This week, we dispense with the news and cut to the chase to bring you two huge new gift sets timed perfectly for this summer’s Bat-mania. What will earn you more geek cred: whipping out the Batman flash drive or watching the Dark Knight prologue in high definition, awash in the glory of Blu-ray?

The Batman Begins Gift Set: It’s Christmas In July!

July 18 is right around the corner, which means you’ll soon see plenty of Batman merchandise coming your way (look for the animated Batman: Gotham Knight to hit shelves this week). But if you want a sneak peek at the upcoming sequel The Dark Knight, you can have it with the Batman Begins Limited Edition. Both the 2-Disc Standard and Single-disc Blu-ray releases feature the main attraction: a sneak peek at Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight! (Edit: The six-minute opening prologue originally screened in front of I Am Legend IMAX is only available on Blu-ray; a two-minute sneak peek accompanies the standard release.)

As a refresher, said prologue opens The Dark Knight with one of many sequences shot in IMAX: a full bank heist scene. We won’t spoil it here, but there are robbers with clown masks, plenty of double-crosses, and your first extended look at Heath Ledger‘s critically acclaimed performance as the Joker.

Each version also comes with its own set of goodies, so you have a choice to make. In the standard disc release, find five collectible postcards, printed key art, $7.50 towards seeing TDK in theaters, and a 128MB branded Batman flash drive. In the Blu-ray release, you’ll get lenticular 3-D art, a comic book adaptation of the TDK prologue, and a booklet detailing the making of the TDK prologue. Our advice: given the choice, opt for Blu-ray — if only to watch the TDK prologue in as close to its intended IMAX glory as possible.

Bat-alternatives: Make it a Mummy Week

But Batman’s not the only superhero making a push on DVD this week to build buzz for his summer adventure. Get a sneak peek at The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor before it hits theaters this August by picking up the newly restored The Mummy and its sequel, The Mummy Returns. (Those cheeky folks at Universal are also releasing a special edition of Boris Karloff‘s 1932 classic, The Mummy, with a handful of commentaries and featurettes by the likes of Rick Baker, a documentary on the legacy of the Mummy, and another doc about Universal monster movies narrated by Kenneth Branagh.)

In addition to their own respective bonus materials (a combination of previously released cast and crew commentaries, plus new storyboard-to-film comparisons and features) both The Mummy and The Mummy Returns include the three-minute Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Sneak Peek.

Here glimpse finished footage (seen in the trailer) and unfinished wire work and fight choreography from behind-the-scenes, as well as on-set snippets with director Rob Cohen, producer Stephen Sommers, and stars Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, and Michelle Yeoh. Both Mummys, the Boris Karloff version, and a new Collector’s Edition of Van Helsing also come with a free movie coupon to see The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in theaters.

Click for this week’s new releases!

The Ruins

Tomatometer: 44%

Horror fans with green thumbs might be doubly delighted by this tale of four American coeds terrorized by — yup — killer plants high atop an ancient Mayan temple. With all the tired ghost stories, J-horror remakes, and psychopaths-with-knives in recent memory, homicidal vines and makeshift amputations in a gory R-rated flick like this are almost a breath of fresh air! But while The Ruins scored surprisingly high considering its genre, anyone but true horror mavens are likely to be turned off.

Bonus Features:

If The Ruins even remotely appeals to you, then opt for the Unrated Edition for gorier scares and an alternate ending (Duh duh duhhhhn!). Featurettes on the handsomely constructed ruins set, the killer vines effects, and a feature-length commentary provide insights into the making of a modern day horror film, and a taste of the classic exploitation films that influenced the filmmakers.

(Watch a deleted scene from The Ruins here.)


Tomatometer: 65%

Director Kimberly Peirce made her feature debut with the Oscar-winning Boys Don’t Cry; nine years later, her long-awaited sophomore effort focuses on another hot-button issue: the military practice of returning soldiers to duty after their contract has ended. Theatrically, Stop-Loss made less than half of its $25 million budget, but critics agree that the film and its controversial topic deserve further discussion, one likely to be had in a second life on DVD.

Bonus Features:

In addition to a making-of featurette and a peek into the boot camp experience of star Ryan Phillippe and his fellow cast members, Peirce lends her thoughts to 11 deleted scenes and a feature commentary (with co-writer Mark Richard) that offers further insights into why she made Stop-Loss.

Superhero Movie

Tomatometer: 13%

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s another spoof movie, from the mind behind such previous spoofs as Scary Movie 4 and Scary Movie 3. This time, writer-director Craig Mazin serves up an unfunny cocktail of the expected lame pop culture jokes and genre gags that we all see coming as soon as each “Fill in the Blank” Movie is announced. Shockingly, even the participation of producer David Zucker (Airplane!) can’t make the sight of Leslie Nielsen dry-humping a corpse hilarious.

Bonus Features:

As if we needed more Superhero Movie, the DVD comes in an Extended Edition that also proclaims itself “Longer, Funnier, and More Outrageous.” We’re sure it’s longer; it may be even more outrageous. Just don’t count on it being funnier.

The Tracey Fragments

Tomatometer: 38%

Before she melted geek hearts the world over with her pregnant teenage one-liners, Ellen Page filmed this experimental Canadian indie by film and television vet (and sometimes-Degrassi director) Bruce McDonald. Watch her wander the streets of Toronto wearing a shower curtain, losing her mind and manipulating yours in the twisty, non-linear psychological drama.

Bonus Features:

Watch the making-of featurette (a film-school lesson in itself, considering McDonald combines non-linear storytelling, flashbacks, and literal fragments on the screen) and interviews with MacDonald and Page, plus entries from the Tracey Re:fragmented contest, where contestants could download and remix footage from the film with their own, or re-edit the film itself.

Jet Li’s Fearless: Unrated Director’s Cut

Tomatometer: 73%

Jet Li‘s “last” martial arts epic opened to modest success in 2006 and may already occupy a spot in your video collection, but there’s a new reason to seek it out this week on DVD: the Director’s Cut features 30 more minutes of footage, including scenes with Michelle Yeoh that were deleted from the original release cut. Li plays Huo Yuanjia, the real-life martial arts master who took on the world’s best fighters, helped revive the practice of wushu in turn-of-the-century China, and whose life gained mythological status long after his death.

Bonus Features:

Three versions of Ronny Yu‘s film come in the new release: the original U.S. theatrical cut (104 minutes), an internationally-released version (110 minutes), and the full director’s cut featuring scenes with Yeoh and Thai fighter Somluck Kansing (140 minutes).

Fastlane: The Complete Series

Tomatometer: 73%

If you were watching television in 2002, then you might remember the series Fastlane. If not, here’s the premise: two hotshot cops (Peter Facinelli and Bill Bellamy) are recruited to bring down bad guys in L.A. with the help of a smokin’ supervisor (Tiffani Thiessen) and a “candy store” of impounded cars, guns, and cash — Miami Vice meets The Fast and the Furious. With creator McG (Charlie’s Angels) to guide it, how could this show go wrong? (Cut to the end of Season One, when the show was cancelled. I guess huge car chases, elaborate sets, and over $2 million an episode was too rich for WB and Fox’s blood.)

Bonus Features:

The fact that Fastlane is available for the first time since airing is a bonus in itself. Watch all 22 episodes for their mix of hot bodies, fast rides, and pure adrenaline, plus see guest stars like Jay Mohr, Krista Allen, Ali Landry, Robert Forster, Bill Duke, Naomi Campbell, and Mischa Barton. Featurettes and bloopers are also included in the six-disc release.

‘Til next week, happy viewing!

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