Do you believe in evil? What about the unexplained and futuristic? Here’s a look at “Evil” and “James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction” a couple of episodic television series now on home entertainment formats and built for fans of science fiction and the supernatural.
Evil (Paramount/CBS Home Entertainment, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 553 minutes, not rated, $29.99) —
A trio of investigators hired by the Catholic Church to validate or debunk demon possession, miracles and paranormal happenings debuted in a CBS television series last year from Robert and Michelle King, creators of “The Good Wife.”
Now available on DVD, the 13-episode run of the first season explores the quirky team comprised of former journalist-turned-studying-priest David Acosta (Mike Colter); mother of four young daughters and forensic psychologist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers); and skeptical tech expert Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi).
The unsettling action mixes profiling with high-tech discrediting and religious themes to often offer valid explanations for the shenanigans that sometimes turn bloody, violent, and creepy each episode. Of course, some of the cases are deemed worthy of church intervention with many onscreen frights found surrounding actual exorcisms and demon encounters.
Viewers will especially find Kristen’s dream visits by a creature named George quite scary.
Equally fun is a subplot featuring a rival psychologist and occult expert Dr. Leland Townsend (an unrepentantly evil portrayal by Michael Emerson). Townsend is apparently working for the devil while dating Kristen’s mother Sheryl (Christine Lahti) and really spicing up the overall mix of the real versus fantastical elements in the show.
Viewers get some deleted scenes for about half of the episodes and a pair of featurettes.
First, a 20-minute look at the production offers the Kings discussing the origin of the series, its levels of horror, casting, themes of corruption of the innocent, set designs, and monster creations; and it includes interviews with the main cast talking about characters and working together.
Next is a brief, four-minute-long interview with the Kings and the cast answering the age-old question, “Does evil really exist?” Mr. Mandvi, the most cogent of the group, calls evil manifestations “old wiring in the human brain that can be corruptible.”
James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction (RLJE Films, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 270 minutes, not rated, $34.97) —
Originally seen on the AMC network in 2018, this ambitious documentary series features face-to-face interviews between filmmaker James Cameron and key creators of science fiction and science fantasy films such as Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Toro, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Now available in the Blu-ray format, the six, 40-minute episodes covering “Alien Life,” “Space Exploration,” “Monsters,” “Dark Futures,” “Intelligent Machines,” and “Time Travel” will dazzle fans but leave some looking for more intellectual focus and less celebrity noise.
The actual interviews with Mr. Cameron are muddled by an unending stream of actors, authors, critics, and historians. Each adding insight with episodes embellished by an unending parade of movie and television clips ranging from “Star Wars,” to “Forbidden Planet,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Terminator,” “Galaxy Quest,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Matrix,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Contact,” “Arrival,” “Avatar,” “Blade Runner,” “Men in Black” and “Frankenstein” to name just a few.
However, it is fun to watch vintage clips of science fiction creators Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Philip K. Dick, Margaret Atwood, H.G. Wells, Carl Sagan, H.R. Giger, Robert Heinlein, John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, and Gene Roddenberry talking about their work. Or experts such as Carl Sagan, physicist Sidney Perkowitz, paleontologist Jack Horner, astronaut Cady Coleman and NASA officer Sheyna Gifford commenting on films such as “Alien,” “Jurassic Park” and “Gravity.”
Critical to some of the film highlights are pointed words from directors including Roland Emmerich (Independence Day”), Paul Verhoeven (“Starship Troopers” and “Robocop”), Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”) and James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) who helped influence the genre.
However, sorry not sorry, I do not care about what Keanu Reeves, Whoopi Goldberg, Sean Ono Lennon, DJ Spooky, Will Smith or critic Amy Nicholson think about extraterrestrials, the apocalypse, artificial intelligence or the future of the science fiction genre.
A much better format would have been a rotating roundtable for episodes led by Mr. Cameron with a dream team of Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Nolan, Mr. Lucas, Mr. Scott and Mr. del Toro interspersed with clips covering the history of the science fiction.
These guys combined are truly some of the best innovators and minds in the history of science fiction films.
Even better, I would have loved the Xenomorph experts James Cameron and Ridley Scott pontificating on the “Alien” franchise for an entire episode.
Although certainly, a celebration of the genre, “Story of Science Fiction” is more of an A-list social media stream then an inside look at the Sci-Fi genre.
Viewers only get roughly 20 minutes of unaired clips of Mr. Cameron speaking with Mr. Spielberg, Mr. Nolan, Mr. Lucas, Mr. Scott, Mr. del Toro and Mr. Schwarzenegger, but I could have used much more with these masters, sans Arnold, of course. I would especially watch the clip with Mr. del Toro. He has a great personal UFO story.
• This story originally appeared in The Washington Times.