Spartacus: 50th Anniversary Edition
This Spartacus doesn't have nearly as much blood or as many boobs as the post-300 TV update, but the 1960 epic (now on Blu-ray) has better performances — especially Peter Ustinov, who won an Oscar. Director Stanley Kubrick plays mostly by Hollywood's rules here. Bonuses include the infamous deleted "oysters or snails" scene, which isn't about seafood.
Clash of the Olympians
Way better than Clash of the Titans, the 16 (!) sword-and-sandal movies from the late '50s/early '60s in this four-disc box include plenty of muscles and monsters. There are lots of Italian oddities here, like Hercules Against the Moon Men and Goliath and the Sins of Babylon, dubbed and cheesy as hell. But they're tons of fun — and perfect companion viewing to Spartacus.
Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma
Laptop whiz Steven Ellison doesn't build tracks; he settles into them and picks at them piece by piece. Thom Yorke (who guests here) is a huge fan. No surprise, since the best parts of Cosmogramma sound like a funkier Kid A. Flying Lotus spices up his electronic whirrs with some serious jazz flow. Again, no surprise — he's related to John Coltrane.
Otis Redding: Live on the Sunset Strip
This two-disc set gathers three complete shows Redding and his band performed at the Whisky A Go Go in 1966. It's raw and amazing R&B, as Redding, 24 and at the top of his game, tears through some of his best songs, including "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "Respect," and "These Arms of Mine." You can practically hear the sweat dripping from his forehead.
Frank Zappa — The Freak Out List
Inspired by the long list of names found on the Mothers of Invention's first album, this illuminating documentary looks at the many artists Zappa named as influences: classical composers, avant-garde nutjobs, jazz legends, and doo-wop hitmakers. Band members, historians, and stuffy critics chime in. Plus, there's lots of footage of Zappa weirding out onstage and in the studio.
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