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Blu Tuesday: Watchmen, Coraline and 300

Due to the lack of options that Blu-ray enthusiasts were presented with over the last few weeks, it’s been a while since I’ve written a proper column. Though I had originally planned to combine two weeks’ worth of HD titles into one write-up, I ultimately decided against it because, well, even that selection wasn’t very inspiring. It’s a different story today, however, with three must-buy titles and several more worth checking out.

“Watchmen” (Warner Bros.)

The Blu-ray release of “Watchmen” has been the subject of attention since before the movie even arrived in theaters, but that’s what happens when you adapt something as popular as Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ groundbreaking graphic novel. The good news is that after all the legal issues with 20th Century Fox and the film’s less-than-stellar box office performance, Warner Bros. has still come through with one of the coolest Blu-rays of the year. Not only does it feature a director’s cut with over 20 minutes of additional footage, but the three-disc set also introduces the much-publicized Maximum Movie Mode, which is kind of like Universal’s U-Control feature on steroids. Quite simply, this is the future of Blu-ray, with Zack Snyder hosting an in-depth look at key sequences (often pausing the movie to discuss certain details), while other extras — like a timeline comparing historical events from Our World to Their World, picture-in-picture interviews with the cast and crew, and storyboards and comic book comparisons — supplement the experience. Also included are a series of video diaries that you can hop over to while watching the film, as well as a second disc packed with featurettes on the graphic novel, the psychology of vigilantes, and the science of “Watchmen.” If there’s one release that should help convince consumers why Blu-ray is better than DVD, this is it.

“Coraline” (Universal)

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” might have the bigger fanbase, but Henry Selick’s latest stop-motion adventure, “Coraline,” is by far the better of the two films. Then again, when you consider that the source material was written by Neil Gaiman, it isn’t at all surprising that the movie would turn out as good as it did. Though it’s debatable whether or not “Coraline” will scare the younger crowds, the film is unequivocally a must-see for any fan of Selick’s past work. The Blu-ray release makes the experience even better, too, with the option to watch the film in 2-D or 3-D (glasses included), as well as a host of awesome extras ranging from a director commentary to an in-depth making-of featurette that might as well have been called Stop-Motion 101. The two-disc set also includes Universal’s standard U-Control feature with a picture-in-picture video track filled with behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and the ability to watch the full-length animatic alongside the movie. Were it not for the fact that Warner Bros. was releasing “Watchmen” on the same day, this easily would have been the best release of the week, and possibly the month.

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A Chat with “Harper’s Island” Victim #7

Yes, this week’s interview with the “Harper’s Island” Victim of the Week is late, and I apologize wholeheartedly for that. I’d had the best of intentions to do the interview on Tuesday while in Columbus for a Bullz-Eye editorial meeting, but due to a combination of equipment malfunction, poor reception, and general bad timing, it was pushed back to Thursday, so I could be in the comfort of my own office to hold the conversation. Fear not, however: I’ll be talking to Victim #8 bright and early on Monday, so expect to see that conversation in a timely fashion.

For now, however, you’ve clearly waited long enough to read this week’s chat, so let’s dive right in, shall we?

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Prison Break 4.21 & 4.22: “Rate of Exchange” & “Killing Your Number”

I’m not sure that there is anyone out there clamoring for a big, detailed recap of the two-hour “Prison Break” finale, so I’m just going to go character-by-character and mention something I liked (and something I didn’t like) about their role in the finale.

DON SELF

I didn’t like…

…seeing him get the drool wiped from his chin. He was a sneaky son of a bitch, but he didn’t deserve to be a vegetable. I couldn’t believe that the FBI agents fell for the “I’m-going-to-need-a-few-minutes-with-my-patient” bit.

I did like…

…his note to the agents — “KISS MY ASS” — and how the one agent had to hold the other agent back. What’s he going to do — beat him up?

CHRISTINA

I didn’t like…

…how she and her sidekick cheated death multiple times. And whatever happened to that guy when he busted into the warehouse at the end?

I did like…

…how evil they made her so that no one would mind that Sara shot her. But what was the point of having Michael get shot?

“Does anyone know why I’m shot? Anyone? Anyone?”

KELLERMAN

I didn’t like…

…that he returned. Wasn’t it a little convenient that he had “connections with the U.N.” and could give everyone a free pass? And how does this former psycho end up as a congressman. Wait, I take that back.

I did like…

…that he returned. He was always one of the most interesting characters on the show.

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Prison Break 4.20: “Cowboys and Indians”

For the first time in weeks, I am impressed by an episode of “Prison Break.” I recently realized that the main reason the quality of the series has declined over the season is the lack of MacGyver-esque challenges for Michael to overcome. The last time he really did anything impressive with his engineering know-how was when he broke into the Scylla vault earlier in the season. The charm of the first season is long gone, and the show has devolved into a run-of-the-mill action-drama, which is why the series is on its last legs.

But this episode was good. Michael and Lincoln were trapped in the hotel and the younger brother had to use his chemistry knowledge to avoid capture. Only the steal-the-uniforms-and-escape ploy (which we’ve seen a million times before) doesn’t work when you don’t take the soldiers’ shoes. I’m not sure why the police captain didn’t grab a couple of his cop buddies for backup, but hey, whatever.

“I wish we were back in prison.”

Also, why does the prime minister of India think that China is behind his son’s assassination? I must have missed the news report that connected Lincoln to the Chinese, because Mama Scofield said that she also heard that the Chinese were behind the hit. Weird.

I liked the ploy of going into the bank as bank robbers, but I have no Earthly idea how the trio located ski masks in downtown Miami on a moment’s notice. Now Michael finds himself in the unenviable position of having to choose between his brother and the love of his life. These are the kinds of situations that bring out the best in Micheal, and as a result, they bring out the best in the show. There are only four episodes left, and things are as up in the air as they’ve ever been.

And what about the bag of money that’s sitting at the bottom of the cove in Panama? Is that ever going to come back into play? Why hasn’t Lincoln told LJ and Sofia to go retrieve it?

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Prison Break 4.19: “S.O.B.”

I’ve been starting the last few blog entries by examining the name of the episode and how it relates to what went on. This week we have “S.O.B.,” which I believe is aimed at the fact that Mama Scofield is a stone cold bitch.

She was pretty evil this episode, setting up her (adopted?) son Lincoln for the assassination of what’s-his-name. It seems like an awfully elaborate and risky plan when it appears that her goal was to simply get out of the city with Scylla. Why go to all this trouble to frame Lincoln and his cohorts for what’s-his-name’s assassination? She has the secret to unlimited, renewable energy in her pocket and she’s worried about these schmucks?

Midway through Mama’s conversation with Michael, after she dropped the adoption bomb, his focus went from finding Scylla to finding Linc, and I have no Earthly idea why. What’s he going to do, give him one of those Robin Williams/Will Hunting hugs and tell him — “it’s not your fault” — over and over?

“Please, just scratch out my eyes so I don’t have to watch this show anymore.”

It’s nice to have T-Bag back on the opposing team again. He’s just too dastardly to ever be a “good guy,” so this whole audition-to-be-a-Company-liason bit should keep him busy for the rest of the series run. I’m guessing that, at some point, he’ll have an opportunity to redeem himself and will have to make a choice — help himself, or do something positive in this world.

Sara needs to go ahead and tell Michael she’s pregnant. I doubt anyone really thought that Mama was going to shoot her in the back of the head after she went to the trouble of duct taping her hands together. I mean, if you’re going to execute someone, does it really matter if their hands are free?

Anyway, I almost fell asleep during the 15-minute chase scene where Lincoln, Mahone and Don were driving (then jogging) after Mama’s right hand man. It’s amazing that they weren’t able to catch up to him that entire time. After all, the guy was carrying a giant metal briefcase. I stayed awake long enough to see that Mahone called it as a setup, so I’m guessing the next episode or two will be about getting Lincoln out of this jam. We were treated to a few long shots of the bullet casing, so I’m sure that will be the key. (By the way, Linc was right there when the guy placed the casing next to the gun, wouldn’t it occur to him that maybe the sniper was setting him up? Forget about the fact that neither Don nor Mahone elected to call Linc after they figured out the whole thing was a set up. That would be too simple.)

Anything else to cover? I don’t think so. See you next week.

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Prison Break 4.18: “Vs.”

The “Prison Break” writers are blowing my mind with these episode titles. Last week, the episode was called “The Mother Lode” and focused on Mama Scofield, and this week “Vs.” implies how Lincoln and Michael are pitted against each other with regard to Scylla and taking down the Company. However, the episode title has a double meaning, since the last fifteen minutes were about heading off Victor Sandusky (V.S., get it?) at the airport. Consider your mind blown.

The “B” story this week revolved around Dr. Sara Tancredi’s reaction when she discovers that she’s pregnant. Seriously, this woman is a doctor and she’s surprised that she’s preggers after knocking boots with Michael? The only way that I’d buy her shock would be if we somehow knew that the couple was using birth control, but how do you shoehorn that into an episode of “Prison Break”?

“You’re still on the pill, right?”

Obviously, Sara is going to be reluctant to tell Michael about the pregnancy because he might snap into father mode and try to protect her from everything (and not let her help him). But the truth is that she has someone else to think about now, so she should really be avoiding any situations where a gun is pointed at her or bullets are whizzing around her head. And that means she should abandon her quest to take down the Company.

But back to the Brothers. I find this whole rivalry pretty silly. Lincoln claims that he “just wants his life back,” so he’s willing to turn over Scylla (and all of the incredible world-changing information it contains) over to the General. In effect, he’s throwing away the solution to unlimited, renewable energy (and the climate crisis) so that he, Sofia and LJ can go bowling in peace. (And this assumes that the General would even let Linc go once he has Scylla.) He’s literally putting his own needs ahead of those of the 6.7 billion people that inhabit the planet. That, my friends, is some seriously manufactured conflict.

The writers needed some hook for the last few episodes, and that’s what they decided to go with. No wonder the show’s ratings have fallen off a cliff this season. (Hey, it’s the third most pirated show, so there’s that.)

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TV Roundup: Poor ratings for Prison Break, TiVo’s ratings plans and more

- The ratings for the return of “Prison Break” were poor, and TV By The Numbers says that it’s bad news for “Dollhouse.”

- One of my favorite shows, “The Unit,” is on the bubble, but the good news is that producer Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) has been invited by CBS to present ideas for a fifth season.

- The NY Post says that Mary Louise Parker is thinking about leaving “Weeds” after next season.

- FOX’s “Sit Down, Shut Up” didn’t do all that well (ratings-wise) in its debut on Sunday, considering it was sandwich between stalwarts “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” I’m a fan of both of those shows, but I couldn’t make it through a full episode of “Sit Down, Shut Up.”

- TiVo is continuing to move into Nielsen’s territory. They’ve been offering national ratings since 2007, but now plan to provide market-by-market ratings as well. It makes sense — the TiVo is essentially a computer that can track what a household watches (if they choose to opt-in).

- Variety compares “Heroes” to “Lost” in that both programs started off really strong before faltering a bit. The question is — will “Heroes” find its way like “Lost” did? (Methinks maybe an end date two or three seasons down the line would do the trick.)

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Prison Break 4.17: “The Mother Lode”

Get it? “The Mother Lode”? Because Michael and Lincoln’s mother is trying to take over the Company.

Clever.

Anyhoo, “Prison Break” is back and I truly wonder if anyone cares. As I was watching this episode, my mind wandered a few times. I wasn’t thinking about anything important, mind you, just a few chores that I have to do around the house. Wash the dishes, take out the garbage, find Scylla…oh wait, I’m supposed to be paying attention to “Prison Break.”

From TV.com’s episode list, it appears that we now have seven hours left, and at this point that seems like a lot of time to fill. But let’s recap (and correct me if I’m wrong):

1. Lincoln, Don, T-Bag and Mahone are in Miami trying to track down Scylla. (Full disclosure: I actually forgot Mahone’s name and had to go to IMDB.com to look it up. How long has it been since the show has been on the air?) They are motivated by the Company’s threats on their loved ones.

2. Christina — Lincoln and Michale’s mom — has Scylla hidden somewhere in greater Miami. She’s trying to take over the Company and claims to have altruistic goals. In short, she claims to be a “good guy,” but when she gives the go-ahead for her sniper to take a shot at Linc, it seems that she’s not so good.

3. Michael and Sara are running around the Arizona/New Mexico/Texas desert. I’m not sure how much treatment Michael received or if his health is still an issue, but there weren’t any nosebleeds in this episode. The truck they were riding in was hijacked by a guy who died just after telling them that he didn’t work for the Company (but didn’t tell them who he does work for, though I’m sure we’re supposed to assume that he works for Christina). How convenient that he would die just before revealing this information…

4. Scylla isn’t a weapon, it’s the secret to unlimited renewable energy.

5. Sucre is off doing God knows what. Gretchen is (supposedly) on her way to jail.

Are we caught up? I hope so.

Christina wants Lincoln to back off for two days so that she has time to remove the General and take over the Company, but based on what Don, Mahone and T-Bag found at the church (guns and access cards), they don’t trust her and that’s why Lincoln returned to the plaza. Understandably, they’re worried about what the Company might do to their loved ones if they don’t retrieve Scylla.

I’m not sure where this is all headed, and I guess that’s a good thing.

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TV Roundup: “Terminator: TSCC” ratings, “Dollhouse” news and more

- Quality-wise, “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” finished really strong, but the ratings stayed even over the course of the season, so the future of the show is definitely in question. The show finished with a nail-biting four- or five-episode run, but the series’ overall slow pace drove away all but the most faithful of viewers. This should have been a 13-episode-per-season series from the start.

- “Dollhouse” ratings from last Friday matched a season low. Not good. More bad news: Fox isn’t going to air the 13th (already shot) episode, though some in Joss Whedon’s camp suggest that the 12th episode (“Omega”) is his original vision for the season finale. (I’m as confused as you are.)

- TNT broke a streak of “successful” shows by canceling “Trust Me.” TNT head of programming Michael Wright said that “it just didn’t find an audience.”

- “Prison Break” returns this Friday with the first of the final eight (?) hours of the series.

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Variety ponders the fate of several “bubble shows”

In the world of sports, if a team is on the bubble, it usually means that there is no guarantee that the team will get a postseason berth. The term can be applied to television as well, as networks decide which shows will be returning in the fall (and which ones won’t).

Variety tackled this subject…

Most of broadcast’s comedies and dramas are in the midst of plotting their year-end finales. But for producers who still don’t have a clue about the fate of their shows, that creates a conundrum.

Do you tie up loose ends, and shoot a de facto series finale, just in case it’s all over? Or do you leave the viewers wanting more via a big, messy cliffhanger in hopes that execs will find it more difficult to cut things off midstream?

This year, the producers behind ABC’s “Life on Mars” came up with a third option: Persuade the network to announce the show’s fate right now in order to at least go out with a bang.

“The producers were really pushing for it,” said ABC Entertainment exec VP Jeff Bader. “Based on the ratings the way they are now, it didn’t look like it would be back.

So the producers of “Life on Mars” saw the writing on the wall and pushed for a quick decision. Now they can wrap up the show appropriately.

The whole article is worth a read. It discusses how each network is handling certain shows and how some networks are splitting up shows to air in into either the fall or the spring, but not both. The article mentions “Heroes,” which may only get picked up for 18 to 20 episodes. Few shows can truly stay fresh and entertaining for a traditional, 26-episode season. The shorter the season, the less fat/filler there can be. (Usually.)

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