It is lucky that on this particularly light week for specialty releases on the small screen, the nation's hipsters and anyone else nostalgic for the "good old days" of MTV can plop down on their couch and delight in the eight-disc release of "Daria." Afton Lorraine Woodward, writing for the Washington Post's Express Night Out, fondly memorializes the show, saying, "'Daria' was one of MTV's last hurrahs before it finally shook off every last vestige of subversiveness and became a vapid, music-less wasteland of reality TV. Featuring regular criticisms and exploitations of society, pop culture and Russian statesmen, 'Daria' appeared to be destined to follow 'Liquid Television' and 'Sifl & Olly' into relative animated obscurity, with just a few clips available online as its only post-airing presence." Calling the absence of the show's signature soundtrack (most of the songs could not be licensed on the distribution budget) "worth the sacrifice," Woodward says, "Even sans music, the 'Daria' box set is exactly what fans have been waiting patiently for, although the nine-year lull was a little cruel and unusual." Alyx Vesey also has a tribute to "Daria" and the show's contribution to her budding adolescent feminism at Bitch magazine.
Also released this week is vampire thriller "Daybreaker" (criticWIRE rating: C), from down under filmmakers Michael and Peter Spierig, which stars Ethan Hawke as a scientist intent on finding a substitute for blood as vampires attack every last living human to keep their population alive. Willem Dafoe plays Elvis, who, as one of the other last remaining humans, helps Hawke's character Edward and others avoid a neck-biting end. Included on the disc is a lengthy "making of" documentary, the Spierigs' short film "The Big Picture," and feature-length audio commentary with the directors and the man responsible for those creepy monsters, Steve Boyle. In a generally positive review of the film at DVD Talk, Brian Orndorf calls out the brothers for their big, glaring mistake: "It seems the Spierigs were a touch too fearful their oppressive screenplay would creep out the room to a point of revulsion, dreaming up the character of Elvis to provide needed comic relief. It leaves Dafoe dancing a jig while the rest of the film sits patiently in the dark. While the actor is a genius with the subversive smart-aleck routine, the performance and the character feel wrong for such an intriguingly abusive tone. 'Daybreakers' is built sturdily enough to plunge even further into this uninviting landscape. Having Dafoe try on a Yosemite Sam persona only calls attention to itself, making Edward's trust in the humans all the more puzzling."
Also on DVD this week are special editions of "Toy Story" and the tear-inspiring "Toy Story 2" (in anticipation of the third installment this summer), a box set Blu-Ray release of "The Karate Kid" and "The Karate Kid: Part II," "Larry McMurtry's Streets of Laredo" (starring James Garner and Sissy Spacek), "Larry McMurtry's Dead Man's Walk" (starring "Amadeus" himself F. Murray Abraham, Keith Carradine, and Brian Dennehy), Mel Gibson-starrer "Edge of Darkness," and that creepy angel movie "Legion."
Bryce Renninger, an indieWIRE contributor in the New York office, is also the shorts programmer for Newfest and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Media Studies at Rutgers University. He can be reached via Twitter.