New releases: Classic fare in 'Life Aquatic,' 'Bob Newhart Show'

New DVD releases include 'Bob Newhart Show,' 'Gambit' and 'Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou'

"The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series," Shout! Factory, $129.99

The comedy ran for six seasons on CBS in the 1970s, giving the stand-up comedian his best showcase since his early comedy albums. Onstage and on record, Newhart had humorously exasperated, one-sided telephone conversations; on "The Bob Newhart Show," Newhart's Chicago psychologist Bob Hartley reacted to silly patients and neighbors with the same stammering incredulity. Half domestic sitcom and half workplace sitcom, "The Bob Newhart Show" kept its ensemble lean by making Bob part of a childless married couple and sticking him in an office suite with only one actual employee. The show's 142 episodes are equally simple, showing Bob dealing with trifling inconveniences, compounded by the eccentrics and neurotics who wander in and out of his life. Shout! Factory's terrific box set consists of 19 discs, with extras that include an unaired pilot, new and old interviews, and commentary tracks.

"Gambit," Sony, $26.99; Blu-ray, $30.99

It's never a good sign when a movie scheduled to come out in the U.S. in 2012 gets bumped to 2014 (and then barely gets released at all). It's even worse when that movie boasts a screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a remake of a well-liked 1966 caper picture, stars Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz as kooky con artists and yet still can't draw any attention. But "Gambit" has been a misbegotten project from the start: in development for more than a decade, put into production almost as an afterthought, and given to director Michael Hoffman, who overcranks the screwball qualities of the original, producing a movie that mainly just proves how difficult it is to make a Coen brothers movie without the Coen brothers directing. (Another bad sign: There are zero bonus features on either the DVD or Blu-ray.)

"Journey to the West," Magnolia/Magnet, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

The 16th century Chinese adventure novel "Journey to the West" has been a source for popular entertainment for centuries, generating plays, comic books, songs, ballets, TV shows and movies. Writer-director-producer Stephen Chow's film version (subtitled "Conquering the Demons" in some territories) is a raucous action-comedy, akin to Chow's internationally popular "Shaolin Soccer" and "Kung Fu Hustle." Wen Zhang plays a man on a mission, traveling across the country, defeating demons and converting them to his cause. The narrative is too drawn out, and the comedy isn't as sharp as in Chow's earlier films, but the action sequences are suitably eye-popping. It's always fun to watch Zhang fight bad guys who have animal heads. The DVD and Blu-ray add featurettes galore.

"The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," Criterion Blu-ray, $39.95

Ten years before having an international hit with the comic adventure "The Grand Budapest Hotel," writer-director Wes Anderson made his most ambitious film, "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," and suffered an expensive flop. In the years since, as Anderson has built out his filmography and his reputation, "The Life Aquatic" has become regarded more as a classic and has joined some of Anderson's other films as part of the Criterion Collection. Previously available on a Criterion DVD, "The Life Aquatic" is now on Blu-ray in a gorgeous-looking edition that adds interviews, a behind-the-scenes documentary and a commentary track from Anderson and his co-writer Noah Baumbach. But it's the movie that's the real treat here: a colorful, soulful tale of an over-the-hill oceanic explorer (played in a gruff deadpan by Bill Murray) who goes on one last big quest, hoping to secure his legacy.


"Endless Love," Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98. Available on VOD beginning May 27.

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