It’s a strong week for home entertainment releases led by Marc Webb’s successful Spidey reboot, plus there’s also one of the best new seasonal films in decades, and the first Blu-ray editions of Lon Chaney’s twisted classic The Penalty, Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard and an anime Little Nemo in Slumberland.
Marc Webb’s successful rebooting of the Spider-Man franchise in The Amazing Spider-Man (Sony, “PG-13,” $29.99, BD/DVD $40.99, 3D/BD $54.99) earned $752 million (against a production cost of $230 million) and found favor with 73% of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Since it’s been only five years since the final film in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man Trilogy debuted, it seemed awfully soon to revamp the franchise and retell the origin story of Marvel’s most popular character, and much of the criticism of the movie dwells rather unfairly on its lack of narrative originality. But by focusing on the Gwen Stacy storylines from the comic, Webb did manage to add in some new elements, and in Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone he found two very talented leads that can stand comparison with Tobey McGuire and Kirsten Dunst in the Raimi trilogy. The domestic total of Webb’s reboot was down 23% from the weakest of Raimi’s Spider-Man films (#3), an indication that there was some resistance on the part of audiences to seeing yet another version of the Spider-Man origin story. Be forewarned that this saga has been told before. Those expecting something entirely new will be disappointed, but those who like the character should be impressed with Garfield’s take on Peter Parker, which is quite a bit different from Tobey McGuire’s, and by Webb’s patience in devoting the early sections of the film to character development rather than just stringing together a bunch of mindless action sequences.
Those who like indie, slice-of-life romantic comedies might well enjoy Your Sister’s Sister (MPI, “R,” $24.98, BD $29.98), which stars Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass in a complex “relationship-heavy” saga set among the slackers of the Pacific Northwest and directed by Lynn Shelton (My Effortless Brilliance).
TV on DVD
Other key animated releases include The Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes Comedy Hour: Hilarious Ham (Warner Bros., 126 min., $19.98), which collects 18 classic cartoons featuring the swinish stuttering satrap of Termite Terrace, Porky Pig, the seasonally-oriented SpongeBob SquarePants: It’s a SpongeBob Christmas (Nickelodeon, 88 min., $14.99), which collects a quarter of yuletide-themed episodes, and which of course is infinitely preferable to the Alvin & the Chipmunks: Christmas With the Chipmunks (Bagdassarian Productions, 88 min., $20.99).
The top contemporary live-action release is Entourage: The Complete Series (HBO, 2640 min., $249.99, BD $299.99), which includes all 96 episodes of the multi-Emmy Award-winning series on 18 discs. The other major contemporary release is Law & Order: The Eleventh Year (Universal, 1008 min., $36.98).
Fans of obscure genre TV might want to check out Wolf Lake: The Complete Series (eOne Entertainment, 500 min., $39.98), which collects the entire short-lived 2001 series (only 5 episodes were shown on CBS) including the never-aired pilot episode of the werewolf-themed horror series that starred Lou Diamond Phillips and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
There’s a holiday-tinge to a couple of this week’s vintage TV offerings that include The Carol Burnett Show: A Carol Burnett Christmas (eOne Entertainment, 240 min., $19.98), and The Dean Martin Show: A Dean Martin Christmas (Time Life, 48 min., $12.98).
Non-holiday vintage TV releases include The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams: Season 1 (Timeless Media, 600 min., $29.93), and Elvira’s Movie Macabre: Mega Movie Marathon (eOne Entertainment, 1080 min., $34.98), which includes 10 “Grade Z” horror movies like I Eat Your Skin, The Werewolf of Washington, and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, plus one really good horror film, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
Also new this week is Psychic Squad Collection 4 (Sentai Filmworks, “14+,” 325 min., $49.99), which includes the final 13 episodes of the 2008-2009 anime series from SynergySP that is based on Takashi Shiina’s popular manga Zettai Karen Children.
Right Stuf is back with a new litebox edition of Maria Watches Over Us: Season Two—Printemps (Right Stuf, “13+,” 325 min., $39.99), which features the same high quality production as the original 2008 edition, which was priced $10 higher. Viz Media is releasing a new edition of Inuyasha: Season One (Viz Media, “13+,” 675 min., $24.98), which includes the first 27 episodes of anime based on Rumiko Takahashi’s popular manga that are now available at a much lower price than ever before.
Classics on Blu-ray
Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard (Paramount, Not Rated, $26.98) is simply one of the best film noir ever made in Hollywood thanks to iconic performances from Gloria Swanson, Eric Von Stroheim, and William Holden. This savage look at an industry that devours its past and squanders the human capital it hoards has simply never been topped.