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Monsters, Robots and Masked Vigilantes: A Home Video Roundup

Entertainment Television

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As far as I’m concerned, the new fall season can’t get here fast enough. Every summer I manage to find a couple of series to get me through the doldrums – this year it was my old standby, Falling Skies, and newcomer The Strain, though both were more filler than killer – but I still tend to split most of my TV time between Netflix and Blu-ray/DVD releases of older fare.

A Prime example – I made a pun! – is the latest from Shout Factory’s always stellar Transformers collection. Earlier this month fans were graced with Beast Machines: The Complete Series in a handsome four-disc set. As per usual, it’s presented in a sturdy clamshell with a secondary cardboard outer sleeve, and the series’ meager pair of seasons, which originally aired in 1999-2000, is aptly supplemented with bonus material.

Season One’s “Fires of the Past,” and series ending two-parter “Endgame” feature bonus audio commentary, and Disc One of each season features interviews with the series’ creative staff (including comic book great Marv Wolfman). The best thing about Beast Machines, however, is how well the show itself has held up.

Unlike its predecessor Beast Wars, this computer animated series looks even better than I remember, and, while its significantly darker tone may run a little low on humor, watching Optimus Primal work through his existential angst is still as entertaining as it is novel. Similarly, the show’s focus on the themes of spirituality and the role of the natural in a progressively more technological world make it stand-out among Transformers canon.

If you missed it in its initial broadcast, checking out Beast Machines is well worth the effort. Or, if you’re an old fan, coming back to this box set is equally worth it – especially for Noble/Savage.

On a more contemporary note, last week saw the debut of Supernatural: The Complete Ninth Season on Blu-ray. While I was initially slow to check out this long-loved series, I managed to get all caught up before the ninth season premiere – thanks in no small part to my massive fangirl of a little sister.

Going back over it, I’m reminded that, while far from my favorite season, this one really was a relentless and visceral attack on the world of the Winchester boys. With 23 episodes detailing the dangers of an army of angels now locked out of heaven, a captive Crowley, Abaddon on a mission and the appearance of the immensely powerful Mark of Cain, it handily sets us up for the Evil Dean of the upcoming 10th season, yet still finds time to linger over web memes (“#THINMAN”) and spells gone comically wrong (“Dog Dean Afternoon”).

Add to this the amazing fidelity of the Blu-ray presentation, featurettes focusing on the the recently introduced Men of Letters and the boys’ new headquarters and a dash of audio commentary for a trio of episodes, and you’ve got another solid selection for your media shelf. Plus, with Amazon selling it for about half of the MSRP, it’s an even easier recommendation.

Another Warner Bros. series I never thought I’d watch and yet now can’t seem to stop obsessing over is CW’s Arrow. I didn’t particularly dig what the New 52 did to my old favorite character, and when I discovered that Green Arrow was based heavily on Stephen Amell’s younger Ollie I quickly wrote the show off. And I was wrong.

Arrow: The Complete Second Season drops tomorrow, and after re-watching the Blu-ray I’m reminded that it was my favorite season. It managed to fix a number of the pacing issues of the debut – which newbies can catch up on via the hour-long “Year One” recap included here alongside all 23 eps of season two – and being able to binge-watch to your heart’s content only helps matters.

This set features a gag real, deleted scenes and some nice exploration of the visual effects and fight choreography that makes this series so damn comic book-y, but, alas, it’s the episode themselves that are the real selling point. Watch as courtroom drama (and lingering questions of paternity) unfold! Marvel as both The Flash and the Suicide Squad make their proper appearances! Cheer as Oliver finally gets a proper mask! Learn what an alderman is!

Yes, all this and more can be yours in this hybrid Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet combo pack.

Review materials provided by: Shout Factory, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

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