The original ‘Roots’ makes its Blu-ray debut, ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ is on DVD
The original “Roots” blockbuster has received a Blu-ray upgrade this week, hot on the heels of a cable-TV reboot, and the latest season of “Rizzoli & Isles” is on DVD.
“Roots: 40th Anniversary” (Warner, 1977, three discs, eight episodes, new/vintage featurettes, LeVar Burton screen test, David Frost interviews Alex Haley; 32-page booklet). One of the best TV miniseries of all time and one of the most-viewed when it premiered in 1977, this fictionalized look at slavery in the United States remains a powerhouse look at a dark time in American history.
Based on Alex Haley’s book, the story follows several generations of his ancestors, beginning in 1750 with Kunta Kinte (LeVar Burton), a young man abducted from his African village and brought to America as a slave, and carrying on through the Civil War. It has colorful characters, smart dialogue, vivid direction and an array of stars — Louis Gossett Jr., Ben Vereen, John Amos, Richard Roundtree, Scatman Crothers, Leslie Uggams, Edward Asner and many more.
“Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Sixth Season” (Warner, 2015-16, four discs, 18 episodes, featurette). The penultimate season of this comedy-drama police procedural set in Boston has detective Jane Rizzoli (Angie Harmon) and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) investigating various strange murders, including one that takes them to Los Angeles and another that leads to a killer with an obsessive fixation on Jane. Bruce McGill and Lorraine Bracco co-star. (The final season is now showing on TNT.)
“The Last Panthers” (Acorn, 2015, two discs, four episodes, featurettes, photo gallery). A diamond heist in France resembles crimes perpetrated by the flamboyant “Pink Panthers,” a gang that is supposedly retired, and the case garners a high level of scrutiny because a young girl is killed. So a British insurance-loss adjuster (Samantha Morton) is assigned to track them down, but she’s not the only one. John Hurt co-stars. (Contains violence, language, nudity and sex.)
“When Calls the Heart: Heart of a Hero” (Shout!, 2016). Tension rises in Hope Valley when Pastor Frank’s past catches up with him thanks to the arrival of his old gang of criminal cohorts. This nostalgic fare is set in an early 20th-century Canadian coal town. This is a movie-length (84 minutes) version of the third episode of season three and is based on Janette Oke’s novels.
“The Life of Verdi” (Acorn, 1982, four discs, seven episodes, in Italian with English subtitles). Ronald Pickup stars in this biographical Italian television miniseries about composer Giuseppe Verdi, whose life alternated between public acclaim for his operas (which remain popular today) and his personal turmoil. Narrated by Burt Lancaster.
“Ode to Joy: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9” (PBS, 2015, featurettes). This 90-minute concert, filmed at Alexander Hall on the Princeton campus, is a rare full-length video of what many believe to be the world’s greatest symphony. John Lithgow narrates, and performing are the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, the Westminster Symphonic Choir, soprano Ah Young Hong, mezzo-soprano Leah Wool, tenor William Burden and bass-baritone Mark S. Doss.
“David Holt’s State of Music” (PBS, 2015, two bonus performances, two featurettes). Grammy-winner David Holt investigates musical forms, and also plays and sings with Balsam Range, The Branchettes, Rhiannon Giddens, Josh Goforth, Bruce Molsky and Bryan Sutton in this hourlong mix of interviews and traditional music.
“Frontline: Saudi Arabia Uncovered” (PBS, 2016). This hourlong “Frontline” episode explores the struggles of activists in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia whose politically motivated demonstrations put their lives at risk — ranging from a woman who filmed herself driving, to a young man in prison for taking part in anti-government protests when he was a teen.
“The Shannara Chronicles: Season One” (MTV, 2016, three discs, 10 episodes, featurettes). Set thousands of years in the future, this fantasy follows a half-elf/half-human, an elven princess and a human as they attempt to stop an evil demon army from destroying the world. John Rhys-Davies and James Remar are among the co-stars. (Adult language and situations.)
“Detectorists: Series 2” (Acorn, 2015, two discs, six episodes, bonus Christmas episode, featurette, photo gallery). Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones return for a second season as eccentric metal-detector enthusiasts Andy and Lance, whose messy personal lives entwine as they look into a crashed World War II plane. Diana Rigg, mother of co-star Rachael Stirling, comes aboard to play her mother on the show. (Contains strong language.)
“Kroll Show: Season 3” (Comedy Central/Paramount, 2015, 11 episodes, featurettes). This sketch-comedy show skewers pop culture while exploring the meaning of celebrity, with Nick Kroll playing a variety of zany characters. Guests include Fred Armisen, Kathryn Hahn and Ed Helms. This is the show’s final season. (Contains adult language and situations.)
“Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season: The Twins” (HBO, 2013, five discs, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, episode guide; collectible sigil magnet).
“Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season: The Wall” (HBO, 2014, four discs, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, episode guide, bloopers; collectible sigil magnet). These are collectible steelbook Blu-ray editions of these seasons of the very graphically violent and sexual HBO fantasy series based on George R.R. Martin’s book series.
“Steven Universe: The Return” (CN/Warner, 2014-15, 12 episodes). This coming-of-age animated series follows a trio of magical humanoid aliens living on Earth in the fictional American East Coast town of Beach City as they build a spaceship, free a captive from a magic mirror and encounter droids from space, among other adventures.
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.