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Downton Abbey: Season 4
In case you can't wait to see how Bates deals with Anna's rape or whether Mary puts the memory of Matthew behind her by taking up with the dashing Tony Gillingham (and don't have kids and/or friends who can torrent this stuff for you), Downton's fourth season is available on DVD in its uncut U.K. glory. Truth be told, it's been a weak year for the Crawley clan, at least from a creative standpoint. Not only was Mary adrift in the wake of Matthew's passing, but creator Julian Fellowes appeared to be as well, struggling to come up with new scenarios for these characters to play out. And the storylines he did come up with -- like the aforementioned rape, as well as Alfred's attempts to become a chef -- were dubious from the get-go and didn't improve as they dragged along. Through it all, the cast has struggled mightily to hold our interest and mostly succeeded, though the absence of favorites like O'Brien was keenly felt. Downton is still popular enough that it can run pretty much forever, but setting a firm end date might force Fellowes to buckle down and actually push this series along instead of running in place.
Extras: A making of featurette and interviews with the new cast members.
Click here to read our full recaps of Downton Abbey
Bonnie & Clyde
Considering that the groundbreaking 1967 classic Bonnie & Clyde has become the definitive account of the short, violent lives of '30s bank robbers Bonnie Franklin and Clyde Barrow, it would be difficult for any new film to displace Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in the popular imagination. And it should be noted that this four-hour miniseries covers more ground -- and sticks a bit closer to the historical record -- than the Arthur Penn movie. But all that extra material doesn't ultimately add anything to our understanding of Bonnie and Clyde; instead, it comes across as filler, padding out a story that was perfectly effective in an abridged form. The movie's failure isn't the fault of Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger, who wisely avoid trying to imitate their predecessors in these roles. On the other hand, it says something that the most interesting character (and the best performance) in the miniseries is the journalist who covered the duo, PJ Lane (Elizabeth Reaser), who brings a unique perspective to the tale of Bonnie and Clyde that the rest of the film noticeably lacks.
Extras: Three making-of featurettes.
Click here to read our original review
Treme: The Complete Fourth Season
Treme: The Complete Series
Despite consistently low ratings and an absence of awards attention, HBO gave David Simon four seasons to spin his yarn about post-Katrina New Orleans, which wound to a close in this shortened final year. Set three years after the devastating hurricane, Treme's final act takes place against the backdrop of the 2008 election and finds the Big Easy's diverse citizenry -- and the show's diverse cast -- moving resolutely forward with their lives, even as they continue to butt heads with the same problems (a weak economy, lax law enforcement) that have plagued them since the world as they knew it was upended. Never as immediately gripping as The Wire, Treme still had its virtues, which the show's small, but loyal fanbase can fill you in on at length. Or, you can just watch the entire run yourself courtesy of the complete series box set that's hitting shelves today alongside the fourth season. Just as The Wire's novelistic approach plays best when episodes are watched in close succession, so to may Treme prove more effective when viewed as a whole rather than in parts.
Extras: The standalone fourth season edition comes with cast and crew commentary tracks on two of the five episodes. The complete series set includes all the previously released special features, along with a bonus disc of music videos spotlighting the show's killer jazz tunes.
Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain
My Little Pony: Classic Movie Collection
Everyone talks about the brilliance of Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures, but who will stick up for the short-lived spin-off, Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain, which united the breakout supporting characters from each show's respective cast. The high-concept premise finds the wanna-be world conquering genius Brain and his hapless assistant Pinky getting kicked out of ACME and taking up residence in the home of big-time animal fan Elmyra, who loves cute and cuddly critters so much that she's more of a danger to them than exterminators. Lasting one brief 13-episode season, the series represents the last we've seen of the Animaniacs/Tiny Toons universe as producer Steven Spielberg discontinued his partnership with Warner's animation department not long after. Seems like one or both shows are overdue for a My Little Pony style revival, a once dormant brand that bounced back in a big way with the new series Friendship is Magic. In the hope of some of that… er, magic, rubbing off on the franchise's back catalogue, Shout! Factory has released the so-called "Classic Movie Collection," which packages four direct-to-video features made in the pre-Friendship of 2004-2006. And if those years are considered "classic," what does that make the 1986 feature film? Ancient?
Extras: Both discs are bare bones releases.
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