"SHARK: SEASON ONE"
“Shark” tells the story of a high-powered defense lawyer named Sebastian Stark (James Woods) who is lured into the L.A. prosecutor’s office. And suddenly, we have one of the sharks working on the side of justice. Of course, Stark isn’t the nicest guy around, and he has to deal with tension in the office as well as tension at home when his teenage daughter (Danielle Panabaker) decides to live with him and not her mother.
When “Shark” is boiled down to its basic parts, it’s just another courtroom drama. However, it rises out of obscurity with a strong cast, led by veteran actor James Woods. In fact, it’s Woods’ passion in the project that carries the show.
Like any Hollywood courtroom drama, the legal world is twisted for dramatic effect, and things run a lot faster than in the real world. However, using the premise of a cutthroat corporate attorney doing some good for a change lends to its freshness. The only thing left to see is whether the Shark keeps his teeth in the coming seasons.
The DVD comes with a few special features on the sixth disc, including a gag reel, oodles of deleted scenes and a featurette explaining the creation of the series.
"THE UNIT: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON"
For die-hard military fans, “The Unit” is a must have. Based on Earl L. Haney’s autobiographical book “Inside Delta Force,” this show makes a habit out of looking and feeling authentic. In some ways, it might be too authentic for some, showing the less-than-glamorous lives and problems of the American soldier. However, as military procedure goes (coming from a non-military guy, that is), you can’t get better.
In this season, the Unit is faced with several challenges. One soldier has a wife with a wandering eye. Another soldier – the newest to the group – is being wooed by the CIA. And the leader of the pack is being scrutinized for legal issues and his age.
I will admit (and you can call me sexist if you like) that I find the military stories far more compelling than the stories at home. Again, they seem to be too realistic, showing the domestic struggles that seem a little boring or whiney to me. I know that the show’s producers tell both sides of the story to maximize the audience, but in my humble opinion, it’s these at-home dilemmas that keep “The Unit” from being a spectacular show.
The six-disc set for Season Two includes behind the scenes documentaries on a couple episodes, as well as a look at the use of weapons on the series.
"WHAT ABOUT BRIAN: THE COMPLETE SERIES"
“What About Brian” follows a group of friends who are all married... except for Brian. It’s an attempt to analyze the modern structure of marriage from the outside looking in. Produced by J.J. Abrams, this show employs a lot of the techniques (e.g., taboo sex, musical montages and whiney interpersonal relationships) we’ve seen in his other shows. Unfortunately, there’s no CIA agents kicking ass or crashed planes on desert islands to make things interesting.
At first, I found myself sympathizing with Brian, who could never commit yet falls in love with impossible women, but I soon lost it. Like Ross on “Friends,” Brian ended scoring with so many gorgeous women that my fraternity sympathy bled away. I just couldn’t feel sorry for a guy who’s nailing women like Amy Jo Johnson, Stacey Kiebler and Bre Blair. Wah boo hoo. If only we all had such problems.
With a short five-episode first season, “What About Brian” is presented on DVD with the complete two-season series. For the “Felicity” crowd that grew out of the college scene, it’ll be a hit. For everyone else, you might want to pass.
The DVD comes with commentary on selected episodes, a lost episode from the end of season one, a behind-the-scenes featurette and some cast and crew suggestions on what might have happened if the series lived to see a season three.
"WALL STREET: 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION"
The film tells the story of a young stock broker named Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) who bursts out of cold-calling hell to become the protege of the venomous Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). Gekko represents every evil money-grubbing cliche. He’s a man with no conscious who loves money more than life itself. In the constant pursuit of profit, Gekko shows Fox the underhanded (and often illegal) ways of his business.
While Gekko is presented as a villain, he has become a hero to many in today’s world, and this is the irony of the film. “Wall Street” is beloved by many in the financial world for the first 100 minutes or so. They often turn a blind eye to the downfall of these smarmy business practices shown near the end of the picture.
Still, “Wall Street” is a compelling drama that is exceedingly well acted (with the obvious exception of the wretched Daryl Hannah), and it’s probably one of the best written pieces the Oliver Stone has ever produced. However, I can’t help but think his message gets mixed with some of his film. If he were really getting his point across to people, would money-hungry daytraders be enamored with Gekko as much as wannabe gangstas are with Tony Montana from “Scarface” (another Oliver Stone creation).
The 20th anniversary DVD comes with an audio commentary by Oliver Stone and a second disc with extensive special features. Some additional material includes an introduction by Stone, several deleted scenes with commentary by Stone and two in-depth behind-the-scenes documentaries about the making of – and the legacy of – “Wall Street.”
"FAMILY GUY: VOLUME 5"
As best as I can tell from the scattered special features on the final disc in “Family Guy: Volume 5,” the Griffin traditions of not being afraid to offend are held true. Touching on such topics as doctor molestation and prostate cancer, “Family Guy” still seems to have it. And the geek in me also appreciates the pop culture references that go beyond “Star Wars” to more obscure films like “Time Bandits.”
If only I could have seen all the episodes and not just the animatics of three of them, as presented in the special features.
Other special features on this volume include deleted scenes, a promo about the Family Guy line of toys and detailed instructions on how to draw Peter.