Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dallas: The Complete Thirteenth Season

After giving fairly middling reviews to the last several seasons of Dallas, one thing I wasn’t expecting from this penultimate collection of episodes was some of the strongest material the show’s offered up in a good long while. With Season Thirteen, the powers that be managed to create one of the very best seasons of the latter half of the series, although it goes without saying that you can’t please all the people all of the time. There are always going to be folks who’ll instantly dismiss the last two years of the series based solely on how few of the original cast members remain. At this point, the show is down to only five major characters that’ve been around since the show’s inception – J.R., Bobby, Cliff, Miss Ellie, and Lucy. But Clayton’s been such a fixture on the series for a long time now, and it’s only fair to include him as well, so let’s bump that up to a half dozen.

In addition to the new characters of Cally Harper Ewing (Cathy Podewell) and Carter McKay (George Kennedy) that were introduced in Season Twelve, here we’re given an additional two major players in the forms of James Beaumont (Sasha Mitchell) and Michelle Stevens (Kimberly Foster); the former is the illegitimate son of J.R., and the latter is the sister of April (Sheree J. Wilson).

I know, I know – hackneyed phrases like “illegitimate son” make it sound as though Dallas is scraping the bottom of the soap opera barrel. But you can take a well worn cliché and do nothing with it, or you can take that same cliché and do something with it...

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Falcon Crest: The Complete First Season

Amongst the ‘80s power soaps Dallas, Dynasty, and Knot’s Landing was the seemingly far less famous Falcon Crest, although the show had a lengthy run that spanned the entire decade. Instead of oil – the business of the two big D’s – Falcon Crest used the wine industry as its centerpiece. Set in the wine country of northern California, about an hour away from San Francisco, the series unveils the saga of the Gioberti family, who’ve been in the business of growing and harvesting the grape, as well as making and selling the wine for probably a century.

At the head of the family is Angela Channing (Jane Wyman), the cold, manipulative businesswoman determined, at any cost, to hold on to her empire. She has two daughters – Julia (Abby Dalton) and Emma (Margaret Ladd) – as well as a grandson, Lance (Lorenzo Lamas), who does Angela’s unscrupulous bidding. There’s also Jason Gioberti (Harry Townes), Angela’s brother, but we’ll come back to him shortly.

On the other side of the family is Jason’s son, Chase Gioberti (Robert Foxworth), an airline pilot and Vietnam vet who lives in New York City with his journalist wife Maggie (Susan Sullivan) and their kids, college-age Cole (Billy R. Moses) and high school senior Vickie (Jamie Rose). Chase has little interest in the wine business, and hasn’t even spoken to his father in years. All that changes when a tragedy occurs at the Falcon Crest vineyards.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Doctor Who: The Beast Below

After gushing over the season premiere last week, it pains me to find “The Beast Below” is lacking. One element of the episode I found to be a huge letdown, and one that’s critical to the story is “the children,” and I had a bad feeling about this as soon as the episode started in a classroom. Now it’s not necessarily that the children angle of the story is sloppily plotted, it’s that I’m annoyed by Steven Moffat’s ongoing insistence at using kids as pivotal elements in his stories. I realize that last week I went on and on about how magical the stuff was between the Doctor and the young Amelia Pond – and make no mistake, it was – but with “The Beast Below” I found myself instantly bored with the angle. Of the four stories he crafted during the Davies era, three of them involved children to one degree or another, and the first two stories of his own era have now featured children.

My problem with this is that even though Doctor Who is a family series, and that children are a large part of the viewing audience, that doesn’t mean children must be a component of the narrative. It becomes doubly irritating when you’ve already got a lead character who acts like a kid much of the time anyway. Somebody might argue that they’re used as audience identification figures for younger viewers, to which I say balderdash. For 26 years Doctor Who hummed along quite nicely, rarely making anyone younger than a teenager part of the storyline. Kids, I believe, are perfectly content to watch adults on the tube and in film. They don’t long to see other children involved in these types of adventures. Somebody else might argue that Moffat uses children in order to help adults find their inner child. I can actually buy that more than the former proposed argument, but it needs to be used sparingly and smartly, and hot on the heels of the young Amelia Pond is hardly sparing, and the climax of “The Beast Below,” which hinges on crying children doesn’t strike me as particularly smart.

Read the rest of this episode recap by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Crazy Heart

Jeff Bridges has seemingly lurked on the edges of superstardom his entire career. Time after time, movie upon movie, he’s been turning out great, flawless performances since his feature film debut in The Last Picture Show nearly 40 years ago. Along the way, many of his contemporaries rose to far greater fame and fortune, and plenty of them on half the talent. But there’s something intensely admirable about this man who stayed out of the limelight, honing his craft year in and year out, seemingly content just to have a career at all. He’s hardly got a widespread fanbase, and yet every fan who is devoted to his work is bloody rabid about him (and I count myself as one of the most rabid). Every one of those fans will name a different performance of his that’s their favorite, and each will explain precisely why it’s his best. And they’ll all be right, because with Jeff Bridges, there are no bad performances. Even when working with weak material, he can be counted on to make the most of it.

He’s arguably the greatest actor of his generation, and has never really sold out in the ways that all too many of those contemporaries have found themselves doing in an effort to stay relevant or make a quick buck. Occasionally, he’ll turn up in some Hollywood blockbuster, like Iron Man, and yet even these roles manage to seem as thoughtfully played as when he’s given a true character to dive into. Finally, after all these years, Bridges has been shown some long overdue respect by his peers, who awarded him a Best Actor Oscar for his work in Crazy Heart.

Read the rest of this Blu-ray review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

It feels like it’s been forever since Steven Moffat was announced as the new showrunner and Matt Smith as the new Doctor. It hasn’t been, of course, but well over a year in both cases is nothing to sneeze at. For some fans, the anticipation has been damn near excruciating. Another very vocal minority had little interest in the continuing adventures of the Time Lord without David Tennant steering the TARDIS. And yet another group – perhaps the most important, due simply to the fact that they comprise a huge segment of the viewing audience – were understandably nervous that a new Doctor alongside a new head honcho might lead to a series that was somehow lesser than what had been seen over the past five years.

I’d like to believe that everybody was as utterly intoxicated by “The Eleventh Hour” as I was, but that’s probably wishing for too much. On the other hand, I can’t really see that it offered up anything that would possibly alienate audiences – not even in the form of the new Doctor, who’s not such a drastic departure from the antics of Tennant so as to drive viewers away. Indeed, the differences between Eccleston and Tennant are far more tangible than the divide between Tennant and Smith. All that said, Smith definitely has something of his own going on, and whatever that “something” is will most certainly grow as the season progresses. Both Eccleston and Tennant each took about a half season to find their Time Lord groove; Smith found it by the end of his first episode. I was wholly won over by him upon his delivery of “I am definitely a mad man with a box,” which was followed by an uneasy cackle that seems to imply this Doctor is not quite as right in the head as his recent predecessors.

Read the rest of this episode recap by clicking here and visiting Premium Hollywood.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Icons of Suspense Collection: Hammer Films

When one hears the name “Hammer Films,” usually the first thing that leaps to mind is the production company’s Gothic horror output of the ‘50s and ‘60s. The connection is no doubt made with good reason, as much of that material has stood the test of time, even if most of it’s never really been given its proper cinematic due. The number of pictures Hammer was behind stretches well into the triple digits, which is an astonishing feat for what was then the equivalent of an independent studio. This new collection offers up a sampling of some of their non-horror output, by presenting six films spread across three discs from the realm of suspense. Easily, the highlight of this set isn’t actually a suspense film at all – it’s really more of a sci-fi piece called These are The Damned, but since it’s presented as the final film on the set, we’ll leave it for the end of the review. Half the movies on this set really work, while the other three leave something to be desired to varying degrees. These are some pretty obscure titles, and prior to this set, they’ve never been commercially available on DVD here in the States.

Read the complete breakdown of this DVD set by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

The six films contained in the set are Stop Me Before I Kill!, Cash on Demand, The Snorkel, Maniac, Never Take Candy from a Stranger, and These are The Damned.

Young Sherlock Holmes

Nearly 25 years before Guy Ritchie gave Sherlock Holmes the slick Hollywood treatment, Steven Spielberg, Barry Levinson, Chris Columbus and Henry Winkler did much the same with Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation. Much like everything that carried the Amblin logo during the ‘80s, the results were rip-roaringly charming, and not entirely unlike Spielberg’s far more famous Indiana Jones flicks from the same time period. The movie didn’t do especially well at the box office, but went on to become a home video staple in the years that followed. Perhaps its biggest mistake was in placing the word “Young” in the title. It made the film sound as if it were aimed at children, which it isn’t necessarily, as evidenced by its well deserved PG-13 rating. Like the Ritchie film, this isn’t based on anything written by Conan Doyle himself, but rather it’s a fevered inspiration of Conan Doyle’s ideas.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.