Top Picks: A comic books documentary, ballet at the movie theater, and more

The Starz miniseries 'Dancing on the Edge' is a crime saga and a jazz celebration, director Joss Whedon adapts Shakespeare for his movie 'Much Ado About Nothing,' and more top picks.

Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle on PBS
Getty Images/Emerging Pictures
Emerging Pictures presents the Bolshoi Ballet
A Gift for Sophie

Treasures of the heart

The Secret Mountain has a mission to create elegant and interesting musical/literary experiences for all ages. Its latest, a book/CD combo, A Gift for Sophie, is a gentle, lyrical story of friendship between multiple generations. With music and narrative from the iconic Canadian folk performer Gilles Vigneault, this is a rare gift for lovers of timeless tales, well told.

Four decades of stars

The Great Performances 40th Anniversary Celebration on PBS boasts so many top stars across the arts that you won’t even want to leave the room to make popcorn. “Great Performances” virtually defines the word “unparalleled” and this celebrates the legacy with the show’s top performers over the past four decades: Julie Andrews, Don Henley, Itzhak Perlman, Peter Martins, Take 6, and Michael Bublé are just a few. It airs Oct. 18 at 9 p.m.

Silver-screen ballet

Ballet lovers, head to the nearest movie theater for a feast of international dance. London’s Royal Opera House Ballet Series from Fathom Events opens with Don Quixote on Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. Check for theaters. Emerging Pictures presents the Bolshoi Ballet at more than 300 movie houses, museums, and performing arts venues across the United States this season, kicking off with Spartacus, beamed live from Moscow on Oct. 20. Check for locations and times.

Murder, mystery, all that jazz

Dancing on the Edge, a new five-part miniseries debuting on Starz, is an intriguing crime saga, a great celebration of jazz in the 1930s, and a sly study of mid-war British society. This portrayal of the fictional black Louis Lester Band in aristocratic Britain is loosely based on the experiences of the real-life Duke Ellington Band, spiced up with mystery, music, and social satire. The miniseries stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years as a Slave”), John Goodman, Jacqueline Bisset, and Matthew Goode. It premières Oct. 19 at 10 p.m.

Caped arrivals

Liev Schreiber (“X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) narrates the first-ever documentary about comic book heroes in Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle on PBS. The three-part, three-hour program premières Oct. 15. It explores the birth of the comic book genre in the Depression and the evolution of its caped characters through historic events (World War II) and changing social mores, beginning with the arrival of Superman, who sprang from the imagination of two Jewish teenage boys. Interviews with Stan Lee, Adam West, Lynda Carter, Michael Chabon, and Todd McFarlane are included. Check local listings.

A modern retelling

Sci-fi director Joss Whedon takes on the Bard with his version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, which is available on DVD and Blu-ray. The black-and-white format allows the audience to focus on the characters and the language, while the play’s merry wit, interlocking love stories, and broad slapstick are a great match for Whedon’s directorial talents.

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