This is a surprisingly light week for the fourth quarter, though there are number of elaborate “TV on DVD” sets that would make excellent gifts for the well-heeled such as the complete 1970s science fiction series The Six Million Dollar Man, the medieval-themed adventure The Pillars of the Earth, and a number of DC Comics-related discs including the complete Batman Beyond animated series, as well as the year's most successful "geriaction" film.
Direct to DVD
Although Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam (Warner Bros., “PG-13,” $19.98, BD $29.99) was released earlier this month, ICv2 just received its review copy of this collection of DC Showcase Animated Original Shorts. Three of the four shorts, “The Spectre,” “Jonah Hex,” and “Green Arrow” in this 62-minute collection accompanied previously released direct-to-DVD DC-based animated features, though they are presented here in slightly extended form. The fourth short, “Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam,” which at 22 minutes is the longest film in the collection, is only available in this collection. Joaquim Dos Santos (Avatar: The Last Airbender) directed all four short films and proves himself a master at creating mood and producing stylish short films. The "Jonah Hex" entry, which was written by Joe R. Lansdale, captures the essence of the character far better than ill-fated live-action feature film based on the face-scarred bounty hunter. DC Comics fans will find these comic book-based shorts well worth their attention.
TV on DVD
In addition to every episode from the series’ five seasons, the deluxe 40-disc set includes all three of the original pilot TV movies in their original broadcast versions plus over 14 hours of interesting extras including interviews with all the series principals (actors Lee Majors, Richard Anderson, & Lindsay Wagner, producer Herve Bennett), 11 newly-produced featurettes and all three reunion movies. The deluxe embossed box includes a holographic image of Lee Majors (Steve Austin) running. Fans of this groundbreaking science fiction series couldn’t ask for a better presentation--and more importantly the episodes themselves are presented in sharp clean re-mastered versions that capture the visual quality of the original series.
Like the popular mystery series Cadfael, The Pillars of the Earth was filmed in
Another holiday release of considerable interest is Batman Beyond: The Complete Series (Warner Bros., 1097 min., $99.98), which contains all 52 episodes of the animated series, which first appeared from 1999-2001 on the WB network, and is currently being shown on Hasbro’s new Hub network. Batman Beyond was the first animated series to portray the Dark Knight as a teenager, and yet it is also perhaps the darkest of the various Batman animated series, and was certainly the darkest Saturday morning series during its era. Batman Beyond remains one of the most interesting collaborations between DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation.
Though the show was syndicated in the
In addition to the stylish HBO western series Deadwood, which has been released on Blu-ray for the holidays, Deadwood: The Complete Series (HBO, $209.95), a number of continuing series are due out this week including the feel-good family drama 7th Heaven: The Eleventh and Final Season (Paramount, 922 min., $49.98), the geriatric mystery series Murder, She Wrote: The Complete 12th Season (Universal, $49.98), and the classic 1950s western Wagon Train: The Complete Second Season (Timeless Media, 1900 min., $79.98).
Sekirei: The Complete Series (Funimation, “17+,” 300 min., $49.98) contains all 12-episodes of the series from Seven Arcs that aired in
Also new this week in North America are the single-disc Kurokami Vol. 4 (Bandai, “13+,” 150 min, $29.98, BD 125 min., $24.98) and the vintage (1993-1994) supernatural comedy series Ghost Sweeper Mikami Collection 1 (Sentai Filmworks, “13+,” 300 min. $49.98), which includes the first 12 episodes of the 45-episode anime produced by Toei and based on the 39-volume shonen manga series by Takashi Shiina, which won the Shogakukan manga award in 1993. Because of overdevelopment in Japan, many of the local ghosts and spirits have lost their homes and are forced to find new homes, which in turn has led to the formation of a new cottage industry—Ghost Sweepers or exorcists for hire.
Re-priced bargain releases out this week include Girls Bravo: Complete Series (Funimation, “16+,” 560 min., $49.98), a fan service-filled harem comedy previously released here by Geneon, and Kaleido Star Season 1 Complete Collection (Funimation, “14+,” 650 min., $39.98), the Gonzo-produced slice-of-life comedy/drama that ADV originally released here in
I’m Still Here (Magnolia Entertainment, “R,” $26.98, BD $29.98) is a maddening pseudo documentary directed by Casey Affleck that follows what appears to be a sort of self-immolation by actor Joaquim Phoenix, who kicks off a “year of living stupidly” with a stunningly comatose appearance on the David Letterman Show during which he announced his decision to junk his movie star status in favor of a career as a rapper. In spite of what many people think, it takes a lot more than the ability to turn out doggerel to become a force in the highly competitive field of rap—and Phoenix doesn’t manage to demonstrate even half the talent of a hapless pretender like Vanilla Ice, say nothing of a real rapper. Of course we’re supposed to see the whole thing as a big “put on,” but the notion that all these talented
The top release this week is The Expendables (Lionsgate, “R,” $29.95, BD $39.99). Sylvester Stallone wrote and directed this saga of a group of mercenaries who are hired to infiltrate a country and depose a ruthless dictator. With its collection of aging action stars including Stallone, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, plus cameo appearances from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Expendables inaugurated a new genre, the “geriaction” movie—and audiences responded to the tune of a $103 million domestic gross and a worldwide total of $265.3 million. The Expendables harks back to those pulpy action movies of the 1980s (Rambo, anyone?), and those who enjoyed the potent, if often ham-fisted, directness of those films won’t be disappointed by The Expendables.
At the other end of the hormonal spectrum is Eat Pray Love (Sony, “PG-13,” $28.95, BD $34.95) in which Julia Roberts travels the globe in search of post-marital enlightenment (