Out this month are three releases of stories from the Land of the Rising Sun:
First we have Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2 (you can see our coverage of Sailor Moon Crystal Set 1here), which follows the continuing adventures of Usagi as she now must face new foes in the form of the Spectre Sisters and a mysterious girl with pink hair as they threaten to take the Silver Crystal. This set contains episodes 15-26 of the rebooted series (the Black Moon Arc) and is available in standard DVD, standard Blu-ray combo, and Limited Edition Blu-ray combo packs. Both Blu-ray options also have some bonus features, including a digital art gallery, clean opening and ending songs, and an interview with Momoiro Clover Z, the Japanese girls’ group that sings the theme songs for the series. The Limited Edition set also boasts some additional extras, including an exclusive chipboard box, a 96-page art booklet with episode summaries, and six full-color art cards. Fans should also be aware that RightStufAnime.com (yes, only one f in the URL) also offered an exclusive Sailor Moon sun catcher with purchase but they were so popular that they’ve already sold out, so if you want that option, keep your eyes peeled on eBay and the like. On Amazon you can snag the DVD set there for $27.99, the Blu-ray Combo set for $53.98, and the Limited Edition Blu-ray set for $62.19.
If you’re a fan of the hilarious world of Carol Burnett et al., you’re in luck with two new spring releases from Time Life:
First we have The Carol Burnett Show: The Best of Tim Conway, which includes four episodes (ranging from 1969 to 1978) from the Emmy-winning series highlighting the comedic exploits of timeless funny man Tim Conway. Conway began as a guest star on The Carol Burnett Show in 1967 and became a regular member of the cast in 1975, remaining until the series’ final season in 1978. In addition to the five Emmy Awards he won for his work on the show, Conway brought to life some of its most iconic characters and sketches. This collection’s episodes (three of which have never been previously released) feature his much-loved characters “Oldest Man” and “Mr. Tudball,” in addition to lesser-known (but equally amusing) appearances as an untraditional fairytale prince, a man with canine identity confusion, and the Lone Ranger. Fans will also be pleased to see that Episode 513 (December 1, 1971) includes the famous Dentist sketch featuring Tim Conway facing off against Harvey Korman as the latter struggles to maintain self-control in the face of Conway’s targeted and epic goofiness. No special features on this one (which is a shame, since Time Life is pretty great at those), but fans will appreciate the content nonetheless. The set is scheduled for release on April 4 and is available for pre-order on DVD on Amazon for $12.95.
Next we have the Carol Burnett Show spinoff Mama’s Family, which originated from “The Family”, one of Burnett’s favorite sketch series on the show which was even made into a TV movie (Eunice) in 1982 before breaking out as its own series. After a somewhat rocky start (being cancelled after its first season), Mama’s Family was put back on the air in 1986 and enjoyed a successful run (even earning the distinction of being the highest rated sitcom in first-run syndication) until its completion in 1990. The storyline revolves around homespun Southern matriarch Thelma “Mama” Harper and her somewhat dysfunctional family as they come to a head over weddings, money, education, sex, death, chili recipes, and more. Now out is Mama’s Family: The Mama’s Family Favorites Collection, which includes 37 complete episodes over six discs selected by the show’s star Vicki Lawrence. The DVD set (which, like the set above contains only the episodes, no bonus content) is currently available on Amazon for $49.99. Do be aware that this is not a comprehensive collection; there was a Complete Collection set released in 2014 (which you can currently grab on Amazon for $84.91) that included all 130 episodes plus 12 hours of Time Life’s signature awesome bonus content. The question, then, is whether you prefer the “Mama’s Favorites”, which gives a good sampling of episodes spread over all six seasons and has a lower price point, or the all-inclusive Complete Collection option for $35 more. Decisions, decisions!
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the first DVD featured below. The opinions I share are my own.
Ah, the 90s…the days of the Clinton White House, double-reverse front pleated pants, and of course, Full House on ABC. The story of widower Danny Tanner raising his three young daughters as part of a mixed family unit, it was ever a fan favorite, launching the careers of the Olsen Twins and showing America that John Stamos is so outrageously handsome he can even look good in a mullet. Last February series creator Jeff Franklin debuted its sequel, Fuller House, on Netflix, which this past Christmas was approved for a third season (now 18 episodes) to be released later this year. This sequel series follows the family’s eldest daughter D.J. Tanner-Fuller (now a widow herself) as she navigates raising her three sons with the help of friends and family. In addition to some fresh faces, the cast of the original series (minus the Olsen twins doubling as Michelle) returns, including original “dads” Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and John Stamos (also one of the show’s producers). While the reboot has received mixed reviews from critics, it has already received two Teen Choice Awards (one for Choice Comedy TV Show and one to Candace Cameron Bure as Choice Actress in a TV Comedy) and a People’s Choice Award (Favorite Premium Comedy Series). Now out on DVD is the complete first season, which includes all thirteen episodes across two discs. Even though there is plenty of room for bonus features a la interviews with the creators and cast about what it’s like to breathe life into the story again after twenty years, etc, this set just features the episodes themselves (they may very well be waiting to include such extras in future releases, especially since the show is already in its third season). Since it’s a Netflix original you can obviously get it there, but if you don’t have that access (or you’re gifting to someone who doesn’t) and you’re a big fan of the Full / Fuller House world (also remember DVD sales is one way they judge whether or not to renew a series), you can currently snag the DVD on Amazon for $17.99.
So you meet this girl. She’s sexy. She’s smart. And (both of you being WWII spies) you have so much in common. But when it’s revealed that she might be working with the enemy and you either have to prove her innocent in three days or take her out, what’s a guy to do? Such is the quandary of Intelligence Officer Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) in Allied as he struggles to discover the truth about his wife Marianne (Marion Cotillard). Directed by the Academy Award-winning giant Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) and packed with the talent of two Oscar-winning co-stars, the film received favorable reviews from critics and fans alike, grossing $118 million worldwide during its theatrical run. Allied is now out on DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and 4k Ultra HD Combo Pack, the latter two featuring over an hour of extras. Bonus features on these include Guys and Gals (a featurette on the ensemble cast), ‘Til Death do Us Part (an examination of the relationship between the two main characters), From Stages to the Sahara (which discusses the film’s production design), A Stitch in Time (examining the Oscar-nominated costume design), Through the Lens (a special on Zemeckis and his direction of the film), as well as featurettes on the story, visual effects, vehicles, weapons, and awesome 1940s music of the film. Throughout all of the special features, you get a real sense of how excited and privileged the cast and crew felt to be part of this particular project (and to be working with the talent involved). All three media formats of the film are available on Amazon— currently the DVD goes for $14.99 (remember no bonus features on that one), the Blu-ray Combo Pack goes for $19.99, and the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack goes for $26.99. Amazon also offers a digital rental option for $5.99 and both it and iTunes offer digital purchase for $14.99 (although note that you can get the DVD for the same price as that option). Basically, if you’re a fan of the film and have $6-$27 to spend, you have five different options of how to get it, so doubtless at least one will fit your needs.
Out now are two new releases from the animation world to help us see the lighter side of life:
First we have The Powerpuff Girls: Tiara Trouble. After over a decade since they left the air in 2005, Buttercup, Bubbles, and Blossom returned to Cartoon Network in April of 2016 to continue to fight crime in Townsville, coming up against villainous foes such as Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, Princess Morbucks, Manboy, the Gangreen Gang, and others. The reboot follows the successful run of the Powerpuff Girls series (fun tidbit: it was originally titled Whoopass Stew!), which garnered several award nominations and wins in addition to a feature film, a series of video games, and a merchandise line. The new series (starring Natalie Palamides as Buttercup, Kristen Li as Bubbles, and Amanda Leighton as Blossom) has itself received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Short Form Animated Program and has enjoyed respectable viewership numbers, reaching over 19 million viewers its first four weeks on the air. New and old fans of the Powerpuff heroine trio will be happy to know that the first season of the reimagined series is now out on DVD, including all twelve episodes plus a bonus sticker pack (available on Amazon for $9.96). The series is also available on both iTunes and Amazon video for $2.99 per episode or $19.99 for the complete season (be aware that on both it’s simply titled The Powerpuff Girls: Vol. 1 even though it’s the new Tiara Trouble series). The full season streaming options do also include the bonus 2-minute music video for “Who’s Got the Power?”, but in my opinion that certainly isn’t worth doubling the price. Remember also that these episodes are geared toward the goldfish-like attention spans of kids at eleven minutes each, so keep that in mind when considering how much content you get in relation to cost.
Next is Beavis and Butt-Head: The Complete Collection, the story of two teenage delinquents who love heavy metal, music videos, couch surfing, and voicing monosyllabic critiques of their environment and culture. The series, created by (and starring) Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Office Space, Idiocracy), originated from the 1992 short film Frog Baseball and was later developed by MTV into the show fans would grow to love (and emulate). The series ran from 1993-1997 and later was brought back for an eighth season in 2011; it was also turned into the 1996 feature film Beavis and Butthead Do America. This collection is a compilation of the previously released Mike Judge Collection sets, series revival, and the feature film, including bonus features such as the MTV 20th Anniversary Special, VMA appearances, a Thanksgiving Special with Kurt Loder, a panel discussion from 2011 Comic-Con with Mike Judge, and more. (No new material for this collection–it’s more a case of just having it all in one set.) It’s also important to note that the episodes themselves are edited (by Judge himself) because there are still rights complications for music, television, etc that weren’t an issue during the airing of the original series but are, of course, for home release. If you’re expecting a complete-complete-complete collection, therefore, you may be waiting a while, but if you’re a fan who’s just happy to have everything available to-date in one place, this may be a set for you. If so, you can snag it on DVD on Amazon for $26.99 (no Blu-ray option for this one right now…maybe in the future.)
Out this month are two films whose characters suddenly find themselves in circumstances that change their worlds, prompting them to form otherwise-unlikely bonds with each other:
First we have The King of New Orleans, Brian R. Friedman’s independent film that follows New Orleans cabbie Larry Shirt (David Jensen, Ocean’s Eleven, The Mist, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as he drives everyone from across the social spectrum around the Big Easy. One of his fares is possibly-expelled Harvard student Bobby Cohn (Richard Brien, Nashville), and the two form a friendship later tested by the epic challenges of Hurricane Katrina. The film won multiple awards at the Napa Valley Film Festival, the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, and the New Orleans Film Festival, and it is the feature-length debut of Allen Frederic (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, People), who co-directed the film with creative team Coodie & Chike (Benji, Good Morning). The King of New Orleans will be out on digital platforms (including Amazon and iTunes) on February 21st (timed to tie in with Mardis Gras on the 28th) but is already available on DVD on Amazon for $14.99. No special features on this one, which is sad because it seems like such a heart-centered project for the creators (and I’m sure they have some crazy behind-the-scenes stories they could tell since it was filmed on location in New Orleans). If you simply love independent film and/or New Orleans, though, this may be worth checking out.
Next is Arrival, the story of elite linguist and translator Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who, alongside physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), is called upon to form lines of communication with recently-landed aliens. The film has already won BAFTA, AFI, and Critics’ Choice Awards (among others) and has eight 2017 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. The film is now out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD. The 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray formats also include over an hour of bonus features surrounding the themes of how we understand time and language, including: a 30-minute feature on xenolinguistics (the study of hypothetical alien language), a talk with Sylvain Bellemare, Michelle Child, and Dave Whitehead about the intricate sound design and the role it plays in the storytelling, Johann Johannson discussing the score, and two featurettes that examine how the filmmakers approached the human processes of linear thinking, time perception, memory, and language. On Amazon, the DVD is $14.99 (remember, no bonus features), the Blu-ray is $19.99, and the 4K Combo Pack is $24.99. Both iTunes and Amazon Video also offer the option to rent or purchase digitally (for $5.99 and $14.99 respectively). With this one I’d suggest (1) taking into account how important sound is to the film and how each format works with your home’s particular sound system, and (2) noting that the 80 minutes of extras (which are pretty cool) add up to a feature-film-length amount of bonus content, so if you’re choosing between the DVD and one of the other formats, that might be a deciding factor.
If you were a child of the 90s, you probably remember Melissa Joan Hart in her role as Sabrina Spellman, the almost-normal teenage girl who happens to possess magical powers, in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Based on the Archie comic series (same title), the show ran from 1996-2000 on ABC and then from 2000-2003 on The WB. Now out on DVD is the 1999 spinoff TV movie Sabrina Down Under, where Sabrina goes to Australia along with her magic cat Salem (Nick Bakay) and fellow witch Gwen (Tara Charendoff). While there, Sabrina encounters a colony of mermaids and mermen whose well-being is threatened by pollution and she must call upon her powers as a witch to help them. Also starring in the film are Scott Michaelson and Lindsay Sloane as mer-people and Peter O’Brien as fame-hungry marine biologist and antagonist Dr. Julian Martin. The film is available to Hulu subscribers and is available now on DVD on Amazon for $9.99. There are no bonus features with this release, but it should be noted that this is the first time the film has been made available in disc form—-the recent release of Season 7 of the series did include the other tv movie (Sabrina Goes to Rome) as part of the bonus content, but not this one, so if you’re a fan collecting all things Sabrina, this is your chance!
Power, love, influence, wealth, and family legacy all come to a head in two new releases out now from PBS and Paramount:
First we have Victoria, the sweeping Masterpiece / ITV costume drama that has taken audiences by storm. (Apparently ITV underestimated the show’s popular reception, declining to opt for the much-loved and oh-so-British “Christmas special” in 2016 and then making a complete turnabout for 2017’s plan after they saw the show’s ratings. ITV is now reportedly expecting it to run for six seasons.) The series stars Jenna Coleman in the title role along with Tom Hughes as Prince Albert and Rufus Sewell as Lord Melbourne (if you can’t put your finger on why he looks familiar, he’s the evil Nazi guy from The Man in the High Castle.) The first season follows Queen Victoria’s early years as head of the British Empire as she goes from being a teenage girl to a new queen to a wife to a mother, all with the burdens of operating as a constitutional monarch weighing heavily upon her petite shoulders. Season One is now available on DVD and on Blu-ray (on Amazon for $22.99 and $35.59 respectively). Bonus features include interviews with Jenna Coleman, Tom Hughes, and Rufus Sewell, a featurette on how creators used CGI to do things such as create busy period streets and fill a cathedral full of spectators, and a tour with Neil Hudson (Skerrett) and Tommy Knight (Brodie) through the sprawling Buckingham Palace set. It should be noted that the entire season (including the extras) is available on iTunes for $19.99, so if all you want is the content itself versus a disc, this may be one of the times to go with the digital option to save a few bucks without having to sacrifice bonus features.
Also in the mix is Dynasty, the 80s-tastic story of oil king Blake Carrington, his secretary-turned-wife Krystle, and the drama surrounding them as they navigate living at the top of the social spectrum in their 48-room Denver mansion. The series debuted in 1981 and (after a rocky first season) experienced steadily rising ratings until it became the #1 show in the US in 1985. Purportedly based on Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, the show was the ultimate mix of luxury, romance, and tragedy played out by devastatingly beautiful and glamorous characters. Throughout its run the show received multiple award nominations (24 from the Emmys alone) and won multiple People’s Choice Awards, Soap Opera Digest Awards, and a Golden Globe. Fans loved the world of Dynasty so much that it inspired a successful fashion line as well as a spin-off series (The Colbys). Season One is now available on DVD, featuring all fourteen episodes across four discs, plus a few bonus features (including interviews with Al Corley (Steven Carrington) and Pamela Sue Martin (Fallon Carrington Colby) along with the behind-the-scenes featurette Family, Furs, and Fun: Creating Dynasty). Amazon Prime members can get the season as part of their subscription (no luck on Netflix). The DVD set is available on Amazon for $14.99 (no Amazon video option), which evens out to around $1.07 per episode (plus bonus content). On iTunes you can also get individual episodes for $1.99 each or the whole season (with no bonus features) for $19.99, but unless you just don’t have access to a DVD player or Amazon Prime, this is definitely not the best as there are no bonus features included (less content for at least $5 more cost.) If you can, definitely check it on on Amazon Prime—nothing better than watching a story about mega millionaires without it costing a dime!
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the first DVD featured below. The opinions I share are my own.
For Rizzoli & Isles fans, it’s time to say goodbye to the series after its much-loved run. Based on the novel series by Tess Gerritsen, the show follows the careers and friendship of Detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) as they work together to solve murders in Boston. The show ran for seven seasons, earning respectable viewership ratings and People’s Choice awards for both leads along the way. TNT was even fond enough of the show to give it a proper wrap-up when they decided to remove the series from their lineup; rather than just cut it off at the end of Season Six with a cancellation, the network ordered an abbreviated seventh season (13 epsiodes rather than the usual 18) to finish out the story. Fans can now grab the final season on DVD, which shows Rizzoli and Isles hunting nemesis Alice Sands while confronting challenges with their careers, their personal lives, and the occasional ghost and zombie issue. Since this is the final season I was a little sad that the DVD didn’t have interviews with the cast, a retrospective from the creators, or something to that effect…it does include a gag reel, though, which is always good for some fun. The DVD includes all thirteen episodes of Season 7 and is available on Amazon for $24.96. You can also purchase the season in full for $29.99 on both Amazon and iTunes (no Netflix), but at $5 more that doesn’t make much sense unless you simply have neither shelf space nor DVD player.
The Hellraiser Trilogy is comprised of three British horror films that tell the story of the Cenobites, a group of otherworldly sadomasochistic beings who go to and from earth via a mysterious puzzle box solved by unsuspecting victims. The original Hellraiser (1987) was written and directed by Clive Barker, and was not only his directorial debut but also based on his own novel (The Hellbound Heart). Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth followed in 1988 and 1992, respectively. The franchise would eventually expand to include nine films, a comic book series, and related merchandise media. If horror is your thing and you’ve never seen the original films, now is a pretty good time to check them out via the Scarlet Box Limited Edition Trilogy Blu-ray Set recently released from Arrow Video.
Before you even get to the disc content, you see this set is aimed to impress. Housed in beautiful limited-edition packaging (including a nice sturdy box and newly created artwork from Gilles Vranckx), it also includes a 20-page booklet with original artwork and storyboards, five Cenobite postcards, a fold-out (reversible) poster, and Damnation Games, a 200-page hardback book from Clive Barker’s personal archivists Sarah and Phil Stokes.
If you’ve been enjoying The Crown on Netflix (or if you’re just generally a history buff like me), you’re probably aware that the current queen of England (Elizabeth II) was not actually born to be queen, nor her father born to be king. In Great Britain in 1936, it was soap opera central: Edward VIII, the charming, handsome crown-prince-turned-king, announced that not only was he in love with a divorcee (a no-no for the Church of England) who also happened to be American, but that he wanted to marry her at any cost, including the throne itself. This turned everything upside down for his brother George VI (Elizabeth II’s father), who was forced to take the throne after Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry as he wanted. In Royal Wives at War, the story is told through the eyes of the women behind the men: Elizabeth, wife to George VI (and later the “Queen Mother”), and Wallis Simpson, the object of affection and eventual wife of Edward VIII. The two women could not have been less alike in looks, temperament, or character, but one thing they shared was a fierceness of will and a determination to take the other down in any way possible. The docudrama is part reenactment, part roundtable discussion from British historians, and part dramatic monologues (set in 1967) beautifully presented by Emma Davies as Elizabeth and Gina McKee as Wallis, who certainly don’t hold back with their cinematic-quality performances. The film is available on DVD on Amazon for $15.18 or as a digital purchase for $4.99. While it is only 60 minutes, a lot is packed into the hour, and if you’re a fan of this era of history, it’s an hour you won’t want to miss.