If you’ve been enjoying The Crown on Netflix (or if you’re just generally a history buff like me), you’re probably aware that the current queen of England (Elizabeth II) was not actually born to be queen, nor her father born to be king. In Great Britain in 1936, it was soap opera central: Edward VIII, the charming, handsome crown-prince-turned-king, announced that not only was he in love with a divorcee (a no-no for the Church of England) who also happened to be American, but that he wanted to marry her at any cost, including the throne itself. This turned everything upside down for his brother George VI (Elizabeth II’s father), who was forced to take the throne after Edward VIII abdicated in order to marry as he wanted. In Royal Wives at War, the story is told through the eyes of the women behind the men: Elizabeth, wife to George VI (and later the “Queen Mother”), and Wallis Simpson, the object of affection and eventual wife of Edward VIII. The two women could not have been less alike in looks, temperament, or character, but one thing they shared was a fierceness of will and a determination to take the other down in any way possible. The docudrama is part reenactment, part roundtable discussion from British historians, and part dramatic monologues (set in 1967) beautifully presented by Emma Davies as Elizabeth and Gina McKee as Wallis, who certainly don’t hold back with their cinematic-quality performances. The film is available on DVD on Amazon for $15.18 or as a digital purchase for $4.99. While it is only 60 minutes, a lot is packed into the hour, and if you’re a fan of this era of history, it’s an hour you won’t want to miss.
Author - Thespia
Based on the historical novels by Winston Graham, Poldark follows the adventures (and misadventures) of the title character as he returns from war to a home and a life turned upside down in his time away and his ensuing struggles to piece together a new business, new friendships, and a new family. Aidan Turner stars as Ross Poldark, who I might venture to say gives Mr. Darcy a run for his money when it comes to being a flawed British costume drama hero (I wouldn’t say it too loudly, of course). The show has received multiple award nominations and wins (including a BAFTA this year) and has a loyal fan base, however this year in the UK it had to compete for their attention against fellow historical drama Victoria (both showing on Sunday nights), so if you’re a fan, keep your fingers crossed that the show won’t be pushed out any time soon.
Out now is a DVD and Blu-ray set for Season 2, which in addition to all of the episodes includes over 30 minutes of extras. Notable bonus features include a behind-the-scenes featurette (with cast and crew discussing their love of Cornwall, the challenges of shooting on location and at a studio simultaneously, and tricks of the trade to help the show end up seamlessly stunning as it does), Portrait of a Marriage (an examination of the union of Ross and Demelza, whose passionate and stubborn natures both cause the pair to consistently butt heads and also make them such an excellent match), and a walk through tour of the set for Nampara with Eleanor Tomlinson (Demelza). Both formats are available on Amazon: the DVD is priced at at $24.99 and the Blu-ray is $31.99.
Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story follows the trials and tribulations of Nathaniel Reed, a former outlaw who has found peace in domestic life until a former enemy resurfaces and circumstances plunge him back into his life of crime. Trace Adkins stars in the title role (you may know him from his award-winning career as a country music singer or perhaps from from his participation on Celebrity Apprentice… he actually won All-Star Celebrity Apprentice in 2013 and in the process raised $1.5 million for the Red Cross). The film is directed by Terry Miles and alongside Adkins stars Judd Nelson, Kim Coates, Claude Duhamel, Michelle, Garry Chalk, and Helena Marie. It had a limited theatrical release in November of this year and is now available for home viewing.
As to streaming options for this one, there is rather odd pricing on Amazon: it currently costs exactly the same ($4.99 for HD) to rent the film as it does to buy the digital version (leaving one to wonder who would choose to rent). The same price will let you purchase on iTunes as well. (Netflix subscribers, though, are out of luck on this one and must look elsewhere.) The film is available on Amazon in DVD and Blu-ray formats for $9.96 and $12.99, respectively (the Blu-ray also includes a “making of” featurette). For those who love westerns, independent films, or watching Trace Adkins walk around looking grizzly and kicking butt, this may be one to consider.
Sailor Moon (or Usagi Tsukino, as many know her), is the princess of the Silver Millennium moon kingdom, leader of the Sailor Soldiers, and on her off days, a regular school girl. The Sailor Moon universe has been part of popular culture worldwide since its introduction in 1991 and is still going strong; fans never tire of watching Usagi and her friends fight against their enemies and protect Earth (and each other). Out now from VIZ Media are two new home media sets for fans hungry to add to their library: Sailor Moon Crystal Set 1, which includes the first fourteen episodes of the Dark Kingdom arc, and Sailor Moon S, the third season (episodes 90-108) from the anime series. Both include English and Japanese audio and English subtitles.
Fans interested in Crystal Set 1 have a few format options (all available on Amazon): a Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack ($64.89), a Standard Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack ($54.90), and a Standard Edition DVD Set ($26.99). Both combo packs (2 Blu-ray and 2 DVD discs) feature Blu-ray extras including a digital art gallery, trailers, and a featurette with the English voice actors (“Introduction to Sailor Moon Crystal“). The Limited Edition combo pack includes an 88-page color art booklet and seven color collectible art cards. The DVD set doesn’t have any bonus features (except for trailers), but for those who just want the episodes on disc, it gets the job done.
Sailor Moon S is also offered in all three formats: the Limited Edition and Standard Edition combo packs include 3 Blu-ray discs and 3 DVD discs and boast bonus features including digital art galleries, opening and ending songs, special cast interviews, and more. The Limited Edition set also includes a 96-page color episode guide. As with Crystal Set 1, the standard DVD set doesn’t have any bonus features, but it’s a serviceable option for someone who just wants the main content on the shelf. On Amazon, the Limited Edition combo pack is priced at $62.19, the Standard Edition combo pack is $52.89, and the DVD set is $34.99.
In American Gothic, the Hawthorne family, the epitome of “the haves”, are sent reeling from the death of their
patriarch—- not only with the discovery that he may have been a serial killer, but also the possibility that one of them may have been his partner in crime. Starring the ensemble cast of Juliet Rylance (Alison), Antony Starr (Garrett), Justin Chatwin (Cam), Megan Ketch (Tessa), Elliot Knight (Brady), Stephanie Leonidas (Sophie), Gabriel Bateman (Jack), and Virginia Madsen (Madeline), the series made it through its original order of 13 episodes but was cancelled after the first season.
Even with its one-season run, the show does have a faithful base of fans, and those who are Amazon Prime and/or CBS All Access members will be happy to know that they can stream the season for free. As to paid options, while Amazon and iTunes often match each other’s prices for paid streaming content, in this case, they do not— individual HD episodes of the series on Amazon are $2.99 each and on iTunes are $3.49. Fans can get the whole season on iTunes for $29.99, while Amazon, interestingly, does not even offer a “whole season” streaming purchase option (which means to get all the episodes digitally there, viewers would have to spend $39.00). Considering that the DVD set (which in addition to all 13 episodes also includes some extended / deleted scenes, coverage of American Gothic at Comic-Con, and a blooper reel) is priced at just $37.01 on Amazon, the two best options numbers-wise are to either get the hard copy or go for the whole season option via iTunes.
A ratings darling for Showtime ever since its record-breaking pilot episode in 2013, Ray Donovan tells the story of a
“fixer” at a prominent law firm in Boston who enjoys great success in both his professional and family life until complications with his ex-con father and the FBI threaten everything he holds dear. In Season 4, we see the aftermath of the third season’s shootout with the Armenian Mafia and Ray’s confession to Father Romero, as well as the machinations surrounding the dark secret held by boxer Hector Campos and his unstable sister Marisol. Throughout its run, the show has garnered positive critical reviews and multiple award nominations (including wins for Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and Primetime Emmy awards). Season five was given the green light in August of this year, and the series shows no sign of stopping any time soon.
Arriving on December 27 is the DVD set of Season Four, with all twelve episodes of the season as well as some bonus features, including character profiles on Ray (Liev Schreiber) and Mickey (Jon Voight), Female Strong (an examination of the resilient female characters), and Location: Primm (where executive producers discuss Primm, Nevada as a location and how it works into Season 4). The DVD is available for pre-order on Amazon for $19.99, which evens out to around $1.66 per episode (plus bonus features). iTunes offers individual episodes for $2.99 and the entire season for $29.99 (note the $10 difference). Showtime Anytime members and those with the Showtime add-on Subscription on Amazon can view the season for free, but if you want the season and you’re not in one of those groups, both the whole season and per-episode comparisons make the pricing on the DVD set look pretty darn good.
Based on James Patterson’s novel, Zoo tells the story of a pandemic of animals turning the tables on humans, going from the hunted to the hunters. In Season 2, everything is ramped up a level–the team not only discovers that the cure they fought so hard for in Season 1 has become obsolete due to the mutation’s rapid evolution, but that the animals are actually executing coordinated attacks geared toward destroying human civilization itself. Jackson is busy trying to keep his sanity amid major family issues and a biological identity crisis, ties to the Noah Objective are becoming ever more convoluted, and the team must tackle challenges like crashing a black tie event in Vancouver, tracking down a saber-tooth tiger, and, of course, constantly avoiding becoming prey. Jackson (James Wolk), Jamie (Kristen Connolly), Abraham (Nonso Anozie), and Chloe (Nora Arnezeder) have certainly had a busy season.
Now available on DVD is a 4-disc set that includes all 13 episodes of Season 2 plus some bonus features, including a gag reel, deleted scenes, and two featurettes: Metamorphosis: A Look at Season Two of Zoo and Welcome to the Bird. Subscribers to CBS All Access have access to the entire season and it is also available on Netflix (a bit surprising as CBS is becoming ever more choosy about what they allow to be released on platforms other than All Access). As to streaming options, Amazon Video and iTunes both offer the season (without bonus features) for $19.99. If you want the bonuses, you’ll need to get the DVD set (available on Amazon for $39.99), so it’s up to you to decide if having the extras and physical discs on the shelf is worth doubling the price.
In The Driller Killer, Abel Ferrara directs and stars as a down-on-his luck artist going slowly mad from a
combination of money problems and dealing with horrible neighbors, who finally snaps and begins to hunt for victims on whom he can focus his rage–and his drill.
Now out from Arrow Video are two dual format sets of the film: Special Edition and Limited Edition Steelbook. Both include Blu-ray and DVD presentations of a (brand new) 4K restoration created from the original camera negative of the film in its theatrical release version and its (previously unseen) pre-release version. Both also boast some bonus features created especially for these sets, including an interview with Ferrara, a visual guide to Ferrara’s career by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (who wrote Cultographies: Ms. 45), and audio commentary from Ferrara and Brad Stevens (author of Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision). Additional bonus features include the trailer and Ferrara’s 2010 feature-length documentary Mulberry Street, never before available for home viewing in the US. Aside from disc content, the Special Edition Set includes a reversible sleeve with (new) artwork by the Twins of Evil, and the Limited Edition SteelBook Set includes original artwork and a collector’s booklet (content from Michael Pattison and Brad Stevens).
The film is not currently available on Netflix or on Amazon (unless you have an add-on subscription to CONtv, Shudder, or Filmbox). Those looking to get one of the new sets can get them on Amazon for almost the same price: the Limited Edition Steelbook is $28.49 and the Special Edition is $27.99. Do be aware that the Limited Edition consists of only 2500 copies in the US, so if that’s important to you (especially considering it’s only 50 cents more), jump on it asap.
So full disclaimer of bias: I’m crazy for costume dramas, I love pretty people walking around in pretty clothes saying pretty things, and I’m a history buff, with a particular adoration of stories about Britain in the Edwardian and post-Edwardian eras. So unsurprisingly, I’m a sucker for Downton Abbey and all its trappings. I also grew up on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and as an adult I’m in love with Great Performances, Antiques Roadshow, American Experience, Masterpiece, and all the other wonders of PBS. So I was very happy to see how Downton Abbey not only became the most-watched series in the history of PBS (45 years!), but a television colossus in its own right, with people tuning in all around the world (including Russia, Sweden, South Korea, and the Middle East) to the tune of tens of millions of viewers; the sixth season opened to 9.9 million viewers in the U.S. alone (Season Six of Game of Thrones, for example, opened to 7.9 million). The show’s viewership crossed lines of age, race, economic status, education level, and prompted people who previously didn’t even know what their own PBS television channel was to follow the story with the kind of rabid fandom that most had until then only exhibited for mainstream TV. It brought millions of new eyes and new interest to PBS, and on this point, I am especially pleased.
Out now is a box set of the entire Downton Abbey series, which in addition to all 52 episodes includes over thirteen hours(!) of extras. Notable bonus features include the 90-minute documentary The Story of Downton Abbey, which traces the storyline through the entire series and treats the viewer to behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, Downton Abbey Creators’ Favorite Scenes, where Julian Fellowes (writer/creator) and Gareth Neame (executive producer) give commentary on their favorite scenes of the series, Supercuts, nine mini features on themes from the show (such as weddings, awesome stuff the Dowager Countess says, etc.), and The Manners of Downton Abbey/More Manners of Downton Abbey, two specials hosted by Alastair Bruce (the show’s historical advisor) examining the customs and protocols of the turn of the century and the Jazz Age. Additional extras include Great Houses with Julian Fellowes and Character Documentaries. The set is available on Amazon on DVD and Blu-ray for $74.99 and $89.99 respectively (that pricing divides out to around $1.44 per episode on DVD and $1.73 on Blu-ray). All episodes (and The Manners of Downton Abbey special) are available for free streaming to Amazon Prime members, but if you’re a big fan (or gifting for a big fan) and want to have all the awesomeness of the bonus features (remember: thirteen hours), consider getting the set.
Unless you were living under a rock the first week in November, you probably heard about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in a while–108 years, to be precise (which many ascribe to the curse placed on the team by a fan angered when his billy goat was denied entry into Game 4 at Wrigley Field in 1945…).
In a year that’s been shaded heavily with loss of life, natural disasters, social tensions, and political strife, the Cubs’ win after the longest dry spell in MLB history was at the least very refreshing. It was also life-changing, not only for the players but also for fans, many of whom have kept the faith in their team for generations without any return until now. Over the years a popular catchphrase among them became “just one before I die”… ESPN published a touching story about a man who drove from North Carolina to his father’s gravesite in Indiana to keep a pact that they would listen to the Cubs play the World Series together (and was there for the win), and there have been many reports of the iconic blue-and-white W “win pennants” decorating cemeteries nationwide. There have also been multiple projections about a rise in births nine months after the win as a result of other celebrations.
Ah, Hawaii. Glowing sand, sparkling waves… sounds pretty nice right about now, doesn’t it? In Season 6 of Hawaii Five-0, however, the people and situations Steve McGarrett and his task force come up against are anything but nice– including the mob, a Russian spy, an indestructible suit of armor, and a cannibal (just to name a few). In addition to the main cast of Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Masi Oka, Chi McBride, and Jorge Garcia, guest stars of the season include Carol Burnett, Michel Pfeiffer, Sung Kang, Duane “Dog” Chapman, George Kee Cheung, Londyn Silzer, and Ziggy Marley.
Out now from CBS Home Entertainment is a DVD set that includes all twenty-five episodes from the sixth season as well as a fairly wide variety of bonus features. Behind-the-scenes extras include “Aloha Action” (which examines the stunt work from season 6), “Pirates & the Palace” (which discusses the production process for Episode 1), “Shorelines” (comments from some of the cast and producers on major plot points of the season and how they relate to the broader picture for the show), “Behind the Scenes with Alex O’Loughlin” (where the starring actor takes viewers on a tour of the filming lot), and “Casting Five-0” (a discussion of the guest star casting process along with some of their auditions). Additional bonus features include commentaries on Episode 1 and Episode 19 with input from producers Peter Tassler and Peter Lenkov along with Chi McBride (Captain Grover), deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, and a music video of “One More Day.”
CBS All Access and Netflix subscribers can view the entire season for free (it is not on Amazon Prime or Hulu Plus). As far as pay-to-view options, Amazon and iTunes both offer HD episodes for $2.99 or the whole season for $29.99. With twenty-five episodes, the whole season option divides out to $1.20 per episode (less than half the cost of purchasing them individually). The DVD set, however, is currently the same price on Amazon as getting the season as a digital purchase, plus it includes all the bonus features discussed above (the only bonus feature that comes with the digital option on Amazon and iTunes is a 4-minute fan Q&A with Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan). So unless you really don’t want to have the hard copy on your shelf for some reason, you’ll definitely get the most bang for your buck with the DVD set.
Star Trek: The Animated Series (often referred to simply by the abbreviation “TAS”) was an important part of the Star Trek cannon for a few reasons: it bridged the gap for content-hungry fans between the end of the original series in 1969 and the debut of first film (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) in 1979, it was the first to win an Emmy award, and the first on-screen instance in which fans heard that the “T” in James T. Kirk stood for “Tiberius.”
The series ran from 1973-74 and continued/supplemented many of the storylines from the original series. It also featured the voice talents of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barrett (the only member of the original cast missing was Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov). While it was popular among many adult fans and critics, the show failed to garner enough of the children’s market as originally intended, and it was cancelled after a total of only twenty-two episodes.
Currently available from CBS/Paramount is a four-disc DVD set that includes all episodes from the series as well as multiple bonus features, including Show History (a simple slideshow-esque collection of facts about the show), a storyboard gallery, audio commentaries (with fun behind-the-scenes info) and text commentaries (pop-up trivia), What’s the Star Trek Connection? (a grouping of mini features that draw lines between the show and other Trek movies and television series), and Drawn to the Final Frontier—The Making of Star Trek The Animated Series (a documentary on the life of the animated series from its beginnings to its reception today, featuring interviews with the creators including D.C. Fontana (producer), David Gerrold (writer), Hal Southerland (director), and Lou Scheimer (series producer).
Mega-fans who want to own anything and everything Star Trek will, of course, want this set (snaggable on Amazon for $12.81) in their library. However, before you buy it for yourself or for someone as a gift, be aware that this set has the same episodes and bonus features as the 2006 set released a decade ago, so there is a chance you/they actually already have it. The episodes themselves are also currently available on Amazon Prime and Netflix, so even if you’re a diehard Trekkie, consider all the available options before purchase.
In the second season of Scorpion, fans saw the quintet of genius misfits expand their A-Team-meets-Big-Bang-Theory-meets-MacGyver adventures across the globe. This season features the team finding themselves in even more high-octane scenarios as they deal with a nuclear satellite, a Soviet submarine, a speeding train, a 7.8 earthquake, and an F4 tornado, all while trying to navigate personal issues and relationships. If you’re a fan of the show and want access to Season 2, you have a few options:
1) If you’re a CBS All Access member, you have free access to the season through your subscription (Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu subscribers do not)
2) Amazon and iTunes both offer HD epsiodes for $2.99 and the full season for $19.99 and $24.99 respectively
3) You can purchase the DVD set (all 24 episodes plus over an hour of bonus features), currently available on Amazon for $33.49
And that’s where the number crunching comes in. The main difference here (other than having a hard copy on the shelf) is the bonus features, none of which are included in the “buy the season” option on Amazon or iTunes (all they include is a three minute Season 1 recap). Based on Amazon’s price of $33.49, the cost-per-episode on the DVD set divides out to around $1.40 (versus 84 cents per episode if you get the whole season digitally for $19.99), so before you pull a trigger on either, consider how much these extras mean to you:
- “Unlikely Heroes” – Nick Santora (creator/producer) examines the story arcs of Walter (Elyes Gabel), Paige (Katharine McPhee), Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas), Happy (Jadyn Wong), and Sylvester (Ari Stidham) in Season 2.
- “Quintis” – a two minute mini feature with the actors talking about Episode 17 (“Adaptation”) and how it promotes the relationship between two of the characters
- “Scorpion: The Comic Book” – Nick Santora (creator/producer) and Nicholas Wooton (writer/executive producer) talk about the comic book from IDW based on the series that was created for distribution at Comic-Con