DVD Boxsets Roundup

Tis the season for DVDs so Henry Northmore unwraps some boxsets hitting the market this Christmas

Downton Abbey Series 5

A perennial favourite has to be The Simpsons: Season 17 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) (●●●) and even if it no longer feels like essential viewing, the show is still reliably entertaining. Season 17 dates from 2005 (there’s always a big delay between broadcast and retail release) including the enticing ‘Homer Simpson This is Your Wife’, written by and starring Ricky Gervais. Despite his involvement, it’s a slightly underwhelming episode but you can always rely on The Simpsons as the perfect time-waster and you’ll find yourself whizzing through five or six shows before you know it.

The world's favourite period drama Downton Abbey: Series 5 (Universal Pictures UK) (●●●) continues down its own gentle path. As per usual, nothing really happens – there's a minor scuffle with Richard E Grant, a kerfuffle over a war memorial and the constant threat of scandal – but it's all very calming and mildly diverting. Dame Maggie Smith is still on top form.

Moving away from drama to fantasy with Doctor Who: The Complete Series 8 (2entertain) (●●●●), the opening episode is a bit of a duff start but Peter Capaldi completely owns the character by giving it a darker edge. His superior attitude and withering wit are more in line with the Tom Baker era and serve him well as he battles Daleks, two dimensional aliens and the first female incarnation of The Master (Michelle Gomez). Brilliantly written and perfectly pitched, introducing high-concept sci-fi to a mass audience.

Stephen King’s Under the Dome: Season 2 (Paramount Home Entertainment) (●) finds the inhabitants of Chester’s Mill trapped under a seemingly sentient impregnable bubble. Unsurprisingly tempers are fraying but we’ve now left the source material far behind as they try and squeeze out a second series. Seemingly random things happen every episode with no logical explanation, the actors babbling about glowing eggs and what the Dome wants. Utter hogwash.

The Strain: Season 1 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) (●●●) is based on a trilogy of books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan as vampires invade New York. Don’t expect suave, enigmatic bloodsuckers: these are hideous ravenous abominations sporting slathering tongues. Del Toro directs the first episode but don't expect Pan’s Labyrinth; this is more cheesy but with enough monsters and action to keep most horror fans happy.

Terror aficionados will enjoy Six Gothic Tales (Arrow Video) (●●●●) even more. Vincent Price mugs his way through this collection of classic Poe adaptations from Roger Corman, including The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Packed with a handsome selection of new extras, shorts, featurettes and a 200-page book, it’s strictly limited to just 2000 copies. For a complete change of pace, The Inbetweeners Movie 1 & 2 (Channel 4 DVD) (●●●●) manage to avoid the pitfalls of taking TV to the big screen. Wickedly funny and cringeworthy in all the best ways, our hapless teens find themselves in Spain and Australia.

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