Over the next 3 1/2 weeks I will be reviewing, previewing and spotlighting items that you might buy for friends and loved ones this holiday season. It’ll be mostly DVDs with some books and other assorted goodies thrown in. No, this ain’t just for Christmas and if you want to hint to Bubbe what might make your shayne punim light up with joy, slip her my URL, and say goodbye forever to tube sock and gelt!
First up are two DVDs that really couldn’t be more different. The first, the recently released Office Space Special Edition With Flair! (20th Century Fox, $19.98 list) is one of the better comedies made in the past 10 years and while a failure at the box office, the film developed a cult following on video and rightly so. The second is Murder One: The Complete Second Season (20th Century Fox, $59.98 list), the sophomore and final season of the taught and original crime drama created by Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues).
Continue reading The Rabbi’s Holiday Gift List: Office Space & Murder One
Holiday Gift Guide #1
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Complete Seventh Season
20th Century Fox Home Video
Season: 4 out of 5
DVD Quality: 5
This is it. The end of an era. Alas, here is not the space for a lengthy essay on the cultural and artistic importance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Maybe I’ll get to that someday, but right now it’s season 7. Nor will I go into too much detail about the story arc of the season and why it was better than season 4 but not as good as seasons2, 3 and 5. If you’re a serious Buffy fan and have collected seasons 1-6, you’ll buy this set and well you should. The swan song for this popular and intriguing series is a reasonably strong 22 episodes for creator Joss Whedon and his more-than-capable team of writers, directors and story editors, given that many of them were concentrating on Whedon’s other two TV creations, Angel and Firely. Wrapping up what is essentially one 7-year long, 144 episode story in a manner that won’t infuriate the incredibly devoted and vocal fan base must have seemed a Sisyphean task, especially with spin-off Angel in production on its fourth season and new series Firefly also in production. While relying heavily on a creative team that were by then mostly well-seasoned Buffy vets allowed Joss to concentrate on Firefly, some could argue that Buffy suffered somewhat.
The uneven and occasionally sub-par season 4 (the top 5 "Hush" not withstanding) being a distant memory, the writers and directors of season 7 performed a Herculean task by coming up with a coherent and well put together final season, including an extremely chilling stand-alone episode ("Same Time, Same Place") and a rather silly one ("Him"). Also, much like season 6, Creator Whedon was the credited writer or director on only two episodes. Fittingly, he was the writer of the first episode of the season and the writer/director of the last. Names familiar to fans such as such as Marti Noxon, David Fury, Jane Espenson, Rebecca Rand Kirschner, David Solomon, Drew. Z. Greenberg, Drew Goddard and Douglas Petrie, among many others, all chipped in to do their best that this landmark series went out with a bang, not a whimper.
Continue reading DVD Review – Buffy The Vampite Slayer, Season 7
Angel: The Complete Fourth Season
20th Century Fox Home Video
Warning: Spoiler’s Ahead! This review was written for people who know the series and have seen season 4.
Season 4 was pivotal for this Buffy spin-off, with co-creators Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt showing their substantial dramatic chops in this penultimate season of the ever-intriguing epic saga of the vampire with a soul. Markedly darker in tone that its parent series, Season 4 doesn’t disappoint, picking up a few months after season 3 left off, with Angel (David Boreanaz) trapped in a box at the bottom of the ocean, Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) ascended to a higher plane and Wesley (Alexis Denisof) exploring the dark side of his nature. Character development has long been a strong point of Whedon’s creations and season 4 doesn’t short the viewer.
Of all the changes Whedon et al. have visited upon their creations, Wesley’s transformation from let’s face it, a namby pamby English twinkie into a take-no-prisoners, “ends justify the means” badass is arguable both the most startling and the most welcome. Anyone who, for whatever reason, left the Buffyverse after Buffy The Vampire Slayer (BTVS) season 3, thereby missing Angel seasons 1-3, will be totally gobsmacked by what they find as season 4 kicks off. When last seen in BTVS, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, Watcher sans watchee (having done such a bang up job with Faith) was whimpering as he was loaded into a stretcher after having done fuck all during the battle for the Hellmouth that was graduation. Flash forward and good ol’ Wes is banging the shit out of Wolfram & Hart evil-minx-in-residence Lilah Morgan (Stephanie Romanoff) while keeping erstwhile Angel hunter Justine bound and gagged in a closet just off the bedroom. I haven’t seen this level of kink on TV since Spike and Buffy on the Bronze catwalk in BTVS season 6. Of course Wesley’s character change was more gradual than this over the first 4 seasons of Angel, but this comparison just goes to show where Whedon and Co. are willing and able to take their characters.
Continue reading DVD Review – Angel, Season 4
Stargate SG-1, Season 7
MGM Home Video
Those of us that love this series endure many a snicker at our expense, mostly followed by “You mean that horribly silly movie with Kurt Russell?” No, we most definitely do NOT mean that silly movie. Repeat after me, Stargate SG-1 is to Stargate (the silly movie) as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series) is to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (silly vampire movie). Whether it’s because you like the acting, writing or overall style of the show, it’s clear that SG-1 has a certain something and for me it’s the merging of humor and action, a time honored tradition in science fiction literature and film. SG-1’s cast, including Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, Christopher Judge and Don S. Davis all appear to be both game for serious sci-fi and not at all afraid to poke a little fun at themselves. There’s nothing worse than science fiction that takes itself too seriously.
Continue reading Stargate SG-1, Season 7 DVD Review
Lost in Space
Season 2, Volume 1
20th Century Fox Home Video
While a bare bones collection, this box is actually something I am happy I own. This show, while incredibly dated and absurd beyond all reason, is fantastically funny and very well-acted. Jonathan Harris as Dr. Smith does actually project that smarmy, pedophilic undertone that you think you remember from watching the originals (or in my case, Saturday morning re-runs) and oddly, that’s a positive, here. Too many times have I re-visited a TV series or movie from my childhood only to be disappointed by the reality. Not so with Lost in Space, although the familiar theme song that most of us remember was actually only present in the final season of this show’s three-year run. However, all the rest is there, complete with Robot B-9 (“Danger, Will Robinson!”), Bill Mumy (later to shine as Lennier on Babylon 5) as Will Robinson and guest stars like Warren Oates, Michael J. Pollard, Kurt Russell, Werner Klemperer, Strother Martin, Lyle Waggoner, Arte Johnson and even Robbie the Robot (not all in this box set). If you’re up for a little nostalgia that actually holds up, give these sets a try.
One major drawback, however, is the complete lack of any extras and mono sound. Otherwise, these discs are a blast, man!
To buy Lost In Space – Season 2, Vol. 1, please click on this link!