Special ‘Mary Poppins’ discs add historical context


New releases: “Mary Poppins,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: The Day of the Doctor,” “Fast & Furious 6” and more.

Also reviewed: “Despicable Me 2,” “Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: The Day of the Doctor,” “Fast & Furious 6” and more.

Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition

Disney/Buena Vista, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

In conjunction with the new movie “Saving Mr. Banks” — a dramatization of the making of “Mary Poppins” starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson — the Walt Disney company is releasing a special Blu-ray and DVD edition of the 1964 musical classic, based on the work of writer P.L. Travers. The discs’ bonus features delve into how Walt Disney turned Travers’ prickly novels about a magical nanny into the last big project that he saw through from start to finish, taking a hand in casting stage star Julie Andrews in her first large-scale movie role and Dick Van Dyke as an anarchic jack-of-all-trades, and pushing composers Richard and Robert Sherman to deliver some of their best songs. The result is a perfect mix of Travers’ moralism and Disney’s cozy nostalgia; the movie benefits well from the Blu-ray presentation and the detailed historical context.


On the set: movies and TV

Despicable Me 2

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98/$49.98

As often occurs with sequels to big-hit animated movies, this seems a little uneven and uncertain, as though its creative team couldn’t agree on why audiences loved the first installment. The second trip into the world of ex-super-criminal Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) tries a little of everything. As Gru takes a job at a shopping mall to track down one of his old villainous cronies, “Despicable Me 2” careens wildly between big action set-pieces, crude slapstick and domestic melodrama, never really integrating those elements as well as its predecessor. It’s frequently funny (thanks to Gru’s legion of bumbling, always-amusing Minions), and often cute (thanks to Gru’s spunky adopted daughters), but the story is stilted and the heart is artificial. The DVD and Blu-ray add featurettes and bonus cartoons, which are also kind of fun but mostly inessential.

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Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: The Day of the Doctor

BBC, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Longtime “Doctor Who” fans will get the most out of this, the British sci-fi series’ 799th episode, because this 50th anniversary special calls back to five decades’ worth of characters and storylines and features cameos from a handful of the actors who’ve played the interstellar time traveler in the past. But in a way, “The Day of the Doctor” would make an ideal introduction to a show that can sometimes be hard for newcomers to grasp. The episode’s time-jumping structure keeps the action lively and is heavy on the offbeat humor and philosophical musings that have made the series such a cult favorite. The DVD and Blu-ray contain further background info.

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Fast & Furious 6

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 10

The decision to move the “Fast and the Furious” franchise away from car thieves and street racing and toward international capering continues to pay dividends with “Fast & Furious 6,” another fleetly paced, enjoyably preposterous installment in a series that doesn’t take itself too seriously. This time out, the car-crazy crew reconvenes at the behest of an old nemesis (a government agent played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to bring down a bad guy and retrieve their amnesiac, long-thought-dead colleague Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). The chase sequences look like dance sequences, with automobiles. Director Justin Lin provides a commentary track to the DVD and Blu-ray, which also include deleted scenes and featurettes. The death of star Paul Walker in a car accident over Thanksgiving weekend lends a somber note.



Battle of the Year

Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99/$45.99

Available on VOD beginning Dec.10

The Hunt

Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

Available on VOD beginning Dec. 10

Man of Tai Chi

Starz/Anchor Bay, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.99