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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prime Suspect, Smiley’s People Debut on Blu-ray, Tales of the City: 20th Anniv. DVD – Acorn Release Calendar

"Acorn Media, chief curators of the best Brit TV" --TIME Magazine

Acorn (British TV) and Athena (Documentaries) DVD Release Calendar

The upcoming July and August releases from British TV specialist Acorn, an RLJ Entertainment brand, feature the Blu-ray debuts of two iconic series - Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection and Alex Guinness in Smiley’s People (w/deleted scenes) as well as the star-studded Tales of the City: 20th Anniversary Edition on DVD.

Additionally, Acorn has the U.S. debuts of several highly anticipated series that offer a perfect alternative to summer reruns. U.S. debuts include: Midsomer Murders Set 22, featuring the newest episodes of our top-selling series; Falcón starring Marton Csokas (The Lord of the Rings) in new cinematic detective thriller set in Spain; the long-overdue U.S. and home video debut of North & South, starring Patrick Stewart (X-Men, I, Claudius) in a classic BBC period drama; Jack Taylor starring Iain Glen (Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey) in an Irish detective drama; and Honest, a British dramedy.

Acorn also has another season of Britain’s highest-rated TV drama with New Tricks, Season 9; a value-priced complete collection of Lynda La Plante’s Trial & Retribution courtroom drama series, and individual season sets of its top-selling series, Midsomer Murders with Series 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Documentary specialist Athena has several fascinating releases, including Time Team: The Team’s Favorite Digs, Missions That Changes the War: Germany’s Last Ace, Bill Moyers: On the Hudson, Bill Moyers: Faith & Reason Collection, and Joanna Lumley’s Nile.

Acorn (British TV) and Athena (Documentaries) DVD Release Calendar:

June 25:

Jack Taylor Set 1 (U.S. Debut) – Iain Glen (Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey) stars in the gritty Irish detective drama based on the bestselling crime fiction by Ken Bruen. A noir thriller in the vein of Case Histories and Single-Handed and filmed on location against the rugged backdrop of western Ireland, the program follows a forty-something ex-cop trying to earn a living as a private detective in his native Galway. Self-destructive, pig-headed, and overly fond of the bottle, Taylor has burned a lot of bridges, but he still has a knack for uncovering ugly truths. Broadcast on in the U.K. in 2013 with new episodes in production (DVD 3-Disc Set, 3 mysteries).

New Tricks Season 9 (DVD Debut) – Retired cops solve cold cases in Britain’s highest-rated TV drama. The series has enjoyed ongoing broadcast exposure in North America on PBS; however the DVD set features the unedited UK edition. For eight years, the old dogs of the Unsolved Crime and Open Case Squad—veteran detectives Jack Halford (James Bolam), Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong, Garrow’s Law), and Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman, The Sweeney)—have been a close-knit team led by Amanda Redman. Then Jack drops a bombshell: he’s retiring. Before long, they find a replacement in retired detective Steve McAndrew (Emmy® nominee Denis Lawson, Bleak House, Star Wars). (DVD 3-Disc Set)

Honest (U.S. Debut) – Featuring sharp scripts, an outstanding cast, and a deft mix of comedy and drama, this critically acclaimed British dramedy follows the fortunes of the criminally minded Carter family after their patriarch is sentenced to four years in jail for robbery. Amanda Redman (New Tricks) stars as the beleaguered mother determined to keep her family out of trouble. The compelling cast also includes Danny Webb (The Bill), Sean Pertwee (Cold Feet), Matthew McNulty (The Syndicate), and Laura Haddock (Upstairs Downstairs). Honest aired in the U.K. on ITV in 2008, but never aired in the U.S (DVD 2-Disc Set, 6 episodes).

July 2:

Falcón (U.S. Debut) – Marton Csokas (The Lord of the Rings) and Hayley Atwell (Captain America) star in new cinematic crime thriller making its U.S. debut. Featuring compelling characters, an outstanding ensemble cast, and complex, haunting mysteries, the critically acclaimed new crime series is based on the bestselling novels by Robert Wilson. Set in the magnificent Spanish city of Seville, Falcón follows a smart, intuitive detective bent on exposing hard truths and corruption. The British production features a seductive beauty and sinister undercurrent all to its own, along with stunning cinematography and stylish direction. The series co-stars Emilia Fox, Santiago Cabrera, Charlie Creed-Miles, and Kerry Fox with guest stars Bernard Hill, Robert Lindsay, Bill Paterson, and Rosie Perez. The two feature-length mysteries premiered in the UK in Nov. 2012 but have not aired in the U.S. (DVD 2-Disc).

Patrick Stewart in North & South (U.S. and Home Video Debut) – The classic BBC miniseries makes its long-awaited home video and U.S. debut. The outstanding BBC period drama stars Patrick Stewart (X-Men, Star Trek, I, Claudius) in a classic British romance in the vein of Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch. This popular program is based on the celebrated novel by Elizabeth Gaskell (Cranford, Wives and Daughters) and depicts the tensions of the Victorian era, as traditional society clashed with the coming of the modern world. Both a slow-burn romance and a clear-eyed view of the Industrial Revolution, North & South captivates with a magnetic performance from future star Patrick Stewart. Though broadcast on the BBC in 1975, the series likely never aired in the U.S., so this release is the first opportunity for U.S. audiences to see the miniseries (DVD 2-Disc, 4 episodes).

July 16:

Joanna Lumley’s Nile (DVD Debut) – A fascinating four-part documentary hosted by the witty and enthusiastic Joanna Lumley, half of the iconic duo from Absolutely Fabulous. Traveling by fishing boat, ferry, cruise ship, plane, train, car, and Zapcat, Joanna follows the world’s longest river from mouth of the river in the Mediterranean Sea to its source in Sudan. Along the way, Joanna visits five African nations and some of the most inhospitable landscapes on Earth. The ideal travel companion, she’s game for almost anything—from sleeping on a crowded deck to slogging through mud and judging an “Ancient Egypt Night” contest. Featuring a deft mix of education and entertainment, the program premiered in 2010 on ITV and has since aired on public television in the U.S. (DVD 2-Disc Set, 4 episodes).

Bill Moyers: On the Hudson – America’s First River (DVD Debut) – Called “Surprising and delightful” (The New York Times), this fascinating PBS documentary explores the history of the mighty Hudson River. Legendary journalist Bill Moyers discusses the river’s 315-mile course from its source in the Adirondack Mountains to its outlet at New York harbor—and its impact on much of the nation’s history, literature, and art. On the Hudson debuted on PBS in 2002 and is Athena’s sixteenth release from Moyers’ acclaimed library of programs (DVD 2-Disc Set).

July 30:

Midsomer Murders Series 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in individual season sets – Now in original U.K. broadcast order, the first five series of the beloved, star-studded mystery series are available in collectible, repackaged individual series sets with SDH subtitles ($59.99 each set). The English village mystery gets a contemporary spin in this hit British television series that has earned a worldwide following. Bucolic settings harbor macabre crimes and eccentric characters that are no match for nice-guy detective Tom Barnaby (John Nettles, Bergerac) and his eager assistant, Sergeant Troy (Daniel Casey). Continually among Acorn’s best-selling series, Midsomer Murders premiered in the U.K. in 1997 and more than ninety feature-length episodes have aired with new episodes still in production. The first five series have featured a wide array of famous faces, including Orlando Bloom, Emily Mortimer, Honeysuckle Weeks, Toby Jones, Imelda Staunton, Trudie Styler, James Bolam, Samantha Bond, Anthony Bate, Kenneth Colley, Celia Imrie, and Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey). (DVD 2 or 3-Disc Sets)

August 6:

Smiley’s People (Blu-ray Debut) – The “marvelously riveting” (The New York Times) sequel to Tinker Tailor Solider Spy - John le Carré’s classic Cold War spy drama now with more than an hour of new bonus features. Oscar® winner Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia) reprises his BAFTA-winning role that the San Francisco Chronicle called “the crowning role of the great actor’s long career” as retired spymaster George Smiley for the 1982 sequel. Filmed on location in London, Paris, Hamburg, and Berne, Smiley’s People co-stars Patrick Stewart, Siân Phillips (Dune), Eileen Atkins (Upstairs, Downstairs), and Bill Paterson (Traffik). The Blu-ray 2-disc set includes six episodes, along with the new addition of 62 min. of deleted/extended scenes as well as a 20-min. interview with John le Carré, production notes, book list, and more. Celebrated for its literate scripts and intricate plotting, the series was nominated for three Emmys® in 1983--including director, actor, and miniseries—and won four BAFTAs in 1982.

Midsomer Murders Set 22 (U.S. Debut, Blu-ray and DVD) – Acorn’s top-selling, smash-hit series returns with four new stand-alone mysteries, plus bonus 34-min. Midsomer Murders in Conversation segment. Set in England’s picture-perfect but perilous Midsomer County, Set 22’s episodes have not aired on U.S. television. Inspired by the novels of Caroline Graham, modern master of the English village mystery, the series stars Neil Dudgeon as the capable Detective Chief Inspector John Barnaby, with Jason Hughes as his earnest, efficient partner, Detective Sergeant Ben Jones. The Mysteries: The Sleeper under the Hill, The Night of the Stag, A Sacred Trust, and A Rare Bird. (Blu-ray 2-Disc Set, DVD 4-Vol. Boxed Set)

August 13:

Time Team: The Team’s Favorite Digs (U.S. Debut) – More digs from the hit British science-reality series. Go along for a fun, fast-paced ride as archeologists dig up the past. Tony Robinson (Blackadder) is back as the leader of Time Team, a band of archaeologists, historians, surveyors, geophysicists, and other assorted experts determined to unearth mysteries concealed by topsoil and time. For these eight episodes, the team members have selected their favorite digs, ranging from Iron Age, Roman, and Saxon Britain to a World War II crash site in France and a sugar plantation in the Caribbean. (DVD 3-Disc set)

Bill Moyers: Faith & Reason Collection – Three PBS programs explore religion, the search for truth, and a beloved hymn in a value-priced collection hosted by legendary journalist Bill Moyers. Shows feature Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Huston Smith, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, among many others. The DVD 6-Disc boxed set includes the previously released full-length programs, On Faith & Reason, The Wisdom of Faith with Huston Smith, and Amazing Grace, along with bonus program Pure Pete Seeger (54 min.)

Trial & Retribution: Complete Collection – “So damn addictive” ( and “Great crime series” (NPR) – All 22 feature-length mysteries of the gritty British drama in a value-priced collection from the creator of Prime Suspect, Lynda La Plante. Teeming with the same hard-bitten sensibility and emotional resonance that made Prime Suspect a television landmark, Trial & Retribution takes viewers from the crime scene to the forensics laboratory and from police headquarters to the courtroom. David Hayman (Sid and Nancy) stars as DCS Mike Walker, with Kate Buffery (Wish Me Luck) and Victoria Smurfit (About a Boy) as his partners. Guest stars include Hugh Dancy (Black Hawk Down), Iain Glen (Downton Abbey), and Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, X-Men). (DVD 18-disc set)

August 27:

Tales of the City: 20th Anniversary Collection – “One of the 10 best miniseries” (Entertainment Weekly) and “Uncommonly fine television” (The New York Times) – The influential PBS miniseries returns with SDH subtitles, exclusive footage, and more. Deftly chronicling the quest for love and connection across a spectrum of sexual experiences, the Peabody Award-winning miniseries features a star-studded cast including Oscar® winner Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck), Oscar® nominee Laura Linney (The Big C, John Adams, The Savages), Gemini winner Paul Gross (Slings & Arrows), Billy Campbell (Once and Again), and Thomas Gibson (Dharma & Greg). Based on the groundbreaking novel by Armistead Maupin, Tales of the City follows a colorful cast of characters living at 28 Barbary Lane in anything-goes 1970s San Francisco. The series received universal acclaim when it debuted in 1994, hailed as “a brilliant evocation of a time and place” (Los Angeles Times), and remains a television landmark. (DVD 2-disc set)

Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection (Blu-ray Debut) – “A perfect marriage of astoundingly talented actress and brilliantly conceived character” (USA Today) – Blu-ray debut of the iconic, universally acclaimed police drama starring Oscar® winner Helen Mirren in her iconic, Emmy®-winning role. Mirren stars as Detective Jane Tennison, “one of the great character creations of our time” (The Washington Post), in this revolutionary police drama broadcast on PBS to universal acclaim and more than 20 major international awards, including seven Emmys® (three-time winner of "Outstanding Miniseries"), eight BAFTAs, and a Peabody. Guest stars include: Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), and Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary). The Blu-ray 7-Disc set includes nine feature-length mysteries in high-definition as well as a 50-minute behind-the-scenes special, featurette, and more.

Missions that Changed the War: German’s Last Ace (Athena, DVD Debut) – Narrated by Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, CSI: NY), the compelling documentary explores the downfall of Nazi Germany. Seen on the Military Channel, the riveting documentary series tells the story of three fighter pilots who played decisive roles in the aerial battles over Germany. Through original footage, expert military analyses, and never-before-seen interviews with the participants, Germany’s Last Ace revisits the events of May 12, 1944, which Nazi armaments minister Albert Speer considered the day that Germany lost the war. (DVD 2-disc set)

Coming in September:

Foyle’s War, Set 7 (DVD and Blu-ray debut of three new episodes airing on PBS beginning 9/15), P.G. Wodehouse’s Blandings, Series 1 (U.S. debut), Brainwave (Athena), Agatha Christie’s Poirot Series 7 & 8 (DVD/Blu-ray), War and Peace, and New Tricks Collection: Seasons 1-5


Earlier 2013 Releases Still Available

From Acorn: The Syndicate Series 1 (U.S. Debut, adapted as Lucky 7 by ABC), George Gently, Series 5 (U.S. Debut), George Gently Collection: Series 1-4, Vexed Series 2 (U.S. Debut), The First Churchills, The Politician’s Wife, Springhill Series 1 (U.S. Debut), The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries: Complete Collection, Doc Martin Special Collection: Series 1-5 + The Movies, A Fine Romance: Complete Collection, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Series 1 (U.S. Debut, DVD/Blu-ray), new, glamorous “lady detective” series; Midsomer Murders: Tom Barnaby’s Last Cases; Dirk Gently (U.S. Debut), based on the novels by beloved author Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy); Sugartown (U.S. Debut), charming BBC comedy; Foyle’s War: The Home Front Files, Sets 1-6, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Long-awaited DVD Debut) starring Geraldine McEwan (Agatha Christie’s Marple), Garrow’s Law: The Complete Collection, Maigret Complete Collection starring Michael Gambon, Murdoch Mysteries Collection: Seasons 1-4 (Blu-ray and DVD), Murdoch Mysteries, Season 5 (U.S. Debut, Blu-ray, DVD), Murdoch Mysteries, Season 2 (Blu-ray debut), No Job for a Lady: The Complete Collection (DVD Debut), Chance in a Million Complete Collection, A Mind to Kill Complete Collection, Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: The Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries, Agatha Christie’s Poirot & Marple Fan Favorites Collection, Wodehouse Playhouse Complete, Above Suspicion Set 2 (U.S. debut) starring Kelly Reilly and Ciaran Hinds, Testimony of Two Men (DVD Debut), Doctor Zhivago starring Keira Knightley, Trial & Retribution, Set 6 (U.S. Debut), Lillie starring Francesca Annis, and Midsomer Murders Set 21 (U.S. Debut, Blu-ray and DVD).

From Athena Documentaries:

Understanding Art: Hidden Lives of Masterpieces (U.S. Debut), Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy (DVD Debut), Bill Moyers: Beyond Hate, Shakespeare: The King's Man (U.S. Debut, Athena), a captivating 2012 BBC documentary exploring Shakespeare’s later plays; Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers – 25th Anniversary Edition, Missions That Changed the War: The Doolittle Raid (DVD Debut) narrated by Gary Sinise, She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens (DVD debut), The Story of Math Collection, and Bill Moyers: Becoming American.

Best British TV streaming service Acorn TV is featuring a free 30-day trial for complete access to the 18 different series plus marathons. Thereafter, a subscription is just $2.99/mth or $29.99/yr. Each week three new seasons are added and three are removed. The press login/password for complete access is readily available upon request. Acorn TV adds the U.S. Premieres of four more feature-length mysteries from its top selling series with MIDSOMER MURDERS, SET 22 and favorite episodes of the hit UK reality series TIME TEAM; the universally acclaimed miniseries TALES OF THE CITY: 20th Anniversary, starring Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Billy Campbell, Paul Gross, and Thomas Gibson; the complete FORSYTE SAGA starring Emmy-winner® Damian Lewis (Homeland), as well as marathons of 2012 public TV sensation DOC MARTIN (38 episodes plus two movies) starring Martin Clunes, and anthology mystery series THE RUTH RENDELL MYSTERIES (17 feature-length mysteries) featuring stars Colin Firth, Honeysuckle Weeks and Amanda Redman; and international kidnapping thriller KIDNAP & RANSOM; among many others. Press access readily available upon request.

An RLJ Entertainment, Inc. brand (NASDAQ: RLJE), Athena releases provide an authoritative and entertaining learning experience through high quality, informative, non-fiction programming. Athena’s 2013 releases include: Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth: 25th Anniversary Edition, She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens, Missions That Changed the War: The Doolittle Raid, Shakespeare: The King’s Man, The Story of Math Collection, and Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy.

An RLJ Entertainment, Inc. brand (NASDAQ: RLJE), Acorn specializes in the best of British television on DVD/Blu-ray. 2013 releases include: Jack Irish starring Guy Pearce, BBC’s The Syndicate, The Fall starring Gillian Anderson, North & South starring Patrick Stewart, Falcón starring Marton Csokas, Jack Taylor starring Iain Glen, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Doc Martin Special Collection, Helen Mirren’s Prime Suspect and Smiley’s People on Blu-ray, Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently, star-studded Tales of the City: 20th Anniversary Edition, and more episodes from Foyle’s War, George Gently, New Tricks, Murdoch Mysteries, Midsomer Murders and Vera.

Acorn’s and Athena’s DVD sets are available from select retailers, catalog companies, and direct from Acorn Media at (888) 870-8047 or and Select series are streaming at Acorn TV, the first British TV-focused streaming service, at

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Henry "Man of Steel" Cavill's Saucy Early Role in Midsomer Murders -- Watch Clips Here!

Acorn Media, “curators of the best Brit TV” (TIME), has just reminded us of "Man of Steel" Henry Cavill's early role on "Midsomer Murders" as the cheeky Simon Mayfield.

Unlike in his Superman role, the clips find Cavill in a devilish display of behaviors expected of any youth-cut-loose. Photos and clips are linked below of the saucy star in The Green Man (Season 7, Episode 1, Nov. 2003) as he gets attacked by a wild animal and is an animal himself in other ways.

Here are some of our past reviews of "Midsomer Murders":

Midsomer Murders: Set 17
Midsomer Murders: Set 18
Midsomer Murders: Set 19
Midsomer Murders: Set 20
Midsomer Murders: Set 21
Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Top 10


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NEW TRICKS: SEASON NINE -- DVD review by porfle

After eight seasons of just getting better and better, Acorn Media's 3-disc DVD set NEW TRICKS: SEASON NINE gives us a look at a great TV series undergoing a nerve-rattling shakeup but still managing to maintain its composure.

The gang at UCOS (Unsolved Crimes and Open Case Squad)--three retired, geriatric cops and their plucky female boss and full-time den mother Det. Supt. Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman)--are still tucked away in a secluded basement office and not given the credit they've earned during years of brilliant detective work. But word's finally getting around about these guys, with Pullman no longer regarding it as a dead-end job and even their formerly dismissive supervisor D.A.C. Strickland (Anthony Calf) beginning to recognize what an asset they are.

Alun Armstrong and Dennis Waterman continue to shine as, respectively, emotionally-unstable OCD casualty Brian Lane and thrice-divorced curmudgeon Gerry Standing (Waterman also sings the show's theme song, "It's Alright"). Part of that shakeup I referred to earlier occurs in the season opener, "A Death in the Family", when the team's oldest and wisest member, Jack Halford (James Bolam), who has been Sandra's mentor for many years, announces his this-time-for-real retirement.

The case at hand--a "Jack the Ripper" style murder that took place over a hundred years earlier--is soon pushed aside in our minds as we wonder what the real reason is behind Jack's leaving. Ultimately, what will be Bolam's final episode is resolved in a quick and relatively unsentimental way, so the show gets credit for not going the maudlin route here. (Tim McInnerny's guest turn as shady government operative Stephen Fisher, who forces the team to work on the case without telling them why, is a highlight.)

This, of course, leaves us fans wondering what's to become of the team and the show. UCOS gets by for a couple more episodes ("Old School Ties", about the unsolved murder of a teacher in an uppercrust girls' school, and the consistently interesting and twisty "Queen and Country") with just Sandra, Gerry, and Brian bearing the caseload. While the truncated team is surprisingly effective, there's still something missing without a third retiree to round things out.

Then, with "The Girl Who Lived", a fascinating story of a girl who is missing and presumed dead for years until her DNA is found at the scene of a convenience store holdup, comes retired Scottish cop Steve McAndrew, who aids the team due to his personal involvement in the original case years before and ends up becoming a permanent replacement for Jack. Steve's character strongly asserts his own unique personality traits early on--he's cocky, brash, and tough, he's a rule-bender, and he enjoys a drink or two (making him a good playmate for Gerry but not recovering alcoholic Brian, who starts to feel left out).

McAndrew is played by Denis Lawson, a name I didn't recognize at first although the face seemed vaguely familiar (it might've helped if I'd pictured him with dark hair instead of the current white). Checking his page on IMDb I found that he'd been in all three films of the original "Star Wars" trilogy. Character name? Wedge. He was WEDGE, for Pete's sake! You could've knocked me over with an Ewok! Needless to say, I looked at him in a different light from then on.

As a replacement for James Bolam, Lawson is still proving himself. Still, he's a fun addition to the team and, since he's the new guy and tends to behave impulsively, he keeps things unpredictable. Another element of freshness to this season's stories is the increased involvement of D.A.C. Strickland, whose attitude toward UCOS has evolved from adversarial to almost paternal.

"Body of Evidence" involves a missing corpse that turns up in a hospital morgue after lying there under the wrong name for a year. "Love Means Nothing in Tennis" is the story of an up-and-coming young tennis star who falls over the balcony of her penthouse apartment after losing a crucial match. Suicide or murder? Her tennis rivals and their flaky mothers are all caught up in the web of suspicion. Alexei Sayle guest stars.

Brian is enchanted by the world of poetry in "Dead Poets", while a more cynical Gerry just wants to find out who murdered a young poet and incinerated him in the scrapyard of a local drug dealer. "Blue Flower" is the compelling tale an East Berlin couple who, before the fall of the Berlin wall, helped their baby escape while staying behind themselves. Years later, the father searches for his now-grown daughter in England but is murdered on the street by an unknown assailant, which is only the beginning of a complicated web of betrayal and deceit.

"Glasgow UCOS" plays almost like the pilot for a proposed spinoff, with Gerry joining new partner Steve as he returns to Scotland to help inaugurate their new UCOS team but discovers that he's really there to help solve an old case that no one else wants to dirty their hands on. The final show of the season, "Part of a Whole", marks the return of Tim McInnerny as sneaky government agent Stephen Fisher, as a 30-year-old undercover exploit threatens the lives of everyone originally involved--including D.A.C. Strickland--in a riveting tale loaded with intrigue, action, and surprises.

The 3-disc, 10-episode DVD from Acorn Media is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound and English subtitles. Bonuses consist of two featurettes--a "making of" short (12 min.) and a look at some of the stunts involved in the episode, "Part of a Whole."

With more cast changes supposedly in the offing (I hear about these things but don't follow up on them because I don't want to spoil it for myself), one wonders how long "New Tricks" can continue to operate with its original cast dwindling. But for now anyway, NEW TRICKS: SEASON NINE is quite enough to keep fans satisfied a while longer. As usual, it's the interactions of the characters more than the sometimes overly-complicated plots that really keep us coming back for more.

Buy it at

Thursday, June 13, 2013

JACK TAYLOR: SET 1 -- DVD review by porfle

Jack Taylor is, as they say, a hot mess. "How the mighty have fallen" his own mother sourly remarks of the former Garda (i.e., Irish cop) for the city of Galway, now kicked off the force for misbehaving and working as a lowly private investigator who can't stay off the sauce. In this trio of feature-length adventures in Acorn Media's 3-disc collection JACK TAYLOR: SET 1, it's a wonder that the terminally hungover and frequently beaten-within-an-inch-of-his-life gumshoe ever makes it through a case alive.

We're introduced to Jack pretty cold, without the usual "getting to know you" formalities, so at first he comes off as a fairly unlikable character as we see him throwing his Garda career away by chasing down the car of a government bigwig for "speeding" and then punching the guy's lights out for complaining. Jack then gets drunk, gets de-badged, gets drunk again, sinks to the level of becoming a "finder" (they don't seem to be popular in Ireland), and celebrates by getting drunk.

It isn't until we start finding out why Jack stays loaded all the time that we begin to warm up to him somewhat, beginning with his less than idyllic upbringing (meeting his mom tells us a lot) and his generally unfortunate experiences in regard to all manner of personal relationships. The only people who seem to like him are an inexplicably supportive landlady, a prickly, chain-smoking priest (Paraic Breathnach as Father Malachy), and a young female Garda named Kate (the striking Nora-Jane Noone of THE DESCENT) who doesn't know him well enough yet to dislike him, along with various old drinking buddies who have a tendency to get killed or turn out to be bad guys.

Anyway, after seeing what Jack has to put up with on a daily basis, his chronic alcoholism becomes somewhat more understandable and he begins to grow on us. (Like a rash.) Most importantly, the cases he gets drawn into are consistently interesting, leading us through all sorts of deepening twists and turns and dramatic character exchanges before coming to a suspenseful finish.

Making things harder for Jack is his tendency to get soundly thrashed (we're talking emergency-room-level beat-ups here) and to react to bad news by going on a "lost weekend" bender that would make Ray Milland jealous, then waking up with no memory of the previous three days or so. (Which tends to hinder his job performance.) And bad news is a major part of his job since, coincidentally, most of the cases he takes on seem to involve people from his personal life including his own hatchet-faced mum.

Iain Glen (THE IRON LADY, TARA ROAD), who has the ability to look either shabbily distinguished or just plain shabby, is an ideal choice to play Jack. Glen allows us to see the good qualities that Jack keeps hidden beneath his rough exterior, but also manages to convey a menacing resolve that comes to the fore when Jack gets kicked around once too often. The rest of the regular cast are fine as well, especially Nora-Jane Noone as Jack's reluctant insider ally, Kate. Direction by Stuart Orme (COLDITZ) is casual but controlled, which fits the material and atmosphere of the show well. Scriptwriting is consistently sharp.

The first feature-length episode, "The Guards" (2010), is Jack's origin story, as it were. The bodies of young girls are washing up onshore and the police tend to chalk it up to suicide. Anne (Tara Breathnach), the mother of a missing teenage girl, hires Jack to find her daughter before she meets the same mysterious fate. Jack enlists the aid of an old drinking mate, Sutton (Ralph Brown, ALIEN 3's celebrated "Eighty-Five"), when he discovers a connection between the drownings and a couple of local businessmen who may have a few unsavory sexual hang-ups. The trouble is, Sutton turns out to be just as out-of-control as the bad guys, turning Jack's investigation into a royal cock-up that isn't helped when he starts getting romantic with his client. Once we get to know and like Jack, "The Guards" becomes an engrossing murder mystery with a satisfying ending.

"The Pikemen" (2011) is the story of a group of hooded vigilantes terrorizing Galway, with Jack being hired by the father of a man murdered by the gang for no apparent reason. Jack picks up an unwanted partner named Cody (Killian Scott), an enthusiastic teen who idolizes him and wants to be Robin to Jack's Batman. With their signature weapons--a combination axe and spear--the Pikemen wreak bloody havoc with anyone they consider guilty of a crime for which they've gone unpunished, while making things unpleasant for Jack when he starts getting too close. Jack gets beaten up really bad, in addition to being framed for murder, in this extremely lively and emotional tale about unbearable guilt and self-righteous vengeance.

Finally, "The Magdalen Martyrs" (2011) is the heartrending tale of a sadistic nun (Sarah O'Toole) aptly nicknamed "Lucifer" by the young girls whose lives she makes a living hell by torturing them for their sins (such as smoking and having lustful thoughts). Years later, the daughter of one of the girls hires Jack to locate "Lucifer" with the help of a diary, through which--in one of those wild coincidences that this show asks us to accept--Jack discovers that his own mother was one of the monstrous nun's cowering victims.

With all this juicy stuff going on, there's a subplot in which teen boys are being murdered by a professional hitman, with Jack's old drug-dealing nemesis Cassel (Liam Carney) lingering at death's door just long enough to make Jack's life miserable for reasons as yet unknown. How these two seemingly unrelated storylines come together leads to an intensely exciting nailbiting conclusion that ends this set with a bang.

The 3-disc set from Acorn Media is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound and subtitles in English. Extras consist of a brief photo gallery for each episode.

In a world that has no respect for private detectives, and doesn't deem you automatically cool just for being one, Jack Taylor overcomes his personal vices and shortcomings and manages to do the right thing for his clients--eventually--while giving us some first-class entertainment along the way. JACK TAYLOR: SET 1 is sophisticated adult stuff, straight-up and 100 proof, and just right for a lost weekend of intoxicating binge viewing.

Buy it at

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

THE MANSON FAMILY -- Blu-Ray review by porfle

If you've followed the Manson family case over the years, chances are you've seen the whole range of stuff from sober documentary-style films to the most exploitative trash that various sick minds can churn out. THE MANSON FAMILY (2003) falls somewhere in between the two extremes for most of its running time before finally delving feet first into extreme gore and wallowing around in it.

One thing's for sure, this isn't just some fly-by-night knock-off. Writer-director Jim Van Bebber spent close to twelve years, off and on, trying to get his vision of Charlie and the gang into releasable shape and in front of audiences, and clearly a great deal of work went into it. While loosely edited and seemingly slapdash at times, this merely adds to the documentary feel the film often achieves--in fact, much of its visual and narrative style is based largely on the amazing Robert Hendrickson-Laurence Merrick documentary "Manson" (1973), which featured the real Manson family going about their everyday psychotic lives at Spahn Ranch and engaging in sex and drug orgies while regurgitating buttloads of verbal sewage their spongelike minds had absorbed from their googly-eyed, motormouthed leader. To make it resemble old documentary footage even more, the film has been heavily aged "Grindhouse" style.

Van Bebber cherry-picked the most interesting and/or believable passages from the various first-hand (but often contradictory) accounts available for his screenplay, relying mainly on that of Manson's right-hand man Charles "Tex" Watson because of his apparent ability to remember things in detail. The first three-quarters of the film establish Charlie's initial influence over his easily manipulated followers, many of whom were runaways seeking love and stability or anti-establishment rebels looking to drop out of society. With the strangely charismatic ex-con Charlie coming on like a sage to some and a messianic figure to others, the story is told largely in a stream-of-consciousness style that's sometimes surreal and sometimes hyper-real.

This includes copious amounts of softcore sex scenes featuring some women who look remarkably stunning in the nude, particularly Leslie Orr as Patty Krenwinkel and Maureen Allisse as Manson's favorite, Susan Atkins, aka "Sadie Mae Glutz" (both of whom were actually rather homely in real life). Their seemingly idyllic lifestyle, however, gradually gives way to darker accounts of gang-rape, kidnapping, and threats of bodily harm to those who want to leave the family. Charlie's criminal tendencies come to the fore in other ways as well, with violence and terror becoming the standard means of getting what he wants.

It's at this point, late in the film, that THE MANSON FAMILY starts to fulfill what we've come to anticipate will eventually take place on the screen if indeed Van Bebber has chosen to go the exploitation route--which he has, with a vengeance. Various early murders include the marathon death of Gary Hinman at the hands of Bobby Beausoleil (Van Bebber) and Sadie, culminating in the infamous two nights of horror that comprised the Tate/LaBianca murders. Those familiar with Vincent Bugliosi's "Helter Skelter" and other detailed accounts of the killings will recognize much of what happens here as true-to-life even as they recoil at seeing it portrayed in such graphic, gore-movie terms.

Van Bebber pulls no punches here--the screen is awash in blood as beatings, stabbings, slashings, strangulations, and shootings abound in the most graphic detail, with very little left to the imagination. It may leave some viewers wondering just how healthy or unhealthy their interest in this material is--are they watching to learn about these events, or to get a vicarious thrill from seeing them? Is Van Bebber simply playing up to our basest instincts here, or is he forcing us to confront the horrors that we usually only allow ourselves to imagine in the most vague terms? And what of the gorehounds whose only consideration, as we're well aware, is simply to react in paroxysms of delight? Needless to say, we're left to work out all of these conflicting feelings ourselves.

With all of this going on, it's a shame that the central figure of the story, Charles Manson, is so miscast, with Marcelo Games almost wholly ineffective in the role. It's hard to imagine anyone paying any attention to this guy, much less following him into hell. On the other hand, Leslie Orr and Maureen Allisse are fantastic as Patty and Sadie, with Orr in particular doing a superb job of aping the typical Manson fanatic stridently spouting Charlie-isms or reacting with a combination of revulsion and sadistic glee at her own brutality.

Marc Pitman looks nothing like "Tex" Watson but carries the role fairly well especially during the harrowing Tate sequence in which he is seen sporting demonic ram's horns (although he doesn't levitate as Atkins claimed he did in her memoirs) and doing most of the killing himself. The rest of the cast varies wildly, with some coming off rather poorly and others quite convincing during the "interview" segments.

The Blu-Ray disc from Severin Films is in full frame with Dolby 5.1 sound. No subtitles. Lots of extras include Jim Van Bebber's recent horror short "Gator Green", his audio commentary for the film, an interview with composer Phil Anselmo, deleted scenes and trailers, a 10-minute interview with Charlie himself (which is typically incomprehensible), a lengthy making-of doc called "The Van Bebber Family" featuring cast and crew interviews, and a feature-length film "In the Belly of the Beast" which explores the trials and travails of Van Bebber and other indie filmmakers (including "Hardware" director Richard Stanley) as they preview their work at the 1997 Fantasia Film Festival.

For a movie with such a patchwork production history, THE MANSON FAMILY is remarkably consistent--Van Bebber picks up the threads of this supremely lurid story and weaves them inexorably through the family's evolution from free-love hippie commune to ragtag guerilla army of terror and murder. (Only the latter-day subplot about a Goth murder gang emulating the Manson family in the 90s seems out of place.) It's a damned ugly story, though, especially with these real-life murders depicted in such excruciating detail, and each individual viewer is going to have to decide whether they consider this a good movie or an affront to their sensibilities. As for me, I found this earnestly-made indie to be intermittently interesting, somewhat entertaining, and moderately worthwhile.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

HBO Home Entertainment's "Behind the Candelabra" Stars Michael Douglas as Liberace

"A Visual Feast" - USA Today


Starring Academy Award® winners Michael Douglas and Matt Damon

Directed by Academy Award®-winning Director Steven Soderbergh

Available September 17, 2013 on Blu-ray™ with Digital Copy, DVD & Digital Download

New York, N.Y., June 6, 2013 - As glittering and outrageous as Liberace himself, HBO Films® Behind the Candelabra takes a look at the flamboyant entertainer's private world, focusing on his tempestuous relationship with Scott Thorson, his young live-in lover for five years. Based on Thorson's tell-all memoir "Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace," the film is directed by Academy Award® winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) and features electrifying performances by Academy Award® winners Michael Douglas (Wall Street) as Liberace and Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting) as Thorson.

During its premiere, the film became one of HBO's most watched original films in nearly 10 years. Behind the Candelabra streets on Blu-ray with Digital Copy ($24.99), DVD ($19.97) and Digital Download on September 17, 2013. The Blu-ray with Digital Copy includes "The Making of Behind the Candelabra" which explores the legacy of Liberace through costumes, sets, locations, and prosthetics with several cast and the crew members including Douglas and Damon.

Before Elvis, before Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was Liberace: virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer and flamboyant star of stage and television. A name synonymous with showmanship, extravagance and candelabras, he was a world-renowned performer with a flair that endeared him to his audiences and created a loyal fan base spanning his 40-year career. Liberace lived lavishly and embraced a lifestyle of excess both on and off stage.

In summer 1977, handsome young stranger Scott Thorson walked into his dressing room and, despite their age difference and seemingly different worlds, the two embarked on a secretive five-year love affair. Behind the Candelabra captures the essence of Liberace's appeal, while reminding viewers how different attitudes were at the time, as he and his management fiercely protected his public persona.

The film features an all-star supporting cast including Emmy® winner and Academy Award® nominee Dan Aykroyd, Golden Globe winner and Emmy® nominee Scott Bakula, SAG Award winner and multiple Golden Globe nominee Rob Lowe, Tom Papa, multiple Emmy® and Golden Globe nominee Paul Reiser and Academy Award® Golden Globe and Emmy® nominee Debbie Reynolds. Executive produced by Emmy®-winning producer Jerry Weintraub from a script by Academy Award® nominee Richard LaGravenese, the film is produced by Gregory Jacobs, Susan Ekins and Michael Polaire (Contagion, Haywire) and music was adapted by the late Marvin Hamlisch.

Behind the Candelabra
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, DVD & Digital Download
Street Date: September 17, 2012
Order Date: July 30, 2012
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: Approx. 118 minutes (excluding bonus feature)
Price: $24.99 Blu-ray with Digital Copy (1 Disc)
Price: $19.97 DVD (1 Disc)

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013




BEVERLY HILLS , CA – It has become a cultural phenomenon. The fans embrace it, the critics adore it. And now the stakes have never been higher for the survivors...On August 27th, Anchor Bay Entertainment unleashes AMC’s original series THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON on Blu-ray™ and DVD. Available as a 5-disc set in each format, the release contains all sixteen episodes from the past season. Like the previous releases, THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON comes stuffed with tons of bonus features, including exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, never-before-seen featurettes, audio commentaries from cast and crew, deleted scenes and other surprises!

In addition, Anchor Bay proudly announces that, in response to overwhelming fan response to last year’s Season 2 limited edition “zombie head” packaging, THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON Blu-ray™ will be available in a limited edition “zombie head tank” package (water not included!) specially created once again by McFarlane Toys. SRP is $79.99 for the Blu-ray™, $69.98 for the DVD and $149.99 for the Blu-ray™ limited edition. Pre-book is July 31st.

Based on the hugely popular graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON continues to draw in record audiences. Season 3 follows the weary group of survivors led by police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), as they take refuge in a prison and attempt to set up a permanent camp. But while invading zombies are an ever-present danger, they must also battle the living, not only in the form of abandoned prisoners, but also the sadistic “Governor” (David Morrissey) and his followers. New characters introduced this season include Danai Gurira as “Michonne,” with her two “zombie pets” in tow, and Dallas Roberts (Shadow People) as the Governor’s lieutenant Milton, as well as the return of Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker).

THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON cast also includes Laurie Holden, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, IronE Singleton, Chandler Riggs, Scott Wilson and Melissa McBride.

Season 4 of “The Walking Dead” premieres on AMC this October.

About AMC
Whether commemorating favorite films from every genre and decade or creating acclaimed original programming, AMC brings to its audience something deeper, something richer, Something More. The network reigns as the only cable network in history ever to win the Emmy® Award for Outstanding Drama Series four years in a row, and boasts the most-watched drama series in basic cable history with “The Walking Dead.” AMC’s original drama series include “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Killing” and “Hell on Wheels.” Its newest series, “Low Winter Sun,” premieres this summer. AMC also explores authentic worlds with bold characters through its slate of unscripted original series like “Comic Book Men,” “Small Town Security,” “Talking Dead,” and “Freakshow.” AMC is owned and operated by AMC Networks Inc. and its sister networks include IFC, Sundance Channel, and WE tv. AMC is available across all platforms, including on-air, online, on demand and mobile. AMC: Something More.

About Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment is a leading home entertainment company. Anchor Bay acquires and distributes feature films, original television programming including STARZ Original series, children's entertainment, anime (Manga Entertainment), fitness (Anchor Bay Fitness), sports, and other filmed entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray™ formats. The company has long term distribution agreements in place for select programming with AMC Networks, RADiUS, and The Weinstein Company. Headquartered in Beverly Hills , CA , Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy , MI , as well as Canada , the United Kingdom and Australia . Anchor Bay Entertainment ( is a Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) business,

Street Date: August 27, 2013
Pre-book: July 31, 2013
Cat. #: BD60091
UPC: 0 1313 260091-8 8 0
Run Time: 688 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated
SRP: $79.99
Format: Widescreen Presentation 1.78:1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles: English and Spanish

Street Date: August 27, 2013
Pre-book: July 31, 2013
Cat. #: DV60090
UPC: 1313 260090-1 8 0
Run Time: 688 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated
SRP: $69.98
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles: English and Spanish

Street Date: August 27, 2013
Pre-book: July 31, 2013
Cat. #: BD60540
UPC: 0 1313 260540-1 8 0
Run Time: 688 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated
SRP: $149.99
Format: Widescreen Presentation 1.78:1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles: English and Spanish

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Blu-Ray Limited Edition

"THE DEMENTED" from Anchor Bay Films – Catch it July 30th on Blu-ray/DVD Combo and DVD

“This is not a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. We are under attack...”


Spreading terror July 30th on Blu-ray™/DVD Combo Pack and DVD

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Horror films often take their cue from daily newspaper headlines, feeding on the all-too-real fears of the everyday world. Like the best science fiction, sometimes horror lies just around the corner or beyond the bend of what we know. On July 30th, Anchor Bay Films unleashes the biological warfare thriller The Demented on Blu-ray™/DVD combo pack and DVD. From the creative minds behind I Spit On Your Grave and A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Demented is a terrifying excursion into a plague-infected world...where one moment off guard is all that keeps us from becoming them.

With a hot cast including Sarah Butler (I Spit On Your Grave), Brittney Alger (21 Jump Street), Kayla Ewell (“The Vampire Diaries”), Richard Kohnke (“The Carrie Diaries”) and Michael Welch (The Twilight Saga Franchise), The Demented will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last frame! SRP for the Blu-ray™/DVD Combo Pack is $29.99 and $24.98 for the DVD. Pre-book is July 3rd.

The Demented follows six college friends as they meet up for a carefree weekend in a beautiful rural home. A terrorist missile attack in a nearby town infects much of the townspeople with a deadly virus that induces rabies-like symptoms...with devastating consequences. Ravenous and fast, the infected townspeople turn their sights on the vacation home where the friends are gathered...and are now barricaded. How long can they hide? Even with the infected “sleeping” in the streets, can they make their escape? If so, to what?

About Anchor Bay Films:
Anchor Bay Films is a division of Anchor Bay Entertainment and provides quality movie distribution with operations in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and offers distribution capabilities in other key territories. Anchor Bay Films uniquely offers the creative community a fully integrated distribution capability on all platforms and an international solution extending beyond the United States. The company focuses on a platform release strategy for its films with an eye toward maximizing their potential across all ancillary distribution platforms. Anchor Bay Entertainment ( is a Starz (NASDAQ: STRZA, STRZB) business,

Street date: July 30, 2013
Pre-book: July 3, 2013
Item #: 013132606965
UPC: BD60696
Run time: 92 minutes
Rating: R
Subtitles: English SDH/Spanish
SRP: $29.99
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 1080p (Blu)
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (Blu)

Street date: July 30, 2013
Pre-book: July 3, 2013
Item #: 013132606941
UPC: AF60694
Run time: 92 minutes
Rating: R
Subtitles: English SDH/Spanish
SRP: $24.98
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1

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Blu-Ray/DVD Combo

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Anchor Bay Entertainment Presents Eco-Thriller "SUPER STORM" on Blu-ray and DVD August 13th

On August 13th, Anchor Bay Entertainment releases the outrageous eco-thriller Super Storm on Blu-ray™ and DVD

This Syfy Original Movie conjures up some of the most cataclysmic space storms ever to invade Earth. Directed by Jason Bourque (Snowmageddon), Super Storm stars David Sutcliffe (“Private Practice”), Erica Cerra (“Eureka”), Brett Dier (“The L.A. Complex”), Leah Cairns (“Battlestar Galactica”), Luisa D’Oliveira (Seeds Of Destruction) and Mitch Pileggi (“The X-Files,” “Sons of Anarchy”). The SRP for the Blu-ray™ is $24.99 and $19.98 for DVD. The pre-book is July 17th.

When Jupiter’s red spot suddenly disappears, it triggers furious electrical storms and savage mega-cyclones that destroy America’s major cities. But a small-town detention-bound teen with an extraordinary science project may have the answer that could halt Earth’s annihilation: Can capturing ‘The Destruction Particle’ end this weather carnage or is nature’s fury going to get even more destructive?

Unlikely? Unimaginable? Unheard of? Probably, but who cares, the end of the world has never been this entertaining! So, hold on to your seats - Super Storm will blow you away!

Super Storm Blu-ray™
Street Date: August 13, 2013
Pre-Book: July 17, 2013
UPC #: 01313 26033-91
Item: BD60339
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Retail Price: $24.99
Genre: Sci-Fi
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 89 Minutes
Year: 2011

Super Storm DVD
Street Date: August 13, 2013
Pre-Book: July 17, 2013
UPC #: 01313 26033-84
Item: DV60338
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Retail Price: $19.98
Genre: Sci-Fi
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 89 Minute
Year: 2011
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