Documentaries and stage shows lead TV on DVD, Blu-ray this week
Posted November 6
Some intriguing documentaries are on Blu-ray and DVD this week, along with a trio of stage productions and a variety of television series.
“Living in the Age of Airplanes” (National Geographic, 2016, deleted scenes, featurettes). Air travel is one of those things we all just take for granted these days. What’s flying from Utah to New York when people are planning a trip to Mars? But flight is still quite the modern miracle (jet airline travel is just 60 years old), and this 45-minute Imax documentary narrated by Harrison Ford is stunning proof, taking the audience over 18 countries and all seven continents with eye-popping visuals, plus 100 minutes of bonus footage.
“Gypsy” (Shout Broadway, 2015).
“Candide” (Shout Broadway, 2004).
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Concert” (Shout Broadway, 2001, featurette). These three releases are lauded stage productions, each making a stunning Blu-ray debut. The musical “Gypsy,” by Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne and Arthur Laurents, is the 2015 West End revival with a dynamic lead performance by Imelda Staunton; “Candide” is the Leonard Bernstein two-act operetta in concert, which aired on PBS in 2004, with Kristin Chenoweth and Patti LuPone, and Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” is a 2001 concert with LuPone and Neil Patrick Harris.
“50 Years of Star Trek” (Lionsgate, 2015).
“Building Star Trek” (Smithsonian, 2016). For the 50th year of “Star Trek,” these two documentaries about the seminal sci-fi TV series take very different approaches. “50 Years” chronicles the show’s development and long run with subsequent series and movies, interviewing many participants (including Leonard Nimoy in his last interview). “Building” takes a more stripped-down approach to look at the show’s impact on science and technology against the backdrop of the Smithsonian’s restoration of the original 250-pound model of the USS Enterprise.
“One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich & the Lost American Film” (Warner Archive, 2015, not rated). This is an enjoyable documentary (despite some glaring technical deficiencies) about the ups and downs of filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich (“Mask,” “The Last Picture Show,” “What’s Up, Doc?”), focusing on his underrated 1981 romantic comedy “They All Laughed” and the tragic death of Dorothy Stratten before it was completed. Bogdanovich and family members are interviewed, along with Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Ben Gazzara and an array of film critics and younger filmmakers. (Manufacture-on-demand DVD-R, available at warnerarchive.com)
“Gleason” (Sony, 2016, R for language, audio commentary). This is a documentary profile of former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed at age 34 with Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS. This project began as a video journal for Gleason’s first child and evolved into a look at medical technologies to deal with the disease and Gleason’s foundation for others similarly afflicted.
“The Durrells in Corfu: The Complete First Season” (PBS, 2016, two discs, six episodes, featurettes). This is a charming, amusing British comedy-drama series based on Gerald Durrell’s autobiographical books about his mother’s abrupt decision to move her four children to the Greek island of Corfu, where they lived from 1935 to 1939, with all the attendant culture shock. (A second season will be shown during 2017.)
“Outlander: Season Two” (Sony, 2016, five discs, 13 episodes, extended episode, deleted/extended scenes, featurettes, podcasts, bloopers). Claire and Jamie are in France this season, taking on the Jacobite rebellion while navigating political intrigue in high-class French society. Based on the time-traveling historical novels of Diana Gabaldon. (Season 3 will begin mid-2017 on Starz.)
“Hell on Wheels: Season 5, Volume 2: The Final Episodes” (AMC/eOne, 2016, two discs, seven episodes, featurettes). This Western series winds down as the Central Pacific Railroad traverses Nevada and Utah to meet the Union Pacific. Mormon characters continue to abound (including Brigham Young), and many of them are less than righteous.
“Simple Gifts: The Chamber Music Society at Shaker Village” (PBS, 2016). The “Live from Lincoln Center” crew followed the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center last year as it took up its annual residency at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky and performed American music in a converted tobacco barn. Included is Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”
“Craft in America: Teachers” (PBS, 2016). This hourlong episode observes Navajo weavers, Hawaiian glass artists, a Studio Glass Movement program in Nebraska and the Alfred University School of Art and Design in Alfred, New York.
“My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Legend of Everfree” (Shout! Kids, 2016, audio commentary, singalongs, bloopers). This feature-length (74 minutes) cartoon sequel to last year’s “Friendship Games” has Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, etc., on a field trip to Camp Everfree, where some dark magic turns up.
“Care Bears & Cousins: Take Heart, Volume 1” (Lionsgate, 2015, six episodes). These are the first six episodes of the first season of this animated Care Bears spinoff, with Brave Heart Lion, Bright Heart Raccoon, Lotsa Heart Elephant and Cozy Heart Penguin.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.