Video Verdict: New DVDs for Nov. 4

Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell in "Get Smart."

Anne Hathaway and Steve Carell in

The DVD world paused to catch it’s breath this week, as there is only one major theatrical release making its way onto video. But, as usual, we’ve got plenty of television shows, reissues and direct-to-DVD titles to take up the slack.


Get Smart
2 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language
Warner Brothers
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-Ray

Big screen adaptations of television shows have become commonplace at the multiplex, and this is the latest. Like the 1960s television show that it’s based on, “Get Smart” follows the adventures of Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell), a well meaning but often incompetent secret agent.

On his first assignment, Max is paired with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway), a veteran operative who reluctantly takes him under her wing. As they work together, Max’s technique improves and 99 begins to warm up to him. Then, another spy calls Max’s loyalty into question, putting his career and America in danger.

Carell and Hathaway are talented actors and their character readings are solid. Unfortunately, the “Get Smart” script isn’t nearly as entertaining as they are. The pacing is slow and good gags are intermittent, leaving viewers with a picture that is more ponderous than funny.

The film is available in single-disc versions and a two-disc special edition. Extra features vary.

Futurama: Bender’s Game
3 stars
20th Century Fox
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray

“Futurama,” brainchild of “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, has endured one of the strangest runs in television history. Initially, the animated show aired on Fox from 1999 to 2003. Then, production ceased but reruns were broadcast on Cartoon Network. Fast forward to 2007 when “Futurama” was reborn.

The original creative team gathered with the idea of making four direct-to-DVD movies that could be split into individual episodes and aired on Comedy Central. The latest — and third — of those films is “Bender’s Game,” an homage to the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

For folks who don’t know “Futurama,” a primer. The animated series is set in the 31st century, and it revolves around the adventures of Philip J. Fry, a 21st century man who made it to the future after being cryogenically frozen. He and his friends, including a mutant named Leela and testy robot named Bender, work for a delivery company owned by eccentric professor Hubert J. Farnsworth.

In “Bender’s Game,” the title character discovers he has an imagination and embraces it by playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Alas, Bender uses his imagination too frequently and eventually goes mad. Meanwhile, Professor Farnsworth enlists his employees’ help in bringing a greedy fuel executive down a notch.

The two stories intertwine when Bender magically transports everyone into an alternate dimension where they are forced to play out an adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings.” It sounds bizarre because it is. But it’s also a lot of fun.

“Bender’s Game” is filled with pop culture references and witty asides that are often more entertaining than the overall story. Although the show is animated, the language and content are targeted at adults. And those who like science fiction and sharply scripted humor should find it a pleasant distraction.

DVD extras include an audio commentary by the filmmakers, a storyboard animatic, a bit on Dungeons & Dragons and deleted scenes.

Reaper: Season One
3 1/2 stars
Available Tuesday on DVD

Few television shows are as good out of the box as “Reaper,” a supernatural dramedy that blends “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”-style action and special effects with a significant helping of laughs.

Bret Harrison plays Sam, a lowly box store employee who is shocked to discover that his parents sold his soul to Satan (Ray Wise). As if that’s not bad enough, he also learns he must work for the Devil as a bounty hunter … or suffer unpleasant consequences.

Most episodes involve Sam and his wacky friends — the uber-slacker “Sock” (Tyler Labine) and the more conservative Ben (Rick Gonzalez) — capturing demons who have escaped from Hell. This setup gives individual episodes a strong beginning, middle and end, but the screenwriters also include a variety of ongoing stories.

The most important side plot involves Sam’s quest to find a way out of his devilish contract. Also in play is his desire for a romantic relationship with his friend Andi (Missy Peregrym); a contentious relationship with his boss, Ted (Donavon Stinson); and a plot by friendly demons to unseat Satan.

Too often, television series — even good ones — start with poor character development, but the “Reaper” ensemble created layered and well-fleshed-out characters at episode one. Wise is particularly winning as the Devil, who effortlessly swings from genial to menacing.

This five-disc set includes all 18 season-one episodes plus extra features including audio commentaries, deleted scenes and a gag reel.


“Return to Sleepaway Camp”: This direct-to-DVD addition to the “Sleepaway Camp” franchise is timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the original, 1983 film. The story centers on campers at rural Camp Manabe who experience a series of bizarre accidents. The tragedy recalls the bloodbath that took place years before at nearby camp Arawak, the setting for the original picture.

“Spin City” — Season One: It’s hard to believe this television sitcom is just now getting a DVD release, but better late than never. Michael J. Fox stars as Mike Flaherty, the workaholic deputy mayor of New York City. Along with an oddball cast of cohorts, he keeps the city government churning. Barry Bostwick, Richard Kind, Alan Ruck, Michael Boatman, Connie Britton and Alexander Chaplin also star.

“Get Smart” — The Complete Series Gift Set: If Steve Carell’s “Get Smart” remake stirs nostalgia for the television series, this 25-disc set should more than sate your appetite. It includes all 138 episodes of the original series with Don Adams as secret agent Maxwell Smart and Barbara Feldon as the voluptuous Agent 99.

“Star Wars” — The Prequel Trilogy: This set offers the opportunity to purchase “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” in a boxed set. Each movie was already available ala carte, so there’s no new content.

“Shrek the Halls”: Set after “Shrek the Third,” this half-hour animated adventure plugs the Shrek characters into a holiday setting.

The Bourne Trilogy: As spy thrillers go, Matt Damon’s outings as amnesiac secret agent Jason Bourne are top-notch. This set includes the franchise’s original film — “The Bourne Identity” — plus both sequels, “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

The Wild Wild West — The Complete Series: Fans of the 1960s science fiction Western can own all four seasons thanks to this 27-disc gift set. The show follows the adventures of secret service agents James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin), who traveled in a high-tech train protecting President Ulysses S. Grant and other American interests.

The Gregory Peck Film Collection: A six-disc set from Universal featuring some of Peck’s best-known films. Included are “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Cape Fear,” “Arabesque,” “Mirage,” “Captain Newman, M.D.” and “The World in His Arms.”

Planet of the Apes — 40th Anniversary Collection: All five of Charlton Heston’s “Planet of the Apes” movies are available on Blu-ray for the first time. They can be purchased collectively through this set or individually.

A Christmas Story — Ultimate Collector’s Edition: Repackaging of the much-loved holiday movie about a 1940s boy who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. The film has been available on DVD for years, but this version includes a variety of memorabilia. The film is also being released on Blu-ray for the first time.

Batman — The Complete Animated Series: What’s with all the huge, multi-disc sets? We’re heading into the holiday season, meaning distributors are trotting out as many high-end gift ideas as possible. For fans of the Dark Knight, this is a good one. “Batman the Animated Series” is a superbly made superhero cartoon, and this collection includes every episode.

Leave a comment

Filed under Video Verdict

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s