By Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers –
An Oscar-nominated film and two good TV series are among the top picks this week on DVD.
—“War Horse,” grade B-minus: A horse becomes the link between a young boy and the British and German armies. Director Steven Spielberg has taken the stage production, based on the children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo, and transformed it into a sweeping story of love, loss, devotion and determination set against the brutal battlefields of World War I.
As is the trademark of the much-touted director, he tells this story against a backdrop that at times is breathtaking. But this is a case where Spielberg’s grand vision worked against him.
“War Horse” isn’t a champion effort by Spielberg, but it does have its moments.
—“Torchwood: Miracle Day,” grade B: Imagine a world where no one dies. That’s exactly what Russell T Davies did to create this cable series. The continuation of “Torchwood,” the BBC spinoff of “Dr. Who” about a group that investigates the odd and strange. John Barrowman and Eve Myles reprise their roles and are joined by Mekhi Phifer and Bill Pullman.
Original characters include Barrowman’s flamboyant Capt. Jack Harkness, a former Time Agent and 51st century con man, and Myles’ Gwen Cooper, a field agent who’s now a new mom. Barrowman and Myles were the only two actors to appear in all 41 episodes of the original series. They’re the link to the last series — but only loosely.
—“Bob: The Complete Series,” grade B: This is a very under-appreciated television series starring Bob Newhart.
The comedian plays the creator of the 1950s comic book superhero “Mad Dog,” who had to become a greeting card artist when his comic faded into oblivion. When the character is revived, tension mounts as the artist has to fight with the head of the company who wants to dramatically change the character. No one can get more comedy out of tension than Newhart.
The cast also includes Lisa Kudrow, Tom Poston, Carlene Watkins, Cynthia Stevenson and Betty White.
Also new on DVD April 3:
“Regular Show”: Twelve episodes of the Cartoon network series from J.G. Quintel.
“Chasing Madoff”: A look at the man behind the financial crime.
“Jo Koy: Lights Out: Comedy special featuring Jo Koy.
“Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey”: A documentary on Kevin Clash.
“We Bought a Zoo”: A family buys and operates a zoo. Matt Damon stars.
“Wow Wow Wubbzy: A Wuzzleburg Tale”: Includes six animated adventures.
“Eagleheart”: Crime drama parody starring Chris Elliott.
“Danny Phantom: Season 2, Part 1”: Animated series about a boy who can turn himself into a superheroic apparition.
“Dark Shadows: Collection 2”: Selected episodes of the daytime vampire soap opera.
“The Frank Sinatra Collection”: Includes “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Von Ryan’s Express.”
“Chinatown”: The Jack Nicholson film has been released on Blue-ray.
“She’s Not Our Sister”: Musical comedy that stars Kellita Smith.
“Animals United”: In the African savannah, the animals wonder what happened to the water.
“A Turtle’s Tale: Sammy’s Adventures”: Animated efforts starring voices of Melanie Griffith and Kathy Griffin.
“The Commander: Set 2”: Amanda Burton stars as the ambitious Commander Clare Blake in four feature-length crime dramas.
“Angelina Ballerina: Ultimate Dance Collection”: Angelina takes center stage as she follows her heart.
“Masterpiece Classic: Great Expectations”: Gillian Anderson stars in the PBS production.
“Madonna: Truth or Dare”: Behind-the-scenes concert film is now on Blue-ray.
“Sesame Street: Big Elmo Fun”: Features three full-length stories.
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”: Sarah Jessica Parker stars.