Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: Heroes - Season 2 (Aug. 26)

Our regular weekly ratings report will return next week.

Welcome to a special Sunday edition of mini-DVD reviews! Today we look at Universal Studios Home Entertainment's Heroes - Season 2. Watch the Emmy nominated show and experience all the new and exciting twists of the astonishing series in this 4-disc set that includes every gripping season two episode. Rejoin the epic phenomenon as Heroes - Season 2 arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on August 26, 2008. See my mini-DVD review of Heroes - Season 2:

Heroes - Season 2

Heroes: Season 2 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $39.98)

This 4-disc set includes all 11 episodes from the second season which ran from September-December 2007. The second season premiered on NBC on September 24, 2007. New characters this season included Dania Ramirez as Maya Herrera, Shalim Ortiz as Alejandro Herrera, David Anders as Adam Monroe/Takezo Kensei, Kristen Bell as Elle Bishop and Dana Davis as Monica Dawson. Joining the main cast this season were Zachary Quinto as Sylar and James Kyson Lee as Ando Masahashi.

The packaging of this set is, once again, very stylish. The outer slip cover has a black background and an embossed Heroes title logo. The holofoil cover art has a photo of 10 cast members (none of the new characters) and the city in the background. On the back of the slip cover, there is a synopsis of the set and a listing of the special features. The main digipak packaging slides out from the left of the outer slip cover. The Heroes logo is on the front of the digipak. Opening the digipak, the episodes and special features for discs one and two are listed. There are two of the comic-style drawings at the bottom. Discs three and four information are listed on the back of the packaging. Inside the digipak, there are blue-tinted photos of the cast members. The discs have a blue background and the Heroes logo on them.

The anamorphic menus are attractive and easy to navigate. They open with a series of video clips in 3 different circles/bubbles. Some instrumental score from the series is played in the background for about a minute before it loops. At the bottom of the screen, there are options for "Play All," "Chapter Index," "Bonus Material" and "Languages." When you select Chapter Index, it takes you to a sub-menu where there is a still image from the episode in a circle. A partial Heroes logo is in the background. Discs 1-3 have 3 episodes, while disc 4 has 2. You can play the episodes by themselves, view the deleted scenes or listen to the commentary from this menu. On the Languages menu, there are different invividual photos of the cast members. You can turn on the English SDH, French or Spanish subitles in this section. More photos of the cast members can be found on the Bonus Material menus. Chapter stops are available within the episodes but no separate scene selection menus are offered. When you first insert disc 1, there are Previews which you can play or skip directly to the main menu.

Moving on to the video and audio quality, the excellence is continued. The set is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are vibrant and clean. The picture is very sharp and detailed. Some of the night time scenes can look a little grainy, but that can be expected. Overall, the lighting is excellent and the outdoor scenes are beautifully shot. These episodes look even better than how they were originally broadcast. All of the episodes appear to be unedited, running around 41-43 minutes in length. They have the "Previously On" Heroes openings as originally broadcast. The first episode of the second season was a bit extended and ran 52 minutes, 33 seconds. There is nothing on the packaging to indicate that any of the original music had to be replaced. The audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I didn't notice any major problems on the episodes I've watched so far. The dialogue is at a good volume and easy to understand. I love the music score by Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman and other sound effects that are used in the episodes. Subtitles are available in English, French and spanish. The bonus features are not rated and not all are subtitled.

There is a nice mixture of special features spread out over the 4 discs. The best extras are the audio commentaries by the cast and crew on all 11 episodes. I haven't had a chance to listen to all of them yet, but they offer a lot of interesting trivia and behind the scenes details. Other special features include 17deleted scenes, Heroes Season 2 "A New Beginning" featurette, Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint featurette, The Drucker Files featurette, Genetics of a Scene featurette, season 3 sneak peek, Generations alternate ending, Inside the Alternate ending of Generations, Untold Stories that never aired, NBC.com featurettes and a gallery of Tim Sale's screen art.

Here is a breakdown of the special features by disc:

Disc 1
------
1. Four Months Later...
Deleted Scenes - I Too Have a Special Ability (2:20); Petrellis Don't Deserve to be Saved (2:26)
Audio Commentary with Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring, Co-Executive Producer Jeph Loeb and Series Star Coleman

2. Lizards
Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Allan Arkush, Series Star Greg Grunberg and Co-Executive Producer Michael Green

3. Kindred
Audio Commentary with Episode Director Paul Edwards, Co-Executive Producer JJ Phillbin and Series Star Zachary Quinto

Heroes Season 2 "A New Beginning" (14:40) - Tim Kring introduces us to the theme of "extraordinary people trying to live normal lives." Go behind the scenes with the cast and crew to see what it's like coming back to a hit show and also meet new Heroes as they share anecdotes about filming the second season. Interviews include Masi Oka, Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Ali Larter, Sendil Ramamurthy, Zacharay Quinto, Milo Ventimiglia, David Anders, Dania Ramirez, Shalim Ortiz, Kristen Bell, Nicholas D'Agosto, Dana Davis, Noah Gray-Cabey and Executive Producer/Director Allan Arkush. This is sort of a preview of the second season and doesn't really detail what happened later in the season. There probably won't be anything new for die-hard fans, but it will provide a good overview for new watchers.

Disc 2
------
4. The Kindness of Strangers
Audio Commentary with Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring and Series Stars Dana Davis & Adrian Pasdar

5. Fight or Flight
Deleted Scenes - Look, Yako - He Had It All Along (1:39); And She Hit Me Hard (1:28); I'm the Only Normal Person in this Family (:38); You Think I Don't Know You Hiro (2:06), Don't Thank Me Yet (:58)
Audio Commentary with Series Star Greg Grunberg and Executive Producer Greg Beeman

6. The Line
Deleted Scenes - So It Does Run in the Family (1:54); To Fight Alongside the Great Takezo Kensei (1:40); No More Tazer Kidnapping (1:33)
Audio Commentary with Co-Executive Producers Adam Armus & Kay Foster and Series Star Jack Coleman

Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint (23:48) - This featurette is divided into 5 chapters: The Battle of 12 Swords, The Trial of the Fire Scroll, The Trial of the Hidden Fortress, Kensei and the Dragon (Parts 1 and 2)) and The Mystery of Kensei. This is a History channel-style documentary on the character. It is pretty elaborate with a narrator, experts being interviewed, background music and a lot of drawings.

The Drucker Files (8:32) - This is a news report by Global News Interactive on Richard Drucker, the Godfather of the internet.

Disc 3
------
7. Out of Time
Deleted Scenes - Get Down From There (1:40); She Can Find Peter (1:03)
Audio Commentary with Episode Director Daniel Attias and Series Star Masi Oka

8. Four Months Ago...
Deleted Scenes - Happy Birthday, Micah (:50); There Is No Need to Cry, Child (1:11); I'm Not O.K. Do I Look O.K.? (1:43)
Audio Commentary with Series Star Milo Ventimiglia and Executive Producer Greg Beeman

9. Cautionary Tales
Deleted Scenes - I Will Bring Him to Justice (:20); I Laughed So Hard Chocolate Milk Came Out of My Nose (1:07)
Audio Commentary with Episdoe Director Greg Yaitanes and Series Stars Kristen Bell & Ashley Crow

Genetics of a Scene (23:14)
2. Lizards - Executive Producer/Director Allan Allan Arkush discusses the shooting of 17th century Japan and how they made it look rural. He talks about the cherry blossoms and the sword fight scenes with Eriko Tamura (Yaeko).
1. Four Months Later... - Executive Producer/Director Greg Beeman talks about how they shot the introduction of Maya and Alejandro. They shot it with a handheld camera and made it documentary style. Dania Ramirez is also interviewed.
8. Four Months Ago... - Executive Producer/Director Greg Beeman talks about the scene of Peter and Nathan flying out of New York and Peter exploding. He talks about the storyboards, how they shot it with green screen and how they did the digital burns.
11. Powerless - Executive Producer/Director Allan Arkush discusses the set of Isaac's loft which was turned into a lab. Zachary Quinto is also interviewed.

Disc 4
------
10. Truth & Consequences
Audio Commentary with Episode Director Adam Kane and Series Star Stephen Tobolowsky

11. Powerless
Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Allan Arkush and Composers Lisa Coleman & Wendy Melvoin

Season 3 Sneak Peek (8:37) - A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the third season premiere episode. Interviews include Dania Ramirez, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Ali Larter, Greg Grunberg and Jack Coleman.

Generations Alternate Ending - (17:59) This is from what turned out to be the final episode of the season. Because of the strike, they had to alter the ending and this shows what happens if Peter didn't catch the virus. This includes some temporary vfx. The alternate ending is called lost footage and they weren't able to repurpose it, as they are going with a different storyline at the start of season 3.

Inside the Alternate Ending of Generations (10:57) - Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring, Executive Producer Jeph Loeb and Co-Executive Producer/Writer Jesse Alexander discuss the alternate ending and detail episodes 11-13. They talk a little about what they were planning for the next 6-8 episodes. Episodes 11-13 had been shot. They talk about the viral outbreak idea and Maya's ability.

Untold Stories (12:13) - This is some footage of scenes that never aired. Like the alternate ending, there is some temporary sfx and scenes that were not finished. It is divided into 6 sections: Teaser (4:28), Act 1 (1:08), Act 2 (:32), Act 3 (2:08), Act 4 (:218), Act 5 (from episode 213) (1:41)

NBC.com Featurettes
Hotel Gurintihain Explosion (:43)
Maya y Alejandro Viral Video (2:31)
Nathan and Peter Brooklyn Cam (:34)

Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art (2:02) - Screen art is shown with music being played in the background.

Previews (6:42)
Battle Star Galactica, Coach, Eureka, The Incredible Hulk, Murder She Wrote, Northern Exposure, Quantum Leap, The Rockford Files, The A-Team/Knight Rider/Magnum P.I.

Final Comments: This is a pretty nicely produced set, although it can't match the season 1 release. The highlights of this set are the audio commentaries on every episode by the cast and crew. Even if you've already seen all of the episodes, they will add some new insights into the making of the episodes. I also enjoyed the Genetics of a Scene featurette which went into some detail on how they made scenes from four different episodes.

I was a huge fan of the first season, but the show went into a bit of a sophomore slump in season two. A lot of this was because of the writer's strike. No other show as probably more affected. They were only able to produce 11 episodes. I also think they added a few too many new characters and the pace was too slow at the start of the season. It would have been very interesting to see how the second half of the season would have played out with the viral outbreak idea. We will never know now, since they are going into a different direction at the start of season three. Hopefully they can get some of the magic and excitement back of the first season. If you gave up on season two, maybe you will want to give season three another try. The promos have looked very good. Watch the season three premiere on NBC on September 22, 2008. Chime in!

-- Reviewed by Todd
(4/5 stars)

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A Blu-ray version is also being released on the same day. Purchase it here.

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
Heroes Official Site
Heroes TV.com Page
Heroes Internet Movie Database Page
Heroes Wikipedia Page

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: Perry Mason Season 3, Volume 1

It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for the mini-DVD review! Today we take a look at CBS DVD's Perry Mason: The Third Season, Volume 1. Perry Mason of course is the very popular law series. The series stars the great Raymond Burr. See skees53's mini-DVD review of Perry Mason: The Third Season, Volume 1:

Perry Mason: The Third Season, Volume 1 (CBS DVD, $49.99) brings order back to the courtroom with the first 12 episodes of the 3rd season of the courtroom drama of the 50s. The three-disc set contains even more of the attorney defending the most impossible of cases, with the defendant knowing that the judge is going to lower the boom on them and find them guilty as charged, except by some miracle, Perry finds that despite all evidence supporting the other side, his client is always innocent and he is able to prove that in a court of law.
There are many great episodes in this set, beginning with the first one, "The Case of the Spurious Sister," where a man's wife turns up dead after she tells him she is going to divorce him. So where do all fingers get pointed? A jeweler turns up dead after accusing a young woman of theft in "The Case of the Blushing Pearls." Perry has to defend, of all people, Paul Drake, in "The Case of Paul Drake's Dilemma." In "The Case of the Golden Fraud," a golden coin in a parking meter may play a part in one of Perry's cases. In "The Case of the Artful Dodger," a man is about to inherit a large sum of money, except a bunch of people turn up dead that he just so happens to be avoiding. Perry can't get a break from his cases, not even while on a hunting trip, as shown in "The Case of the Violent Village."
The video and audio quality on the episodes is, as usual, excellent. This has never been an issue on these sets, and isn't this time either. Closed-captioning can also be found on all of the episodes. A nice little feature, though probably unintentional, is the fact that many episodes have their original sponsorships on the closing credits, from Colgate. And CBS DVD has actually left the original CBS logo intact this time, although the CBS Television Distribution logo plays immediately after it. But there is bad news about the case. Unlike the previous sets that included the double slimcases, we now have the standard Amaray style case that CBS DVD seems to use for everything. It is simple packaging, but just seems so cheap to be using, particularly on a show as expensive as this one is on DVD.
Unfortunately, as has been the case with the previous sets, there are no special features, which is outright disappointing. Apparently they were able to find some nice special features for the 50th Anniversary release, so why couldn't they come up with more for the season sets? Commentaries, interviews, and other special features would have been nice. I find it ridiculous that CBS DVD continues to release this in half season sets. Although the first season had many episodes, there aren't as many in these later seasons, and it would be more practical to put them out as full season releases. Instead, CBS DVD chooses to continue releasing half seasons and putting full season prices on the sets. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with the quality of the episodes on the set, but is the set really worth as much as fans are paying to buy the series on DVD? Not really. But don't be fooled—this is a great show that fans of classic TV and courtroom drama are sure to enjoy.
-- Reviewed by skees53
(4/5 stars)

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Perry Mason TV.com Page

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: NCIS - The Fifth Season (Aug. 26)

Welcome to a special edition of mini-DVD reviews! Today we we take a look at CBS DVD's Fifth Season of Navy NCIS. See Seth Thrasher's mini-DVD review of NCIS - The Fifth Season and:

NCIS - The Fifth Season (CBS, $55.98) is now on DVD. This season is marked by mysterious secrets among the team, an explosive showdown with an elusive arms dealer, and a shocking final episode that shouldn't be missed. The series starts Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, David McCallum, Sean Murray, Cote de Pablo, and Lauren Holly. This set contains the 18 episodes of the 2008 Writers' Strike-shortened 5th season.
One thing I hope I'm made absolutely clear over the years is simply that I *love* this show. Judging by the ratings many others do to. What amazes me though is very rarely does a week go by where I don't hear someone throwing it under the bus and trying to group it in with shows like CSI, Law & Order, etc. Yes, there are elements of that to this series. But with NCIS especially there's so much more going on. This series is significantly more character driven, and seems far more willing to use recurring plot themes than many of those other shows. With the other series, you could insert just about any actor into the carefully crafted niches in the series framework, and tell the same stories. But in NCIS' first five series, this largely hasn't been true. Ziva is largely different from Kate, for example, in the show's one main cast replacement. Similarly, replacing any other character would have strong effects on the series. This makes me concerned about the plot twist at the end of this fifth season -- and I really hope they don't screw this up, as honestly anything more than a temporary tweak for story purposes might very well send me packing from the series.
What could be so big that it would even threaten to send me running--the 5th season finale. One cast member (Lauren Holly) made a permanent exit from the show, while three others (Michael Weatherly, Sean Murray, Cote de Pablo) all were "reassigned" as part of the ending of the episode. Whether this is a temporary change or a permanent one will be resolved in season six -- I think I've made clear my hope of the outcome (no, I haven't bothered to check for spoilers). Before that, though, you have a great season of episodes, including a great Gibbs-centric episode in "Requiem" that's kicked off when Gibbs is sought for help by the childhood friend of his deceased daughter.
In terms of the technical side of the set, the packaging is as always a box containing slimcases -- three cases holding five discs this season. The discs have taken on the silver standard look of Paramount/CBS releases. Menus are well-designed but static, with no music in the background. In regards to audio and video, a great thing about working with newer series is that the video quality and audio quality are great almost by default. This set is no exception -- the video looks flawless in its presentation. Color balance is nice and even, there are no compression artifacts, there are no problems in the transfer -- nothing. Audio is a crisp and clear 5.1 audio track. The usual CBS/Paramount disclaimer about edits appears on the bottom of the box, but the only missing footage I can find in the one episode I have for comparison, "About Face," is the Stay Tuned for Scenes from the Next NCIS tag at the end. In fact, excluding *it* the DVD version actually appears to have a longer runtime by a few seconds. More than likely, in an era of pre-negotiated DVD rights, that disclaimer is just for legal purposes. I highly doubt anything substantive is cut.
And since NCIS is a popular series currently airing on TV, that means more effort goes into the bonuses on a release. There are SIX special features, including cast and crew commentaries, a revisiting of the aforementioned episode Requiem, a featurette talking about NCIS Season 5 itself, a feature on the costumes and wardrobe for the series, plus a feature on what all goes into transforming Pauley Perrette into the Abby character, including all the wardrobe, makeup, hair, false tattoos, etc. All great stuff to sit through and watch/listen to. The commentaries in particular are a great addition to see. I always love seeing DVD releases with large numbers of special features.
I didn't want to devote too much time to it, but another positive of this DVD release is the lower MSRP. Whether due to an overall business strategy or the fact that this season has a couple fewer episodes, the MSRP is noticeably lower than with past releases. I've been a big opponent of overpricing DVD sets, so I applaud this change wholeheartedly.
For those of you reading this who are trying to decide whether to buy the set or not, I wholeheartedly encourage it. NCIS is a great character driven drama -- with comedic elements -- and would make a welcome addition to your TV on DVD library. And for fans of the series, while the presence of the Disclaimer of Doom is always troubling, I sincerely doubt you have anything to worry about. As such, this set is STRONGLY recommended.
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher
(4.5/5 stars)

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Navy NCIS TV.com Page

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: Entourage Season 4 (Aug. 26)

It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for the mini-DVD review. This week we take a look at HBO's Entourage - The Complete Fourth Season. Entourage of course is the popular HBO series that is about a guy named Vince (played by Adrian Grenier) that is about to make it big in showbiz and moves to Hollywood in hopes that he will make it to the top. See skees53's mini-DVD review of Entourage: The Complete Fourth Season:

Entourage: The Complete Fourth Season (HBO, $39.98) continues the ongoing story of Vince Chase "chasing" his dreams to make it big in Hollywood, thanks to (but most often in spite of) his faithful group of friends, his entourage, Eric, Drama, and Turtle.
We start the season with "Welcome to the Jungle," where we go behind-the-scenes (not from our perspective, but the perspective of the characters of the show) of the Vince’s movie for this season, Medellin. In "Sorry, Harvey," Ari gets into some trouble and lands in jail for what he does with a top-secret script... oops! The series addresses the modern issue of things that shouldn’t be on YouTube ending up on there in "The Dream Team" and "The WeHo Ho." Finally, he guys learn a lesson in reality in the film business in "The Cannes Kids." There are many well-known guest stars this season, including Gary Busey, Snoop Dogg, Sydney Pollack, Kanye West, and more.
The audio and video on the set is superb, with the video being presented in the 16:9 aspect ratio and audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. But there are also Spanish and French audio tracks, as well as English, Spanish, and French subtitles. The episodes are spanned over three discs, but the outside packaging is slightly different this time. While it looks similar, the big change is that the sturdier hard cardboard packaging has been replaced with a less expensive standard box. It isn't a big deal, though.
The set is loaded with special features, beginning with commentaries. The commentaries are by Doug Ellin, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, and Adrian Grenier. These can be found on "Welcome to the Jungle," "The Day Fu*kers," and "The Cannes Kids." "The Making of Medellin" goes behind-the-scenes into the making of the very movie that Vince is starring in this season. "Medellin Trailer," of course, is a trailer for the fictitious movie. "U.S. Comedy Arts Festival Panel" is a nice and long conversation with the cast members at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. This lasts a whole fifty minutes, and is very insightful and entertaining. Finally, although the packaging doesn't mention it, there are recaps and previews for every episode on the set, which are basically like short promos. I like to watch them before I watch any episode.
As always, we have a pretty good DVD set here, and fans are sure to be happy with what is here. We have another great season of episodes with great special features. I'm usually not a fan of these premium cable series, although this is one of the few that I find enjoyable and far better than many other series on television today. It is surprising that this series isn't also being released on Blu-Ray Disc as well, although I'm sure that will come at some point in the future.
-- Reviewed by skees53
(4.5/5 stars)

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Entourage TV.com Page

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Remembering Bernie Mac; Mini-DVD Review: Route 66 - The Complete First Season

Bernie Mac

Bernie Mac, the actor and comedian who teamed up in the casino heist caper Ocean's Eleven and gained a prestigious Peabody Award for his sitcom The Bernie Mac Show, died Saturday at age 50.

"Actor/comedian Bernie Mac passed away this morning from complications due to pneumonia in a Chicago area hospital," his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement from Los Angeles.

Mac's film career started with a small role as a club doorman in the Damon Wayans comedy Mo' Money in 1992. His other film credits include Get on the Bus, Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, Ocean's Eleven and its two sequels, Guess Who, Bad Santa, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and Transformers. His professional career began in Chicago as a stand-up comedian in 1977, at the age of 19. He was a featured comedian in the 2000 documentary, The Original Kings of Comedy, with Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer.

Starting in 2001, Mac was the star of The Bernie Mac Show on the Fox nexwork, which earned two Emmy Award nominations before the show was cancelled in 2006. In addition, the show won the prestigious Peabody award in 2002, the Humanitas Prize, and three NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series. The sitcom was somewhat based on is life and stand-up comedy acts and ran for 5 seasons and 104 episodes. His character was ranked #47 in TV Guide's list of the "50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time." His other sitcom credits include an appearance on The Wayans Bros. and multiple episodes of Moesha as Uncle Bernie.

Bernie Mac is survived by his wife Rhonda McCullough, daughter Je'Niece and granddaughter Jasmine. Bernie and the laughter he brought to millions of people around the world will be greatly missed. Share your memories and condolences here.

As we reported on Monday, The Bernie Mac Show is joining FX's line-up. The four-year deal starts Monday, September 8, 2008 with a launch marathon from 12:30pm-8pm ET. Bernie Mac will then join the weekday line-up on Tuesday, September 9 airing weekdays at 8:00am & 8:30am ET and 4:00pm & 4:30pm ET (although sometimes it will be 4:30pm ET & 5:00pm ET depending on the FX movies).

Releated Links:
Internet Movie Database entry for Bernie Mac
Wikipedia entry for Bernie Mac
The Bernie Mac Show Message Board
The Bernie Mac Show Photo Gallery


It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for the mini-DVD review! Today we take a look at Roxbury Entertainment's Route 66 - The Complete First Season. Route 66 ran from 1960-1964 and starred Martin Milner, George Maharis (1960-1963) and Glenn Corbett (1963-1964). See skees53's mini-DVD review of Route 66 -The Complete First Season:

Route 66 - The Complete First Season

Route 66 - The Complete First Season (Roxbury Entertainment, $49.98) -- takes you on a road trip through America to encounter problems all throughout America and to solve them—within 50 minutes. Traveling America by road was all the rage in the 60s. and Route 66, which once spanned from Illinois all the way out to California, was the ultimate path to travel the country. In this series, two young men, played by Martin Milner and George Maharis, travel the country in a Corvette to see what they find along the way.

The series begins with "Black November," where the guys come across a town in Mississippi that seems to have some deep secret—but what is it? The boys are hired to work on a shrimp boat in "The Lance of Straw." In "Ten Drops of Water," the guys encounter a family ranch that is dying due to drought, but does the family want their assistance? A woman is released from prison in "Sheba," but her parole officer happens to be the same guy that put her in prison to begin with. A blind woman wants Buz and Tod to buy her a pistol for self-protection in "An Absence of Tears." The guys get framed after they try to bust somebody for hunting deer in "A Skill for Hunting." The series focused on guest stars, and among those in this season are Suzanne Pleshette, Leslie Nielsen, Lee Marvin, Harvey Korman, Walter Matthau, Robert Duvall, Ed Asner, and more.

This season was originally released as two separate volumes, and this set is essentially just both volumes placed in one larger box. So, the first fifteen episodes of the season are placed in the four disc Volume 1 set and the last fifteen episodes of the season are placed in the four disc Volume 2 set. It would have been nice to see a more integrated set, but that isn't what we have here.

The set claims to be remastered from the original source films, but you'll find that isn't quite accurate for a few episodes in the Volume 1 set. Some of the episodes are taken from 80s prints, and this is made obvious from the fact that a few such episodes are missing their original Screen Gems and CBS logos and have them replaced with logos from the 1980s including Colex and Columbia. It may not sound like a huge deal, but you'll notice that these episodes have poorer video and audio quality than the rest, though for the most part, are still viewable. The episodes that truly were remastered are pretty clear and don't have much grain, but the picture appears to be jumpy at places. It does appear, however, that on the Volume 2 episodes, everything is left intact and unedited. Almost every episode runs around 51 minutes, but on Volume 1, it appears that a syndicated episode may have sneaked in, as the episode "A Fury Slinging Flame" runs at 46 minutes. Again, this is an episode that not taken from the original source prints.

The set isn't loaded with special features, but Disc 4 of each volume contains original commercials from the episodes, which are VERY nice to see. Many of these are either from Chevrolet (after all, they did provide the Corvette) or Bayer. You'll even find one commercial featuring the cast of the series My Three Sons. Volume 1 contains some historical information about Corvettes from the 50s and 60s. Fans of the car may enjoy this, but an average fan of the show probably won't care too much about this information. Finally, the set contains filmographies of each and every guest star from the season, which helps anybody that ever asks themselves "where have I seen that person before?"

This was my first experience of watching this series, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed watching these episodes. I always thought that this would be a decent series, but I'm even more impressed than I thought. Roxbury Entertainment has put together a nice DVD set here, although it does contain the few minor flaws mentioned. But fans and those that have never seen the series are sure to appreciate this DVD set in any event!

Reviewed by skees53
(4/5 stars)

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Route 66 TV.com Page

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: Tiny Toon Adventures - Season 1, Volume 1

Welcome to a special Friday edition of mini-DVD reviews! Today we look at Warner Home Video's Tiny Toon Adventures - Season 1, Volume 1. Tiny Toon Adventures was created and produced as a collaborative effort between Steven Spielberg's company Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. It premiered in as a syndicated cartoon in 1990. See Seth's mini-DVD review of Tiny Toon Adventures - Season 1, Volume 1:

Tiny Toon Adventures - Season 1, Volume 1

Tiny Toon Adventures - Season 1, Volume 1 (Warner Home Video, $44.98) is finally on DVD. I love this show. I really do. I watched this show when I was young and absolutely loved it. Loved it in reruns as I got older. It’s a great show that’s enjoyable no matter what your age. It’s time to finally join Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation), Plucky Duck, Hamton Pig, and all of the other residents of Acme Acres on DVD. Contained on this set are the first *35* episodes of the first season. I know many of you may have cringed when you saw “Volume 1”, but for a cartoon who had 65 episodes it’s first season splitting it was a must. There are some absolutely great cartoons in here, and some fairly good ones. Sometimes one cartoon in an episode may be weaker than the others, but this is to be expected.

This DVD set contains the first 35 episodes, which means the episodes included start at the series premiere, “A Looney Beginning” and run through “A Ditch in Time”. A full episode list is (at least as of the time of this writing) available on Wikipedia for your reference. Because of the number of episodes in the release, Warner was faced with a tough choice – either deal with a large number of discs, use double-sided discs entirely, or place quite a few episodes per disc. The end result is 4 discs, the first three of which are single-sided, the final disc being double-sided. The first three discs and the first side of the fourth all contain 8 episodes each, while the reverse side of the final disc contains the last three episodes and the disc’s special feature. I’m not sure if this was the ideal or optimal layout, but it works well enough. Packaging is a clear-plastic case with two swinging plastic panels in the center containing the discs. The discs themselves feature a variation on the orange colors used on the cover art, with a central cast member on each of the first three discs.

I really wanted to just launch into an overly positive stream of consciousness, as I got to do with Freakazoid’s DVD set, but that’s not entirely possible here. Placing 8 episodes per disc *has* led to some compression issues, which are particularly evident against solid colors. The colors themselves appear duller and less vivid than they should be, though it could just be a result of the age of the episodes. The audio, however, IS spectacular – 5.1 is available! This is great considering the orchestral bits used as background music, scene transitions, everything. It’s great. Chapter stops are placed at the end of each individual cartoon. Runtime for the pilot is just over 23 minutes; average for the rest is around 21:45 – for a cartoon series from the early 90s this IS normal.

There IS a great special feature in the set: Looney Tunes to Tiny Toons, a Wacky Evolution: Features an outright plethora – yes, a plethora – of interviews, clips, etc. that detail the origin of the series and how the show launched off the shoulders of the classic Looney Tunes franchise. Runs a bit over 23 minutes, and is a great extra feature. It’s great to see well-done sets like these for shows I enjoy.

Of course, *my* favorite episode of the series isn’t on the DVD set as it’s the 51st episode of the season – Tiny Toons Music Television. It features re-done videos for several songs using the Tiny Toons cast, including TWO songs by They Might Be Giants, a take on Respect by Aretha Franklin, and more. It’s great stuff, and I can’t wait for the next volume for this very reason. Ultimately, though, future sales depend on the success of the initial release. It’s a great cartoon, and recommended not just for cartoon fans but fans of comedy as well. STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher
(4.5/5 stars)

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: South Park Season 11 (Aug. 12)

It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for the mini-DVD review! Today we take a look at Comedy Central/Paramount's South Park: The Complete 11th Season . South Park of course is the popular cable animated series that is full of laughs for all ages. See skees53's mini-DVD review of South Park: The Complete 11th Season:

South Park- The Complete Eleventh Season (Comedy Central DVD, $49.99) brings all fourteen episodes from the 2007 season of the Comedy Central hit to a three-disc DVD set. Like most animated series, the kids don't really grow up, but somehow, in each and every season, they do grow even more hilarious than in the past. The 2007 season contains perhaps some of the best South Park episodes produced to date, with many hilarious moments that will have you asking "did they REALLY just do that on TV?" And, to sweeten the pot, all fourteen episodes are presented uncensored, although many South Park fans won't notice that much of a difference--it is a rude and crude show to begin with.
Every single one of the episodes from this season can be viewed as memorable in one way or another, beginning with "With Apologies to Jessie Jackson," where Stan's dad uses the "N-word" on live TV, and somehow becomes the victim. Cartman pulls a prank on Butters that ultimately only serves to make a fool of Cartman (and ends up putting Butters into a special camp that is designed to "pray the gay away") in "Cartman Sucks." Kyle and Stan are out to determine the meaning behind Easter bunnies and eggs in "Fantastic Easter Special." Mrs. Garrison realizes that in her new life as a woman, she just so happens to be a lesbian (to clarify, Mrs. Garrison was originally a gay man, then got a sex-change operation to become a woman that liked men, now is a women that has decided she is a lesbian, and anybody watching season twelve knows that there is an even further twist to this bizarre story) in "D-Yikes." Cartman realizes that he can say anything he wants by pretending to have Tourette's Syndrome "Le Petit Tourette." Butters takes a scary trip into Imaginationland, where only he can save the world, in the three-part episode "Imaginationland." The boys want to become rock stars, or at least Guitar Hero champions, in "Guitar Queer-O."
The set is once again like all of the previous sets, in the standard digipak with the episode information on the two side panels. The episodes all look and sound great, as one would expect. And, it is worth noting that this DVD set, while from Paramount, is a Comedy Central DVD product, NOT a CBS DVD product, so there aren't any obnoxious disclaimers about things being edited or music being changed. In fact, as far as I could tell, any applicable music was intact (removing the Melissa Etheridge song "Come to My Window," for example, would have killed a great scene in the "D-Yikes" episode, so it was good to see all music intact).
Each episode has the mini-commentaries from Matt Stone and Trey Parker, which have always been slightly disappointing, as I'd like more than just mini-commentaries. There are a few Comedy Central Quickies on Disc 1, from 'Lil Bush, The Daily Show, Reno 911!, and The Colbert Report. Basically, these are just funny clips from these shows. I wish that these South Park DVD sets could be more impressive on the special features end, as many other animated series are on DVD.
This is a great set to own with some hilarious episodes, and any fan of South Park must own this one, even the casual fan. I can't think of any other season of the series that has had better episodes (including the current season), and some of the situations in this season are just outright hilarious, so much so that even those that don't watch the series on a regular basis will find them to be hilarious. It took me a long time to warm up to this series (I used to find it a little too out there and over the top for my sense of humor), but eventually it just got to me that this is a hilarious series that anybody that loves comedy and can accept rude and crude entertainment will love it.
-- Reviewed by skees53
(4.5/5 stars)

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: Freakazoid! Season 1 (July 29)

It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for mini-DVD reviews! Today we have we take a look at Warner Home Video's animated series Freakazoid! The Complete 1st Season. Freakazoid! was an animated series on Kids' WB. See Seth Thrasher's mini-DVD review of Freakazoid! - The Complete 1st Season:

Freakazoid - The Complete 1st Season (Warner, $26.98) is finally on DVD. Featuring the craziest hero in all of cartoons, Freakazoid ran for a year and a half on Kids WB in the mid 90s -- right smack dab in the middle of the huge wave of great cartoons of the mid 90s. In 1995 -- the year of Freakazoid's debut, you had on the air dozens of cartoon series all of whom were equally good, if not vastly different series on the air. Lost in the shuffle was this crazy cartoon. Freakazoid starts out as mild-mannered geek Dexter Douglas. After a string of nonsense gets typed into his keyboard while surfing around in cyberspace he gets zapped into the internet where he gains every last bit of information on the internet. Stop and really think about just about every superhero origin story. They ultimately make about as much sense as this one does. Come on, aliens from an exploding planet send their kid here, and he happens to react *really* well to our sun, giving him super-strength, flying, and other powers? Doesn't make much sense either when you think about it THAT way. Anyway, one of the effects of this is that the superhero that results, while very fast, strong, and blue -- is that when he's in Freakazoid form he's pretty much completely insane. It's this insanity that drives much of the show.
Presented here are the first 14 episodes of the series. Considering I was under the assumption that there were only 13 actual episodes in season one, I checked. Included in the set is not only all 13 regular episodes from season one, but one of the compilation episodes (with two acts from previous episodes thrown together) from Summer 1996 as well. This compilation episode is the sixth on the DVD, and features The Cloud (from the later 11th episode), and Candle Jack (from the previous 2nd episode). Redundancy -- neat! Freakazoid used a lot of pop culture references -- and as a result led to guest stars appearing. In addition, a couple of names you might recognize played recurring characters. See if you can spot who voices what – it's incredibly easy! Special guests include Mark Hamill, Ricardo Montalban, Ben Stein, Rose Marie, Bebe Neuwirth, and of course, TV's Craig Ferguson, whose Late Late Show I'm a huge fan of.
I think you can tell when I love a show when I spend so much of a mini review talking about the show. I really wish I could've given this show the full review treatment -- but due to space concerns we now move ahead in the review to the technical side.
This is probably a good time to mention that while disc 1 is one-sided disc 2 is dual-sided. Warner wasn't willing to put more than 6 episodes per disc/side, and so as a result the final two episodes and the features spill over to the next side. The video quality is just fine -- perhaps a bit soft, but that's really not out of the ordinary for animation from the mid 90s. Audio is just fine – And by just fine I mean Dolby 5.1! Yes, for a cartoon from the mid 90s that isn't as remembered as its counterparts, Warner still gave it 5.1 audio. Says so right on the box. In fact, this cartoon got a lot of extra little things put into the release -- there are even several special features! There’s commentary! on three of the fourteen episodes with senior producer Tom Ruegger, writer John McCann, and the voice of Freakazoid Paul Rugg. But wait, there's more! We also have Freakazoid-less Freakazoid promos. The network wanted footage, and they didn't have anything to give them. So, inspired in part by Carnival Cruise Lines, they created some crazy promos for the show. There’s about a minute introduction by the staff to explain just how these incredibly oddball promos came to be, and then the 4 minutes of promos. There's also a feature detailing how Freakazoid went from a super-legitimate hero to the comedy series it became. One day, you wake up and you're in the middle of a colonoscopy...
As if what may be the longest "mini" review in history didn't already tell you, I love this show. Even if the technical side were crap, I’d still tell you to buy it because the show's good. But the technical side is really *really* good too! I was going to give it a solid 4.5, but after having seen what I've given 4's to around here, it deserves the half-point for the full five. 5.1 Audio! Commentary! Promos! Freakazoid! Buy it!

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher
(5/5 stars)

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas; Summer 2008 TCA Press Tour: CBS/The CW, Day 2

It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for the mini-DVD review. We also have The CW's portion of the TCA press tour below, so don't miss that either. But first it is the mini-DVD review. It's Christmas in July, as we take a look today at Universal Home Video's The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas. The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas is the 1996 TV-movie featuring the scary family during the holiday season. See skees53's mini-DVD review of The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas:

The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas (Universal Home Video, $14.98) tells the classic story of a child living in a new environment feeling homesick at Christmastime. The 1996 made-for-TV movie, based upon the classic TV series, begins with Eddie being bullied and picked on, because he is different. After all, he is a werewolf living among mortal children in Los Angeles. But the pain that Eddie feels becomes a bigger deal when it happens during the "most wonderful time of the year," so it is up to his family to do whatever it takes to cheer him up and get him in to the Christmas spirit. Everybody has their own ideas, from Lily's idea of getting Eddie involved in a Christmas decorating contest to Grandpa Munster's crazy experiments to Marilyn's plan to have a huge Munster family reunion just in time for Christmas. And to support it all, Herman is doing whatever he can do to make a buck, including nude modeling! In the end, it all comes together to create an old-fashioned Christmas that only a family from Transylvania could envision.
The video quality of the movie is fine for the most part, but the audio is very problematic. It is presented in full-screen, which is how it was presented when it originally aired. For some reason, the audio is out of sync with the video, so you see lips moving out of sync with the video. I don't know why this problem occurred on this DVD, as it is not a common problem wit h DVDs in my experience. It is somewhat obnoxious to see. The disc is lacking any special features, which isn't surprising, as this wasn't a big budget cinematic film or anything along those lines.
All in all, I think most observers wouldn't think of this is a great movie or anything like that, but rather just a mediocre movie based upon a great TV classic. It won't take too much of watching this movie to realize why it was a made-for-TV movie for Fox, as opposed to being a theatrical release or even one of the larger networks. There are some moments in the film that will SOMEWHAT remind fans of the hilarity of the original sitcom, but the overall plot of the movie is one of those plots that fans will find difficult to drag themselves into and fully enjoy. Still, if the DVD can be found cheap, fans may want to pick it up, just to check it out.
-- Reviewed by skees53
(3/5 stars)

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The CW is up at the summer 2008 TCA press tour today as well as CBS's syndication division, CBS Television Distribution. Up at the panel for The CW this morning will be 90210, Privileged and Stylista, followed by the executive session. In the afternoon, we have the CBS Television Distribution series, starting off Inside Edition which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and new series The Doctors, and Judge Jeanine Pirro. Then tonight there is a WGA reception followed by the TCA Awards! We will give you the winners either tonight or tomorrow.
From The CW side, we learned that Shannen Doherty will return to the zip code that made her famous when she guest stars in multiple episodes of The CW's spin-off, 90210, premiering Tuesday, September 2. Doherty will reprise her role as Brenda Walsh, who was last seen headed to London to study acting. As previously announced, Jennie Garth returns as Kelly Taylor, now a West Beverly guidance counselor; Tori Spelling returns as Donna Martin, now owner of an upscale boutique, and Joe E. Tata returns as Nat, owner of The Peach Pit.
The CW announced premiere dates for their Mon-Fri schedule (and MRC Sunday block, below):

Monday, September 1
8:00-9:00 p.m. Gossip Girl
9:00-10:00 p.m. One Tree Hill

Tuesday, September 2
8:00-10:00 p.m. 90210 (Two-Hour Premiere)

Wednesday, September 3
8:00-10:00 p.m. America's Next Top Model (Two-Hour Premiere)

Tuesday, September 9
9:00-10:00 p.m. Privileged

Thursday, September 18
8:00-9:00 p.m. Smallville
9:00-10:00 p.m. Supernatural

Friday, October 3
8:00-8:30 p.m. Everybody Hates Chris
8:30-9:00 p.m. The Game
9:00-10:00 p.m. America's Next Top Model (Encore Presentation)

Wednesday, October 29
9:00-10:00 p.m. Stylista

Couple of notes on these premiere dates: Wednesdays at 9pm until Stylista premieres on Oct. 29 will be encores of 90210. Mid-season premiere dates and times for The CW's returning drama Reaper and new reality series 13 - Fear Is Real will be announced at a later time.

As for Sundays, the MRC (Media Rights Capital) programming block will launch on September 21. The block will begin at 7pm and end at 10pm. Then starting November 2, the block will start at 6:30pm.
Laurie Metcalf (Easy Money), Judge Reinhold (Easy Money), Bob Saget (Surviving Suburbia), Jaime Murray (Valentine), Autumn Reeser (Valentine), Kristopher Polaha (Valentine) and Jeff Hephner (Easy Money) will star in this Sunday Night Block.
In the sitcom Surviving Suburbia, MRC is proud to announce the casting of Bob Saget. It follows Keith (Saget) and Anne Stevers, a seemingly normal couple who has been married for 20 years, have two children and a cookie cutter house in the idyllic suburbs. Full casting will be announced in the next several weeks.
Here are the premiere dates for this MRC (Media Rights Capital) block on The CW Sundays:

Effective Sunday, September 21
7:00-8:00 p.m. In Harm's Way (reality)
8:00-9:00 p.m. Valentine (romantic comedy/drama)
9:00-10:00 p.m. Easy Money (family crime drama)

Effective Sunday, November 2

(changes listed only)
6:30-7:30 p.m. In Harm's Way (New Timeslot)
7:30-8:00 p.m. Surviving Suburbia (sitcom)

Programming for the 5:00-6:30 p.m. time slots will be announced soon.

More coming ...check back keep and refreshing.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: Futurama - Beast With a Billon Backs (June 24)

It is Saturday, so that must mean it is time for the mini-DVD review. Today we take a look at 20th Century Fox's Futurama - Beast With a Billion Backs. Futurama - Beast With a Billion Backs is the second movie featuring the hit animated series. See skees53's mini-DVD review of Futurama - Beast With a Billion Backs:

Futurama - Beast With a Billion Backs (20th Century Fox, $29.98) is the second installment in Fox's series of movies based upon the Sunday night animated sitcom from the past. The feature film picks up where the previous feature, Bender's Big Score, leaves off, when they try to find a way to keep peace and joy in the galaxy. But all doesn't go so well when a beast... a beast with a billion backs... takes over the society and makes Fry the Pope! How will they get out of this mess? Or will we have to wait until one of the next two installments to find out?
The movie looks and sounds great on DVD, with Dolby Digital Surround Sound audio. Of course, you can't compare this to how it looks on TV, as this has yet to be shown on TV, but to put it simply, it looks great.
Of course, the DVD also contains a plethora of special features, which honestly are much better than the movie itself. For starters, there is a commentary track that includes commentary from all of the important people involved with the movie. The "Futurama: The Lost Adventure" featurette is actually a lost full-length episode of the original series—kind of. This was produced for a Futurama video game that never quite made it, but now we get that "episode" on this DVD... with commentary, of course! "Meet Yiyo!" gives you a look at Yiyo, the title character of the movie. "Blooperama: The Futurama Cast at Work" lets you get a behind the scenes look at the screw ups made along the way in the production of this movie. And of course, there are animatics and deleted scenes--what would a Fox animated series be without those on DVD? Finally, there is a short preview of the next movie in the Futurama movie series, Bender's Game.
Any true fan of Futurama is going to want to see this simply because it is another chapter in a series that they are a fan of, but even these true fans should prepare themselves to be disappointed. It seems that the idea of the series has changed quite a bit with these movies, and it has become less of a good animated sitcom and has gotten more into the realm of science fiction, which would be fine except it is still being written by comedy writers. I can't really think of any time where my real disappointment with a DVD has been about the content of what is on it as opposed to a bad DVD compilation. The compilation in this case is excellent, and fans will certainly appreciate that, and it is worth watching the movie anyway if you are a fan.
-- Reviewed by skees53
(4/5 stars)

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