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Join us for the latest on the best in extraordinary fictional television and film from the past, present and future, and analysis on its cultural impacts.

Find out about the amazing facts in fiction, and discover the truth about what's really going on in the World around us...

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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Call Up -out now on DVD and VODA select group of video gamers is lured to an imposing skyscraper by the opportunity to win £100,000 in a virtual reality competition. Donning state of the art haptic body suits and head sets, the players are enrolled in a military shooter featuring 25 floors of increasingly difficult challenges. If they get shot in the game the players can instantly be healed by a med-pack, but the pain will feel real. Playing online from your couch is one thing; this is real warfare.

Written and directed by Charles Barker, the film stars Morfydd Clark (“Love & Friendship”), Parker Sawyers (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Max Deacon (“Into the Storm”), Tom Benedict Knight (“Kick-Ass 2”), Ali Cook (“The Anomaly”), Adriana Randall (“Triple 9”) and Douggie McMeekin as the gamers, with Chris Obi (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) as a very scary drill Sergeant. The producers have been involved with movies such as “The Machine”, “Monsters: Dark Continent” and “Dracula Untold”.

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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Grace and Favour comes to UK DVDBuried in the mists of time is the spin-off from Are You Being Served? That original series began in September 1972 and concluded in April 1985 after ten seasons and (guffaw guffaw) 69 episodes! The idea for a new format, away from the constraints of the department store, was pitched immediately after the previous show had finished – the cast themselves suggesting it to writers and creators Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft. Unfortunately, it was some seven years before Grace & Favour made it to the screen, and in many respects its era had long since passed. Today, it certainly seems like an anachronism, but it would appear this was the same reaction back at its debut. Now you get to judge for yourself, as all 12 episodes appear on a UK DVD release for the very first time.

The first season of six episodes certainly seems to be very mixed-up about what it wants to be, and indeed the years it actually resides in. The set-up is your traditional ‘fish out of water’ scenario, where the newcomers from the city struggle to come to terms with an almost-primitive rural life, all based at a country hotel which they have reluctantly inherited instead of a pension fund. However, the attitudes, culture and technologies seem almost like they have been transplanted from the 1930s rather than the then-contemporary world of the early 1990s. Mrs Slocombe ends up in court for having a horse and cart run away with her; the hotel’s current staff are bumpkins who make The Beverly Hillbillies look sophisticated; and the trappings of the hotel have none of what might be expected of a late 20th Century manor house.

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Sunday, 22 May 2016

Whicker and Whickers New World come complete to DVDAlan Whicker has rightly gained the reputation of television legend on British shores. The incisive journalism took him to global locations, and saw him create an inimitable niche over 50 years of broadcasting. Having previously had three volumes from Network over the years of what many would consider his ‘greatest hits’, now the company goes back to the beginning to release a chronological collection of his entire ITV output. The first two double DVD sets are out now, from 1968 and 1969.

And there is good reason to do this relaunch. You very much get to see the development of the television character, the honing of the most incredible of narrations to the material you get to see, and also appreciate the scope of how what initially local current affairs for the ITV network from the Yorkshire Television area became something far more. The scope increases, as must have done the budgets, where the characters Whicker encounters become more outlandish, doused in cash and idiosyncratic.

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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Roobarb - and Custard - in a complete DVD collectionA creative dog, a puce shade of green, tries to put into action every mad-cap scheme. A cynical cat, who watches on mostly from the top of the fence in critical disdain. And a cast of garden wildlife, including Mole and Rookie the Rook to support or hinder the dog’s equivalent of tilting at windmills, in terms of invention and innovation. So it is that Roobarb, and its sequel series, a five minute show supposedly for kids, took on the pre-news slot in the early evenings on BBC1, and ended up having adult fans from all walks of life making time to see the short adventures. It may have been a different form of animation, magic markers taken to the extreme, but this was very much a generational-crossing concept in the same surreal category as The Magic Roundabout.

Roobarb was inspired by creator Grange Calveley’s Welsh Border Collie, who was so named after ‘watering’ the rhubarb in his garden, very soon after going to live at his home. Despite publishers liking the character and his strange adventures, no-one took Grange up on them, so he turned his thoughts to a series of short television animations instead. Persistence with the BBC eventually paid off – not a slot on Jackanory, oh no, but a request to see a pilot episode. Enter Bob Godfrey, animation director, and Australian animation director Peter Green brought Calveley’s sketches to life. And now all 69 episodes are released together on DVD by Simply Media.

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Sunday, 01 May 2016

The Wonder Years - complete 26 DVD box set out nowThe year is 1968, the place a typical middle-class, American suburb. For 12-year-old Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage – “The Princess Bride”, “Austin Powers in Goldmember”) it is the centre of his universe as he grows up and grapples with life’s many lessons. This complete 26-DVD set, including four bonus discs, contains all 115 episodes from six seasons of the multi-award-winning show, and a staggering 23 hours of exclusive bonus material.

Kevin is not alone on his journey to adulthood, as indicated by the theme tune (Joe Cocker’s unforgettable rendition of The Beatles’ "With a Little Help from My Friends"). His parents Jack and Norma have got his back, and Kevin shares his experiences at school with best friends Paul and Winnie. His older brother Wayne and sister Karen have their own agendas, however.

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Monday, 25 April 2016

Nature Boy - out now on DVDNature Boy is a marvellous mini-series starring Lee Ingleby (The A Word, The Five) as David, a free-spirited and restless 17-year old who was taken into care as a young boy and is now desperate to track down his father. David has a special affinity with the natural world that makes him unique; it also puts him on a collision course with companies that wish to despoil the land for commercial gain.

The excellent cast also includes Paul McGann (“Withnail & I”, Doctor Who) as David’s absent father, Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey, “Filth”) as Jenny, a driven environmental campaigner who takes a shine to David, and Vicky Binns (Coronation Street, Emmerdale) as a wayward teen also taken in by David’s carers. The series was directed by BAFTA winner Joe Wright (“Atonement”) and written by Bryan Elsley (Skins).

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Monday, 25 April 2016

The Professionals MkIV - The final batch of original episodes comes to Blu-rayWith the release of the final 18 episodes of The Professionals, in this collection known as “Mk IV”, Cowley, Bodie and Doyle head off into the sunset, with some fine examples of the series, and all three of the actors at the top of their game. There are no fillers here, and we get little glimpses of character back story, leaving the audience to flesh out their out-of-episode lives themselves. It’s a lesson which contemporary television could learn from – concentrate on the plots and let them be the driver for characterisation, and not the other way around.

Gordon Jackson, Martin Shaw and Lewis Collins had wheel-spun themselves through 57 episodes. And once again, Network Releasing has spared no expense in bringing us the episodes in a quality as good as it will ever get, and actually far better than when originally broadcast. Here, on Blu-ray for the first time, they have been restored from the camera-original negatives with the option of 5.1 surround sound, to add to the atmosphere and unsettle the neighbours – especially when the opening credits roll! Even if you are very familiar with the stories, here we have a rendition which will have even the hardest hearted beaming big smiles throughout.

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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Ellery Queen - out now on UK DVDBack in 1975-76, on some early weekday evenings on BBC1, you were asked to see if you could solve 22 mysteries from the New York vista of 1946-47, with Ellery Queen (Jim Hutton) and his widowed father Inspector Richard Queen (David WayneThe Mad Hatter in the 1960s Batman). It has become something of a short-run classic series from the creators of Columbo and Murder, She Wrote. In America it was called simply Ellery Queen, but when BBC1 first screened it way-back-then, they opted to call it The Ellery Queen Whodunit (in much the same way as they bizarrely decided to rename Ironside as A Man Called Ironside).

Guest stars included Roddy McDowall ( “Planet of the Apes”), Eve Arden (“Grease”), Tom Bosley (Happy Days), Cesar Romero (Joker in the 1960s Batman), Don Ameche ("Cocoon"), Joan Collins, Vincent Price, Milton Berle, Eva Gabor, Betty White, Larry Hagman, and even a cameo by the iconic George Burns! And you had the chance to win one of three copies we had up for grabs in our prize competition.

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Monday, 11 April 2016

Three Days of the Condor - out now as a dual format Blu-ray and DVD setRobert Redford and Faye Dunaway star in this conspiracy thriller about a CIA researcher who uncovers top secret information that puts his life in mortal peril. Joe Turner (Redford) pops out of the office to get some lunch and returns to find his colleagues at the American Literary Historical Society have been brutally murdered. Shaken to his core, Turner contacts his employers seeking sanctuary but things go south and he is forced to go on the run.

Thinking on his feet, Turner kidnaps a complete stranger (Dunaway) and, from the relative safety of her home tries to convince her that his far-fetched story is true. Meanwhile, a professional hitman (Max von Sydow – “Flash Gordon”, “Minority Report”) is closing in. This Oscar-nominated movie was directed by Sydney Pollack (“Tootsie”, “Out of Africa”), and also stars Cliff Robertson (“Spider-man”) as a CIA chief.

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Sunday, 03 April 2016

Jeruzalem - out now on DVD and VOD“Jeruzalem” is a found-footage horror movie about the opening of one of the gates of Hell. Two American tourists on their way to Tel Aviv are persuaded by a handsome historian to take a detour to Jerusalem, just as the ancient city is about to mark Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement. Their holiday is interrupted by some disturbing goings-on and rapidly descends into a supernatural nightmare.

Rather than using traditional video camera or mobile phone footage, this time events are witnessed through Google Glass-style smart eyewear that Sarah (Danielle Jadelyn) is trying out. As we follow her and friend Rachel (Yael Grobglas), facial recognition, Facebook posts and other social media windows pop up in ‘our’ field of view, helping to drive the story forwards and also add some occasional humour.

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