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Headsup: Historical Fiction


Fans of historical fiction will be excited about the release of two new titles now out on Blu-ray and DVD:


Fences Blu-rayFirst we have the critically-acclaimed film Fences, based on August Wilson’s 1985 stageplay of the same name.  The play won both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize in 1987, and thirty years later the film (adapted for the screen largely by Wilson himself) has continued the winning streak, garnering Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG awards (among multiple others), most of which are due to the masterful leading performances of Viola Davis and Denzel Washington (Washington also directed the film.)  The story (which was the sixth installment of Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle”) centers around former African American baseball player Troy Maxson as he struggles to redefine his own identity and to make a living for himself and his loved ones in the tumultuous and challenging world of 1950s Pittsburgh.

The film is now out on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and digital HD.  The Blu-ray option not only features the film in both disc and digital form, but also over 30 minutes of bonus material, including “Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen” (comments from Denzel Washington, the play’s 2010 Broadway director Kenny Leon, and others about transitioning the story from play to film formats), “The Company of Fences” (which looks at the cast in general, many of whom also appeared in the recent Broadway production), and “Playing the Part: Rose Maxson” (where Viola Davis discusses bringing her role to life), along with “Building Fences: Denzel Washington” and “August Wilson’s Hill District”, two featurettes about the joys and challenges of the film’s production process. Denzel Washington fans will also appreciate  the “bonus bonus” that comes with the Blu-ray option — for a limited time, purchasing this set also gets you a free digital copy of The Manchurian Candidate (be aware that the code does expire in June, so if you go that route make sure you don’t forget to take advantage of it within that window).  Digital HD options are available for both rental and purchase on Amazon and iTunes ($4.99 / $9.99 and $5.99 / $14.99 respectively).  If you want it on disc form (keep in mind the DVD doesn’t include those bonus features), you can grab both on Amazon: the Blu-ray is currently priced at $19.99 and the DVD is $17.99


Penny Dreadful Complete Series Blu-rayNext, we have Penny Dreadful, the Showtime/Sky horror drama series that brings together characters from British literature (Dorian Gray, Abraham Van Helsing, Count Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, and others) whose adventures are threaded together against the backdrop of dark and mysterious Victorian England.  The show ran from 2014 until 2016 when series creator and executive producer John Logan decided that the storyline had run its course.  During those three years Penny Dreadful received positive critical reviews and multiple award nominations and wins, and in 2016 it was even turned into a graphic novel series from Titan Books.

Now out on DVD and Blu-ray is the complete set of all three seasons, in addition to a host of extras.  Notable bonus features include a roundtable discussion with Reeve Carney (Dorian Gray), a special on prostitution and sex in Victorian England, a featurette on the prosthetics used for Hecate Poole (Sarah Greene), and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Dr. Jekyll’s lab.  (Additional extras include “What is a Penny Dreadful?”, “Literary Roots”, “Coming Together”, “The Artisans”, The Grand Guignol”, “British Exploration and the Search for the Nile”, “The Science of Medicine”, Video Production Blogs, “History of the Occult”, “Vanessa’s Costumes”, Character Profiles, and “The Dead Zoo.”  Most of the special features are on the short side (2-3 minutes), but they’re fun nonetheless.

On Amazon the DVD set is currently $34.45 and the Blu-ray set is $39.73.  If you care about dollars versus format, the choice on this one is fairly clear-cut: purchasing digital HD versions of all three seasons individually on either iTunes or Amazon right now would cost over $70, and purchasing all three on disc via Amazon would cost over $40 for DVD or over $80 for Blu-ray, so with current pricing, if you want all three seasons the most cost-effective option is definitely the complete set.