I am a huge fan of the original Law & Order, as well as the first spin-off Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. It took me awhile to warm up to SVU, but by seasons two and three it grew to become, in my humble opinion, the better of the two shows…edgier, darker and about as unflinching as network TV ever got. And both shows lend themselves perfectly to marathon viewings sessions, making the DVD box sets well-worth the money.
The second spin-off Law & Order: Criminal Intent, while a fine show, simply isn’t as compulsively watchable. It’s well-made, has a terrific cast and good writing, especially in the earlier seasons when Vincent D’Onofrio unleashed his inner-Columbo every single week as Detective Goren. He was always a quirky actor who shined brightest when playing eccentrics, and it’s almost as if the Dick Wolf created Criminal Intent with D’Onofrio in-mind, and it’s the only series in the franchise primarily driven by one character.
This approach is a double-edged sword, though. While Goren is a great character, whose knowledge of even the most mundane facts (I’d hate to play Trivial Pursuit against this guy) plays a huge role in solving cases, he is the only interesting character. Everyone else leaves about as much an impression as Elvis’ back-up band. But part of the appeal of L&O has always been in its ensemble casts, making Criminal Intent an addition to the franchise in name only.
Later seasons, including this one, tried to shake things up by bringing in other characters, lifting the burden of carrying the show from D’Onofrio’s shoulders. Hence, Chris Noth (from the original L&O) returns as detective Logan with a new partner, Megan Wheeler. So some episodes feature these two trying to solve the weekly case instead of Gowen and Eames. The problem is that Logan (although compelling in the original L&O as sort of a hothead), isn’t as interesting anymore. In fact, sometimes it feels like he isn’t the same character. I think it was a mistake to sometimes shift the focus away from Gowen.
Cast notwithstanding, this seventh season boxed set is hit-or-miss. Some episodes knock it out of the park, and are just as riveting as the best of L&O or SVU. Others are simply aren’t all that interesting. For most long-running series, a drop in consistency is to be expected. The first two shows raised the bar so high, and remained great for so long, that I guess it was inevitable that the Law of Diminished Returns would eventually rear its ugly head.
Still, Criminal Intent is a decent show in its own right, and the episodes featuring D’Onofrio are the superior ones in this set. I still think, however, it has little in common with any other series in the franchise.
Overall, the episodes in this 14th boxed set of the long-running animated series pale in comparison to the heyday of its first eight-or-so seasons. But, at the same time, there’s still a lot to love here, and I defy you to name ANY series that still manages to have this many consistent moments. That’s sort of a trick question, since most TV shows don’t even make it to 14 seasons (in fact, as of this writing, “The Simpsons” is now the longest running series of all time).
“The Simpsons” has reached the point where comparison to other shows is pointless and redundant; one can now only assess each season by comparing it to previous ones. That being said, there isn’t a single episode that compares favorably to those made several years earlier, yet at least half of them are funnier and more original than any current “Family Guy” episode.
Which raises the question…should the longtime “Simpsons” fan invest in this set? For completists, the answer is obviously yes. For fans who only wish to relive the greatest moments of the show overall, the answer is probably no; in my humble opinion, the show’s best years were seasons three through eight, and season 14 falls into that netherworld where the show itself seemed to have exhausted most of its original ideas. But to the newbie who has never experienced the show? Hey, there might be two or three of those left, and for them, there are a lot worse ways to spend your cash. Starting with the annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode, there are a lot of laughs to be found in the episodes here, many of which warrant repeated viewings.
“The Simpsons” may no longer be considered the cutting edge of TV comedy but it is still one of the more consistently entertaining programs. This 14th boxed set doesn’t not feature the show at its best, but it is still a decent collection of sharp and humorous satire.
A Haunting Invite From Matt Groening
Audio Commentaries on every episode with Executive Producers Al Jean and Mike Scully, joined by Writers, Actors and Directors
It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll
The 300th Episode Featurette
In The Beginning
The Halloween Classics
Deleted Scenes with Commentary
Multi-Angle Animation Showcase
Special Language Feature
The Blu-ray set features two exclusive episodes (Treehouse Of Horrors V and VI).
“Water for Elephants,” based on the bestselling novel, is an interesting misfire. Then again, maybe I’m the wrong guy to be reviewing this. Read more »
“Wrong Turn 4” (a prequel this time) delivers absolutely no surprises whatsoever, and is mostly an exercise in which the filmmakers seem to be saying, “Hey, watch how we kill THIS uninteresting character.” I think that as sort-of a compliment, because in the gore department, this one delivers. Just don’t expect much in the way of originality or suspense.
It helps if you’re already a fan of the series (why else would you be reading?). Personally, I never cared for the first film, but was pleasantly surprised by “Wrong Turn 2: Dead End.” That one put a fun spin on the premise, featured a few spectacular death scenes and a terrific scenery-chewing performance by none-other than Henry Rollins. Admittedly, I never watched the third one, but do not feel my life is incomplete because of that.
And prior viewing isn’t really a prerequisite for “Wrong Turn 4,” which is yet-another ‘origin’ story. That’s usually a sign a franchise is out of ideas, and horror prequels are seldom very effective from a narrative standpoint, since the outcome is always a forgone conclusion. “Wrong Turn 4” is no exception. We already know these inbred hillbillies will live to kill again. This film offers a slightly different (though not very original) setting, a abandoned hospital. But other than that, it’s business as usual. The performances are adequate, but the only concern we have for the dumb college kids to wander into this hospital is how (not if) they meet their demise.
If carnage is what the viewer wants, mission accomplished. The death scenes are well-executed and extremely graphic. At the very least, the filmmakers (the FX artists in particular) earned their paychecks. And admittedly, for a film that has no real reason to exist (was anyone REALLY pining for a “Wrong Turn” origins story?), it’s reasonably fast-paced and seldom boring.
I think this series has run its course, but that probably won’t stop the inevitable “Wrong Turn 5” from oozing onto video shelves in a year or two. For that, I humbly suggest they launch these hillbillies into space. Hey, it worked for Jason Voorhees.
Blu-ray and DVD Extras:
* Fox trailers.
* 14 deleted scenes.
* “Wrong Turn 4” music video with The Blackout City Kids.
*”Director’s Die-Ary’s”- Nearly 8 minutes of director Declan O’Brien’s video diaries. He mainly just takes footage on set and interviews various cast and crew members.
* “Lifestyles Of The Sick And Infamous”- A featurette about the Brandon Mental Health Centre (where “Wrong Turn 4” was shot).
* “Making Another Wrong Turn”- Discussions about the origin of the 3 brothers, the script, the F/X, shooting in cold weather, etc.
* Commentary by director Declan O’Brien and producer Brett Levinson. Lots of chatter about directing, shooting locations, set stories, etc. Worth a listen if you dig the film.
Of course, MST3K is always fun, and this episode, featuring the 1964 stinker, “The Atomic Brain,” is no exception. But why is Shout! Factory is choosing to rerelease episodes that have been available on DVD for years?
Actually, I probably already know the answer to that. This episode was originally part of a boxed set (Volume 3) back when Rhino Home Video was still putting them out and is now out of print (a new copy currently costs $133 on Amazon). So I guess I kind of understand the rationale. But it is also very likely that only die-hard fans (are their any other kind?) would find MST3K episodes worth buying, and probably already own the original DVDs, anyway. I think most ‘misties’ would rather Shout! Factory work on putting out the episodes which have still never seen the light of day on home video.
Plus, this single disc (like other episodes recently released) contains no extras of any kind. Just the film, preceded by the hilarious short, “What About Juvenile Delinquency?”. So if you already have the Volume 3 Rhino set, there is absolutely no reason you’ll need this. Still, it is good disc for the budget-minded, and a very funny episode.
Let’s face it…unless your last name is Bava or Argento, as an Italian horror director, you suck.
Yeah, I know a lot of people throw Lucio Fulci’s name in there with the greats. But really, aside from some classic gore scenes in his best-known films (probably “Zombie” and “The Beyond”) can anyone really argue with a straight face that he possessed any distinctive talent as a director? No, Fulci is a cult-legend because of his audacity, not his ability. He simply had the balls not to turn the camera away during scenes of eyeball-puncturing, organ vomiting or skull drilling.
As a storyteller, he sucked. His only true gift was creating unusual and grisly ways for people to die. That’s not always a bad thing, but once you run out of those ideas, you still have to tell a story. Which is why “The House by the Cemetery” is a depressing and colossal bore. Coherent narrative was never Fulci’s strong point (what he has, in the past, euphemistically described as surrealism), and despite some savage scenes of carnage in this film, not only are they nothing the seasoned horror fan hasn’t seen before, they are few and far between. Fulci inserts a few half-assed gore set-pieces into a flimsy ghost story with irritating characters we don’t give a damn about (the most obnoxious being a child character whose voice is laughably dubbed by an obviously-adult voice actor).
Still, a lot of horror fans love the guy (though they should probably direct that love more towards Fulci’s special effects teams). This disc is probably one completists will want in their collection, since it includes a lot of extras the original Anchor Bay DVD did not). But even fans are likely to admit “The House by the Cemetery” does not rank among Fulci’s most audacious efforts. If you really want the definitive Fulci film, pick up “Zombie” or try to find the Grindhouse release of “The Beyond.”
Look for this coupon on the following dvds and blu-rays for a $10.00 discount for Gulliver’s Travel’s with Jack Black and also The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, the third Disney Narnia adventure. Both will be in theaters over the holidays and the list of titles is impressive. Here are the blu-rays and dvds taking part in the promotion.:
2010 Holiday Gift Guide
With so many DVD and Blu-ray discs released each year, it can be a daunting task to know what to buy for friends, family, or loved ones during the holiday season. Luckily, we here at dvdcorner are here to help you out by providing a list of the best DVD and Blu-ray discs. So, without furthere adieu… Read more »