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Blu-ray/DVD releases you don’t want to miss

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Updated: June 19, 2012 12:32PM

From action-packed thrillers and goofy comedies, to thought-provoking dramas and some must-see concert titles, here are some Blu-ray/DVD titles that may have escaped your attention in the past few weeks — and some key titles you may consider pre-ordering So get a big bowl of popcorn and gather ’round that big flat-screen TV for movie night.

“Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows,” (DVD/Blu-ray/digital combo pack; Warner Bros. Home Entertainment). Loved the first film? Well, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are back for more sleuthing in this hugely entertaining sequel. This time out, Professor Moriarty is the villain and the action moves from London to France, Germany and Switzerland. Loads of fun for the whole family to enjoy together.

“The Three Stooges,” (Blu-ray and DVD; Fox Home Entertainment; available July 17). Before you can say nyuck, nyuck, nyuck, pre-order this one for Dad. More or less an homage to the iconic slapstick trio of Moe, Larry and Curly starring Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso, it’s pretty much a guy thing — ; ’nuff said. The great thing about this one is that it’s actually child-friendly (my 6 and 8-year-old godsons couldn’t stop laughing in the theater!) The Blu-ray bonuses include deleted/extended scenes (can’t get enough of those Stooges!), and a great look at the classic sound effects used in the filming.

Want the real thing instead? Then pick up “The Three Stooges: The Ultimate Collection” (DVD, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, $95.99). Twenty discs will give Dad the ultimate Moe, Larry and Curly fix (as well as all the shorts that featured Shemp, Joe and Curly Joe). The 190 black-and-white classics (some are nearly 80 years old!) have been restored for both picture and sound, so you’ve probably never seen (or heard) them so good. The shorts were previously released in individual year-specific sets, but did not include the massive bonus materials packaged here. Informative and entertaining, including two feature films and Stooge solo shorts (the Shemp solo efforts show how funny the man truly was before he ever joined brothers Moe and Curly in the Stooge world), fans of the comedy icons won’t be disappointed.

“In Darkness,” (Blu-ray and DVD; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). Not necessarily a familiar title, but a film that you will not soon forget. This Academy Award-nominated foreign film nominee is based on a true story of a Polish sewer worker/petty thief who saves a group of Jews from the Nazis by allowing them to stay (for a fee) in the labyrinthine sewers where he stashes stolen goods he has amassed during the war. The gripping and emotional story is powerful and disturbing and emotional on so many levels for so many reasons you will won’t expect.

“Hondo,” (Blu-ray; Paramount Home Entertainment). John Wayne stars as the title character, a half-breed cavalry rider who is enlisted to protect a stubborn pioneer rancher (Geraldine Page) and her son from warring Apaches. This one’s a solid and often overlooked Wayne title, with a story based on a Louis L’Amour book to boot! The cinematography is majestic; the score equally impressive. The characters are multilayered and the storyline is engaging.

“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” (Blu-ray/DVD and Blu-ray-3D combo packs; Paramount Home Entertainment). Don’t know who he does it, but Tom Cruise (who reportedly did a slew of his own stunts in the film) continues to make the series fun, exciting and a breeze to watch. Cruise is back as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, in a thriller worthy of the franchise’s legacy. The special effects and stunts are impossibly cool (the editing is some of the best in recent action film memory). There are nearly two hours of bonus features that take you behind the scenes and everywhere in between (a look at the way cool props and the Life Masks is a must).

“Hugo,” (Blu-ray; Paramount Home Entertainment). Breathtaking is the only way to describe Martin Scorsese’s 11-time Oscar-nominated film that was positively brilliant in 3-D (it’s available in Blu-ray 3D edition as well) in the theaters; it’s equally magical at home on your flatscreen even if it is 2D. The making-of featurette is a must to fully appreciate. Ironically, it’s ultimately a movie about moviemaking, but that’s getting ahead of the story. Enjoy.

The Beatles “Yellow Submarine,” (Blu-ray; Capitol Studios) This re-release of the animated feature film is a treat that your totally coo-coo-ca-choo Dad would truly enjoy. The 1968 film has been completely restored, so the visuals and the iconic soundtrack will blow you away. An 8-minute making-of documentary isn’t nearly enough time to delve into the behind-the-scenes universe of the film, but let’s take what we can get! The combo packs also come bearing gifts: reproductions of animation cels from the film, collectible stickers, and a 16-page booklet. The kaleidoscope of colors never looked so fantastic.

“American Masters presents Johnny Carson: King of Late Night,” (Blu-ray and DVD, PBS; available July 17). It recently aired on PBS and I still can’t get enough of the two hours this thought-provoking documentary encompasses. Yes, there’s the insightful look at Carson’s 30-year run on “The Tonight Show.” But there’s also a bevy of clips, photographs, home movies, interviews and soundbites that give us a look at the man behind the icon. Carson was king of the publicity recluses throughout his career, so the glimpses into his childhood, his marriages, his parenting skills, the loss of one son, his loving relationship with his mother, is a stunning portrait. Not a tell-all by any means; more of a “this is your life, Johnny.” And thanks for being part of ours for so many years.

“The Grateful Dead: “All the Years Combine: The DVD Collection” (Shout! Factory). Okay, if you spent your teen years (or beyond!) traipsing around the country in hot pursuit of this iconic band’s live shows, or amassing every bootleg ever produced these 12 concert films on 14 discs (along with a 40-page booklet) is a dream come true. (One of the earliest bands to film all their live shows, the Grateful Dead must have known that home video would be the wave of the future.) Via one doc or another, the set chronicles their seminal shows, everything from their 1974 run at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco to the band’s final concert in Soldier Field in 1995. If you thought their jamming went on for days in concert and on their albums, viewing this 2,280 minutes of film footage will prove it. The bonus material includes the 1992 doc “Backstage Pass.”

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