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New on DVD

'Blow Out,' 'Human Planet: The Complete Series,' 'Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood,' 'Upstairs, Downstairs' and more.

April 24, 2011|By Noel Murray, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Keeley Hawes as Lady Agnes Holland and Ed Stoppard as Sir Hallam Holland in the updated "Upstairs, Downstairs."
Keeley Hawes as Lady Agnes Holland and Ed Stoppard as Sir Hallam Holland… (©BBC/Masterpiece,…)

Blow Out

Criterion, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.95

Want to understand why film buffs love Brian De Palma's work? Watch "Blow Out," a 1981 thriller that encapsulates the director's operatic sense of drama, his perverse humor and his deep cynicism about American politics. John Travolta stars as a B-movie sound man who witnesses a car crash and gets embroiled in a scandal and its cover-up, which involves a prostitute (played by Nancy Allen) and a serial killer (played by John Lithgow). The story has a great hook that De Palma uses to toy with the audience, putting us in the shoes of the protagonist: driven to solve a mystery, devastated by what we discover. On the terrific new Criterion DVD and Blu-ray edition of the film, De Palma talks with fellow filmmaker Noah Baumbach about the movie; the set also includes an Allen interview and De Palma's low-budget debut feature, "Murder à La Mod," in its entirety.

Human Planet: The Complete Series

BBC Warner, $39.98; Blu-ray, $49.98

The epic nature documentaries produced by the BBC and Discovery have been some of the most reliably eye-popping and enlightening television programming of the last few years, and the latest collaboration, "Human Planet," is no different. Narrated by John Hurt, this eight-part series ventures into forbidding landscapes — deserts, the arctic, etc. — and shows how human beings interact with the natural world. As always, the BBC/Discovery crews have come back from the wild with astonishing footage, which the writers and editors have fashioned into taut, dramatic stories. The "Human Planet" DVD and Blu-ray offer an equally entertaining look at the production itself, via nearly two hours of "Behind The Lens" featurettes.

Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood

Warner, $39.98

Last year, the cable channel Turner Classic Movies unveiled its most ambitious piece of original programming yet: "Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood," a seven-part series tracking the story of the motion picture business from the advent of the nickelodeon through the emergence of a generation of hotshot directors in the late '60s. There's little here that hasn't been covered in depth in other documentaries and books, but it's well put together, with insightful interviews and lively clips. The DVD set adds an hour of additional footage.

Upstairs, Downstairs

BBC Warner, $34.98

The British TV series "Upstairs, Downstairs" became a phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1970s, with viewers deeply engrossed in the lives of early 20th century servants and their masters. The original run followed the goings-on at 165 Eaton Place between 1903 and 1930; the recent three-episode revival returns to the house in 1936, as a young couple moves in and former maid Rose Buck (played by Jean Marsh, reprising her role) assembles a new staff. The new "Upstairs, Downstairs" has a more modern feel than its predecessor, but it's still smartly focused on the relationship between the classes.

And…

"The Scent of Green Papaya" (Lorber, $24.95; Blu-ray, $29.95); "Sniper: Reloaded" (Sony, $24.96; Blu-ray, $30.95); "South Park: The Complete Fourteenth Season" (Comedy Central, $54.99; Blu-ray, $57.99); "Spectacle — Elvis Costello With…: Season Two" (Video Music, $29.95).

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