by Mark Burger


Forgoing analysis of the myriad theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, this self-explanatory Smithsonian Channel documentary is a methodical, well-assembled examination of the tragic events of Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas.The film’s time-line covers the circumstances leading to Kennedy’s visit, the shooting itself and the arrest of suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, with the epilogue being Oswald’s murder by nightclub owner Jack Ruby in the Dallas police station — an event broadcast on live television.Using vintage footage (including the inevitable Zapruder film) and eyewitness accounts, as well as Kevin Spacey’s judiciously incorporated narration, writer/director Leslie Woodhead does an excellent job capturing the fear, panic and emotional devastation in thorough yet concise fashion. Even for those who didn’t live through it, this is a hugely powerful account.

“DETECTIVE MONTALBANO” (MHz Networks): Luca Zingaretti returns as the tenacious and idealistic police inspector in four episodes from the long-running Italian crime series (originally titled Il commissario Montalbano), based on the international best-selling mystery novels by Andrea Camilleri. Each DVD collection, which includes two feature-length mysteries (“Episodes 23 & 24” and “Episodes 25 & 26”), retails for $29.95. In Italian with English subtitles.

GOD DON’T MAKE THE LAWS (Green Apple Entertainment): Writer/editor/ director David Sabbath’s inauspicious but award-winning feature debut is a sketchy allegory about a town where time has stood still since a community tragedy. Attractive lead Ella Rae Peck tries hard, while Paul Sorvino and Bruce Davison appear briefly, to little effect. Rated R.

“THE JFK COLLECTION” (LionsGate): A self-explanatory three-DVD boxed set ($19.98 retail) featuring eight documentaries about the life, career and family of the 35 th president: JFK: A Personal Story — Part 1, JFK: A Personal Story — Part 2, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, John F. Kennedy Jr.: The Death of an American Prince, Joseph Kennedy Sr.: Father of an American Dynasty, Robert F. Kennedy: His Many Sides, Ted Kennedy: Tragedy and Redemption, and JFK: Three Shots That Changed America.

LONDON: THE MODERN BABYLON (Docurama Films/Cinedigm): Filmmaker Julien Temple’s documentary ($29.95 retail) explores and celebrates the 20 th – century history of London in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games. An all-star voice-over cast includes Michael Gambon, Imelda Staunton, Steve Jones, Keith Allen, Juno Temple, Bill Nighy and Temple himself.

“MAD MEN”: SEASON 6 (LionsGate): All 13 episodes from the 2013 season of the popular and much-acclaimed AMC drama series set within the fast-paced, back-stabbing advertising world of the ’60s. The show didn’t win a single Emmy despite 12 nominations including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Jon Hamm), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Elisabeth Moss), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Christina Hendricks), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Harry Hamlin and Robert Morse) and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Linda Cardellini) The DVD boxed set retails for $49.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.97.

“MAGIC CITY”: THE COMPLETE SEC- OND SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Jeffrey Dean Morgan returns as a hotel mogul dealing with the underworld in 1959 Miami in all eight episodes from the 2013 (and final) season of the awardwinning Starz crime drama created by Mitch Glazer, co-starring Danny Huston, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Rispoli and Kelly Lynch, with guest stars James Caan, Esai Morales and Sherilyn Fenn. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Main Title Design. The DVD boxed set retails for $44.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $54.99.

“MAIGRET”: SET 9 (MHz Networks): Bruno Cremer assumes the title role of the Parisian police inspector in this award-winning, long-running French mystery series set against the backdrop of post-World War II France, based on the best-selling novels by Georges Simenon. This six-DVD collection ($59.95 retail) includes the feature-length episodes 49- 54. In French with English subtitles.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Lions- Gate): Joss Whedon tackles Shakespeare in this modernized, award-winning, PG-13 version of the classic romantic comedy, featuring Nathan Fillion, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, Jillian Morgese and Fran Kranz, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) or Bluray ($24.98 retail).

MUD (LionsGate): UNCSA School of Filmmaking graduate Jeff Nichols’ awardwinning third film is also his best to date, with Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland as teen-aged boys who fall under the sway of a mysterious drifter (Matthew McConaughey in the title role). A true one-of-a kind that ranks among the year’s best films, with a true sense of atmosphere and emotion, put across by a first-rate cast including Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Joe Don Baker, Ray McKinnon, Sarah Paulson and Nichols’ perennial actor, Michael Shannon. Rated PG-13. ***½

“NORTH AMERICA” (Discovery Communications/Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment): Tom Selleck narrates this self-explanatory, seven-part,top-rated Discovery Channel documentary mini-series, available as a two-disc DVD ($29.93 retail), a two-disc Blu-ray ($34.99 retail) or a two-disc Blu-ray with 32-page booklet ($39.93 retail).

PARKLAND (Millennium Entertainment): Screenwriter Peter Landesman’s adaptation of Vincent Bugliosi’s bestseller Four Days in September examines the Kennedy assassination in somber, engrossing, but occasionally melodramatic fashion. A star-studded cast includes Billy Bob Thornton, Zac Efron, Marcia Gay Harden, Ron Livingston, James Badge Dale, Jacki Weaver, Jackie Earle Haley, Tom Welling, Colin Hanks, Jeremy Strong (as Lee Harvey Oswald) and Paul Giamatti, who is customarily excellent as Abraham Zapruder. Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton were two of the producers. Rated PG-13.

“POLITICAL ANIMALS”: THE COM- PLETE SERIES (Warner Home Video): A two-DVD collection ($19.98 retail) of all six episodes from the USA Network drama series that delves into the inner machinations of the corridors of power. The cast includes Sigourney Weaver, Carla Gugino, Ciaran Hinds, James Wolk, Sebastian Sten and Ellen Burstyn, who won the 2013 Emmy Award as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. Four additional nominations including Outstanding Lead Actress (Weaver) and Outstanding Miniseries or Movie.

TREASURE GUARDS (Monarch Home Entertainment): Leggy archaeologist Anna Friel teams up with hunky Vatican agent Raoul Bova and his con-artist brother Volker Bruch to locate the fabled Seal of Solomon in this silly but watchable comic-book hokum reminiscent of old Saturday-matinee serials but with modern CGI effects.

“TREVOR NOAH: AFRICAN AMERI- CAN” (Inception Media Group): The South African-born comedian rocks and riffs in this stand-up comedy special ($14.98 retail).

WAR FLOWERS (Green Apple Entertainment): Writer/director Serge Rodnunsky’s hoary Civil War sudser features Christina Ricci (who seems to know she’s miscast) as a Southerner who falls for wounded Union soldier Jason Gedrick. Tom Berenger shows up as Gedrick’s general father and newcomer Gabrielle Popa impresses as Ricci’s young daughter.

WAR ON WHISTLEBLOWERS: FREE PRESS AND THE NATIONAL SECURITY STATE (The Disinformation Company): Robert Greenwald’s self-explanatory documentary profiles those who told the truth (including Franz Gayl, Thomas Drake, Michael DeKort and Thomas Tamm) and suffered consequences as a result. As is his wont, Greenwald sometimes lays it on a bit thick (Nuno Malo’s score is overly emphatic), but his message is valid. Often one-sided, but would you expect the opposition to comment?

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.