Jake Gyllenhaal’s harrowing portrait of a modern tabloid TV ambulance chaser gives this week’s home entertainment releases an Oscar-worthy gloss, but there are more hidden delights due out on Tuesday including the best time-traveling science fiction film in years, Jon Stewart’s earnest political drama Rosewater, the complete Gerry Anderson series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and a second 23-episode collection of the new re-mastered high-def edition of Sailor Moon.
This week’s highest-grossing release is the very serviceable family film Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day (Disney, “PG,” 81 min., $29.99, BD $36.99), which stars Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner in an adaptation of the popular children’s book. The film managed a 63% positive rating, and for a family comedy, that is pretty good rating, which means that parents won’t go wrong with this one.
Jon Stewart, who is best known for his humorous political commentary on The Daily Show, made his directorial debut last year with Rosewater (Universal, “R,” 208 min., $29.98, BD $34.98), which is based on the memoirs of Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-born Canadian journalist, who was arrested while he was covering street protests surrounding the disputed Iranian presidential election of 2009. While Rosewater is almost too earnest in execution, this is an effective film that managed a 74% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
TV on DVD
Once again the best releases this week are of the vintage variety. The campy 1960s Batman series, which was made available in a pricy complete series set, is now being released in smaller portions, such as Batman: The 2nd Season, Part 1 (Warner Bros., 450 min., $39.98), which includes 30 episodes, though it should be noted that the episodes are just 15 minutes long.
Other vintage series of note include the stylish early 1980s detective romp, Hart to Hart: The Complete 4th Season (Shout Factory, 1050 min., $39.97), the San Francisco-set Don Johnson police drama Nash Bridges: The Complete 4th Season (VEI, 1080 min., $36.00), and the insufferable sitcom Mama’s Family: The Complete 6th Season (TimeLife, $29.98).
The only contemporary American releases of note are the Edie Falco-starring Nurse Jackie: Season 5 (Lionsgate, 336 min., $29.97), and Olive Kitteridge (HBO, $39.98, BD $49.98), a 4-episode adaptation of Elizabeth Stout’s novel about an embittered retired Maine school teacher, who is played with rigorous honesty by Frances McDormand. This is not a particularly entertaining saga—old people suffering from depression (and repression) are not exactly a barrel of laughs—but Lisa Cholodenko’s sensitive direction and superb performances from McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Zoe Kazan, and John Gallagher, Jr. make this slice-of-life drama a perfect example of “quality” television, which means it’s not for everyone, but it delivers the goods for those who enjoy “serious” programming.
There are a number of interesting foreign productions including Atlantis: Season 2, Part 1 (BBC, 270 min., $19.98, BD $24.98), which includes the first half of the final season of the fantasy series that aired here on BBC America. Equally interesting to a different, more mature audience, is the French series Maison Close (Music Box Films, 480 min., $34.95, BD $39.95), which is set in a high class Parisian bordello in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War. This series is not nearly as salacious as its title might suggest, and bears comparison with some of the best American cable dramas.
The best animated TV offering this week is Clarence, Vol.1: Mystery Pinata (Warner Bros., 132 min., $14.97), which collects the first episodes of the 2014 Cartoon Network series created by Skyler Page that was nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy.
New to North America (on disc) is the Engaged to the Unidentified Collection (Sentai Filmworks, 300 min., $49.98, BD $59.98), a subtitles-only release of the 2014 series produced by Dogakobo and based on the four-panel manga series written by Cherry-Arai about a busty teenage girl, who, on her 16th birthday, learns that her family has arranged a marriage for her. This slice-of-life anime romcom was simulcast on Crunchyroll.
Also new this week is the Reideen Collection 2 (Sentai Filmworks, 325 min., $49.98), which collects the final 13 episodes of the 2007 series from Production I.G. that was basically a remake of the 1975 “super robot” anime Brave Raideen. This nostalgia-inspired series is kind of cool if you dig the classic 1970s big robo genre, which remains popular in a Japan that is nostalgic for those booming years of robust economic growth.
The Digimon Fusion: Season 1 Collection (Cinedigm, 660 min., $44.99) only presents the U.S. dub version of the series, so is really only for the nostalgically-inclined Digi-fans.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.