At Long Last Love, Adventure Time and House of Cards
House of Cards (Sony Pictures)
With House of Cards, we begin to think it might not be all over for the charismatic, twice Oscar'd Kevin Spacey, whose career choices have long left a lot to be desired. It's a meaty performance in a juicy ongoing political drama, and proof that the small screen can still attract A-list Hollywood talent. Well, "small screen" with a twist: This is the second exclusive series from Netflix, and the first to generate real buzz. For me it's more about the presence of executive producer David Fincher, who also guided this ship by directing the first two of the 13 roughly-60-minute episodes. An adaptation of the popular BBC miniseries, it centers on a power-mad U.S. congressman who knows all and will use it however he sees fit to rise to the very top.
Of course, it's full 1080p here, and presented at an unusual 2:1 aspect ratio, so it probably looks better than you've ever seen it, if you were streaming the series via the beloved subscription service. (I love how Fincher's work looks in HD.) There are no extras whatsoever, just the hope of a second season before too long.
At Long Last Love (Fox)
Peter Bogdanovich's much-maligned tribute to the music of Cole Porter skipped DVD altogether and finally debuted on Blu-ray in this "Director's Definitive Edition." Rushed into theaters way back in 1975 and subsequently tweaked, revisited, restored and re-tweaked; including an overhaul with neither Bogdanovich's knowledge or consent; the movie now presented in this, his preferred version. Indeed, this not-for-everyone, tongue-in-cheek period musical romantic comedy displays the best balance yet of story, character and music, and is a treat for both Porter-philes and nostalgia buffs. (My parents dragged me to see it, as a wee lad, and I didn't see what all the hatin' was about.)
While a documentary about the long arduous journey to Blu-ray or a heartfelt commentary from the eloquent Mr. B. would surely have been welcome, instead we are given an isolated score track. This is an ideal bonus for a musical, if also a curiosity: The songs were recorded live on-set, a la Les Miserables, so why are there distant strains of singing voices? No matter, loyal supporters will surely rejoice, and the irony of "At Long Last" in the title isn't lost on me.
Adventure Time The Complete First and Second Seasons (Cartoon Network/Warner)
The brainchild of creator Pendleton Ward, Adventure Time follows the exploits of brave, fun-loving Finn and his (magical, talking) dog Jake. There is a backstory for them and their weird world, but it's probably best to just think of this as a total fantasyland with some dark underpinnings, and it has continued to evolve across the past five seasons and counting. The Cartoon Network show neatly fills that void between kid-skewing and grown-up 'toons, with the free spirits and outright goofiness of youth tempered by some wildly imaginative writing. And the results are pretty darned irresistible, although some viewers are put off by the deliberately, gleefully cheesy animation.
The studio put out some hodge-podge DVDs of assorted episodes, but these are the first comprehensive full-season collections, and now in HD for the first time. (These First and Second Seasons sets are separate, same-day releases.) The extras are fairly impressive, with extensive audio commentaries, creator interviews and behind-the-scenes content. Each Blu-ray also includes a code to unlock its complete season on UltraViolet Digital Copy.