There are quite a few interesting releases this week topped by the first season of The Walking Dead, a new Mystery Science Theater 3000 set, some classic Doctor Who sagas, two quality anime offerings from Studio Ghibli, and an Oscar-winning documentary that everyone should see.
TV on DVD
The release of the week is The Walking Dead (Starz, 282 min., $39.98, BD $49.99), which includes the first season (six episodes) of the extremely well-produced adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s Image comic book series. The Blu-ray is definitely the way to go since it contains a number of exclusive extra features including “On the Set With Robert Kirkman,” “Zombie School,” “Bicycle Girl,” “Hanging With Stephen Yeun,” and “Inside Dale’s RV.” This epic tale of survival produced, guided, and directed by Frank Darabont, the director of The Shawshank Redemption, was one of the hits of the fall TV season. Look for this DVD release to keep all 13 volumes of Kirkman’s epic selling until the even harder-hitting, gorier Season 2 hits the airwaves next fall.
Fans of the classic Doctor Who series also have something to shout about this week. Doctor Who: Story #23: The Ark (BBC, 97 min., $24.98) features William Hartnell (the first Doctor) in a four-part series from way back in 1966. Also due on Tuesday is Doctor Who: Story 085: The Seeds of Doom (BBC, 125 min., $34.98), a classic 6-parter from 1976 that features the popular 4th Doctor Tom Baker. The Seeds of Doom is a prime example of the Gothic horror-influenced episodes favored by 1970s producer Philip Hinchcliffe and script editor Robert Holmes.
Other UK-produced TV offerings include Dalziel and Pascoe: Season 3 (BBC, 380 min., $34.98), which contains 4 more crime-busting adventures featuring the “odd couple” of UK law enforcement, while Judge John Deed: Season 3 (BBC, 356 min., $34.98) stars Martin Shaw as John Deed who is not your typical high court judge—he’s more empathetic than coldly objective and his creative thinking often gets him in trouble with his peers.
Also out this week are SpongeBob Squarepants: Great Patty Caper (Nickeodeon, 89 min., $16.99), and Hannah Montana: The Complete 4th & Final Season (Disney, 341 min., $29.99).
But the best anime film released this week is the Blu-ray/DVD combo of Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Disney, “13+,” 117 min., $39.98). Produced in 1984, the ecologically-themed Nausicaa was well ahead of its time, and it remains one of anime’s great achievements.
The other anime Blu-ray release of the week is Dragon Ball Z Kai Season 1 Part 4 (Funimation, “13+,” 325 min., $29.95, BD $34.95). Dragon Ball Z Kai is the re-mastered hi-def streamlined version of DBZ with a storyline that has been trimmed back to include only the narrative from Akira Toriyama’s DBZ manga. The DBZ Kai series is currently airing on the Nicktoons cable channel.
The top non-Blu-ray anime release is Black Butler Season 1 Part 2 (Funimation, “14+,” 300 min., $59.95), which includes episodes 13-24 of the anime series produced by A-1 Pictures and based on Yana Toboso’s popular manga, which is published here in the U.S. by Yen Press. T he Black Butler manga is a huge hit, both in Japan and the U.S., and this delightful black comedy series is a “must-see” for anime fans.
Also out this week is the Akane iro ni Somaru Saka Complete Collection (Sentai Filmworks, 325 min., $49.98). Produced in 2008 by TNK, Akasaka, as it is known is a 12 episode harem/romance series (plus an OVA) based on an adult visual novel developed by Feng.
Bargain releases include El Cazador de la Bruja Complete Series (Funimation, “17+,” 650 min., $49.98), the final installment of Bee Train’s “girls with guns” trilogy that also includes Noir and Madlax. It was previously released in 2009 in two parts, and is not available in a complete set at half the per-episode cost. The S.A.V.E. edition of Gonzo’s Speedgrapher (Funimation, “17+,” 600 min., $29.95) is an even better deal.
As an example of muckraking journalism, An Inside Job has few peers, but it is not without its flaws. Its aim is somewhat scattershot as might be expected when tackling such a broad subject. It suggests, not without some justification, that the failure to bailout Lehman Brothers precipitated the financial meltdown, but it also appears that the house of cards financial structure was doomed to collapse at some point anyway. The film hints a little too cavalierly that the boom could have been contained much earlier with less cost to the economy. Of course it could have, but that would have required steps by the Federal Reserve and the Bush Administration that would have created short term pain and would have come at high political price, the kind of moves that politicians and regulators are unlikely to consider in the midst of an economic bubble that is still gaining momentum. It also doesn't explain how difficult it is under current laws to get a conviction for what appears to be an obvious case of fraud such as Goldman Sachs' creation of a fund of extremely "toxic" subprime loans that they not only bet against with CDSs, but also sold to gullible clients like the State of Mississippi Employee Pension Fund who lost their entire investment. An Inside Job also doesn’t really tote up the gains and losses incurred in the Federal bailout program. Some banks have repaid their bailout loans with interest, while institutions like AIG will never even begin to repay the billions spent by the government to cover that company’s Credit Default Swaps—but then that’s probably the subject for another movie.
Not much happening in this category. Jackass 3 (Paramount, “R” theatrical, DVD Not Rated, $29.98, 2-Disc $34.98, BD $39.99) provides 94 more minutes of over-the-top juvenile humor that hits its young male target demographic with all the effectiveness of a kick in the collective groin (and the BD provides the potential of 3D for those who have 3D TVs). Morning Glory (Paramount, “PG-13” $29.98, BD $34.98) largely wastes the talents of an all-star cast including Rachel McAdams as a young producer who has to save a morning show from bickering anchors. It's not as bad as some reviewers might have you think, but, all things considered, Morning Glory is pretty weak tea. The Next Three Days (Lionsgate, “PG-13,” $29.98, BD $39.99) is a remake of the French film Pour Elle, and it also has an excellent cast that includes Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, and Brian Dennehy. Audiences liked the film, which strains credulity at times, more than critics, who gave it only a 50% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but not enough to make the movie a financial success. It earned $51 million worldwide against a cost of $30 million.
Classics on Blu-ray