‘Orphan Black,’ ‘42’ among new DVD and Blu-ray items

By Rich Heldenfels Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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(L-r) Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson and Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures drama 42, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.(D. Stevens/Legendary Pictures)

Sometimes the joy of viewing is discovering an actor or actress who suddenly leaps onto your radar in a glorious way, making you wonder where that person has been before.

There’s a little of that in Orange Is the New Black, the new Netflix drama starring Taylor Schilling. Based on her credits, I have watched her in things before, but she did not linger in memory in any significant way — until she stepped into the lead on Orange. You can find another example on DVD and Blu-ray this week with the release of Orphan Black: Season One (BBC Home Entertainment, 10 episodes, $29.98 DVD, $34.98). Its star, Tatiana Maslany, is someone to look for.

In the series, which has aired on BBC America, Maslany plays Sarah, an orphan tangled up with a lot of lowlifes. One night, on a railway platform, she sees another woman who looks exactly like her — and who abruptly kills herself. Sarah begins looking into the life of the other woman, named Beth, even taking over her identity. Beth’s life turns out to have troubles of its own — and, beyond that, both she and Sarah are clones.

The identity-shifting demands on Maslany’s performance do not end there. My friend and colleague Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix.com, in urging an Emmy nomination for Maslany, said that she not only has to be different characters, “she also had to frequently have one character impersonate another, and make each one interesting enough that they could carry scenes and stories independent of the multiplicity gimmick.”

And he’s not the only one admiring her work. She has been nominated for a Television Critics Association award for individual achievement in drama, and the suspenseful, twisty series is nominated for the TCA award for best new program. A second season is in the works for 2014.

Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray included a making-of piece (tiresomely titled Send in the Clones), a set visit and a few character profiles.

The issue of race in society is never far from the surface — witness the Paula Deen story — and it is important always to recognize what bias and hatred can lead to. That’s a big reason why young people of all races should see 42 (Warner, $28.98 DVD/digital, $35.99 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo). The movie about Jackie Robinson’s integrating major league baseball as a member of the old Brooklyn Dodgers has its dramatic embroideries, and some heavy-handed scenes with children following Robinson’s journey. But it is quite effective in showing what it meant to try to break through hard and high social barriers, especially in a scene where a rival coach unleashes a barrage of racial invective against Robinson.

Chadwick Boseman, who plays Robinson, is especially good at conveying Robinson not as a saint but as a determined man with a sometimes chilly and surly side; Nicole Beharie also does well as Robinson’s wife Rachel. And Harrison Ford has a grand time as the cunning, sometimes hammy Branch Rickey, the Dodgers owner who pushed integration into baseball. There is good entertainment here, along with a strong message.

Robinson is also the subject of Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson (Lionsgate, $9.98 DVD), a 45-minute tribute to the player, which draws on his own writing (read by Dennis Haysbert), interviews and praise from baseball players to underscore Robinson’s significance.

Also of note Tuesday: Cult film The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day will be available in a special Blu-ray including both the original theatrical version and a director’s cut with 27 minutes of additional footage, including a longer opening sequence. From Sony, it’s a Best Buy exclusive, with a retail price of $14.99 on the two-disc set.

Down video road: Star Trek Into Darkness will be on 3-D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray and DVD on Sept. 10, and available as a digital download on Aug. 20. The Leonardo DiCaprio Great Gatsby will be a 3-D, standard Blu-ray, DVD and digital download on Aug. 27.

Also on Aug. 20, the second season of Star Trek: Enterprise comes to Blu-ray, and Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Third Season will be on DVD and Blu-ray. Olympus Has Fallen will be in both formats on Aug. 13.

Finally, are you ready for all 130 episodes of Mama’s Family? Starvista Entertainment and Time Life are taking orders for the box set of the Vicki Lawrence comedy, which will be shipped in early September; list price is $199.95. See www.timelife.com for more information.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.

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