Sophomore seasons of 'Brokenwood Mysteries,' 'Last Ship' on video
Posted May 10
A compelling murder-mystery series from New Zealand and a post-apocalyptic show set aboard a naval destroyer lead this week’s new TV programs on Blu-ray and DVD.
“The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 2” (Acorn, 2015, two-disc Blu-ray/four-disc DVD, four episodes, featurette, photo gallery). This excellent rural police procedural with a seasoned, eccentric police detective at its center is sort of a cross between “Midsomer Murders” and “Columbo,” with each episode built around cleverly plotted murder mysteries.
Detective Senior Sgt. Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea) — a country-music fan who still uses a cassette player in his 40-year-old car — speaks softly to homicide victims, intuits as many clues as he observes and has a keen eye for things that don’t quite fit. And he gets help from his more methodical young partner, Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland). There’s also a lot of welcome humor here.
The mysteries in this second season (or “series”) involve the ritual killing of a soccer coach, a cast member in a local “Hamlet” production dropping dead, a severed human hand being picked up in a fisherman’s net, and a touring musician’s suicide, which, naturally, may not be suicide after all.
Note: Some characters’ accents are quite thick on this show, so it helps to watch with the subtitles activated. (Series three is currently in production.)
“The Last Ship: The Complete Second Season” (TNT/Warner, 2015, three discs, 13 episodes, featurettes). In season one, a global pandemic took out 80 percent of the world’s population, which left a naval destroyer’s unaffected crew and a scientist with an understanding of the problem to find a cure while battling power-hungry mercenaries. This season, after returning to the United States and having their ship wrested from them, the crew members attempt to take back control. But, of course, nothing is easy. This is a very good action-filled, end-of-the-world show that is surprisingly bereft of offensive content. Best of all, no zombies. (Season three begins June 12 on TNT.)
“Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors” (Warner, 2015, deleted scenes, featurette). This low-key, deliberately old-fashioned tale is about 9-year-old Dolly Parton (Alyvia Alyn Lind) struggling in the midst of family tragedies while dreaming of becoming a professional singer, and how a patchwork coat ultimately becomes a source of inspiration. This TV faith film, which was shown in December on NBC, is a biographical story by Parton, who also narrates. Co-stars include Jennifer Nettles, Ricky Schroder, Gerald McRaney and Stella Parton, Dolly’s younger sister.
“Janis: Little Girl Blue” (MVD, 2015, deleted/extended scenes, featurettes). This is a biographical documentary of blues singer Janis Joplin, who died in 1970 at age 27 from a drug overdose. This covers her troubled youth and her rise as a musician and boasts interviews with Dick Cavett, Clive Davis, Melissa Etheridge and Kris Kristofferson, among others, along with archival footage of Cass Elliott, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and Otis Redding. But it’s Joplin’s music that will move you and perhaps leave you wondering what heights she might have reached had she lived longer.
“Pride and Joy: The Story of Alligator Records” (MVD, 1992, deleted scenes). Alligator Records is a Chicago blues label founded in 1971, and this Robert Mugge film chronicles the company’s 20th Anniversary Tour, which brought together Koko Taylor and her Blues Machine, Elvin Bishop, Katie Webster, the Lonnie Brooks Band and Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials to perform in concerts that lasted more than four hours. Mugge includes familiar documentary elements, but the emphasis is on music. (The deleted scenes are 10 more performances from the tour.)
“Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir” (Zag/Shout! Kids, 2015-16, seven episodes, featurettes, singalongs). This French animated series (dubbed in English, of course), which is shown on Nickelodeon, is about teenage superheroes Ladybug and Cat Noir, who team up to protect Paris from the Hawk Moth, a bad guy who turns everyday people into supervillains. Meanwhile, Ladybug and Cat Noir are unaware that in their off-duty secret identities, they are classmates in the ninth grade.
“Bob the Builder: Construction Heroes!” (Hit/Universal, 2015-16, six episodes, featurette, singalongs). This educational cartoon series shown on PBS teaches conflict resolution and cooperation skills to children as sunny Bob and his team show off their building skills.
“Let’s Learn: S.T.E.M., Vol. 2” (Paramount/Nickelodeon, 2012-15, seven episodes). This collection of episodes from “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” “Paw Patrol,” “Dora and Friends” and “Team Umizoomi” teaches kids about science, technology, engineering and math.
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.