This week Americans have a chance to acquire every episode of Torchwood prior to the new Starz series as well as the first half of the latest Doctor Who season, which includes a masterful episode written by Neil Gaiman. And there’s Limitless for those who enjoy a “realistic fantasy” film about super powers, as well as an 80s nostalgia bath (Take Me Home Tonight), and an action-packed martial arts tournament film in bone-crunching Blu-ray (Tekken).
With the new Torchwood: Miracle Day debuting on Starz, it’s a great time to check out Torchwood: The Complete Original U.K. Series (BBC, $119.98, BD $129.98), which includes the first two seasons of the Doctor Who spin-off plus the 5-episode Children of Earth mini-series. This show about a group of alien hunters based in Cardiff, Wales, which was created by Russell T. Davies, the man responsible for the revival of Doctor Who, has been growing in popularity and interest. Those who enjoy Miracle Day should definitely check out the 31 previous episodes of this remarkable science fiction series, which are available in this deluxe12-disc set.
Speaking of Russell Davies, Doctor Who: Series Six Part 1 (BBC, 315 min., $24.98, BD $29.98) includes 7 recent episodes of the revived Doctor Who series starring Matt Smith (the Eleventh Doctor) including “The Doctor’s Wife” episode written by Neil Gaiman (Sandman), which is the best of a very strong set of shows, which also includes “The Impossible Astronaut," "Day of the Moon," and "The Almost People." Once again the Blu-ray is the way to go given the recent vintage of the series and the low price differential.
The other prime U.K. release is Reggie Perrin: Set 1 (Acorn Media, 341 min., $39.98), an update of a classic British comedy series that stars Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) as a marketing executive for Groomtech Industries in a show that appears to have lots of affinities to other U.K. workplace comedies like The Office. The new Reggie Perrin is recommended for those who enjoy British comedies and Clunes’ acerbic black humor and deadpan delivery.
Animated “TV on DVD” releases this week include Young Justice Season 1, Vol.1 (Warner Bros., 100 min., $14.98), a single-disc that contains the first four episodes of the DC Comics-inspired series featuring Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis. The teen heroes of Young Justice are the Justice League’s secret weapon and they star in one of the most popular new shows on the Cartoon Network. 
Other animated offerings include The Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure (Warner Bros., 183 min., $19.97), a 2-disc set that contains 10 episodes of the classic Smurf cartoons, The Littles: The Complete Collection (Mill Creek, 831 min., $12.98), a bargain-priced collection of the cartoons based on the children’s novels by John Peterson, The Busy World of Richard Scarry: Fun in Busytown (Mill Creek, 947 min., $12.98), another low-priced set of vintage cartoons, this one was produced by Cookie Jar Entertainment and aired in the 1990s, and The Get-Along Gang: The Best of the Get-Along Gang (Mill Creek, 223 min., $9.98), 10 episodes of the series based on characters created by the American Greeting Card Co. that aired on CBS from 1984-1985.
Continuing series out this week include Melrose Place: The Sixth Season, Vol. 2 (Paramount, 847 min, $39.98), which includes 14 episodes of the original primetime L.A. soaper, Punky Brewster: The Best of Season 2 (Mill Creek, 246 min., $9.98), a collection of 10 episodes of the saccharine sitcom, and Simon & Simon: The Best of Season 3 (Mill Creek, 480 min., $9.98), a low-priced collection of the underrated 80s detective series.
Kid shows out this week include the I<3 iCarly Collection Gift Set (Nickelodeon, $24.99), which includes over 15 episodes of the popular girls’ show, and Hey Dude: Season 1 (Nickelodeon, 300 min., $19.98), the sitcom set on a dude ranch that was Nickelodeon’s first live-action TV series.
One interesting trend that has shown up this month is evident in the release of TV shows from Brazil, the economic powerhouse of South America that is also trying to display some cultural influence via the small screen. Alice: Season 1 (Maya Entertainment, $19.98) follows the adventures of a beautiful young girl who has to deal with all the temptations of city life, while Mandrake: Season 1 (Maya Entertainment, $19.98), which was originally produced by HBO’s South American affiliate, is the saga of a womanizing criminal lawyer in Rio who is based on a character created by novelist Rubern Fonseca. Also from South America, though it was produced in Argentina and not Brazil, is Epitafios: Season 2 (Maya Entertainment, $19.98), a crime drama about the fallout from a failed hostage situation in which four high school students were killed.
Theatrical Releases
Superhero fans might be interested in Limitless (Fox, “R,” $29.98, BD $39.99), a super powers fantasy that is well-grounded in contemporary urban America. It focuses on a ne’er do well writer, who suddenly becomes a world beater thanks to a wonder drug that greatly expands his mental powers. Though the film’s plot occasionally lacks coherence, this is one of those films where the viewer should just sit back and enjoy the ride and director Neil Burger’s skill at visually conveying his protagonist’s mental states. Limitless earned a solid 70% positive rating from reviewers surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes, and if you missed this ingenious thriller in the theaters, you might want to check it out on DVD where it is available in an extended cut that includes an alternate ending.
Audiences (54% approval) liked Take Me Home Tonight (Fox, “R,” $29.99, BD $39.99) a lot more than critics, who gave it just a 28% positive rating. Set in the 1980s this raunchy “R” rated comedy stars the always reliable Topher Grace as a recent MIT grad who opts out of the yuppie rat race and settles for a job in a video store. An invitation to an end-of-summer blowout from his unrequited high school crush leads to a night of wild extremes and more comedy than the critics gave this exercise in 80s nostalgia credit for.
Martial arts enthusiasts will enjoy Tekken (Anchor Bay, “R,” BD Combo $39.99), a tournament based martial arts movie based on a popular video game that includes a number of MA superstars including Brazilian Capoeira master Lateef Crowder, and Anto Kasabov, the multiple-time U.S. and European Tae Kwon Do champion.
There’s something for the art house crowd as well this week.  Potiche (Music Box “R,” $29.95, BD $38.94) stars Catherine Deneuve as a trophy wife (“potiche”) who is forced to run her husband’s business, when he is held hostage in a labor dispute. Francois Ozon’s film is a very clever comedy that examines the battle lines between the sexes and the classes.
It’s a very light week for anime releases led by the Gungrave Complete Series (Funimation, “16+,” 650 minutes, $49.98, BD $54.98), which includes all 26 episodes of the science fiction/crime anime based on the video game created by Yasuhiro Nightow (Trigun). This series, which originally aired in Japan in 2003 and 2004, was previously released by Geneon, but is now available (and recommended) in a high-def Blu-ray transfer.
Also available this week is Dragon Ball Z DVD Dragon Box 6 (Funimation, “13+,” 1025 min., $59.98), which includes episodes 210-250 of the long-running DBZ series uncut, re-mastered and restored frame-by-frame. The DBZ Kai series is rendered in hi-def and shorn of “filler” material, but those who want the uncut original DBZ series can’t go wrong these Dragon Box collections.
The other major release due this week is Hidamari Sketch x Hoschimittsu DVD Collection (Sentai Filmworks, “13+,” 350 min., $49.98), which includes all 12 episodes of the third season of the Hidamari Sketch anime produced by Shaft and based on the four-panel slice-of-life comedy comic strip by Ume Aoki about a group of cute girls who live in an apartment complex frequented by artists.
Anyone who is interested in the 1960s or in the rise of singer/songwriters and the protest movement should check out Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune (First Run Feature, Unrated $27.95). Ken Bowser’s view of his subject is perhaps a little too rosy. Ochs wrote some great songs, but his lyrics could also be hopelessly ham-handed at times and then brilliantly incisive at others. His was a tragic story that mirrors the turbulent decades of his maturity. Bowser mixes solid interview material with excerpts of Ochs performing some 40 of his songs. This would be a “must-have” if the filmmakers could have included complete performances of all or most of the songs as extras on the DVD, but alas they didn’t (though it probably wasn’t their fault given the onerous difficulties and expenses that music publishers put filmmakers through to obtain musical rights).
Blu-ray releases may not provide the same level of grandeur, but they do provide the closest home video approximation of the IMAX experience.   The hi-def Tropical Rainforest (Inception Media, Unrated, BD $19.98) is a re-mastered edition of one of the first commercially released DVDs.  Its soaring IMAX camerawork takes viewers on a journey into the heart of tropical rainforests in Australia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, and Malaysia. While the visual quality isn’t up to the level of other more recent Discovery Channel IMAX Blu-rays, this 40-minute documentary is still occasionally compelling and includes a sound track by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. 
Even better visually is Ring of Fire (Inception Media, 40 min., $19.98), which features lots of stunning aerial shots of volcanoes from Chile to Washington State to Japan. This 40-minute film is hardly the last word on the complex subject of volcanoes, but it does contain lots of stunning images.