A highly acclaimed Australian thriller and the seventh season of a beloved vintage series lead TV shows on DVD this week.
"The Code" (Acorn/DVD, 2014, two discs, six episodes, featurette). In the Australian outback, a pair of joyriding Aboriginal teens are involved in an accident with a truck. But because the truck is part of a secret research project, the accident is covered up. This leads to intersecting storylines that unfold during the course of this cyber-thriller series.
One story has an Internet journalist and his hacker brother finding cellphone footage of the incident and posting it online. Another has a former teacher (Lucy Lawless, most famous for "Xena: Warrior Princess") of an Aboriginal girl who died in the accident investigating with a police officer. A third takes place among high- ranking political offices. (A second season has been ordered but no airdate is scheduled.)
"Little House On the Prairie: Season Seven" (Lionsgate/DVD, 1980- 81, five discs, 22 episode). More remastered, uncut episodes of the beloved series based on Laura Ingalls Wilder's books are on DVD, with Michael Landon starring, producing and this season directing more than half the episodes. Season seven is notable for Laura (Melissa Gilbert) and Almanzo (Dean Butler) getting married, Adam (Linwood Boomer) having his sight restored and he and Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson) opening a law practice. (The complete nine-season series is also available.)
"Greatest Heroes of the Bible: The Complete Collection" (CBS/ Paramount/DVD, 1978-79, four discs, 15 episodes). Some of these shows, culled from the title biblical anthology TV program of the late 1970s, have recently been released on single-disc collections, but if you want the entire 15 episodes - "The Ten Commandments," "Samson & Delilah," "Joshua & Jericho," "The Story of Esther," "Sodom & Gomorrah," etc. - here it is. Lots of lower-tier '70s TV stars show up (Victoria Principal, Dorothy Malone, Anne Francis, Robert Culp, Frank Gorshin, Gene Barry, Tanya Roberts, John Larroquette, etc.), and the series was produced on the cheap by Utah- based Schick Sunn Classics, with most episodes filmed in Page, Arizona.
"Tut" (Spike/Paramount/Blu-ray/DVD, 2015, three episodes, featurettes). This is a soapy fictionalized retelling of the life of ancient Egypt's King Tut - Tutankhamun - who takes his place as pharaoh at age 8 and spends the rest of his life navigating the backstabbing treachery of those around him to retain his power. Avan Jogia stars as Tut, with Ben Kingsley as his grand vizier.
"Happyish: Season One" (Showtime/Paramount/DVD, 2015, two discs, 10 episodes). Steve Coogan stars in this one-season sitcom about hitting middle age in the 21st century. He's a 44-year-old adman who has spent his career helping create a youth culture but now realizes he's only made himself obsolete. Co-stars include Kathryn Hahn and Bradley Whitford, with guest appearances by Ellen Barkin and Rob Reiner. (Beware the usual Showtime R-rated level of raunchiness.)
"Reign: The Complete Second Season" (Warner/DVD, 2014-15, five discs, 22 episodes, deleted scenes, featurette). This lurid, soapy fantasy romance reimagines the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. During the first season, the focus was on her younger years living in France when she was betrothed to Francis, heir to the French throne. This season, Francis and Mary rule as king and queen of both France and Scotland, but troubles arise with conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, not to mention having to deal with the Plague. (Season three begins Oct. 9 on The CW.)
"Duck Dynasty: Season 8" (A&E/Lionsgate/DVD, 2015, two discs, eight episodes, featurettes). Summer fun dominates this season with the quirky Robertsons. Jase and friends attempt to work as a NASCAR pit crew, and Korie and Willie square off against John Luke and his fiancee, Mary Kate, for doubles tennis.
"Silent Witness: Season Two" (BBC/DVD, 1997, two discs, eight episodes). This reissue of the second season of the long-running British forensic police procedural (pre-"CSI") stars Amanda Burton as a Cambridge pathologist, this season looking into the deaths of a boxer, someone who had AIDS and a woman murdered by a jealous husband.
"Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 2005" (BBC/DVD, 2005, two discs, 10 episodes, 2005 Christmas special). A womanizer pursues Nora after getting a taste of her baked goods, Truly experiments with studded bicycle tires and when Smiler tells his friends about the girl that got away, they try to find her. This was the 26th season of the British comedy show about zany oldsters getting in and out of trouble - the longest-running sitcom in TV history.
"Mi Corazon es Tuyo" (aka "My Heart Is Yours," Cinedigm/DVD, 2014, three discs, 16 episodes, in Spanish). This Mexican telenovela is about a wealthy widower who hires and falls for a new nanny - an exotic dancer trying to hide her double life.
"Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color" (History/Lionsgate/Blu- ray/DVD, 2015, two episodes, featurettes). This documentary miniseries explores the Civil War with material garnered from government and private archives and features some 500 black-and- white photographs that have been digitally colorized.
"Penny Dreadful: The Complete Second Season" (Showtime/Paramount/ Blu-ray/DVD, 2015, three discs, 10 episodes, featurettes). Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Eva Green star in this fantasy about adventurers in Victorian England meeting up with horror icons. This season the trio, plus others who have joined up (including Dr. Frankenstein), attempt to banish evil forces that surround them. (The usual Showtime R-level excesses abound.)
"Gorongosa Park: Rebirth of Paradise" (PBS/DVD, 2015, two discs, six episodes, deleted scenes). Wildlife cameraman Bob Poole chronicles the fight for survival of a wide range of animals in Mozambique after spending two years in the million-acre title park. Accompanied by scientists, he captures images of massive crocodiles, angry elephants and much more.
"Earth: The Inside Story" (PBS/DVD, 2015). This hourlong documentary offers a history of Earth and compares the planet's natural resources with that of other known planets.
"Frontline: Escaping ISIS" (PBS/DVD, 2015). This "Frontline" episode examines the plight of women and children of the religious minority the Yazidis, who have been targeted by ISIS.
"Particle Fever" (PBS/DVD, 2015, deleted scenes, featurette). This feature-length documentary follows six scientists during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, the most expensive experiment in history, which hopes to reveal the origin of all matter. Some 10,000 scientists in 100 countries are involved in trying to replicate conditions that immediately followed the Big Bang.
"Uranium: Twisting the Dragon's Tail" (PBS/DVD, 2015). Physicist Dr. Derek Muller leads the discussion in this two-hour documentary chronicling the development of nuclear weaponry.
"Bossip Comedy Series, Part 2" (Cinedigm/DVD, 2015, deleted scenes). This follow-up to the first "Bossip" show features Michael Colyar, K. Douglas Tatum and Tommy Ford, among others, in a mix of stand-up comedy, riffing with people on the street, joking backstage, etc.
"South Park: The Complete Eighteenth Season" (Comedy Central/ Paramount/Blu-ray/DVD, 2014, two discs, 10 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries). This season has Trey Parker and Matt Stone's cartoon characters getting lost in virtual reality and learning a shocking truth about a music superstar. (Season 19 is currently airing on Comedy Central.)
"He's a Bully, Charlie Brown" (Warner/DVD, 2006, two TV specials, one episode of "The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show"). More animated "Peanuts" fun comes to DVD with this half-hour title special. Charlie Brown and friends are at summer camp, where Rerun is conned out of his special marbles. Also here are the 1969 special "It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown" and an episode from "The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show," with four cartoon segments.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete First and Second Seasons" (Nickelodeon/Paramount/DVD, 2012-14, eight discs, 52 episodes, featurettes, animated comic books, music video). The first season of this animated reboot begins with a retelling of the origin story, followed by the heroes in a half-shell battling various bad guys, chiefly their archnemesis Shredder. (Season three has aired, and seasons four and five are slated, though no airdates have been announced.)
"Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Complete Series" (Nickelodeon/ Paramount/DVD, 2005-2008, 16 discs, 61 episodes, audio commentaries, featurettes, animated raw sketches). This animated adventure is set in a fanciful Asian world where the planet is divided into four nations - Water, Earth, Air and Fire - and masters may manipulate their respective elements. The main story focuses on a 12-year-old reluctant hero who will eventually lead the fight against the evil Fire Nation.
"Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal: Season 2" (Flatiron/DVD, 2012-13, six discs, 24 episodes). This is the fourth series in the "Yu-Gi-Oh!" franchise, adapted from the trading-card game. Here, aspiring duelist Yuma meets Astral, a visitor from another world, and they prove to be an effective team, save for their constant bickering.
"Science & Word Play" (Nickelodeon/Paramount/DVD, 2014, two discs, six episodes; "Beyond the Backpack" booklet). Two previously issued DVDs with Nickelodeon cartoon characters are collected here to represent the title subjects for preschoolers, the science- oriented "Blaze and the Monster Machines: Blaze of Glory" and the literacy-minded "Wallykazam!"
"Storybook Treasures: 20 Fairy Tales" (Scholastic/Cinedigm/DVD, 2015, 20 episodes). Twenty animated versions of familiar fairy tales are pulled together here for kids ages 3-8, including "Cinderella," "The Three Little Pigs," "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and many more.
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 hicks @deseretnews.com.
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