Tag Archives: DVD

A Gloss of Thrones: Game of Thrones – The Complete First Season [Blu-ray Review]

It is now widely accepted that the way we watch television is a variable – if you’re reading this, chances are that I don’t have to regale you with the myriad ways we can now watch the programming we’ve historically viewed live in primetime, and so I can keep my big “DVRs, Streaming, and Bears, Oh My!” song and dance in my pocket for the time being.

However, I would argue that Game of Thrones represents a specifically complicated television text in this regard. Like all shows, there are questions of how it played on a week-to-week basis compared to how it would play as a marathon, questions that partly inspired the tremendous discourse around television narrative spurred on by Ryan McGee’s essay at The A.V. Club. However, in addition, the variables of consumption around the show are equally divided by the nature of its source material, with perhaps the clearest binary between “reader” and “non-reader” in television history. The result, I would argue, is a complex, diverse audience base who watches the show from different perspectives which make it difficult to generalize regarding what attracts them to a DVD or Blu-ray box set.

However, with Game of Thrones‘ Complete First Season (which I reviewed on Blu-ray), I really think HBO has succeeded in creating a set that has more than a little something for everyone, worth the price of admission for both readers and non-readers alike (along with those who are watching for the first time, for whom this set is a tremendous introduction). The production values are exceptional, the features are fairly plentiful, and the set fits comfortably into the quality aesthetics that both the show itself and the earlier paratexts achieved last year.

And yet, while I can easily recommend this set based on its own merits, there’s still some part of me who was left wanting, if not something more, than perhaps something different.

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Mildred vs. The Miniseries: Structure and Scheduling in HBO’s Mildred Pierce

Structure and Scheduling in HBO’s Mildred Pierce

March 27th, 2011

The front cover of the press kit sent to critics for HBO’s Mildred Pierce suggests that Kate Winslet is Mildred Pierce in a five-part Miniseries.

The inside cover, meanwhile, touts Academy Award winner Kate Winslet starring in a film by Todd Haynes.

None of this is ostensibly untrue. Kate Winslet is both an Academy Award winner and unquestionably the centerpiece of this project – if there’s a single scene in which she does not appear, I have no recollection of it. And this is indeed a project directed by Todd Haynes, and it will air in five parts over the course of three weeks starting this evening at 9/8c.

However, I’m admittedly quite intrigued by the notion of “miniseries” and “film” being used as synonyms. To be clear, I know it isn’t ostensibly wrong: considering that Todd Haynes directed all five parts of the miniseries, and that they were all scripted by Haynes and Jon Raymond, this is a single cohesive project which has simply been split into five parts (oddly enough airing over three weeks). And yet there’s something strange about considering this as a single project given the way it will be seen by the majority of its audience, and the way it will be covered in certain locations which cover shows on a weekly basis.

I was actually going to write about the reception of the miniseries independent of having seen it, but I felt that I should withhold that commentary until actually sitting down with all five and a half hours. And yet, watching it has created only more questions: did I watch it in the “correct” fashion by seeing it all over the course of a single evening with a brief intermission, or was it actually meant to be consumed in the episodic fashion being utilized by HBO?

And, perhaps more importantly, is it worth your time at all?

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Review: Greek: Chapter Five – The Complete Third Season

Listening to the audio commentary on Greek‘s third season finale, I was struck by the mention of a “Save Greek” campaign – not because it brought back nostalgic memories of a barrage of red cups flooding ABC Family’s offices, but rather because I didn’t know such a thing existed.

Greek is one of those shows which operates outside of critical consciousness: there were no critics lining up to ensure that the series got a short ten-episode fourth season in order to conclude its storylines, and what fan behavior there was never seemed to bleed into even popular journalism. Instead, the campaign was apparently much like the show itself: inconspicuous, subtle, but ultimately effective. Without the ratings success of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, or the scandal-driven storylines of Pretty Little Liars, Greek has pretty much been left to its own devices, and the result has been a compelling if not necessarily earth-shattering comic drama series.

Admittedly, I don’t write about the show a great deal – it just isn’t something that suits weekly critical analysis, although I did recently get the opportunity to review the fourth season premiere at The A.V. Club. However, I was extremely excited earlier this year when it was revealed that Shout! Factory would be taking over the DVD production for Greek (as well as the beloved, and sadly missed, Huge): the company has a sterling reputation when it comes to creating polished sets worthy of their respective series, and while this is normally in relation to beloved classics or cult favorites (Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Sports Night, The Larry Sanders Show, My So-Called Life, etc.) they are in this case bringing the same sense of care to an ongoing series.

The result is hardly groundbreaking: this is not a complex show which would necessitate a detailed DVD package, and where one might normally find retrospectives or numerous deleted scenes you’ll instead find small snippets of behind-the-scenes footage and packages which seem aimed squarely at the show’s rabid fanbase rather than the television connoisseur. And yet I am acutely aware that I am not, in fact, the target audience for Greek: Chapter Five – The Complete Third Season (which releases today, January 11th, in North America at your retailer of choice). This is for the fans who sent in those red cups, the people who watch the show from an angle where Casey/Cappie are a portmanteau-worthy coupling rather than an ultimate detriment to the series’ success.

This set, dubbed Chapter Five for reasons I’ll discuss after the break, should please those long-term fans – it is also a good value, though, for those who have yet to discover the series’ charms.

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Lost – “The New Man in Charge” Epilogue Review

“The New Man in Charge”

August 6th, 2010

“The New Man in Charge” is entirely unnecessary.

There is absolutely no creative justification for this epilogue to ABC’s Lost, which will appear on the Season Six and Complete Collection DVD sets releasing August 24th, unless we admit outright that fan desires play a prominent role in the creative process. Of the three non-commercial functions of this epilogue, which I’ll get into below the jump for the sake of avoiding even the slightest spoilers for those wanting to remain pure, only one feels as if it comes from an honest creative place: the others, meanwhile, seek to answer unresolved issues in the eyes of fans rather than unexplored ideas in the eyes of the writers.

I have no intention of spoiling the epilogue, as it isn’t “out in the wild” through legal means and I don’t want to make ABC angry with me,  but I do want to talk about it in a bit more detail after the jump if only to try to understand its existence.

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Cultural Catchup Project: Stuck in a Story You Can Get Out Of (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Stuck in a Story You Can Get Out Of

July 9th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

I knew of Season Four’s somewhat divisive nature before I started watching it, but I’m sort of glad for this knowledge: while going in unspoiled might have created a more visceral response to the material, I’ve found it quite stimulating to be able to sort of reconstruct the initial disappointment with the season while I’m experiencing it for the first time. I think watching it on DVD, inevitably, won’t create the same sort of response that viewers experienced back at the turn of the century, as watching at this pace the season’s low points go by pretty quickly and are largely overshadowed by some really strong individual episodes sprinkled throughout the season. I’ve seen the moments when fans would begin to be frustrated, but I’ve yet to see anything that would really turn me against the season, and heading into the final series of episodes I was anticipating something to really change my mind.

However, I’ve watched up to “Primeval” with only the much-beloved “Restless” waiting for me, and I’ve yet to see anything here which really cripples Season Four. I still have plenty of reservations about Adam, and the Initiative, and how wacky and incoherent much of “Primeval” ends up being as a result of its focus on those elements, but this season was never at any point in time about those elements. Every now and then the series would get too caught up in these particular parts of the season, but it was common for the show to step out of them entirely, able to deliver the genius of “Superstar” or return to Oz’s storyline in “New Moon Rising” without feeling as if the overarching storyline was being neglected.

The relative insignificance of the Initiative and Adam is at once the season’s greatest failure and its redemptive quality: while it keeps the season from reaching anywhere close to the Mayor’s arc in the third season, the fact that it doesn’t truly dominate the season’s narrative allows for the subtle character transformations unfolding to rise to the surface, keeping the intriguing but ultimately underdeveloped Initiative storyline secondary to the parts of the show which really matter.

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Cultural Catchup Project: Bewitched, Bothered but Familiar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Bewitched, Bothered but Familiar

May 19th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

As viewers of television, we value the element of surprise: we like to be shocked, to see things we didn’t expect and get that surge of adrenaline that comes with the best kind of storytelling. However, at the same time, we want to feel as if things are familiar: we may not want to be able to predict precisely what will happen, but we do want to have some sense of how things would play out should something unexpected unfold. In short, the best television delivers familiarity within the unfamiliar, going beyond our expectations without shattering our understanding of these characters or this universe.

With a show like Buffy, the greatest challenge is separating the intense fan responses to the series from the characters themselves. When Angel suddenly returned from the realms of Hell and struggled to reconnect with his past life, I was pleased: he’s an interesting character who complicates the protagonist’s life in fascinating ways, so why wouldn’t I want him to return and bring with him the baggage from “Becoming?” However, I realized in “Revelations” that the rest of the show’s characters wouldn’t be quite so pleased to see him, their own reactions to Angel as a character separate from their enjoyment of complex serialized narratives.

Angel’s return was unpredictable (except for the decision to keep him in the opening credits, of course), but the way in which characters respond feels familiar, continuous with what we’ve seen in the past two seasons. And when the show turns over the spotlight onto the character’s past in “Amends,” as he becomes weighed down by the intense guilt pervasive within his soul, it manages to capture the unique qualities which make the character so difficult to relate to and thus so easy to empathize with – this is not a show with one-dimensional struggles, and Angel’s return manages to be both dramatic and intriguing without turning any of the show’s characters into single-minded archetypes in the chaos surrounding his mysterious return.

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The Cultural Catchup Project: An Expectational Course Correction (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

An Expectational Course Correction

April 11th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

First off, I to thank everyone for the great comments and responses over the past few days – this is an exciting project, and I’m glad that so many seem to be along for the ride. It’s unfortunate, then, that my immediate progress is more or less on hold as a result of some other life commitments, along with a pileup of new television (the Glee premiere, new Lost, the Treme premiere, the Life Unexpected finale, etc.); as a result, those anxious for me to get beyond the first season and into the second will have to wait a while longer (although I intend on trying to get through S1 by next weekend).

However, in an effort to keep up some momentum, I did watch the remainder of the first disc of Season One, and I started to better understand some of the responses to yesterday’s piece. It’s not that I was surprised to see people point out that I was fairly ignorant of certain parts of the series’ future, but rather that it seemed the premiere was saying one thing when many comments insisted that it was saying quite another.

And after watching “Witch” and “Teacher’s Pet,” I think I’m going to go with the commenters on this one, as the episodes have definitely inspired an expectational course correction (but not necessarily a bad one).

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