DVD Round-Up: 'Arrietty,' 'Sherlock,' and 'Route 66'
Week of May 22nd
Published: 05/20/2012, Last Updated: 05/21/2012 02:37am
The top anime release of the year is due out this week, The Secret World of Arrietty (Buena Vista, "G," $29.99, BD $39.99), the latest anime feature from Studio Ghibli. While Hayao Miyazaki did not direct Arrietty, he did write the screenplay and produce the film, which has all the visual brilliance and sensitive storytelling of the typical Ghibli movie. The resourceful eponymous heroine of Arrietty is a "Borrower," a miniature girl whose family lives quiet comfortably in a home constructed in a pile of bricks in the crawlspace of a country house where a sickly boy prepares to face the rigors of a heart operation that could seal his fate.
The Secret World of Arrietty was the most successful Ghibli film ever at the U.S. box office, not because it is the best (though it’s very good, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Nausicca, Totoro, or Spirited Away), but because American audiences are becoming more and more familiar with the consistently high quality of the Ghibli productions. The Secret World of Arrietty not only has an ingenious fantasy narrative based on Mary Norton’s children’s classic The Borrowers, it also manages to portray a subtle growth in character in both of its protagonists who have deal with serious problems in their respective worlds, problems that demand a maturity beyond their years.
With its lush backgrounds (both interior and exterior) Arrietty is a film that merits the extra cost of the Blu-ray edition. Disney’s hi-def Blu-ray transfer is perfect as far as this observer can tell, sharp as a tack with carefully controlled contrast throughout. With their shade-dappled forests and fields of wild flowers the exteriors in this film look like impressionist paintings, while the interiors with their carefully rendered textures of wood, nails, and brick have the precision of the best Dutch genre painting. My only complaint about the BD was that the English subtitles, which must reflect an earlier, more literal translation of the original, bear only a passing resemblance to the English dialogue, which renders them more or less useless.
Also due this Tuesday are Planzet (Sentai Filmworks, "14+," 53 min., $29.98, BD $39.99), a 2010 computer-animated anime feature film directed by Jun Awazu, and Bakuman Part I (Anime Works, "13+," 325 min., BD 59.99), the Blu-ray debut of the first half of the 2010-2011 anime based on Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s comedy/drama manga series set inside the manga/anime industry.
Re-priced re-releases this week include Dragon Ball Z Kai Season 1 (Funimation, "13+," 625 min., $49.98, BD $54.98), which contains the first 26 episodes of the remastered "no filler" version of DBZ (at roughly half the per-episode cost of the previous DBZ Kai releases), and Dragon Ball Z Kai Season 2 (Funimation, "13+," $49.98, BD $54.98), which includes episodes 27-52.
TV on DVD
Other fans of vintage TV will enjoy The Dean Martin Show Uncut (Time Life, 360 min. $29.98), which captures the relaxed, swinging essence of this series, which featured some of the top musical artists of the era, who generally gave great performances in this most easygoing of all TV variety show venues. The other major vintage TV release is S.W.A.T.—The Final Season (Shout Factory, 1080 min., $44.99), which includes the final season of the 1970s cop series produced by Aaron Spelling.
A more successful contemporary series is Rizzoli & Isles, which airs on the Turner Nets and is based on the mystery novels of Tess Gerritson. Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Second Season (Warner Bros., $39.98) finds the "odd couple" of homicide detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and forensic pathologist Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) dealing with plenty of personal issues as well as with some very interesting homicides.
Other contemporary shows of possible interest to younger viewers include MTV’s Teen Wolf: Season 1 (MTV, $39.98) and My Babysitter’s a Vampire: The First Season (Warner Bros., 300 min., $24.98), a 2011 Canadian-produced supernatural comedy/drama.
Produced by George Lucas, Red Tails (Fox, "PG-13," $28.98, BD $39.99) is the saga of the Tuskegee Airmen, black fighter pilots in World War II who had to overcome discrimination just to be able to get the opportunity to fly fighter planes. With more than its share of clichéd war movie dialogue Red Tails manages to be both inspiring and insipid at the same time. But although the Tuskegee Airmen definitely deserved a better film, Red Tails remains an honest effort to craft a worthy successor to those classic World War II movies, it is just appears to be next-to-impossible to recreate that 1940s spirit in our increasingly cynical age.
But Red Tails, whatever its faults, is The Best Years of Our Lives when compared with This Means War (Fox, "PG-13," $28.98, BD $39.99) a ridiculous comedy about two top notch CIA operatives who are best friends until they both fall in love with the same woman. This Means War wastes the considerable talents of Tom Hardy (Bane in The Dark Knight Rises), Chris Pine (Kirk in 2009’s Star Trek), and Reese Witherspoon. In spite of its trio of likable stars, This Means War received only a 25% from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes who found that the "romcom" neither romantic nor funny.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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