Today's DVDs & Blu-rays: Steamy A Royal Affair, Epic The Day of the Falcon and Sassy Miss Fisher's Mysteries
A young queen, a mentally ill king and an idealistic physician form an unlikely love triangle in A Royal Affair, nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe as Best Foreign Language Film. Alicia Vikander stars as Queen Caroline Mathilde, wife of the insane Danish King Christian VII and Mads Mikkelsen as Johann Friedrich Struensee, the royal physician who encourages her to push for reform to better the lives of the Danish people in the 18th century. A Royal Affair is the story of a passionate love affair that changes the course of history lavishly and tenderly told.
Alicia Vikander as Caroline Mathilde and Mads Mikkelsen as Johann Friedrich Struensee
Antonio Banderas might be the biggest name in cast of Day of the Falcon (also known as Black Gold and Black Thirst) but by the second act, the film belongs to Tahar Rahim. Banderas plays Emir Nesib, an Arab tribal leader in the 1930s. After a conflict over some land with a neighboring leader Sultan Amar (played by English actor Mark Strong), Nesib agrees to declare the area, known as the Yellow Belt, a no-man's land, with neither tribe having rights to it. To cement the treaty, Nesib demands that Amar leave his two young sons with him, which Amar reluctantly does. Fast forward 15 years. Both boys are young men. Prince Auda (spectacularly played by Tahar Rahim) is bookish and shy. His older brother is more aggressive, hoping to eventually return to his homeland and lead his people. When oil is found in the Yellow Belt, Nesib wants to change the terms of the treaty but Amar refuses.
Nesib is a dictator who's happy to sell oil to the Americans for buckets of cash. Amar is a purist, determined to keep his lands free from infidels. The two tribes go to war, leaving Prince Auda and his brother caught in the middle.
After his older brother is killed by Nesib's forces, Prince Auda is the only one left who might be able to broker a peace deal between the two leaders but neither man is willing to listen.
Day of the Falcon is a grand epic, with scenes of hundreds of camel-mounted warriors charging through the desert. But it's also subtle story of a young prince who, dedicated to both modernization and justice, comes into his own when he's forced to lead armed forces in the pursuit of peace.
There's plenty of action in Day of the Falcon, but the real draw is Prince Auda's transformation. Tahar Rahim's subtle, layered performance left us anxious to see him on screen again.
Essie Davis stars as the unflappable lady detective Phryne Fisher in Miss Fisher's Mysteries, Season 1
The Acorn Media release Miss Fisher's Mysteries is sure to please PBS's Masterpiece fans. A flapper-era sex kitten with brains and, pardon our French, balls, Phryne Fisher (deliciously played by Essie Davis), a well-to-do single woman living in 1920s Melbourne. She's naturally nosy and tends to want to fix things (and people). She's always got her gun in her purse and a new lover in her bed. She knows everyone who's anyone and when one of the social elite drop dead, she's usually got an inside track on what happened.
The episodes we saw, while wrapped in the glamor and opulence of the time, dealt with serious issues such as back-alley abortions, homosexuality, incest and drug addiction. Phryne's liberal approach to issues that were shocking at the time as well as her healthy appetite for sex make her a thoroughly modern woman. (With a few costume changes and a glitzy cell phone, Phryne could walk the streets today.) While Phryne seems to be a free spirit, she does have a few ghosts in her past and as the season moves along, those are slowly and gingerly revealed.
The first 13 episodes of Miss Fisher's Mysteries have already been screened in Australia and the series making its way to public television stations in the United States in April, but you can get a head start with a four-disc DVD/three-disc Blu-ray box set of the entire first season.