BlackAdder is comedy done right. Nearly 30 years after its creation, the beloved British series continues to be watched and worshiped, recited and referenced, lauded and, of course, laughed at. Blackadder Remastered: The Ultimate Edition DVD set collects each of the four series and all of the specials in new, digitally restored from the original program masters form on six discs. The set also features new episode commentaries with Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Ben Elton, Richard Curtis, Tony Robinson, and Tim McInnerny; several new interviews with Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Richard Curtis, Ben Elton, and Tony Robinson; Footnotes to History, a guide to the real historical figures and events depicted in Black Adder hosted by Tony Robinson; a behind-the-scenes of Black adder Back and Forth featurette entitled Baldrick’s Video Diary and the wonderful 25th Anniversary documentary Black Adder Rides Again. It’s an embarrassment of riches even the Black Adder himself would want to share. Even the packaging is perfect, opening like a beautifully bound and well-worn history book (look closely at the illustration of Baldrick’s family tree on the front leaf; it may explain a few things!). Essentially, if Blackadder is the prime example of how to create and produce a near-perfect comedy—and, that it be—then Blackadder Remastered: The Ultimate Edition is exemplary of the way to make a near-perfect DVD set.
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For sci-fi fans who prefer their adventures on-demand in high-def comes this latest installment from the BBC’s Dr. Who spinoff. The show about a team of alien investigators who battle a constant threat of invasion, Torchwood is a mature and dark series within the genre. This five-part miniseries, which aired in America last July, puts the battered team on the wrong side of the law with the government pursuing them while the children of Earth are attacked by extraterrestrials. This is a mythology-heavy set, but still easily digestible by new and established fans of the show.
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea, and has done so for a decade? One Mr. SquarePants, that’s who, and he is celebrating his tenth anniversary with this 14-disc mega set that includes every episode through Season Five. In addition to collecting the episodes with guest stars like Johnny Depp and Gene Simmons, the set includes the documentary Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants. Spongey is a pop-culture icon for all ages, and this set proves it. If the $117 price tag at www.barnesandnoble.com is too much, there is also the $11 SpongeBob’s Greatest Hits CD featuring 16 of the squishy one’s best songs.
Even to this day, Gigantor looks like nothing in late ‘50s/early ‘60s animation. With their early comic strip influences (Little Nemo was a clear reference point) and the comic book like reliance on panel type reactions shots (lots of electrical sparks, lightning bolts, and energy lines here), these fuzzy, foggy black and white beauties represent the growing pains of anime. The added content present on the DVD also emphasizes the novelty and initial reaction to the show. In conjunction with the original volume, which brought the first 26 shows to viewers, these box sets cement the status of Gigantor as an innovative and true original.
And yet one wonders how the fanboys will react to this obvious blast from the past. Anime has grown by leaps and bounds since the days of Tetsujin 28-go and its forerunners, and by today’s standards, this obviously tinkered with title looks positively primitive. It can’t hold a future shock illustration to something like Appleseed. And yet that’s also part of Gigantor‘s charms. Like the roots of rock and roll, or the foundations of film itself, the beginnings of the Japanese cartoon format are fascinating in their stylized shortcut mentality. Unlike Disney who sweated every detail, the Asian aesthetic was one of punch and power. Getting to the meat of a situation was far more important than languishing over a beautifully painted backdrop. Gigantor gets massive kudos for clearing the way to this new and important genre. That it also stands on its own, beyond said novelty, is a very nice surprise indeed.
With American Movie Classics gearing up to offer an update on this series (starring Passion of the Christ‘s James Caviezel and Ian McKellen), A&E has overseen a painstaking remaster of the original series, complete with a stunning Blu-ray release that brings everything brilliant about this show to dazzling life. The extras packed presentation, including new commentaries, making-of featurettes, character and setting documentaries, and a bevy of bonus background gives the Prisoner fan as much context as they could possibly want. With gorgeous imagery, razor-sharp sound, and a load of exciting content, the new format box set answers a lot of questions about the material…except one.
But as any fan knows in the end, it really doesn’t matter who Number One was, which side of the Cold War The Village sat, why enumeration was used to identify the citizenry, or what in the world that killer beach ball really was.