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This week there are several big releases which merit notice, including J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness, which is flying into homes in a variety of ways, including one super awesome Starfleet Phaser Limited Edition Gift Set (Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack). Speaking of gift sets, the Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection box set is also out this week. It features a full set of Friday the 13th movies, some of which have been released on Blu-ray for the first time and all of which come with some interesting bonus features. If you’ve been keeping an eye out for the latter, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is releasing the set on Friday, September 13, so keep your eyes peeled for the review, then.

You can read on to learn about some of September 10th’s best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.

”Star
Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray
The first few minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness give us a glimpse at the true mission of the Enterprise, which is “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations.” In the opening sequence, the Enterprise crew is working together to complete a mission to save a species of paint-covered individuals as well as a planet covered in bright red foliage. Not only is the opener exciting, it introduces viewers to a team that has fully gelled and a Kirk that is willing to be reckless but for the good of the team rather than proving himself a bad boy.

Star Trek Into Darkness is a more expansive film than J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, and because of this, it’s plot is a bit more convoluted. After several attacks against Starfleet, the Enterprise crew, including Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), and Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) go after the source of the attacks, which takes them to the Klingon homeworld and then on an adventure in space that culminates in a battle on the Earth itself.

Complicating the plot is Lieutenant Commander Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (Simon Pegg), who leaves the Enterprise crew only to pop up later on. A newbie, Lieutenant Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve), also joins the crew as they chase villains and mysteries around the galaxy. When a man known as Commander John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) proves to be working under an alias, it has a direct ramification to the Enterprise crew and the battle they are fighting. Is the enemy a stranger, or is it someone a little closer to home?

Abrams has always been great about putting together high octane storylines, and Star Trek Into Darkness is no exception. The story is thrilling, and even when the director takes creative license with classic characters like Spock and Kirk, there’s still a lot to look forward too. It’s only in the third act, when a ship comes crashing into San Francisco, that the plot gets a little too wild for my taste, but even then, the graphics are still pretty incredible.

The verdict? If you enjoyed Star Trek, Into Darkness is a more ambitious and fun story, but it’s still not exactly the same franchise so many fell in love with decades ago.

You can order Star Trek Into Darkness over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: Most of the extras are short featurettes that look at a specific aspect of making Star Trek Into Darkness. The most exciting of these is probably “The Klingon Home World,” which covers Klingon make-up, building the set, incorporating the Klingons into the new movies, reworking the language for the film, and Saldana’s excellent ability to pick up on speaking new languages.

Honestly, the bonus features could have all been tied together into a longer “Making of” featurette and that’s all you get with the basic Blu-ray, which might be why the Star Trek Into Darkness Starfleet Phaser Limited Edition gift set exists. If you are looking for other sets, keep your eyes peeled for retailer exclusives (I hear Target might be a good bet for other bonus features).

Other Special Features:
“Creating the Red Planet”
“Attack on Starfleet”
“The Enemy of my Enemy”
“Ship to Ship”
“Brawl By the Bay”
“Continuing the Mission”
“The Mission Continues”
”Parade’s
Parade’s End DVD
Parade’s End was partially financed by HBO and eventually landed a timeslot on the network this past February. The period drama is a 5-piece miniseries, sporting an all-star cast, a great director in Susanna White, and a script that was crafted by Tom Stoppard. What results is a complicated love triangle between an adoring woman, an unhappy woman, and a stuffy gentleman.

A love triangle may not seem like the greatest premise for a miniseries, but the characters are so well-drawn, we could probably watch them within any storytelling frame. In this narrative, Christoper Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch) marries a woman named Sylvia (Rebecca Hall) after it is determined he might be the father of her unborn child. Tietjens is an honorable man, and while his wife acts out and even has a fling with another man, there is no real thought of divorcing her. Then, on the brink of WWI, Tietjens meets Valentine Wannop, and his perspective on life and relationships begins to change.

Parade’s End is a period drama, but it isn’t strictly dramatic. The series blends elements of comedy and drama fluidly, creating a series that’s not always consistent, but is always surprising. The amusing moments help to break up some of the more somber ones, where Sylvia is panicking and saying horrible things and where men are getting half of their faces blown off in the trenches.

Based on a set of novels by Ford Madox Ford, Parade’s End might feel a little short by the time it reaches its conclusion. We spend so much time with these characters through the first four episodes that the wrap-up in the final episode is a little unsatisfying, even as the drama’s characters are given a fitting conclusion. If we could linger a little longer within the series, it might be perfect; as it stands, Parade’s End is touching, well-written, and engaging.

Best Special Feature: The only extra on the disc is an interview with Tom Stoppard by KCRW’s The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell. It was a radio interview, so it’s kind of unnerving because there’s nothing visual to look at. However, Stoppard’s an interesting (although softspoken guy) and if you get the chance to give it a listen while knitting or cleaning or whatever, it’s worth a perusal.

Regardless, if you are going to purchase HBO Home Entertainment’s set, you should be doing so for the feature itself. Parade’s End is available for $25.99 over at Amazon.
”Chicago
Chicago Fire Season 1 DVD
Dick Wolf’s done the police thing for years, and so he knows about brotherhood and teamwork. He currently has an executive producing credit on Chicago Fire, an hour long drama that appeared on NBC this past season. Created by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, the drama follows the lives of a Chicago Fire Department crew, as well as the various emergencies they face from day to day. The drama is as formulaic as the average procedural, but thanks to familiar characters and heart-wrenching moments, it’s still investing.

We meet the Chicago Fire Department crew in one of its worst moments. Facing a house fire, a brave firefighter heads in, but never comes out. A month after the death of Darden, there is still unrest in the crew, which only gets worse when newcomer Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett) shows up. Other cast members include the fast-thinking 25th Battalion Chief Wallace Boden (Eamonn Walker), firefighter and contractor Lieutenant Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer), paramedics Gabriela Dawson (Monica Raymund) and Leslie Elizabeth Shay (Lauren German), and ladies man Lieutenant Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney).

Chicago Fire is a true ensemble show, and the entire fire crew knows each other well. In fact, there’s plenty of competition in the department and watching pranks played on the newcomer and other jokes unfold brings a little lightness to a plot that is otherwise full of drama. The opening sequence is great, and the pilot’s an alright introduction to the series, but if you get the chance to catch the second episode, you’ll get a better idea of the sort of emotional highs and lows that the drama thrives on.

Chicago Fire isn’t changing the drama landscape any, but it’s still the right level of entertaining and emotional in that very specific Dick Wolf sort of way.

Best Special Feature: The extras with the set include podcasts and behind-the-scenes shots for different episodes. Of these, the best is a behind-the-scenes segment where Monica Raymund has a snake phobia and has to wrangle a reptile. She’s crying onscreen and it’s one of those moments where you feel empathy for the actress but also are extremely amused by the whole situation. The extras aren’t great, but that’s why the DVD set is already available for $27.99 on Amazon.

Other Special Features:
“Behind-the-Scenes”
“Otis’ Podcasts”
”Supernatural
Other September 10 releases.
Now that we’ve gotten past some of the more Cumberbatch-y releases, there’s plenty of other releases out this week that might very well suit your fancy. It’s a great week for television releases, from network to subscription cable stations, and some more of this week’s releases are listed, below. Unless otherwise noted, the releases are available on both Blu-ray and DVD.

Supernatural: The Complete Eighth Season
The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Sixth Season
Homeland: The Complete Second Season
Blue Bloods: The Complete Third Season
Frankenstein’s Army
The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond
We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks DVD
Army Wives: The Complete Seventh Season DVD
Tyler Perry Presents Peeples
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas 20th Anniversary Edition
Wish You Were Here DVD
Jennifer Eight

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