There something interesting in every DVD category this week including Tim Burton’s recent take on Alice in Wonderland, a new version of the classic Universal horror film, The Wolfman, the 3rd Season the popular USA series Burn Notice, two of the best British detective series ever, a wacky absurdist anime comedy, and the best Oscar-winning foreign language film in years.


Theatrical Films


Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (Disney, “PG,” $29.99, BD $39.99, BD/DVD Combo $44.99) has earned over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office making it by far Burton’s most popular film.  Burton’ take on the well known property updates the story with a 19-year-old Alice, who returns to the Wonderland she visited 13 years before, but enough of Lewis Carroll’s vision and themes survive to make this a very interesting variation on the Victorian fable.  Johnny Depp (as the Mad Hatter) and Helena Bonham Carter (as the Red Queen) stand out and Burton’s gothic visuals come through, especially in the Blu-ray version.  Don’t worry about the lack of 3D—the extra dimension was added by the studio after the fact, and though it helped to increase the film’s considerable box office take, it isn’t missed on Blu-ray where Burton’s visuals are especially striking.


Also out this week is The Wolfman (Universal, $29.98, BD $39.98), which features Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins in an old-fashioned retelling of The Wolfman legend.  Although it was savaged by the critics (only 33% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), The Wolfman does provide plenty of the classic horror elements that genre fans will enjoy, and The Director’s Cut version, which is included on both the DVD and BD versions contains 17 minutes of extra footage including two alternate endings, though it’s the extra atmospheric touches that fans will enjoy the most.




This is a very solid week for TV releases headlined by two of the very best detective series ever produced in the U.K., Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders.  Foyle’s War Set Six (Acorn Media, 300 min., $49.99) includes three encore episodes of the brilliantly-executed period mystery series starring Michael Kitchen as the tight-lipped Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle.  All three episodes take place in the immediate aftermath of World War II and find Foyle reconnecting in various ways with members of his old team including Paul Milner, who has become a Detective Inspector in Brighton, and Samantha “Sam” Stewart, who is now working as a housekeeper for a rich and eccentric artist.  Once again the writers of this exceptional series are able to frame exciting and interesting murder investigations against a backdrop of the key social and moral issues of the nascent postwar era including the unholy bargain that Churchill made with Stalin in order to obtain the release of British prisoners liberated by the Red Army, the racism and segregation practiced in the U.S. Army units billeted near Hastings, the rush to profit from ill-conceived postwar housing developments, and the fate of British POWs who turned traitor and joined the German Army.


The equally entertaining Midsomer Murders Set 15 (Acorn Media, 347 min., $39.99) eschews larger social issues in favor of cracking good mysteries set in the picturesque villages of the fictional Midsomer County.  It is easy to see why this is Johnny Depp’s favorite TV show, since in addition to a substantial body county, the long-running Midsomer Murder series sports a seemingly inexhaustible supply of character actors of all sorts who deliver note perfect performances that enliven the series’ clever variations on the English village mystery.  The blurb from the San Francisco Chronicle calls the series “The British rural version of Law & Order,” but there is no “ripped from the headlines” crudity about these cleverly plotted and psychologically adroit murder mysteries, which deftly mix large dollops of both humor and homicide into a totally intoxicating brew.  The similarity with Law & Order is that just as the New York-based American show takes full advantage of all the great stage actors in the Big Apple, Midsomer Murders feeds off all the great Rep companies in the U.K.


This set also includes the documentary “Super Sleuths,” which features interviews with Caroline Graham, who wrote the original Inspector Barnaby novels that the series is based on, as well as with John Nettles, who portrays the unflappable detective, Jane Wymark who essays the role of Barnaby’s culinary-challenged wife, and Daniel Casey, who played Sergeant Troy in the show’s first six seasons.


For those who enjoy the best in nature photography there is Life (BBC Video, 550 min., $59.98, BD $69.98), which includes 130 stories of the struggle for existence of various plants and animals all captured in incredible high-definition photography (buy the Blu-ray if you can).  The series is available in two versions that are identical save for the narration. One version is narrated by Oprah Winfrey and the other by David Attenborough.


Another excellent import from the U.K. is We’ll Meet Again (Acorn Media, 679 min., $59.99), a nostalgic wartime drama about the disruptions in the life of a small English village created when an American air base is constructed nearby.  Susannah York as the local doctor and Michael J. Shannon as the American commander clash at first before establishing the warm relationship that is at the heart of the series.  Also out this week is Hope Springs: The Complete Series (Acorn Media, 451 min., $49.99), a comedy drama about three female ex-cons who steal 3 million pounds from a gangster and are forced to hide out in the Highlands of Scotland when they lose their passports.


There are also some interesting American releases this week including Burn Notice Season 3 (Fox, 675 min., $49.98), which contains all 16 episodes from the third season of the USA Network series about a defrocked American spy.  Burn Notice, which stars Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar and fan favorite Bruce Campbell, has already been renewed for two more seasons.  Also out this week is The Cleaner: The Final Season (Paramount, 585 min., $36.98), the second and last season of the A&E series about a recovered drug addict who makes it his business to help others kick the habit by whatever means necessary.


TV Animation releases of note include Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volume 7 (Warner Bros., 143 min., $29.98) collecting episodes of the popular Adult Swim series, Charlie Brown Peanuts Specials: 1970s Collection Vol.2 (Warner Bros., 150 min., $29.98), and Shaun the Sheep, Vol.6: One Giant Leap for Lambkind (Lionsgate, 38 min., $14.98), the latest collection of the stop motion series from Aardman Animations (Wallace & Gromit).


Anyone looking for an all-ages family drama could hardly to do better than the Canadian series Emily of New Moon: Collector’s Edition (Echo Bridge, $41.98), which includes all 46 episodes of the TV show based on the novels by L.M. Montgomery, who also wrote Anne of Green Gables.


Other releases due on Tuesday include: Mister Ed: The Complete 3rd Season (Shout Factory, 780 min., $39.97), and the firefighter drama Rescue Me: The Complete 5th Season (Sony, 900 min., $49.95).




Among the top releases this week is Ninja Nonsense Complete Collection Thinpak (Nozumi Entertainment, “15+,” 320 min., $49.98), a 12-episode anime based on the manga by Ryoichi Koga.  Ninja Nonsense is an “adult” series that was broadcast late at night in Japan.  It includes plenty of absurdist comedy, fan service, and breaking of the fourth wall.  It is at its best satirizing the conventions of anime and manga, and in particular poking fun at all those cute mascot characters with Onsokumaru, a strange yellow pudgy creature whose perverted fantasies supply much of the series' humor.


Other key offerings this week include Soul Eater Part 3 Collection (Funimation, “TV-14,” 325 min. $39.95), the third (of 4) 13-episode collection of the popular fantasy anime based on the manga by Atsushi Otobo (published here by Yen Press), and Slayers Season 5 Set (Funimation, 13+, 312 min., $59.98), which includes the 5th (and most recent) Slayers anime series, Slayers Evolution-R, which aired in Japan in 2009.


Another totally new series that is out this week is Brighter Than the Dawning Blue Complete Collection (Sentai Filmworks, 300 min., $49.98), a 12-episode adaptation of an adult visual novel video game (Yoake Mae yori Ruriiro na).  When it aired in Japan, the anime was criticized for a badly animated sequence involving a cabbage (the animation in general and the drawing of the cabbage in particular were improved for the DVD release).


If you are looking for higher quality animation, Media Blasters is releasing Moribito: Guardian of the Sacred Spirit Premium Box Collection (“13+,” 650 min. $129.99), which collects the entire series from Production I.G. that adapts the fantasy novels of Nahoko Uehashi, which are published here by Scholastic.  The stylish Moribito anime aired on Adult Swim last summer.


The best deal for bargain hunters this week is Beck: The Complete Series (S.A.V.E. Edition) (Funimation, “17+,” 625 min., $29.98).  The only single-disc anime release of consequence is Naruto Shippuden Vol.10 (Viz Media, 100 min. $24.92).


Foreign Films


Juan Jose Campanella’s 2009 Argentine film The Secret in Their Eyes (As Is, "Not Rated," $18.98) was the somewhat surprising winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in March, but anyone who has seen this superior crime thriller about judicial cover-ups and corruption in Argentina won’t question the Academy’s judgment.  Superior performances by Ricardo Darin and Soledad Villamil and a thoroughly engrossing story earned The Secret in Their Eyes a sterling 92% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.