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DVD review: ‘The Hour’

Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw star in The Hour, a BBC America Series
BBC America
Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw star in The Hour, a BBC America Series

The BBC period drama “The Hour” initially caught our attention with its stylish mash-up of “Broadcast News,” “Mad Men,” and “Good Night, and Good Luck.” News flash on the series’ sophomore season: It has no problem stashing its templates in the closet. Somewhat disappointingly at first, “The Hour 2” (2012) dispenses with the portrayal of pioneering broadcast journalists defining their bold new medium on the fly. We’re not on the studio floor much as we witness banished, crusading newsman Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) return from abroad, getting back to work with no-nonsense producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) and charismatic anchor Hector Madden (Dominic West). But the leads dive so compellingly into a London vice investigation that the trade-off is worth it. Last season’s love triangle is also retired in favor of new developments that grow juicier as the half-dozen episodes play out, with cerebral Freddie listening to his heart, and high-living Hector being forcibly reminded to use his head. It’s another fine turn by Whishaw (“Skyfall,” “Cloud Atlas”), who’s got a cliffhanger utterance that segues nicely into his Bond gig, and it’s easily the best work West has done outside of “The Wire.” Peter Capaldi is a standout addition as the group’s enigmatic new boss. For an additional BBC fix, try the just-released first season of “Call the Midwife,” offering a very different look at ’50s London. Extras: A featurette spends time with series creator Abi Morgan, writer of “The Iron Lady.” (BBC, $34.98; Blu-ray, $39.98; available now)



Woody Allen continues his European tour of recent years with the requisite stop in Italy, delivering some breezy musings on fulfillment, celebrity, and the occasional awkward intersection of the two. Alec Baldwin does the subtlest work as a vacationing architect taking a surreal stroll down memory lane, while Roberto Benigni is featured in another fantastical story line about a Signor Average who becomes suddenly, inexplicably famous. Still — singing in the shower gags? After “Midnight in Paris,” this is middling Allen. With Jesse Eisenberg, Penelope Cruz, and Ellen Page. Extras: A producer and Baldwin do the talking for Allen in a featurette. (Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99)




The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

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Sure, Liam Neeson’s “Taken” franchise makes its latest appearance on disc this week. But if you could do with some family-abduction thrills of a less Besson-y variety, there’s this Alfred Hitchcock entry. No, not the director’s better remembered James Stewart-Doris Day remake, but his British-produced original, with Peter Lorre in his first English-language role. As Guillermo del Toro notes in an appreciation, the film showcases Hitchcock’s style at a point when it was first crystallizing, from tension to humor. There’s no “Que Sera, Sera,” but hearing church-visiting lead Leslie Banks hymn a warning to his friend remains a witty highlight. (Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95)

Titles are in stores Tuesday unless specified. Tom Russo can be reached at