New on DVD

New on DVD

Modern Family: The Complete First Season

Available on DVD and Blu-ray

I’m always weary of new shows because there are so many of them and most of them go away after the first season.  When a friend of mine called mid-season through Modern Family and told me I just had to watch it because not only is it funny but there is a guy on the show that reminds him exactly of me, well, my interest was peaked.  Then I found out I reminded of him of a big flaming queen and I didn’t know what to say.  But I started to watch the show anyway and now my wife and I are hooked.  And the flaming queen, played by the brilliant Eric Stonestreet, just went on to win the Emmy, as did the show for best Comedy – a feat very difficult for a freshman comedy.  Modern Family revolves around three unique families: the dad/granddad, played by Ed O’Neal who lives with his hot young Colombian wife and her son, the somewhat normal daughter/mother with her husband and three kid outfit, and the other son who is one half of a gay couple who have just adopted a daughter from Vietnam.  The comedy is fresh and irreverent and extremely off-color which makes it that much more likable.  The only disappointment of the season was the much anticipated Hawaii episodes which were not nearly as funny as the buzz made us think they were going to be.  A

Bored to Death: The Complete First Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis, and Ted Danson star in this freshman HBO comedy about a mystery writer who is so bored that he posts an ad on the internet lending his services as a private detective in order to pass the time and maybe get a few ideas for his novel.  Each of the cases turn into madcap adventures and although Schwartzman and Galifianakis aren’t as funny as you’d like them to be, Danson turns in the best performance of his career.  The fact that he didn’t get an Emmy nomination off of this for best supporting actor shows that voters didn’t watch the show.  B

Robin Hood
Rated PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare and some sexual content
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

The theatrical version of Robin Hood had some major problems that the filmmakers have attempted to clear up in this new Director’s Cut edition.  The first problem couldn’t be fixed and that is that the film is not about Robin Hood, but rather about what made him Robin Hood.  There is an interesting story somewhere there, but it also gets bogged down in the ultimate goal of setting Robin with his his destiny.  I like origin movies, but the movie needs to get into the meat of the story and not stop short.  Of course for this film to have done that it would have to be five hours long, and it already feels too long to begin with.  Where they went right this time was to axe the PG-13 for an unrated label and make it more of the R it should have been.  While the original script of the movie called for Robin Hood to be the villain and the Sheriff to be the hero, which could have been truly excellent, at least this new version gives a better look at what should have hit the big screen a few months ago.  C+

Spartacus: Blood and Sand – The Complete First Season
Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Loosely based on the original character, Spartacus is betrayed by the Romans, forced into slavery, and remade into a legendary gladiator in this Starz original series.  While the story isn’t bad, the special effects, which seem to want to copy 300 but can’t quite get there, are as lousy as you can imagine.  This makes the violence completely laughable.  And then there is the surprising amount of graphic sex which is not only out of place in most cases, but has dialog written in that would make you think Larry Flynt was involved.  The only thing I can admire is the amount of time in the gym this cast spent – so as a mere inspirational television show, this one hits hard.  C

Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue

Rated G
Available on Blu-ray/DVD Combo

In this straight to video adventure, Tinker Bell makes friends with a human girl and is thought to be missing by all of her fairy friends.  As Tink tries to teach the girl about fairies, her friends set off on a rescue mission.  After seeing Alpha and Omega last week, I really needed something to cleanse my palate and this one worked just great.  The story is cute and will be immensely popular for little girls.  What I probably loved most about it were the rich, beautiful colors splashed all over the screen.  The animation here is top notch and proof that Disney knows exactly what it’s doing.  B

American Beauty: Sapphire Series
Rated R for strong sexuality, language, violence, and drug content
Available on Blu-ray

Getting the Sapphire treatment this time around is the Oscar-winning classic American Beauty about a not-so-average dysfunctional family on a road to self-destruction.  The HD transfer looks and sounds amazing, but I couldn’t find any new features to speak of.  It would have been nice to have the making-of documentary in HD possibly, or maybe something on that incredible score by Thomas Newman, but at least the special features from the DVD the first time around were pretty decent.  The commentary by director Sam Mendes and writer Alan Ball is still excellent.  While Conrad Hall won the Oscar for this one too, the definitive reflection of his life can be found on the recently released Road to Perdition which is the last film he made before he died, and directed by the same director as Beauty.  A-