Simpsons Season 15 DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

Simpson's DVD cover

Simpsons Season 15 DVD Review

With the voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria

Created by Matt Groening

The longest running primetime show in American television history, the Simpsons, is world renowned and beloved. They also produce some of the most influential and feature packed DVD sets on the market place. New to DVD from Fox Home Entertainment comes the 15th season of the series. So how does season 15 stack up with their already impressive library?

In Season 15 the show welcomes guest voice performances from Jerry Lewis, Jennifer Garner, and Oscar De La Hoya in this season’s hilarious Treehouse of Horror episode. Tony Blair, Jane Leeves, Sir Ian McKellan and J.K. Rowling in the vacation episode of the season as the Simpson’s clan head to England. Glenn Close makes a return as Homer’s Mom and Jackie Mason as Krusty’s Dad. Sarah Michelle Gellar as Gina, the girl Bart meets and escapes juvenile hall with, in the classic ‘The Wandering Juvie’ and Matt Groening himself in the also classic comic-con episode. Among some of the subjects of season 15 we have Robot Fighting, a watch that stops time, Homer becoming the grim reaper, Lisa running for Class president in a take-off of the film ‘Evita’, Maggie scoring higher SAT scores than Lisa and the story of Homer’s first kiss.

Simpson Wandering Juvie

As much as the show has lost some relevance over the decade and a half run, and perhaps even more now that it has hit year 25, the show is still hilarious when it is at its best. By season 15 the show had really shifted its focus almost completely from Bart to Homer as the focal characters, something the show had been moving towards for a while at the time. The show remains one of the most sought after vocal guesting jobs on television, even non-traditional vocal performances like this season’s turn from Prime Minister Tony Blair are almost common place for the show. Homer seems to be getting less and less coherent the more the show continues. Bart and Lisa seem stuck though, the best episode seem to involve them growing in some sort or the full out flash forward to them as older versions of themselves that show up from time to time.

The 15th season set is jammed packed and stuffed with all sorts of special features and hours’ worth of material to follow up on. Every episode features a commentary track from members of the cast and crew, one of the few shows that do a commentary on every show. Featurettes include ‘All Aboard with Matt’, ‘The Unusual Ones’ and ‘Living in the Moment’. Deleted scenes and original animation sketches along with commercials and new animation for the menu screens also appear on the set. The collector’s box also features an embossed picture of school bus driver Otto. There is enough fascinating and engrossing material here for hours of distraction for the whole family.

The Simpsons may be a show that is more hit and miss that its boundary pushing beginnings, but the box sets for the DVDs remain some the most masterfully crafted and satisfying sets on the market. For fans of series, no matter what the level of interest, the Simpsons season 15 box set is a solid recommend. And for die-hard fans of the show, The Simpsons Season 15 is a must buy. Let’s hope the folks behind the Simpsons continue to show the same dedication to their following seasons for years to come.

Movie Junkie TO

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Touch Season 1 DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

Touch Season 1 DVD

Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Mazouz, Roxanna Brusso and Danny Glover

Created by Tim Kring

New on DVD from Fox Home Entertainment is the first season of the new series from Heroes creator Tim Kring, Touch. The mid-season replacement from earlier this year is another high concept production from Kring, this time focusing between the relationship of a father and his son. But of course with Kring things are never quite that easy.

Martin Bohm (Sutherland), a former reporter who now works at the airport, is a widower and single father.  His wife was a victim of the 9/11 attacks and he has been left with his 11 year old son Jake (Mazouz). Jake has never said a word in his entire life and reacts violently if anyone tries to touch him. But when Jake is taken into the custody of the state after an incident, Martin discovers that Jake can communicate and see the future through numbers, complex algorithms that Jake has the inherent ability to decipher. It’s up to Martin, with the help of Jake’s primary caretaker Clea (Mbatha-Raw) and a disgraced doctor (Glover) who specializes in numbers himself, to help Martin decipher the clues and help the people Jake sets him on to.

Touch is the welcome return to weekly television for Kiefer Sutherland that people have been waiting for since Sutherland’s series 24 finished  a couple of years ago. Creator Kring brings his trademark sense of style and flair for intricate and complex storytelling that weaves throughout an entire season. Characters appear in their ‘highlight’ episode, only to re-appear as supporting characters in later episodes as the story twists and turns throughout the season. Kiefer is his typical solid self, his Martin carrying many of the strong willed and intuitive characteristics of his classic Jack Bauer character. The rest of the cast does solid work. Brusso’s very shady care home supervisor whose intentions are very questionable is a highlight, as Kring writes ensemble pieces like this well. The situations and mysteries play out throughout the episodes as seemingly unrelated incidents are shown to be related in different ways, some are more ridiculous and preposterous than others, a ‘Dance Contest’ in one of the episodes really does not work, but the writing is solid enough to keep you engaged throughout the craziness.

The show itself carries tones of Kring’s Heroes, hopefully it can stay relevant for more than the two seasons Heroes was before its massive tailspin though, 24, Numbers and The Missing. It’s well produced and looks great, the setting of New York playing into the storylines on multiple instances, and the directors of the episodes showing a steady hand behind the camera. The ways that are used to describe and physically show Jake’s numbers and equation and how they fit together are scenes that could easily be disastrous but they are expertly handled and played out onscreen.

The disc comes equipped with deleted scenes and an extended pilot episode. The pilot plays out well and the deleted scenes are mainly items cut for pacing that will hardly be missed. There are also two behind the scenes featurettes included about the filming of the series.

In the end, Touch is a well-crafted piece of television melodrama with a seasoned actor in the lead and an accomplished creator behind the camera. Touch Season 1 on DVD is a solid rent and a decent buy option, and in the end Touch is a recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Magic City Season 1 Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Magic City Season 1 Blu-Ray Review

Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Olga Kurylenko, Steven Strait, Jessica Marais, Christian Cooke, Yul Vazquez, Taylor Blackwell, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Elena Satine, Michael Rispoli, Kelly Lynch and Danny Huston.

Series created by Mitch Glazer

New this week from Starz Network and Anchor Bay Entertainment comes the first season of the acclaimed series Magic City. The lavishly conceived and staged production set in 1959 Miami Beach is a crime ridden gangster drama with a gloss and charm set to draw you in and make you stay a while. Producer Mitch Glazer used recollections, both fantasy and fact, to craft this series based on the Miami Beach he knew growing up. But does Magic City hold up with the quality of other contemporary cable shows?

As Ike Evans (Morgan) rings in the New Year, with the Chairman of the board himself Frank Sinatra crooning in the Grand Ballroom at his luxurious Miramar Playa Hotel, Castro’s rebels seize Havana just 200 miles offshore.  Miami is turbulent but the Kennedys, the mob and the CIA all hold court here. Evans must deal with the Mob, his complicated family and a city in the midst of dramatic change. Ike is the King of the beach and the Miramar is his crown jewel, but everything comes at a price. To finance his dream, Ike sold his soul to mob boss Ben “The Butcher” Diamond (Huston). Ike’s wife Vera (Kurylenko) and his three kids, Stevie (Strait), Danny (Cooke) and Lauren (Blackwell), all think he’s an honorable man, but he can’t break his pact with the devil. In fact, nothing at the Miramar Playa is what it seems. The days are sunny but the nights are full of intrigue, excess and bad decisions that come with a price. As Ike’s world threatens to implode, he fights for his family, and the Miramar Playa, in Magic City.

The strength of Magic City is the layered universe it has created. The main plot playing out is the struggle of Ike to stay afloat and ahead of the Mob and a Bulldog District Attorney determined to go through Ike to Ben Diamond. But all around this we get the sub plots of Stevie getting involved with the “most wrong woman possible” played by Marais, The D.A. trying to pit the ambitious Danny against his family with the promise of a prestigious Assistant D.A. position once out of school. Also, a call girl by the name of Judi Silver (Satine) who manages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time many times over, Ike’s General Manager Vic (Vazquez) tries to liberate his wife who is trapped in Castro’s embargoed Cuba and Ike’s new bride Eva tries to prove to everyone that she does have a place in the business and the family. These storylines bleed and thread themselves throughout the fabric of the main story and enrich the final product as a whole.

Morgan is fantastic as Ike, he carries an old school swagger and charm about him that just oozes onscreen, and his charisma is a perfect fit for Ike. I’ve been listening to people tout Strait as a talent to watch ever since 2005’s Undiscovered and Sky High, but this may be the first time I have started to agree with them. His Stevie makes bad decision after bad decision, but you see that even he knows he is making the wrong decisions he is smart enough to realize them for what they are, though his nature prevents him from passing on temptations. Olga Kurylenko is a bit of a revelation here. I’m not sure I have ever seen her so confident and in charge of herself onscreen. She seems to have melted into Eva effortlessly and the show is all together better not because of her sex appeal but her acting ability. You can tell Huston loves being the scenery chewing, cigar chomping mobster for whom violence is reactionary and without remorse.

The other star of the film is the Miramar Playa. Meticulously planned and executed to resemble the posh and opulent hotels of Miami Beach’s yesteryear. You can tell that creator Glazer has spent hours upon hours of research on the setting, making sure everything is just right. From the pool to the Atlantis Bar, complete with windows into the bottom of the pool outside, where naked women often casually swim by, the lobby, and Ike’s suite and office,  no detail is too small to be out of place and the show often takes minute rest stops in plot to emphasize these details. The amount of smoking going on here could give Mad Men a run for its money and ashtrays, as the late 50s would dictate, are everywhere.

Where Magic City loses its luster a bit is in the dialogue, which at times goes too far into Soap Opera territory, and a couple of side stories involving an ex of Eva and a burglar and his clumsy ransom demands. The actor portraying the cat burglar is pretty awful and the role of Cliff, Eva’s ex, forces actor Steven Brand to try and execute the duality of a charmer with impure intentions towards Ike’s wife, something he does not quite pull off.

The Blu-Ray comes equipped with a good handful of special features. Six behind the scenes featurettes that explore the cars, style and music of Magic City as well as other Starz specials about the creation of the series and the history behind it. The Starz Studio feature is a 15 minute behind the scenes piece with plenty of info about the series and its creation. The rest of the features are two to five minute segments about various aspects of the production.

Magic City may not be one the best shows on TV…yet, but it’s addictive as the nicotine, narcotics, booze and women who inhabit it. Magic City is a strong recommend.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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