DaVinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season (2013/Starz/Anchor Bay DVD Set)/Eight Is Enough: The Complete Fourth
Season, Part 1 + Part 2 (1979 – 1980/Warner Archive DVD Sets)/Parade’s End (2012/BBC/HBO DVDs)/The Thick Of It – Seasons 1 - 4 (2005 –
2012/BBC DVD Set)
Picture: C+/C+/C+/C Sound: B-/C+/B-/C+ Extras: C/D/B-/C Episodes: C/B-/B-/C
PLEASE NOTE: Eight Is Enough is only available from Warner Bros. through their
Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.
some new TV releases…
DaVinci’s Demons: The Complete
(2013) is a new show for the Starz cable TV network that is part of a larger,
under-discussed cycle of TV adventure shows where a young, noble antagonist
(here, no less than the historical figure Leonardo DaVinci in a hardly
historical show) fights again evil happenings against all odds. These shows started to surface more often in
the 1980s, but really have flooded in in recent years. David S. Goyer is the creator of the show and
instead of calling it revisionist or an alternative take, he calls it
post-modern and that is just too lite in dealing with what happens here in
character is a brilliant man who will change the world, but must fight evil
oppression and right in the beginning, we get a religious authority figure who
is gay (implied as a secret, especially since he has a family) and then we get
an even meaner authority figure with more power and cunning who is possibly gay
and likes to have sex with young boys nude in his indoor swimming pool taking
about God with a knifepoint to the victim’s throat. DaVinci by contrast has a healthy sexual
relationship with a sexy, beautiful woman he likes to paint naked (on her body
and on canvas) in the only healthy sexual relationship of any kind on the show.
forced bestiality in one scene and the homophobia and you have a show with the
most heavy handed politics and problems of any Goyer work to date. While his work on the Dark Knight films, Dark City
and Blade films are his best work,
his genre work (which is most of his resume) is usually more problematic from
bad horror sequels early in his career to the unfortunate Ghost Rider sequel (see the Blu-ray 3D review elsewhere on this
site), the awful Man Of Steel and somewhat
overrated Jumper are more typical of
stages, it goes form starter work to peak work to work now that is commercially
successful, but cynical and increasingly problematic with this series some of
his most awkward and formulaic to date. The cast is not bad and the money is on the
screen, but I was disappointed and expected a possible surprise, but Goyer is
in corporately competent mode and if this show is not the nadir of his work, it
is close. I also liked the instrumental
theme song, but it is much ado about very little for the most part.
audio commentary tracks on six of the eight shows led by Goyer, a Second Screen
Promo to access more extras that will not count as content here, three Making
Of/Behind The Scenes featurettes on music, costumes and more on the show,
Worldwide Fanfare featurette on getting fans for the show, and Deleted Scenes.
other end of the spectrum, we have Eight
Is Enough: The Complete Fourth Season, Part 1 + Part 2 (1979 – 1980) which
continues the popular drama/comedy TV show with Dick Van Patten that by this
season was about to end it original cycle and arc of storylines. If you are unaware of the show, try this link
to learn more about it from our coverage of the Third Season now also on Warner Archive DVD:
with the obvious age of the cast and that the children were growing older, we
get the clichés of characters moving on, leaving home, starting new careers,
making life changes and maybe getting married.
It is obvious, kept the show a ratings hits, but the chemistry, pace,
fine writing and smart approach continued on, making this as good as the
previous seasons. It is also a winding
down of the 1970s in ways even the makers may not have realized, but if you
like the show, it is a set worth your time and is here in two volumes of 14 and
12 hour-long shows respectively that hold up well and have some interesting
nostalgia to them, which was the most pleasant surprise of all here.
again, sadly, no extras.
White’s TV series remake of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End (2012) could have been just another stuffy, tired,
unnecessary retread of a great literary work (or works in this case), but the BBC
and HBO have teamed up to remake this one, brought on no less than Tom Stoppard
to pen the teleplay adaptation and the result is an impressive production that
more people should see.
as WWI is about to happen, we have covered an excellent 1964 BBC version with
no less than Dame Judi Dench that I though was excellent at this link:
time, Adelaide Clemens is Valentine Wannop, the mistress of the protagonist
Christopher Tietjens (played very well by Benedict Cumberbach, replacing the
great Ronald Hines from the 1964 version) and Rebecca Hall (replacing Jeanne
Moody (in a great turn) from that version) is the wife. I landed up liking this version much more
than I thought I would, though I still like the 1964 version a little more
despite its age, but both do amazing justice to the material easily making it
one of the best Mini-Series of the last few years.
is on the screen here too and they also have come up with a fine supporting
cast in the best tradition of these productions including Rupert Everett,
Miranda Richardson, Janet McTeer, Rufus Sewell, Freddie Fox, Anne-Marie Duff
and Brit Stephen Graham, who audiences will recognize as Al Capone on the hit
HBO series Boardwalk Empire
(reviewed elsewhere on this site) so this is a top notch production, deserves
much more attention than it has received and is worth going out of your way
extra is Tom Stoppard interviewed on radio about the mini-series.
we have the political comedy series The
Thick Of It – Seasons 1 - 4 (2005 – 2012) which ran every two seasons and
allegedly inspired the HBO series Veep
and film In The Loop, but despite
some good jokes, sometimes sharp humor and comments that maybe only British
viewers would get, it is a run-on show that starts neurotic with its single
camera that never stop shaking (even shaking more than it needs to or ought to)
supposedly impressing with its clichéd approach the stress of this post-modern
city life with pressures and awkwardness.
mostly unknown cast is somehow always up to the task of these shows, but
despite the intelligence and talent involved, it comes across as more of a blur
(like Veep eventually does, see our
review elsewhere on this site) than a show with a coherent narrative and
ultimately, its approach betrays itself undermining any points it might have to
make about Britain at the moment. Now
you can see for yourself.
include audio commentary tracks, Outtakes, several Behind The Scenes
featurettes and Deleted Scenes.
anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on all the sets but Enough, a 1.33 X 1 color show shot on 35mm film, can look good but
are still on the soft side, but Thick
is especially problematic with more motion blur (and not just because the
camera is shaking no=-stop) and does not improve much over the seasons.
Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on Demons
and End are the sonic champs here
with much more surround information than expected (both would sound better on
Blu-ray, we hypothesize) demonstrating fine recording, mixing and decent if not
always consistent soundfields. The lossy
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Thick
and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Enough
are also well recorded and tie for second place sonically, but add that Enough
has audio that has held up surprisingly well like its predecessor set.
To order Eight Is Enough, go to this link for it
and many more great web-exclusive releases at:
- Nicholas Sheffo