This week, we begin in front of the television.
The arrival of fall signals a wide choice of last season’s television series on home entertainment. Among the many:
Revolution An impressive group of industry heavyweights (including J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau, who also directs some episodes) assembled behind Erick Kripke’s imaginative creation to make it one of last season’s most watched series, with 20 episodes arriving on five DVDs (or four Blu-ray discs).
The NBC series revolves around a family struggling to survive 15 years after the Blackout, a universal catastrophe that knocked out every imaginable power source.
When young Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) sees her father killed by a militia led by Maj. Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), she travels with a small band to post-apocalyptic Chicago. There, she meets her uncle Miles (Billy Burke), a deadly fighter who once knew the leader (David Lyons) of the now all-powerful Monroe Militia.
Every week includes new face-downs, battles and surprises in a fight for survival.
The series comes in all formats and various combo packs. The nearly two hours of supplements include five webisodes, a 20-minute “making of” featurette, a 14-minute featurette on the pilot episode, 27 minutes with the cast and crew at PaleyFest, a brief gag reel, and deleted scenes on each disc. The Blu-ray set includes UltraViolet digital copies of all episodes.
Spartacus: War of the Damned — The Complete Third Season Cable TV’s favorite sword-and-sandal epic arrives on 10 episodes on three discs. In this (allegedly final) season of the Starz series, the Romans have already suffered defeat at the Battle of Vesuvius.
Using the victory, Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) assembles an army large enough to threaten the security of Rome, a danger not lost to Roman senators and leaders. Cynthia Addai-Robinson appears as Naevia, while Manu Bennett plays Crixus, Dustin Clare is Gannicus, and Simon Merrells plays Crassus.
Not rated; 9 hours, 22 minutes. The set also holds commentaries and deleted scenes, a 10-minute “making of” featurette, the four-minute “Price of Being a Gladiator,” three minutes on “A Bloody Farewell,” five minutes on the visual effects, and seven minutes on “The Mind Behind Spartacus.”
Twilight Zone: The Complete Fifth Season The final season of one of TV’s most original series roars to a close with additional writings from creator Rod Serling, who helmed the consistently entertaining show to its finale.
On five episodes-only discs, the season’s 36 episodes include some of the series’ best-known dramas: “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” the Civil War surprise “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” “Living Doll,” “The Long Morrow” and others.
During this season, which originally ran from late 1963 through May 1964, the series continued to draw well-known guest stars, including future Star Trekkers William Shatner and George Takei, and future Oscar winners James Coburn, Martin Landau and Lee Marvin. Also with Mickey Rooney, Telly Savalas and Jack Klugman. Not rated, 916 minutes.
Haven: The Complete Third Season This entertaining science-fiction series from Syfy, based on Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid, finds the mysterious happenings in bucolic Haven, Maine, growing ever weirder.
This season of 13 episodes on four discs sees the return of the Colorado Kid himself along with an abduction, a visit from aliens, and multiple other occurrences of the town’s infamous “troubles.” Audrey (Emily Rose) continues to uncover her past lives, Duke (Eric Balfour) fights against the tyranny of his ancestors, and Nathan (Lucas Bryant) battles his own troubles.
Not rated; 9 hours, 32 minutes. The DVD holds commentaries, six interviews with cast, crew and guest stars, deleted and alternate scenes from seven episodes, a comprehensive 42-minute “making of” featurette, five minutes of “behind-the-scenes” footage, six minutes of bloopers, 48 minutes with the Haven panel at New York Comic Con, a webisode series, and a 16-page graphic comic book, After the Storm.
And now, the big-screen offerings:
Shadow Dancer — Andrea Riseborough plays Collette McVeigh, a dedicated soldier for the Irish Republican Army in the early 1990s when called upon to leave a bomb in the London subway.
She is captured before the bomb explodes, and an MI5 agent, Mac (Clive Owen), offers her freedom if she will return to Northern Ireland and spy on her politically connected family. She wavers between love of family and never seeing her young son again.
Director James Marsh steers her delicately through the tightrope Collette walks. With Gillian Anderson.
Rated R, 102 minutes. The DVD holds an eight-minute “behind the scenes” featurette and seven cast and crew interviews.
Blancanieves — Pablo Berger wrote and directed this charming black-and-white, mostly silent film based on the Snow White legend but transposed to 1920s Seville, Spain.
Encarna, a female bullfighter with the nickname Blancanieves (Snow White), is played extravagantly and to large effect by Maribel Verdu (Y Tu Mama Tambien). The beautiful photography creates an elegiac mood. With Daniel Cacho and Angela Molina.
Rated PG-13, 104 minutes. The DVD contains a five-minute introduction from Berger, a 30-minute “making of” featurette, a 28-page booklet and more.
These two small pleasures, now available on demand from the Warner Archive Collection, originated at poverty row studio Allied Artists. Despite their limited sets and obvious low budgets, both films manufacture some palpable tension — and, in the first film, abundant creepiness.
Hands of a Stranger — Based on an uncredited 1920 French novel remade several times, this 1960 film is about a concert pianist (James Stapleton) who mangles his hands in an auto accident.
The attending and unauthorized surgeon (Paul Lukather) then grafts a pair of hands on the pianist from the fresh corpse of a murderer. When he recovers, the pianist becomes a new man — angry, sudden and quick to quarrel — and eventually, a murderer. Not rated, 85 minutes.
The Accursed — This 1958 film centers on a group of former German resistance fighters during World War II who assemble when a leader is murdered.
Immediately before the remaining group gathers at a creepy mansion owned by Col. Price (the notoriously difficult Donald Wolfit), a messenger bearing news of the death staggers in with a dagger in his back. Before long, an officious American, Maj. Shane (Robert Bray), arrives to uncover the labyrinthine conspiracy.
Writer-director Michael McCarthy squeezes the most out of his material with this taut, unpretentious mystery thriller. Young Christopher Lee plays one of the house guests. Not rated, 74 minutes.
Wish You Were Here — Alice (co-writer Felicity Price) and husband Dave (Joel Edgerton) travel to Cambodia with her sister, Steph (Teresa Palmer), and Steph’s boyfriend, Jeremy (Antony Starr).
When Jeremy goes missing, the other three return home to Sydney, where Steph confesses to her fling with Dave. From there, director Kieran Darcy-Smith awkwardly flips from the present melodrama to flashbacks revealing what happened to Jeremy, neither of which is compelling.
Rated R, 89 minutes. The DVD includes nine cast and crew interviews and a 36-minute “making of” featurette.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Blood, Homeland: The Complete Second Season, Parade’s End, Snake Eyes.