Having conquered television, The Bible has its sights set on the home video market.
You have most likely read about the big ratings for the 10-episode, five-night History Channel series produced by reality-TV mogul Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel). Concluding tonight, the collection of dramatizations of Bible stories, from the creation of the world through actions of Jesus’s disciples following the resurrection, will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.
Burnett and Downey successfully created a following for the series, especially among evangelicals and conservative Christian groups. The series is unequivocally reverent even when its dramatic quality is wanting, and that has resonated with many viewers. Downey and Burnett told the Christian Post they are working on a follow-up program.
You may also be aware of some of the debates surrounding the series. One was silly: a flurry of speculation about whether the program’s Satan was meant to resemble President Obama. (The producers and History vigorously denied it.) Others have been more thoughtful. Why, for example, is Jesus — played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado — so westernized in appearance? In fact, why is he such a looker that Morgado gained Twitter admirers based on that alone?
But I am hard pressed to remember any biblical epic that was free of controversy and complaint, whether on the basis of the presentation or the way it approached doctrine. So let the debate continue.
The Bible: The Epic Miniseries (Fox, $59.98 DVD, $69.98 Blu-ray) offers quite a few extras. Among them: a three-part making-of chronicle, examinations of the music, casting and visual effects, and a piece called “Believing in Miracles” in which “the cast and crew relive the magical moments that happened while filming in the deserts of Morocco.”
Also coming from TV to video is Hemingway & Gellhorn (HBO, $19.97 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo), HBO’s dramatization of the stormy relationship between writers Ernest Hemingway (played by Clive Owen) and Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman), There are times when I start thinking that Kidman’s best acting days have passed — particularly in light of what appear to be some bad decisions about how to improve her face — but she does very well as Gellhorn, and there is plenty of spark in the scenes between here and Owen. The movie was less enthralling; even if you watch, also read Caroline Moorhead’s biography of Gellhorn.
Extras include audio commentary by director Philip Kaufman and editor Walter Murch on both the DVD and Blu-ray. The Blu-ray adds a making-of segment and a piece about the visual effects.
Fans of the writer Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) may want to note the arrival of Dirk Gently (Acorn, the pilot plus three episodes, $39.99 DVD), a 2010-12 BBC presentation based on Adams’ novels about the holistic detective. (One of the all-time great book titles belongs to a Gently novel: The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.) Stephen Mangan (Episodes) plays Gently. No extras. The set warns that it “contains coarse language.”
Available now, and worth your attention, is GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (Docurama, $29.95 DVD), a documentary about the tacky extravaganza which became a TV phenomenon for a moment in the late ’80s. The production does not include interviews with a couple of the behind-the-scenes principals but it is fun and even touching in talks with some of the GLOWs themselves. Extras include extended interviews, deleted scenes, vintage GLOW performances — and an audio commentary with fan Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.
Down video road: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters will be on Blu-ray, DVD and 3-D Blu-ray on June 11. Warm Bodies will be on DVD and Blu-ray on June 4, with an early digital download available May 14. Action classic The Great Escape will make its Blu-ray debut on May 7.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.