The bestselling DVD release this week will likely be Joe Johnston’s Captain America, but there are plenty of other items of interest including the marvelous Attack the Block from the producers of Shaun of the Dead, a delightful new animated Winnie the Pooh for kids, and a restored version of the most gruesome and compelling horror movie of the 1930s.
Theatrical Movies
Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger (Paramount, “PG-13,” $29.98, BD/Combo $42.99. 3-D BD $54.99) might not have been the most successful of the past summer’s superhero films, but it was the most accessible, with its period setting echoing the earnest derring-do of its hero and calling to mind the wonderful pulpy adventures of Indiana Jones and all those fearless adventurers of the Saturday morning serials of the 1930s. This is a movie that will please both superhero fans and those who have a hard time taking men in tights seriously. A first rate cast that includes Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Hayley Atwell, and Hugo Weaving certainly helps, but some credit should go to Johnston as well, his skill with epic adventure sagas is definitely underrated.
Another film out this week with strong appeal to genre movie fans is Attack the Block (Sony, “R,” $30.99, BD $35.99), an extremely inventive movie written and directed by Joe Cornish in which a plucky band of housing council residents from South London fight off an alien invasion. Nick Frost, Jodie Whitaker, and John Boyega star in this thoroughly enjoyable comedy/science fiction/adventure.
Winnie the Pooh (Disney, “G,” $29.99, BD/Combo $44.98) is a hand-drawn throwback to an earlier era in animation. There’s none of the snide pop culture references and innuendos that plague so many modern animated films. These three fairly faithful adaptations of A.A. Milne’s charming stories are not dumbed down, but they are clearly suitable for even the youngest kids. The animation is perfectly suited to the material and definitely merits getting the Blu-ray edition if at all possible. The only quibble with this delightful feature is that it only lasts 51 minutes, which makes you wish that they had included another chapter from one of Milne’s children’s classics.
The top TV on DVD releases this week are animated shows including Young Justice, Season 1 Vol. 2 (Warner Bros. 90 min., $14.98), the second volume of the Cartoon Network series that debuted this year and features teenage versions of the major DC superheroes in a covert team of superheroes known as Young Justice. The heroes of Young Justice are attempting to establish themselves as superheroes at the same time that they are dealing with all the hang-ups and pitfalls of adolescence. These four adventures featuring Robin, Superboy, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Miss Martian, and Artemis are surprisingly entertaining as they go up against a range of villains including the assassin Chesire, the potent android Amazo, the devious Black Manta, and the potent Klarion the Witch Boy.
Also out this week are Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Vol.3: Iron Man Unleashed (Disney, 135 min., $19.99) and Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Vol.4: Thor (Disney 148 min. $19.99), which feature the Marvel-based cartoon series produced by Film Roman (The Simpsons) that began airing on the Disney XD cable network in the fall of 2010. With Joss Whedon’s live-action Avengers movie due next spring, there is increasing interest in this well-produced series that features a team based on the original Avengers that includes Iron Man, Giant-Man, Hulk, Thor, the Wasp, and (later) adds Captain America, Black Panther, and Hawkeye.
Fans of classic Golden Age theatrical cartoons (that also got plenty of TV air time in the early decades of televison) will have to have the Tom & Jerry: Golden Collection Vol. 1 (Warner Bros. $26.98, BD$34.99), which includes 37 classic MGM cartoons from the series that inspired Itchy & Scratchy.   The Oscar-winning Tom & Jerry cartoons are filled with smoothly animated, highly kinetic slapstick action set against lush watercolor backgrounds. This archetypal cat and mouse series is not without its stereotypes, most notably the African-American maid who is constantly threatening Tom with expulsion if he doesn’t get rid of the mice—not a dealbreaker really, more of an unfortunate reminder that the superb theatrical animation of the 1940s comes with the attitudes that were prevalent in an era that produced Amos n’ Andy.
At the other end of the technical spectrum is the stop-motion animated Adult Swim series Robot Chicken:Season 5 (Cartoon Network, 220 min., $29.98, BD $39.99) that makes up for its technical limitations with outrageous verbal humor and an unrelenting barrage of all sorts of sick jokes.  Created by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, the black comedy suffused Robot Chicken is the quintessential Adult Swim offering—in 2007 it was the highest rated series on Adult Swim, and the second highest rated show on the entire network trailing only Family Guy.
The best of the classic live action offerings this week is Dennis the Menace: Season 3 (Shout Factory, 915 min., $29.93), which includes the penultimate season of the original Dennis the Menace series with Jay North that debuted in 1959. Season 3 was the last season in which Dennis wore his overalls, and most of the episodes show Dennis in school as the show follows the progression of the character from tyro tyke to mischievous middle schooler. This is one of the better Golden Age sitcoms in spite of the fact that it is not as well known as some of the others. Joseph Kearns, who played Mr. Wilson, died during the production of Season 3 and Gale Gordon, who actually resembled the Mr. Wilson of Hank Ketchum’s Dennis the Menace comic strip more than Kearns, took over for the last few episodes as Mr. Wilson’s brother.
Fans of classic sitcoms should take note of the release of Barney Miller: The Complete Series (Shout Factory, 4400 min., $159.99), which includes every episode of the groundbreaking cop comedy on 25 discs. Other classic TV offerings this week including a trio of westerns, Tales of Wells Fargo: The Complete 1st & Second Seasons (Timeless Media, 1300 min. $49.98), Wagon Train: The Complete 4th Season (Timeless Media, $79.98), and The Virginian: The Complete 5th Season (Timeless Media, 2175 min. $79.98).
Classics on Blu-ray
One of the finest horror film of the 1930s is Erle C. Kenton’s Island of Lost Souls (Criterion, Unrated, $39.95), a chilling adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau that is far more horrifying than its source material. With its grotesque version of vivisection (and bestiality) by which the eponymous scientist (played to great effect by Charles Laughton) plays god and creates all sorts of mixed breed sentient creatures, this is a truly frightening film that has no need of the supernatural to provide its chills.  So grotesque are the themes and implications of this film that it was banned in Britain until 1958, and has been unavailable in any sort of decent form on DVD. Now Criterion has painstakingly reconstructed a passable (some scenes remain soft and somewhat murky) version of this classic, which is as good as we are likely to get, and which every true horror movie fan should have in their collection.
Also pretty much of a “must have” is the Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy (Universal, “PG-13,” $79.95), in which Steven Spielberg’s 1993 science fiction dinosaur classic gets the hi-def Blu-ray treatment along with its two sequels, The Lost World (1997), and Jurassic Park III (2001). Watching the velociraptors cornering the humans in the kitchen of the Park’s lodge is as gripping on Blu-ray as it was in the theaters. The sequels may be forgettable, but Jurassic Park is clearly the best dinosaur movie ever.
The top anime release this week is Naruto Shippuden Movie 2: Bonds (Viz Media, “13+,” 90 min., $19.98, BD $24.98), which is available in both Blu-ray and conventional DVD. Naruto Shippuden remains the most popular manga and anime property in North America, and this second Naruto Shippuden movie, which aired in Japan in 2008, should be one of this month’s top anime sellers. A mysterious group of ninja from the Sky Country attack Konoha with great stealth in this action-packed anime feature film.
The only other new release this week is Himawari! Season 1 Complete Collection (Maiden Japan, “13+,” 325 min. $49.98). Himawari! is also a ninja-themed series, though it is primarily a comedy about a high school for female ninja (kunoichi). This series from Genco aired in Japan in 2006 and was followed by another 13-episode series in 2007.
Re-priced bargain releases this week include the vampire-themed Moon Phase (Tsukuyomi) Box Set (Funimation, “13+,” 650 min. $29.98), which contains all 25 episodes of the anime produced by Shaft that aired in Japan in 2004 and 2005, and, of special interest to American comic book fans as well as anime devotees, the Witchblade Complete Series (Funimation, “13+,” 600 min. $39.98, BD $44.98), which collects all 24 episodes of the anime series based on the Top Cow comic, and is available in both Blu-ray (recommended) and conventional DVD.
Cult DVD
Roger Corman’s status as the “King of the B’s” in modern Hollywood is unchallenged, but that doesn’t mean that all of his efforts were equally effective. The Lethal Ladies Collection (Shout Factory, $24.97), which includes a couple of films produced in the Philippines and one in Hong Kong, is strictly for those who enjoy seeing gorgeous women kick butt in various states of undress.