Top Picks: The 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' soundtrack, the second season of the 'Serial' podcast, and more

The hit science fiction film 'The Martian' arrives on DVD Jan. 12, the classic novel 'War and Peace' gets a new miniseries adaptation, and more top picks.


Sonic universe

When composer John Williams first took viewers to a galaxy far, far away with the opening orchestral swells of 1977’s “Star Wars,” it was “transformative ... for film as language,” said Harrison Ford, who returns as Han Solo in “The Force Awakens.” The soundtrack of the newest fast-paced “Star Wars” chapter plays a lesser role but still reflects the creativity and intelligence fans have come to expect. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is now available on CD and for download on iTunes. 

His side of the story

The award-winning podcast Serial is back with Season 2. This time host Sarah Koenig has partnered with screenwriter Mark Boal ( “Zero Dark Thirty”) to unravel the controversial details of the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who walked away from his post in Afghanistan and was held prisoner by the Taliban for five years. The series is largely based on 25 hours of recorded conversation with Bergdahl during which he tries to explain why he left his post and what happened next. Check it out at


Civil War drama

A new PBS series, Mercy Street, tells the story of two actual Civil War nurses, one from New England and one from the South, who come to serve at the same hospital in Virginia. “Mercy Street” premières Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. Check local listings.

20th Century Fox

'Martian' humor

Science fiction master Ridley Scott brings a new story to the big screen with The Martian, which will be available on DVD Jan. 12. The movie stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars. NASA members and his crewmates must try to figure out how to bring him home. The movie is an entertaining survivalist jaunt studded with wisecracks. Watch for its Oscar nominations.  

Epic miniseries 

One of the greatest novels of all time is coming to TV. A&E, History, and Lifetime have partnered with The Weinstein Co. and the BBC to present a new version of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the story of highborn families living in imperial Russia, starring Paul Dano, Lily James, and James Norton. Check out the six-part series, beginning on Jan. 18 at 9 p.m.

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