Star-on-the-rise Benedict Cumberbatch — best known as the BBC’s “Sherlock” and the villain in “Star Trek Into Darkness” — stars in a new TV miniseries set against the backdrop of World War I.
“Parade’s End” (HBO/Blu-ray, 2013, two discs, $49.99, Blu-ray and digital versions, five episodes, radio interview). Tony and Oscar-winning writer Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare in Love”) adapted this five-part miniseries from the novels by Ford Madox Ford (previously adapted in 1964 as a three-part miniseries with Judi Dench).
Cumberbatch stars as a principled aristocrat who marries a manipulative, cheating socialite (Rebecca Hall, currently in the film “Closed Circuit”). Even when she bears a child that may not be his, he feels obliged to stick it out. After meeting a sweet-natured, optimistic suffragette named Valentine (Adelaide Clemens, the recent “Great Gatsby”) he is tempted to enter a new relationship but declines to give in, eventually going off to war, which gives him some distance to ponder his future.
Very well written and performed, this vintage-era soap opera benefits greatly from actors who know how to convey emotions beneath the surface and production values that wonderfully capture the period. An HBO/BBC co-production. (Also on DVD, $30.98)
“Castle: The Complete Fifth Season” (ABC, 2012-13, five discs, $45.99, 24 episodes, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, bloopers). This crime comedy about best-selling author Richard Castle (Nathan Fillian) worming his way into the NYPD as a consultant and falling for lead detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) is still amusing and the murders interesting — but since the characters became an official couple there’s been way too much emphasis on their secretive romance. (Also on DVD, $25.99) (Season 6 begins Sept. 23)
“Chicago Fire: Season One” (Universal, 2012-13, five discs, $44.98, 24 episodes, featurette, 13 podcasts). Action/soap opera series from producer Dick Wolf (“Law & Order”) follows the complicated lives of firefighters and paramedics on and off the job. Unknowns Jesse Spencer and Taylor Kinney star; recurring cast members include Kathleen Quinlan, Treat Williams and Sarah Shahi. (Season 2 begins Sept. 24)
“Sinbad: The Complete First Season” (BBC/Blu-ray, 2012, two discs, $34.98, 12 episodes, featurettes). Fantasy series has the titular adventurer involved in a scuffle that results in his brother being executed and a magic spell that confines Sinbad to the high seas, where he encounters a variety of mystical creatures. Syfy cable channel show has been canceled after one season. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“Highlights of the 2013 Masters Tournament” (Lionsgate, 2013, $14.98, featurettes). For the golfer in your midst, here’s a 50-minute overview of highlights from the title tournament in Augusta, Ga., which concluded with a showdown between Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera.
“Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Run For Your Rife!” (Warner, $19.98, new cartoon, 12 episodes). In addition to a new 22-minute cartoon, “Scooby Doo! and the Spooky Scarecrow,” there are 12 ghostly themed fan favorites from various “Scooby Doo!” cartoon series.
“The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow” (Sony, 2013, $6.99). This is a new budget-priced 22-minute cartoon, featuring the voice cast from “The Smurfs 2” feature film.
“Dora the Explorer: Dora’s Great Roller Skate Adventure” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2013, $14.99, three episodes). In addition to the skate-park title adventure, Dora and Boots go to the doctor in “Check-Up Day” and attend the “School Science Fair.”
“Tickety Toc: Chime Time Adventures” (Anchor Bay, 2013, $14.98, six episodes, coloring/activity sheets). Animated series has 6-year-old twins living in a clock in Tickety Town, which is filled with zany characters. Emphasizes such concepts as teamwork and problem solving.
“Puppy in My Pocket: Adventures in Pocketville: Friendship Ceremony” (eOne, 2012, $9.98, six episodes). Italian cartoon series showing on the Boomerang cable channel has a kitty named Princess Ava playing matchmaker to children and pets.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com.
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