James Bond made a cinematic comeback of sorts in 2012 thanks to Skyfall, which was released on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.
Following 2008’s disappointing Quantum of Solace, Skyfall managed to offer a deeper look at the character of Bond (played again by Daniel Craig), to come up with a great new villain thanks to the performance by Javier Bardem, and yet still managed to fit in the expected elements, such as an extended action sequence to open the film.
And, of course, there was the theme song by Adele.
Skyfall (Fox, $29.98 DVD, $39.98 Blu-ray/DVD combo pack) had a plot, too, though I am hard pressed to remember it. Instead, I think of the film in terms of the flourishes in the directing (by Sam Mendes) and acting: Bardem’s strutting entrance, or the way time and conflict are etched into Craig’s face. (Craig now ranks second to only Sean Connery among the screen Bonds.) There are also able supporting players, including Judi Dench as M and Ben Whishaw as Q; a major transition in the Bond world, and a well-staged closing battle. In total, the movie brought Bond fans back to theaters, taking in about twice as much money as Quantum had, as well as collecting mostly enthusiastic reviews.
Extras on the DVD include four segments about making the movie, including ones on the women of Skyfall and the locations; the Blu-ray adds audio commentaries and still more making-of pieces.
Tuesday also brought several older Bond films to Blu-ray, among them Diamonds Are Forever (with Connery), Octopussy (Roger Moore), GoldenEye (Pierce Brosnan), and The Living Daylights (Timothy Dalton).
Also of note from the movie file: The Sessions (Fox, $22.98 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray), which includes Helen Hunt in an Oscar-nominated performance but is more worth your attention for the work by John Hawkes. He plays a long-paralyzed man who decides to lose his virginity with a sex surrogate (Hunt). There are moments of melodrama but more often a bracing and direct look at sex and people with disabilities. Hawkes, whom you may have seen in Winter’s Bone with Jennifer Lawrence or on TV in Deadwood, is once again marvelous.
On the TV side, Gossip Girl wrapped up its six-season run on the CW in December, and now is concluding its DVD release. Gossip Girl: The Complete Sixth and Final Season (Warner, 10 episodes, $39.98 standard DVD) supplements the package with deleted scenes, bloopers, an audiobook prequel, and a farewell featurette. Then there’s Gossip Girl: The Complete Series (Warner, 121 episodes $199.70), a bundling of all the previously released single-season sets and the sixth season. There are no extras beyond what was in the single-season releases. But for the newcomer to the series, Warner says the big box offers “a substantial savings over purchasing all six seasons individually” — although how substantially depends on how much your online or store retailer discounts each set.
Still on TV, actress Loretta Young’s 100th birthday was on Jan. 6 (she died in 2000). In addition to her movie credits (including an Oscar), Young hosted and often starred in a TV anthology from 1953 to 1961, first under the title Letter to Loretta (where the stories were framed as answers to fans’ confiding notes to the actress) and later just The Loretta Young Show. So Timeless Media has released a 17-disc, 100th-birthday best-of-the-series set ($99.99) covering all eight seasons.
The half-hour episodes are often pretty good, and range from comedy to heavy-duty drama. Episodes do show some wear, as a note at the beginning of the discs acknowledge, and some show small cuts early where Young was referring to the show’s sponsor. Extras include Young’s children reminiscing, home movies, and audio of an interview with Young about the series.
Down video road
Considerable excitement should come from the announced release of China Beach in the spring. The 1988-91 Vietnam drama has had trouble getting to DVD because its use of music meant getting rights was more than a little complicated. The DVD release from Time Life ended up licensing more than 250 songs to make this set possible (with about 15 more either deleted or substituted). The set, with major extras, will not be in stores until the fall; if you want it sooner, you can order it online at ChinaBeachonDVD.com. Also, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on March 19. The Impossible, with Naomi Watts’ Oscar-nominated performance, will be in both formats April 23. And HBO’s The Newsroom: The Complete First Season will be on Blu-ray and DVD on June 11.