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.

Theatrical Films

This week’s biggest release is The Fate of the Furious (Universal, “PG-13,” 272 min., $29.98, BD $34.98), the eighth film in what started as a modestly—budgeted street racing series and has developed into a special effects-laden caper film franchise that is a kinetic as all get out, and has about the same relationship to reality as a Harry Potter films.  Though the appeal of this hyperactive franchise has cooled a bit here in North America, Furious 8 did make $225 million here—compared with more than a billion dollars overseas.

If Furious 8 is the epitome of the “popcorn” movie, then The Lost City of Z (Broad Green, PG-13,” 141 min., $26.99, BD $34.98) is the “thinking person’s adventure film.”  Based on the real life story of British adventurer Percy Fawcett, The Lost City of Z was written and directed in the style of the classic adventure films by James Gray (Little Odessa).  Charlie Hunnam is excellent in the key role, and he is ably supported by Robert Patinson and Sienna Miller.  The Lost City of Z earned an 86% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and is definitely worth checking out.  Folks who like Fitzcarraldo, should enjoy The Lost City of Z, though don’t expect the surreal approach of Werner Herzog or the over-the-top stylings of Klaus Kinski.

Another excellent choice on Tuesday will be the British World War II comedy/drama Their Finest (Lionsgate, “R,” 117 min., $19.98, BD $24.98), which stars Gemma Atherton, Sam Clafin, Bill Nighy, and Jack Huston in a story set in 1940 as a British crew attempts to make a propaganda film that will help bring America into the war.  Those who enjoy British humor will love this look behind the scenes at moviemaking under considerable duress.

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.


This week’s top new series release is the Doctor Who spin-off Class: Series One From the Universe of Doctor Who (BBC, 350 min., $19.49, BD $24.99), which follows six students and staff members of the Coal Hill Academy who are tasked by the Doctor to fend off aliens, which they do while trying hard to manage their own personal lives.  This 2016 series was created by Patrick Ness, the author of the excellent YA science fiction series Chaos Walking, which is currently being adapted for the big screen, and Ness manages to give Class a darker tone than the typical Whovian spin-off.

Fantasy fans will also want to check out the SyFy series The Magicians: The Complete 2nd Season (Universal, 568 min. $39.98, BD $44.98), which includes all 13 episodes of the second season of the series based on the novels of Lev Grossman. 

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).

Shows from overseas that are available this week include the excellent period police procedural Prime Suspest: Tennison—The Complete First Season (PBS, 360 min., $39.99, BD $49.99), which is currently airing on PBS and features a great soundtrack filled with 1960s and 1970s rock and pop tunes, and the excellent Australian legal drama Rake: Series 2 (Acorn Media, 462 min., $38.99), which stars Richard Roxburgh as a brilliant barrister fighting a constant battle with his own self-destructive tendencies.

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.


This week’s top release is the Gate: Complete Collection (Sentai Filmworks, 600 min., $79.98, BD $99.98), which collects the 24-episode 2015-2016 TV anime from A-1 Pictures that is based on the fantasy light novel series by Takumi Yanai, about a time portal from a Roman Empire-type world that opens in Tokyo prompting the Japanese Self-Defense Force to invade the new world, which contains both monsters and magic.

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.