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Blu-ray TV reviews: ‘The Blacklist: The Complete Fifth Season’ and ‘Documentary Now!’

September 7, 2018

Two television series recently released on Blu-ray are well worth the time investment.

The Blacklist: The Complete Fifth Season (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, not rated, 945 minutes, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, $55.99) Viewers looking to catch up before the return of NBC’s popular crime drama next year can now binge upon a satisfying season’s worth of 22 episodes contained on five Blu-ray discs.

With the latest revelation that master criminal and FBI informant Raymond Reddington (James Spader) is indeed the father of profiling agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), devoted viewers will love a nail-biting season that had dad and daughter team up to rebuild Red’s shattered empire and take revenge on those who hurt their loved ones.

Oh sure, the covert FBI task force led by Harold Cooper (Harry Lennox) still managed to work with Raymond as he gave them valuable intelligence on blacklisters such as billionaire thief Greyson Blaise and the vigilante group known as Invisible Hand, but his game was to conquer the world by any nefarious means necessary.

Once again, Mr. Spader consumes the role of Mr. Reddington with unabashed charm, wit and brutality, which ever required, and he guarantees laughs and gasps throughout the shows.

I had figured that after the emotionally exhausting fourth season of the “The Black List,” the thrill might have been gone for this fan.

However, the fifth season was just as intriguing and action-packed as its predecessors. Pop in the discs and prepare to be bedazzled by the levels of criminality provided by the pair.

Best extras: First start with the commentary tracks for the episode “Ruin” (with series creator Jon Bokenkamp, writer Sean Hennen and editor Orlando Machado Jr.) and the pivotal “Ian Garvey” (with writer John Eisendrath).

Next, after watching the entire season, dive into a pair of featurettes that offer five minutes on “The Blacklist’s” 100th episode titled “Abraham Stern” (co-starring Nathan Lane as a blacklister) and a 10-minute series overview focused on Red and Liz’s evolving relationship.

Both offer plenty of face time with Mr. Spader and Miss Boone as well as Mr. Bokenkamp and some of the other lead actors.

Documentary Now! Season One and Season Two (Mill Creek Entertainment, rated PG-13, 308 minutes, 1.78:1 and 1.33:1 aspect ratio, $29.99) The twisted minds of former “Saturday Night Live” alum Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers and Rhys Thomas continue to deliver a bizarre television series on the IFC cable channel, parodying well-known documentaries.

This two disc Blu-ray set contains all of the 14, roughly 25-minute-long episodes compiling the first two seasons.

Viewers can savor the chameleonesque performances of Mr. Hader and Mr. Armisen playing a range of fake but still all-too-real characters.

For example, Mr. Armisen plays the sad sack, dimwitted globe salesman Tom O’Halloran in the episode “Globesman,” (based on 1969 documentary “Salesman”) worthy of a viewer’s empathy.

Or Mr. Hader, performed to perfection, creates the former ego-driven agent and head of marginal Hollywood studio Pinnacle Pictures Jerry Waller in the two-part “Mr. Runner Up: My Life as an Oscar Bridesmaid” (based on Robert Evans’ visual memoir “The Kid Stays in the Picture”).

Each shows begins with an introduction by the distinguished Helen Mirren to set a serious tone and each recreates the production design and technology of the eras covered, down to mixed film stock (even scratched), and aspect ratios, props and costuming.

Unlike mockumentaries such as “Spinal Tap,” many of these episodes dont offer many gut-busting laughs but rather jaw-dropping moments and pinches of pathos as the talented cast members sell some of the drama of the parodies even in spite of easier laughs.

Especially fun for music fans was the skewing of the Talking Heads concert “Stop Making Sense” called “Final Transmission” featuring Test Pattern’s leader Lee Smith (Mr. Armisen), a pompous version of David Byrne.

I also found the two-part episode chronicling the meteoric rise and fall of the soft rock band “Gentle and Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee” (think “History of the Eagles”) equally peaking my comedic sensibilities as the faux-musicians with a heavy Chicago accent explain using the word “kielbasa” as a vocal warm-up.

Suffice it to report, “Documentary Now!” may be an acquired taste, but those who bother to partake in this buffet of clever satire wont be disappointed.

Best extras: Viewers get nothing, and that’s really ashamed since every episode really requires a mandatory optional commentary track from the creators to explain the meticulous process in recreating these twisted masterpieces.

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