The top release this week is Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, but there are other superb offerings out there including the complete Boardwalk Empire, the second season of the prison comedy/drama Orange Is the New Black, a classic Cybermen Doctor Who serial, as well as a historical series about a British dynasty that would fit right in to the treacherous world of Game of Thrones.

Theatrical Movies

This week’s top release is Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (Warner Bros., “R,” 134 min., $28.98, BD/DVD Combo $44.98), this biography of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American history, is the highest-grossing film of Eastwood’s career and easily the most successful film yet to come of the morass that was the Iraq War.  It also features a stunning performance by Bradley Cooper, who should have won the Oscar.  In dealing with a conflict that divided Americans, Eastwood is careful to present a balanced view of the material by creating a film that is both anti-war (in its unflinching look at the brutality of the conflict and its lingering effects on the fighters) and patriotic at the same time, which is no mean feat.

With American Sniper, which was the highest-grossing film released in 2014, due out this week there aren’t a lot of other options.  The pathetic comedy Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (Paramount, “R,” 93 min., $29.99, BD $39.99) is cruder and stupider than its predecessor, but not nearly as funny—its 13% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes tells you all you need to know.

For art movie lovers there is Leviathan (Sony, “R,” $30.99, BD $34.99), a scathing portrait of contemporary Russian society directed by Andrey Avyagintsev, which earned a superb 99% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.  But be forewarned, this movie, which is set in a remote fishing town on the Barents Sea, is a slog with overtones of hopelessness and despair that gradually build to a deafening symphony of gloom.

This category is hopping this week with a number of great releases including
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Series (HBO, 2200 min., $199.98, BD $239.99), the superbly-produced period drama set in Atlantic City during Prohibition, which won 17 well-deserved Emmys during its five-season run.  From the very first episode, which cost $18 million and was directed by Martin Scorsese, it was clear that this was going be more than just another crime drama.  A good deal of the credit should go to Scorsese, one of the show’s producers, who established the “look” of the series in that first episode, but lots of props also have to go to lead actor Steve Buscemi, who was consistently brilliant in his portrayal of gang boss Nucky Johnson, a character based on real life gangster Enoch L. Johnson.  But in the end it was writer/creator Terrence Winter, who gave this series extra weight by pulling back the curtain and revealing the political corruption that allowed Prohibition gangsters to flourish and deftly integrating the elements of the story with the key historical events of the era.  As might be expected, the extras with this set are great with all sorts of behind-the-scenes looks at the show’s stellar production design, costumes, and visuals.

Another contemporary series that has gotten great reviews is the Netflix prison drama Orange Is the New Black: Season 2 (Lionsgate, 779 min., $39.98, BD $39.97), which is based on a memoir by Piper Kerman.  Season 2 scored a superb 97% positive rating from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, and with Season 3 debuting next month, this is the perfect time to catch up on the series that generated more viewers and hours viewed in its first week than either House of Cards or Arrested Development.

Other series of special interest to geek viewers include the classic Doctor Who: The Cybermen (BBC, 240 min., $24.98), which contains episodes 1-4 of Earthshock, a serial from 1982 featuring the fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and the first appearance of the Cybermen since Revenge of the Cybermen in 1975, the Seth MacFarlane-produced animated series American Dad: Volume 10 (Fox, 480 min., $29.95), Beauty and the Beast: Season 2 (Paramount, 925 min., $49.99), the second season of the 2012 series starring Kristin Kreuk, the final season of the high school musical series Glee: The Complete 6th Season (Fox, $29.98), plus Glee: The Complete Series (Fox, $149.98), and the first season of the “fish-out-of-water” series Welcome to Sweden: The Complete 1st Season (eOne, 220 min., $19.98).

Vintage TV releases due on Tuesday include the Don Rickles 1978 sitcom CPO Sharkey: The Complete First Season (Time Life, 400 min., $29.98), Gary Shandling’s hilarious faux talk show, The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series (Mill Creek, $44.98), Married…With Children: The Complete 9th & 10th Seasons (Mill Creek, 1240 min., $14.98), and the 1990s sitcom NewsRadio: The Complete Series (Mill Creek, $44.98).

There is no better example of the English village murder mystery on film than the delightfully macabre
Midsomer Murders, and this week there are two volumes available, Midsomer Murders: Series 14 (Acorn Media, 744 min., $49.98), which contains 8 superb feature-length mysteries, and Midsomer Murders: Series 15 (Acorn Media, 557 min., $49.97), which contains six exquisite homicide sagas all of which are presented in their original UK broadcast order.  The incredibly picturesque settings in this series are matched for richness and texture only by the finely honed performances from the universally strong casts that make this show so special.

Those who enjoy the bloodthirsty struggle for power in
Game of Thrones should check out Britain’s Bloodiest Dynasty: The Plantagenets (Acorn Media, 188 min., $39.99), a 4-episode historical series that uses dramatic reenactments, historical documents, and the masterful storytelling skills of historian Dan Jones to demonstrate that in the case of the Plantagentets versus Game of Thrones, history trumps fantasy for court intrigues, with a cast that includes overbearing fathers, weak sons, warring cousins, treacherous allies, and best friends who became mortal enemies.

This week’s top releases are Puchimas: Petit Idolmaster: Season 1 +OVAs (Funimation, Subtitles Only, $19.98) and Puchimas: Petit Idolmaster: Season 2 Collection (Funimation, Subtitles Only, $19.98).  These two releases collect the 64-episode Original Net Animation (ONA) series by Gathering, which was streamed online in 2013 (carried here on the Funimation site), followed by six OVAs also released in 2013 in the Season 1 Collection, and the 74-episode second Net series that streamed between April and June of 2014.  The ONAs are based on a four-panel manga comic strip written by Akane and based on the Namco Games Idolmaster franchise, which follows the idols of 765 Productions as they are joined by miniaturized versions of themselves known as Puchidols.  Japanese discs of these net video collections are going for big bucks ($80-90) on Amazon, so there is plenty of interest in the property among hardcore fans.

There are a number of excellent repackaged, re-priced anime releases including a new high-def edition of Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s 1993 classic (and ultra-violent) samurai film Ninja Scroll: The Motion Picture (Sentai Filmworks, 94 min., $14.98, BD $24.98), the 2006 .hack/Roots: Complete Collection (Funimation, 650 min., $39.98), and the 1998 Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 (FUNimation, 650 min., $39.98), which was released in 2011 at $49.98.

--Tom Flinn

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial staff of