New on DVD: 'Pirate' makes airwaves in '60s England

“Pirate Radio,” from writer-director Richard Curtis, is a whimsical telling of the story of rebel broadcasters who reign supreme off the coast of England in the mid-1960s.

They blast rock ‘n’ roll to the nation’s youth while the country’s official radio stations, run by the British Broadcasting Corp., remained largely stuck in the past.

Our heroes are mostly men (and one woman, who happens to be a lesbian) of Pirate Radio, a station whose headquarters is a tanker anchored in international waters. As they rocked out to the Kinks, the Who and one-hit wonders, the government – led by minister Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) scowls.

This culture war works mostly as a backdrop to loony, outrageous behavior by the DJs, led by two rivals – the Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Gavin (Rhys Ifans). There is a subplot about a young man named Carl (Tom Sturridge) searching for his father, but mostly Curtis (“Love Actually”) is content to celebrate the music and give the audience a good time.

His casting gives the whole enterprise a boost. Besides Hoffman and Ifans, who play their parts with rambunctious zeal, there is the always amusing Bill Nighy as the station’s boss. Emma Thompson has a sharp cameo as Carl’s mother, as does “Mad Men’s” January Jones as a heartbreaker.

Curtis also enjoys his musical jokes, naming two of the characters Marianne and Elenore so he could add Leonard Cohen’s “So Long Marianne” and the Turtles’ “Elenore” to the soundtrack. “Pirate Radio” is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

KEEP IN MIND

“Faces of America” is a four-part series about family ancestry from Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. that ran on PBS in February.

In the series, Gates, who has recorded two previous series about African-American genealogy, investigates the roots of some famous people including Eva Longoria Parker, Meryl Streep, Mike Nichols, writer Malcolm Gladwell, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Stephen Colbert, chef Mario Batali, Dr. Mehmet Oz and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

For those of us fascinated with such things (and more of us are than we admit), the results are sometimes surprising (Ma and Longoria Parker share a similar ancestor), discomforting (Gladwell, whose mother is Jamaican, finds out a past relative was a slave owner) and even moving (Yamaguchi finds out her grandfather was a war hero).

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