Out this week is a two-disc collection of the six-episode miniseries Bible Secrets Revealed. I was curious to see it mostly to find out what perspective it took: skeptic or avoiding controversy?
Turns out I could have found that out by googling the title and seeing how many religious sites had posted responses. If the show had comforted and reassured them about the holy book, they wouldn’t have felt the need to answer back about its supposed anti-Christian bias and disrespect for faith. I tend to agree with them that this was a sensationalist presentation of the material (you can guess that from the title of the last episode, “Sex and the Scriptures”), but I imagine that’s what it took to get the show made.
The structure is similar to other series of this type — lots of talking heads interspersed with various scenes of floating text, pictures of books, and pans across images to make the show more visually interesting. The occasional short reenactment or location footage makes for a pleasant change. Exaggerated and tabloid-ish in the telling, the subject matter could still be of interest for those Christians who’d like to approach their faith with open eyes.
“Lost in Translation” begins by pointing out how scholars tackle the issues of authorship in different ways from the faithful. Various contradictions are pointed out — including the stories of David and Goliath and Jesus’ birth — so those who want to read the Bible literally will be upset. The source material is not historically accurate, as one professor points out, but rewritten to promote the religion and its heroes. Very little of the information was new to me, but then, I’ve always been a questioning Christian interested in the boundaries and odd spots. There are more specifically historical tie-ins about 2/3 of the way through the episode, when they talk about the creation of the Book of Mormon and using the Bible to justify slavery during the Civil War.
“The Promised Land” looks at the history of the land of Israel, specifically in terms of Biblical commands and references, and how Jews, Muslims, and Christians all find it sacred. Exodus is particularly examined, as are the history of the Crusades and key buildings in Jerusalem. A number of violent verses are shown as background for current struggles in the Middle East.
“The Forbidden Scriptures” is about some books left out of the Canon, those which would be considered Apocrypha, such as the Book of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Peter, or the Gnostic Gospels, including those of Thomas and Mary. By referring to those books that were left out as “suppressed”, the series attempts to make otherwise dry history more salacious, postulating political and sexist reasons for the choices.
“The Real Jesus” compares the Gospels to the historical record. Key moments discussed are the virgin birth, his early life, his relationship with John the Baptist, the political nature of his teachings (particularly the anti-wealthy ones), his relationship with Mary Magdalene, and the resurrection.
“Mysterious Prophecies” explores whether the prophets were really trying to tell the future, specifically related to the coming of the Messiah, and whether Revelation was inspired by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. There’s also some history of Kabbalah.
“Sex and the Scriptures” looks at Biblical rules about sex, family, and procreation. Examples include the story of Ruth and Boaz, Abraham and Sarah using Hagar as a surrogate for children, Jesus’ treatment of prostitutes, marriage in the Bible, priestly celibacy, David and Bathsheba, and the depraved cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Even Lot’s daughters getting him drunk so they could get pregnant by him gets mentioned.
The show is under the auspice of the History Channel, so I was a bit surprised to see opening trailers for Duck Dynasty and a whole series of Ancient Aliens DVDs that take the subject seriously. They’re all A&E products, I guess. I quite liked the trailer for Houdini, airing in May, though. (The studio provided a review copy.)
Disney has been the biggest holdout from participating in UltraViolet, the movie studio digital copy system. UltraViolet isn’t available on iTunes — from this observer’s perspective, it appears to have been set up to purposefully take customers away from that preferred outlet — and Disney and Apple have long-standing connections through Pixar.
Now comes news that the studio is launching Disney Movies Anywhere, a digital copy system using iTunes and iOS devices. The goal, of course, is to allow you to access digital copies you purchase from more locations by using a central permission server. Except by setting up yet another service, my collection is once again split. I have “owned” digital films in Flixster, Vudu (both with underlying UltraViolet), iTunes, and now DMA. My DVDs, on the other hand, all go on the same set of shelves. Plus, in this case, these movies are already available to me in iTunes. Installing the Disney Movies Anywhere app just shows me a filtered list to that one company. I suppose parents might like that. An Android version is promised to be coming, although with no date yet.
Right now, if you set up an account and connect your iTunes account, you get a free copy of The Incredibles, the Pixar superhero movie (which I already had). I was surprised, once I signed in, to find a number of movies in my collection. It appears that they’re loading things I previously had digital copies of (from DVD purchases). Weirdly, my legal (obtained with the Blu-ray) Thor copy didn’t register.
Digital copies are now widely available for purchase (at a typical price of $15, which is a lot for a bunch of bits) long before the home video version on disc can be bought. For example, Frozen, which comes out on DVD March 18, is now available through Disney Movies Anywhere. Companies love selling them, because they make more profit with fewer costs.
Out today is Thor: The Dark World on home video. (It’s been available for digital purchase since the beginning of the month, February 4.) Your options for purchase are as follows:
The only multi-disc pack is the 3-D version, which comes with two Blu-rays, one standard, one 3-D, and a digital copy. The other versions are single discs, either Blu-ray or DVD. Which means that there’s no way to get a Blu-ray/DVD combo without paying twice. And the Blu-ray version is widely available at roughly $20, the same price as the previous movie’s Blu-ray + DVD + digital copy edition. So customers are being asked to pay more for less.
Clearly, Disney seems to think that doubling up is either something fans no longer care about (not the case, judging from Amazon review comments, where people talk about how handy the DVD is for car players, loaning out, or other purposes) or something we should be required to pay for. After all, they’re the company that for a while was charging $5 more for a digital copy with its combo packs.
I’m no longer qualified for Marvel’s review copy list, so I was expecting to buy the movie today. But when I realized this was the situation, I passed. I’ll wait until the price goes down, since for a single Blu-ray that isn’t a must-have-immediately, I aim to pay about $10. If I could have gotten a combo pack (a format that matched the previous film), I would have paid the $20 on release day.
It’ll be interesting to see if more of Disney’s releases follow this pattern.
I have fond memories of watching the original Dallas with my mom, mostly just to see the clothes and the Texas setting. (We lived in the state at the time the show debuted.) I gave the new version a try, but for some reason, I didn’t stick with it. Perhaps because the next generation seemed so young to me now, perhaps because there’s just a lot of good TV out there and not enough time. The theme song still has a weirdly Pavlovian effect on me, though, reminding me of just how outsized so much about Texas is.
The show continues from the original, with J.R.’s son John Ross (Josh Henderson, the weak link of the cast) trying to run the family oil company but clashing with uncle Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and his son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), who wants to invest more in methane and alternate fuel technologies. As well, both the younger men are involved with Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster) and Pamela Rebecca Barnes (Julie Gonzalo). It’s still very much a soap opera among the rich and powerful, with sex, betrayal, blackmail, and murder all on display.
I was curious about this DVD set, because the second season was being filmed when Larry Hagman, who played the irascible cornerstone of the show J.R. Ewing, passed away, and so a number of the special features are dedicated to his legacy. Episode 8 focused on the character’s funeral. The four-disc set contains all 15 episodes of season 2, plus the following extras:
Deleted scenes for almost every episode.
Fashion Files, short (3-minute) discussions with Brewster and the costume designer, Rachel Sage Kunin, about key costume items from selected episodes. It’s insightful about what elements they’re trying to highlight about the characters.
An extended version of “J.R.’s Masterpiece”, the funeral episode, with over 7 extra minutes, available with or without commentary by Cynthia Cidre (creator of this version of the show and writer of that episode) and Michael Robin (episode director).
“Dallas at PaleyFest 2013″, a half-hour panel appearance with the cast members and creative team.
“The Battle for Ewing Energies: Blood Is Thicker Than Oil”, 12 minutes on the family plots that drive the show and how J.R.’s death affected them.
“Memories of Larry Hagman: A Cast and Crew Tribute” (10 minutes) was particularly memorable for me due to the then-and-now photos. It’s not many people who play the same role 34 years apart. The participants all have great, playful, revelatory stories about Hagman, particularly Brenda Strong (who plays Ann Ewing, wife of Bobby). I admit, this piece brought tears to my eyes.
“One Last Conversation With Larry Hagman”, an unedited interview that runs seven minutes that seems to have originally been created for publicity use, covering basic questions about how Hagman worked on the show.
I’m not converted to seeing Dallas as a must-watch, but I really appreciated the honors to Larry Hagman and the chance to see him one last time. The third season of Dallas returns tomorrow (Monday) night on TNT. (The studio provided a review copy.)
The Jimmy Stewart Show is one of those forgotten oddities that I can thank the Warner Archive for rediscovering. The half-hour domestic sitcom ran from 1971-1972, and this set contains all 24 episodes.
Jimmy Stewart is an actor that it takes some maturity to appreciate, since he’s not flashy in his performance, but he’s always worth the attention. I enjoy seeing him wherever he appears — from a young man in a Thin Man movie to romantic rival in The Philadelphia Story or Hitchcock lead in Vertigo or anchor of a holiday classic in It’s a Wonderful Life — although the period societal and generation gap references here took some getting used to.
The audience for this is likely those looking for good, old-fashioned, family-safe television just like they watched when they were kids. It’s not many shows these days where you’ll see a father saying grace with his family around the dinner table. On the other hand, Stewart talking to the camera at the beginning of each episode, to introduce the characters and premises, is reminiscent of the modern fake-docu-comedy style. Particularly when he does it from the studio or holding a script. The pacing here, though, is remarkably subdued. This was made long before short scenes and quick cuts and abbreviated attention spans became the norm. The show doesn’t produce laughs so much as quiet smiles.
Stewart is a college professor, which accounts for the “changing times” references as he interacts with his students. (Very odd to hear the older Mr. Stewart talking about a young woman needing to put on a bra.) The woman playing Stewart’s wife, Julie Adams, is almost 20 years younger than Stewart, and it shows. Combined with the long-ago tendency to patronizing gender and family relations, sometimes their interaction seems more like father/daughter than couple, although affection for each other is thoughtfully written into the episodes.
The family structure is also a bit odd — Stewart and wife have an eight-year-old, and Stewart’s oldest son does too. So there are two little boys running around, one of whom is actually uncle to the other. (And why did Stewart have two kids 20 years apart?) The elder son Peter (James Daly) and his wife Wendy (Ellen Geer) wind up having to move in with dad when their house burns down in the first episode, to allow for more family togetherness.
Still, Stewart rides a bike and plays accordion and wears a cowboy hat and does other charming on-screen things, while trying to cope with everyone wanting the bathroom or taking his child fishing or encountering a pushy co-ed or trying to lay down the law at the dinner table. Every so often, there’s a distinct sign of different times, such as when the professors, old men in sport coats, go to lunch at a nearby joint where they play chess, smoke cigars, and drink beer. Or when visitors smoke in the guest room, or parking tickets cost $4.
Another fun thing is spotting the occasional guest star, including both early appearances from people who’d later be more famous (Kate Jackson) and those from the glory days of Hollywood (Cesar Romero, Vincent Price). (The studio provided a review copy.)
This is an intriguing release strategy — Warner put out this week on home video Beware the Batman, their new CGI Batman cartoon. The Season 1, Part 1 set includes 13 episodes, two of which have not yet aired on Cartoon Network. (There’s some question when, or if, the show will be returning.)
If you want DVD, that is available through the usual outlets (including Amazon, as shown here). However, if you want Blu-ray, that is only available through the Warner Archive online store. Both versions have the same list price, $19.95, although the DVD version is usually discounted from that. And as we’ve previously discussed, selling directly means the studio keeps more of the money for themselves, without distribution costs.
I was lucky enough to get a review copy, so I’ll be checking out the show for the first time soon. I’m looking forward to seeing Katana as a major cast member.
I hadn’t before noticed the logo, where the words “Beware the” make up the holes in the B, which is pretty clever. Also, we’re promised that the show “dives deep into the Batman mythos to bring some of the more outre members of the world’s greatest rogues gallery including Professor Pyg, Lady Shiva, Humpty Dumpty, Anarky, and Magpie.” So it should be interesting to see lesser-used characters, too.