This week’s home entertainment releases include the #2 box office film of 2017 so far, an engrossing, classically-filmed adventure film based on a true story, a brilliant British World War II comedy/drama, and a darkly fascinating Doctor Who spin-off created by the author of the Chaos Walking series of science fiction novels.
For those who enjoy literary films there is A Quiet Passion (Music Box, “PG-13,” 126 min., $29.95, BD $34.95) in which Cynthia Nixon (Sex in the City) does a superb job of portraying the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson.
The only kid-targeting film due on disc this week is Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sony, “PG,” 179 min., $30.98, BD $34.98). This is the first all-animated film in the modern Smurfs film series that began in 2011 with a live-action/animated hybrid followed by a second hybrid (Smurfs 2) in 2013, and the least popular of the three, although frankly it is a better film than the first two—demonstrating how a real stinker like Smurfs 2 can “poison the well” of any movie franchise, making “rebooting” the property a very difficult proposition.
Last week’s lone release was based on a true story. The Zookeeper’s Wife (Universal, 252 min., $29.98, BD $34.98) is a riveting World War II drama that stars Jessica Chastain in the title role as the wife of the head keeper of the Warsaw Zoo, who managed to save over 300 Jews from the Nazis during World War II.
TV on DVD
Also of interest are The Missing: Season 2 (Starz, 480 min., $39.98), an 8-part series, which follows the case of a British girl missing in Germany; the PBS series about French and British detectives collaborating in the investigation of a major incident involving the Channel Tunnel, The Tunnel: The Complete 2nd Season: Sabotage (PBS, 400 min., $49.99, BD $59.99); and the TBS series about the Underground Railroad, Underground: Season 2 (Sony, 470 min., $30.99).
Last week’s only releases were the single-camera NBC sitcom Superstore: Season 2 (Universal, 420 mn., DVD-R, $29.98), and the much more interesting Homicide: Life on the Street Complete Collection (Shout Factory, 6000 min., $149.99), which contains all 122 episodes of the police procedural on 35 discs. Set in Baltimore, the gritty Homicide: Life on the Street aired on NBC in the 1990s, and was the first drama series to win three Peabody Awards.
Also due on Tuesday are three “subtitles only” releases including the slice-of-life comedy Kumamiko: Girl Meets Bear Complete Collection (Funimation, 300 min., Subtitles Only, BD/DVD Combo $64.98), a 12-episode series from Kinema Citrus that is based on the seinen manga series by Matsumi Yoshimoto about a naïve 14-year-old girl and a talking bear; the Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO Complete Collection (Right Stuf, 270 min., Subtitles Only, $49.98, BD $64.99), which collects a series of 9 OVAs based on the Gundam franchise and released in Japan from 2004-2009); and a new Blu-ray of 2008 shojo manga-based series Junjo Romantica: Season 1 Complete Collection (Right Stuf, 300 min., Subtitles Only, BD $54.99).
Gundam fans have another ancillary offering this week, Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky (Right Stuf, 70 min., $24.99, BD $34.99), which is basically a 70-minute movie created by Sunrise out of the first season of MSG Thunderbolt Original Net Animations (ONAs).
There were just two releases last week led by the 2012 Kyoto Animation series Hyouka, Part 1 (Funimation, 275 min., BD/DVD Combo $64.98). In this reviewer’s opinion the “mystery” genre, which gets short shrift from American anime fans, is actually one of the most interesting of all, and this 22-episode series adapts the first four Classic Literature Club novels by Honobu Yonezawa. The detective story/mystery is one of first types of foreign literature that the Japanese mastered, and anime mystery series like Hyouka provide a unique look at Japanese culture.
Fans of classic anime series will enjoy this week’s other release, the North American debut of the Gatchaman Fighter: Complete Collection (Sentai Filmworks, 1200 min., Subtitles Only, $79.98), which contains all 48-episodes of the 1979-1980 series from Tatsunoko Productions, which was the third series to feature the Science Team Ninja Gatchaman characters, whose original 1972 exploits formed the basis for the American “adaptation” known as Battle of the Planets. One third of the episodes of Gatchman Fighter were utilized (along with most of the second Gatchaman series, Gatchaman 2) to create the Saban American release Eagle Riders, which was syndicated here in the 1990s.