This week, we’ve got Blu-rays and DVDs of some favorite television programs as well as some weird movies you may want to check out. The beauty of “The Shelf” is that when one gets full, you just buy more shelves.
Doctor Who: “The Snowmen”
One of the best Christmas specials Doctor Who‘s ever produced, for two reasons: A) it furthers the overall storyline of the series, it coming in the middle as opposed to all by itself at the end, and 2) because it’s actually quite Christmasy. Not as Christmasy as “A Christmas Carol” or the rather forgettable “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe,” but much more Christmasy than “Voyage of the Damned,” which might be the worst Christmas special they ever did. Oh, wait, “The End of Time” was at Christmas. Nevermind. Anyway, “The Snowmen” shows us a Doctor who’s hiding out in Victorian London, having just lost the Ponds and been sort of abandoned by River. He only sticks his head up when a plucky governess/barmaid refuses to get lost. The episode also re-introduced Madam Vastra, Jenny, and Strax, who I was very pleased to see throughout the half-series. Ian McKellen as the voice of The Great Intelligence and the iconic Richard E. Grant as his unwitting servant were both quite awesome and set up the GI’s importance for the rest of the year. All in all, a very excellent episode.
The Blu-ray and DVD release is about as bare-bones as it gets. Just the episode, plus three short films which I refuse to call prequels. This episode will be released as part of the big Series 7 box set that’s due out later in the fall, but if you can’t live without the episode, have at it.
Doctor Who Series 7 – Part 2
And, hot on the heels of it wrapping up on TV, we have the final eight episodes of Doctor Who‘s seventh series. Pound for pound, this might be one of the strongest series the show has ever had, with Part 1 included. Pretty much nothing can top Series 5 due to its inventiveness and arc storytelling, but Series 7 has a ton of really enjoyable individual episodes. In Part 2, “Hide,” “The Crimson Horror,” and “The Name of the Doctor” might end up being some of my favorite episodes of the show ever, and even the episodes that I didn’t like as much (“Cold War,” sorry, everyone) are still totally watchable and fun in their own right. Plus, hey, we just watched them and they’re already out for purchase.
If possible, this set is even barer-bones than “The Snowmen.” All it has is the beforehander for “The Bells of Saint John” and the newly-released “Clarence and the Whispermen,” which actually is a prequel to “The Name of the Doctor,” because it came out after the episode aired. Again, there will be a big box set including all of Series 7, part 1, the Christmas special, and part 2 (and maybe even “Doctor/Widow/Wardrobe,” I think I read somewhere), and will likely have a bunch of extras. That won’t be until the fall, and I’m guessing it’ll be before the 50th Anniversary special airs, so if you feel like waiting, you won’t be missing much. However, watching these in HD is pretty spectacular.
Beetlejuice The Complete Animated Series
Remember that Tim Burton movie from the late-’80s where Winona Ryder’s family gets haunted by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin to make them move out but it doesn’t work so they have to call in Michael Keaton’s “Ghost with the Most?” Well, they turned that into an animated series that ran for four seasons from ’89-91. In the cartoon, they got rid of Geena and Alec, made Lydia Deetz still live with her weird folks and befriend Beetlejuice, even though he was basically the bad guy in the movie. She goes back and forth from the real world to the Neitherworld and gets to hang out with all sorts of wacky ghouls and things. It made Gothness much more acceptable and less foreboding. Like most animated TV shows of the time, they made a poop-ton of episodes to get it into syndication. In total, 94 episodes were produced, and they’re all here in this 12-disc box set.
The set has no special features (a theme from today’s list) but when you have 2,160 minutes of cartoons to watch, extras are sort of superfluous. If you don’t want to commit to the whole thing, you can also pick up Season One, which is also out today. Just don’t say the “B” word three times.
Rolling Thunder – A very gritty revenge movie from the late 70s co-written by Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader. William Devane returns home from a Vietnam POW camp and, when his wife and son are murdered, he and buddy Tommy Lee Jones decide to hunt the hoodlums down. Excellent shootout at the end, too.
Shanks – One of the weirdest movies ever: French mime legend Marcel Marceau plays an inventor who dies and a puppeteer who realizes he can reanimated the dead using electrodes and control them like marionettes. The final film by horror gimmick maestro William Castle, the film was also nominated for an Academy Award for its creepy, haunting score by Alex North.
Dark Skies – Creepy sci-fi/horror flick in which a suburban family is targeted for no particular reason by malevolent extraterrestrials. Nobody believes them, of course, despite a rash of increasingly disturbing occurrences. Decent setup and a few genuinely eerie moments, despite going a bit Signs at the end. The film stars Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton.