The Chairman of the Board may have left the building, but you can relive all of his greatest moments on stage with the Frank Sinatra: Concert Collection. Ranging from the ‘50s through the ‘80s, including 14 hours of footage spread over seven discs, this collection features the best of his celebrated concerts and star-studded television specials, plus rare and previously unreleased performances. You also get a 44-page book featuring rare photographs and notes by Sinatra scholar Bill Zehme.
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Vampire shows tend to fall into two categories: campy dramedies with occasional moments of angst, and brooding Gothic romances with occasional moments of humor. The first season of the BBC’s Being Human fell somewhere in between; the second season is firmly planted in the latter. For good or ill, the strength of the show—and season two in particular—is its character development. A sort of British Joss Whedon, creator and lead writer Toby Whithouse has used the trio’s journey toward humanity to highlight everything that’s not working in the world, though with a strong, almost fanatical focus on the evils of religion in the form of the aforementioned (and ultimately useless) Professor Kemp and his lackey, Lucy Jaggat. It’s all a bit reminiscent of Whedon’s failed Dollhouse, but without the annoying cheesecake and heavy-handed “we are greater than the sum of our parts” claptrap.
Josef von Sternberg is perhaps most popularly remembered for his films with Marlene Dietrich and his “painterly” approach to directing, but even his earliest works had a lot more going for them than a star performance or impressive visual style. Silent films Underworld (1927), The Last Command (1928), and The Docks of New York (1928) are masterpieces of visual storytelling—human dramas expressed with cinematographic innovation, impeccably realized set design, and an unparalleled grasp of the “bigger picture” of the motion picture. 3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg, Criterion Collection’s deluxe release, rescues these three films from being lost to history and reverently, generously revives them for DVD.
Perhaps the most welcome additions to this release are Robert Israel’s brilliant symphonic scores for all of the films. Although the discs also include inventive scores by Alloy Orchestra (Underworld and The Last Command) and Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton (The Docks of New York), none of them matches the subtlety and emotion of Israel’s work. His own brand of musical storytelling is a perfect fit for von Sternberg’s silent masterpieces.
Fantômas! Fiend! Killer! Seducer! Terrorist! King of the underworld! Master of disguise! Collector of exclamation points! The sensational adventures of this amoral villain burst upon France and the rest of the doomed pre-WWI civilization from the pulpy pens of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain. It was necessary instantly to turn his exploits into this series of five films from the equally prolific and inexhaustible Louis Feuillade. From book series to film series, here was the giddy James Bond phenom of its day.
Fantômas really has no character and almost no concrete existence. In these films, we rarely see actor René Navarre looking like himself, except in the introductions that show us the disguises he will wear in this particular episode so that we’ll never be confused or surprised on that point, no matter how disoriented we are by anything else. As David Kalat says in his commentary, “if he has a face, it’s the face that wears the mask”. Intriguing…
American history has never looked more exciting than in the History Channel’s opus America: The Story of Us. Originally a 12-part series that debuted on the channel, it is now a three-disc DVD to be enjoyed over and over again. Covering 400 years of American history, it’s the most extensive and in-depth series ever produced by History. From the days of the Oregon Trail to steel structured buildings and the transcontinental railroad to the moon landing, this series reminds us of the work it took to create this great country. Narrated by Leiv Schreiber and with icons such as Tom Brokaw, Buzz Aldrin, Colin Powell and Brian Williams commenting on what it means to be an American, there is certainly enough star power to keep people interested—perhaps the most iconic of all comes from a special introduction by President Barack Obama.
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