Our fourth edition of the Upcomingdiscs Holiday Gift Guide takes us to Warner Brothers. For this edition I’m going to help you tackle those people on your Christmas list that have Blu-ray players and love genre television shows. Warner has the best selection of Blu-ray supercharged television shows and seasons to pick from. From the small screen to that big screen hanging in that certain someone’s home theater, Warner Brothers is the place to shop. Look at it this way. If you buy them any of these full seasons, that’s longer you get to hang out and enjoy their sweet equipment.
With these high-definition favorites there’s always something good on television, and it’s in high definition.
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]
“Maybe we can have a fright night and rent a whole bunch of vampire movies.”
Now Warner Brothers has entered the scene with yet another vampire series taken from yet another powerful franchise of popular books. Enter The Vampire Diaries. While I’ve avoided the Twilight series so far (I’ve had my fill of teenage angst as a high school teacher), I was looking forward to catching this promising show when it aired for the first time last season. Alas, I was so busy watching stuff for you guys that I never got around to it. Once or twice I tried to catch an episode, but after finally seeing the entire season I’m glad that I never did. That may sound like I was disappointed in the show. Just the opposite. I ended up watching all 22 episodes in about 4 days. If I had tried to catch it from somewhere in the middle, I would have been pretty lost. That would have led to frustration. Finally, I would have given up and missed the best new show on television last season.
The series takes place in the mythical Mystic Falls, Virginia. The town is celebrating its 150th anniversary. It’s one of those towns that never strayed far from its roots. The predominant founding families still live there. They still control the positions of power in the town. While they celebrate their heritage, the founders are still hiding a 150-year-old secret. The town was once full of vampires, and the founders rose up and attempted to kill off the creatures. Since that time they have kept some vigilance, passing down the secret only to those on the council. As our series begins, it just might be time to dust off those stakes, because the boys are back in town.
The “boys” are the Salvatore Brothers. We first meet Stefan (Wesley). He has returned to Mystic Falls because of an 18-year-old girl who lives there. She is Elena Gilbert (Dobrev). She has recently lost her parents in a car accident, and she and her brother Jeremy (McQueen) are trying to get by living with their young Aunt Jenna (Canning). But Stefan’s interest goes back quite a few decades. Elena is the splitting image of Catherine, the vampire who turned him, and with whom he was deeply in love. But Stefan wasn’t the only man in love with Catherine. Enter Brother Damon (Somerhalder). The two brothers have been enemies from the time Catherine left their lives. Stefan drinks only animal blood. It sustains him, but makes him weaker than the average vamp. Damon feeds on humans, killing without remorse or hesitation. He’s here to make Stefan’s life miserable … and, of course there’s Elena/Catherine.
The cast here is exceptional from top to bottom, but I really have to talk about Ian Somerhalder. We last saw him as Boone on Lost, and he was pretty good on that show. He wasn’t near the best, however. Here he absolutely is. One of the skills that Somerhalder has learned well is his ability to act with his eyes. There are very few actors who ever master that to this level. Carroll O’Connor was one of the best in that regard. He’s the bad guy at times, the good guy at others, and it’s a very complicated role. So, why does it look so easy? There’s not a weak link in the lot, but he shines far and above the already excellent work on display by this cast. There is great chemistry here. This looks like the kind of cast that are into their third or fourth season. They click on all cylinders. It’s amazing how quickly they became this well-oiled machine.
Smallville: The Complete 7th, 8th & 9th Seasons [Blu-ray]
Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s…. well, Clark Kent.
When Smallville was first developed for television, the show runners made a few conscious decisions that have, for the most part, been kept for the show’s first eight seasons. There was a strict “no flights, no tights” rule that was in effect for anyone hoping to pen an adventure for the show. Everyone knows we’re talking about Superman here, but the term is avoided like a deadly disease. All of the familiar places and names are firmly in place, but make no mistake. This is the world before Superman began to make his presence known to the world.
Tom Welling plays Clark, and he does an outstanding job. He has one of the best ranges of emotions without having to truly emote all that much. He’s a gifted subtle actor. Just the kind of person needed to play the duality of Clark Kent. It’s obvious that the Christopher Reeve films had a huge influence on the series. Welling looks more than a little bit like Reeve and could easily pass as a younger version of the same persona. There are other nods. The voice of Superman’s father Jor-El is played by Terrance Stamp, who was the powerful Kryptonian Zod in the first two films. The structure of the Fortress of Solitude is also nearly identical to the film version of the Superman hideaway.
Everyone knows Superman. He is a part of our modern mythology much as the residents of Mt. Olympus were for the Greeks. Like those tragic characters, there is a wonderful mythology that’s been built up from 80 years in the comics, movies, serials, television shows, and cartoons. Smallville does not always do a great job of keeping to that mythology. There are certainly a lot of elements that just don’t fit. You know what? It doesn’t seem to matter. We all know the story in one form or another, and it’s changed somewhat even in the comics over the years. In fact, even our Greek gods of history were not told with consistent stories over their reign in literature. This is solid entertainment with just enough familiarity to make us feel comfortable from the start. If you haven’t checked this show out, you need to end your holdout and join the rest of us on a true hero’s quest. “Because everybody needs a hero now and again.”
Chuck: The Complete First to Third Seasons [Blu-ray]
“Sounds more like Chuck Norris.”
I’ll be honest, at first Chuck sounded like a pretty bad idea to me. I expected it to be a kind of modern Get Smart with a reluctant geek hero. And that’s pretty much what it turned out to be. Except it turned out to also be pretty darn entertaining as well. It all really starts with a solid cast and tightly written stories. Each episode manages to capture just the right blend of drama and comedy. I resist the trendy word dramedy, but if any series fits the mold, it would have to be Chuck.
In the first season we met Chuck Bartowski (Levi). He was a super-smart student at Stanford when his best friend Bryce Larkin (Bomer) set him up to take the fall as a cheater and be kicked out of school in disgrace. The only job he can get now is working at the Buy More (Best Buy) on the Nerd Herd (Geek Squad). But Bryce wasn’t done with Chuck yet. Turns out that Bryce is a CIA agent who has been working on the top secret project called Intersect. The Intersect is a computer program that can download the entire government’s database into a person’s brain through a series of coded flash images. Not content with getting him kicked out of school, Bryce tricks Chuck into getting the Intersect inside his brain. Now Chuck is an important government asset and in need of protecting. Enter CIA agent Sarah Walker (Strahovski) who is Chuck’s CIA handler. Their cover is boyfriend and girlfriend, which confuses Chuck’s family and friends, who never thought he could get such a hot girlfriend. The muscle for the team is Agent John Casey (Baldwin), who resents being assigned to such a lame mission. Not only do they have to keep Chuck and the Intersect safe, but they must take untrained Chuck on their missions because of the intel stashed in his brain. While Chuck is not consciously aware of the information he carries, when he sees something that triggers a piece of the data, something they call flashing, he is able to access the relevant data. The bad guys are part of an organization called Fulcrum, which is this show’s Kaos or Spectre.
I only have the third season on Blu-ray, but here’s your chance to perform a hat trick for that someone on your holiday list. . Now I just have to talk Warner into getting me the previous season on Blu-ray. “I can be very persuasive.”
Peanuts Holiday Collection (A Charlie Brown Christmas / It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown / A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving) [Blu-ray]
“Behold, for I bring you tidings of great joy”.
I grew up on the Peanuts creations of Charles M. Schulz. Most of us have, in some way or another. His newspaper comic strip is one of the longest-running and most successful strips of all time. The work has been translated into every language currently spoken on the planet. The images of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and the rest of the Peanuts gang have appeared on just about any kind of product imaginable. Our pop culture contains too many references to the strip to mention briefly. For me, it was the television specials starting in the mid 1960’s that brought the gang into my life. The classics are running annually, still after nearly 50 years. A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown are the most mentioned and certainly beloved by generations of children and adults. I thought I never missed an airing.
They say you can’t go home again, and more times than not, I’ve found that to be quite true. There are some notable exceptions, however. The Peanuts specials are certainly that. It seems that no matter how old I am, these features make me feel like a kid again. It’s one of those rare moments when you really can capture the spirit of the moment, even if that moment was originally felt in an 8-year-old kid, 40 years ago. If you have been known to experience the same thing when you encounter one of these classics, join the club.
Warner is also running a great program where you can trade in some of your DVD’s and get a Blu-ray replacement for just a few bucks. It’s all part of their DVD2Blu promotion. Bang it here to get more information: DVD2Blu