Mother’s Day is Sunday, but this year, instead of — or in addition to — the usual gifts of flowers, perfume or a night out on the town, a worthwhile gift for Mom might be one of several recommended movies and-or television series new to the market.
If you’re reading this Saturday, then this guide arrives a day early, which is fitting because, let’s face it, maybe some of you also arrived a day or so early. As a bonus, all of these titles can be found locally at far less than the retail prices listed below.
Chief among the best releases are several from the BBC, which offers a veritable bounty of shows made for mum, including the acclaimed “Natural History Collection” (Blu-ray, $179.98; standard DVD, $199.98), which includes the documentaries “Planet Earth,” “Galapagos,” “Wild China” and “Ganges.” It’s a terrific set, one that fittingly highlights the best of that other mother — nature.
Equally good yet smaller in scope is “Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages” ($29.98), which gathers together seven Attenborough specials. Included are “A Blank on the Map,” “The Lost Gods of Easter Island,” “Bowerbirds: The Art of Seduction,” “The Song of the Earth,” “Life on Air,” “The Amber Time Machine” and “Attenborough in Paradise.” As in the “Natural History Collection,” the cinematography is just as stunning as you’d expect from the BBC, which has some of the world’s best cinematographers.
“Only Fools and Horses: The Complete Collection” ($248.98) is available, which will be good news for plenty — the show is Britain’s best-selling comedy of all time. The series is set in south London — Peckham, to be exact, which apparently is a boilerplate for comedic melodrama — so you know going into it that the goings will get sketchy, and they do. The series features longtime hustlers Rodney (Nicholas Lyndhurst) and Derek (David Jason) struggling to hit it big. For the most part, they don’t, but the series does.
Another BBC highlight is “Ballykissangel: The Complete Collection” ($159.98), a quirky drama set in the Irish town of Ballykissangel, which houses a large cast of characters with a motherlode of problems. Depending on the season, either Father Peter (Stephen Tompkinson), Father MacAnally (Niall Toibin) Father Aiden (Don Wycherley) or Father Vincent (Robert Tailor) is left to sort out those problems, which they sometimes do — though not always. Colin Farrell made his mark in the fourth and fifth seasons as farmer Danny Byrne, but his role ebbed as the actor’s star rose. The richness of the storytelling in the first three seasons is particularly noteworthy.
Following these are several titles worth considering, such as “Will & Grace: Best of Love & Marriage” ($19.98), “Will & Grace: Best of Friends & Foes” ($19.98), the just-released Award-Winning Collection of Mike Newell’s 1992 drama “Enchanted April” ($29.99), and two newly released classics — the Centennial Collections of 1955’s “To Catch a Thief” ($24.99), with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, and the 1968 comedy “The Odd Couple,” with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.
On Blu-ray, it’s a boon, with studios reaching deep into their archives and pulling out several solid films in high-definition transfers.
The 1988 romantic comedy “Big” ($34.95) with Tom Hanks is high among them, as are Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz in 1998’s “There’s Something About Mary” ($34.98), Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah in 1987’s “Roxanne” ($28.95), and Roy Scheider and Helen Mirren in the 1984 sci-fi drama “2010: The Year We Make Contact” ($28.99).
Two films starring John Travolta shouldn’t go overlooked. First is the Bee Gee-fueled, 1977 disco powerhouse, “Saturday Night Fever ($29.99), in which Travolta aggressively points to heaven and hell amid the grind of a lighted dance floor, and second is the enduring 1978 musical “Grease” ($29.99), in which he literally soars off into the heavens with Olivia Newton-John.
More contemporary titles include Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway in the comedy “Bride Wars” ($39.99), as well as the kneecapped life of Brooklyn rapper Christopher “Biggie” Wallace in George Tillman Jr.’s “Notorious” ($28.99), because, you know, who says mom can’t be into gangsters and hip-hop?
Those seeking the BBC on Blu-ray should turn to the just-released remake of “Bleak House” ($49.99) with Gillian Anderson, Anna Maxwell Martin and Denis Lawson; Judi Dench in “Cranford” ($39.98); the 1985 Merchant-Ivory film “A Room with a View” ($28.99) with Helena Bonham Carter, Daniel Day Lewis and Maggie Smith; the terrific first season of “Torchwood” ($99.98); and “Robin Hood: Season One” ($99.98).
The latter series is especially good, a lively retelling of the tale that once again makes it hip to take from the rich and give to the poor. It’s enough to make you want to chant, “Yes we can!” This intentionally silly, promising first season stars Jonas Armstrong in the lead, with Hungary posing as 12th century England and taxes against the poor an unacceptable proposition. Humor, romance and swordplay commingle amid the tomfoolery, with the script connecting more often than not.
For those seeking additional television series on DVD, several solid (and affordable) offerings are worth noting, including Michael J. Fox in the funny second season of “Spin City” ($39.99); the rabble-rousing, hair-pulling second season of “Knots Landing” ($39.98); and the final season of the Australian-based drama “McLeod’s Daughters” ($59.98).
In the end, let’s not stereotype mom. If your mother is anything like mine, she might enjoy a gift of some of the popular mystery and crime shows on television, such as the British mystery miniseries “Fallen Angel” ($39.99), the grisly detective series “Taggart: Set 1” ($49.99), the first season of “Rookies” ($19.95), and the edgy British series “The Commander: Set 1,” which makes some of our toughest television shows look downright demure in comparison.
For genre throwbacks, a few of best and newest to the market include “The Fugitive: Season Two, Vol. 2” ($39.98), “Jake and the Fatman: Second Season” ($36.98), the sixth season of “Hawaii Five-O” ($49.99) and, if your mother digs a little polyester and Brill Cream with her action and intrigue (and really, who doesn’t?), it’s tough to go wrong with the sixth season of “Mission: Impossible” ($49.99).
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom — and to mothers everywhere.
WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.