Breaking Bad: The Complete Series
Sony Blu-ray, $299.99
Breaking Bad: The Final Season
Sony, $55.99; Blu-ray, $65.99
When the series debuted on AMC in January 2008, it didn't draw much notice or many viewers, but by the time the series finale ran this past September, the drama had become a cultural event. "Breaking Bad" is squarely on the short list of "greatest TV shows of all time," and the intense, unpredictable saga of a cancer-ridden chemistry teacher and his attempts to break into the methamphetamine business is creator Vince Gilligan's grand statement about American enterprise, the rot of greed and the hunger for status. It's also beautifully cinematic, shot through with pitch-black humor and a showcase for multiple indelible performances, including Bryan Cranston's as antihero Walter White. The "Breaking Bad" complete series Blu-ray set comes packaged in a plastic barrel and adds hours of behind-the-scenes material. The final season is also available separately on DVD and Blu-ray.
Starz/Anchor Bay, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.99
Available on VOD beginning Tuesday
It seems scarcely a week goes by without another Hong Kong action film about the life of martial arts legend Ip Man, but "this biopic is still a major cinematic event — it was made by Wong Kar-wai, one of the medium's premier visual poets. With longtime collaborator Tony Leung playing Ip Man (and Zhang Ziyi playing the disgruntled but alluring daughter of the hero's rival), and a story line that spans decades and moves from mainland China to Hong Kong, Wong has all the material he needs for a beautifully crafted, typically opaque historical drama, peppered with visionary fight sequences that are more like avant-garde dance than conventional action. "The Grandmaster" DVD and Blu-ray contain featurettes, but not the longer international cut of the film, which is a shame.
The Punk Singer
Available on VOD beginning Nov. 29
Sini Anderson's documentary looks back at the influential, interrupted career of Kathleen Hanna, who helped lead the punk-feminist riot grrrl movement in the 1990s and 2000s as the frontwoman for the bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, before health problems forced her into early retirement. Anchored by extended interviews with Hanna and her friends and fans — supported by thrilling footage of the subject onstage in her prime, bopping about and provoking the crowd — "The Punk Singer" is an artfully assembled biography of a major cultural figure who's now attempting a comeback with her new band, the Julie Ruin. But Anderson doesn't shy away from the complexity and seeming contradictions of Hanna's life and ideology, or from the challenges she's faced as a rock 'n' roll icon due to her gender.
Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman
Criterion Blu-ray, $224.95
The blind traveling masseur and expert swordsman Zatoichi made his movie debut in 1962 in "The Tale of Zatoichi," and the movie's star, Shintaro Katsu, continued to play the character on film until 1973, at which point he moved Zatoichi to Japanese television for 100 episodes, airing between '74 and '79. Criterion's ambitious DVD/Blu-ray set contains all 25 of the Zatoichi feature films that Katsu made in the 1960s and 1970s, along with a 1978 documentary about the actor and his most famous role. Enhanced by stunning sleeve illustrations by some of the best cartoonists and comic book artists working today, the set shows off the variety of styles and tones that the Zatoichi films employed as times changed, and as tales of a wandering warrior took on different meanings.