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If you are a regular Blu-ray or DVD purchaser, you’ve probably been saving your monies for at least one of this week’s big releases. From True Blood putting out its fifth season to National Lampoon’s Vacation 30th anniversary, there are a ton of releases to choose from this week, and most of them come stacked with bonus features (and even some pretty sweet packaging). Read on to learn about some of May 21st's best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.
If you are looking for our coverage of the National Lampoon’s Vacation 30th Anniversary Blu-ray, please head here.
True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray
After an explosive Season 4 finale, True Blood kicked off its fifth season right where the show left off: with a couple of dead bodies and a resurrection plan. Various storylines swell from this initial plot following Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), Tara (Rutina Wesley), Pam (Kristin Bauer Van Straten), and a very dead Debbie. True Blood has always been a show that deftly switches between plotlines focusing on characters of different ages and species and in Season 5, the show grows even more expansive.
The Authority, a group of religious and very powerful vampires with sway throughout the globe, comes into major prominence during Season 5, even as their numbers dwindle. Both Bill and Eric are tied up with The Authority for most of the season, which leads to plenty of vampire religion lore regarding a goddess named Lilith and also plenty of rambunctious sex scenes. More importantly, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) has been a reasonable vampire—excepting his occasional possessiveness towards Sookie—throughout the series and his transformation during the fifth season into a Lilith believer is fascinating and a little frightening.
As usual, some of the plotlines on True Blood fare better than others. Great examples of these include fire monsters and the Jessica, Hoyt, and Jason love triangle that is still playing out well into the season despite being redundant early on. If you can manage to get through the slow plots, you’ll find a season that offers viewers plenty of suspenseful moments and ties up plenty of characters' arcs while still leaving us with a cliffhanger of an ending. If you missed the episodes during Season 5’s first run on the subscription cable station, catching them on Blu-ray is a worthwhile experience, especially since True Blood is a show that runs a little on the dark side, due to plenty of scenes occurring during vampire hours. Any chance to catch this series in HD is always a better option.
HBO is gearing up for a sixth season of True Blood, which will begin airing on June 16, sans showrunner Alan Ball.
Nab a copy of True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: HBO’s sets have always been pretty great, but the packaging and menus have steadily grown better. Blu-ray copies now come with nifty inserts offering fans DVD and digital options and the ugly blue Blu-ray headings on most DVDs are easily removeable within the True Blood Blu-ray set. It looks so good on my shelf, I feel like I can almost count the packaging as a bonus feature, but since there’s some pretty great segments with the set, I’ll count those, too.
The “Inside the Episodes” segments are always worth a watch, but I especially liked “True Blood Episode Six: ‘Autopsy’” Behind the Scenes. Through use of multiple camera screens, “Episode Six” is actually available in full, with interview segments and behind-the-scenes shots explaining how ideas came about and then came into fruition onscreen. If you like that sort of thing, it’s actually a really fun way to watch an episode, with fun facts abounding, including the insane asylum in the episode being the same place Ball shot parts of Six Feet Under.
Other Special Features:
Flashbacks and Flashforwards
“True Blood Lines”
“Inside The Episodes”
The Last Stand Blu-ray
The plot in The Last Stand is about as ridiculous and off-the-charts as fans have come to expect from mid-budget action films. When a drug lord (Eduardo Noriega) escapes his prisoner transport detail in the U.S. with the aid of his underlings, he heads south in a super nice Chevy Corvette C6 ZR1. The only thing standing between the cartel leader and the border is the small town of Sommerton Junction.
For a film brought to audiences by a director who speaks no English, The Last Stand offers plenty of action-timed laughs and quippy comments from Arnold and Jackass’ Johnny Knoxville, who plays a gun enthusiast with a “historical” armory in the small town. In fact, the arsenal of supporting characters surrounding Arnold are cast perfectly and (besides Knoxville) include Luis Guzman, Forest Whitaker, and Jaimie Alexander, who has shown a capacity to be an action heroine before in Thor.
Big guns, standoffs, and plenty of car chases are all tenets of the popcorn action flick, but there are one or two surprisingly impactful moments, as well. Big Love’s Harry Dean Stanton plays a hardass farmer in one of these moments, when he attempts to square off against a bigger bully. Still, it’s the gun and car chases that keep The Last Stand movie pushing forward at a pleasant pace.
The Last Stand is more about the action sequences, but if you do decide to invest in this bit of escapism, there aren’t big enough explosions or intricate CGI work to make a Blu-ray purchase a must-have. Still, Amazon has the Blu-ray to order for $14.99 and a DVD to order for $13.99, and an extra dollar for nicer picture isn’t all that much.
Best Special Feature: The Last Stand offers plenty of bonus features and most of them give audiences looks behind the scenes and at the creation of the film. I was surprisingly excited about “Actor-Cam Anarchy,” which features Knoxville and Alexander walking fans through a long and cold morning on set. We get to meet many of the people involved with the making of the film and see how all of the connective parts of filmmaking come together on set to produce actual content. The shaky camera and home movie effect leave something to be desired, but otherwise, it’s an information-filled segment.
Other Special Features:
“Not in My Town: Making The Last Stand”
“Cornfield Chaos: Scene Breakdown”
“The Dinkum Firearm and Historic Weaponry Museum Tour”
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Beautiful Creatures Blu-ray
It’s difficult to bring a teen franchise to the big screen that will have a broad enough appeal to entice fans from different age groups to show up. Warner Bros. recently attempted the feat with Beautiful Creatures, a warm teen romance offering witchcraft and high end fashion displays, as well as plenty of the usual teen tropes. Beautiful Creatures’ box office take wasn’t close to enough to justify moving forward with a full franchise release, but even so, the script is a huge leap forward from its source material, and offers audiences reasons to invest.
Richard LaGravenese’s film tells a story of a young romance between a boy named Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) and a girl named Lena (Alice Englert ). The two meet at school in a small southern town where Ethan is smitten immediately. Lena, on the other hand, is busy being ostracized as the relative of a recluse and doesn’t notice Ethan right away. Eventually, the romance is able to blossom, just in time for a loud, proud family of casters and a curse that has lasted for generations to come into play. If that plotline sounds campy, it is, but it’s also a fun and enjoyable piece of fluff led by an all-star cast that also includes Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Viola Davis, and Margo Martindale.
This isn’t to say Beautiful Creatures is the perfect film. It runs long, and while I personally didn’t feel it dragged, I have heard others relate that theory. Additionally, the film may sorely disappoint anyone who enjoyed the characters and the detail present in the book. There’s still plenty of detail in the movie, but it comes in the form of CGI and costume choices while many of the book’s subplots and eccentricities are shortened or cut out completely. Anyone who enjoys soapy drama and can dig the occasional supernatural romance should be able to find plenty to like about Beautiful Creatures, but those who don’t fit that description may want to look elsewhere.
Beautiful Creatures is available via Amazon.
Best Special Feature: Even the introductions to the bonus features are melodramatic on the disc. Most of the segments are short, behind-the-scenes takes on certain aspects of the film, including adapting the book and telling a tale of young love. While, each of these could have been included in an extended “Making of” segment, I especially enjoyed the “Designing the Costumes” segment, which takes a look into the wild costume design in the series. If you are a fan of period looks and especially lacy, Victorian looks, you’ll probably like this segment, as well.
Other Special Features:
“Book To Screen”
“Between Two Worlds”
“Beautiful Creatures: Designing the Costumes”
Book Trailer for Icons
Other May 21 Releases
There are a slew of movies featuring older actors with older perspectives who are enjoying, or not enjoying, the golden age of their lives. Morgan Freeman has lately been in a lot of them. However, Stand Up Guys is not that movie. While the generic old age humor is occasionally present in the film, violence and a nostalgia for the days of the past make up the core of the film, which follows gangster regular Al Pacino, as well as Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken in the days after Pacino’s Val is released from prison. As you can guess, things don’t go so smoothly for the trio of old timers. Still, the film is entertaining and offers an impressive core cast that also features The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment’s release, like many of the others this week, comes with several featurettes, as well as deleted scenes and audio commentary. Check out the full list of extras, and don’t forget to check out some of May 21’s other releases, below.
Unless otherwise noted, releases are available on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Stand Up Guys
National Lampoon’s Vacation 30th Anniversary Blu-ray
Last Kind Words
Ultimate Gangster’s Collections (Little Caesar, etc) Blu-ray
Ultimate Gangster’s Collections (Mean Streets, etc) Blu-ray
Perception: The Complete First Season
Vegas Vacation Blu-ray
The ABC’s of Death