Editor’s Notes: The Complete First Season & A Room With a Vieware out on their respective formats September 29th.
iZombie: The Complete First Season
iZombie: The Complete First Season (Warner Home Video) stars Rose McIver as Olivia ”Liv” Moore, a medical resident on the fast track to a perfect life until she’s turned into a zombie. Now stuck between half-alive and undead, Liv transfers to the city morgue to access reluctantly the only thing that allows her to maintain her humanity — human brains (frequently seasoned with hot sauce and garnished with lettuce). But there are side effects to Liv’s new diet. With each brain she consumes, she experiences flashes of the corpse’s memories including clues as to how they were killed. Her boss, a brilliant but eccentric conspiracy theorist, encourages her to embrace this gift and to work with unproven homicide detective Clive Babineaux (Malcolm Goodwin) to help solve these murders and quiet the voices in her head.
The show differs from other portrayals of zombies in that Liv isn’t a smelly, shuffling, blood-soaked, slow moving monster. She speaks, thinks, and fixates on the pointlessness of her endless non-life, and actually holds down a job. It’s intriguing to see what it’s like to be a zombie from the point-of-view of a zombie. The show is a blend of horror thriller and police procedural. The tone of the early episodes is fairly comic with some dramatic moments thrown in. By the end of Season 1, this balance is switched where the episodes are mostly drama with clever dialogue.
The program offers a fresh take on the zombie character, which has been extremely popular the last several years. Tapping into this popularity, producers look for ways to create novel spins on zombie tales just as Hollywood kept reinventing the image of the vampire for more than 80 years. Liv is probably the most human-like zombie depicted in numerous movies and TV shows. She’s portrayed as an outsider, a troubled soul longing for her former life, but determined to do some good for society — the Robin Hood of Zombiedom. Ms. McIver has a sweet face that suggests frailty and innocence, yet when threatened, her eyes glow red and she shifts into action mode to lash out.
Bonus features on the 3-disc DVD set include the iZombie 2014 Comic-Con Panel and deleted scenes.
A Room With a View
A Room With a View (The Criterion Collection) is set in 1907 and moves between a pensione in Florence, Italy, and the Surrey countryside where Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) lives with her mother (Rosemary Leach). Chaperoned by her fussbudget Aunt Charlotte (Maggie Smith), well-to-do Lucy is traveling on a journey designed to expose her to new experiences and broaden her horizons. Though a young woman of privilege and breeding, Lucy is opened up to passions she didn’t realize she harbored. While on holiday in Florence, she falls in love with the socially unacceptable George Emerson (Julian Sands). A simple kiss from free spirit George at a picnic turns Lucy’s world topsy-turvy as she tries to sort out her burgeoning romantic feelings. Though attracted to George’s independent nature, she is engaged to bookish Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis) back in more conservative Surrey.
Director James Ivory has assembled a sterling cast in his adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel. Ms. Carter, who has been seen of late in sinister, grotesque roles (“Sweeney Todd,” ”Les Miserables,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”), makes a charming Lucy torn between societal expectations and her own heart. Maggie Smith plays the sort of character she was born for — a variation of Lady Violet Crawley of “Downton Abbey.” Watching her survey a room at the pensione is a great example of how an expression or a gesture can speak volumes.
Bonus features on the Blu-ray release include new interviews with director James Ivory, crew members, and actors Helena Bonham Carter, Simon Callow and Julian Sands; a segment about Merchant-Ivory Productions from a 1987 episode of “NBC Nightly News;” and a critical essay. The new digital transfer was supervised by James Ivory and cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts.
For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.