No big blockbusters on DVD this week, but Tamara Drewe, one of the best comic book-based movies of the year debuts along with a bunch of interesting anime titles including the Blu-ray bow of the cult hit FLCL (Fooly Cooly),  a rare Doctor Who release featuring the elusive eighth Doctor, and a couple of underrated film classics from great directors.
Theatrical Movies
There are a lot of theatrical DVDs out this week, but no blockbusters and not a lot of top drawer titles except for Stephen Frears Tamara Drewe (Sony, “R,” $28.95, BD $38.96). Based on Posy Simmonds’ comic strip, which has been collected into a graphic novel, Tamara Drewe is a modern version of Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, a delicious black comedy that skewers its intellectual protagonists on their own pretensions and hang-ups. Gemma Arterton is luminous in the title role and the entire casts shines. This movie, which won a minor award at Cannes, but got short shrift in the crowded U.S. art house movie circuit, is definitely worth checking out.
For horror movie fans, the top release is Paranormal Activity 2 (Paramount, “R,” $29.98, BD $39.99), a prequel to the micro-budgeted horror film hit of 2007. Like the original, PA2 uses surveillance Webcam footage edited in documentary style to chronicle the struggles of a young family menaced by a demonic force. Fans who enjoyed the first Paranormal Activity movie generally liked the second one, and critics gave it a 61% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is not bad for a horror movie and far better than the 37% positive rating earned by Steven R. Monroe’s remake of Meir Zarchi’s 1978 exploitative rape/revenge film I Spit On Your Grave (Anchor Bay, Not Rated, $29.97, BD $34.97) and the 33% rating earned by Wes Craven’ supernatural/serial killer film My Soul To Take (Universal,”R,” $29.98, BD $39.98).
There plenty of movies with indie sensibilities and pedigrees out this week including Alexis Dos Santos’ Unmade Beds (MPI, Unrated, $24.98), which features an unconventional love story set in London. With two drifting/lost protagonists, a gimlet-eyed look at London’s wild party scene, and a jangling soundtrack, Unmade Beds could pass for something cobbled together from the outtakes of the controversial BBC teen series Skins.   Even more interesting is the psych ward romance, It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Focus Films, “PG-13,” $29.98, BD $39.98), an uneven, but often compelling film, which features a strong performance from Zach Galifianakis.
Middle Men (Paramount, “R,” $29.98, BD $34.98) is based on the unlikely but true story about the three guys who revolutionized the pornography business by figuring out how to monetize it on the net. Despite a storyline that is rich in comedy and drama as well as a screenplay and direction by George Gallo (Midnight Run), Middle Men only managed to get a 41% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 
Much less compelling are the predictable romantic comedy Life As We Know It (Warner Bros., “PG-13,” $28.98, BD $35.99) about two attractive singles who bond while raising the orphan child of dead friends, and You Again (Disney, “PG,” $29.99, BD $39.99), which wastes a talented cast in an intergenerational female high school rivalry comedy saga that only earned an 18% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
There are a couple of films that aren’t of interest for everyone, but which nevertheless because of their quality will have a strong appeal to some. Tyler Perry’s adaptation of Ntosake Strange’s 1975 play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf (Lionsgate, “R,” $29.98, $39.98) is theatrical and over-the-top, but also powerful and poetic. Wild Target (Fox, “PG-13,” $22.98, BD $29.98), which stars Bill Nighy, Rupert Grint, and Emily Blunt, is an unlikely dark comedy with a light touch that is a must for fans of British comedies.
There are several major new releases this week including Chrome Shelled Regios Part 1 (Funimation, “16+,” 300 min., $59.98) and Part 2 (Funimation, “16+,” 300 min., $59.98). Based on a light novel series by Shusuke Amagi that has sold 4.5 million copies in Japan, Chrome Shelled Regios is a post-apocalyptic science fiction saga set on a polluted Earth overrun with mutated animals known as Filth Monsters. Humans are forced to live in mobile cities called Regios, which are dependent on supplies of selenium required by the computers that are indispensable for their ability to control the Regios. The 24-episode Chrome Shelled Regios anime series was produced by Zexcs and aired in Japan in 2009.
The other major debut of new material is Aniplex USA’s release of The Garden of Sinners on Blu-ray. The Garden of Sinners Blu-ray Disc Box (Aniplex, “13+,” 640 min., $598.98) is priced very similarly to the Japanese BD release, which cost 53,500 yen. The 7-disc set contains all of the anime movies based on the novel series created by Type-Moon (Kinoko Nasu & Takashi Takeuchi), who are best known here for their creation of the visual novels Tsukihime and Fate/stay Night, both of which were made into popular anime.  The Garden of Sinners is a complex fantasy/romance/murder mystery that weaves back and forth in time to narrate a very complicated story involving a very conflicted woman with definite homicidal tendencies, a man who loves her, a magus who wants to use both of them for her purposes, and another magus who wants to reset the world.
Also new to North America is Eyeshield 21 Collection 4 (Sentai Filmworks, “13+,” 325 min. $49.98), which includes 13 more episodes of the anime series devoted to American football, an excellent choice for the week following the Super Bowl.
But it’s the release of the cult hit series FLCL on Blu-ray that will have a lot of fans as excited as anything coming out this week. The OVA series produced by Gainax in 2000 aired on Adult Swim and remains a fan favorite. The FLCL Complete Series (Funimation, “14+,” 150 min., $39.98, BD $44.98) makes its debut on Blu-ray and the hi-def format is well worth the extra $5.
Re-priced and re-packaged sets out this week include the re-mastered Dragon Ball Movie 4-Pack (Funimation, “13+,” and the hilarious science fiction alien invaders spoof Sgt. Frog Season 1 Collection (Funimation, “13+,” 650 min., $49.98).
It’s a very slim week in the TV category, but there are a few shows of interest including Check It Out With Dr. Steve Brule Season 1 (Warner Bros., 66 min., $14.98), which contains all six episodes of the parody of a (very bad) local TV station’s newsmagazine that stars the clever deadpan comic actor John C. Reilly. The Check It Out segments aired on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and should appeal to the young hip audience that watches The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Adult Swim.
Another very interesting release is Doctor Who: The Movie (BBC, 86 min., $34.95), a deluxe 2-disc package that contains the 1996 made-for-TV-movie that was the first attempt to revive the Doctor Who series, which was cancelled in 1989. Produced by Universal, Fox, and the BBC, the movie was supposed to be a pilot for an American Doctor Who series on Fox, but low Stateside ratings snuffed the effort and Whovians had to wait until BBC Wales revived the series in 2005. But Doctor Who: The Movie was an interesting effort if only because it marks the only appearance of the eighth Doctor Paul McGann (the 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy also appears). The movie comes with a great disc of extras including commentaries from McCoy and McGann, documentaries about the failed attempt to revive the series (the U.K. ratings were great, but not so in the U.S.), and even a feature about the comic book appearances of the 8th Doctor.
Also out this week is Doctor Who—Story 063: The Mutants (BBC, 145 min., $34.95), a six-episode saga from 1972 that starred the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and featured the mutated Solonians from the planet Solos.
Animated releases include Tom & Jerry Vol.1: Fur Flying Adventures (Warner Bros., $14.98), which includes 14 shorts, most of which were directed by the great Chuck Jones in the 1960s—not Jones’ best work and not the best Tom & Jerrys, but interesting nonetheless.
Young Marvel fans will want to check out The Super Hero Squad: Quest for the Infinite Sword, Vol. 3 (Shout Factory, 154 min., $14.93), which collects seven episodes of the Marvel Animation series that airs on the Cartoon Network and features very cartoon-like super-deformed versions of the Marvel superhero engaged in humor-laden all ages cartoon adventures.
Continuing series releases include The Guardian: The Third Season (Paramount, 970 min., $49.98), the final season of the series featuring Simon Baker with guest star turns from Chris Pine (Star Trek), Zack Efron (HSM), and Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass), as well as Columbo: The Mystery Movie Collection (Universal, 3 discs, $26.98), which features six made-for-TV movies featuring Peter Falk as the deceptively clever detective.
Newly Released Classics
The blacklisted American director Joseph Losey is best known for the films he made in England such as The Servant, but that art house classic, though brilliant, appears to be rather dry and almost brittle when compared with The Prowler (VCI, Unrated, $19.95), a juicy film noir that Losey made in the U.S. in 1951 that features an electric performance by the brooding Van Heflin as a rogue cop. Now available on DVD for the first time in a brilliantly restored edition, The Prowler is arguably Losey’s best film and one of the best film noirs of the 1950s. In addition this disc contains a number of great extras including a short documentary with noir maven James Ellroy (L.A. Confidential) and blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo’s son Christopher (Trumbo wrote the screenplay for The Prowler) as well an appreciation by French director Bertrand Tavernier, the director of Coup de Torchon, the best screen adaptation yet of a Jim Thompson novel. The Prowler is a disc that every film noir buff will want to own.
Also on DVD for the first time this week is Elia Kazan’s America, America (Warner Bros., Not Rated, $19.95). Kazan of course is famous for his work with the Actor’s Studio and films like A Streetcar Named Desire and East of Eden, but America, America, which is based on a novel Kazan wrote about the struggles of his uncle to escape from repression in Turkey and emigrate to the United States is both intensely personal and focused in its depiction of one family’s experience and yet epic and universal in its evocation of the immigrant’s journey to America in search of a better life. Kazan was always brilliant with actors, but his work the unknown Stathis Giallelis who is onscreen for most of the film’s three-hour length is just off the charts—and Haskell Wexler’s black-and-white photography is every bit the equal of Kazan’s direction. It’s amazing that this powerful, quintessentially American film that was nominated for four Oscars (winning one) has not previously been released on DVD.