Nov. 8 DVD Corner

Posted Nov. 07, 2008, at 7:16 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:02 a.m.

“Batman: The Complete Animated Series”: The Dark Knight continues his resurgence, which began in July with the release of Christopher Nolan’s outstanding movie “The Dark Knight,” and which now extends with “Batman: The Complete Animated Series” from Warner Home Video. The series, which originally ran on Saturday mornings on the WB network before being canceled in 1995, gives Batman, his friends (Robin, Batgirl) and enemies (The Joker, The Riddler, the Penguin, Mr. Freeze, among others) a makeover that hints at Japanese anime. Purists might balk at the animation, but for a time slot that’s normally a toss- off, the stories are unusually strong and the voice work follows suit. The set includes a 40-page collector’s book, the documentary “Shades of the Bat: Batman’s Animated Evolution,” eight featurettes, 12 commentaries, and all four seasons of the show on 17 discs. Grade: B+

“The Bourne Trilogy”: A tense, satisfying collection of thrillers that began in 2002 with “The Bourne Identity,” continued in 2004 with “The Bourne Supremacy” and ended in 2007 with “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Each is a travelogue of espionage that takes audiences around the globe as the amnesiac CIA assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) seeks his true identity while taking down thugs and government agents along the way. Adapted from Robert Ludlum’s best-sellers, the movies shrewdly pull in the reins on the author’s iron-horse prose and update the gadgetry without sacrificing the hysterical mood. As Bourne, Damon is just right — he’s confident and brooding, all inward confliction assailed by an outside world trying to undo him. Solid supporting turns by Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles, Brian Cox, Clive Owen and David Strathairn lift the franchise. Grade: B+

“Flintstones: Complete Series”: The week’s best new release, with all 166 episodes featured on 24 discs. The series’ creators, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, are what Chuck Jones and Tex Avery would have been without an edge. Hanna and Barbera were of and for the times, whereas Jones and Avery seemed beyond them — and still do. As such, “The Flintstones” always will be more of a throwback, but nevertheless a welcome one. Puns and spoofs abound in each episode, whether it’s in the show that features a character named Stoney Curtis or in the send-up of “My Fair Lady” in “My Fair Freddy.” Fred, Wilma, Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm, Betty, Barney and Dino all create their share of chaos (or try to fix it). As for the later introduction of the Great Gazoo, he had one thing going for him — he was voiced by the indispensable Harvey Korman. Grade: A-

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” DVD, Blu-ray: From Guillermo del Toro, a rare sequel that doesn’t feel as if it came only to cash in. Ron Perlman is back as Hellboy, a crimson beast with blunted horns, a right arm the size of a semi, and a big, swinging tail meant to underscore Hellboy’s virility. At 58, Perlman is perfect for the role. It isn’t every actor who has the necessary wit and charm that can punch through the thickest layers of latex and makeup, but that’s the case here. Selma Blair returns as his girlfriend, Liz Sherman, who has the ability to turn herself into a raging inferno (helpful!). Also back are the fishy Abe Sapien (Doug Jones), Johann Krauss (voiced by “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane), and their bumbling director, Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor). As villain, Prince Nuada (Luke Goss) wants to fight to save the planet from the humans actively destroying it. For this reason, his character is charged with unexpected depth — how can audiences fully despise somebody with such noble intentions? It’s difficult, and it’s that which gives the movie its satisfying twist. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

“Scrubs: Seventh Season”: Smart, well-balanced lunacy with an undercurrent of romantic and dramatic tension that cuts through the laughs. In the halls of Sacred Heart Hospital, where the series takes place, the joke is that nothing is as sacred as it should be. Everything here is free to be lampooned — hypochondriacs, love, cancer, you name it — but the writers know that there are consequences to such behavior, and they deliver the fallout. What’s admirable about the show is that it consistently is trying for something new, and while it doesn’t always succeed in its leaps of faith, it does try, which on television is becoming something of a rarity. With Zack Braff, Donald Faison and Sarah Chalke, the characters and the show play like a bizarro version of “ER.” It courts the genre, appreciates its elements and then turns all of it on its side. Grade: B+

Also on DVD: New this week on DVD are several recommended box sets, beginning with “The Gregory Peck Film Collection,” which includes six of Peck’s more noteworthy films, including his Academy Award-winning performance in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the thrilling, nightmarish noir “Cape Fear.” Extras abound, the best of which are the documentaries “A Conversation with Gregory Peck” and “Fearful Symmetry: The Making of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’” KOCH Entertainment comes through with their comprehensive “Studio One Anthology,” which includes 17 restored dramas, such as “Twelve Angry Men,” “Wuthering Heights” and “June Moon,” all of which ran on CBS and are featured here with their original commercials. Their inclusion isn’t an intrusion — it’s actually a nice touch. From Sony comes “The Budd Boetticher Box Set,” an excellent collection of five films (“The Tall T,” “Decision at Sundown,” “Buchanan Rides Alone,” “Ride Lonesome,” “Comanche Station”) that at last gives Boetticher his due as one of the great directors of Westerns. Beyond the films, a highlight is Bruce Ricker’s insightful documentary “A Man Can Do That,” which firmly establishes Boetticher’s place in the canon. Available Tuesday is “Warner Bros. and the Homefront Collection,” which includes three World War II musicals — Irving Berlin’s Academy Award-winning “This is the Army,” with Ronald Reagan and Joan Leslie; “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” in which Bette Davis sings horrendously (it’s undiluted camp — and she knows it) and does the jitterbug (so frenetic, it must be seen to be believed); and Davis again in the vaudevillian “Hollywood Canteen,” where she’s joined by John Garfield, Barbara Stanwyck and others. Not bad company. Not a bad collection.

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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