CATEGORIES DVDsThree giants of popular culture come to the fore this week in special editions and Blu-ray discs. Not content with the DVD and Blu-ray release of 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,' Warner Home Video has conjured two Ultimate DVD editions of the first two films in the franchise, 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' and 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.' The Clint Eastwood-produced 'Johnny Mercer: The Dream's on Me' profiles the famed composer and lyricist, a giant of the Great American Songbook. And a literary giant, Sherlock Holmes, comes to DVD in a collection of rare TV episodes from the BBC's 1960s series starring Peter Cushing as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective. 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Ultimate Edition' and 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Ultimate Edition'
Why the Re-Release? Coinciding with the DVD and Blu-ray release of 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,' Warner Home Video is inundating your local retailer with the first two of eight Harry Potter Ultimate Editions (yes, there's two more Potter films left) as well as a 'Harry Potter Years 1-6 Gift Set.' The Ultimate Editions are meant to be the definitive versions of the Potter films: They're five-disc sets with theatrical and extended versions of each film as well as one chapter of an eight-part documentary, 'Creating the World of Harry Potter.'
New Special Features: The sets include a 48-page photo book, five hours of special features including a virtual tour of Hogwarts; deleted scenes; a 'Hogwarts Yearbook'; a 'Guide to Ghosts' and more. The Blu-ray versions add an In-Movie Experience with director Chris Columbus, which is an interactive viewer experience where the entire film is examined with PiP, storyboard comparisons and still galleries; as well as the WB Maximum Movie Mode picture-in-picture programming, cast walk-ons, focus points, and graphics; BD Live with access to worldwide events, special guest participants, and community features. 'Chamber of Secrets' also includes a conversation with J.K. Rowling and screenwriter Steve Kloves.
Are They Worth Upgrading? If you're a diehard Harry Potter fan these sets (priced at a reasonable $39.92 DVD/$49.99 Blu-ray) are a must for your collection, especially the Blu-ray editions. But you really, really have to be crazy about Harry.
'Johnny Mercer: The Dream's on Me'
What's the Deal? This Georgia-born lyricist, singer and composer -- whose name was a household word in the '40s, '50s and '60s -- has always been overshadowed by his songs. His solo and collaborative efforts have kept the world singing for more than eight decades with such titles as 'Hooray for Hollywood,' 'Jeepers Creepers,' 'That Old Black Magic,' 'On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,' 'Skylark,' 'Blues in the Night,' 'Moon River,' 'The Days of Wine and Roses' and many, many more. Clint Eastwood and Warner Home Video put together this documentary to bring Mercer's name back to the top of the Great American Songbook.
Noteworthy Features: Rare interviews and performances by Mercer himself, movie and television clips of Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Fred Astaire, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Tony Bennett, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and others performing Mercer's tunes. Also includes performances by Audra McDonald, Michael Feinstein, Jamie Cullum, Dr. John, and Morgan Eastwood.
Is It Collection Worthy? The Great American Songbook is having a renaissance, with more attention paid to such greats as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and the Gershwins. It's about time that Mercer got his due -- music lovers need to add this to their collection. Next up we hope: Hoagy Carmichael.
'The Sherlock Holmes Collection'
What's the Deal? Peter Cushing will forever be known as Grand Moff Tarkin in 'Star Wars' and as Van Helsing in a host of British Hammer vampire films. But did you know that he also played Sherlock Homes in 1968 for 16 episodes of the BBC's celebrated -- and long sought after -- Sherlock Holmes series? Only five episodes of that series survive and, coincidentally, all five star Cushing as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective, with Nigel Stock as Dr. Watson.
Noteworthy Features: This three-disc set from A&E Home Entertainment includes 'The Hound of the Baskervilles,' 'A Study in Scarlet,' 'The Boscombe Valley Mystery,' 'The Sign of Four' and 'The Blue Carbuncle,' as well as a documentary, 'Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective.'
Is It Collection Worthy? With the Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey Jr.-Jude Law 'Sherlock Holmes' ready to open Christmas Day, interest in Holmes is hitting a new peak. Fans of the great detective will want to add this set to their collection to get another take on the man from Baker Street.