With the countdown to Christmas now actually within the acceptable legal limit, there’s a whole bunch of Blu-rays and DVDs coming out to fill your stockings or whatever it is you put your gifts into — the receptacle of your choosing, let’s say. There are box sets aplenty featuring a famous claw-haver, some of your favorite physicians, the last ride of some robots in disguise, and other things as well.
This summer’s second film based on a Marvel property, The Wolverine didn’t perform as well as it might have, almost entirely, I think, because it came out so late in the season. James Mangold’s follow-up to the oft-derided (and for good reason) X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and the precursor to next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, the second solo film featuring the adamantium-infused Canadian berserker rage hero is exactly what fans should want from their mutant films. It’s got action, it’s got suspense, it’s got a lot of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) kicking ass and not bothering to take names, and it’s what readers of the Wolverine comics recognize as a standalone, non-X-related (a bit, but still) adventure.
If there’s one constant for Fox’s X-Men films, it’s Jackman, who has now played Logan in five films, with a sixth on the way and a cameo in the seventh. He really owns the role and has brought a lot of pathos and depth to the tortured anti-hero. In this film, Wolverine is living the life of a recluse, still reeling from being forced to kill Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) in X-Men: The Last Stand. He is contacted by representatives of a very rich and powerful Japanese businessman who wants to see Wolverine one last time before he dies. You see, Wolverine saved the man back in World War II when the Hiroshima bomb hit and he wants to give his savior the one thing he’s never been able to have: the gift of death. Unfortunately, some other yakuza are interested in taking over the dying man’s territory and Wolverine is soon embroiled in a bit of a mystery involving the man’s daughter and a mutant who can inhibit powers. Oh, no. The film introduces comic characters Yukio and Mariko and is based on Frank Miller and Chris Claremont’s classic run from the 1980s.
I think this movie is a lot of fun and is probably among the best X movies. Plus, it’ll tide you over until next summer when Days of Future Past comes out.
X-Men: The Adamantium Collection
Also out today is a big ol’ box set of X-Men films. This seven-disc set features X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, and The Wolverine, as well as a bonus disc featuring an hour-long retrospective on the franchise and the slice-and-dicer, specifically. While not every movie in the set is great (I’m looking at you, Last Stand and Origins), this is a great way to relive all the fun of the franchise that really ushered in the wave of superhero movies we’re still riding now. It also has a Wolverine gloved hand on a stand. So that’s something, I reckon.
All the best Transformers shows must come to an end. I was a huge fan of Beast Wars back in the ’90s, with its pioneering CG animation, and that trend has continued with the Hub Network show Transformers Prime, a spinoff of sorts of the unbelievably popular Michael Bay film series. It saw the return of Peter Cullen and Frank Welker as Optimus Prime and Megatron, respectively, and had really great character design and story development, especially for something that is ostensibly a kids’ show.
The third and final season of the show, given the subtitle “Beast Hunters,” brings the Predacons into the fold, with Shockwave cloning a giant dragon from ancient Cybertron who eventually becomes sentient and takes the name “Predaking.” Even though most cartoons could probably go on forever, this season feels like it’s leading to an ending and no punches are pulled throughout the 13 episodes. The whole thing eventually culminates in the TV movie finale, Predacons Rising, which was released a few months ago.
This two-disc set features audio commentaries as well as the complete 2013 San Diego Comic-Con panel. It’s a fitting and somewhat sad ending to a really great show.
It’s the final three specials from this year of Doctor Who retrospectives which aired on BBC America. Here we have specials and adventures from Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith. As with the previous releases, we get a 25-minute talking-heads piece which discusses the specific Doctor’s personality, companions, and standout villains. It’s very formulaic, but they’re pretty good. These three specials benefit from having a lot of the people involved on hand to discuss, and not merely just people remembering how much they liked it the way we did for some of the older Doctors. People like Neil Gaiman, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, Noel Clark, and others turn up to give their two cents, and of course there’s some Steven Moffat and Marcus Wilson, being the current regime of producers.
Each disc also features a two-parter which has been edited into a single feature-length ep, or can be viewed in the regular episodic versions. For the Ninth Doctor, it’s his finale (and perhaps finest moment), “Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways”; for the Tenth Doctor, it’s his most massive finale, from Series 4, “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”; and for the Eleventh Doctor, it’s a premiere, “The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon,” which, as Moffat explains in his intro, was them doing the finale at the beginning of the year. All good choices, I think, and ones that exist really nicely on their own without much need for build-up.
ALSO AVAILABLE THIS WEEK:
The Simpsons: Season 16 – All 21 episodes from the longest-running show ever’s sixteenth season, which ran from 2004-2005.
Drinking Buddies – Director Joe Swanberg’s Mumblecore masterpiece featuring a really stellar cast, including Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston. For an interview with Livingston about the film, click here.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman – Norman Lear’s subversive soap opera parody from the mid-’70s, this set collects all 325 episodes on 36 discs and has two bonus discs to grow on. Jeepers, and if I may, creepers. (Editor’s Note: There are also bonus episodes of Fernwood 2 Night/America 2 Night, which deserves a set of its own. Barth and Jerry! Happy Kyne and his Mirthmakers! William W.D. (Bud) Prize!…)
Saturn 3 – Stanley Donen’s ill-fated sci-fi thriller from 1980, starring Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett, Harvey Keitel, and a murderous robot named Hector.
Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United – The nearly-feature length CG animated film which teams up the Avengers’ two most popular characters, kind of.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – This movie no one saw that seemed kind of like Twilight a little bit.