This is one of the biggest DVD release weeks of the year so far with New Moon, the latest installment in the Twilight Saga, which has a chance to be the #1 DVD of the year debuting on Friday. But there are lots of other interesting releases including the Academy Award-nominated The Princess and the Frog, the CGI Astro Boy film, some excellent TV on DVD sets including Breaking Bad, South Park, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Collection, and the final season of Monk.
The big news this week is the Saturday release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Summit Entertainment, “PG-13,” Two-Disc Special Edition $32.99, BD $34.99). The first Twilight film, which was released in March of 2009 was the #1 DVD of the year with over 10 million copies sold here in the U.S., and there is little doubt that New Moon, which posted a 35% increase at the domestic box office over the first film ($296 million versus $192 million), should do at least as well on DVD. Though the DVD doesn’t come out until midnight Friday, the Twilight Graphic Novel debuts on Tuesday and should benefit from the DVD release.
The Princess and the Frog has in fact arguably the finest score of any Disney feature in the last 50 years thanks to Randy Newman, who hits all the right roots music notes (ragtime, zydeco, funk, Cajun, Dixieland, etc.) in this film tribute to the culture of New Orleans.
The whole Disney “Princess” thing is a bit much, but at least the studio finally got around to creating a black Princess and managed to give her a pretty good narrative in the process. With its voodoo spirit conjuring this film might be a little too scary for some kids under seven, but it should hold the attention of older kids and adults with its mixture of human and often very funny animal characters. Had The Princess and the Frog not faced formidable competition from Pixar’s Up, which was quite simply so original in concept and so brilliantly realized, it might well have won the Oscar. Thanks to Newman’s music and a brilliant cast of voice actors including Anika Noni Rose (Tiana), Keith David (Dr. Facilier), Oprah Winfrey (Tiana’s mother), John Goodman (Big Daddy), Jenifer Lewis, (Mama Odie) and especially Michael-Leon Wooley as a trumpet-playing gator) and Jim Cummings (as a lovesick Cajun firefly), in future years The Princess and the Frog should take its place as one of the classics of Disney animation.
The film looks simply stunning in Blu-ray with the characteristic fluid, character-rich Disney animation and evocative, well-realized
A genre film of interest due out this week is Armored (Sony, “PG-13,” $28.96, BD $38.96) an armored car heist movie directed by Nimrod Antal. Fans interested in seeing what the upcoming Antal-helmed Predators movie might look like will want to take a look at Armored to check out the young action director’s gritty, fast-paced, but classic style.
Martial arts fans should enjoy Ninja Assassin (Warner Home Entertainment, “R,” $28.98, BD $35.99), which stars the Korean pop star Rain in an action-packed bloodbath of movie that moves like a runaway freight train and earned $38.7 million at the box office.
Another genre release this week is High Life (Image Entertainment, Not Rated, $27.98), a direct-to-DVD bank heist movie that stars Timothy Olyphant as the leader of a motley crew of drug-addled losers searching for that one big score.
The Fourth Wall (Universal, “PG-13,” $29.98, BD $36.98) is an alien abduction flick that takes a “clinical, scientific” approach to the subject that most critics found hokey and contrived. The film earned only about $25 million at the box office and received just an 18% approval rating from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Even less interesting is Did You Hear About the Morgans? (Sony, PG-13,” $28.95, BD $34.95), a fish-out-of-water comedy about a sophisticated urban couple (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker) who are relocated to Wyoming thanks to the Witness Protection Program.
Thanks to a wide release, which was backed by a considerable TV advertising campaign, Astro Boy outearned
Although Astro Boy was a costly flop, in large part because it failed to attract big audiences in both
Aria: The Origination is actually the 13-episode third season of this science fiction series that aired in Japan in 2008 and Right Stuff has also included the 2007 OVA Arietta and the bonus episode from the third season. Based on Kozue Amano’s manga (now published here by Tokyopop), all three seasons of the Aria anime were directed by Jun’ichi Sato (Sailor Moon, Sgt. Frog). The three comely protagonists of this science fiction series are often seen gliding their gondola through the canals of Neo-Venezia, a spot-on replica of
Funimation is continuing to release selected series in the anime-friendly Blu-ray format. This week it is Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino Collection (320 min., $49.98), the second season of the anime, which was produced by Artland with the full cooperation and involvement of Gunslinger Girls manga creator Yu Aida.
Funimation is also releasing the D&D-influenced Slayers Revolution (13+, 300 min., $59.98), a 13-episode series directed by Takashi Watanabe and produced by J.C. Staff in 2008, and One Piece: Season 2, Part 6 (14+, 320 min. $49.98), the latest installment in the rollicking pirate saga that is arguably the most popular manga/anime property in Japan.
Other multiple-disc releases include the debut of Tayutama: Kiss on My Deity Complete Collection (Sentai Filmworks, “13+,” 300 min., $39.98), a 13-episode 2009 anime from Silver Light about a high school boy who disregards the warnings of a love struck goddess and allows a bunch of spirits (“tayuti”) to escape from an ancient relic he finds in the woods. Media Blasters has the Genshiken 2 Premium Complete Collection (“13+,” 300 min., $69.99), which collects the often hilarious otaku satire, while Viz Media is releasing Honey and Clover: Complete Collection Part 3, the third and final multi-disc collection of the 38-episode Honey and Clover anime from J.C. Staff based on Chica Umino’s popular comedy/romance manga about a disparate group of art school students.
TV on DVD
This is a big week for TV on DVD releases with some great series from the U.K. along with three Blu-ray releases (always the sign of a major series these days) including the first two seasons of Breaking Bad, the Complete 13th Season of South Park (Comedy Central, 308 min., $49.99, BD $57.99), and the extremely relevant History Channel series Clash of the Gods.
Breaking Bad, which is seen on the cable channel AMC, is the most harrowing series on American TV since The Wire. Like The Wire drugs are the basis for the criminal activity in Breaking Bad, though it is crystal meth rather than crack cocaine in this drama set in middle class
With the remake of Clash of the Titans debuting in early April, and probably more importantly, with the success of the movie version of the Y.A. Percy Jackson and the Olympians novels, interest in Greek mythology is high. Here’s a release that will flesh out anyone’s knowledge of some of the key myths of the ancient world--the History Channel’s Clash of the Gods (A&E Home Entertainment, 470 min., BD $39.95). Issued last month on standard DVD, it is now available in a 2-disc Blu-ray package that covers the sagas of Zeus, Hercules, Minotaur, Medusa, Odysseus, and Hades as well a few non-members of the Greek Pantheon including Beowulf, Thor, and the monsters of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Not every big release this week is on Blu-ray. There’s a new 4-disc set from the ultimate cult TV show, Mystery Science Fiction Theater 3000 XVII (Shout Factory, 400 min., $59.97), which features two cheesy movies hosted by Joel Hodgson from the Comedy Channel/Comedy Central era and two with Mike Nelson from the Sci-Fi Channel period. What’s funnier than a running commentary on schlocky movies? Don’t answer till you’ve seen the boys deconstruct The Crawling Eye (1958), The Final Sacrifice (1990), Blood Waters of Doctor Z (1975), and The Beatniks (with a General Hospital short).
The eighth and final season of the comedy mystery series Monk: Season 8 (Universal, 500 min., $59.98) was one of the best, thanks in part to the return of the defective detective’s original sidekick Sharona, and a powerful two-part final episode that tied up the series’ loose ends and featured a great Randy Newman song that was written for the finale’s closing.
A bevy of top actors from the
The murder mysteries included in Armchair Thriller: Set 2 (Acorn Media, 547 min., $49.99) were shown in this country on PBS’s Mystery! Like the Ruth Rendell Collection, the emphasis here is on psychological mysteries with solid performances from actors like Michael Feast and Maria Aitken.
For those who admire British TV that doesn’t revolve around murder or war, there is My Uncle Silas: Complete Collection (BFS, 288 min. $59.98), a series based on H.E. Bates stories that stars Albert Finney as a rough and ready
Animated TV shows out this week include The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: Vol.3 (Shout Factory, 440 min., $29.99), a 4-disc collection that contains 22 episodes and the single-disc Spongebob’s Last Stand (Nickelodeon, 89 min., $16.99).
Continuing series with new sets appearing include Hawaii Five-O: The 8th Season (Paramount, 1000 min., $49.99), My Two Dads (Shout Factory, 370 min., $34.99), and for fans of very early television there is The Ultimate Goldbergs (Shout Factory, $59.99), which includes 71 episodes from the radio serial turned TV show that aired intermittently in mostly 15-minute segments on various networks from 1949 to 1956.
Another treat for cineastes is Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces (Sony, “R,” $28.96, BD $34.95), a wonderful film noir-like melodrama involving a movie director who falls in love with a beautiful starlet (Penelope Cruz), who just happens to be the mistress of a very rich, powerful, and jealous man.
Classic Films Debuting on DVD
Kino is releasing The Constance Talmadge Collection Double Feature ($29.95), which includes two silent films, Her Night of Romance (1924) and Her Sister From Paris (1925). Although not as popular as her sister Norma, Constance Talmadge was a superb comedienne as these two films demonstrate. Both films were written by Hans Kraly, who is known for his work with Ernst Lubitsch and they demonstrate some of the clever touches that were the hallmark of Lubitsch’s American films. These films are examples of the “drawing room” comedies of the silent era. They rely much more on “situations” rather than slapstick. Talmadge, whose on screen persona lived up to her billing as the “Virtuous Vamp,” excelled at breaking the bounds of propriety without actually getting in trouble. The prints come from the Library of Congress’s