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    The Casual Vacancy (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 3rd, 2015

    How do you follow up the biggest publishing phenomenon of the last 20 years? Well, if you’re J.K. Rowling, you excise all talk of horcruxes and Hogwarts and supplant it with warring parish council members and the idyllic village of Pagford. That’s the setting for The Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s 2012 follow-up to the Harry Potter series. The book has been adapted by BBC and HBO into a three-part miniseries. With its small-town setting and 23(!) main characters, the series simultaneously feels quaint and sprawling. It also made me wish I was able to spend more than three hours with these people.
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    The Missing (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 14th, 2015

    The longest-running crime dramas tend to be “case of the week” mysteries where the perp is comfortably caught within the hour. It’s a formula for sure, but it’s one that’s easy to replicate and works quite well if you have the right talent and personalities involved. In reality, of course, there are many cases when the crook isn’t captured before the end credits…or ever. The accompanying anger and uncertainty is much trickier (and messier) to convey dramatically. The Missing — a limited series from England that aired on Starz — isn’t the first show to tackle that territory, but it’s certainly a compelling recent example.
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    Coriolanus (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 29th, 2012

    “This Martius is grown from man to dragon. He has wings. He’s more than a creeping thing. There is no more mercy in him than there is milk in a male tiger.”

    There’s a certain hierarchy when it comes to the amount of cinematic interpretations of William Shakespeare’s plays. At the top tier, we have the endlessly adapted Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth the Scottish Play. A step below that, you’ve probably got your King Lear, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a few more. And about a dozen tiers below that, we finally come across Coriolanus.
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    Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on December 6th, 2011

    “On every world wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact midpoint, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, “Well done! Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.” Back on Earth, we call this Christmas, or the Winter Solstice. On this world, the first settlers called it the Crystal Feast. You know what I call it? I call it expecting something for nothing!”

    In 2005 the BBC decided to bring back the gone-but-never-forgotten character.
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    Upstairs Downstairs (2010)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 10th, 2011

    In the 1970’s the critically acclaimed Upstairs Downstairs was a television mainstay in England. American audiences were soon introduced to the series through PBS broadcasts in the late 1970’s and beyond. It was a unique kind of drama that served both as a period piece and an examination of the class lifestyles. The series began at the turn of the century and led up to the events of World War I and the period that soon followed. We were witness to the wealthy Bellamy family who occupied the estate at 165 Eaton Place.
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    Human Planet

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 10th, 2011

    “Only one creature has carved out a life for itself in every habitat on Earth. That creature is us. All over the world we still use our ingenuity to survive the wild places, far from the city lights, face to face with raw nature. This is the Human Planet.”

    Most of us live in, or at least near, a modern city. We live a life where our food comes from a grocery store. Sure, you might have a garden or even raise a few animals, but unless you live on a farm, you likely purchase most of what you eat from metal shelves in large buildings
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    Lennon Naked

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on December 9th, 2010

    In December of 1980, John Lennon was gunned down by a crazy man who was trying to get the attention of yet another celebrity. In 2010, the BBC assassinated the man’s character in this dreadful television film called Lennon Naked. I had such high hopes for the film. I rather like star Christopher Eccleston. I enjoyed his take on The Doctor from Doctor Who. He was also quite good in the zombie thriller 28 Days Later with a run as a man who can become invisible on Heroes. What made such a fine actor stoop so low as to take a gig like this is beyond my understanding.
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    Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 22nd, 2010

    Imagine a world where Winston Churchill battles deadly machines from space intent on dominating the universe, a place where Santa is a deadly menace, and a rather eccentric fellow travels about in a police call box with a rather deceptively spacious interior. To Dr. Who fans of all ages, this is all very familiar territory. I fell in love with Dr. Who as played by Tom Baker from 1974 – 1981. He was the fourth actor to portray the Doctor and arguably the most popular. With a pocket full of jelly babies and a trusty sonic screwdriver, the Doctor rather muddled his way about with a massive wool scarf around his neck,
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    Sherlock: Season One (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 22nd, 2010

    In 1887, readers of the popular periodical Beeton’s Christmas Annual were to receive quite a special treat. There wasn’t much fanfare or hype to the event. Inside the pages of the magazine was a story called A Study In Scarlet. It was a detective story, perhaps like many published before, except for the detective himself, a certain Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Together with his faithful companion and chronicler Dr. Watson, Holmes would win the hearts of those holiday readers.
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    The Chronicles of Narnia (BBC)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 22nd, 2010

    “Things never happen the same way twice.”

    C.S. Lewis created an incredibly imaginative world when he wrote his Chronicles Of Narnia. The stories were an escape, of sorts, from a war-torn Europe. They integrated elements of Christianity in an effort to provide a semblance of hope in the form of a children’s fairy tale. And like all such tales, the world of Narnia was first and foremost a place of magic and bewilderment. It was a place where fantastic creatures of both good and evil thrived,
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    How the Earth Changed History (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 29th, 2010

    “The Earth has immense power, and yet that’s rarely mentioned in our history books. I’m here to change all that.”

    The BBC has a reputation of putting out some very high quality documentaries, particularly recently in the high-definition age. Planet Earth became an award winning series lauded all over the globe for its stunning photography and epic tales. Most recently I watched and reviewed their Life series. Once again the series was dominated by startling images, many never before captured on film, all in wonderful high definition. Now I have a chance to visit yet another recent BBC project:
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    Life (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 15th, 2010

    “Three years of filming. Seven continents. 70 camera crews. 3,000 shooting days. 200 different species. Groundbreaking technology. It all adds up to the most ambitious natural history series ever created.”

    The BBC has been at the forefront of natural history documentaries since the 1950’s. Each decade the teams from the British unit have traversed the globe with what has always been, for the time, the latest in technology. The images that have been captured have entertained and educated the world for more than half a century. In today’s high- definition world, the BBC has not failed to impress
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    Survivors: Complete Seasons One & Two

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 6th, 2010

    “Most of the world’s population has been wiped out by a virus. Civilization, as we know it, has come to an end. For the few survivors, every day is a fight for life. But sinister forces threaten their future.”

    Right from the opening credits, you can see that a lot has changed since 1975 and the original series. I’m guessing that my watching them back to back allows for even more dramatic notice of the changes. Everything is cleaner here. The production values are light-years away from what they were. Even the disc menus reflect the higher-tech edge of the 21st century production values.
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    Survivors: Complete Original Series

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 5th, 2010

    “You know, I never thought what happens to a city … well … if it breaks down, all at the same time. There’s no power. There’s no lighting, or cooking. And food, even if you can get it into the city, you can’t distribute it. Then there’s water and sewage, things like that. You know, it just never occurred to me when I lived in London. The city’s like a great big pampered baby, with thousands of people feeding it and cleaning it, making sure it’s all right.”

    It was 1975. These were the glory days of science fiction on the BBC.
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    Merlin: The Complete First Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 26th, 2010

    “No young man, no matter how great, can know his destiny. He cannot glimpse his part in the great story that is about to unfold. Like everyone, he must live and learn. And so it will be for the young warlock arriving at the gates of Camelot. A boy that will, in time, father a legend. His name … Merlin.”

    Merlin. You know the name. It conjures up images of a white-haired old man with a long gray beard and a long pointed hat. His story is indeed legend. In the myths of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, he is destined to be the mentor to the King of Camelot.
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    Edge of Darkness: The Complete BBC Series

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 6th, 2010

    “One year ago, the MOD test system at Eskmeals confirmed radioactivity of above normal background levels at the Corry Reservoir, Craigmills, Yorkshire. The usual emergency procedurals were activated under NAIR arrangements, and the reservoir was shut down. An independent inquiry was set up under the chairmanship of Dr. Anthony Marsh.”

    Edge Of Darkness is something of a classic to the British. It cleaned up in the 1986 BAFTA awards, taking almost every award they have with the possible exception of Best Coffee In Craft Services. The mini-series has apparently stood the test of time, maintaining such high regard for nearly 25 years.
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    Robin Hood: Season Three

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on January 18th, 2010

    Robin Hood is a fantastic tale, and one that can be re-told again and again without fail. The story begins with a man that steals from the rich and gives to the poor. This is a great way to give us a hero to cheer for and has worked for Errol Flynn and even Kevin Costner. This summer, Russell Crowe tries his hand at making the arrow stick for a successful box office run. But will Jonas Armstrong make a viable enough Robin Hood for a third season of this BBC series? We will just have to see.

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    Yellowstone: Battle for Life (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 22nd, 2009

    “Yellowstone. Volcanic wonderland. Two million acres in the heart of North America, Yellowstone is deep in the Rocky Mountains, an isolated high plateau defended by rugged peaks; in the middle is the National Park. The park and the surrounding mountains form one of the most important and spectacular wilderness areas on Earth.”

    There have been a lot of these nature shows coming to Blu-ray high definition lately. No less than two of them cover the beauty that is Yellowstone National Park.
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    Red Dwarf: Back to Earth (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 14th, 2009

    “Its cold outside, There’s no kind of atmosphere, I’m all alone, More or less.
    Let me fly, Far away from here, Fun, fun, fun, In the sun, sun, sun.

    I want to lie, Shipwrecked and comatose, Drinking fresh, Mango juice, Goldfish shoals, Nibbling at my toes, Fun, fun, fun, In the sun, sun, sun…”

    If you recognize that silly ditty, then you know it can only mean one thing. After 10 long years of silence, witness the return of the BBC science fiction comedy, Red Dwarf. With the huge success of the rebirth of Doctor Who, it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise
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    Torchwood: Children of Earth

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 5th, 2009

    “There’s one thing I always wanted to ask Jack back in the old days. I wanted to know about that Doctor of his, the man who appears out of nowhere and saves the world, except sometimes he doesn’t. All those times in history where there was no sign of him, I wanted to know why not. But I don’t need to ask anymore. I know the answer now. Sometimes The Doctor must look at this planet and turn away in shame.”

    It all started some decades ago with the BBC’s immensely popular television series, Dr. Who.
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    Mistresses, Vol. 1

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 15th, 2009

    We’ve seen many instances of American television shows that have been inspired by or directly copied from British shows. This has been particularly true of comedy series and is not a new phenomenon. All In The Family and Sanford And Son from the 1970’s are great examples of American sit-coms based on British hits, Till Death Do Us Part and Steptoe And Son respectfully. Recently The Office has been a successful British import. In the inspired by category you have to include Mistresses. There’s no question that the show comes from a combination
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    Nature’s Most Amazing Events

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 15th, 2009

    “The power of the Sun drives the seasons, transforming our planet. Vast movements of ocean and air currents bring dramatic changes, create some of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth.”

    The Planet Earth series from the BBC brought with it critical acclaim and 11 hours of some of the most spectacular video footage from around the globe that we’ve seen on television. It was a particular treat to anyone who was fortunate enough to catch it on an HD broadcast.
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    Gavin & Stacey: Season One

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on May 14th, 2009

    British comedy for me has always been big hit or big miss for me. There really is no between. Monty Python & The Holy Grail – big hit. This movie makes me laugh from the first second until the closing credits. But some of the Monty Python sketches or all of Meaning of Life – big miss. Same thing with television, the Black Adder is simply awesome. Absolutely Fabulous? I never got it and found it completely droll. So I was eager to see Gavin & Stacey and find another wonderful British hit. I was totally pleased.
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    State of Play (BBC Miniseries)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 28th, 2009

    There are many examples of excellent BBC series and miniseries. Some eventually get remade into American shows. State Of Play is one of those fantastic BBC drama thrillers that is now making its way to American audiences, not as a copycat series, but as a major box office film staring Russell Crowe. While I have not seen this theatrical release as of yet, I am intrigued with the story and will eventually find myself watching this movie version. Unfortunately for the likes of Crowe and director Kevin Macdonald, I have a hard time believing that a 2 hour film can pack in as much detail
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    Skins- Volume 1

    Posted in Disc Reviews by William O'Donnell on March 25th, 2009

    This set contains all of the episodes from the first season (or “series” as it is termed in the UK). The show follows a standard teen drama format of a group of high school friends, this time from Bristol. Each token stereotype is covered in the main characters (the quirky girl, the party animal, the dweeb, the cool guy & girl, the ethnic guy & girl, the gay guy) and each receives their own episode to focus on them, with a few ongoing romantic plots stringing all of their stories together. Each of said episodes ends with the focus character coming to some sort of new advancement or revelation in their lives (Example: the character with an eating disorder bites into a burger).
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