- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2010

The comic book permeates all levels of popular culture. This sporadic feature reviews some recent examples from the world of digital video discs (compatible with Blu-ray-enabled computers and home entertainment centers) and also includes a recommended sequential-art reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series (BBC Video, not rated, $89.98)  Another year of the fantastic sci-fi series from the United Kingdom saw the end of actor David Tennant’s run as the last Time Lord.

I’m still warming up to the 11th Doctor, actor Matt Smith, a punk who looks like a Dick Tracy villain. He’s got the required energy and the bow tie but speaks way too quickly for these tired ears and has an overly pompous delivery that will take some getting used to.

I am onboard, however, with his new feisty female companion, the beautiful redhead Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan), who aggressively helps the doctor out of catastrophic predicaments.

All of the 13 episodes in the six-disc Blu-ray set are worth watching multiple times, but a trio of them really deliver a wonderful Doctor Who experience.

The Beast Below — The pair of travelers go to the 29th century and land on the Starship UK, a massive spacecraft holding the remaining population of the United Kingdom. When the doctor discovers its unusual propulsion system, he must make a dramatic decision that could end the species.

The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone — The scariest creatures, without a doubt, of the “Doctor Who” universe, the Weeping Angels, return for a two-part story. These vintage graveyard statues come to life and play a “Mother May I” game of death with potential victims — including Amy. River Song, a future time-traveling partner of the Doctor’s, stops by to help save the day.

Vincent and the Doctor — Viewers learn part of the reason Vincent van Gogh was so crazy in this emotional episode pitting a monstrous too-cool extraterrestrial against the famed postimpressionist painter. Of course, the Doctor and Amy have a few tricks and tools to help the legendary artist.

Best extras: Besides a selection of optional In Vision (picture-in-picture) commentary tracks on four episodes, each starring a trio of the creative team (including directors, writers and actors), I enjoyed a look at the Monster Files, which highlighted a hostile species such as the Daleks or Salurians on each disc.

Also, BBC Video continues its tradition of including the entire set of “Doctor Who Confidential” segments tied to the latest season on a sixth disc. These promotional featurettes average about 15 minutes and offer a hearty behind-the-scenes look at each episode with plenty of information for the fan.

Read all about it: Get a taste of IDW Publishing’s celebration of the Time Lord in the sequential-art format through the trade paperback Doctor Who: Through Time and Space ($19.99). Six stories star the 10th Doctor with art from illustrating luminaries including Ben Templesmith, Paul Grist and Kelly Yates.

The A-Team: Unrated Extended Cut (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, $39.99)  Another iconic television show met the Hollywood adaptation gristmill this past summer to offer an action-packed, star-studded movie loaded with testosterone and explosive excess for the popcorn-munching crowd.

Viewers can watch an epic cut of the film on Blu-ray, clocking in at two hours and 15 minutes, to learn the origins of an elite mercenary team made up of Col. Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), Lt. “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper), B.S. Baracus (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) and Capt. H.M. Murdock (Sharlto Copley).

Director Joe Carnahan delivers some spectacular and corny action scenes, not limited to the boys fighting off hostile aircraft while inside a tank tethered to a parachute in midair, and a wild helicopter ride from pilot Murdock.

Unfortunately, too many subplots play out as a compacted version of multiple episodes of the TV series, crashing this potential roller-coaster ride.

Mr. Copley is a riot as Murdock, often carrying the laughs, and I did appreciate the vibe that kept the movie in the spirit of the original material. Mr. Carnahan, however, keeps trying to outdo himself with each effects-heavy scene until he runs out of gas at the worst possible time, the end of the film.

Overall, “The A-Team” is a great rental, if it just takes me back to when the original A-Team and Mr. T were a pop-culture phenomenon thanks to comic books, action figures and even popsicles all tied to their weekly adventures.

Best extras: 20th Century Fox mimics and almost tops Warner Home Video’s Maximum Movie Mode with the Blu-ray exclusive feature “Devil’s in the Details” as viewers get to watch the theatrical version of the film with the director.

Mr. Carnahan sits in a chair to introduce moments (while the film plays on the back of a warehouse wall) and uses a collection of magical on-screen boxes to cut to animatics and storyboards, behind-the-scenes footage or visual-effects sequences. He jibber-jabbers during the entire film with his meat-and-potatoes-style delivery and has plenty of minutiae to offer about the good and bad of the filmmaking process.

The experience does not end there. Viewers also can keep track of any of the A-Team’s complex plans along with the team members involved by looking at a ticker at the bottom of the screen. More entertaining, the top of the screen offers a dashboard for abbreviated fact access to the weapons and vehicles used in the movie, such as the 1994 Chevrolet G20 van and Bushmaster XM15-E2S M4 carbine, available throughout the screening.

Read all about it: IDW Publishing offered two four-issue comic-book miniseries tied to the movie, A-Team: Shotgun Wedding and A-Team: War Stories. Both, plotted with help from the film’s director, are available in trade paperback ($17.99 each). 

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• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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