Television defines the major Blu-rays streeting during the week of August 28th; there are no fewer than five season sets reaching the HD format. Chief among them is Anchor Bay's The Walking Dead: The Complete Second Season package. One of AMC's biggest commercial successes - no small feat, considering the acclaim brought to the network by programs such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad - The Walking Dead's second season saw the show in transition after the highly publicized departure of its showrunner, filmmaker Frank Darabont, with the first half of the season especially wobbly as it struggled to locate its footing in Darabont's absence. Characters behaved in random, illogical ways, the series' show-stopping zombie setpieces grew scant, and the narrative progression stalled out; the creative staff's decision to strand its protagonists on a remote farm for most of the thirteen episodes began to seem uncomfortably symbolic of the program's halted thematic and story development.
However, the back end of Season Two found The Walking Dead regaining its momentum and providing the kind of nasty shocks that made the first season so addictive. New showrunner Glen Mazzara has cultivated an environment where no one is safe, where the living prove just as unstable as the zombie hordes surrounding them, and his season finale doled out destruction on a grand scale while also suggesting the provocative contours of Season Three. Despite the bumps along the way, this is, as Martin Liebman noted in his Blu-ray review, an "authentic and, at times, even plausible [drama], not so much [with] the specifics of the zombie infestation but rather the inter-character drama that stems from an end-of-days scenario that, in some form, is not out of the question in future generations or even in the coming years, months, or even days."
Also entering its second season on Blu-ray is HBO's Boardwalk Empire. In many ways, the sprawling gangster drama had the inverse issue as The Walking Dead; its first season was enjoyable but uneven, whereas Season Two moves with greater confidence and authority. The good stuff - Steve Buscemi's wonderfully slippery Nucky Thompson, his relationship with disturbed WWI veteran Jimmy Darmody - is still good, but it's surrounded by better, more focused storytelling. Michael K. Williams' Chalky White finally gets something to do, Michael Shannon's deranged Agent Van Alden hits new levels of obsession in his pursuit to bring Nucky to justice, and the bloodshed inherent to Prohibition-era bootlegging reaches operatic levels.
The series is shaping up to be one of HBO's finest, a claim echoed in Kenneth Brown's Blu-ray review; he writes that, "Boardwalk Empire could have bored its returning audience (accustomed to slow-burn dramas as HBO loyalists may be). It could have grown stale, lost its way, or taken the paths most traveled. Instead, the series' second season surpasses its first and takes Buscemi, Pitt and the rest of the cast and crew right along with it. [Creator Terence] Winter should be commended, just as the show should be watched."
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox, Homeland: The Complete First Season arrives on home media this Tuesday. This spy procedural is currently the best dramatic program airing on Showtime; the story of an unstable CIA operative (Claire Danes) convinced that an American war hero (Damian Lewis) is an Al Qaeda sleeper agent, Homeland traffics in the same kind of understated menace that galvanized such great 1970s paranoid thrillers as All the President's Men and The Parallax View. Season One isn't perfect - some of the plotting is haphazard, and a subplot involving Jamey Sheridan's scheming Vice President feels obvious and glib in ways that the rest of the program isn't - but it's never less than compelling, and Danes and Lewis are brilliant as two lost souls trying to readjust to "normal" society in very different ways.
Finally, Universal Studios is adding to the non-TV front with its new Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein disc. This horror-comedy has long been a favorite of monster-movie buffs the world over; in one film, it unites the Universal editions of Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and the Wolf Man (slight demerits, though, for using Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein beast instead of convincing Boris Karloff to reprise his iconic role as the creature). Moreover, it respects these baddies enough to keep them menacing, even as Buck Privates jokers Abbott and Costello fill the foreground with their deft comic shenanigans. In that regard, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein belongs on a shortlist alongside other funny chillers as An American Werewolf in London and Shaun of the Dead.
In his Blu-ray review, Jeffrey Kauffman praises the picture's ability to entertain audiences long after its 1948 theatrical release, how the film "is still a whale (James or otherwise) of a lot of fun some seventy-plus years after its release. Costello's typically panicked persona and Abbott's typically perturbed persona play perfectly into this frankly lunatic enterprise that has a trio of classic Universal monsters wreaking all sorts of havoc. The film is brisk, bright, and breezy, and it contains several laugh out loud sequences that are among the best things Abbott and Costello ever committed to celluloid."
Okay so I'm not crazy, Halloween 4 and 5 were originally on this date but my copies shipped the 21st and I looked and everywhere was shipping them that day. Must have moved up. Still yet to receive them (my Barnes and Noble membership expired last month for free express shipping). Sons of Anarchy for me!!!
The only title from this week's releases to arrive from a (blind) preorder is the intriguing-looking Quadrophenia.
Other titles I'll definitely obtain in the near future include Monsieur Lazhar, Harvey and Lonesome.
Down the road, with price drops and sales, I'll likely also buy The Pirates!; the centennial-packaged reissue of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (I don't own the previous BD release); and also Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Nice week for high-quality TV series, indie & foreign language films and old classics.
What's so hard to understand? People want to own their favorite TV series so they can revisit it sometime. Most people don't watch an entire season in one sitting. They are split into 30-60 minutes episodes, which can be watched over time at the viewers leisure.
@boothill: Awesome to you (know any other word?) may be not so awesome to others. Are they good shows? Yes I'll concede that they were good for TV. I watched some of them once (by which I mean the whole season/series not just one episode) and enjoyed them at the time but I've no desire to ever see them again. They don't have any staying power for me unlike a good movie. Hence I'd never buy a TV series on disc.
That's my opinion and not a denigration of anyone else's. To each his own. (so stop taking it so personally).
@reidw: I don't understand why people buy TV shows either. I mean, maybe the greats like Seinfeld, Larry Sanders, Arrested Development, The Office S1-S3, but virtually all network shows are forgettable crap.
@I Heart Criterion: Don't knock Spice World. It's not fine cinema like Salo, Jubilee or Close Up but it's much better than you'd expect.
I was being 100% serious! I'd love to hear all of their classic hits in super sound! Plus the bit where Scary Spice makes Bob Geldof's hair look funny... and the bus jumping London Bridge, that movie is a CLASSIC!!!