E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
On Blu-Ray & DVD Tuesday
There’s a lot of good science fiction to choose from this week. Prometheus arrives on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow, and whether you like it or not there’s no question it’s one of the highest-profile SF movies of the year. Fringe continues to dole out its final episodes. AMC’s The Walking Dead returns for what looks to be an amazing new season. But even in spite of all of that, I’m picking E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’s arrival on Blu-ray as our GFR Pick of the Week. Not just because it’s finally arriving in high def, along with a ton of special features, although that stuff is all cool. No, I’m highlighting it because Spielberg got rid of the walkie talkies.
Don’t get me wrong: E.T. is a great, classic film which I look forward to introducing my kids to at some point, but I’m also very glad to see Spielberg backing off on his silly decision to digitally replace guns in the hands of the FBI agents tracking E.T. with walkie talkies. It was a sad example of a veteran filmmaker second-guessing his younger, bolder self — something that George Lucas has become the patron saint of over the last two decades. The change wasn’t necessary, and it was frankly ridiculous in context. If government agents were chasing an escaped alien who happened to be tagging along with a kid, you better believe they’d be carrying guns. Who knows if that squishy mushroom-looking thing has a death ray or not?
I’ve often commented that kids films from the ‘80s often became classics because they weren’t afraid to show kids being kids — swearing, stealing, doing assorted stupid kid-related stuff — and, more importantly, they weren’t afraid to add some doses of reality and show kids in danger (and getting through it with courage, cleverness, and pluck). Restoring that original footage made the difference between me adding E.T. to my “buy pile,” or just shaking my head and letting it molder on a stack of cautionary tales.
“After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia,” Edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling
If Revolution and the impending return of The Walking Dead have left you craving some more post-apocalyptic goodness, you might want to check out this collection of short stories.
If the melt-down, flood, plague, the third World War, new Ice Age, Rapture, alien invasion, clamp-down, meteor, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow look like? Some of the biggest names in YA and adult literature answer that very question in this short story anthology, each story exploring the lives of teen protagonists raised in catastrophe’s wake—whether set in the days after the change, or decades far in the future.
New York Times bestselling authors Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Carrie Ryan, Beth Revis, and Jane Yolen are among the many popular and award-winning storytellers lending their talents to this original and spellbinding anthology.
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (The CW, 9/8c)
If you somehow managed to make it this long without seeing Joss Whedon’s brilliant drama-comeda-tragedo-musical, you can see the full thing tonight on the CW. Or, you know, online where it’s been for ages.
Face Off (Syfy, 9/8c) — “Who’s the New Who?”
The artists are challenged to create new makeups inspired by Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book.
“Helix Wars” by Eric Brown
If you misread that title as “Halo Wars” at first, you’re actually not that far off. Both involve a colossal bit of alien engineering. In the case of Helix Wars, it’s the Helix: as the synopsis describes it, it’s a “vast spiral of ten thousand worlds turning around its sun. Aeons ago, the enigmatic Builders constructed the Helix as a refuge for alien races on the verge of extinction.” I bet the homeowner’s association is a nightmare.
Two hundred years ago, humankind came to the Helix aboard a great colony ship, and the Builders conferred on them the mantle of peacekeepers. For that long, peace has reigned on the Helix. But when shuttle pilot Jeff Ellis crash-lands on the world of Phandra, he interrupts a barbarous invasion from the neighbouring Sporelli — who scheme to track down and exterminate Ellis before he can return to New Earth and inform the peacekeepers.
Helix Wars, sequel to the best-selling Helix, is a fast-paced adventure novel about the ultimate threat to the Helix itself.
Hot Set (Syfy, 10/9c) — “Down the Rabbit Hole”
The competing designers are faced with a challenge based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Specifically they have to create sets designed for Alice’s size changes: one in which she’s a giant and one in which she’s tiny.
“The Hydrogen Sonata” by Iain M. Banks
The Scottish writer is serving up a new installment in his acclaimed, and long-running, “Culture” series.
The Scavenger species are circling. It is, truly, provably, the End Days for the Gzilt civilization.
An ancient people, organized on military principles and yet almost perversely peaceful, the Gzilt helped set up the Culture ten thousand years earlier and were very nearly one of its founding societies, deciding not to join only at the last moment. Now they’ve made the collective decision to follow the well-trodden path of millions of other civilizations; they are going to Sublime, elevating themselves to a new and almost infinitely more rich and complex existence.
Amid preparations though, the Regimental High Command is destroyed. Lieutenant Commander (reserve) Vyr Cossont appears to have been involved, and she is now wanted – dead, not alive. Aided only by an ancient, reconditioned android and a suspicious Culture avatar, Cossont must complete her last mission given to her by the High Command. She must find the oldest person in the Culture, a man over nine thousand years old, who might have some idea what really happened all that time ago.
It seems that the final days of the Gzilt civilization are likely to prove its most perilous.
Little Shop of Horrors: Director’s Cut (Blu-Ray & DVD)
One of my favorite movie musicals of all time is getting a new director’s cut on Blu-ray and DVD. The director’s cut includes an alternate ending that clocks in at a whopping 20 minutes and which saw the man-eating alien plant Audrey II growing to enormous size and stomping around New York, Godzilla style. You can watch a clip from the alternate ending right here.
Prometheus (Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Download)
It’s Prometheus. What else is there to say? Some hate it, some love it, but I’m betting some from both categories will pick up a copy just to watch it again.
Arrow (The CW, 8/7c) — “Pilot”
If you were a fan of Smallville, you might want to give this not-a-spinoff a shot. It looks like it’ll be a bit more down-to-Earth than that series, which only makes sense for a show whose hero has no super-powers other than being really, really good with a bow.
The Neighbors (ABC, 8:30/9:30c) — “Bathroom Etiquette”
“Marty and Debbie help Larry and Jackie’s kids, Dick Butkus and Reggie Jackson, get ready for their first day at school with humans. But when an antibullying tactic goes awry, the Bird-Kersees grow frustrated with their neighbors’ parenting advice.” Please, tell me none of you are actually watching this show.
Nova (PBS, 10/9c) — “What Makes Us Human?”
The long-running series examines the things that set us apart from all the other species on the planet, including our closest relatives amongst the apes and hominids.
Atlas Shrugged: Part II (In theaters)
The first film didn’t exactly set the box-office on fire ($4.56 million U.S. box office on an estimated $6.5 million according to IMDb), but we’re getting a second film based on Ayn Rand’s novel. Woo?
Fringe (Fox, 9/8c) — “The Recordist”
It sounds like the latest episode of Fringe will be taking a page from Walter Miller Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, with the team discovering a conclave of people dedicated to preserving mankind’s history despite the whole oppressive Observer regime thing.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network, 9:30am/8:30am c) — “Front Runners”
“The rebels plan strikes on targets in Iziz under Ahsoka’s supervision; a leader of the rebellion is named.” I don’t know who any of those people are, but I wish them well.
MythBusters (Discovery Channel, 8/7c) — “Trench Torpedo”
There’s not many hints to grab onto in the synopsis for tonight’s episode: “A shock-wave test is conducted; a balloon myth is tested.” Well, explosions are always good, right?
The Walking Dead (AMC, 9/8c) — “Seed”
The new season picks up some time after the events of the season two finale. After the group has spent some time moving place to place, Rick and the survivors discover the prison that could make for a great, zombie-proof home away from home. Or so they think…