Sting, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and many other music giants perform their hits for a collection of four “Human Rights Concerts,” debuting on DVD this week, along with an array of complete TV-series sets.
“Released! The Human Rights Concerts: 1986-1998” (Amnesty International/Shout!, 1986-98, six discs, $59.98, four concerts, additional performances, new documentary about the concert series, new interviews). Only one of the four concerts included here has been previously available, and the collective talent is quite astonishing.
One could dismiss this as a sort of live greatest-hits collection of the various artists on display since most sing familiar hits, but there’s a feverish sincerity and electricity that signals the passion these artists have for the cause of Amnesty International. (All proceeds from DVD sales, and the sales of a two-disc audio CD, benefit Amnesty International.)
The first concert, “A Conspiracy of Hope” (1986), is gleaned from a U.S. tour, and performers include U2, The Police, Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Aaron Neville, and Lou Reed, who died just last week, among others. The second, “Human Rights Now!” (1988), is from a world tour led by Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Tracy Chapman, etc. (The latter is the one that was released on home video 14 years ago, though it’s long been out of print.)
The third is “An Embrace of Hope” (1990), recorded in Chile at a celebration of the nation’s liberation from dictatorship, with Sting, Sinead O’Connor, Jackson Browne, Peter Gabriel, Wynton Marsalis, etc. The fourth is “The Struggle Continues” (1998), staged in Paris on the 50th anniversary of the city’s signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, featuring Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Alanis Morisette, etc.
Other performers in the set include Pete Paul & Mary, New Kids on the Block, Shania Twain, Carols Santana, Pete Seeger, David Byrne, Bono, and many more.
“The House of Eliott: Complete Collection” (Acorn, 1991-94, nine discs, $99.99, 34 episodes, featurette, text production notes, photo gallery, four-page booklet). This soap opera set in 1920s London is quite addictive as it unfolds the story of the Elliot sisters (Louise Lombard, Stella Gonet), born into privilege but suddenly left penniless when their father dies. Uneducated but determined, they put their passion for fashion to good use, gaining a reputation for haute couture and eventually opening the title store, dedicated to their unique vision. The stars are wonderful and the writing is first-rate, though both occasionally take a back seat to the stunning costumes and set design.
“Keeping Up Appearances: The Collector’s Edition” (BBC, 1990-95, 10 discs, $158.72, 40 episodes, four Christmas specials, new interviews, featurettes, bloopers; gardener-vest packaging, with seeds and plant tags). Hilarious spoof of British class distinctions focuses on Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced “Bouquet,” thank you), a snooty, albeit deluded, middle-class woman who imagines herself above her peers, especially her blue-collar family and neighbors, all played perfectly by familiar actors. Hyacinth was a breakout role for veteran character player Patricia Routledge, who went on to star in the equally popular “Hetty Wainthropp Investigates.”
“Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely All of It” (BBC, 1992-2003, 10 discs, $158.72, 31 episodes, eight specials, “Comic Relief” and “Sport Relief” appearances, “Mirrorball” pilot, audio commentaries, new and vintage featurettes, introductions, bloopers). One of the more popular politically incorrect across-the-pond sitcoms is this buddy comedy with co-writer/creator Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley as middle-aged, equal-opportunity enablers trying to be hip and young, and failing miserably as they drown their sorrows in booze and drugs (only the British could get away with this). The word “outrageous” could have been coined specifically for this show, which is also very funny if you’re in the right frame of mind.
“Boy Meets World: The Complete Collection” (ABC/Lionsgate, 1993-2000, 22 discs, $99.98, 158 episodes, featurettes). Ben Savage (brother of “The Wonder Years’ ” Fred Savage) plays Cory Matthews in this sitcom, beginning as an 11-year-old and literally growing up over the show’s seven seasons, which conclude with his graduating college and marrying his childhood sweetheart Topanga (Danielle Fishel). He also spends a lot of time learning tough lessons from teacher/principal Mr. Feeny (memorably played by William Daniels).
“Saved By the Bell: The Complete Collection” (NBC/Lionsgate, 1989-93, 22 discs, $49.98, 86 episodes, featurettes). This teen series, a spinoff of “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” began as a Saturday morning show, earning a prime-time audience with subsequent incarnations. Here, the kids — Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), Screech (Dustin Diamond), Kelly (Tiffani Thiessen), Jessie (Elizabeth Berkley), A.C. (Mario Lopez) and Lisa (Lark Voorhies) — spend five seasons getting through Bayside High School in the popular sitcom that occasionally ventured into serious social issues.
“Robotech: The Complete Set” (A&E/Lionsgate, 1985, 20 discs, $89.98, 85 episodes; three movies: “The Sentinels,” from 1988, “The Shadow Chronicles,” 2006, “Love Live Alive,” 2013; Japanese version of “Love Live Alive” with English subtitles, deleted scenes, alternate versions, new and vintage featurettes, promo reels, photo galleries). Anime sci-fi series about advanced technology discovered when an alien ship crashes on an island in the Pacific. Over the next decade it will be developed into weapons to repel further alien invasions.
“Steve Martin: the Best of the Bestest Better Best” (Shout! 1978/1984, $12.99, two specials). Two of Martin’s TV specials, “Steve Martin: A Wild and Crazy Guy” and “Homage to Steve,” are on this discounted disc, lifted from the earlier box-set release “Steve Martin: The Television Stuff.” Funny, though the stand-up routines in the second special include some risqué material. Includes the hilarious Oscar-nominated movie short “The Absent-Minded Waiter,” with Teri Garr and Buck Henry.
“Bonnie & Clyde: Justified” (Lionsgate, 2013, PG-13, $26.98, photo gallery). When you remake a classic film — meaning the 1967 theatrical comedy-drama starring and produced by Warren Beatty — it’s a good idea to bring something new to the table. As it is, this is a by-the-numbers, low-budget effort that doesn’t come close to its predecessor. For the obligatory name actors, Dee Wallace shows up as Bonnie’s mother and Eric Roberts is the Texas Ranger determined to bring them down.
“Bonnie & Clyde: The Real Story” (History/Lionsgate, 1995/2005, $14.98, two movies). A pair of History cable channel movies — “Bonnie and Clyde: The Story of Love & Death,” “Man, Moment, Machine: Hunting Bonnie and Clyde” — explore the truth about the notorious Depression-era bank robbers that have been romanticized.
“Mad Men: Season 6” (Lionsgate, 2013, six discs, $49.98, 13 episodes, featurettes). Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and those other Madison Avenue ad men of the late 1960s find themselves adjusting to new office dynamics even as the counter-culture creeps into their lives during Season 6 of this highly regarded corporate soap opera. With support from Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, John Slattery, etc. (Also on Blu-ray, for a penny less, $49.97.)
“Ice Road Truckers: Season 7” (History/Lionsgate, 2013, three discs, $24.98, 12 episodes, deleted scenes). Hugh Rowland is back with his own trucking company as this season focuses on Manitoba’s icy roads. This is a strangely hypnotic show, although I have to put on a sweater before watching.
“Dora’s Ice Skating Spectacular!” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2013, $14.99, three episodes). From “Dora the Explorer,” the title episode, “Catch That Shape Train!” and “Dora and Perrito to the Rescue” make DVD debuts.
“Angelina Ballerina: Twirling Tales” (HIT/Lionsgate, 2013, $14.98, five episodes, karaoke music videos). New cartoon with the dancing mouse and her friends, plus episodes of the TV series.
“The Hive: Buzzbee’s Family Adventures” (Cinedigm, 2013, $12.95, 10 episodes).
“The Hive: A Very Buzzbee Christmas” (Cinedigm, 2013, $12.95, 10 episodes). Each disc has 10 episodes of the Disney Junior cable channel animated program that teaches life lessons to little ones.
“Guess How Much I Love You: Hidden Treasure” (eOne, 2013, $12.98, seven episodes). Animated stories about Little Nutbrown Hare and his dad, based on the books by Sam McBratney.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com