Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Third Season

It’s mildly irritating that The Big Bang Theory has become one of the biggest shows on network TV. This thing is a ratings behemoth at this point. It seemed so much cooler when not as many people were watching it (yet enough to keep it on the air). The misfit, socially outcast central characters made a kind of sense in that context. Now they’re seemingly as powerful as the superheroes they worship. Oh, it’s still a great show, or at least a very, very good one, but I think most people who’ve been there since the beginning will find a grain or two of truth in what I’m talking about. When the guys who hated you in high school are rooting for Sheldon Cooper (thanks for the info, Facebook), just a little something special has been inadvertently ripped out of the concept.

In writing up Season Two, on the subject of a possible relationship between Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) I wrote that “the chase is half the fun, and to make Leonard and Penny a couple this early in the series would take away a lot of what makes it so special.” Clearly those words were spoken in misguided haste. Or perhaps not. Little did I guess that the very relationship I predicted would spoil the show would take off in the first episode of Season Three; it in no way spoils the show, but the writers don’t do a whole lot with the idea, either. (Some of the best stuff involves the couple standing in as surrogate parents of sorts for Sheldon.) It would seem, in fact, that this was one of those TV cases of “we’re bringing them together so that we can split them apart,” which is mercifully what happens before the season is over. Mercifully because it reopens that playing field for a new and different kind of Leonard and Penny game, which presumably we’ll be getting more of in Season Four. In the long run, this all may have been for the best.

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Being Human: Season Two

Now that’s more like it. I’m referring, of course, to the sophomore season of Being Human. Of its freshman season I wrote, “It doesn’t always reach as far it feels it potentially could” and “it’d probably be best to cut Being Human a little slack at this early stage of the game.” With its setup out of the way, the series is now taking long, deep breaths, and exhaling a fantastically entertaining combination of humor, horror and drama. This is where the series really begins.

With vampire leader Herrick dispatched (thank you, George), it has fallen on Mitchell (Aidan Turner) to begrudgingly lead the vampires, and so he chooses to do so with leading by example: No blood-sucking; he even manages to bring a sort of AA model to the group. He also finds himself smitten with a doctor from the hospital, Lucy (Lyndsey Marshall). George (Russell Tovey) has accidentally turned his girlfriend, Nina (Sinead Keenan), into a werewolf as well, which doesn’t exactly bode well for their blossoming relationship. And Annie (Lenora Crichlow) has found a way to go corporeal, and as a result takes a job at a pub and finds a romance (or two) that can’t possibly end well.

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Skins: Volume Three

Once upon a time (like two years ago) Skins generated a huge amount of controversy, and probably with good reason. Any show featuring oversexed, drugged-up teenage protagonists will tend to garner negative press. But Skins hung in there, and kept on doing what it does, and at the time of writing it’s got four seasons under its belt, and has been commissioned for another two. MTV is also getting in on the Skins action, and they’ll be unveiling their Americanized remake sometime in 2011.

Now, other than by reputation, I was mostly unfamiliar with the concept when it came time to watch this DVD release of its third season, but Will Harris did a fine job of covering Seasons One and Two (I’m still unsure about the decision to label these season sets as “Volumes”), so I was able to play a kind of catch up through his enthusiastic takes. Turns out, though, most of that was unnecessary, as in its third year, Skins has an almost entirely new cast of characters and a new set of stories to tell. For the time being, this is apparently the plan for the show – every two seasons the cast will rotate and change, introducing a new batch of kids in their final two years of the U.K. equivalent of high school. If you’ve never seen the show before, this is as good a place as any to begin an unhealthy education.

Skins is an ensemble series, although the season does shine the spotlight on each of the major characters for an episode apiece, all while continuing the ongoing story of the group. This season showcases a complex love triangle between bad boy Cook (Jack O’Connell), his lifelong skater friend Freddie (Luke Pasqualino), and the object of their attraction, Effy (Kaya Scodelario) – the primary crossover character from the previous seasons, as she was the younger sister of Tony (previously a major player, but now gone from the show). Effy is as fucked up a teen as any you’ve ever seen, and her parents are in the midst of splitting up, which doesn’t help matters. In the season opener, she catches the eyes of both Cook and Freddie, but Cook, being the more outgoing of the pair, manages to stake his claim first. What develops between Cook and Effy can only be described as toxic, and it’s borderline heartbreaking (or maybe just plain scary) to watch the deterioration of their dignity as the season moves forward. You want Effy to go for Freddie, but as is often the case in real life, the danger Cook offers is addictive for this self-destructive girl.

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

Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection

Detective Jane Tennison is arguably Helen Mirren’s most famous role, and given the amount of time she invested in the part – roughly 25 hours over the course of 15 years – that shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Then again, what’s 25 hours in the grand scheme of TV? That’s only a few hours longer than one season of a typical American drama. Doesn’t sound like all that much, does it? Then it must be the quality of this dense work that makes it so worthy. In order to understand what makes Prime Suspect must-see TV on DVD, it helps to know the structure of the show.

In lieu of traditional episodic seasons, the show offers up a single storyline for each of its seven seasons, and each of those stories is comprised of two 100-minute blocks, so the stories are effectively comprised of two feature-length installments. (Only Prime Suspect 4 bucks the trend by offering three standalone 100-minute tales instead.) Through this structure, Prime Suspect is able to explore Tennison’s cases in an unusually thorough manner, and I dare suggest that this material will be best appreciated by the hardcore procedural enthusiast. If this is your kind of fare, then you owe it to yourself to see this set.

These stories twist and turn with all sorts of red herrings, roadblocks, and detours for Tennison and the various teams she works with over the course of her career. It’s easy when watching these stories to feel as if you’re caught up in an actual investigation, or perhaps it’s more like being a fly on the wall viewing the sordid proceedings.

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

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Doctor Who: The Creature from the Pit

There’s nothing wrong with “The Creature from the Pit” that a couple pints of ale (or whatever your choice of poison may be) can’t fix. Yet another entry from the Douglas Adams script-edited season of Doctor Who, whatever the story lacks in the plot mechanics department, it more than makes up for with its cracking wordplay. The jokes fly fast and furious in this one, which at one time was considered a negative, but I think we’ve all chilled out enough over the years to warrant giving this tale some serious (or not, as the case may be) reevaluation.

The Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward) and K-9 (David Brierly) are forced to materialize the TARDIS on the planet Chloris, a world which, as its name suggests, is ripe with vegetation. After discovering what the Doctor deduces is a gigantic eggshell, he’s taken prisoner by the planet’s ruler, Lady Adrasta (Myra Frances), whose duds are as close to dominatrix as anything this side of Emma Peel at the Hellfire Club. Adrasta is a temperamental bitch, and anytime one of her subjects does something she doesn’t like, they end up being thrown into the pit. And you know what’s waiting down at the bottom, don’t you? (If you guessed anything other than a creature, I’ve already lost you.) Chloris is also deficient in metal, so anything steely – including K-9 – becomes a coveted artifact. Sooner, rather than later, the Doctor ends up in the pit, and meets the behemoth, which is not quite what everyone thinks it is, and Adrasta certainly knows more than she’s letting on.

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

Doctor Who: The King's Demons & Planet of Fire

Few long-running TV series manage to keep moving forward without the occasional bad idea – the kind where viewers collectively scratch their heads, and in unison sigh, “What were they thinking?” Given how long Doctor Who has been on the air in its various incarnations, it’s probably had more than its fair share of half-baked notions. If one were to make a list of such grievances, it seems likely that the Fifth Doctor’s robot companion Kamelion would land comfortably in the Top Five. Apparently, producer John Nathan-Turner wanted a new metallic emblem for the show, as K-9 had been gone for several years, and he’d recently gotten a glimpse of an actual working, moving robot, so naturally he wanted one for the series.

Since this was in 1983 – and here in 2010 robots are still fairly hard to come by – you can imagine that the results were somewhat less than spectacular. Not only did Kamelion look cheap, but the robot itself functioned so poorly that even though the character was a TARDIS crewmember for seven stories, we only ever saw him in two, “The King’s Demons” and “Planet of Fire.” Presumably, in the interim tales, he putters around the TARDIS, left to his own devices (curiously, nobody seemed worried about his fate in “Frontios,” the story in which the TARDIS was temporarily destroyed).

Read the DVD reviews for both stories featuring Kamelion by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Mona Lisa

Long before Irish director Neil Jordan made popular movies (Interview with the Vampire), or important movies (Michael Collins), or movies that were both (The Crying Game), he made some little movies that not many people saw. In recent years, he’s again returned to making little movies that not many people see, and yet there’s a difference between what he’s doing now, and what he was doing way back then; there often is with directors of his caliber. You can feel the hunger and the desire to impress or to say something worthwhile in the earlier works, and you don’t always get that vibe in the newer stuff. Mona Lisa is such a film.

It may not have the budget of In Dreams or the uniqueness of The Butcher Boy, and yet it’s got an immense amount of heart and a self-assuredness that makes it well worth carving out some time for. Apparently, someone in Hollywood felt much the same, as there’s a remake in the works, currently slated to star Mickey Rourke and Eva Greene, and it will be directed by Larry Clark (Kids, Another Day in Paradise).

It’d be all too easy to launch into a rant about how pointless it seems to remake this film, but I wouldn’t be saying anything that hasn’t been said a hundred times before about a hundred different remakes. Instead, I’d much rather write about Jordan’s film, which was something of a video staple for me back in the 90s, and yet it’s been over a decade since I last partook in its world. Viewing it again was a lot like spending time with an old, dear friend that you haven’t seen in ages.

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

The Long Good Friday

HandMade Films is a production and distribution company that started out as a venture between George Harrison and his business partner Denis O’Brien. Initially it was put together simply to help Monty Python finance Life of Brian, but after the success of that film, HandMade kept going and going. The company has gone through numerous changes over the years, and these days their output isn’t nearly as revolutionary as it once was.

The last daring movie they were involved with was Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, although even as recently as on Planet 51, HandMade is still something of a brand name. But back in the 80s, they were putting out all sorts of oddball, experimental films, and if you saw the label HandMade on a movie, it was worth checking out. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve reviewed three Blu-rays of HandMade pictures, courtesy of Image Entertainment: Withnail & I, Time Bandits and Mona Lisa.

The Long Good Friday is the fourth and final film (at least for the time being) in this series, and unlike the other three, I’d never seen it before its Blu-ray release. Unsurprisingly, it was also my least favorite of the bunch, which quite possibly wouldn’t have been the case had I seen it 15 or 20 years ago like the other three, as I was coming at it cold, with no sense of nostalgia. But this isn’t to say I didn’t care for The Long Good Friday, which is a fine film for what it is.

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