The summer’s most underrated superhero movie debuts on disc along with a new Iron Man/Hulk animated feature from Marvel, a new season of The Simpsons, the final season of the solid Transformers Prime animated series, a compendium featuring the three Doctor Who protagonists from the revived series, and a new mecha-heavy sequel to the Aquarion anime.
Theatrical Releases
This week’s highest grossing theatrical release is The Wolverine (Fox, “PG-13,” $29.98, BD Combo $39.99, 3-D BD $49.99), one of last summer’s most interesting comic book movies.  Unlike many superhero flicks where major “throwdown” action scenes appear to happen just to keep things moving.  Hewing closely to the original comic book saga by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine does feature some well-choreographed and superbly photographed action set pieces, but unlike the manufactured mayhem in so many superhero films these action scenes have a direct bearing on a plot that stresses character and builds tension throughout.  The Wolverine earned nearly 70% of its worldwide total of $414.8 million overseas.  Unlike Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, The Wolverine, which was made by Fox not Marvel Studios, didn’t receive an “Avengers” bump at the box office.  Nevertheless superhero fans should not miss one of 2013’s very best examples of the genre.
One of the few media areas in which Marvel has not proven superior to DC is in the creation of direct-to-DVD animated films.  DC and Warner Bros. Animation have created a steady stream of such fare, while lately Marvel has been concentrating its animated efforts on TV series.  But now comes Iron Man and Hulk Heroes United (Disney, “PG,” 71 min., $29.99, BD $39.99).  The CGI animated feature teams the powerful, verbally-challenged Hulk with the fast-talking Iron Man.  The character designs for The Hulk are clearly based on the Mark Ruffalo version of the character from The Avengers.  If this production has a problem, it is the “PG” rating, which means that Heroes United is less edgy than the DC/Warner Bros. Animation features that target teens and adults.
The success of The Twilight Saga movies and The Hunger Games films set off a frantic search in Hollywood for other potential YA novels with “movie franchise” potential.  The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Sony, “PG-13,” 130 min., $30.99, BD $40.99) is based on a series of YA novels, but neither critics, who awarded the film a terrible 12% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, nor audiences, who were so unenthusiastic that the film made only $31 million in spite of a wide release, liked the movie, which can be recommended only to fans of the original novel.
The critics did like the indie slice-of-life saga Drinking Buddies (Magnolia, “R,” 90 min. $26.98, BD $29.98) about two semi-slackers played by Olivia Wilde (Cowboys & Aliens) and Jake Johnson (New Girl).  Nothing much happens as the two couples at the center of this film fidget and readjust their relationships as they frantically fight toward something that might eventually be defined as maturity.  This film is not for everyone, but it does a good job of depicting various workplace relationship dynamics, and I think that many viewers will find the situations depicted here both realistic and reminiscent of events in their own lives.
The critics hated Smurfs 2 (Sony, “PG,” $30.99, $40.99), which could muster only a 13% positive rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, but the film earned $347.4 million worldwide, and even managed to make $71 million here in the U.S. in spite of debuting during a glut of animated features late in the summer of 2013.  Yes the story is repetitive and the slapstick humor at the expense of the villainous Gargamel (Hank Azaria) is disturbingly cruel, but the movie does work for younger children.  Neil Patrick Harris leads a strong cast of real actors in this live-action animated hybrid, but the film’s most attractive feature for adult viewers might just be the film’s real life Parisian backgrounds.  They look spectacular, especially in the Blu-ray version, but adult viewers should be forewarned, unless they have a strong attraction to The Smurfs property, this is a film that is strictly for the younger set.
The top release this week is The Simpsons: The Complete 16th Season (Fox, 483 min., $49.98, BD $59.98), which includes all 21 episodes from the longest-running scripted series in TV history.  Included in this collection is the hilarious episode in which Homer and Grandpa smuggle prescription drugs from Canada as well “There’s Something About Marrying” in which Springfield legalizes gay marriage and Homer becomes an ordained minister. 
Another great animated TV on DVD release this week is Transformers Prime: The Complete 3rd Season (Shout Factory, 300 min., $19.93, BD $24.97), which includes the final 13 episodes from the excellent CGI Transformers series that was broadcast on The Hub from 2010-2013.  The CGI animation for Transformers Prime was developed by Digitalscope Company Ltd., the Japanese company responsible for Soulcalibur III and Ninja Gaiden.   Transformers Prime was developed by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurzman, who co-wrote the live-action Transformers movie (as well as the J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films) so you can be assured that there will be  many knowing references to the long history of the Transformers mythos.
This week’s only other animated TV on DVD release is The Berenstain Bears: Ultimate Collection, Brother Bear Collection (Phase 4 Films, 120 min., $9.99), which targets very young viewers with its gentle messages about love, family life, and responsibility.
For Doctor Who fans there is Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited—9-11 (BBC, $39.98), which features the three Doctors from the revived Doctor Who series played by Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith.  Each of the Doctors gets 2-episodes in this sterling showcase for the new Doctor Who series, which began airing in 2005.
Also due this week is The Big C: The Final Season, Hereafter (Sony, DVD-R, $30.99), which includes the final four extended episodes of the comedy/drama starring Laura Linney as a middle-aged woman stricken with cancer.  While never a big ratings hit, The Big C has been very popular with critics who found much to admire in the performances of Linney, Oliver Platt, John Benjamin Hickey, Gabourey Sidibe, and Cynthia Nixon.
With the holidays upon us, the gift sets keep coming.  This week it is Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Series (Paramount, 4217 min., $349.99), which includes every episode of the CBS series starring Jack Lord that ran from 1968-1980 (except for the second season saga “Bored, She Hung Herself”) on 73 discs, plus a full disc of extras.
Also due this week is Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series (Shout Factory, 8100 min., $249.95), which includes 325 episodes of the soap opera parody starring Louise Lasser that aired in 1976 and 1977.
Those who enjoy mystery dramas with a real comedic edge might want to check out Lilyhammer Season 1 (New Video, 376 min., $29.95, BD $39.95), a Norwegian/American co-production that stars Steven Van Zandt (E-Street Band, The Sopranos) as a New York mobster who relocates to Norway and soon begins to take over the local criminal infrastructure. 
And for Betty White fans there is Hot in Cleveland: Season 4 (Comedy Central, 528 min., $29.98).
December gets off to a strong start in this category led by the release of Aquarion Evol Part I (Funimation, “14+,” 325 min., BD/Combo $64.98, Ltd. $69.95), which collects the first 13 episodes of the 2012 series produced by Satelight.  This mecha-heavy science fiction series is set in the same universe as the original 2005 anime series Genesis of Aquarion, but takes place 12,000 years after the events in the earlier series.  Aquarian Evol is a giant robot fest that, like its predecessor features lots of character development as well as plenty of cool mechas.
Also new this week is Girls und Panzer: The Complete Series (Sentai Filmworks, “14+,” 300 min., $59.98, BD $69.98).  This 12-episode series, which was produced by Actas in 2012, is set in a universe in which World War II tanks are used in sports warfare, especially by high school girls in a new “martial art” known as “tankery.”  At first the protagonists of this series would rather shop for tank tops that become tops in tankery, but they soon learn that the stakes in the high school competition are very high.
Other new (to North America) releases include Pokemon Movie 16: Genesect and the Legend Awakened (Viz Media, “all ages,” 70 min., $19.97) and  One Piece Season 5, Part 4 (Funimation, “14+,” 325 min., DVD $39.98), which presents episodes 300-312 from what remains one of the longest-running and most popular anime series in Japan.  The episodes are presented uncut with a choice of either the original Japanese audio track (with English subtitles) or an English dub.
Re-releases due this week include Saint Seiya Classic Collection (New Video, “13+,” $99.95), which includes 73 episodes of the classic 1980s anime series from Toei, while the Zatch Bell!: The Complete Seasons 1 & 2 (New Video) contains episodes 1-104 from the Toei series that originally aired from 2003 to 2006 (and even aired here on Adult Swim for a time).

Tom Flinn

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