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DVDs, Books, Broadcast TV and Merchandise all come under the gaze of our expert reviewers.

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Blu-Ray (225)

The latest winner in the format wars, we look at both television and movies that are hitting the shelves in this pristine new technology.

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Books (11)

Essential reading materials reviewed so that you can assemble the library most suited to your interests.

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Broadcast (2)

The latest transmissions on terrestrial and digital television channels across the panet, and what we think of them.

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Cult Movies on DVD (292)

All the best in Cult Movies released onto DVD

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Events (20)

Places to go and people to see, and here we find out whether it was worth it or not!

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Handbags Before Dawn (8)

Contentious opinions on all matters television - from schedulers to the programmes themselves, the continuity errors to the highs and lows of what actually makes it to the screen.

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Interviews (10)

Interviews with stars and programme makers from various CULT TV universes.

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Merchandise (8)

Collectables of all shapes and sizes reviewed and rated

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Star Profiles (153)

Background information and career history of cult celebrities from in front of and behind the camera.

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TV DVDs (280)

The latest titles from TV series and TV specials range to hit the shelves and online stores

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Tuesday, 04 June 2013

Malcolm In The Middle - Series 6 out on DVDSo we reach the sixth series of this all American show about a somewhat dysfunctional family. If you have read my reviews of the previous series you will know that Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) is the genius brother to Francis (Christopher Masterson), Reece (Justin Berfield), Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan) and baby Jamie. His parents, Lois (Jane Kaczmarek) and Hal (Brian Cranston) struggle to hold the family together, somehow they just about manage to keep the family in check.

This season sees Francis unemployed, which is a shame as it means we don’t get to see the great Otto (Kenneth Mars) anymore. Reece continues to find more inventive ways to get himself into trouble. Malcolm battles with his own morals on several occasions and Dewey continues to astound with his musical brilliance.

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Dr Who Dalek Films - out now on Blu-rayIn the mid-1960s when Dalekmania was all the rage, Amicus producers Milton Subotsky and Joe Vegoda spotted a potentially lucrative opportunity to bring the Daleks to the big screen via their Aaru sister company, specially created so as to not cause confusion with the style of productions that Amicus had become famous for. Shot in colourful, widescreen Techniscope, the movies stood apart from the squarer, black and white Doctor Who TV series. Now, released in re-mastered high definition, the movies look better than ever!

Two TV stories were adapted: “The Daleks” and “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”. In a break from the TV series, the first movie’s cast includes Amicus regular Peter Cushing as ‘Dr Who’ (to appeal to the global box office), with Record Breakers’ Roy Castle as a bumbling Ian Chesterton, Jennie Linden (“Women in Love”) as Barbara, and young Roberta Tovey as Susan. Castle and Linden were replaced in the second film by Bernard Cribbins (“The Railway Children”) as copper Tom and Jill Curzon as Louise.

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Halo 4 - Forward Unto Dawn on DVD and Blu-rayThis ambitious movie based on the hugely popular Xbox franchise was originally released online as a series of webisodes to commemorate the launch of Halo 4. The focus is a bunch of cadets at Corbulo military academy in the 26th Century. The cadets undergo a series of training missions in preparation for war against human rebels, though unbeknownst to them a far more terrifying and alien enemy awaits.

Thomas Lasky (Tom Green – Home and Away) has the aptitude to be a leader but he does not believe in the cause against the insurrectionists, and is struggling to move out of his brother’s broad shadow. Can he turn it around over the last few missions or risk failing the entire squad? Meanwhile, a fellow cadet is piecing together classified video clips from the battlefield that are about to reveal a secret that will blow their minds.

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Tower - out now on DVDA fictitious twin-tower skyscraper called Tower Sky is the venue for swanky Christmas Eve soirée. The 108-floor, high-tech monoliths contain luxury apartments and everything their occupants could want including a selection of restaurants and a garden. This being a disaster film, the building’s negligent management firm has been a bit lax with health and safety; when a devastating accident during the party causes a fire to break out, a sprinkler failure endangers the lives everyone inside.

This thrilling blockbuster from South Korean director Ji-hoon Kim strives to match the perils of “The Towering Inferno” and “World Trade Centre”, keeping interesting, likeable characters at the centre of the drama whilst also depicting the terrifying effects of a fire engulfing a skyscraper using state-of-the-art special effects. Once you have seen this movie, you might be afraid to ever venture into a tower block again.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Handgun from Tony Garnett out now on DVD“Handgun” was made in 1982, and was known as “Deep in the Heart” Stateside. It didn’t get a release there until early 1984, with the action set in the heart of Texas. Written, produced and directed by British film and television veteran Tony Garnett, his credits include the likes of “Kes”, Between the Lines and This Life. “Handgun”, like so many of Network Releasing’s recent titles, is featured on this DVD in a brand-new transfer from original film elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio.

Karen Young gives an intense performance as a victim of sexual violence who turns vigilante. With one broken relationship still fresh in her mind, Kathleen Sullivan is in no mood to take on a new boyfriend. Larry the lawyer (Clayton Day), however, in love with his own reflection and with a dubious obsession for guns and schoolgirls (glancing successively at one after another along a school corridor), will not tolerate her rebuffs. Treading the fine line of what the law of the land will let him get away with, he instigates an almost-textbook assault on her, which leaves the police nothing they can hang a conviction on.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Dead Mine comes to DVDA small but heavily armed group of explorers travel to a remote Indonesian island, looking for a mythical hoard of gold abandoned during World War 2. They discover a mine built by the Japanese and are trapped inside when a group of pirates attack their party. There is a chance that the mine could contain the treasure, but it definitely also harbours some very nasty surprises left by the previous occupants.

The film is an ambitious second feature for director Steven Sheil (“Mum & Dad”). It was shot in Indonesia with an international cast that includes Sam Hazeldine (Lightfields, Midsomer Murders), former stuntman Les Loveday (“Stardust”), Japanese actress Miki Mizuno (“Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion”), Carmen Soo from China and a host of Indonesian actors including Ario Bayu.

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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Magnificent Eleven shoot onto DVDFootball, racketeering and Indian cuisine collide in this new British comedy co-written by Irvine Welsh (“Trainspotting”). Dire Sunday soccer team Cowboy F.C. may have just played its final game. The coffers are dry, they have never scored a goal let alone won a match and are the laughing stock of the league. To make matters worse, their rowdy post-match antics have seen them get banned from virtually every pub and restaurant in town.

When all seems lost, two glimmers of hope surface in the shape of rival sponsorship opportunities. The first offer comes from The Taj Tandoori, a local Indian restaurant, the other from a big American firm looking to move into the area. The hapless team make a deal with The Taj’s hard-bargaining owners, only to discover that the restaurant is being squeezed by American Bob, a local crime lord (Robert Vaughn – The Man From UNCLE, Hustle).

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Konga storms onto DVDHere we herald the home entertainment debut of one of the first monster movies to be made in the UK in colour. “Konga” is an alternative interpretation of the King Kong mythos, with Michael Gough as Dr Charles Decker, a botanist and university professor, and the only survivor of a plane crash in Africa (the less said about the effects on that scene the better).

When he returns from the jungle, he brings with him ‘Konga’, a baby chimpanzee. During the course of his experiments, Decker discovers a serum that causes Konga to grow and grow, and even to obey his will. He encounters much opposition to his experiments and, following an obsession with a female pupil where he looks like his amorous intent will be thwarted by a rival, he decides to put the supersized ape to terrifying use - which eventually terrorises the whole of London.

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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Collection - out now on DVDA mass-murdering psycho known as The Collector is still at large. Responsible for the deaths of dozens of people, the demented, masked killer captures one unfortunate soul from each crime scene for some unholy purpose. Enter Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick – “The Social Network”, “In Time”), a young woman who goes to a rave with her friends in the wrong place at the wrong time, and ends up in The Collector’s deadly, trap-infested lair.

Elena’s rich father (Christopher McDonald – “A Requiem for a Dream”, “Thelma & Louise”) hires some mercenaries to get her back, and they strong-arm the sole survivor from a previous attack, cat-burglar Arkin (Josh Stewart – “The Dark Knight Rises”, No Ordinary Family) into helping them locate The Collector’s lair. Heavily armed, the team track their quarry down and enter his decrepit old hotel den expecting an easy mission.

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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Journeyman comes along to DVDKevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy, “Dog Soldiers”) stars in this drama-romance-sci-fi series about Dan Vasser, a newspaper journalist who jumps backwards and forwards in time to figure out unsolved crimes and get desperate people’s lives back on track. Gretchen Egolf (Martial Law, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”), Moon Bloodgood (Falling Skies, “Terminator Salvation”) and Reed Diamond (Dollhouse, “Moneyball”) co-star.

Dan has no control over when his time-jumps occur, nor which point in the past he goes back to, though it is always somewhere in his home city of San Francisco. Unlike Quantum Leap, Dan goes back as the present day version of himself, and as well as solving mysteries he gets involved in his and his loved-ones’ lives. Our hero constantly has to make amends for the disruption his ‘gift’ causes to his relationships and work.

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Monday, 29 April 2013

Spartacus - War of the Damned on DVD and Blu-rayAs the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” Thus, after four scintillating and extremely bloody seasons, the Spartacus saga draws to a close. War of the Damned picks up where Season 3’s Vengeance left off, with Roman general Glaber defeated and the slave rebellion rapidly amassing new recruits. Rome appoints Marcus Crassus, a wealthy and very cunning, strategic politician to crush the rabble once and for all.

Crassus is aided by his inexperienced and impetuous son Tiberius, and the daring and very ambitious Julius Caesar. With the backing of countless legions of well-equipped Roman soldiers, Rome must surely, finally seize the day. Meanwhile, Spartacus and his generals Crixus, Gannicus and Agron have a common enemy, but very different priorities. Pressed on all fronts, resources running critically low and with a bitter Winter to contend with, the odds do not look good.

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Monday, 29 April 2013

Malcolm in the Middle - Season 5 out on DVDSo here we are at the fifth instalment of this highly entertaining series. For the uninitiated the Malcolm of the series is the middle son in a family of five boys. Their parents Hal and Lois try, mostly in vain, to control this quintet of trouble. Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) is a genius, although his intelligence gets him in as much trouble as his brothers. He is sometimes too smart for his own good and often thinks he can outwit his mother. In the episode “Thanksgiving” he sneaks out of the house to go to a party and after drinking a little more alcohol than is sensible he returns home and promptly ruins the family dinner by giving them all a piece of his mind before throwing up and passing out.

Francis (Christopher Kennedy Masterson) is the oldest brother. He works on a ranch for Otto (Kenneth Mars) who is somewhat incompetent and requires Francis to sort out most of the daily running of the business. Francis’ younger siblings all look up to him and sometimes find it hard to accept that he has matured, married and settled down leaving his wayward years behind him. He does, on occasion, revert to his previous self and become quite childish, particularly around Lois who never seems to approve of anything he does.

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Monday, 22 April 2013

Spanish Fly comes to DVDPicture the scene.  It’s 1976, and the British cinema has become a home for mild titillation. With Page 3 of ‘The Sun’ in its heyday, mixing such study of the female form with a humour built on the foundations of male frustration seemed to be a winning recipe at the Box Office.  Marking the height, or for some the nadir, of such productions is “Spanish Fly”, now making its way onto the home market as a DVD, allowing it to be seen for the first time since its original cinematic release.

Having been remastered from original film materials, this version includes a print in the as-exhibited cinema aspect ratio. The premise declares that this is “Leslie Philips v Terry-Thomas”, with an onscreen battle of wills to see who comes out on top, in literally every possible meaning of the phrase. If you’re looking for a film that deepens the understanding of the human condition, then this isn’t it. However, if you want to see what sort of movie became the successor to the “Carry On” films, burning brightly for just a short time, then consider “Spanish Fly” as part of your education.

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Monday, 22 April 2013

On The Fiddle - out now on DVDYou can be forgiven for not ever hearing of “On The Fiddle”, a jolly jape of a movie from 1961. On the verge of international stardom, Sean Connery took one of the lead roles in this adaptation of R F Delderfield’s novel “Stop at a Winner”, scripted by Harold Buchman (the co-creator of TV lawyer Petrocelli). The story has a couple of lovable service dodgers becoming accidental heroes. It’s a measured performance from Connery, not portraying any of the facets that would come to the fore the following year when he made his debut as 007 in “Dr No”. It’s almost like he’s channelling Bernard Bresslaw in his approach.

The film has been the subject of a brand-new transfer from original film elements, in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio (1.66:1). Its wartime setting does make the film appear older than it actually is, such is the accuracy of the era that it manages to encapsulate. You can imagine it having raised many a knowing chuckle amongst those in the original audience who recalled wartime, which was then only a couple of decades in the past. Veterans will no doubt feel the same when viewing it today.

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Sunday, 21 April 2013

The ABCs of Death - catch it in cinemasPerhaps the most bizarre and ambitious anthology movie ever conceived, “The ABCs of Death” features 26 short, alphabet-inspired films by 26 different horror figureheads, including names as internationally diverse as Ben Wheatley (“Kill List”), Ti West (“The House of the Devil”), Xavier Gens (“Frontier(s)”), Srdjan Spasojevic (“A Serbian Film”) and Yoshihiro Nishimura (“Tokyo Gore Police”). It is the idea of producer Ant Thompson.

“26 directors, 26 ways to die”, reads the tagline, but is the concept workable or will it result in an unholy mess? Well to start with, the film certainly contains a huge amount of variety in terms of tone, themes and cinematic styles. As well as standard, live-action tales there are those created via hand-drawn animation and even claymation; some look like they were shot with a mobile phone whilst others appear to have had the help of an entire Hollywood crew despite a spending limit of $5,000.

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Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Lords of Salem on DVD“The Lords of Salem” is the latest horror movie from Rob Zombie (“The Devil’s Rejects” and the “Halloween” remakes). Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon stars as Heidi, a heavy metal radio DJ whose life is upended when she is sent a ghastly but somehow addictive vinyl record by an unknown band called ‘The Lords’. The track puts a spell on Heidi, causing her to have horrible visions and go into a trance-like state.

Her town, Salem, has a dark past surrounding a witches’ coven that was hunted down and burnt alive in the 1600s. Before they died, the witches were said to have put a hellish curse on the town. Local museum curator Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison – “X-Men”, Last Resort) becomes concerned that history is about to catch up with Salem’s inhabitants, and is convinced that the record is the key to unlocking the mystery before it is too late.

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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Dead Head - out now on DVDDark alleyways, shadowy people lurking in doorways, dank and dingy basements, what more could you want in homage to the age of film noir. But this is not just film noir; this four part drama mixes the intrigue of the brooding detective films of the 40s with classic chase films and oddly “Rocky”.

Eddie Cass is your average low grade villain, petty theft and the odd job for the big boys keeps him in ready money. He is a little depressed when we meet him having had a blazing row with his wife, Dana. Eddie is offered a very simply delivery job, take a parcel from one location to another across London. The job comes with a couple of restrictions; he can only use public transport and must not open the package. When the recipient of the parcel is not at home Eddie takes a taxi to the Thames preparing to dump the parcel and keep the cash. His curiosity gets the better of him and he opens the parcel.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Evil Dead 2 - Special Edition Blu-ray Ash is back, and this time he knows of the horrors which await ... Or does he? “Evil Dead 2” may be the sequel to writer/director Sam Raimi’s cult horror hit from 1981, but it is more of a reimagining than a direct follow-on. Ash (Bruce Campbell – “Bubba Ho-Tep”, Burn Notice) and his girlfriend drive to a ramshackle cabin in the woods expecting a cosy break away from it all. What they actually get is a fast-track, rollercoaster ride to Hell!

The cabin’s previous occupants were researching The Book Of The Dead (aka The Necronomicon), but fell foul of its gruesome charms. Now a relentless, evil spirit is loose in the woods, and it wants to possess or kill anybody who ventures too close. As such it is not long before Ash’s girl is slaughtered and he is next on the menu. Strong-willed, he fights through the first night but then more unwitting victims turn up and the real fun begins.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Blood Simple - Director's Cut out on DVDPreviously released on DVD in 2001, the Coen Brothers’ “Blood Simple” is being re-released in a new director’s-cut-guise, with three minutes excised to enhance the movie’s pacing and by all accounts a much better print. It was their first film and yet it bears all the hallmarks of their later work, including pitch-black humour, quirky characters, strong violence and a twisting story.

Jealous and brooding bar owner Marty (Dan Hedaya – “Mullholland Drive”, “Commando”) hires a swaggering P.I. (M. Emmet Walsh – “Blade Runner”, “Fletch”) to kill his wife and her new man after she leaves him. Naïve Abby (Frances McDormand – “Fargo”, “Burn After Reading”) and boyfriend Ray (John Getz – “The Fly”, “Zodiac”) seem like easy targets, so the execution should be a formality. Of course, nothing in a Coen Brothers’ film is simple.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Parks and Recreation - Season 1 on UK DVDAlready in its fifth year in the US, the first season of hit comedy Parks and Recreation finally comes to DVD, having recently aired on BBC4. Creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, both well known for the American version of The Office and Saturday Night Live, have crafted another fabulous fly-on-the-wall mockumentary about some inept but lovable local government workers in the fictional, Indiana town of Pawnee.

Amy Poehler (Saturday Night Live, “Blades of Glory”) stars as Leslie Knope, the town’s Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation. When Leslie learns about a local man (Chris Pratt – “Moneyball”) breaking his legs after tumbling into a disused pit, she hastily promises his partner Ann (Rashida Jones – “The Social Network”) that the council will convert the dangerous eyesore into a fantastic new park. Sadly for Leslie, she does not anticipate the resistance from within and without she will encounter.

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Mr Rose - Series Three out now on DVDThe enduring character of Scotland Yard’s Chief Inspector Rose was first introduced in The Odd Man and It’s Dark Outside, Granada’s cult crime series of the early 1960s. In this sequel, reaching its third and final series with this DVD release from Network, we continue the acerbic detective’s adventures within a rather restless retirement.

This is the final run of stories to feature the character. It is again set against the backdrop of his city flat, very out of character as it is very minimalist and futuristic, and we watch him tackling crimes ranging from blackmail to murder, art theft to protection rackets. His aide, John Halifax, is away for the duration of the season, so brought into play, to prod Rose to finish his second book of memoirs, is publisher’s assistant Robert Trent, played by Eric Woofe.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

It's Dark Outside - out on DVDIt's Dark Outside is the second series in Granada's cult crime/suspense trilogy featuring the character of Charles Rose. In this format, we see William Mervyn reprising the role of the charismatic Inspector, first introduced in The Odd Man. Although two series of It's Dark Outside were made, the second was thought completely lost until research for this release unearthed two episodes, which still existed on film. Newly transferred, these episodes have been included alongside all those from series one.

Here, we follow the sharp-witted and memorably prickly detective as he tackles a fresh batch of cases. Assisting Rose in Series One is the more amenable DS Swift (played by a sprightly Keith Barron), with John Carson as solicitor Anthony Brand and June Tobin as Brand's journalist wife, Alice. For 1960s television, the subject matter is very edgy, touching into the arenas of racism, wrongful hanging of innocent people, cult sects and gambling addictions. There is even the spectre of adultery, as Swift and Alice find themselves tragically attracted to each other.

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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Fear and Desire - Lost Kubrick on Blu-ray and DVDCopyrighted 1952, Independently financed with contributions from Stanley Kubrick's family and friends in an era when an ‘independent cinema’ was still far from the norm, “Fear and Desire” got its release in 1953 at the Guild Theater in New York, thanks to the enterprising distributor Joseph Burstyn. Now, with a new restoration carried out in 2012 by The Library of Congress, a film that for decades has remained nearly impossible to see has a proper release in the United Kingdom.

This Kubrick tale tells the story of an unspecified war waged between two forces. It is timeless, not specifying whether this is the past, present of future. In the midst of the conflict, a plane carrying four soldiers crashes six miles behind enemy lines. From here on in, it is kill or be killed. Kubrick once described it as “an ambitious allegory”.

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Monday, 18 March 2013

The Bay - out on Blu-ray and DVDJust when you thought it was safe to go back into the cinema, another ‘found footage’ horror movie emerges, doing its best to convince you that the genre is not dead in the water. The coastal town of Claridge, Maryland is in for a torrid time during its 4th of July festivities. Abruptly interrupting celebrations such as a crab-eating contest, 30 people are spontaneously afflicted with hideous boils and vomiting, and that is only the beginning.

Their condition rapidly declines, and the number of victims multiplies by the hour. Panic and confusion grip the bewildered inhabitants. Meanwhile, the police and medical experts try to solve the mystery before it can lay waste to the entire town. The movie’s crew includes some big names such as Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson (“Rain Man”, “Bugsy”), producer Jason Blum (“Paranormal Activity”, “Insidious”) and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (“Sinister”).

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Monday, 18 March 2013

Malcolm in the Middle - Series Four out on DVDHere we go again with season four of this excellent sitcom. If you are new to Malcolm in the Middle let me introduce you to the family. Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) is the genius son and brother in a fraught American family. He is frequently the instigator of plans to make life better for himself and his brothers in a continual war with their parents. Malcolm’s intelligence is also often used to get the family out of tricky situations.

Dewey (Erik Per Sullivan) is the youngest and probably wisest brother. He can turn on the charm when puppy dog eyes are required or speak reason to his panicking father. Reece (Justin Berfield) is the second eldest and least understood brother; he occupies a world of his own where simple things amuse him. He is both tormentor and occasional saviour to his younger brothers.

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