Saturday, January 29, 2011

January '11 TV on Disc


Nature: Braving Iraq, Revealing the Leopard, Wolverine: Chasing Phantom (PBS Blu-ray) – These three episodes of the excellent PBS series Nature show its breadth by capturing for viewers leopards in Africa, wolverines in Alaska and attempts to resuscitate the Mesopotamian Marshes in Iraq that were pretty much destroyed and turned into dead earth by Saddam. Each of these hour-long episodes combines exquisite hi-def photography—which is recreated superlatively on Blu-ray for a first-rate viewing experience—and hair-raising dramatics to explore places and creatures on our earth that we otherwise might remain ignorant of. There are no extra features, unfortunately.

American Experience—Robert E. Lee (PBS) encapsulates the brilliant Confederate general's life and battlefield career in a succinct 90 minutes, with a welcome lack of dramatic re-enactments; Anthony Bourdain No Reservations—Collection 5, Part 2 (Travel Channel) and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern—Collection 4, Part 2 (Travel Channel) comprise 11 and 13 episodes, respectively, of these popular and offbeat food/travel programs, with bonus features on the Bourdain set; The Chainsaw Sally Show—Complete Season 1 (Troma), a tongue-in-cheek black comic “sitcom,” follows a nerdy librarian who becomes a chainsaw-wielding murderer by night (best extra: optional laugh track during scenes of spurting blood); Dallas—Complete Season 14 (Warners), a.k.a., Dallas—The Final Season, ends with a two-part finale that puts J.R. through It's a Wonderful Life and must be seen to be believed; ER—Complete Season 14 (Warners), the hugely popular hospital drama's penultimate season, shows that the series has survived many cast defections and melodramatic storylines unscathed (best extra: unaired scenes); Futurama—Volume 5 (Fox Blu-ray) brings back the intermittently inspired animated series from Simpsons genius Matt Groening, with 13 new episodes (best extra: audio commentaries on each episode); Glee—Season 2, Volume 1 (Fox) consists of the first 10 episodes of the popular series' second season, including the gleeful Britney Spears episode (best extra: The Making of the Rocky Horror Glee Show); I Do (But I Don't) (Lifetime) is a limp romantic comedy starring Denise Richards and Dean Cain in a too-familiar tale of a wedding planner finally finding love; it's too bad that Jefferson (History), otherwise a concise overview of the great statesman's 83 years, too often uses canned recreated sequences to show how dramatic history really was—yawn; Timothy Olyphant plays a U.S. marshal in Justified—Complete Season 1 (Sony), an entertaining yarn based on Elmore Leonard stories (best extra: four audio commentaries); Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood overplay the Thane and his wife in an unnecessarily modern Macbeth (PBS) that shows off director Rupert Goold's cleverness at Shakespeare's expense; Man in a Suitcase, Set 1 (Acorn Media) is a four-disc set comprising 15 hour-long episodes of the '60s Cold War intrigue drama starring Richard Bradford; all 13 episodes of the animated Ricky Gervais Show—Complete Season 1 (HBO) are included on a 2-disc set, with the same hit-or-miss crude humor the comedian is known for (lone extra: Channel 4 Comedy Gala Animation); Rules of Engagement—Complete Season 4 (Sony) showcases one of the best comic ensembles on television, led by Megyn Price, Patrick Warburton, Bianca Kajlich and David Spade; Top Shot—Complete Season 1 (History) recreates the legendary shooting feats of historic marksmen (and women) in a definite “guilty pleasure” reality program (best extra: elimination interviews); Webster—Complete Season 1 (Shout Factory) brings back the adorably precocious Emmanuel Lewis in the first 22 episodes from the 83-84 season of the sentimental sitcom costarring Susan Clark and Alex Karras.

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