DVD Round-Up: 'Strike Back,' 'Grim,' 'Squidbillies,' & 'One Piece'
Week of August 7th
Published: 08/05/2012, Last Updated: 08/06/2012 02:48am
TV on DVD
Don’t be fooled by the generic title of Strike Back: Season 1 (HBO, 600 min., $49.99, BD $59.99). This is a brilliantly realized international espionage series from the U.K. about an elite anti-terrorist squad empowered to take the fight to terrorists across the globe—and folks with out access to pay cable probably don’t have a clue how entertaining this show really is. The series’ generic moniker is not the only misleading element its titular description. This box set does contain the first season that was shown in North America, but it was not the first season of the series that was shown in the U.K. The real first series of Strike Back featured Richard Armitage as the main protagonist John Porter, who is brutally murdered by terrorists in the first episode of Season 2, which is called "Season 1" here in the U.S.
But enough with the nitpicking already--suffice it to say that Project Dawn as this 10-season episode series is called is altogether superior television. American audiences should think of it as an international espionage saga mounted with the sophistication of 24, but without the temporal gimmicks and with plenty of bloody pay cable level splatter violence and sex (breasts and behinds plus scenes of simulated sexual activity). This is a truly adult drama, but it also has a gritty realistic, ripped-from-the-headlines narrative as Section 20’s Sergeant Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) and the ex-Delta Force refugee Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton, the poor man’s Colin Farrell) chase terrorists and weapons of mass destruction in an increasingly taut drama that wind through Britain, New Delhi, Cape Town, Sudan and Kosovo before reaching an exceedingly satisfying climax. This show is so well-mounted that getting the Blu-ray edition, which also includes a regular DVD copy, is highly recommended.
Fantasy lovers should note the release of Grimm: Season 1 (Universal, 880 min., $59.98, BD $69.98), an engaging fairy tale/cop show hybrid with plenty of droll humor. One of the more noticeable trends in pop culture is the popularity of the classic fairy tale myths, which can also be seen in the ABC series, Once Upon a Time, the popular Vertigo comic book series Fables, and in movies such as Snow White and the Huntsmen and Mirror, Mirror. With its police procedural elements Grimm is one of the more original manifestations of this trend, an urban fantasy of the first rank.
Other animated offerings include the 14-episode collection, Looney Tunes Show: There Goes the Neighborhood (Warner Bros., $19.97), and for the real little kids, My Little Pony: Royal Pony Wedding (Shout Factory, 120 min., $14.97).
Contemporary series due this week include the NBC single-camera sitcom Parenthood: Season 3 (Universal, $59.98), while vintage series include the underrated classic 1960s crime drama 87th Precinct: The Complete Series (Timeless Media, 1,470 min., $49.98), the 1970s African wildlife adventure Born Free: Season One (Sony, 639 min., $38.99), the classic sitcom Dennis the Menace: 20 Timeless Episodes (Shout Factory, 240 min., $12.99), the timeless western series Gunsmoke: The Sixth Season, Pt.1 (Paramount, 484 min., $494 min., $36.99), and the 1970s cop series The Rookies: The Complete Second Season (Shout Factory, 1,110 min., $44.99).
Re-priced reissues include the fantasy/romance/horror/action/comedy Rental Magica, Part 1 (Right Stuf, "13+," 525 min. $49.98), which contains episodes 1-12 of the 2007 anime series from Zexcs in both chronological and broadcast order. This same set was released in 2009 with an MSRP of $59.98. The Disgaea Complete Series (Funimation, "13+," 300 min., $19.98) has been reduced even more, while the Parasite Dolls (Section 23, "17+," 95 min., $19.98), which includes all 3 OVA from the 2004 series.
The movie that will undoubtedly sell the most units on Tuesday is The Lorax (Universal, "PG," $29.98, BD/DVD Combo $34.98, 3-D BD $49.98), a computer-animated film based on the classic Dr. Seuss environmental fable. Those who don’t really like the often raucous contemporary computer-animated cartoons with their celebrity voice actors and wink-wink jokes for older viewers should understand that this film is probably not for them even if they have fond memories of the Dr. Seuss original. In spite of getting just a 55% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, The Lorax made a solid $214 million at the domestic box office.
Even less successful with the critics was Bel Ami (Sony, "R," $22.99), which stars Twilight’s Robert Pattinson in an adaptation of Maupassant’s cynical novel about a ruthless journalist who uses his sexual wiles to advance his career in late 19th Century France. Pattinson makes a visually more convincing “boy toy” than George Sanders in Albert Lewin’s 1947 Private Affairs of Bel Ami, which had to pull some of its narrative punches because of the censorship that was in force in the 1940s. Still Sanders managed to be a much more vital presence, and he oozed the kind of cynicism and fin-de-siecle decadence that the largely blank Pattinson can only begin to suggest.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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