This week’s home entertainment releases include the Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence science fiction adventure/romance Passengers, along with some films with Oscar nominations including Fences and Elle, plus for the first time on disc the second season of the animated Batman Beyond spin-off The Zeta Project, as well as the latest season of the zombie apocalypse drama Z Nation, and a new edition of the classic Ghost in the Shell anime due out just weeks before the release of the live-action version starring Scarlett Johansson.
In spite of the popularity of rising stars Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, the science fiction/romance Passengers
(Sony, “PG-13,” 116 min., $30.99, BD $34.99, 4K $45.99) was a bit of a box office disappointment here in North America, where it earned $94.6 million versus its cost of $110 million. This handsome film also didn’t appeal to the critics (only 31% positive on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences liked it a bit more (especially overseas where it made twice as much money as it did here), and science fiction fans, who don't have an aversion to romance, should definitely consider checking it out.
This week’s Oscar-winning release is Denzel Washington’s adaptation of August Wilson’s play Fences
(Paramount, “PG-13,” 138 min., $29.99, BD $39.99). Viola Davis deservedly took home the “Best Supporting Actress” award for her fine work. The entire cast is superb and it is the strong performances throughout that help Fences
overcome its inherent “staginess.”
Some genres get more respect from the critics than others, but the one that suffers the most critical brickbats is certainly the highly emotional “weeper.” Case in point is Collateral Beauty (Warner Bros., “PG-13,” $28.98, BD $29.98), which features a great cast headed by Will Smith, Kate Winslet, and Edward Norton, and did a much better job of pleasing audiences than it did the critics. Just be forewarned this is a 3-handerchief tearjerker.
On the other hand Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (Sony, “R,” 131 min., $25.99, BD $30.99) is the kind of morally ambiguous thriller that appeals to critics more than audiences. Isabelle Huppert’s stoic and subtle expressions earned her a “Best Actress” nomination in a film that is not without its absurdities.
TV on DVD
While there’s not a huge number of great TV on DVD releases this week, there are a couple of interesting oddball shows that will be of interest to serious fans including the 2001 Warner Bros. Animation Batman Beyond
spin-off animated series, The Zeta Project: Season 2
(Warner Bros., 296 min.,DVD-R $24.99), which has never been released on disc before, but is unfortunately only available via Amazon or the Warner Bros. Online Store; and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors: The Complete Series
(Mill Creek, 1,435 min., $19.98), which includes all 65 episodes of the 1980s series created to support Mattel’s Wheeled Warriors
toys that was scripted by some writers who later went on to better things like J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5
). These episodes have been released in season sets before, but are now available in one package.
Other series of interest to geek viewers include the SyFy zombie apocalypse saga Z Nation: Season 3
(Universal, 560 min., $39.98); a budget edition of the hip Pee-wee Herman kids’ series Peewee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series
(Shout Factory, $39.95); the action-packed Seal Team Six docudrama Six: Season 1
(A&E, 341 min., $24.98, BD $29.99); a low-priced edition of Sci-Fi’s 2004 miniseries adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea: The Epic Miniseries Event
(Mill Creek, 173 min., $9.98); the Tina Fey-scripted Netflix comedy series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 2
(Universal, 299 min., $22.98); and the Comedy Central stalwart Drunk History: Season 4
(Paramount, 223 min., $21.99).
Vintage TV releases include the 1980s cop drama CHiPs: The Complete 5th Season (Warner Bros., 900 min., $24.98); the 1982 Marco Polo: The Complete Miniseries (Mill Creek, 177 min., $14.99); and the classic 1980s sitcom Newhart: The Complete Eighth and Final Season (Shout Factory, 570 min., $29.93), which has the best final episode of any comedy series to date.
Not much new is out this week except for K: Missing Kings (Viz Media, 75 min., $19.98, BD $24.98), the 2014 anime film sequel to the 2012 K anime series. Like the original series, the K: Missing Kings anime film was directed by Shingo Suzuki and produced by GoHands.
Just in advance of the release of the live-action Ghost in the Shell
movie starring Scarlett Johansson, Starz is putting out a new edition of the “steelbook” Blu-ray it issued last year. Ghost in the Shell: The Movie
(Anchor Bay, BD $34.98) is a groundbreaking anime classic that always bears revisiting. Since the previews for the live-action film make it look like a fairly close remake of the anime original, this release takes on even more relevance.
Also due this week is Kokoro Connect (TV & OVA): Complete Collection (Sentai Filmworks, 425 min., $59.98, BD $69.98), which collects the 13-episode 2012 anime series as well as the four OVA episodes. The TV series and the OVAs have been released here before, but now you can get them in one package.
Re-priced re-releases this week include S.A.V.E. editions of the Appleseed XIII (TV): Complete Collection (Funimation, BD/DVD Combo $29.98), and the Ben-To: Complete Collection (Funimation, BD/DVD $29.98).