaching proper special features, you can buy the Target AND/OR Best Buy exclusives which have DIFFERENT features attached. And, of course, if you want a commentary by J.J. Abrams, you’ll need to get the iTunes edition. It’s a frankly shameless attempt to gouge Trek completionists, who are pretty much the ones who would want to buy a movie ranked the worst of all time anyway. While I’ll marginally defend the movie itself, the way the Blu-ray and DVD distributors are handling things is pretty disgusting.
Also for the Star Trek fan out there who doesn’t already have them, it’s the Stardate Collection, which includes the first ten movies in the series (basically everything up to the Abrams beginning) on Blu-ray in one convenient box set. There are lots of extras on there.
Now, if we’re talking about a set that absolutely does NOT skimp, it’s this complete compendium of Friday the 13th films on Blu-ray in a 10 disc set. Just in time for this Friday (which is the 13th), this set covers every movie in the franchise, from the Jason-less first movie through the Kane Hodder years past his demise, his shooting into space, his rumble with Freddy, and then the 2009 reboot, which was only moderately okay. In fact, all of these movies at their best are only moderately okay. However, they’re, many of them, a whole lot of fun. I defy anyone to watch Friday the 13th V, VI, VII, or VIII and not laugh uproariously at some of the more outlandish deaths.
That’s what these movies are: a villain who is more of a hero than the heroes are. Nobody watches these movies to see how the final person kills Jason; they watch them to see what new, inventive, and horrendous ways Jason thinks to dispatch the slutty teenagers, the idiotic police deputy, or the asshole popular guy. Jason, perhaps more than any other horror icon, is all about racking up as much carnage as possible with the least amount of reason. He doesn’t even really change all that much when he becomes a zombie; he’s always just a big, hulking guy with a hockey mask (or a pillow case in Part 2) and a machete or whatever who remorselessly demolishes everybody in his path. Michael Myers seems to have a plan, Freddy Krueger is a sadist, Leatherface was brought up this way, but Jason Voorhees is just walk, murder, walk, murder. It’s that level of simplicity that I so admire in my homicidal lunatics.
This set has over 11 hours of never before seen bonus features, a whole DVD disc of other material, an excerpt from Crystal Lake Memories, the fantastic book chronicling the entire series, and a Crystal Lake embroidered counselor’s patch. If you’re a fan of Jason and of ’80s slasher nirvana, then this set is for you.
Also for the Friday fan, Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th is a film version of the aforementioned book with over 400 minutes of interviews and making-ofs from the series.
And now, for a movie that makes me feel old to think that it’s now 20. Tim Burton wrote and produced this stop-motion animation masterpiece from director Henry Selick (Coraline) with music by Danny Elfman, who’s scored the entire goth movement, it seems. It’s a terrific movie with very memorable character designs, a suitably creepy sensibility, and a very warm heart underneath. People have very disparate ways of watching this movie; to some it’s a Halloween staple, to others it’s a Christmas tradition, and still others think of it as a “whenever the heck I feel like it” favorite. And you’re all right! It’s only 76 minutes long, so it’s not like it’s such a slog to watch. But, Oogie Boogie is still terrifying, even 20 years and a full beard later. He’s full of bugs, you guys!
This release of the movie has the Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copies, so there’s really no excuse for people of any device not to watch and enjoy it again and again. And then go cry because you’re in your 30s now and movies you remember as a kid are now two decades old.
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage - Whilst we’re on the scary subject, check out Dario Argento’s first film as director, a weird and violent giallo movie with the beginnings of his trademark set pieces.
Frankenstein’s Army – The premise may be absurd (a Russian army battalion with a cameraman in their midst traipse through the wilderness in search of a scientist who could help them win WWII), but the scares certainly aren’t, as the horrifying monstrosities wearing Nazi garb pop out of various corridors and from behind doors in what amounts to a POV trip through a Universal Halloween Horror Nights maze.
AND NOW FOR TELEVISION:
This is also a week that sees a ton of popular TV shows’ most recent seasons come out, so everybody can catch up before the new seasons start.
The Big Bang Theory Season 6 - Join mainstream TV’s best examples of nerddom as they make with the funny and build sciencey stuff.
Castle Season 5 - Nathan Fillion is nothing short of a national treasure, and this show is him at his post-Mal best.
Homeland Season 2 - It’s that show everybody says is great but I’ve never seen.
Luther 3 – Idris Elba is back as the London detective with a whole lot of personal demons to work through. I only wish it were more than four episodes.