"Experience Blu-Ray" and "MovieIQ"

Category: , By Rev/Views
A slight departure from the normal fare today as instead of looking at a specific DVD or set of DVDs I'm going to take a look around one of Sony's newest Blu-ray related sites: http://www.experiencebluray.co.uk

I'm still on the fence with Blu-ray myself, I don't own a Blu-ray player but the passage of time, the increasingly affordable prices and the addition of more and more features is gradually bringing me around. Much like in the years where DVDs replaced Videos I took a fair time to make the jump - these days I'm very happy with the DVD medium but I'm getting an increasing awareness of the benefits that Blu-ray offer for the viewer (in part thanks to Dan who often reviews High Definition releases).

So when I learnt about Sony's newest site - Experience Blu-ray - I decided to have a nose around and see what exactly I was missing out on, besides the shiny "blu" boxes and higher definition pictures. (I'm going to avoid making jokes, but let's just get it clear - I find the name Blu-Ray patently ridiculous and amusing to the highest degree).

The site itself serves as a combination library, resource/information site and promotion for Sony's range of Blu-ray releases. In addition to showcasing the various titles the site also has information about some of their screener events (in Soho Hotel), runs a few competitions with various prizes and has a couple of simple flash games. It does seem to be a work in progress at this point, but perhaps that means there's less competition for the prizes? (Anyone fancy taking a shot at winning 5 Blu-Rays?)

The feature I'm most impressed with on this site is the calender function, it's frankly so elegant and clever that I'm surprised it's not used more often. You can browse back and forth between the various months and all the days when a given release is out are highlighted, you can then select that date and read about the movie. It's intuitive, informative, slick and most importantly it's very fast to navigate; why the heck aren't more sites using something like this? I'd love to have this on network sites with something this easy to use on them for listing their shows. It's like, what's out in say November? Click, click, click - Year One, Moon and Terminator Salvation. Click on the date, find out a little more about the movie. That's just fantastic.

You've also got the films sorted by various categories and the category sections contain blurbs about the various movies. These each link to a specific page which has the YouTube trailer and a slightly more detailed synopsis on it. There are even a couple of TV series starting to make an appearance on here as well, considering that some of my favourite shows were Sony DVD releases originally I can't help but hope they'll also turn up on Blu-ray soon. The trailers themselves aren't that great on the resolution front - I'm not feeling the high definition when I watch them and some of the film trailers are still missing, but the potential is definitely there.

The other issues I'd say this site has right now is a lack of content, as it's clearly still in the development/growth stage - there aren't that many movies on it right now, but it's so easy to use and browse about the various films that it could become a pretty useful resource as well as a place to try and decide what is worth watching next, the trailers in particular help - but the information beneath them could do with being a little more detailed, especially if it wants to hang with sites like of Rotten Tomatoes, TV.com and the IMDB.

That said, it's an interesting site which could grow into something worth checking out every once in a while, the aforementioned release schedule calender is good enough by itself and it makes finding out the various release dates very simple. Plus I'm always thrilled with any site that has Ghostbusters on it, I'm a big kid like that.

The second item is the one which really has me intrigued, I do adore interesting facts and tidbits about movies (and television shows) and MovieIQ is the kind of thing which has me going "Ooo" like an excited seven year old.

This short promotional video explains it better than I could:

Only time will tell just how interesting (or maybe useful) this feature will turn out to be, I do know two things I'd find it handy for. Those moments where you see a familiar face and you think 'Who's that guy, I know him, he's in that film, I forget which, darn it, it's on the tip of my tongue, this is going to bug me moments' - instead you can hit the enter button and quickly find out who it is. Likewise I sometimes find myself thinking 'This song is great, who sings it?', being able to find out immediately is something which is a) useful and b) dangerous for my wallet's health.

Still, as someone who adores extras and commentary on episodes because of the insights it brings this MovieIQ (or Movie Quite Interesting due to the potential trivia it can share) is probably the number one feature which has me thinking "This Blu-ray lark doesn't sound half bad at all!"
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NBC's Community: What's it like?

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"You've heard it's loser college."
-- Dean Craig Pelton

The esteemed Rob Buckley (Of The Medium is Not Enough) recently peaked my interest about a new sitcom which had arrived in NBC's stable. It's called Community and to quote the pair of tweets from Rob which got my interest:

"Community is actually as smart and maybe even better written than 30 Rock. "

"You have to admire a show that does heart warming, while cynically undercutting it, yet somehow still leaving the moment heartwarming."

That was enough to make me want to take a closer look at the show, which I did by plunging into watching the first two episodes - I figured that at worst it would be about forty minutes
lost watching them both and they might turn out to be entertaining.

So is this show going to be for you? Well check out the trailer yourself.

My first reaction when watching this went something like "Holy ****, is that Chevy Chase? It is, it's ****ing Chevy Chase! What the **** has he been doing all these years? Is he going to be any good?"

Short answer to that final question is yes, yes he is. Which is good because while there are other familiar faces in the show - Chevy is the biggest name there and as such it was important that he was still funny. Fortunately he is, he's been given a great character and he hasn't lost his comic timing.

That aside, what is Community about? As you will have gathered from the trailer the show centers around one Jeff Winger (Joel McHale - Talk Soup) a lawyer who has returned to community college after being disbarred for having an unacceptable law degree. He's a man who's used to getting his own way, using words to manipulate and control others. He initially meets talkative Abed (Danny Pudi) and then decides to form a fake study group in order to get closer to the attractive Britta (Gillian Jacobs). Abed is invited to the group by Britta and he in turn invites others to join. Turning Jeff's attempt at bedding Britta into a genuine study group.

The other people who join are divorcee Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown ), Troy (Donald Glover - 30 Rock), Annie (Alison Brie - 30 Rock) and of course Pierce (Chevy Chase). A disparate group of individuals drawn together by Abed (as as such indirectly by Jeff). It is this group which the show rotates around, supported (and taught Spanish) by the awesome Senor Chang (Ken Jeong - MADtv), Jeff's friend Professor Ian Duncan (John Oliver - The Daily Show) and Dean Craig Pelton.

Community is a show about these people, while it's still early days (just two episodes) and some of the characters still haven't had time to develop and explore their personalities they're already all distinctive and likable - even Jeff who's supposed to be a bit of a jerk. In fact that's something I'm a little concerned about, at this point there doesn't seem to be much in the way of an external antagonist, most likely the show will work through friction from it's disparate cast members instead - we'll have to see how things develop, 30 Rock for example evolved Alec Baldwin's character away from being antagonistic towards Liz and the show with great success.

The real thing which stands out about the show is not located in the pilot episode - which is more of a 'get to know the characters and situation', it's in the second episode 'Spanish 101' which builds up to a wonderful moment that is simultaneously heartwarming, funny, bizarre, cynical, world weary and just lovely. It's a moment with a lot of heart, tongue in cheek and is far better than any second episode moment has any right to be. This is in part thanks to the fact that the second episode is focused around Chevy's character Pierce and he really nails it.

I think I can feel pretty confident in predicting that Community is going to take off and become big in the same way that The Office and 30 Rock both have before. It's a clever, funny and entertaining show which has managed to provide a fresh enough spin on the old situation comedy. It reminds me of many great shows I've seen previously, and there's also something of the Brit-com in it's style as well. Which is to say - I like this show a lot and feel it's destined for big things, so get yourself in on the ground floor so you can say "I started watching Community before it became big" and have all your friends envious of you (or something).

If you're in the US the full episodes are available to watch at NBC's official site here.

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The Week That Was - 28/09/09

An old series making a return, The Week That Was (aka TW²) is a brief look at the various shows I've watched last week. It's an easier way for me to condense all the fall shows and write a little about each one, especially when dealing with American sitcoms with their relatively short length and light nature.

As always when dealing with this type of thing spoilers will abound, so be aware!

There will be more on NBC's new sitcom Community later this week. Suffice to say here it's good enough that it warrants it's own post which will appear tomorrow.

The Office:
The returning season premiere was both exciting and a little flat, I'm always thrilled to see The Office back on the small screen but on the whole the first episode wasn't that great. It was a little light on laughs and had Michael going a little too far beyond the normal expected behaviour for him. Fine one of his staff members is having an affair, but it's a bit of a stretch to have Michael going that far over it.

On the other hand, the rumours he generated to create a smoke screen were pretty hilarious, but in essence the episode was just a vehicle for revealing Pam's pregnancy to the

The second episode on the other hand (The Meeting), was more on pitch. The opening joke (Michael asking Oscar for advice on what to do when having a colonoscopy) was hilarious. Likewise the episode itself had plenty of great moments, I did enjoy Michael pulling out Toby's performance review for Jim and reading it - a nice subtle reminder of Toby's dislike for Jim. The episode ended with an interesting development as well, should be a season to watch!

How I Met Your Mother:
Another great episode from the little engine that could. Ever since I stumbled apon HIMYM by accident about two years ago it's done nothing but delight me with the comedy and performances from the cast. This episode was no exception, throwing a fun curveball at the viewer before settling into more expected directions. The whip was inspired genius and even Ted was given a bit of a chance to be funny and entertaining, he's normally the show's straight man - being set up by the situations rather than just being oddball (like the rest of the cast).

I can't help but wonder how many more years are left in the story, they've teased things out well over the first four years, but I'm not sure how I'll feel if we get to the end of this season and haven't found out who the mother is. Will we get five seasons or seven seasons of HIMYM?

Curb Your Enthusiasm:
After the amazing season Curb had previously I was left wondering what direction it would take if it returned. Then I heard about the superb idea of the Seinfeld reunion show, but I was still unsure if it would be good.

Thankfully it is, it's absolutely awesome. The show continues to deliver awkward moments, comedy and heart (well, misguided heart) at the same standard it's always managed. The build up to the reunion arc has already started with Cheryl mentioning how much she preferred it when Larry was working (and that was what lead to their break up). I frankly can't wait to see the gang all back together on the screen, especially in Curb. While Julia and Jason have both appeared in the show before (and Jerry cameoed in the brilliant 'Producers arc') it's still going to be amazing to see them all together once more.

And has Jeff Garlin (Jeff Greene) lost some weight? Cause he's looking a lot more svelt now!

On the DVD front I continue to work my way through the second season of The Sopranos - more on that once I've completed it. But I really enjoyed the first disc and the direction the show's taken, and I'm finishing up watching the third season of 10 Items or Less (more on that soon). In addition I purchased seasons 1, 4 and 5 of Ally McBeal - they were available for such ridiculously low prices that I felt they were worth it - I'll watch them at some point in the future.
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Happy 2nd Birthday to Rev/Views

Category: By Rev/Views

I can hardly believe that I've been writing on here for around two years now. It still hasn't picked up as much steam as I would have liked it to. But with over four hundred posts I'm rather proud of my little site.

Over the next year I'm going to push on and crank out the third and fourth seasons of Watching The Wire (two a year seems about the right number for me, but who knows - I might get fruity and do all three) and continue to press on with the DVD reviews. Beyond that, who knows? All I can say is the shows on my 'to watch' list include Breaking Bad's second season, Sons of Anarchy and Treme. Beyond that I'm not too excited about anything apart from Futurama's renewal (and you'll notice that only one of these shows is a new one - what's happened to interesting television?)

I kind of feel things are in a bit of a slump right now, 2010 promises interesting shows turning up from the US of A, but the UK seems to have stagnated - especially Saturday nights, I remember when they used to keep my family enthralled, these days I can barely be bothered to switch on the TV on a day beginning with an S. It's a similar situation in the movie industry, re-makeitis seems to be still rampant. Are there seriously that few original ideas left out there? Do we really need this many remakes? Hey you guys, I've got dozens of ideas if you want them.

The other thing I've seen happen over the past couple of years are the increasing advent of awesome web based shows and I approve. I'm talking about Doctor Horrible, The Guild, Gay Top Gun (seriously) and the upcoming Emerson Wild: Monster Hunter. For myself these represent the potential future of television (along with things like the BBC iPlayer) - we just need a decent network for HD streaming across the globe and easy access to the technology to hook it into your TV without having to use a console or a PC.

If a big company created the technology and provided a service like that - something based on the channel pack model used right now, but a little more flexible - and I'd actually consider signing up to something like Sky or Virgin. But the current model just feels like a waste of my money as the vast majority of television shown in the UK doesn't appeal to me.

As far as I can see it, the future of television lies with the networks adapting and realising that they need to get out worldwide releases of their shows. Releases which are followed up quickly with the region free DVD sets. There's a demand out there for quality television shows being released to a worldwide market. That's one of the reasons why piracy is still so prevalent in the world of television. People want to be able to watch these shows at times suitable for them, I certainly do - I love DVD sets and season marathons. I'm of the opinion that current TV wastes my precious life with it's advert breaks. Probably another reason why more and more people are turning to DVR type recording.

Advert breaks are for getting up and walking away from the television from. Sponsering TV shows (which is beginning to happen) is where the smart products are now.

But what do I know? Not a lot it seems.

Now I'd like to give a little shout out to the various blogs and bloggers I've enjoyed reading over the past year. Some are familiar, others are newer. But all are great.

Crimespree Cinema, Cultural Learnings , Dan's Media Digest , Forever Writing... , Geeky Talk , Heroine TV , Project Shitcom, Rullsenberg Rules, Snark and Fury and The Medium is Not Enough.

I know I don't comment at your various blogs enough, but I am there reading whenever I have a spare few minutes to catch up!

For now; here's to the future.

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Taking a short break

Category: By Rev/Views
I'm afraid the reason I haven't posted here yesterday or today is because I'm taking a short break to recuperate and see if that results in my having something new to write. Normal service resumes on Saturday (and returns next week) with the first of the Fall Season's TWTW (The Week That Was), it will be a relatively short one though because not all of the shows I'll be watching have returned yet.

Until Saturday, drive safe!
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The Sopranos - First Season Thoughts

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This one is for those of you who've watched the first season of The Sopranos. For everyone else I'd recommend sticking with the lighter and spoiler free 1st Season Review.

For everyone else, remember I've only seen the first season at this point, I'm about to start the second season - but I wanted to get these thoughts down before watching any more and having future events colour my experience.

Read on, but spoilers lurk beyond...

So you can, of course, colour me completely impressed by The Sopranos first season. I can see why people and critics alike rave about it, it's an exceptionally brilliant - and accessable - show.

First of all, there were two slightly odd experiences I had while watching the first episode. These were both caused by other shows - the first is the completely different appearance of Edie Falco when compared to Nurse Jackie. Nurse Jackie is the first place I've encountered her, and while I'd read comparisons which talked about how different she looked in the two series experiencing this was pretty amazing. In Jackie she looks, well tired, strung out and her haircut doesn't flatter her at all. But in The Sopranos she's pretty good looking indeed, I guess haircuts do make a difference.

The second slight jarr comes from the opening sequence, which is parodied in the Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law episode 'Dabba Dabba Don". The opening sequence is re-cut with scenes of Fred Flintstone travelling in Bedrock. I've watched Harvey Birdman many times (mostly thanks to it's light nature and short episode length) and as such I cannot watch the opening credits to The Sopranos without reflecting on it's cartoon parody.

Outside of those two highly personal oddities the show is nothing short of amazing. It looks good, it flows well and the performances from some of the cast members are nothing short of superb. I can see why the show is one of those which is most commonly referrenced as 'one of the best shows of all time' already, and I've only seen the first thirteen episodes.

For myself, largest and most interesting points of the first season are revolve around Tony's depression and his therapy sessions with Dr Melfi. I've studied psychology and psychiatry quite extensively over the years, especially depression, a condition I have a considerable interest in. While I'm no recognised expert, I was pleased with the way Tony's depression was portrayed, most of the time he's quite capable and able. But his language is very negative and at times everything just overwhelms him. Depression being portrayed in the media is something which needs to occur more often, especially complex and intelligent portrayals like this one. It's a major thing for the show to tackle, and they do it well.

Depression and mobsters, seems like two of the big American issues all wrapped up into one package.

Performance-wise there are quite a few which are of great and worthy note. As I mentioned in the DVD review before James Gandolfini is dynamite as Tony, Edie Falco is also great as his wife Carmella, and many of the other actors give believable and amazing performances as well. But the major praise in the season would have to be given to the lovely Lorraine Bracco and most of all Nancy Marchand as the completely Machavellian Livia Soprano. I could see what she was up to fairly early on, or at least suspected and gradually had it proven. The passive agressive manipulation of her family is something to really behold, and the moment where Dr Melfi suggests that she might be a borderline personality was one which just rang true.

Another thing I feel the show really succeeds on is the rhythm of it, while the season as a whole progresses with a gradual storyline, each individual episode rises and falls with it's own beat. You can watch a single episode and enjoy it somewhat standalone as there's a story in each episode with hanging threads that connect each. But the season also holds together as a complete entity. This means it lies somewhere between the extremes like Murder One/The Wire with their ongoing season long storylines and House M.D./Star Trek which extensively use the episodic story of the week format. I'd compare the weighting of the storytelling to that of The Shield on this front - some ongoing stories, some which are wrapped up inside the episode. It's a good style, but a hard one to achieve.

Ultimately I'm highly impressed, some of the episodes in particular really stood out; now the first episode was decent, but not gripping. But after that things really took off. College was one of those episodes which was great, mixing the relative mundanity of taking your daughter to various universities against the issue of dealing with an ex-wiseguy turned rat. The future in one hand, the past in the other - this, combined with the viseral and unrelenting brutality of the execution makes it probably the first 'memorable' episode.

Speaking of which, I do adore the violence in this show, it's not glamourised and it's often harsh and very messy. Something which could shock, but at times it amuses - mostly because of the impliments used. Seeing someone whacked in the head with a service bell (ding! ding! ding!) or a phone handset really does provoke a laughter reaction. It's a trick that Evil Dead 2 achieves as well, mixing the horror of the situation with something comical - it blunts the blow from watching and make it a little easier to enjoy. Of course, the killing in College is not amusing - well except for maybe Tony's sudden appearance, but after that it becomes very messy.

There's absolutely loads more I could write about here, but I think that's enough until I've watched the second season. Suffice to say; I think the show is very special indeed.

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DVDs in Review #90: Family Guy - Season Three

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As third (and final) of the 'precancellation seasons' this review closes out the initial run for Family Guy and provides the most important piece for my simple question. "Are the first three seasons of Family Guy really the best, or is it a case of 'rose-tinted specatcles?" There is one pretty important fact for myself, when I think back I'll often mention the third season as being my favourite, but that doesn't mean collectively the original three seasons are better than the later ones. That's only something which time, and lots and lots of words, will tell.

The third season is the longest of the three initial ones, spanning for twenty one episodes. It opens with a great two parter (The Thin White Line & Brian Does Hollywood) which includes one of my favourite gags - the wonderfully over the top "Previously on Family Guy" which trots out a huge selection of hollywood action cliches, none of which happened in the previous episode. Of the other episodes it's One If by Clam, Two If by Sea, Mr. Saturday Knight, the frankly brilliant Emission Impossible, Road to Europe and my all time favourite episode To Love and Die in Dixie which the greats I enjoy. But Family Guy Viewer Mail #1 is also an episode of exceptional note - following The Simpsons ( and Futurama's (Tales of Interest) three short story format it gives us 'what if' type three stories, two of which (No Bones About it and Supergriffins) are frankly amazing - but I don't care for the third story (Li'l Griffins) at all, I suspect because I've never seen Little Rascals.

Other notable moments in this season include the death of Mr Weed, shaking up the show slightly because it resulted in Peter seeking new employment for several episodes, the first appearance of Bertram (voiced by the ever wonderful and completely inconcievable Wallace Shawn) and Jasper; Brian's cousin. It's also the first season where the animation really steps up and becomes a specatcle worthy of admiration on it's own - Emmission Impossible in particular stands out here during the 'Fantastic Voyage' sections.

In all Season three is definitely the strongest of the first three seasons. Season one takes a while to warm up, only really finding it's voice by about halfway through the episode run. Season two on the other hand starts well, but is a little inconsistent in quality. Season three on the other hand has very few weak episodes and duff moments, cementing it's place as the best of the intial run with ease.

None on my (now admittedly ancient) set, you might have some though.

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Language: English
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run time: 452 mins
Soundtrack: 2.0 Surround
Subtitles: English HOH
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DVDs in Review #89: The Sopranos: Complete Series 1

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Recently HMV have started selling the new and much, much smaller set for The Sopranos for an exceptionally respectable price (£70, both in stores and online), this meant that the series had almost crossed over the last boundary between myself and purchasing it. A small windfall on the National Lottery (same night as the Derren Brown predicted it, only there was no trickery on my part) removed the final obstacle - lack of finances.

So I splashed out and picked up the boxed set, which I'll review in it's entirety at some point in the future. Right now I'm going to look at each season individually. There's a few things to go through before starting, first of all - I've only now watched the first season, I genuinely have no idea what's ahead. Secondly I won't be spoilering the events of the first season here, there will probably be a cut-away post about that sometime next week instead.

All of this aside, let us push on and look at the first season set.

"Meet Tony Soprano: your average, middle-aged businessman. Tony's got a dutiful wife. A not-so-dutiful daughter. A son named Anthony Jr. A mother he's trying to coax into a retirement home. A hot-headed uncle. A not too-secret mistress. And a shrink to tell all his secrets, except the one she already knows: Tony's a mob boss.

These days, it's getting tougher and tougher to make a killing in the killing business. Just because you're "made"... doesn't mean you've got it made."

If there is anything you could say about HBO it's that they are pretty much the kings of quality television, looking back at the shows I've enjoyed over the years (and more importantly still continue to enjoy) I have to admit that there are more than a few shows from the HBO stable amongst the ranks. Shows like The Wire, Six Feet Under, Generation Kill, The Corner and Curb Your Enthusiasm - all amazing shows that are great to watch the first time and continue to enrapture even when watched for the dozen-th time.

After watching the first season of The Sopranos I can say with confidence that it will be joining the ranks of the all time greats. It pretty much ticks all the boxes that I look for in a drama show; we've got characters of dubious ethics, dark humour, violence, tight and sophisticated dialog, subtext, fantastic facial (and physical performances) and most importantly of all - an ongoing storyline told over an entire season mixed with 'episodic stories' as well.

The characters are well realised and easily identifiable - with some shows it can initially be overwhelming to try and follow the cast - especially the names of the various characters I didn't find it to be so with The Sopranos, the players fit into place and their names are repeated enough to allow you to follow each one.

The show itself boasts a stable of nuanced performances from a frankly stellar cast; from James Gandolfini's blistering performance as Tony Soprano and right across the board they manage to nail their roles - mixing just the right amount of stereotyped behaviour alongside actions which buck the aforementioned stereotypes and round out the characters. I was very pleased to see Drea de Matteo in this, my previous experiences of her were from Rescue Me and frankly she's great in both (even if acting the two characters she portrays isn't much of a stretch as they are rather similar at times).

But the greatest enjoyment for myself are in the psychiatric sessions between Tony and his shrink Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). I have a more than passing interest in psychology and psychiatry (having both studied and worked in the field in the past) and as such these therapy sessions added a whole extra dimension to the show. Suffice to say the pair are great in them and the scenes between them add a lot to the whole tapestry of the show, I feel they are quite possibly my favourite part.

There is one other performance of considerable note in this season, but to go into who it is and why they give such an amazing performance would run towards spoilering the season more than I want to - it'll have to wait until the later, spoiler laden post which should come out next week sometime.

Suffice to say I was thoroughly impressed with the show's freshman season, it's easy to see why so many people have enjoyed The Sopranos over the years if this is the standard the show starts out at. I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the second season tomorrow.

Now, onto the physical nature of the set itself. It's an exceptional piece of work in many aspects. The new release has discarded the huge boxes of the previous edition in favour of standard DVD cases with interior holders. There are just a few oddities about it which let the production down. The first is the relatively low amount of extras - there's about as many as in The Wire's DVD releases (i.e. naff all). The second is a minor annoyance, the set has four discs for thirteen episodes, you'd expect these to be spaced 3, 3, 3 and a 4 - but they're not. Two sets have four episodes, which means one set has just two episodes on it. Considering the low number of extras it's a little odd.

The third issue is the lack of the old "Play All" button, seriously DVD manufacturers - it's the best button in the menu system after the one for subtitles - don't neglect it! And the final issue is a bit of "special" from the inside cover layout artist. The images chosen and placed above each episode in the list normally bare absolutely no relation to the episode below it. It's like someone just couldn't be bothered to take the extra couple of hours it would take to pick an appropriate picture for each episode. Pretty sloppy work and I hope whoever is responsible feels guilty.

The final issue I have with the set is the relative volume, the show has an exceptionally quiet sound track, I have to turn my television up to around double it's normal volume to hear properly (compared to most other DVD releases) - while I do have slightly impaired hearing this is still a little excessive.

Audio commentary on episode 1
Video Interview with David Chase
Two behind-the-scenes featurettes

Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 Widescreen
Audio: 5.1
Languages: English, French
Rating: 18
Region: 2
Run Time: 12 hours 34 mins
Subtitles: English, French, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Romanian, Swedish
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Film Fridays - Groundhog Day

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Well we've already had a Science Fiction/Horror movie and an action movie, so this time I'm going to go with one of my favourite comedy films - Groundhog Day. By now I'm sure you're at least somewhat familiar with the concept of the film. If you're not, or you want a refresher I'll break it down for you now.

Groundhog Day is a simple concept turned into an exceptional film - the core concept of it being "what if you had to live the same day over and over?" At it's heart this is an exceptionally simple concept, almost deceptively so. But what emerges from the other end is a genuine and enjoyable exploration of the human psyche and issues humans have with repetitive living.

Bill Murray stars as Phil, Phil Conners. A weatherman who it seems has reached his peak and found out he's standing on what is pretty much a hillock. Every year he heads off to the little town of Punxsutawney Philadelphia to see if Little Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog is predicting more winter or not (how wonderfully alliterative). The difference this year is he's travelling down there with his new producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and Larry the camera man (Chris Elliott).

His experience while down there is pretty awful, the day does not pass well for him and after going through the motions he finds that a blizzard has moved in, meaning he's stuck in Punxsutawney for the night. Only when he awakens the following morning he discovers that it's groundhog day - again! And again, and again, and again and again...

The rest of the movie plays itself out on two levels, the first is a simple and enjoyable comedy with humour being derived from the fact that Phil's been here so long he's learnt just about everything he could ever know about the town. He experiences almost everything, the only goal remaining beyond his grasp is Rita herself.

The second level is a little (but not much) more subtle, it's a play on the psychology of the individual and also coming to terms with loss and grief. It's also a tale of self-improvement, Phil only escapes from his inexplicable trap after he's improved himself as a person and learnt to appreciate others instead of being so selfish (a modern day Buddhist story if you like).

Phil himself goes through many of the seven stages of death, at first he's shocked about what's happened, then he moves briefly into denial and bargaining - attempting to escape from the situation, Phil doesn't really stop in guilt to much beyond wondering why it's happening to him before rapidly heading off into anger and depression. But finally he does settle on acceptance, and that's when he begins to look at improving himself - finally breaking free of the cycle when he achieves a completely selfless day, one spent bringing joy to others.

The performances across the cast are almost uniformly fantastic, Bill Murray of course holds this show up - but he's the perfect man for the job. Amongst the supporting cast it's Stephen Tobolowsky (as Needle Ned) who stands out, but just about everyone is great. With of course one exception - Andie MacDowell - she's a lovely woman to look at, but she's never really been any good at acting. While she's not as wooden as she is in Four Weddings and a Funeral she is still pretty bad at times and remains the only rough spot in an otherwise perfect film.

While there's a lot to recommend about Groundhog Day there are also a few things to be wary about, this isn't a film for everyone and I'm going to list a few reasons why you might not enjoy it:

Groundhog Day isn't for you if:

1. You don't find Bill Murray funny or endearing. 2. You get frustrated if mysterious things happen without explanation (like say a time loop). 3. You get annoyed with time travel concepts (even if this isn't a time travel movie as such). 4. You have no sense of humour. 5. Repetitiveness annoys you. 6. Repetitiveness annoys you. 7. Repetitiveness annoys you. 8. You want a film with action and excitement in it rather than soul searching and understanding of the human condition. 9. Andie MacDowell's acting irritates you. or 10. Repetitiveness annoys you.

Ultimately Groundhog Day is an enjoyable and charming film which mixes great comedy, a dash of romance and an interesting existential journey together, resulting in something which I can watch again and again, and again.
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The Game Plan for the Fall Season

Category: By Rev/Views
I'm afraid it's a bit of a cop out post today. Mostly because I'm dog tired, but also because I'm trying to organise my viewing habits for the next three months or so by working out what shows I'm going to watch and how much I'll write about each one - I've got to ration the time and words I have to spend here carefully these days.

The shows I'm looking at trying to watch and possibly write about are as follows:

The Office - (Returns tonight)
Curb Your Enthusiasm - (Returns Friday)
How I Met Your Mother - (Returns Monday 21st)
Dexter - (Returns Sunday 27th)
Family Guy & American Dad (Returns 27th)
30 Rock (Returns October 17th)

I'm unsure about Cougar Town - anyone interested in finding out what it's like? It's got an interesting cast and it's from Bill Lawrence, so it might be good.

There are some shows which I'm now behind on because of the delayed UK DVD releases; these include House and Supernatural - so unfortunately these have now been relegated to "DVD Shows" (Which is where Bones lives, I only watch it on DVD). There are also some other shows I'm still playing catch up on - Sons of Anarchy is the prime one of these, I'll probably have to catch up on that amazing show nearer Christmas time (It's suitable Christmas viewing right? I mean Die Hard is the greatest Christmas film ever and that also has guns in it, so they must be Christmassy).

What I'll probably do to keep up with these is resurrect The Week That Was and write about all of them on Saturdays. Sadly that does mean I'll be about six days behind when writing about Dexter - but what can you do?

I'm also open to writing about one or two more shows if there are any takers, especially British Shows - I constantly miss them. Though I do suggest you should be watching Last Chance to See if you're not already.
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DVDs in Review #88: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season One

Category: , , , , By Rev/Views

It's rather incredible to think back and realise that not only did Buffy the Vampire slayer originally debut in 1997, but that it's also been over and finished (excepting the comic book continuation) since 2003. That's six odd years now that the final curtain was called on the show, but it feels like only yesterday that it was on our screens (if you're watching it on DVD or on repeat then it might have been yesterday).

The first season pretty much picks up from where the 1992 movie left off, Buffy (played by Kristy Swanson in the movie, but more iconically portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar in this series) has moved to Sunnydale after the events in the movie resulted in her expulsion. Having previously discovered she's 'the slayer', been trained by 'the watcher' Merrick, discovered Merrick killed by the vampire Lothos and then defeated him during the senior dance - she's now looking to live a more normal life.

Which she does, for all of about thirty seconds before another watcher named Giles finds out about her and she discovers that Sunndale is a weirdness central filled with oddness that rivals Eerie, Indiana or Split Point Lighthouse in the 'how odd is your town' stakes. So while she and her mother get a fresh start at life Buffy finds herself trapped back into her own destiny as only she can save mankind (if not her who else?) as the Slayer.

The first season follows Buffy's introductions to Sunnydale and the people who will become her friends - specifically Xander and Willow, two semi-outcasts in school society; Giles - the watcher and librarian and Cordelia Chase - a popular and shallow girl who develops as the seasons progress. Also running through the season is the mystery of who Angel is and what he wants along with a religious cult of Vampires headed up by one ancient vampiric menace known as 'The Master'.

The season itself does show it's age, this set hasn't been cleaned up for the new HD/digital age and as such the quality of the filming does suffer. Likewise it is more than fair to say that occasionally the performances given by the cast are a little ropey. Only Anthony Head (Giles) and Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) manage to consistently provide a solid performances, but it is always worth remembering that the most of the cast are young and inexperienced in this season. They grow up and perfect their acting over the later seasons a great deal. Alyson Hannigan is great as the nervous and inexperienced Willow (but she'll always be Lily Aldrin to me from now on) and Nicholas Brendon is great fun as Xander, he's not as funny as he is later on, but he does have his moments in this season.

Likewise Sarah Michelle Gellar gives a slightly uneven performance, she doesn't have as much presence as she does in later seasons. Of the guest stars it's David Boreanaz (Angel), Robia LaMorte (Jenny Calander), Julie Benz (Darla) and the brilliant Mark Metcalf as The Master who really shine out and give great prescence on screen. Especially Mark who is nothing short of fantastic in all that latex and prosthetics, how on Earth he isn't on screen more often is a mystery to me.

Now it might sound a little like I'm ragging on the show when I say that the performances from the cast are a little uneven, but they are. Likewise some of the one off stories are a little wobbily at times as well. But this is because it's a show in it's infancy, one with plenty of growth to go before it becomes the show we all know and love.

Despite these minor grips the first season remains a fun and witty experience, the dialog is as great as you'd expect from Joss Whedon and several of the episodes are nothing short of brilliant. It's a solid freshman performance from the show and you can see why it managed to endear itself into the hearts of so many viewers and secure itself a second season.

Commentaries from Joss Whedon
Interview with Joss Whedon/David Boreanaz
Cast Biographies
Photo Gallery
Music Video
Pilot Episode Script (Good read for any budding script writer this one is)

Aspect Ratio: 4:3 and 1:33.1
Episode run: 12
Languages: English, French
Number of Discs: 3
Subtitles: French, Dutch, English HOH
Rating: 15
Region 2
Run time: Approx 528 mins
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Rev/Views Top Shows: Other and The Best Shows I Don't Watch

Category: , By Rev/Views
Finally there are two more categories to close this out, they're both relatively short lists and because the Fall season is close to starting I'm going to put them both together rather than string this out any further.

First up is the category of Other, which covers a handful of shows which I like that I didn't want to put under any of the previous categories. These are listed alphabetically because it's hard to compare the shows to each other.

Blue Planet

There are many, many David Attenborough documentaries which I adore, but the one which rises above the rest (for myself) is without a doubt Blue Planet, as there's something about the seas which have always held a mystery and enthrallment for me. Blue Planet is the documentary series which I feel gives the viewer the best picture of the wonders located beneath the waves across the planet.

It's something I can just sit back and watch; educational, fascinating and beautiful.

The Colbert Report

I'm not a fan of the chat show format, but I do enjoy the spin which The Daily Show puts on, creating a satirical news/chat show with plenty of humour. But The Daily Show isn't my favourite in that genre either, it's the spin off show starring Stephen Colbert (who's in two other shows listed in my top shows) which floats my boat.

I believe it's the utterly deadpan delivery of the show which works so well, Stephen runs his show with an aplomb which almost never cracks and is able to sound so sincere about things that many people are quite confused about the differences between Stephen Colbert the character and Stephen Colbert the human being.

He also gets major props for the 2006 presidential Correspondents Association roast - presented here in it's entirety for you to enjoy.

The Guild

I could have put this one into the sitcom category, but I honestly feel it doesn't quite fit there. It's definitely a web show in it's design. But the brilliance of the writing and cast has resulted in something which has become a very real phenomena and one which I can't approve of enough.

Just starting it's third season The Guild is something you should seriously consider watching; it's free on the web, each episode is around ten minutes long and it's brilliant. No excuses, you should at least give it a try.

Finally there's one last list to come, I shan't go into it in too much detail - but it's the best shows that - for one reason or another - I don't watch.

The Sopranos

This is one I'm about to rectify, finally a version of the complete set was released which fits onto a standard DVD shelf so I picked it up and by now I will have most likely started watching it. All that's held me back from watching this show has been the inaccessibility of watching the show over here in Britain - a combination of poorly designed DVD sets and a lack of broadcasting on non-premium channels.


This one I do intend to watch again, I loved the first season, despised the second one and gave up a few episodes into the third. But I do plan to watch it all once it's finished and released on DVD. The main reason I've stopped watching is simple, for myself I find the weekly release schedule for Lost is irritating. Just like The Wire I don't feel it's a show which works well if you watch one episode a week, it's better watched in bursts or marathons.


I thought the first season was groundbreaking and the second season was a wonderful build on the first one (which was a little disjointed in the story front). But the third season really failed for me, I tried very hard to watch it but ended up stopping with about three or four episodes left before it ended. Yeah, despite being exceptionally close to seeing how the story would end and right in the middle of all the 'exciting' parts I actually found myself bored enough to walk away and never return to the show.

As far as I'm concerned 24 is a show which has gone on for far too long.

True Blood

This is one which just doesn't appeal to me, I'm not sure why if I'm honest as I loved Anna Paquin in the X-Men movies, Chris Bauer (The Wire) is also in it and he's fantastic and Alan Ball (Six Feet Under) created the show - a mix which just screams winner. But I just haven't got around to it yet and I don't really feel excited about the show, perhaps because I'm not so interested in the portrayal of Vampires in True Blood, or perhaps because I just don't have time right now.

I can't exactly explain which it is, but it's something I'm not watching and often I feel I should be.
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Rev/Views Top Shows: British

Category: , , , By Rev/Views
Today we get to the home grown shows, my favourite shows from good old Blighty. I decided to place my favourite British shows in their own category because there is a genuinely distinctive difference between anglo shows and their distant American cousins - few American Sitcoms come close to the style of the British ones at all (I'd say only Arrested Development, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and partially The Office manage it) and dramas are a genre which the Americans just effortlessly dominate.

But that said, here's a selection of my favourite British shows.

10. The Mighty Boosh

At times brilliant and hilarious, at times utterly bizarre - this journey through time and space is something you really do have to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy, but when you do - it's just utterly fantastic and hilarious.

The episodes are a little uneven in quality, some of them are far better than others, some aren't that funny the first time you watch them but become funnier on the re-watch (maybe because you've 'clicked' with the humour the second time round). But still, this is a show which stands out as a unique creation and unlike many off-beat and bizarre comedy shows it also manages to be, well, good.

9. Fawlty Towers

Classic, classic British comedy which doesn't ever really date at all (apart from the film quality). It's relatively low on this list because at times I do find the show a little overwhelming in the cringe factor, as such it's not something I can watch all the time, but there is no disputing this shows pedigree and sharp comedy.

Of course, it's something which is talked about so often that I even encountered it in lectures while studying psychology at university, that was a highly enjoyable couple of hours indeed. Which I guess makes this the most educational show on the list as well.

8. Father Ted

Like a lot of shows on this list, Father Ted has quite a grimy and mundane feel to it's setting, based on Craggy Island this show about three priests and the woman who cooks for them is nothing short of marvelous. The show could have dangerously spun off into nothing more than priestly humour with great ease, but instead it manages to be a show more about survival against boredom on a tiny island.

Sharp, tightly scripted and well characterised there's so much to love and enjoy about this show. From classic enquires about tea to the naive assumption that Richard Wilson would enjoy having his catchprase shouted at him (something I'm sure many, many people do to so many actors. I know Wayne Knight is tired of people saying 'Hello Newman' to him - speaking of which, I wonder if he'll be in the Seinfeld/Curb reunion, I do hope so), it's a show which delivers laugh after laugh thanks to it's timeless quality and shrews insights into human nature.

7. Black Books

In part this makes it onto the list because I have in the past worked in a shop which is essentially a spin on the one from Black Books. Yes, that's right - a shop where the intent seemed to be to avoid selling stock to customers, be as rude as possible and avoid doing anything more than the most minimal amount of work. Some members of staff even went as far as to wear outfits which looked the same every day of the week - just to complete that cartoon surreal feel to the place.

But onto Black Books itself; the show is very, very British in feel. It's set in a small book shop, the cast is small and the characters are all very unpleasant to each other (and anyone else in range). This means, of course, that it's just hilarious. Bill Bailey, Dylan Moran and Tamsin Greig all give fantastic performances with lashings of off-beat humour. It has a timeless feel to it and a very familiar one to anyone who's been into a small independent second hand book store.

It's just a shame that Dylan has said there will be no more episodes, but we can still enjoy the ones we've already received.

6. Top Gear

The only non-sitcom to make it onto this list and it's still a scripted comedy show - after a fashion. I guess I have to confess that outside of a few shows (like State of Play, Wire in the Blood and Foyles War) I mostly watch British situation comedies.

Top Gear, of course, isn't a situation comedy as such. But it is an intensely enjoyable show all about the unashamed love and adoration of cars. From the banter to the stunts and reviews the show seeks to inform the viewer about things they really don't need to know. At all.

Yes, it's not everyone's cup of earl grey, but the show really is a fantastic creation - revelling in the love of petrol and fumes with gleeful abandon. The filming is stylish, the dialog is sharp and the presenters are all - well they're certainly personalities, that's for sure. Maybe for everyone, but personally I always enjoy the show when it's on. Especially the specials which often highlight not just the cars but the locales as well.

5. Blackadder

One of two roles in which Rowan Atkinson is most famous for (the second being Mr. Bean) Blackadder is one of the definitive Brit-coms and one of the best. While the first series doesn't really stand out in the crowd the other three (and the various specials) certainly do. Each season deals with a different era and generation of the Blackadder family, a group of very similar looking individuals all with the unfortunate name of Edmund and the even more unfortunate tendency to land themselves in sticky situations.

Like many British comedies, Blackadder specialises in tight and witty dialog along with an exceptionally cynical outlook on situations. It has a supporting cast which almost reads like a 'who's who' in comedy, including of course the brilliant Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. But the biggest change to the show, and the one which evolved it into the success it became was Ben Elton taking over writing duties. He changed the style of the show for the second series onwards and is responsible for frankly improving the show a great deal.

Irregardless of this, it's one of the best shows ever made and deserves a slot in just about every top television show list somewhere.

4. Red Dwarf

Forget the slightly embarrassing later seasons and concentrate on the show from series three to six (yes I'm including six as one of the good ones here Dan, sorry!) with a little nod towards the first two seasons, which are very different in their style and flavour. That's the Red Dwarf I'm writing about here, not the diluted and somewhat unfunny creation which turned up later on (even though I do adore Chloe Annett).

It's an unusual beast in many ways, bucking the traditions and trends of it's time by marrying science fiction with comedy (a formula which works so well for Futurama also) and by now just about every Red Dwarf aficionado knows just how hard Rob Grant and Doug Naylor had to work to get Red Dwarf on the screens.

We should be thankful they did, because Red Dwarf made the 1990s a brighter and more enjoyable place, standing up during the decade as one of the few great British sitcoms in a sea which was mostly composed of of American shows like Friends and Frasier. To this day it remains funny and exciting even after repeated watching, so go ahead and smoke my kipper if you feel lucky punk (or something like that)!

3. Marion & Geoff

There's a far longer explanation of why I think Marion and Geoff is one of the British greats located over here, but the short version comes down to this. It's an amazing example of how much can be done with so little, all there is to the show is the wonderful Keith Barrett (Rob Brydon) monologuing to a single camera about his life, past and thoughts.

But beyond this simplicity there's a real depth to the show and the comedy, the cleverest part of which is the subtext to Keith's dialog. There's so much extra information embedded in the scenes and conversations he describes that it's clear to the viewer that Keith just doesn't 'get' what's going on, that this lovely and basically naive man isn't sharp enough to realise the truth behind his own words.

And it's that which makes this comedy genius.

2. Garth Marenghi's Darkplace

"Listen, I'm a writer. If I want to start a sentence with a full stop, I will! "

A clever and witty pastiche on 1980s horror, especially the kind which falls into the B category (written and film) Darkplace manages to be simultaneously intelligent and crude. Running for just six episodes the show came out in 2004 without much of a reception, but after being released on DVD and being re-aired as well it achieved some moderate success.

Part of what makes the show so great is just how deliberately bad it is, in fact - as a serious horror/drama (which is what it's 'meant' to be) it's a bloody awful show beyond words, as terrible as the uttermost dregs of 1980s schlock. But as this comedy is designed as a show within a show it's transformed from being awful into being something quite wonderful and brilliant.

Those horrible editing mistakes, awful acting and utterly hackneyed plots come together to create one wonderful amalgamation of genius, and it's this which makes it such a special show.

You also haven't lived until you've experienced watching the show with the DVD commentary on. In character DVD commentary that is. Sublime.

1. Spaced

"Skip to the end."

As one of my all time favourite comedy shows Spaced is something which I'll always have time for in my life. It's hard to put your finger on exactly what it is which makes Spaced so entertaining, the show mostly deals with rather mundane situations and pop culture references, but there's a clever tilt on everything which makes it all the more entertaining. You could almost call it 'a show about nothing', but it's so much more than that. It's a show about friendship, about television, about life and much, much more - all passed through a filter which celebrates the little things.

Performances across the cast are just hilarious and a few of the short set pieces are so good that I wrote a post highlighting them a short while ago. Even to this day they remain fresh and funny, as does the entire show. It's two short and sweet seasons filled with staggering brilliance.

Note: I am obligated to give a nod of the head to Only Fools and Horses as being classic British comedy, but personally I can't stand the show. There are also other shows which are good, but fail to make the top selection for various reasons - these include 'Allo 'Allo, Extras and One Foot in the Grave.

Monty Python's Flying Circus should also be on this list, but you'll have to make do with this instead, I forgot to expand it's entry and don't have time now.
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Fall premiere dates listed over at Crimespree Cinema

Category: , By Rev/Views
It's nearly that time again, and if you're unsure when your favourite show returns or if you want to see if there are any new shows which will fit into your viewing schedule Crimespree Cinema has the list with them all ordered by date with the day and time on them.

It's over here and frankly it's a great resource.
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Rev/Views Top Shows: Animated

Category: , , , By Rev/Views
Today's (slightly delayed) post means we're over halfway in the 'Top Shows series, there's just British shows and documentaries left to write about. But today Rev/Views is going to focus on the animated spectrum of television - and without any further ado, here's the list.

8. King of the Hill

I must confess I've only seen the first five seasons of King of the Hill and as such my preference for the show is based on only part of the run. I'd love to watch more of it as I find the style of the show relaxing and enjoyable. Hank Hill is a very honest and down to earth character who just comes across as a nice guy living an ordinary life.

One of the things I really appreciate about the show is the rather low key style and humour employed in it; many animated comedy shows fall towards the wacky and bizarre in order to progress the plot and provide the laughs. KotH doesn't rely on that as a staple and it makes for a refreshing change at times.

7. The Simpsons

Everyone who's ever watched the television should have seen at least one episode of The Simpsons by now, it's a great animated show. But has lost it's lustre in recent years and should be put out to pasture.

The earlier seasons are still amazing, and I love the Treehouse of Horror episodes, but beyond that I don't really have too much more to say about The Simpsons as it's really something everyone is familiar with by now.

6. Family Guy

Just like The Simpsons, Family Guy is one of those shows most people will have been exposed to by now, of course it's a lot more controversial at times (at least it's more controversial because some people allow themselves to be outraged by it - something which just draws more attention to the show). It's something which varies a little in quality, at times it's just amazingly well done, clever and funny. At other times it can fall flat - in recent years it's been more of the latter.

But this said the recent DVD "movie" release Blue Harvest was one of the most well done pieces of television I'd seen in a long while. It was so much fun and clever

As such, when Family Guy is good it's very good. It's just when it's bad, it's horrid.

5. Justice League/Justice League Unlimited

Based on the DC mega team, this now ended cartoon series runs for a total of five seasons, two under the first title and three as "Unlimited". The initial run follows Superman, The Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, J'onn J'onzz and The Green Lantern who unite as the 'Justice League' in order to protect Earth from the myriad of super villains who seem to exist for the sole purpose of giving the heroes someone to fight against.

The second run, under the title Justice League Unlimited expands the universe considerably by introducing a huge selection of heroes who are brought on board to join the Justice League. The show becomes something more of an ensemble show then, with the core seven characters not taking part in every episode and the show often focusing on lesser known heroes - often resulting in fantastic stories and episodes.

The show is stylistic, exciting and everything a good superhero cartoon should be. It's strong plotting, ongoing story lines, clever writing and dark overtones make it something much, much more than just a kids cartoon with superheroes in it.

Side note: Mark Hamil's portrayal of the Joker is just fantastic, it was almost definitive until Heath Ledger came along and turned everything on it's head.

4. The Venture Brothers

A pastiche on Johnny Quest/Adventure style cartoons, super spies and super heroes. Venture Bros is a semi-irregular cartoon which turns up every couple of years. It's about the titular Venture Brothers - Hank and Dean. Two lads who live a Johnny Quest like life with their scientific father Doctor Venture and his bodyguard/Swedish murder machine Brock Sampson.

Playing like an action/comedy/super science/spy/drama the show runs at an almost break neck speed each episode. The gags come thick and fast, almost as fast as Brock's punches are thrown at the various nameless henchmen who are unfortunate enough to be set against him. And the show is something which is highly enjoyable for anyone who can remember the old Johnny Quest cartoon or who enjoys super spies/heroes fighting against outlandish villains.

3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2K3

As a young child my favourite animated show was by and far Teenage Mutant "Hero" Turtles (in the UK Ninja was swapped out for Hero for some reason which has always escaped me) - a series which endeared itself to me and was a regular part of my television watching.

In the grip of nostalgia a couple of years back I decided to give the original shows some re watching, and the experience was most definitely NOT pleasant. Unlike revisiting other childhood favourites of mine - shows like Eerie Indiana, Round the Twist, ReBoot and Knightmare - watching the Turtles was an exercise in sheer agony. The show was dumb, weakly plotted, predictable and the performance for Shredder was just horrifying. He's portrayed as a whiny, whining gigantic baby who's petulantly stamping his feet every time he doesn't get his way. The turtles themselves were exceptionally weak to watch as well, in fact just about the only character I could tolerate was Kang.

So rather dejected I stopped watching the show and assumed it was time to consign another childhood memory to the bin. Then I discovered the 2003 remake of the show, and after reading a little about it I thought I'd give it a try. This remains one of the best decisions I've made in a long time, the show is just fantastic. It's clever, energetic and has great voice acting. But it's also relatively sophisticated for a children's show, providing ongoing story lines set over several episodes and even heading into some very dark places at times.

There are some relatively adult themes featured at times in the show, decapitations and dismemberment do happen (within reason) and one character spends his time gradually having bits cut away from him. It's also filled with exciting action, reoccurring previous characters and gives the awesome Casey Jones a major role in the show.

It's fast become a firm favourite of mine and while one of the later seasons was a little ropey the most recent one brought the show back to great form. Fun for the kids and the big kids as well.

2. Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

I found this cartoon classic off the back of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast which I saw during my years in university. One of my friends was hugely into the show and I'd watch it occasionally when hanging out with him. One episode in particular stuck in my mind, it's an episode where Harvey Birdman hosts the show instead of Space Ghost.

Fast forward a few years and thanks to Comedy Central making The Colbert Report episodes available online to everyone regardless of their country (which they no longer do - jerks), and I'm watching Stephen Colbert. In particular his Tek Jansen series which features fantastic voice over work from him (and almost got onto this list, except it's not really a TV show). I have a little look around to see if he's done anything else (Venture Bros.) and I find Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. A little reading around the show makes me interested in trying it out.

Which I'm glad I did, because the show is just fantastic. Each ten minute episode is so packed with action, gags and plotting that you can be forgiven for thinking it's a longer show than it is. The basic premise is simple, Harvey has retired from the superhero gig and now works as a defense lawyer for various classic cartoon characters (Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone, Johnny Quest etc). The problem is, he's not a very good one.

It's something I can just stick on when I have a spare ten minutes and it's always great fun to watch and hilarious to boot.

Why You Should Watch... Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

1. Futurama

No secrets, no surprises here. I've touted about Futurama on many occasions before now, it's quite literally the show I've watched the most. I've lost count of the number of times I've seen each episode, and the total number of hours spent with it on (either being watched or as moving wallpaper) in the Rev/Views household must number into three digits at least.

I can't really explain why the show clicks so perfectly with me, as I admitted at the start of this week I'm not a science fiction fan as such (in truth I'd classify myself as a lover of stories if pushed), but Futurama remains one of my favourite shows and it's most solidly science fiction.

Maybe it's the jokes, or the characterisations, the voice acting or the stories. I don't know. Maybe it's the whole thing together, the combination of all these wonderful things the show gives the viewer result in something which is at times close to television perfection.

All I do know is I can't wait for the next season to start airing as I'm gagging for new Futurama episodes, I know my DVDs are getting a little worn out.
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Slight delay

Category: By Rev/Views
I do apologise, but the second post I planned to put up this evening is going to be delayed until tomorrow.

So you'll have to wait about twelve hours or so before I reveal my favourite animated shows.

Again, my apologies for this, but I'm falling asleep at the keyboard here right now and I've only written half of it.

At least this means there will be some weekend content on the site!
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Film Friday: Rev/Views Top Films

Category: , By Rev/Views
In the first of two posts due to come out today, I'm going to continue the theme of film Fridays and mix it with the current 'My Top Shows' run (which has just a few more entries left then it's back to business as usual). Which means here I'll be listing my personal favourite films.

I'm not going to go into them with as much detail as I do television shows, writing about films here is just a diversion to mix things up and see if people are remotely interested in the odd film post (the answer seems to be no by the way).

Without further ado here's an alphabetical list of the twenty films which I've enjoyed the most over the years.

As Good as it Gets
Back to the Future Trilogy (I can't separate my favourite from these)
Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Die Hard
Groundhog Day
Hellraiser (oh yes!)
Kung Fu Hustle
Monsters Inc
Pulp Fiction
Rocky (1, 2 & 3)
Sin City
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Spaghetti Western Trilogy (For a Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More & The Good The Bad and the Ugly)
The Three Musketeers
The Usual Suspects

I make no apologies for this selection at all, they're all movies I can re watch and still find enjoyable and fresh. Some of them are classics from when I was younger, others are just films I like watching at least once a year (Die Hard is my Christmas movie of choice) and a few are just plain amazing.

There is one set of classic films from my childhood which I no longer enjoy, it's the original Star Wars trilogy. Somehow the magic has gone from them now.

A bit later today I'll continue the Rev/Views Top _____ series with Animated shows.
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Rev/Views: Top Shows: Drama

Category: , By Rev/Views
I feel it's appropriate to put out my favourite drama shows on the 9th of September 2009, as that's 9/9/9 - the number you dial when calling for the police (and other emergency services) in the UK.

And let's face it, this is a genre which is going to be dominated by police shows as anyone who's spent any time reading here should be able to realise immediately.

10. Dexter

Dexter is in a precarious position in my top shows because he's in serious danger of dropping out of the list after the third season's decidedly average and hum drum run.

But looking beyond that the first two seasons still hold up as exceptional pieces of work, they're both gripping thrill rides that nearly reach the heights of emotion and excitement. Michael C. Hall is nothing short of fantastic as Dexter Morgan, he's a good enough reason to watch the show all by himself. But Eric King is also fantastic as Doakes, and his departure was one thing which weakened the third season severely.

The fourth season is going to be make or break time for myself. It's looking very promising, but Dexter is in danger of falling into a rut. Mostly caused by the weak supporting cast (the writers have NO idea what to do with them) and the show's tendency to rehash the first season plotline over and over with only a few variations.

Complaints aside it's a unique show and is worth watching, even if only for Michael C. Hall and the lovely Julie Benz's performances alone.

9. Burn Notice

Probably the lightest member of this lot, Burn Notice doesn't make it onto the list due to an exceptionally deep and clever storyline or Shakespearean level acting, it makes it on here by consistently improving on itself from season to season and providing just buckets of fun and spy hi jinks.

Jeffery Donavan is great as Michael Western, the spy stuck in Miami with a burn notice preventing him from working. But for myself it's Bruce Campbell's performance as Sam Axe which keeps me coming back. Well that and the fact that the show keeps getting better and better.

It's light, fun, clever and fast paced. Perfect summer viewing.

8. Boston Legal

Part Drama, part Comedy, wholly irrelevant and fun - Boston Legal was one of the most enjoyable legal shows I've ever had the pleasure of watching. If you can call it a legal show, it could also be accurately described as a 'bromance' story between Denny Crane and Alan Shore.

The show is a little uneven, unfortunately cast members tended to get switched about, brought in and dropped for no reason other than the writers were having trouble thinking of things to do with them. So the show suffers a little here, but when it's good - it's very good. Even if sometimes it can get a little soap-box preachy.

I'm of the opinion that the best seasons are the earlier two and then the final one; but it's very dependant on the actors. William Shatner and James Spader are constantly great, but it's Christian Clemenson, Tara Summers and Mark Valley's characters who remain my favourites.

The show is energetic, fun and witty. Plus how can I not love a show which so brazenly flirts with the fourth wall, and gets away with it?

7. Deadwood

Watching Deadwood can, at first, feel like you're watching a show written in a foreign language, but one which uses English words as it's base. The dialog is thick and feels very authentic, as do the sets, the costumes and the acting.

Once you get past the initial 'what the hell are they saying?' there's a marvelous show beating underneath. One which is filled with corruption, unpleasantness, ruthless action and swearing. So much swearing you wouldn't believe it. It's almost impossible to watch this show and not get infected by the dialog yourself, it just happens and all of a sudden you're in trouble for calling a co-workers a bunch f***ing c***suckers.

Unfortunately for Deadwood it suffered cancellation-itis and hasn't had that final bit to finish it off. It's also rather inaccessible for many viewers - the dialog and brutal nature of the show mean it isn't for everyone. So it doesn't break into the top five, but it's definitely top ten material.

6. Six Feet Under

Constructed of equal parts of wit, soapy moments and drama with a huge slice of death, Six Feet Under is one of drama's landmark shows. It's frank and open approach to the subject of death, cast in contrast by the focus on the lives of people who live and work around it. Featuring a staggeringly high (and often amusing) body count, the show took huge strides towards legitimising the occurrence of death in TV drama.

Here's one of my favourite openings from the show:

This is without even mentioning that this is Michael C. Hall's second appearance on the list. He's absolutely fantastic and completely different to Dexter in Six Feet Under. The man is awesome acting talent.

Oh and this show also gave us the quintessential Narm trope. (Warning MAJOR Spoilers for this show lurk beyond that link).

5. The West Wing

For an individual with absolutely no interest in politics at all I was genuinely surprised just how much I did engage with, and enjoy The West Wing. But I surely did, mostly thanks to Aaron Sorkin's superb scripting which brought the characters to life and gave them dialog which really just sizzles and shines like diamond sausages in a pan.

While the cast is studded with superb actors and actresses there are a few in particular who stand out for myself. Martin Sheen is of course brilliant as 'Jed' Bartlet and throwing praise out for the lovely Allison Janney is practically a cliche (but a deserved one). Likewise Bradley Whitford, Dulé Hill, Rob Lowe, John Spencer, Janel Moloney and Richard Schiff are all superb.

And it would be completely amiss if I didn't acknowledge that the episode "Two Cathedrals" is one of the best episodes in any show, all time.

But it's more than the sum of it's parts, it's just a fantastic show which is filled with quality and while I personally prefer the first four seasons, it's still something everyone who enjoys good drama should watch in it's entirety at least once.

4. Band of Brothers

Part dramatisation, part historical retelling, all action. Band of Brothers works both as a companion piece for Saving Private Ryan and as a stand alone piece of television. The show follows the members of Easy company during the second world war. It's a powerful piece of storytelling that highlights the brutality of war while also showing the fundamental humanity of the men who were involved in it.

The stand out performance is of course from the awesomely talented Damien Lewis as Richard Winters. But there are so many others who also give great perfomances as well. Some of them are so great you end up forgetting what else they're famous in and just get sucked into believing that they are there.

It's nothing short of quality television and one of my favourite war stories, the unbelievable events that occur in it are living proof that no matter how outlandish television can be - there's nothing stranger than real life.

3. Homicide: Life on the Street

The father and spiritual predecessor to another show on this list; Homicide (for me) remains the quintessential police procedural show. I can't exactly place what it is which makes it far more enjoyable for me than any other investigative style show, but if I was to guess it would come down to the low key nature of the setting combined with an unrelenting dirty, grimy feel to the show which just made it feel so real. You add into this a fantastic bunch of characters; especially Munch, Bayliss, Pembleton and Lewis; and you've got something which has had a profound affect on me despite it's relatively new status (I only watched it last year).

It's dark, it's witty, it's clever and it doesn't always wrap everything up in a neat little bow at the end of an episode (or season). There's just so much to admire about it and it's a show I relish returning to in a future year.

2. The Wire

Considering that I've written forty posts about this show (so far) I should imagine it's no surprise that The Wire ranks highly amongst my favourite drama shows (and my favourite shows all round). It's the most complete vision in the world of television, providing stories which are meaningful and poignant while also filled with intense characters who feel alive.

No other show manages to depict both sides of the story as well as The Wire. A show which lets it's viewers identify with not only police detectives but also with the criminals they're chasing after. From low level drug dealers to dock workers and all the way beyond The Wire tells a story of Baltimore City via it's characters and institutions.

It's almost certainly the most culturally significant show of this decade and one of the greatest televisions shows of all time. Intelligent, thought provoking, moving and subtle, this is one for the thinker in you.

1. The Shield

This should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who's read my posts over the past year or so. The Shield remains firmly as an example of the perfect show for myself. From the very first episode, which all those years back just blew me away (much like the ending to The Usual Suspects it completely turned around my perception of the show and expectations from television drama). Then for seven seasons it ran off at break neck speed with each season being better than the last. Which is pretty much unheard of elsewhere, I can't name another show where I can honestly say each season improved on the previous one.

But The Shield had it all for me; tension, action, excitement, sorrow and so much more. No show has ever engaged me as much emotionally as The Shield has. While The Wire is intellectually my favourite show, it's the guts and instincts of The Shield which put it ahead of the rest, and those final two episodes which ended it all. I'm still speechless about them and it's been about three quarters of a year since they aired.

It really is perfection wrapped up in a brutal package of justice and corruption.

Finally I'd like to give Chuck an honorable mention here, it nearly made it onto the list. But I still haven't seen the second season. Carnivale likewise gets one, failing to make the top ten because of it's cancellation - which makes it feel unfinished and frustrating to watch.
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