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New on Blu-ray and DVD (June 16, 2015)

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The best family movie this week is (wait for it) . . . a family movie.

spiritridersSpirit Riders (2015) stars Allie DeBerry (Disney’s A.N.T. Farm) as a troubled teen who is sentenced to attend an equine therapy camp. There she forms a bond with a feisty thoroughbred and helps him settle down and accept his post-racing life, even as the ranch owner (Lance Henriksen, Aliens) helps her to lose her anger and find a way to get her life back on track. C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders) also stars in this feel-good drama. Look for it on DVD. It has the Dove seal of approval

TimeLapseThen there’s Time Lapse (2014), a sci-fi thriller about three friends who discover a strange machine that takes photos 24 hours into the future. Naturally, they decide to have some fun and maybe profit somehow, but nothing is that simple, is it? Time Lapse is out on Blu-ray for the first time. It’s not rated, but there is a lot of swearing, including the dreaded “f-word.”

Laverne&ShirleyFor more wholesome fare you have to go back in time. Like the ‘50s and ‘70s. This week Laverne & Shirley: The Complete Series comes out on DVD, along with The Odd Couple: The Complete Series, also on DVD. L&S is sillier and more slapstick, with the appeal of ‘50s nostalgia as we get to know two blue-collar Milwaukee brewery workers as they date and dream. It stars Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams, with a memorable (and yes, funny) cast of supporting characters. The series still holds up for families today.

OddCoupleThe Odd Couple (1970-75) was higher rated, but the TV adaptation of the Neil Simon play is also a little more dependent on character conflict: Felix (Tony Randall) is the neat freak divorcee, while Oscar (Jack Klugman) is the divorced slob. Can two divorced men live together? The Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning show also stars Al Marinaro (Happy Days), Penny Marshall (Laverne & Shirley), and Elinor Donahue (The Andy Griffith Show). Though the DVD notes say it’s edited (no doubt because of music rights), the show is still fun to watch.

RobinHoodAnd if you go REALLY far back in time you can get catch the ‘50s version of the Middle Ages in The Adventures of Robin Hood, a TV series aimed at children starring Richard Greene. A 39-episode release comes out this week from TV Guide and it’s dripping with nostalgia. Unless, that is, you’re seeing it for the first time—in which case you’ll find it surprisingly entertaining. It too is only available on DVD.

NewsroomFinally, for more sophisticated viewers with older children there’s The Newsroom: Season 3, available on Blu-ray and DVD. Aaron Sorkin does for the newsroom what he did for The West Wing, and Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer star in this smartly written commentary on today’s media.

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New on Blu-ray and DVD (June 9, 2015)

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Once again there’s not much in the way of family-friendly new releases: just a ‘60s TV series about a veterinarian in Africa, an off-brand animated dinosaur adventure, and, for families with older children that have a more sophisticated range, and a 1939 classic Ernst Lubitsch comedy.

Daktari3Daktari means “doctor” in Swahili, and for four seasons this TV drama-adventure aimed at children entertained the target audience on CBS. Marshall Thompson played Dr. Tracy, a vet working in East Africa to study animals and also protect them from poachers and politicians. Cheryl Miller played his daughter, Paula, but the real stars were compound “pets” like Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion and Judy the Chimpanzee. Season 4 comes out on DVD this week, and it was this season that introduced Erin Moran (who struck sitcom gold as Joannie in Happy Days five years later) as a young orphan. The series was created by Ivan Tors, who gave TV audiences Sea Hunt a decade earlier and Gentle Ben a decade later. Tors was also the man behind the Flipper movies. If you have children who are wildlife experts, they might cringe to see tigers and Indian elephants and possibly suspect that real footage of Africa was intercut with footage shot in California—which was the case. But these 15 episodes (755 min. runtime) are still entertaining.

BacktotheJurassicFor young children there’s Back to the Jurassic, a 2015 follow-up to the off-brand Dino Time (2012) featuring the voices of Rob Schneider, Melanie Griffith, William Baldwin, and Jane Lynch. The animated adventure follows three young friends who accidentally start a time machine and end up in the Jurassic Period, “adopted” by a dinosaur mom who has a rough-and-playful son of her own. Will they survive before their parents can work in present time to save them? This one comes with the Dove seal of approval. Look for it on 3D Blu-ray (+ Blu-ray + DVD) combo pack or DVD.

NinotchkaIt’s the American Film Institute that approves of Ninotchka, rating it #40 on their list of 100 Top Romances and #52 on their list of 100 Top Comedies. Ernst Lubitsch’s 1939 film concerns a Stalin-era Soviet official who is sent to Paris to bring back three Russians who were supposed to sell jewelry that the State confiscated during the Russian Revolution . . . but never returned. The government suspects they’ve been corrupted by Western decedance, and they trust a harsh special envoy named Nina Ivanova “Ninotchka” Yakushova (Greta Garbo) to set things right. But the Count (Melvyn Douglas) who wooed the three Russians into staying in the West can be quite persuasive. Ninotchka is a different kind of romantic comedy, and the first film to portray Stalin’s Russia as the all-gray, severe country that would become a cliché in later Hollywood films. It’s out on Blu-ray this week for the very first time.

Family adventure-comedy INNERSPACE to debut on Blu-ray

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InnerspacecoverIt’s tough to find PG-rated movies that deliver adventure AND laughs, but that’s what audiences got from Innerspace, an underrated 1987 adventure-comedy starring Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, and Meg Ryan. It was a take-off on the mega-popular Fantastic Voyage (1966), in which Stephen Boyd and Raquel Welch were among a group of that was miniaturized and injected into the bloodstream of an important diplomat who had been shot, in an attempt to save his life.

On August 4, Innerspace comes to Blu-ray for the first time, and all those great special effects should look even better in HD.

In Innerspace, Short plays a store clerk who is accidentally injected with a miniaturized man and submarine in a top-secret experiment gone wrong—hardly the ideal situation for a hypochondriac to know there’s something and someone cruising around inside him.  Quaid plays the cocky test pilot who is dependent upon Short to save his life, while Ryan is Quaid’s onscreen girlfriend, with whom Short also becomes slightly enamored. Naturally thieves want to get their hands on the material, the government decides that the test pilot is expendable, and the race is on. It’s directed by Joe Dante, who also gave us Gremlins. 

You can pre-order the film now at Amazon for $9.99 instead of the $14.98 list price.