Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of Animal Kingdom: The Complete Second Season and The Guardian: The Complete Series. The opinions I share are my own.
When you’re in need of some old-school laughs, the Jackie Gleason Show may be just the ticket. Gleason starred as the boisterous working-class “everyman” host of his variety show, which ran from 1952 to 1970 in various forms and included singing, dancing, comedy sketches, and beloved celebrity guests. In 1966 the show broke its 14-year streak of filming in New York in favor of Miami Beach Florida (to accommodate Gleason’s love of playing golf), bringing even more energy and life to what was already a much-loved show. Newly released master tapes from the vaults in South Florida are now available on DVD from Time Life as The Jackie Gleason Show in Color, which features four remastered and never-before-sold episodes along with Gleason and Art Carney in three Honeymooners sketches not seen since their original airing. Featured guests include Milton Berle, Red Buttons, George Carlin, Nipsey Russell, and Phil Silvers (among several others). The Jackie Gleason Show in Color is currently available on Amazon for $7.30.
If you enjoy irreverent humor and animated antiheroes, you may already be a fan of the three-time Emmy-nominated series Duckman. Duckman, voiced by Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame), is a rude and crude private eye who strives to balance his career of solving crimes with being a single dad to his less-than-stellar sons without sacrificing a single opportunity to make a cutting remark or a lewd joke. Now out in a ten-disc DVD set is Duckman: The Complete Series, which includes all four seasons of the show as well as multiple bonus features. Extras include an examination of Duckman’s journey from comics to television, an interactive “Six Degrees of Duckman” feature, video of drawings and animation from the unaired pilot episode, storyboards, pencil tests, and more. Duckman: The Complete Series is now available on Amazon for $22.89, which at a total run time of over twenty-six hours evens out to about 87 cents per hour of content— not a bad deal for old or new fans. (It is good to note that this is a cartoon series aimed at adults, so if you haven’t seen the series yourself, definitely check it out before gifting it to a younger loved one.)
Another new release in the animation vein is Sailor Moon Crystal: Season Three. This season (which covers episodes 27-39 in the reboot series) sees Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians come up against a new (and intergalactic) threat. When people mysteriously begin to change into monsters, it is revealed that the Death Busters, a secret organization of aliens, is responsible. Under the leadership of their Master Pharaoh 90, the Death Busters are committed to invading Earth and transforming it into a second home for themselves. Sailor Moon is haunted by the impending threat, prophetic dreams of disaster, and doubts about Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, two Guardians whose motives remain unclear. With the survival of the entire world in her hands, Sailor Moon must be careful which step to take and whom to trust, knowing that if she makes the wrong choice, all will be lost. Now out as a DVD set, a Blu-ray combo set, and a Limited-Edition Blu-ray combo set, Sailor Moon Crystal: Season Three includes all thirteen episodes of the third season, clean opening and ending songs, an art gallery, and interviews with the English cast. The Limited Edition set also includes an 88-page booklet about the season and three art cards. All three sets are available on Amazon, with the DVD set going for $28.26, the Blu-ray combo set for $52.59, and the Limited Edition set for $61.69.
More animated adventures are headed your way with Ben 10, the new show based on the original Emmy-nominated series of the same name that ran on Cartoon Network from 2005-2008. Ben Tennyson is trying to survive a boring summer break with his cousin Gwen and their Grandpa Max when he discovers the Omnitrix, an alien watch that gives Ben the ability to turn into ten different powerful and amazing aliens. As he and his family travel across the country in their motor home (lovingly dubbed the “Rust Bucket”), their vacation becomes anything but boring when adventure after adventure (and villain after villain) come their way. Ben 10: Villain Time is now available on DVD, which includes the first twenty episodes of Season One. You can get the featured episodes on Amazon Prime for $19.99 as a streaming option, but the cheaper option by far is the DVD (available on Amazon for $9.02). Paired with the DVD release is a Ben 10 Omni-Enhanced Heatblast Action Figure from Playmates Toys, also available on Amazon for $18.00.
If you like heroes-against-villains tales, you might enjoy Batman: Gotham by Gaslight—- the new film inspired by the Elseworlds story by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola. The film takes place during the turn of the century as Gotham City is hosting the World’s Fair. With Jack the Ripper hunting the city’s women and wreaking havoc on Gotham’s sense of security, Police Commissioner James Gordon more than has his hands full trying to keep the citizens’ fears from reaching a fever pitch. Observing from the shadows is the Dark Knight, who, together with Selina Kyle, seeks to stop the Ripper’s serial killing spree before the city descends into chaos. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is the second DC Universe Movie to be released in Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack ($24.96 on Amazon) and is also available as a Blu-ray Combo Pack ($16.96 on Amazon) and DVD (as of this writing not available on Amazon). All hard copy formats include a sneak peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay. In addition, the Blu-ray versions boast a documentary featurette that traces the influence of the comic book story, two cartoons from the DC vault (the “Showdown” episode from Batman: The Animated Series and the “Trials of the Demon!” episode from Batman: The Brave and the Bold), and audio commentary from Executive Producer Bruce Timm, Director Sam Liu and writer Jim Krieg. Those who want a streaming option can purchase the film digitally on Amazon for $19.99, but considering that this is more than $3 higher than getting it on Blu-ray (which includes the bonus features), disc form is the best deal for both content and cost on this one.
In Animal Kingdom, troubled teen “J” Cody is obliged to move to Southern California to live with his non-traditional relatives after his mother dies from an overdose. Season Two sees the Cody family fueled by excitement at a new heist, but when plans go awry, the entire dynamic of the family is put to the test. Smurf (Ellen Barkin) must not only deal with the rebellion of her boys, but also a threat from her past that has come back to haunt her and challenge her already tenuous position as the family matriarch. With one family member in prison and another left for dead, everything is shifting for the Cody clan, and it may be that things will never be the same again. Animal Kingdom: The Complete Second Season is now out on DVD and Blu-ray, which feature all thirteen episodes of the second season along with the featurette “Dissecting Pope” with actor Shawn Hatosy and the show’s producers plus never-before-seen deleted scenes. The season is also available as a streaming option on Amazon Prime for $14.99, but it doesn’t include the special features. The DVD is available on Amazon for $18.98 and the Blu-ray is available for $36.33. At $4 more to get it in disc form, you may want to consider if the streaming option is the best on this one.
Before Boston Legal and The Good Wife came the critically acclaimed legal drama The Guardian. The series revolves around Nick Fallin (Simon Baker), a handsome and talented attorney who seems to have it all until he is arrested on drug charges and ordered to perform 1500 hours of community service. Nick finds Fate taking a hand as he discovers a love for helping the less fortunate and discovers a hitherto unknown passion for being a child advocacy lawyer. Navigating these changes of heart and lifestyle aren’t always easy for Nick, and made more difficult when he finds himself caught between his father Burton, the founder of a leading Pittsburgh law firm, and Alvin, the head of the firm where he does his advocacy work. With the support of his girlfriend and a close colleague, Nick begins to build a new life full of challenges and fulfillment he never expected. The Guardian: The Complete Series is now available on DVD, which includes all sixty-seven episodes from the series’ three-season run (sadly no bonus features aside from some CBS series launch promos). The DVD set is available on Amazon for $34.03, which evens out to about fifty-one cents per episode (so even with a lack of bonus content, you’re getting a pretty good deal). Fans with Amazon Prime or Hulu should be aware that all three seasons are available for free as part of their membership, so do factor that in before deciding whether to purchase.
Protecting the innocent is also the name of the game in Blade of the Immortal, a Japanese film based on the manga series of the same name by Hiroaki Samura. The film follows the story of Manji, an expert samurai who is cursed with unwanted immortality after fighting in an epic battle. Manji’s fate crosses that of Rin, a young girl whose parents were murdered by a group of master warriors, and he vows to help protect her and avenge their deaths. The hundredth film by director Takashi Miike (of 13 Assassins fame), the film has no shortage of extended choreographed sword fights or the frequent dramatic dismemberments that result— a good pick for viewers that enjoy blood, guts, and action. Blade of the Immortal is now out on DVD, Blu-ray, and Limited Edition Steelbook Blu-ray, with bonus features that include a “Manji vs 300” featurette, interviews with star Takuya Kimura and other members of the cast, and a poster gallery. The film is also available as a streaming option on Amazon ($5 to rent or $14 to buy). For those who wish to purchase, though, it looks like getting a hard copy is currently the best deal considering both dollars and content (on Amazon the DVD is going for $12.95 and the Blu-ray for $14.96). Those who wish to get the Steelbook should check out the Best Buy exclusive for only $17.99 (on Amazon it’s available only through third party vendors, priced at around $49 as of this writing).