Author - Thespia

Headsup: Billions Season One on Blu-ray and DVD


This year we saw Showtime’s debut of Billions, a wall street drama created by Brian Koppelman and David Levien (the writing team behind Rounders and Oceans 13) along with the journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin.  The series stars Damian Lewis (Homeland, Life) as the hedge fund billionaire Bobby “Axe” Axelrod alongside Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man, John Adams) as US Attorney Chuck Rhoades Jr.  In a take-no-prisoners battle of wills, the two men play a high stakes game of chicken that eventually envelops their colleagues and loved ones in a clash of money, power, sex, and criss-crossed loyalties.

Now out on DVD and Blu-ray is the four-disc Season One collection that includes all twelve episodes along with almost thirty minutes of bonus features.  The extras on Disc One include “Street Slang,” which explains some of the economic/business-centric vocabulary threaded through the show’s dialogue and “Character Profiles,” which gives a general overview of Axe, Chuck, Wendy (Maggie Siff), and Lara (Malin Akerman).  Disc Two features “Location: New York,” which discusses how the city plays a prominent part in the storytelling and also touches on the show’s subtextual yet purposeful use of food.  Disc Three has “Character Development,” which summarizes the backgrounds of the characters and how those in turn lead to some of the central conflicts of the storyline.  Disc Four boasts “Shadows and Light,” which discusses how none of the characters are fully “good guys” or “bad guys” and explores the gray areas that both connect and separate them from one another, along with comments from the show’s locations manager on how lighting design supplements those aspects of the story.

Showtime Anytime members and Hulu and Amazon Prime subscribers who have the Showtime add-on can access the season for free (it is not currently on Netflix).  Amazon Video and iTunes both offer HD episodes for $2.99 each (or the season for $19.99, which doesn’t include all the bonus features outlined above).  If you want the hard copy sets, you can grab the DVD and Blu-ray versions on Amazon for $22.99 and $29.00 respectively. Seeing as how the Blu-Ray set is currently only roughly $6 more, if you want this on your shelf, the hi-def version looks to be the way to go.

Headsup: Twilight Zone Sets Galore!


Out now from CBS/Paramount are multiple Twilight Zone sets just in time for holiday shopping.  They have large, medium, and small options, with pricing to match pretty much any budget if you have over $5 to splurge on a gift (or yourself).  Here they are from large to small:


The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension – Perfect for the mega-fan, this is a limited edition 41-disc (yes, you read that correctly) DVD box set.  It includes both the original series and the one from the 1980s as well as more than twenty hours of bonus features.  It is currently available on Amazon for $159.99.

The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series – This 25-disc DVD set includes all 156 episodes of the original series.  No bonus features on this one, but you still get to see your favorite storylines and guest stars (including Ron Howard, Burt Reynolds, Carol Burnett, and about half of the Star Trek cast members) along with some pretty awesome box art so it looks snazzy on the shelf.  You can get this one on Amazon for $46.95.

The Twilight Zone: Definitive Editions – The Definitive Editions DVD series features both single seasons and a complete series set.  On Amazon, the Complete Series (28-disc) set goes for $95.99.  Special features include radio dramas and interviews with the cast and crew as well as audio commentaries.

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Headsup: House of Lies: The Final Season on DVD

House of Lies Final Season DVD

I didn’t know this, but apparently House of Lies is based on a fabulously titled book–House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time, written by the former real-life Booz Allen Hamilton management consultant Martin Kihn.

Perhaps that’s part of what gives the series its ability to be so unapologetic in its portrayal of “the 1%” and the (almost) larger-than-life characters who will stop at nothing to beat them at their own game (and then send them the bill). Leading this group is, of course, the charming anti-hero Marty Kaan, a role for which Don Cheadle achieved popular and critical acclaim. (Rounding out the main cast are Kristen Bell as Jeannie, Ben Schwartz as Clyde, and Josh Lawson as Doug.) Over its five-season run, the series collected thirty-one award nominations and five wins (including the Primetime Emmy for Art Direction in 2014 and Don Cheadle’s Best Actor Golden Globe in 2013). The show has been celebrated for tackling the difficult issues of interracial relationships, police brutality, gender identity, and the wealth gap in America–and remember, this is not only just a half-hour show, but a comedy. Such attempts are not for the faint of heart.

In the fifth season, viewers see the characters dealing with the challenges of raising a baby, navigating political and personal relationships, doing business in a communist country, and giving a TED Talk. When Kristen Bell signed on to star in NBC’s The Good Place, viewers began to wonder if this would be the final season. It was eventually announced that there would indeed be no sixth season, and fans said goodbye to “the pod” when the final episode of Season Five (and of the series) aired on June 12. (Fun fact: that episode was shot on location in Havana, Cuba, and thus made history as this the first American scripted series to be shot in Cuba since the US agreed to re-open diplomatic relations.)

Season Five is currently available for free streaming to both Showtime Anytime and Amazon Prime members. Individual episodes can also be purchased on Amazon and iTunes for $2.99 per SD episode or the entire season for $27.99 / $25.99 respectively. The DVD is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be officially on sale November 29.

Headsup: Bob Hope: Hope for the Holidays on DVD

Bob Hope Hope for the Holidays DVD

You’ve probably at least heard of Bob Hope.  You may already be a fan of Bob Hope.  But do you have any idea just how amazing that man was?  In a career lasting almost eighty years, he performed on vaudeville and radio, acted in over seventy films/shorts, did fifty-seven USO tours (prompting Congress to deem him an honorary veteran in 1997), and still holds the record of hosting the Oscars the highest number of times (nineteen, more than double Billy Crystal’s number).  He also somehow found time to write fourteen books, have a happy enough home life to be married for 69 years, and take such good care of his health that he lived to be 100.  I mean, dang.

One of the things people know and love most about this incredible man is the part he played in their Christmas traditions with his annual holiday special.  Now out from Time Life comes Bob Hope: Hope for the Holidays, a DVD compilation which includes his first holiday special (Dec. 24, 1950) along with material from Bob Hope’s Bag Full of Christmas Memories, a holiday retrospective filmed at his home with guest stars and his family in 1993.  A fair amount of content is packed into this DVD, including humorous sketches (featuring Jack Benny, Bing Crosby, Red Skelton, Robert Cummings, Redd Fox, and others), a selection of Hope’s USO tour monologues, musical performances by Lily Pons and Naomi & Wynonna Judd, a Christmas message from Eleanor Roosevelt, holiday bloopers, and (my favorite) Bob and his wife Dolores singing his signature holiday song, “Silver Bells.”

At a run time of 110 minutes, this DVD obviously only covers a fraction of the great material from the holidays portion of Hope’s career, but it’s a good way to give those who love him (or would like to get to know his work) a taste of the television magic that he and his team created.  (And at a current price of only $8.99 on Amazon, it’s a pretty good deal, too!)

Headsup: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders on Blu-ray and DVD

Batman return caped crusaders blu-ray dvd

In a year which has given us many dark and serious portrayals of the Batman mythos, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is a vibrantly loud, bright, and cheesy film that hearkens back to original 1960s television show, not only with a similar look and dialogue, but the original stars as well: that’s right, Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar are back!  Along with Batman, Robin, and Catwoman, we also get to see the villainous machinations of the Penguin, Joker, Riddler, and even Evil Batman (dun Dun DUN!!).

While the sixties were perhaps the golden age of corny television (although some episodes of Full House could definitely give them a run for their money), not everyone knows that Batman, with its goofy banter between the characters and admonitions to wear seatbelts, drink milk, etc, was intentionally so–William Dozier (executive producer) once described it as a sitcom without a laugh track.  This film follows in that vein, maintaining the lighthearted spirit of that much-loved show and making sure to work in lines like “Holy entrée, Batman!” along with the classic POW!s, SMACK!s, and BAM!s. (You can see a clip of Burt Ward discussing them here).  While the film has just enough spice to have earned it a PG rating (for “Action, Suggestive Material and Rude Humor”), it is safely within the family-friendly realm, and a good opportunity for the generations who loved the original Batman (or its re-runs) to introduce it to their millennial loved-ones.  Well-versed fans will also enjoy the many inside jokes and other Easter-egg-esque touches (such as the décor in the Batcave which references not only the TV show but the comics as well).

You may have caught the film’s premiere at New York Comic-Con or perhaps its one-night-only limited theatrical release from Fathom Events on October 10th, but for those who didn’t, you can check it out on DVD or Blu-ray combo pack now.  If you get the combo pack the film also comes with two bonus features, “Those Dastardly Desperados” (interviews from the cast and crew about the development of this particular version and how it ties in with the traditional and not-so-traditional treatment of the villains) and “A Classic Cadre of Voices” (where the actors discuss their approach to voice acting and the process of recording sessions, etc).

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Headsup: One Nation Under Trump on DVD

One Nation Under Trump DVD

Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that Donald J. Trump is currently a very relevant factor in America’s political future.  One Nation Under Trump is self-described as “the first comprehensive feature documentary to delve into the zeitgeist of the unstoppable Donald Trump revolution.”  I would, however, caution readers to take that description with a large grain of salt (even if you just stop halfway through the sentence).  This film is basically an hour of video clips from Mr. Trump’s public speeches and interviews with a small amount of voiceover to tie them together, which leads me to suggest that the term “documentary” is a misnomer.  As to background or supplemental info on the man himself, it includes a few comments about his childhood, but not much else.  It’s also good to note that this was created before the three 2016 presidential debates and therefore does not include that material.  I would therefore also suggest that the description of it being “comprehensive” is somewhat misleading as well.

So who among you may be considering watching/buying this?  Perhaps you are a still-undecided voter and think that this may fill in some of the blanks left with the media coverage to date.  Or maybe you are a teacher and planning on using it for a government or social studies class.  Both of these groups should know that you can find most of the content on YouTube (and even more, as it leaves out certain essentials such as the debates.)  If you are already a fan/supporter of Mr. Trump (or even if you aren’t but you consider him an interesting character) and want to see a documentary that gives a “behind closed doors” look into what makes him tick with things like interviews with school friends, business associates, and family, or rarely-seen photos/video that give a more complete picture of him, this is not such a film.

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Headsup: 50 Years of Star Trek on DVD

50 Years of Star Trek on DVDOut today on DVD is 50 Years of Star Trek, a documentary celebrating the golden anniversary of the iconic franchise that has inspired delight (and in some cases obsession) in fans worldwide for the last five decades.  The original Star Trek series premiered on NBC in September of 1966, pitched by Gene Roddenberry as a cross between classic mythology and the galactic version of Wagon Train.  Although not popular with television executives, the show acquired fans so loyal that when the series was threatened with cancellation (in only its second season), they pulled off a letter-writing campaign of such impressive proportions that NBC renewed it (remember, these were the days where you actually had to put stamps on things if you wanted people to get your message—-truly impressive).  Even though the original series only lasted three years, it was the spark that became the media inferno we know and love today, including multiple television shows, movies, toys, games, books, a Las Vegas attraction, and of course conventions.  (And as those of you who attended the 50th anniversary panel at Comic-Con this year know, we will soon have the prequel series Star Trek: Discovery to enjoy when it premieres this coming May on CBS All Access.)

50 Years of Star Trek first aired on the History Channel in August of this year, created by self-proclaimed “fan boys” Ian Roumain (director) and Brian Volk-Weiss (executive producer).  It is good to note that this documentary is only 85 minutes long (and wasn’t approved or endorsed by Paramount or CBS), so if you’re expecting an exhaustive examination of the franchise with epic amounts of behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with everyone who was anyone on the series, etc., that’s not what this is.  That being said, it’s impressive that creators were able to get archival footage and the broad reach of speakers that they did—-the film features roundtable discussions and interviews with cast and crew from each of the television series and the movies (including Whoopie Goldberg, D.C. Fontana, Ronald D. Moore, Jeri Ryan, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Sarah Silverman, Simon Pegg, and others)—-many fans will likely find the most precious of these to be the last complete interview (on film) with the late great Leonard Nimoy.  (When speaking about making the documentary, Volk-Weiss said that right before Nimoy’s interview he quickly finished up a task on his iPhone and said “I remember when these were props.”)

The documentary is available on DVD on Amazon for $14.98 (and as of this writing is not available on Amazon Video, Netflix, iTunes, or the History Channel’s website).  If you’re a die-hard Trekkie who wants a complete collection of everything Star Trek (or even if you just want to ensure that you have Leonard Nimoy’s final interview on hard copy somewhere), you may want to check it out.

Headsup: Mr. Selfridge: The Complete Series on DVD

Mr Selfridge DVD

Right now it’s Halloween season—-but what do we all know happens on November 1?  Christmas shopping season!  And what better way to celebrate Harry Gordon Selfridge, the man who started the modern department store, than to check out Mr. Selfridge–the beloved ITV/Masterpiece series out now in a DVD box set.

Starring Golden Globe and Emmy-award-winning actor Jeremy Piven (of Entourage fame) and based on the biography of Harry Gordon Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead (Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge), the series covers Selfridge’s rise from being some crazy unknown American to becoming one of the most respected and influential businessmen in England (today Selfridge’s flagship store on Oxford Street in London is the next-to-largest shop in the entire United Kingdom, second only to Harrod’s).

The DVD set includes all forty episodes plus two hours of bonus content including deleted scenes and interviews with the cast and crew (especially fun are those that explore the show’s excellent visuals in costume/set design and execution—-the series has been praised by many for having an almost obsessive attention to detail).  Another nice touch is that the behind-the-scenes features are specific to each season rather than just over-arching commentary on the series as a whole: the show covers the years 1908-1929, arguably the most transformative period of the 20th century for Great Britain, and portraying the characters and their environments during WWI is obviously very different than during the turn of the century or the Roaring 20s.

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Headsup: Horror!

Girl In Woods DVD

Out today on DVD from Candy Factory Films are two contenders for your Halloween watch list (that is if you have any room left after the gems of 32 Days of Halloween).  Both films focus on young women haunted with questions surrounding the unnatural death of a parent and the dark places they go (literally and figuratively) as the mystery envelops them.

The Midnight Swim is a POV/documentary style chiller which follows the story of three girls whose mother previously disappeared into Spirit Lake (a body of water of immense and indeterminate depth).  In the classic tradition of people in a horror films making less-than-wise choices, they decide the only logical thing to do is go into the lake themselves to try to find out what happened to her.

Sarah Adina Smith wrote and made her directorial debut with this film (she has since worked as a director on the 2016 films Holidays and Buster’s Mal Heart).  It debuted in 2014 at Canada’s Fantasia Film Festival and had a limited release in the US in 2015, winning awards at multiple film festivals from 2014-2016 (including AFI Fest and the Nashville, Denver International, Starz Denver, and Sun Valley festivals.

The movie is available to rent for $3.99 (or buy for $6.99) on Amazon Video or to purchase on DVD for $13.99.

In Girl in Woods, Grace and Jim’s romantic getaway into the Smoky Mountains is cut short when Jim suddenly dies in an accident (not a spoiler, it’s in the trailer), leaving Grace to battle her ever-present childhood demons (and whatever is lurking behind the trees) on her own.  If you’re a fan of horror films featuring dreams within dreams, lots of blood, maniacal laughter, and people creepily saying “Momma” and “Daddy”, this may be right up your alley.

The film was written and directed by Jeremy Benson (Live Animals, Shutter, The Smallest Oceans) and had a limited theater release back in June.  If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can watch it for free; if you’re not, you can rent it for $3.99 or purchase for $6.99 on both Amazon Video and iTunes. If you’ve decided you want a hard copy you can snag the DVD on Amazon for $13.99.

Neither title has any bonus features (on any of the release platforms listed above), but if you’ve already watched the traditional Halloween perennials and want to branch out into something else, they might be worth a watch for the adventurous.

Headsup: Monsters and Machines

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands Blu-Ray Nazi Mega Weapons Season 3 DVD

Loosely based on the ancient epic poem, Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands follows the battle-weary title character as he reintegrates himself back into his home community of Herot, where he has to fight politics, family tension, and the monster Grendel.  The series was pitched as ITV’s answer to Game of Thrones–it had a budget of £17 million ($23 million US) and was rumored to have offered the actors contracts with options to return for five years.  The show’s creators didn’t shy away from the comparison–Tim Haines (co-creator and executive producer) described the juxtaposition of the two by saying that “Game of Thrones… is a great series but many people, including younger viewers, can’t watch it because of the level of sex and violence.  Beowulf is a show that delivers epic fantasy, danger and excitement but that three generations can enjoy and, we hope, find fascinating for many series.”

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