Author - Thespia

Headsup: Independent Film Friday #1

Wichita DVD Life of Significant Soil DVD Game Changers DVD La Vie de Jean-Marie DVD
 

If you’re an independent film buff, one (or more!) of these titles may be right up your alley…

 

From Candy Factory Films comes Wichita, a horror flick that follows Jeb (played by Trevor Peterson), a failing children’s show director desperate to save his job by leading a work-intensive writers’ retreat in Aspen.   As the “retreat” progresses, Jeb is pushed to the brink and turns his frustrations outward as hidden cameras capture the homicidal results of his ever-deepening psychotic rage. The film co-stars Caitlin Gerard (as Natalie), Persia White (as Raven), Demetri Goritsas (as Clark) and Christopher Robles (as Billy) and was directed by Matthew Ward and Justyn Ah Chong. You can rent or purchase digitally on Amazon (for $4.99 and $9.99 respectively) and see the trailer below for a preview.

 

Taking its name from the final line of T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Dry Salvages,” Life of Significant Soil follows a couple whose relationship has outlasted their love for each other as they find themselves trapped in their last day together.  Starring Alexis Mouyiari (as Conor) and Charlotte Bydwell (as Addison), the film examines the building blocks of a once bright relationship and seeks to solve the mystery of how to keep its flame from self-extinguishing.  The film is the feature-length debut of director Michael Irish and was nominated for “Best Showcase Feature Film” in the 2016 Soho Film Festival and won “Best Feature Film” at both the Art of Bklyn Film Festival and the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival.  It is currently available on DVD from Candy Factory Films on Amazon for $14.99 and you can check out the trailer below.

 

Next up is Game Changers, the story of fading eSports gaming champions Bryan (Brian Bernys) and Scott (Jacob Albarella) as they try to regain their former greatness when faced with the realities and drudgery of adulthood.  As they put together a top tier team of players in an effort to regain their former glory, the pair are forced to ask themselves (and each other) how much they are willing to do to once again become the legends they were, and how much they are willing to risk losing along the way.  Rob Imbs wrote and directed the dramedy, which won “Best Feature” and “Best Gaming Film” at the 2016 Origins Film Festival.  The movie will be released on July 11 and Candy Factory Films has announced it will be available on DVD and digital platforms including Amazon and iTunes. To check out the trailer, see below.

 

Also later in July comes La Vie de Jean-Marie, a cinéma vérité documentary by director Peter van Houton about an elderly dutch pastor safeguarding the spiritual well being of twenty-five villages in the French Pyrenees.  A colorful portrait of a man who turned to his religious calling after being rejected by the love of his life, the film was created from material spanning six years of van Houton following the pastor in his everyday life and recording his thoughts and stories.  The film was featured at multiple festivals in 2015, including the Festival du Nouveau Cinema de Montreal in Canada, the IndieFestival El Horizonte and the IndieFestival Sao Paulo in Brazil, the International Festival du film de la Rochelle and the Petite Lanterne Olonne sur Mer Festival in France, and the International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Nederlands Film Festival in the Netherlands.  The DVD is available for pre-order on Amazon ($24.95, shipping on July 18) and according to IndiePix Films will also be available on Amazon channels and on IndiePix’s signature streaming service.  To see the trailer, just watch below.

 

 

Headsup: Kids’ Corner #1

 

Summertime is well underway, so if you need something to fill the spaces between the pool, summer camp, and building awesome forts outside, check out these kid-friendly titles……

 

First up is Bunnicula, the new animated series loosely based on the book (of the same name) many of us read and loved as kids by James and Deborah Howe.  The story revolves about a vampiric bunny rabbit who instead of blood thirsts for vegetable juice, which gives him supernatural powers.  In this (comedic) series, Bunnicula (voiced by Chris Kattan) teams up with his adoptive human Mina (a New Orleans teenager, voiced by Kari Wahlgren), Harold (her easy-go-lucky dog, voiced by Brian Kimmet), and Chester (her anxiety-ridden cat, voiced by Sean Astin) for otherworldly adventures with lots of laughs along the way.  The series premiered in February of 2016 and is currently airing on Cartoon Network.

Bunnicula: Season One, Part One is out now from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, which includes the first twenty episodes of the series across two DVDs.  The set is now available on Amazon for $10.86 and you can get a taste of the show with the clip below.

Rating: Not Rated

Episode Runtime: 11 minutes
 

 

 

Tom and Jerry- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate FactoryNext we have Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which pairs the rambunctious cartoon cat-and-mouse duo with beloved Roald Dahl icon Willy Wonka and other familiar characters.  Based on a combination of Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the 1971 family film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory about a boy who wins a golden ticket to the factory tour of a lifetime, this musical animated film shows Tom and Jerry having their own adventures with Charlie, Arthur Slugworth, Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Mike Teevee in the wonderful “world of pure imagination.”

Coming out on July 11 from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment is the DVD of the film, which also includes bonus cartoons Here’s Looking A-Choo Kid/Superfied, Joy Riding Jokers/Cat Got Your Luggage/City Dump Chumps, No Biz Like Snow Biz, The Maltese Poodle, and Cast Away Tom.  You can preorder the DVD on Amazon for $13.20 or you can purchase the film digitally right now on both Amazon and iTunes for $14.99.  If you find your interest piqued, check out the film’s trailer below.

Rating: Not Rated

Film Run Time: 79 minutes
 

 

 

Caillou : Things That Go!Third we have Caillou: Things That Go!.  The preschool-targeted Caillou series which airs on PBS KIDS (produced by DHX Media) is about an ever-curious 4-year-old boy who is always on the search for new discoveries and fun, using his imagination to go on multiple adventures while taking the audience along as they make believe with him.  The series was created in Canada in 1997 and was originally in French; a few reincarnations (complete with the introduction of an older and yet still bald Caillou) have led to the series as it stands today.  Across the years the character of Caillou has been voiced by three different actors: Bryn McAuley from 1997 through 2000, then Jaclyn Linetsky in 2000 through 2003, followed by Annie Bovaird.  The series also expanded into extensive merchandising outlets, including games, books, a mobile app, play sets (some of which are buildable), dolls, clothing, and more.

In this installment of the series, Caillou explores what it’s like to GO! on multiple vehicles, including a car, a boat, a plane, the subway, a rocket, a schoolboy, a bulldozer, and more.  Caillou: Things That Go! includes thirteen episodes and is set to release on July 11 (you can pre-order the DVD on Amazon now for $8.99).  To get a general idea of the Caillou series, check out the clip below.

Rating: TV-Y

Episode Runtime: 5 minutes
 

 

 

Headsup: Faces of the Past

 

Out now are two historical documentary series that explore the stories of people from the past, from ancient times through today:

 

Story of China With Michael Wood Blu-rayFirst we have The Story of China, written and hosted by the gold-standard-making historian Michael Wood.  In this six-part documentary about the oldest continuous state on earth, Wood follows the stories of characters who formed China’s history and cultural identity, including those who led the Tang, Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties from 1500 BC to the twentieth century along with leaders in science, literature, and revolutionary political movements.  A sprawling and vibrant story (charmingly told in Wood’s posh British accent), The Story of China brings viewers face-to-face with the likes of The First Emperor, Xuanzang (famed Buddhist traveler), Su Song (often referred to as “China’s Leonardo da Vinci”), Li Qingzhao (a female poet), and Mao Zedong (the Communist revolutionary also known as “Chairman Mao”), among many others.  On his historical journey, Wood also examines the places where these stories took place, taking viewers back in time to see the Silk Road, the Yellow River, the Grand Canal, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and other amazing places that were the backdrop of China’s journey over the last four thousand years.  If you just want to check out the series (and haven’t caught it live on PBS), you can currently watch it online at PBS.org (although this will most likely be a short-lived option, so if you want to check it out for free, do it asap).  For those who want to have it forever and always, the entire documentary is now out on both DVD and Blu-ray and also has some bonus mini featurettes about the challenges (and fun) of filming the series, including “Xi’an City Walls”, “A Crane and a Goddess,” “Anyone for Coffee?”, “The Pleasures of Filming,” and “A Noodle Bar”.

So on to purchase options…which are some of the wackiest I’ve seen to date.  As of this writing, Amazon says it has the Blu-ray (priced at $39.93) available on July 9 (but when you click on it just shows a blank image and labels the set as a DVD—-so purchase at your own risk) and the DVD (priced at $18.93) available now but set to “ship in one to four weeks” (even at Prime shipping).  Amazon also offers a digital purchase streaming option for $1.99 SD/$2.99 HD for the different one-hour episodes, which is a good option pricing-wise, but presently it only offers parts one through four (this will likely expand after all the episodes have aired on television).  Both the DVD and Blu-ray are currently available on PBS.org (where both formats are priced at $29.99…not sure why). On this one, therefore, it looks like if you want it in hard copy (and unless you want to wait 1-4 weeks for DVD availability on Amazon to save some coin) the best current offer is actually from Barnes and Noble’s online store, where you can snag the Blu-ray for $25.69 and the DVD for $27.77 (yes, the DVD is more than the Blu-ray).  As I said, pretty whacky, but if you’re a history buff it’s worth it to get your hands on this series.

 

Mummies Alive Season OneNext we have Mummies Alive from the Smithsonian Channel, which takes the 4,000 years of history mentioned above and adds a millennium on top to examine the stories of mummies from around the globe.  While records as far back as Ptolemaic Greece show our long-lived interest in mummies (including their widespread sale as curiosities for entertainment or novelty value), most of what we consider “scientific” studies of this method of preservation (and those who have undergone it) began in 1901 with studies conducted by professors at the Government School of Medicine in Cairo.  Soon after Grafton Elliot Smith and Howard Carter used the only X-ray machine in Cairo to do deeper examinations of the mummified remains of Thutmose IV in 1903.  Carter, as you may recall, was the man who headed the expedition that led to the discovery of Tutankhamun (King Tut)’s tomb in 1922, which made the world explode with interest in mummies and the secrets they held.

Out now is Mummies Alive: Season One, which includes five one-hour episodes that put the spotlight on particular mummies as scientists use the 21st-century tools at their disposal to unlock the mysteries of the past.  With only a little over a century having elapsed since those first studies, it’s amazing how far science has come: with modern techniques (including cutting-edge CGI, CT imaging technology, and state-of-the-art virtual autopsy techniques), the scientists can not only provide a good estimate of a mummy’s current age, but also the age at which they died, what they did for work, where they lived, what they ate, and the manner of their death.  The main mummies mentioned in the series include “Ötzi the Iceman” (a 5,300-year-old mummy discovered in a glacier in the Italian Alps), “Sylvester” (a mummy from the Wild West on display at a Seattle curiosity shop since the 1950s), “The Inca Maiden” (the mummy of a 14-year old girl found on top of a 22,000-foot volcano in South America who also holds the distinction of being the best-preserved mummy in the world), Iron Age mummies unearthed in an Irish peat bog, the mummy of a mutilated Egyptian pharaoh, and the mummified remains of a resident of Herculaneum who died laden with weapons, gold, and silver as the city perished under the wrath of the volcanic eruption.

Mummies Alive: Season One is available now on DVD (you can score it on Amazon for $16.32) or you can purchase episodes or the entire season digitally (for $2.99 and $12.99 respectively).  Without the pull of any disc-specific extras, this may be a good one to just do the streaming option, but if you’re a teacher or someone else who wants to be able to share the information contained therein, the DVD price isn’t bad considering the five hours of content.

 

Headsup: Giggles and Guffaws

 

Out now are two titles to help you get some much-needed laughter:

Hee Haw Pfft You Was Gone

 

First we have Hee Haw, which was actually created as “the rural alternative” to Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and ran during some of the same years as its counterpart (1969-1971) before hitting its long-lasting syndication.  A comedy variety show set in fictional rural “Kornfield Kounty” and hosted by Buck Owens and Roy Clark, Hee Haw was originally made to be a summer replacement series for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.  It ended up gaining such popularity that even when it was cancelled in CBS’s “Rural Purge” of 1971 (along with other “country” shows shows The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D., and Green Acres) in an effort to focus on the network’s more affluent/urban viewers, the show was quickly picked up for syndication, where it stayed for a record-setting twenty-one years (making it the longest-running weekly syndicated original series in television history).

Now out from Time Life is the two-disc set Hee Haw: Pfft! You Was Gone!, which includes four rarely-seen episodes from the show which aired between 1969 and 1973.  These classic episodes include sketches such as “Pickin’ and Grinnin,” “Archie’s Barbershop,” “Hey, Grandpa, What’s for Supper?”, “The KORN News,” and “Rindercella” and feature guest stars Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, and George Jones, among others.  The set is currently available at Amazon on DVD for $22.44.  No special features on this one, but if you just want a taste of Kornfield Kounty homespun fun, this is a good place to start.

 

Speaking of Laugh-In, Time Life is also currently offering up Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Series as a box set, including all 140 episodes (over half of which have never before been released on any format) along with a bonus DVD, which features the pilot episode, a tribute to George Schlatter, bloopers, interviews with Lily Tomlin, Dick Martin, Gary Owens, Ruth Buzzi, and more.  The set also includes Laugh-In Memories, a 32-page collectible booklet with archival photos, jokes and one-liners from the show, notes from Schlatter, and other fun tidbits.  The Complete Series Set is currently only available through Time Life and retails for $249.95.

 

 

South Park-The Complete Twentieth Season

Next is the twentieth (TWENTIETH!) season of South Park, out now on DVD and Blu-ray.  This season showed South Park school boys Cartman, Stan, Kenny and Kyle dealing with both old and new issues, including politics, online trolling, the concept of Cartman having a girlfriend, and the epic Member Berry epidemic.  Developed from one of the internet’s first viral videos (The Spirit of Christmas) that hit the web in 1995, South Park has been running strong for two decades, earning it five Primetime Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and consistently high ratings. There are also no signs of it stopping any time soon, as the current production deal has the show set to air episodes into 2019.

The Complete Twentieth Season set includes all ten episodes that rounded out the show’s second decade on air as well as some bonus features, including a season commentary with creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (who also act as writers, voice artists, and executive producers for the show), social media commentary for all episodes, the 2016 Comic-Con panel with Parker and Stone, and deleted scenes.  On Amazon you can snag the DVD for $19.96 or the Blu-ray for $29.84.  You can also purchase the season digitally on iTunes and Amazon for $24.99, both of which include some bonus features (not the same ones on the DVD/Blu-ray option); it’s good to note, though, that the Amazon extras are available as free stand-alone content for Prime members whether you get the season or not.

 

 

 

 

Headsup: Love, Family, and Otherworldly Powers

Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the first title featured below. The opinions I share are my own.

 

Out now are two titles dealing with power struggles, sex, sibling rivalry, and other forces that move men’s souls…

 

Vampire Diaries Season Eight Blu-rayFirst we have The Vampire Diaries, the story of a love triangle between teenage heroine Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) and two brothers, Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) and Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder), which just happens to be set against the backdrop of the world of modern-day vampires.  Based on the L.J. Smith novel series of the same name, the show premiered in September of 2009 and has had a successful run ever since. It garnered 112 award nominations and 37 wins, including multiple People’s Choice, Teen Choice, and Young Hollywood Awards.  Season eight follows Damon and Enzo (Michael Malarkey) as they continue to kill people while under the influence of a powerful and evil force, while at the same time Stefan, Caroline (Candice King), Bonnie (Kat Graham), and Alaric (Matt Davis) search for answers about the mysterious disappearance at the end of season seven.  Matt (Zach Roerig) is in the mix as well, as it becomes apparent that an unknown family connection to Mystic Falls may be the key to saving the town from being destroyed.

Now out on DVD and Blu-ray is the eighth and final season, which includes all sixteen episodes plus some bonus features, including a 14-minute featurette (“Last Days As A Vampire”), a retrospective special (“The Vampire Diaries: Forever Yours”), a “Visit Georgia” PSA (with the exception of the pilot episode done in British Columbia, the series was filmed in Georgia), coverage of the 2016 Comic-Con Vampire Diaries panel, and deleted scenes.  On Amazon you can get the DVD for $26.96 and the Blu-ray for $29.50.  Alternatively, the entire season is available digitally on both Amazon and iTunes for $14.99 (which doesn’t include all of the bonus features, but the Amazon option has the Comic-Con panel and the iTunes option has the “Last Days as a Vampire” featurette).  Do be aware of the $12+ price difference between getting the digital version versus hard copy–the bonus features are a good extra, but you can get access to at least one of them in either digital season option, so it’s up to you if the remaining ones are worth the extra dollars. Netflix subscribers will also be happy to know that they have access to not only Season Eight but the entire series as part of their membership—-no bonus features there, but still a nice way to see the show without additional cost if that’s all you’re after.

 

Borgias Complete Series DVDNext we have The Borgias, the epic Showtime drama about the rise of Rodrigo Borgia from a 16th-century cardinal to becoming Pope Alexander VI. Struggling to maintain his tenuous grip on the helm of the Christian religious and political world, Borgia utilizes everything at his disposal to keep his power, including his children, bribery, blackmail, and murder. The series stars Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo Borgia/Pope Alexander VI, François Arnaud as his dependable eldest son Cesare Borgia, David Oakes as his middle reckless son Juan Borgia, Holliday Grainger as his daughter Lucrezia Borgia, Aidan Alexander as his youngest son Joffre Borgia, Joanne Whalley as his former mistress and mother of his children Vanozza Cattaneo, Lotte Verbeek as his current mistress Giulia Farnese, Sean Harris as Cesare’s hit man Micheletto Corella, and Colm Feore as rival cardinal and sworn enemy Giuliano della Rovere. The series was cancelled after three seasons (one short of the four season arc proposed by creator Neil Jordan) for reasons reportedly having to do with high production costs, which sparked a (sadly unsuccessful) campaign from fans to convince Showtime to bring the series back. Even with its abbreviated run, the series received fifty-two award nominations and sixteen wins, among them multiple Primetime Emmy and Canadian Screen awards.

The entire series is now out in a nine-disc DVD set, which includes all three seasons plus a Showtime Original special with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, a “World of Borgias” featurette,  biographies, and some refreshingly amusing bloopers. You can get the set on Amazon for $22.97, which with a total of twenty-nine episodes divides out to around seventy-nine cents each—-not bad, especially considering Amazon’s per-episode price of $2.99. You can also purchase the seasons individually, but doing so would cost around $30 (or $60 if you do it digitally) with current pricing. Netflix subscribers should also be aware that, like with The Vampire Diaries, they currently have access to the series itself included with membership (no extra features, but also no extra money). If you want to have it on the shelf, though, remember that the pricing on this one probably won’t be beat any time soon, and may not be around for long.

Headsup: From Across the Pond

 

Out soon are two releases from European artists:

 

Jacques Rivette CollectionFirst we have a collection of some of the lesser-known films of Jacques Rivette, a French film director and critic famed for his work during the New Wave movement in French cinema in the 1950s and 60s.  Rivette began his career as a filmmaker at age twenty and over the course of his career made twenty-nine films (including notable titles L’amour fou (1969), Out 1 (1971), Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974), and La Belle Noiseuse (1991) ).  Now available from Arrow Academy is The Jacques Rivette Collection, a trio of films from the latter part of his career.  In 1975, Rivette and Stéphane Tchal Gadjieff (producer from Out 1) again joined forces with the goal of creating a love story, an adventure, a fantasy thriller, and a musical as a quartet of interconnected films dubbed Scènes de la vie parallèle, with each revolving around two central female characters.  Unfortunately, after the back-to-back filming of Noroît (an adventure story of two pirates) and Duelle (a fantasy about the Queen of the Night and the Queen of the Sun) in the spring of 1975, Rivette suffered a breakdown a few days into production for Marie et Julien (which would have been the love story in the series); the director later said that he “broke down physically” and “had overestimated [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][his] own strength”.  After a year of recovery, the idea of the film quartet was abandoned and Rivette turned to Merry-Go-Round (a surreal detective film), which ran into multiple production problems and though shot in 1978 was not completed until 1981.

The Jacques Rivette Collection is housed in a limited edition boxset which contains Blu-ray and DVD copies of Noroît, Duelle, and Merry-Go-Round in brand-new 2K restorations with (optional) newly-translated English subtitles.  There are also a few extras, including Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers (an archived interview with Rivette discussing all three films), Remembering Duelle (where actresses Bulle Ogier and Hermine Karagheuz share memories from working on Duelle), and an interview with film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum (who reported from the film sets of both Noroît and Duelle).  The set also features an exclusive book with writing on the films by Mary M. Wiles, Brad Stevens and Nick Pinkerton along with a reprint of four on-set reports from Duelle and Noroît.  An additional packaging bonus is the reversible sleeves with newly-commissioned artwork by Ignatius Fitzpatrick.  Even though these three films are not Rivette’s most well known, they are each available for free viewing on Amazon Prime (those without a membership can rent or buy for $3.99 / $10.99 respectively), so you could actually own all three films for around $33.  You do, of course, have the bonus content and the packaging extras if you get the limited edition boxset, but considering it currently goes for $51.38 on Amazon, it’s worth considering if those features are worth spending an additional $19 or not.

 

King Charles III DVDNext we have King Charles III, a Masterpiece/BBC screen adaptation of the critically acclaimed 2014 play written by Mike Bartlett (Doctor Foster, Doctor Who) and directed by Rupert Goold (The Hollow Crown) which tells the hypothetical story of what happens when Britain’s current Prince of Wales becomes King of England following his mother’s record-setting reign as the longest serving monarch in the country’s history.  As if envisioning the passing of a living (and much beloved) monarch weren’t enough of a challenge, Bartlett also chose to write the play in blank verse, which sounds to many on the surface to simply be pleasantly mellifluous language but is actually unrhymed iambic pentameter (the same linguistic meter pattern used in Shakespearean plays).  Starring the recently-departed Tim Pigott-Smith (The Jewel in the Crown, Downton Abbey) in the title role, the production also features Oliver Chris (Breathless) as Prince William, Charlotte Riley (In the Heart of the Sea, Peaky Blinders) as Kate Middleton, Richard Goulding (Ripper Street) as Prince Harry, Tamara Lawrance (Undercover) as Harry’s love interest Jess Edwards, Margot Leicester (MI-5) as Camilla Parker Bowles, and Adam James (Grantchester, Doctor Foster) as the British prime minister, Tristan Evans.

The original play (also directed by Rupert Goold and involving several of the same cast members as the screen version) opened at the Almeida Theatre in London in April 2014.  Even with a run time of close to three hours, the show was a hit, not only enjoying the prestige of a two-month extension of its originally scheduled West End run but also winning Best New Play accolades from both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards.  The play then began a UK tour and in late 2015 moved to Broadway for a limited engagement with the London cast, earning Drama Desk and Tony nominations for best play, best leading actor, best featured actor, best direction, and best costumes.  A new production of the play began in February of this year at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC, directed by David Muse and starring Robert Joy as King Charles.

The screen version (which, by the way, is a comparatively brief 90 minutes) will be out on DVD on June 27 and is available for pre-order via PBS for $24.99.  I think it’s a fairly safe bet that Amazon will have lower pricing when they put it up, though, so unless you’re in a big hurry, maybe wait and do a bit of price comparison.  Perhaps even more important price-wise is the fact that Amazon does already have an available streaming option for those who wish to rent ($3.99) or buy ($9.99) digitally, so you may want to look at one of those more immediate (and more economic) options.

 

[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Headsup: MURDER!!

 

** Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of the first title featured below. The opinions I share are my own.**

 

Out now are two titles that deal with stories of people who have broken that all-important sixth commandment and of those who pursue them for their crime(s):

 

Major Crimes Complete Fifth Season DVDFirst up is the fifth season of Major Crimes, the spinoff of the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series The Closer, which ran on TNT from 2005-2012 (ending when its star Kyra Sedgwick decided it was time to pursue other projects).  The storyline and main characters were so well-loved that creators literally didn’t skip a beat between the two shows, airing the premiere of Major Crimes on the same night as the finale of The Closer. Major Crimes follows the case-by-case challenges of the (fictional) Major Crimes Division of the LAPD and the interpersonal relationships between its officers.  Starring two-time Oscar nominee Mary McDonnell as Captain Sharon Raydor, the primary cast also includes G. W. Bailey (as Detective Lieutenant Louie Provenza), Tony Denison (as Detective Lieutenant Andy Flynn), Michael Paul Chan (as Detective Lieutenant Michael Tao), Raymond Cruz (as Detective Julio Sanchez), Kearran Giovanni (as Detective Amy Sykes), Phillip P. Keene (as Buzz Watson), Graham Patrick Martin (as Rusty Beck), and Robert Gossett (as Assistant Chief Russell Taylor).

Major Crimes has enjoyed high ratings from the start: its premiere episode garnered 9.5 million viewers (the largest viewership for a series premiere on basic cable), and its first season ratings were the highest for any new show on cable. In its fifth season, the series was TNT’s #2 show and was the #5 series on basic cable television, with an average of close to 10 million viewers per episode—-pretty impressive for a cast of characters who have essentially been going non-stop for twelve years.  (There is also currently no end in sight, as the show was renewed for a sixth season in January of this year.)

Season Five is not available on Amazon Prime, Netflix or Hulu; as far as paid streaming options go, fans can get individual episodes on both iTunes and Amazon Video (for $2.99 on both platforms) or the entire season (for $29.99 on Amazon and a whopping $39.99 on iTunes).  The most economical option, though, is to get the season on DVD (which also contains some deleted scenes and a blooper reel)—-it’s currently priced at $20.27 on Amazon, which with 21 episodes included divides out to about 97 cents each.  Everyone has their own individual tastes when it comes to hard copy versus digital, but in this case, I’d say the 30% (or higher) difference in cost is probably worth a half inch of shelf space.

 

Dark Angel DVDNext we have Dark Angel, a 2-part television drama co-produced by World Productions/Masterpiece for ITV that originally aired in the UK in the fall of 2016 and then aired in the US as a one-night special for Masterpiece on PBS on May 21.  The film is based on the true story of Mary Ann Cotton, the woman widely regarded as Britain’s first (recorded) female serial killer.  Cotton murdered an estimate of between thirteen and twenty-one people during the second half of the nineteenth century (making Jack the Ripper’s estimated victim count of five look modest by comparison).  Inspired by the 2012 book Mary Ann Cotton: Britain’s First Female Serial Killer by criminologist David Wilson, the film takes viewers through the ever-darkening tale of Cotton’s life as she finds murder an all-too-convenient (and profitable) enterprise. It also made me feel like I really need to brush up on my multitasking skills: besides having multiple jobs as an in-home nurse, dressmaker, infirmary staff member, and housekeeper, Mary Ann Cotton also had four husbands and gave birth to thirteen(!) children before the age of 40, not to mention all her work executing and covering up loads of murders so well that no one suspected anything until her last victim.

In the title role is Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominee Joanne Froggatt (who in my opinion gives a good but creepily similar performance to that of Anna in Downton Abbey—-maybe we should re-think what really happened to Kemal Pamuk?).  Alongside Froggatt is a talented supporting cast, including Alun Armstrong (as George Stott), Penny Layden (as Margaret Stott), Laura Morgan (as Maggie Cotton), Jonas Armstrong (as Joe Natrass), Sam Hoare (as James Robinson), Emma Fielding (as Helen Robinson), and John Hollingworth (as Dr. John Maling).

You can currently watch the film for free online at PBS.org until June 4, although that does involve intermittent commercial breaks advertising for Viking River Cruises (so it goes something like this:  murder, murder, murder…let’s stand around laughing together in this Italian vineyard!…murder, murder…).  Alternatively you can grab the DVD on Amazon, currently priced at $14.92. The DVD also includes some behind-the-scenes discussions with stars Joanne Froggatt and Alun Armstrong, writer Gwyneth Hughes, producer Jake Lushington, director Brian Percival, executive producers Kirstie Macdonald and Simon Heath, and others.

Headsup: Girls Being Super

 

** Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment requests we note that it provided a free copy of both of the titles featured below. The opinions I share are my own.**

 

Available now are two films from DC/Warner Brothers celebrating mega girl power:

 

Wonder Woman Commemorative Edition Blu-RayOut just in time to wet fans’ appetites for the live-action Wonder Woman film hitting theaters this Friday (Thursday in select cities), the feature-length animated film Wonder Woman is available in a commemorative edition DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack.  The film tells the story of Diana, an Amazonian princess who leaves the sanctuary of the idyllic man-free island Themyscira to chase after Ares, the God of War, bent on creating world chaos and eventual extinction. With the help of U.S. fighter pilot Steve Trevor, Diana must navigate the modern world in an attempt to save her own from destruction.  The awards-laden cast includes Golden Globe winner Keri Russell (The Americans, Waitress, Felicity) as Diana/Wonder Woman, People’s Choice winner Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly) as Steve Trevor, Tony Award nominee Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2, Chocolat) as Ares, Rosario Dawson (Daredevil, Sin City) as Artemis, Oscar nominee Virginia Madsen (Sideways, Candyman) as Hippolyta, David McCallum (NCIS, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) as Zeus, Emmy winner Marg Helgenberger (CSI, China Beach) as Hera, Oliver Platt (X-Men: First Class, Chicago Med) as Hades, and Vicki Lewis (NewsRadio, Godzilla) as Persephone.

Released direct to DVD in 2009 (the fourth in the line of DC Universe Animated Original Movies released by Warner Premiere and Warner Brothers Animation), the film was hailed by fans and critics alike.   The original Blu-ray release included a few extras which have been mostly repeated on the commemorative edition with a couple of changes: the 2009 release included commentary from producers Bruce Timm and Gregory Noveck, screenwriter Michael Jelenice, and director Lauren Montgomery along with the featurettes “Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream” and “Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth”; these three extras appear on the new release along with a new featurette “What Makes a Wonder Woman” (a discussion from fans and creators on the 75-year history and development of the Wonder Woman character into a cultural icon) and a sneak peek at the next DV Universe Original Movie, Batman and Harley Quinn, set to debut this August.

The DVD and Blu-ray Combo Pack are currently available on Amazon for $19.98 and $24.98, respectively.  It’s not available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, but you can get it digitally on Amazon for rent ($3.99) or purchase ($17.99) or purchase on iTunes for $9.99.

 

DC Super Hero Girls Intergalactic Games DVDFor a dose of girl power aimed at tweens, you can check out the recently created DC Super Hero Girls franchise, where we see younger versions of favorite DC heroes navigating the ups and downs of attending Super Hero High School while also dealing with the challenges of adolescence. Even though it started in 2015 as a merchandising partnership with Mattel, Warner Brothers/DC says that DC Super Hero Girls “encourages young girls,ages 6-12, to explore their own powers and strengths through original content, including all-new films, webisodes and TV specials. The franchise offers young fans inspiration and encourages teamwork, friendship and empowerment.” In the second film of the direct-to-video series, DC Super Hero Girls: Intergalactic Games, Batgirl (voiced by Mae Whitman), Bumblebee (voiced by Teala Dunn), Harley Quinn (voiced by Tara Strong), Katana (voiced by Stephanie Sheh), Poison Ivy (voiced by Tara Strong), Supergirl (voiced by Anais Fairweather), and Wonder “Wondy” Woman (voiced by Grey Griffin) are set to go up against their rivals from Korugar Academy in the Intergalactic Games, but run into problems when Lena Luthor (voiced by Romi Dames) uses the Games as an opportunity to move forward with a dastardly plan to steal the team’s battlebots for her own nefarious intentions. Using their unique gifts, the Supers must work together to fight Luthor and protect their school.

The film is now out on DVD and also includes seven short cartoons (“New Beginnings,” “Hero of the Month: Supergirl,” “Batgirl vs. Supergirl,” “Quinn-tessential Harley,” “Double Trouble,” “Franken-Ivy,” and “Dude, Where’s My Jet?”) along with a music video of “That’s My Girl” by girl group Fifth Harmony. The DVD is currently available on Amazon for $12.96 or you have the option to rent ($4.99) or buy ($14.99) digitally.

Headsup: The 4400: The Complete Series

If you’re a fan of The 4400, you probably know a lot about the show, but did you realize it’s already been ten years since it went off the air?

If you’re unfamiliar with the series, it’s the story of what happens when 4,400 people who have gone missing over the past several decades suddenly reappear in Washington State (at the same age they were when they disappeared) via a mysterious ball of light.  As the NTAC (National Threat Assessment Command) division of Homeland Security struggles to solve the mystery of what has happened, they are presented with an additional challenge when members of The 4400 begin to develop superhuman powers such as mega strength, telekinesis, and the ability to see through walls.

Starring Joel Gretsch (as Tom Baldwin) and Jacqueline McKenzie (as Diana Skouris), the show was popular with its fan base and was even nominated for three Emmy Awards, but took some creative hits during the Writers Guild strike and was taken off of USA’s lineup in 2007.  When the show was cancelled with Season 4 ending in a cliffhanger, disappointment-fueled fans launched a campaign to bring the show back on the air (but, sadly, were unsuccessful).

In October 2008 CBS/Paramount released a complete series DVD collection which included all four seasons of the show along with the bonus features that had been part of the single season releases (including audio commentaries, featurettes, a Director’s cut of the episode “The Great Leap Forward”, and gag reels) along with a disc of new bonus content.  This collection was discontinued for a while, but fans who missed getting it the first time will be happy to know that it has been re-released (albeit without the extra bonus content disc from 2008) and is currently available on Amazon for just $27.95.  That evens out to about 65 cents per episode (plus all the original bonus content), a definite improvement over the pricing of around $40 if you were to purchase all the individual seasons separately.  Netflix subscribers also have access to all four seasons, so this is one of those cases where it’s important to decide how much you value the extras if you could otherwise get it for no extra cost via Netflix.  If you’re a super-mega fan and don’t have it on the shelf, though, remember that just because it’s on Netflix today doesn’t mean it always will be, and just because the complete series set is out right now is no guarantee that it will stay (they already discontinued it once), so with that coupled with the show’s cliffhanger finale that was never resolved, it’s up to you to decide if you want to opt out of getting the set and risk your beloved show giving you yet another heartache.

Headsup: A Tale of Two Cities

 

Out now are the complete sets of two shows which combine a series-long love letter to their respective cities with crime fighting protagonists who navigate them:

 

Streets San Francisco Complete SeriesIn The Streets of San Francisco, two cops search for perpetrators of homicides in the City by the Bay in deliciously seventies style.  The show kicked off a week before its September 1972 series premiere with a pilot movie (same title) based on Carolyn Weston’s detective novel, Poor, Poor Ophelia, and then ran for a straight five years to 1977.  The series starred Oscar winners Karl Malden (as veteran cop Michael Stone) and a very young Michael Douglas (as rookie Steve Keller) along with a heck of a lot of Ford cars (Ford Motor Company being the main sponsor for the show).  Filmed entirely on location, the story revolved around the duo investigating murders in San Francisco and Stone mentoring Keller as he learns about police work.  Guest stars were frequent and impressive, including Dean Stockwell, Pernell Roberts, Tom Selleck, Leslie Nielsen, James Woods, Nick Nolte, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Martin Sheen, Dabney Coleman, Desi Arnaz, Jr., John Ritter, Robert Wagner, Dick Van Patten, Mark Hamill, Tom Bosley, and Bill Bixby, among others (even Diana Douglas, Michael Douglas’s mother, appeared on the show). The fifth season saw a change in the main partnership when Keller went off to be a teacher (due to Michael Douglas leaving to pursue a career in films after successfully producing Academy-Award winning film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and was replaced by Inspector Dan Robbins (played by Richard Hatch).  Audiences did not like the change, and ratings dipped, making the fifth season the show’s last.  Across its five year run the show earned multiple Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe award nominations and the love of a fan base which continues to this day.

If you are a member of said group, you’ll be happy to know that The Streets of San Francisco: The Complete Series is now out in a DVD box set, which includes all 120 episodes across 32 discs along with a couple of bonus features (“Pilot Presentation” and a short interview with Malden and Douglas conducted by Hollywood Variety columnist and famed movie premiere emcee Army Archerd).  This doesn’t add any new extras on top of those already featured in the season-specific sets released between 2007-2012, but the pricing of this set (like the packaging) is much more compact, currently set at $51.18 to get the complete series box set on Amazon.

 

 

Vegas Complete Series DVDVega$ is the audaciously glam-tastic detective series produced by Aaron Spelling which centers around ultra-cool private eye Dan Tanna (played by Robert Urich), who solves mysteries as he cruises around Las Vegas in his red 1957 Ford Thunderbird (which he parks in the living room of his converted props warehouse living space).  Complementing Urich is an ensemble cast including Phyllis Davis as Beatrice Travis (Tanna’s former-showgirl-turned-single-mom assistant), Greg Morris as Lt. David Nelson (a cop who often secretly assisted Tanna in cases the police couldn’t officially be involved in), Naomi Stevens as Bella Archer (a police sergeant who also assisted Tanna), and Bart Braverman as “Binzer” (Tanna’s leg work guy who also brought comic relief to the show).

Like The Streets of San Francisco, Vega$ was filmed on location, with the exception of a couple of special episodes done in California and Hawaii.  It also boasted numerous guest stars, such as Tony Curtis, Muhammad Ali, Shelley Winters, Joan Van Ark, Abe Vigoda, Wayne Newton, Leslie Nielsen, Maureen McCormick, Garry Marshall, Dean Martin, George Takei, and Heather Menzies (Robert Urich’s real-life wife), among many others. The show ran for three seasons (1978-1981), earning Robert Urich two Golden Globe nominations as Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination to industry mega hitter Phil Norman for Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design.  Even with its limited run, the series was popular enough to merit its place as one of the first shows to air in off-network syndication on FX when it began in 1994.

Now out in DVD box set is the entire series, featuring all 67 episodes across 18 discs.  As far as bonus content, it’s limited to episode promos, but considering you can get the set on Amazon for only $34.16 (about 51 cents per episode), it’s not too shabby considering the previously released “half season” sets go for around $12 each.

 

Neither of the titles above are on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or iTunes (if you see Vegas listed there, it’s the 2012-13 Michael Chiklis one), so if you want to grab one or both, these are currently your best bet.