Three documentaries "Made by a fan for fans" made available through the fan medium of YouTube
Jamie Benning is an editor for British TV by day, but in his spare time, the die-hard "Star Wars" fan created his own low-tech documentary chronicling the making of the original "Star Wars" trilogy using TV and radio interviews from the cast and crew, deleted scenes, alternate takes, bloopers and all sorts of otherwise unseen footage he uncovered in his search for film history. The project took six years and resulted in three two hour-plus documentaries, all made for the love of "Star Wars." He discusses the project with GeekDad at Wired here.
No, they are not part of any of the Luscasfilm DVD or Blu-ray editions, but you can watch all three below. And as Lucasfilm has chosen not to include some of the more substantial documentaries from the earlier DVD editions (notably the feature-length "Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy," but also some terrific shorter featurettes), consider this our contribution to the supplements. But budget plenty of time, or better yet, bookmark the page and come back after you see the films. They really are terrific, lo-fi aesthetic and all. "Building Empire" and "Returning to Jedi" follow after the jump.
Star Wars Begins
Plus Henry Jaglom's 'Eating' and a Mystery Science Theater special edition of 'Manos: The Hands of Fate'
The 1952 "My Cousin Rachel" (Twilight Time), from the Daphne du Maurier novel, is a Gothic romantic drama starring Olivia De Havilland as Rachel, a mysterious widow on the rocky, gloomy coast of Cornwall, and Richard Burton (in his debut American role) as the anguished young man who inherits her late husband's manor. Burton received an Oscar nomination for his performance, one of the film's four nominations, and won the Golden Globe for "Most Promising Newcomer – Male." As with all of Twilight Time's releases, it offers Franz Waxman's score on an isolated audio track and features a booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo. Limited to a run of 3,000 copies.
"Eating" (Breaking Glass) is back on DVD for its 20th Anniversary. Henry Jaglom's "very serious comedy about women & food" touches on issues of body image, beauty, relationships, and the joy of food through the conversations and observations of a group of women who gather for a birthday party. It was a minor sensation in 1990 but not nearly as fresh as it must have seemed then, and certainly no more insightful about the food issues it talks over without getting anywhere. Nelly Alard, Frances Bergen, Mary Crosby, Gwen Welles, and Daphna Kastner are among the cast members of the loose, improvisational film. Features commentary by director Henry Jaglom and Jaglom and members of the cast on "The Phil Donahue Show."
Joel Hodgson and robot buddies Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot on the Satellite of Love take on what is arguably the worst film ever made in "Mystery Science Theater 3000: Manos: The Hands Of Fate Special Edition" (Shout! Factory). Hal Warren’s dreary, dull, absolutely inept thriller of a vacationing family captured and menaced by a cult group in the desert is so badly shot, excruciatingly edited and clumsily overdubbed with mind-numbing dialogue that without the heckling it would be unbearable. Yes, this film is so bad it’s not even funny, but the Joel and bots are; they have a riot tearing this film up with snide comments and snarky jokes. It’s become one of their most popular shows. The two-disc set features the original film sans heckling (it is not recommended viewing, at least not without your own crew of hecklers), plus a short documentary on the making of "Manos, a video reunion of the show's creators and a mini-poster among the supplements.
The horrors, the horrors:
It's a week of obscure and underground horror films. "Bad Dreams / Visiting Hours: Killer Double Feature" (Shout! Factory) offers a pair of theatrical films from the eighties, the former with Jennifer Rubin and Richard Lynch, the latter starring Lee Grant and William Shatner. "Bad Dreams" also features commentary by writer/director Andrew Fleming, cast interviews and featurettes.
"The Basement: Retro 80s Horror Collection" (Camp Motion Pictures) collects five bargain-basement gore films produced for the eighties video boom, headlined by "The Basement" (1989), an anthology film shot on super 8 and restored for DVD in 2010. The three-disc set also features "Video Violence" (1987), "Video Violence 2" (1987), "Captives" (1988) and "Cannibal Campout" (1988), and it arrives in an oversize box set featuring an actual VHS tape of "The Basement." Just the thing of a nostalgic horror junkie. "Beyond the Dunwich Horror / Pretty Dead Things: Double Feature" (Camp Motion Pictures), meanwhile, offer a pair of shot-on-DV productions from the late 2000s.
And the rest:
"Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers" (Shout! Factory) a motion-comic adaptation of the 2004 comic book mini-series, timed for home video release with the feature film.
Plus more 'Big Bang Theory,' 'Supernatural,' 'Inspector Lewis' and more
After seven years of self-destructive behavior and incendiary lives, the characters of "Rescue Me: The Sixth Season and The Final Season" (Sony) are given as satisfying a send off as they could expect. Videodrone's review is here. Starz continues to pursue its signature style of historical spectacle and contrived cable nudity with the prequel "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" (Anchor Bay) and the short-lived "Camelot: The Complete First Season" (Anchor Bay), the story of King Arthur… with a little sex in it. Videodrone's review is here.
"Blue Bloods: The First Season" (Paramount) is an old-school family cop drama with Tom Selleck as clan patriarch Frank Reagan, NYC Police Commissioner and father of two sons following in his footsteps (Donnie Wahlberg as a veteran police detective and Will Estes as a Harvard grad turned beat cop) and one Assistant D.A. (Bridget Moynahan as the sole female in the Reagan brotherhood). Len Cariou is the granddad, a former Police Commissioner who hasn't let forced retirement end his outspoken opinions. This is a show that could have come out of the seventies. 22 episodes on six discs in a standard case with hinged trays, plus six featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel. The second season begins September 23.
Gleeks will sing for joy for "Glee: The Complete Second Season" (Fox) (or, if you picked up the earlier half-season release on DVD, "Glee: Season 2, Volume 2"). This is the season they get to the Nationals and travel to New York City for the sing-off (where Lea Michele's Rachel trods the boards of Broadway for a brief moment). 22 episodes on six discs on DVD and four discs on Blu-ray, plus the music jukebox of previous releases, featurettes on the New York City shoot and the season's guest stars and the supplements from the earlier half-season DVD release (including "Glee at Comic Con 2010" and "The Making of the Rocky Horror Glee Show") among the featurettes.
"George Lucas ruined my life. And I mean that in the nicest way." "Wishful Drinking" (HBO) is Carrie Fisher's one-woman show, an autobiographical monologue with video clips, visual aids and plenty of self-lacerating wit. It takes self-confidence to draw attention to the slipping accent of Princess Leia in "Star Wars" but real steel to turn the skeletons of her show business family closet into satire. It's not so much that it's particularly insightful or incisive, but she strolls through the distorted family album with a composure and a humor only possible from someone who has decided that comedy is tragedy plus distance. She's distanced herself enough to head back in unfazed and the writer in her has a way of turning puns into a double-edged razor. The disc features a 54-minute interview with Debbie Reynolds best viewed after the show. Not because of spoilers, mind you, simply to come at it with Carrie's perspective.
In "The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fourth Season" (Warner), Leonard has been dumped by Penny but not only does he land another girlfriend, so do his geek squad buddies Howard and, yes, even Sheldon (Emmy winner Jim Parsons), even though he refuses to call his genius-level soulmate Amy (Mayim Bialik) a girlfriend, even though she is a girl and she is his friend. All this and virtual Sheldon too. 24 episodes on three discs in a standard case with hinged trays, plus a video Q&A with the actors, a gag reel and a music video with Barenaked Ladies.
"Outsourced: The Complete Series" (Universal) presents all 22 episodes of the NBC sitcom set in the India-based call center of an American novelties company. Cultural confusion abounds. And yes, it's "The Complete Series" because it's not coming back for a second season. Three discs stacked on a single post; not my favorite packaging design. Also features commentary and deleted scene.
"Danny Phantom: Season 1" (Paramount) follows the adventures of the part boy, part ghost star of this animated series from Nickelodeon. 20 episodes on four discs.
"Masterpiece Mystery!: Inspector Lewis 4" (PBS) features four more episodes of the British mystery series starring Kevin Whately as Inspector Robert Lewis, the former partner to Inspector Morse and now the senior detective to a former divinity student (Laurence Fox). Released on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Jon Pertwee is The Doctor and Katy Manning his companion in "Doctor Who: Day of the Daleks" (BBC), story no. 60 in the long-running original series. The two-disc set is packed with commentary, featurettes, interviews and an alternate version of the show with new effects.
More medical show soap opera unfolds in Shondra Rhimes' "Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Seventh Season" (Disney), which includes a musical episode this season, and "Private Practice: The Complete Fourth Season" (Disney), the "Grey's" spin-off which offers a wedding this season. "Grey's Anatomy" includes 22 episodes on six discs in a fold-out digipak, with an extended version of the musical episode, featurettes and "Seattle Grace: Message of Hope" webisodes. "Private Practice" offers 22 episodes on five discs in a standard case with hinged trays, plus a featurette and deleted scenes.
"Supernatural: The Complete Season Sixth Season" (Warner) finds Sam (Jared Palecki), who was sent to hell at the end of Season Five, back on Earth and ready to resume hunting demons. 22 episodes on five discs on DVD and four discs on Blu-ray, plus commentary on two episodes, two featurettes and two episodes of "Supernatural: The Anime Series." The Blu-ray also includes the interactive "The Hunter's Guide to Season Six." The seventh season of the WB's cult series begins in late September.
"Sanctuary: The Complete Third Season" (eOne) features "Stargate" TV veteran Amanda Tapping as the head of a secret squad that searches and protects strange and supernatural beings living among us. 20 episodes on six discs on both DVD and Blu-ray, plus commentary on seven episodes and a bunch of featurettes. The SyFy Channel original series launches its fourth season this fall.
"It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: The Complete Sixth Season" (Fox) features 12 episodes of the most aggressively un-PC sitcom on commercial cable. And that's saying something. Features commentary on select episodes, podcasts, deleted and extended scenes and an extended cut of the episode "Lethal Weapon 5."
Denis Richards guest stars in "Blue Mountain State: Season Two" (Lionsgate), the crude college football comedy made for Spike TV. "Ghost Hunters: Season 6: Part 1" (Image) features 12 more episodes of the paranormal reality show from SyFy.
"The Shunning" (Sony), based on the best-selling book by Beverly Lewis (one of the top Amish fiction writers, explains the pres release), is a Hallmark Channel original about a an Amish woman (Danielle Panabaker) and an identity crisis. Also from the Hallmark Channel is "Citizen Jane" (Green Apple), starring Ally Sheedy as a woman who discovers her husband (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a killer and spends thirteen years hunting him down.
Saved From the Flames
Less than a week after the final episode, "Rescue Me: The Sixth Season and The Final Season" (Sony) arrives on DVD, completing the show and the home video library in conjunction (appropriately enough) with the 10th Anniversary observation of 9/11, an event that haunted the show from its first episode and has come back with a vengeance in the final season. Tommy (Denis Leary, also the show's co-creator) lost his cousin and a lot of friends that day and the guilt pulled the brakes off his naturally addictive nature for season after season of extreme dysfunction and self-destructive impulses.
The series has not been the most consistent of shows through the seasons but Leary and co-creator Peter Tolan have been fearless in facing the demons of men who put their lives on the line daily and see their personal lives unravel of the job. Alcoholism, divorce, death, abandonment and crippling fear of commitment have defined not just Tommy but many of his fellow firefighter, heroes on the job and screw-ups in their lives.
The season isn't about transcending the past or curing the damage as much as it is coming to terms with who they are and moving ahead. Which is a pretty adult thing for guys who have spent years acting like overgrown adolescents. But it's also pretty funny that in the seventh season, as Tommy tries to stop following his worst impulses and look out for his family and friends and loved ones with as much selflessness as a Gavin can muster, everyone else manages to, at least for a couple of episodes, make it all about him once again. Given that the final seasons are laced with alcoholism, injury and even more loss, as well as a wedding, they are given as satisfying a send off as they could expect. It ends not with fire but with family. And a few ghosts, hanging around to keep Tommy honest.
Matt Zoller Seitz reflects on the series finale and the legacy of the show at Salon: "It wasn't always good, and sometimes it wasn't even likable, but it was almost always interesting -- sometimes in spite of itself," he writes of the seven season run. And the finale, he notes, wasn't a three-hanky special like the "Six Feet" closer. But it was almost as satisfying, and in some ways more surprising because of its emphasis on slapstick misfortune rather than dark-night-of-the-soul emoting."
19 episodes from the sixth and seventh seasons on five discs in a box set of three thinpak cases, plus four featurettes (including an overview of the final seasons), deleted scenes and a gag reel.
The long-awaited box set is out today, but released in Europe earlier this week
"Star Wars: The Complete Saga" (Fox), the Blu-ray debut of the six "Star Wars" films, didn't arrive in stateside home theaters until Friday, September 16, but Europe is a different story. It was released in Britain, Sweden and elsewhere across the pond on Monday, September 12 and the reviews, most of them for tech-savvy, "Star Wars"-loving fans, have been tricking in. Here are a few previews of coming attractions.
At The Digital Fix, Geoff Dearth (whose name already resembles a "Star Wars" character) takes on "Star Wars: The Original Trilogy." While he resigns himself to Lucas' tinkering ("For this 2011 edition of ["Star Wars"] Lucas has changed a few things once again (which I won't bleat about here) but the core of the movie still shines through the superficial CG gloss."), he takes a hard line on the technical quality of the masters. "These Blu-rays don't quite do them justice, using 7-year-old transfers which are beset with colour problems and artefacts from the then-state-of-the-art digital restoration," he complains, noting that the audio is a little better "yet it's still not perfect, hampered by the variable quality of the original sound element ".
A remarkably comprehensive review by Blu-ray.com reviewer Casey Broadwater proclaims that, a few exceptions aside (in particular "The Phantom Menace"), "the transfers/restorations the films have been given represent an exponential leap in picture refinement, integrity, and clarity from previous DVD releases." And he's in a forgiving mood when it comes to Lucas' reworking of the original films. "Yes, there are some goofy new additions, like Darth Vader yelling "NOOOOO" as he throws Emperor Palpatine over the railing. I don't think anyone expected this release of "The Complete Saga" to be free of controversy. But come on. It's "Star Wars." On Blu-ray."
"The Greatest Film Ever Made" gets a worthy Blu-ray debut - and MSN has an exclusive clip from the set
"Citizen Kane" has been so longed hailed as “the greatest film ever made” (the American Film Institute’s poll apparently made it official) that it’s in serious danger of becoming the least seen masterpiece around. The legends surrounding the film and its creator (and let’s face it, Pauline Kael was simply wrong: this is Welles’ creation) have too long overshadowed the actual production.
See an exclusive clip from the supplements, featuring actress Ruth Warrick discussing working with Orson Welles, after the jump below
Above all, Welles was a showman and "Citizen Kane" is a three ring circus of cinematic ingenuity, a startlingly entertaining blend of pulp melodrama, historical biography, detective story, political drama, storytelling confabulation, and plain old theatrical flourish. Years ahead of its time in its layered use of sound and score (a pioneering piece of dramatic composition by Bernard Herrmann), stunningly designed and brilliantly shot by Gregg Toland with a creative invention that pushed the envelope of motion picture photography, "Citizen Kane" is a vital, exciting moment of American cinema brought back to life with every viewing.
That puts a lot of pressure on Warner to get it right on their Blu-ray debut. I'm pleased to note that they do with "Citizen Kane: 70th AnniversaryUltimate Collector’s Edition" (Warner). The original negative was lost in a fire years ago but a fine-grain print survives and was been the source of this newly remastered edition. The transfer so sharp and clear and detailed it actually shows us too much information in some scenes. The cinematic sleight of hand is revealed in the projection room scene (where Joseph Cotten and Erskine Sanford, who are supposed to be shrouded in shadow, are plainly seen as "anonymous reporters" in the background) and the stunning dissolve from the still photo of the Chronicle staff coming to life at a party. These scenes were made for the chemical technology of 1940s, not the capabilities of 21st century high definition digital restoration, but such perfectionism is the kind of criticism this disc can handle: every single scene is a marvel of crisp clarity. More from archivist Robert Harris at Home Theater Forum.
The Blu-ray includes the supplements from the earlier DVD edition. Of the two commentary tracks, film critic Roger Ebert’s is the superior by far, a rich scene by scene talk that movies from sharp observation to Welles’ methods and meanings. Welles aficionado Peter Bogdanovich provides a dull, droning commentary, full of obvious statements with little detail and none of the stories you would expect from him. It also features production stills (accompanied by 11 more minutes of Roger Ebert commentary on the film and its place in history), storyboards, alternate ad campaigns, studio and personal correspondence, call sheets and other memorabilia, newsreel footage from the film’s 1941 premiere, and the film’s unique and inventive original theatrical trailer.
Plus Conan O'Brien, 'Lourdes' and 'Le Quattro Volte'
Kenneth Branagh brings "Thor" (Paramount, the Norse god-as-comic-book hero, to the big screen with Shakespearean dimension and god-versus-robot fantasy action. Videodrone's review is here, and we talk with Kenneth Branagh about gods, superheroes and movies here. Kelly Reichert's "Meek's Cutoff" (Oscilloscope), a frontier drama about a wagon train lost in the high plains of Oregon, may be the quietest western you've ever seen. Videodrone wanders through the film here.
Joseph Gordon Levitt is a headbanging blast of anarchy with a healing presence in "Hesher" (Lionsgate), a dark comedy of a bullied kid (Devin Brochu) trying to come to terms with the death of his mother while his dad (Rainn Wilson) completely checks out in his grief. Hesher, a metalhead covered in crude tattoos and sporting an even cruder mouth, moves right in to the dysfunctional household and prods them back to life with a jolt of tough-love so chaotic it's hard to tell what his intentions are, or if he even has any.
"Susser's first film feels like an original -- imperfect but often fresh and true, and a worthy showcase for a star on the rise," recommends MSN film critic Kat Murphy. "It goes without saying that Hesher's often repellent character, and the movie itself, owes everything to the snaky charisma of Gordon-Levitt. This gifted young actor is clearly having a high old time inside the (mostly naked) skin of such a relentlessly vulgar and violent creature." Natalie Portman and Piper Laurie co-star.
On DVD and Blu-ray, with deleted scenes, outtakes, a behind the scenes featurette and sketch gallery of drawings featured in the film.
Julie Taymor turns Shakespeare's banished wizard king Prospero into a sorceress, Prospera, and casts the indomitable Helen Mirren in role in her take on "The Tempest" (Touchstone). It sounds inspired but MSN film critic Kat Murphy finds it "remarkably dumb and artless… In contrast to Shakespeare's gift for weaving words into enchanted worlds, Taymor's "Tempest" leeches most of the magic out of his language and Prospera's fertile island of the imagination." Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Djimon Hounsou and Felicity Jones co-star in the film that closed the Venice Film Festival last year but withered at the box office after a critic drubbing. It's been a bad year for Ms. Taymor, what with this and getting fired from the troubled "Spider-Man" stage musical.
Curiously, there is no DVD release: it is available exclusively on Blu-ray and via Movie Download and OnDemand. The Blu-ray features commentary by Taymor, an alternate commentary track by Shakespeare experts Virginia Vaughn and Jonathan Bate, the documentary "Raising The Tempest" and rehearsal footage with Taymor, Djimon Hounsou, Russell Brand and Alfred Molina and its supplements.
"Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop" (Paramount) chronicles the comic's "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on TV" tour after his departure from "The Tonight Show." "It isn't as sad a movie as "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work," another behind-the-mask documentary, observes Washington Post film critic Michael O'Sullivan. "It's funnier. But it's just as illuminating." Features commentary, interview outtakes and a new interview with Conan O'Brien.
"Bill Cunningham New York" (Zeitgeist) profiles the New York Times photographer. "The Bill Cunningham captured here is a puckish, eightysomething man with electric energy and a wish to devour all of New York through his camera lens," writes Slate film critic Nathan Heller.
"Love Wedding Marriage" (IFC) is a romantic comedy starring Mandy Moore as a newlywed marriage counselor whose own marriage issues are far from solved, but MSN film critic James Rocchi doesn't recommend making an appointment with this film. In his words, this generic production "inspires a bleak and baffling mix of anger and amnesia: You'd be furious with having wasted time on "Love Wedding Marriage" if only you could remember it."
The French-language "Incendies" (Sony), a Canadian drama about siblings who travel to the Middle East to find family members they never knew existed and uncover hidden family secrets in a war zone, was an Oscar nominee for "Best Foreign Language Film." MSN film critic Glenn Kenny is unimpressed. He describes the film from director Denis Villeneuve as "meretriciously overdetermined as art cinema, or any kind of cinema for that matter, gets." And adds "But very professionally done." The Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack offers director commentary and a featurette.
"Lourdes" (Palisades Tartan) stars Sylvie Testud as a young woman on a pilgrimage for a miracle. New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis writes: "One of the pleasures of this intelligent, rigorously thoughtful, somewhat sly film is that it takes place in the space between the inexplicable (no explanation is possible) and the unexplained (enlightenment might be around the corner)." In French, Austrian and German with English subtitles.
"Le Quattro Volte" (Kino Lorber) from Italy is a meditation on the mysterious cycles of life via the odyssey of a soul through four states of existence. "Grave, beautiful, austerely comic, and casually metempsychotic, Michelangelo Frammartino's Le Quattro Volte is one of the wiggiest nature documentaries-or almost-documentaries-ever made," praises Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman.
Yuen Woo Ping directs the Asian action film "True Legend" (Indomina), starring Vincent Zhao and featuring appearances by Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh and David Carradine. "In countless over-the-top set pieces, Yuen delivers striking combat clarity without sacrificing the visceral editing and crazy digital effects of modern bloodbaths," writes Village Voice critic Nick Schrager. In Mandarin with English subtitles and optional English-dub soundtrack, plus behind-the-scenes featurettes, storyboard comparisons and other supplements.
And the rest:
Joseph Cross is mistaken for the messiah in the comedy "Son of Morning" (eOne), co-starring Heather Graham and Danny Glover. Keir Gilchrist is "Just Peck" (Image), a high-school outcast in a coming-of-age comedy.
Romantic comedies: Brian White and Mallika Sherawat are political rivals as (literal) bedfellows "Politics of Love" (Codeblack), Dean Cain and Juliana Paes star in the "Bed and Breakfast" (Green Apple) and Tamala Jones, Nicole Ari Parker and Keith Robinson headline "35 & Ticking" (One Village). "Leading Ladies" (Wolfe), a gay-themed romantic comedy set in the world of ballroom dance, features contestants from "So You Think You Can Dance."
Mayim Bialik and Joey Lawrence voice a couple of canines in the family comedy "The Dog Who Saved Halloween" (Anchor Bay), Teri Polo headlines the ghost story "Haunting at the Beacon" (Take 2) and Michael Jai White directs and stars in "Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown" (Sony).
The two original cable series pursue the Starz signature style
Starz continues to pursue its signature style of historical spectacle and contrived cable nudity with "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" (Anchor Bay) and the short-lived "Camelot: The Complete First Season" (Anchor Bay), the story of King Arthur… with a little sex in it.
John Hannah and Lucy Lawless dominate the six-episode prequel "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena," which chronicles their rise as purveyors of arena entertainment. The original "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" had its fans but I wasn't one of them, so when I say "Gods of the Arena" offers more of the same—a succession of brutal arena battles painted over in swaths of crimson CGI spatter and gaping wounds (a la "300") interspersed with softcore sex right out of a late-night Cinemax Eurotica import with the thinnest of stories connecting the scenes—you can take that as either a warning or a recommendation. It is the closest that Starz has to a signature series, though, and the DVD and Blu-ray releases are packed with featurettes and other supplements. The Blu-ray also features commentary on each episode, extended episodes and a 3D battle sequence. Both are two discs in a booklet with slipsleeves.
You could say that "Camelot: The Complete First Season" (Anchor Bay), the Starz original series take on the legend of King Arthur, opens with Merlin (Joseph Fiennes) summoning Arthur (Jamie Campbell Bower) in the wake of the death of King Uther Pendragon. The king's bastard son, hidden away in the provinces and raised by a farming family, is roused to take the throne and his destiny while his half-sister Morgan (Eva Green) schemes to have Arthur murdered and his reputation sullied so she can take the throne. That's accurate enough but here's a more telling description of the show's skewed focus: it opens with the hunky young Arthur rolling in the meadow with a naked maiden, who lolls around like a centerfold in a photo shoot.
Yes, like "Spartacus," "Camelot" flaunts nudity and gore by forcing it into scenes with the grace of a product placement, the "Look at me, I'm a cable show" approach to R-rated spectacle. Its not as empty-headed as "Spartacus" and is even marginally better than the BBC series "Merlin," the "I Was a Teenage Camelot Legend" series that takes far more liberties with the Arthurian myths and tales. But that's not to say it's actually any good. Bower and Tamsin Egerton, the show's Guinevere (in this incarnation the wife of Arthur's most loyal knight, which is a problem since Arthur had a fling with her on her wedding day) are overshadowed by Fiennes, who plays Merlin as a carnival con artist with glowering stares and eccentric ticks, and Green, who smolders as Morgan, a woman who turns to dark arts and darker plots to take the power her culture denies her.
It turns out that "The Complete First Season" is also the only season. The series was cancelled with the Arthur legend barely begun and nary a sign of Lancelot, but at least a few key pieces of the legend were dropped into place by the end of the last episode. 10 episodes on three discs on DVD and Blu-ray, with featurettes, character profiles, bloopers and episode recaps.