Hot Tips and Top Picks: DVDs and Blu-rays for the week of August 30

Videodrone’s take on the biggest, best, coolest and culty-ist home video releases of the week

New Releases:

Prom” (Disney) offers the world of high school romance and the magic of prom night as a cute, colorful, altogether PG experience. It may not transcend the clichés, but it delivers them all with just enough mushy fun to make it, if not quite timeless, at least familiar to every generation. Videodrone’s review is here.

You can continue the journey from youth to adulthood in the indie features “Skateland” (Fox), a coming-of-age drama set in a small Texas town in the early 1980s, and “True Adolescents” (Flatiron), about a 34-year-old Seattle slacker (Mark Duplass) who isn’t all that more mature than the two adolescent boys he takes on a camping trip.

Susanne Bier’s “In a Better World” (Sony), a drama from Denmark about two Danish families brought together by two troubled boys, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Two other imports also stand out these week: “Cell 211” (Zeitgeist) (reviewed here), a volatile thriller from Spain about a young guard trapped in the midst of a prison riot, and “Police, Adjective” (Zeitgeist), a dryly funny satire of the absurdity of bureaucratic literalism triumphing over human justice. More at the “Foreign Affairs” round-up.

Browse the complete New Release Rack here

TV on DVD:

Nikita: The Complete First Season” (Warner) arrives in time to catch up with the sleek super-spy series, starring Maggie Q as the sultry rogue agent at war with the corrupt rogue government agency that turned her into a killer, before the second season begins in late September. There aren’t many high-energy, big-budget action thrillers on the small screen anymore and this has sex appeal and style as well as adrenaline and special effects going for it. Videodrone’s review is here.

Sadly, “Detroit 1-8-7: The Complete First Season” (Lionsgate) did not get picked up for a second season, a terrible shame as the first season of the precinct-style cop show is probably the best of its kind with “NYPD Blue,” and the best role Michael Imperioli has had since “The Sopranos.” Reviewed on Videodrone here.

Wonders of the Universe” (BBC) is the latest in a run of superb BBC natural history documentaries, this one focusing on the building blocks of the universe and how they shaped the Earth. Comparisons to “Cosmos” are inevitable and this four-part series measures up. Reviewed here.

And of course, as the new seasons prepare to launch, the previous seasons continue to role for such shows as “House: Season Seven” (Universal) (reviewed here), “Parenthood: Season Two” (Universal), “Desperate Housewives: The Complete Seventh Season” (Disney), “The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Second Season” (Warner), “90120: The Third Season” (Paramount), “Sons of Anarchy: Season Three” (Fox) and more.

Flip through the TV on DVD Channel Guide here

Cool, Classic and Cult:

The Complete Jean Vigo” (Criterion) presents newly remastered edition of all four films made by the great French director, including his sole feature (the sublime “L’Atalante“) and revered extended short (the playfully surreal “Zéro de conduite“), made before he died at the age of 29. On DVD and Blu-ray

Based on a manga and subsequent anime series, the Japanese live-action “Gantz” (New People) is gonzo sci-fi fantasy that combines video-game aesthetics, gladiator games and classic Japanese monsters with a metaphysical mystery that, as the final image reminds us, is “To be continued.” Videodrone’s review is here.

Strike” (Kino),  the landmark debut feature of Soviet master Sergei Eisenstein, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in a new edition mastered from the recent restoration. Also debuting on DVD is the much more lighthearted Russian silent comedy “The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom” (Kino).

Ingmar Bergman’s “Face to Face” (Olive) arrives on DVD in an adequate (but hardly definitive) edition, and Jean Cocteau’s “Orpheus” (Criterion) gets a new special edition release.

All of the Cool, Classic and Cult here

Blu-ray Debuts:

The Twilight Zone: Season 5” (Image) presents the complete final season of Rod Serling’s brilliant series of the fantastic, where social politics and barbed human dramas were slipped in behind the façade of fantasy: 36 episodes (including “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the only episode not produced for the series) plus hours of commentaries, interviews and other supplements.

Lindsey Anderson’s “If…” (Criterion) quite fittingly debuts on Blu-ray the same week that “Zero For Conduct,” one of the films that inspired the director, also debuts on BD. Also this week: “Top Gun” (Paramount), the film that made Tom Cruise a superstar and boosted U.S. Navy recruitment in 1986, and the Oscar-winning “Good Will Hunting” (Lionsgate).

Peruse all the new Blu-rays here

For Coming Attractions and more reviews, visit Videodrone, MSN’s DVD, Blu-ray and home viewing column.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website ( I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View ( I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly,, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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