"THE WALTONS
MOVIE COLLECTION"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    Not Rated
    Available on DVD January 26
     www.Waltons.com
    Studio: Warner Bros.

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
After the squeaky-clean and immensely popular television series “The Waltons” left the air in the 1980s, the story was not over. Walton’s Mountain saw six TV reunion movies come to the homestead through the mid 1990s. “The Waltons Movie Collection” is a three-DVD box set that includes all six films: “A Wedding on Walton’s Mountain,” “Mother’s Day on Walton’s Mountain,” “A Day for Thanks on Walton’s Mountain,” “A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion,” “A Walton Wedding” and “A Walton Easter.”

WHAT I LIKED
I have a confession to make... before popping this DVD collection into my player, I had never watched a frame of “The Waltons.” As a teenager, I was once told I looked like John Boy (something that I would take great offense to now), but that was as close to the iconic television show as I would get during its original run.

However, I do pride myself as a critic to look at something like this slate of reunion movies from a fan’s perspective. And in this sense, these TV movies did give the fans what they were yearning for since the series came to an end. Each movie continued the sanitized soap opera of the mountain family. There are enough members of the family to spread the drama around and not focus on any particular character.

Packaged as a collection, this DVD set allows people to look at the Waltons beyond just the narrow time frame of the series. These movies span a time from post-WWII through the 1960s. This compensates for the aging of the characters as well as allowing for long-term growth and the introduction of new folks into the family.

Like I said, it’s not my thing, but fans will enjoy having all the films packaged together. But hurry out and buy this one, folks, because the fans are getting older and older.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
It’s not that I look for grand conflict, gratuitous violence or general nastiness, but the entire flavor of Walton’s Mountain is just too bland for me. Even when they have hints of infidelity, lying, cheating and stealing, it’s the nicest infidelity, lying, cheating and stealing you’re liable to find anywhere.

A product of its time, this series had trouble defining its era. Sure, these films are supposed to take place in the 40s, 50s and 60s. But the modern hair styles, the 80s cut of the clothes and various other background choices aren’t canceled out by a single rusty 40s-era truck.

Finally, this won’t bother the fans, but a “Waltons” virgin like me will likely get irritated at all of the duplicate storylines. Even the films retread familiar territory. There are two Thanksgiving-themed shows, and two about weddings. By taking out all the potential grim conflict, I guess there’s not much more to write about.

DVD FEATURES
There are no special features available on these discs.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of a sanitized past.



"SOUTHLAND: THE COMPLETE
FIRST SEASON – UNCENSORED"
DVD Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)

    Unrated
    Available on DVD January 26
     www.SouthlandDVD.com
    Studio: Warner Bros.

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Being a cop in Los Angeles has its challenges, and those are all examined in the gritty police drama “Southland.” The first season is compiled in this DVD set, following the lives of a dozen law enforcement officials and their families.

WHAT I LIKED
I’ve never been what you’d call a police drama junkie, but I do like a decent cop show. “Southland” does its best to stand out from the other police procedural shows by giving a gritty, hard-edged look at life on the streets. This season is presented uncensored with a liberal tongue, dropping plenty of f-bombs throughout its run.

The most similar show I can think of is “The Shield,” which was more intimate than what we have in “Southland.” This series jumps right into the middle of things, which might confuse the viewer a little bit, but that seems very deliberate, as if to say that life as an L.A. cop is pretty damn confusing.

It takes a while to get into the characters, and I’ll throw down some respect for “Southland” for taking its time and being a slow burn. There aren’t very many original plot lines to examine with a show like this, but it attempts to attack them at a unique angle.

The season definitely picks up as it goes along, and it leads to a pretty solid season finale that will make you glad you stuck with it. I’m not a huge fan of Regina King, one of the high-level stars of the series, but she rocks the hell out of the last episode. Watch it and find out for yourself.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
In its attempt to show the disjointed, disheveled life of an L.A. police officer, “Southland” can be its own worst enemy. It can be hard to follow, and even if you watch every episode, you might wonder if you missed something along the way. By differentiating itself from classic police shows like “Hill Street Blues” and “The Shield,” it also runs the risk of stranding itself on a style island.

DVD FEATURES
The DVD set comes with uncensored episodes, although the subtitles for some of them happen to be censored. Odd.

There’s a single behind-the-scenes featurette called “Southland: Redefining the Cop Drama,” which tends to be a little self-congratulatory. Let’s face it... “Southland” didn’t pioneer hand-held cameras on police procedural shows, but try telling the series creators that.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who like hard-edged cop shows.

Watch this clip from "Southland: Season 1"



"FAME"
Blu-ray Review
by Kevin Carr


    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Rated R
    Studio: MGM

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT
The original high school musical has been given new life on Blu-ray. Alan Parker’s “Fame” turns thirty this year, but the same issues it exposed back in 1980s are still alive and well. The movie follows a group of students as they move through the New York City School for the Performing Arts. The film is broken up into five segments: Auditions, Freshman Year, Sophomore Year, Junior Year and Senior Year. Rather than telling a single-arc story, “Fame” is an ensemble piece showing various snapshots of different students throughout the high school career.

WHAT I LIKED
I never saw the original 1980 movie “Fame” in its entirety before I watched it on Blu-ray. This was because I was too young to see the R-rated film in theaters, and most of my “Fame” knowledge comes from the ensuing television series.

The film itself is a lot harder than the TV series, full of curse words and not a small amount of drug use and nudity. In this respect, it’s a much more realistic depiction of its era than the television series or the 2009 remake.

As someone who was involved marginally in the performing arts while I was in school, I found a lot to relate to with some of the kids. I wasn’t wild about the film, but were I to have seen it as a high schooler who was actively involved in choir, drama and band, I would have had a greater appreciation for it.

Unlike the 2009 remake, this film showed a darker side of high school life and the performing arts. Some scenes are hard to watch, but that’s because they are so real. “Fame” is a real button-pusher, but it works in that respect, and it’s pretty good if you can let your buttons be pushed.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I’ve never been wild about ensemble pieces, and this is one of the reasons I found myself a little distant to the film. I didn’t relate completely with the characters, though I did relate to certain things they were going through. As a man just south of forty, I have outgrown the empathy with the emotional brittleness of your average high school student, and this explains a certain level of detachment I had with this film.

BLU-RAY FEATURES
The newly released Blu-ray features a reunion commentary with video highlights. Director Alan Parker lends his voice to the commentary, along with actors Lee Curreri, Laura Dean, Gene Anthony Ray and Maureen Teefy.

Additional features include the theatrical trailer, the vintage behind-the-scene featurette “On Location with Fame,” a trip to the school that inspired the film as well as individual interviews with cast members.

The Blu-ray is also packaged with a four-song sample CD.

WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Teenagers in the performing arts... or adults that once were.




    

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