Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mini-DVD Review: Heroes - Season 2 (Aug. 26)

Our regular weekly ratings report will return next week.

Welcome to a special Sunday edition of mini-DVD reviews! Today we look at Universal Studios Home Entertainment's Heroes - Season 2. Watch the Emmy nominated show and experience all the new and exciting twists of the astonishing series in this 4-disc set that includes every gripping season two episode. Rejoin the epic phenomenon as Heroes - Season 2 arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on August 26, 2008. See my mini-DVD review of Heroes - Season 2:

Heroes - Season 2

Heroes: Season 2 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, $39.98)

This 4-disc set includes all 11 episodes from the second season which ran from September-December 2007. The second season premiered on NBC on September 24, 2007. New characters this season included Dania Ramirez as Maya Herrera, Shalim Ortiz as Alejandro Herrera, David Anders as Adam Monroe/Takezo Kensei, Kristen Bell as Elle Bishop and Dana Davis as Monica Dawson. Joining the main cast this season were Zachary Quinto as Sylar and James Kyson Lee as Ando Masahashi.

The packaging of this set is, once again, very stylish. The outer slip cover has a black background and an embossed Heroes title logo. The holofoil cover art has a photo of 10 cast members (none of the new characters) and the city in the background. On the back of the slip cover, there is a synopsis of the set and a listing of the special features. The main digipak packaging slides out from the left of the outer slip cover. The Heroes logo is on the front of the digipak. Opening the digipak, the episodes and special features for discs one and two are listed. There are two of the comic-style drawings at the bottom. Discs three and four information are listed on the back of the packaging. Inside the digipak, there are blue-tinted photos of the cast members. The discs have a blue background and the Heroes logo on them.

The anamorphic menus are attractive and easy to navigate. They open with a series of video clips in 3 different circles/bubbles. Some instrumental score from the series is played in the background for about a minute before it loops. At the bottom of the screen, there are options for "Play All," "Chapter Index," "Bonus Material" and "Languages." When you select Chapter Index, it takes you to a sub-menu where there is a still image from the episode in a circle. A partial Heroes logo is in the background. Discs 1-3 have 3 episodes, while disc 4 has 2. You can play the episodes by themselves, view the deleted scenes or listen to the commentary from this menu. On the Languages menu, there are different invividual photos of the cast members. You can turn on the English SDH, French or Spanish subitles in this section. More photos of the cast members can be found on the Bonus Material menus. Chapter stops are available within the episodes but no separate scene selection menus are offered. When you first insert disc 1, there are Previews which you can play or skip directly to the main menu.

Moving on to the video and audio quality, the excellence is continued. The set is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are vibrant and clean. The picture is very sharp and detailed. Some of the night time scenes can look a little grainy, but that can be expected. Overall, the lighting is excellent and the outdoor scenes are beautifully shot. These episodes look even better than how they were originally broadcast. All of the episodes appear to be unedited, running around 41-43 minutes in length. They have the "Previously On" Heroes openings as originally broadcast. The first episode of the second season was a bit extended and ran 52 minutes, 33 seconds. There is nothing on the packaging to indicate that any of the original music had to be replaced. The audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. I didn't notice any major problems on the episodes I've watched so far. The dialogue is at a good volume and easy to understand. I love the music score by Wendy Melvoin & Lisa Coleman and other sound effects that are used in the episodes. Subtitles are available in English, French and spanish. The bonus features are not rated and not all are subtitled.

There is a nice mixture of special features spread out over the 4 discs. The best extras are the audio commentaries by the cast and crew on all 11 episodes. I haven't had a chance to listen to all of them yet, but they offer a lot of interesting trivia and behind the scenes details. Other special features include 17deleted scenes, Heroes Season 2 "A New Beginning" featurette, Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint featurette, The Drucker Files featurette, Genetics of a Scene featurette, season 3 sneak peek, Generations alternate ending, Inside the Alternate ending of Generations, Untold Stories that never aired, NBC.com featurettes and a gallery of Tim Sale's screen art.

Here is a breakdown of the special features by disc:

Disc 1
------
1. Four Months Later...
Deleted Scenes - I Too Have a Special Ability (2:20); Petrellis Don't Deserve to be Saved (2:26)
Audio Commentary with Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring, Co-Executive Producer Jeph Loeb and Series Star Coleman

2. Lizards
Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Allan Arkush, Series Star Greg Grunberg and Co-Executive Producer Michael Green

3. Kindred
Audio Commentary with Episode Director Paul Edwards, Co-Executive Producer JJ Phillbin and Series Star Zachary Quinto

Heroes Season 2 "A New Beginning" (14:40) - Tim Kring introduces us to the theme of "extraordinary people trying to live normal lives." Go behind the scenes with the cast and crew to see what it's like coming back to a hit show and also meet new Heroes as they share anecdotes about filming the second season. Interviews include Masi Oka, Hayden Panettiere, Jack Coleman, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Ali Larter, Sendil Ramamurthy, Zacharay Quinto, Milo Ventimiglia, David Anders, Dania Ramirez, Shalim Ortiz, Kristen Bell, Nicholas D'Agosto, Dana Davis, Noah Gray-Cabey and Executive Producer/Director Allan Arkush. This is sort of a preview of the second season and doesn't really detail what happened later in the season. There probably won't be anything new for die-hard fans, but it will provide a good overview for new watchers.

Disc 2
------
4. The Kindness of Strangers
Audio Commentary with Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring and Series Stars Dana Davis & Adrian Pasdar

5. Fight or Flight
Deleted Scenes - Look, Yako - He Had It All Along (1:39); And She Hit Me Hard (1:28); I'm the Only Normal Person in this Family (:38); You Think I Don't Know You Hiro (2:06), Don't Thank Me Yet (:58)
Audio Commentary with Series Star Greg Grunberg and Executive Producer Greg Beeman

6. The Line
Deleted Scenes - So It Does Run in the Family (1:54); To Fight Alongside the Great Takezo Kensei (1:40); No More Tazer Kidnapping (1:33)
Audio Commentary with Co-Executive Producers Adam Armus & Kay Foster and Series Star Jack Coleman

Takezo Kensei: Sword Saint (23:48) - This featurette is divided into 5 chapters: The Battle of 12 Swords, The Trial of the Fire Scroll, The Trial of the Hidden Fortress, Kensei and the Dragon (Parts 1 and 2)) and The Mystery of Kensei. This is a History channel-style documentary on the character. It is pretty elaborate with a narrator, experts being interviewed, background music and a lot of drawings.

The Drucker Files (8:32) - This is a news report by Global News Interactive on Richard Drucker, the Godfather of the internet.

Disc 3
------
7. Out of Time
Deleted Scenes - Get Down From There (1:40); She Can Find Peter (1:03)
Audio Commentary with Episode Director Daniel Attias and Series Star Masi Oka

8. Four Months Ago...
Deleted Scenes - Happy Birthday, Micah (:50); There Is No Need to Cry, Child (1:11); I'm Not O.K. Do I Look O.K.? (1:43)
Audio Commentary with Series Star Milo Ventimiglia and Executive Producer Greg Beeman

9. Cautionary Tales
Deleted Scenes - I Will Bring Him to Justice (:20); I Laughed So Hard Chocolate Milk Came Out of My Nose (1:07)
Audio Commentary with Episdoe Director Greg Yaitanes and Series Stars Kristen Bell & Ashley Crow

Genetics of a Scene (23:14)
2. Lizards - Executive Producer/Director Allan Allan Arkush discusses the shooting of 17th century Japan and how they made it look rural. He talks about the cherry blossoms and the sword fight scenes with Eriko Tamura (Yaeko).
1. Four Months Later... - Executive Producer/Director Greg Beeman talks about how they shot the introduction of Maya and Alejandro. They shot it with a handheld camera and made it documentary style. Dania Ramirez is also interviewed.
8. Four Months Ago... - Executive Producer/Director Greg Beeman talks about the scene of Peter and Nathan flying out of New York and Peter exploding. He talks about the storyboards, how they shot it with green screen and how they did the digital burns.
11. Powerless - Executive Producer/Director Allan Arkush discusses the set of Isaac's loft which was turned into a lab. Zachary Quinto is also interviewed.

Disc 4
------
10. Truth & Consequences
Audio Commentary with Episode Director Adam Kane and Series Star Stephen Tobolowsky

11. Powerless
Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Allan Arkush and Composers Lisa Coleman & Wendy Melvoin

Season 3 Sneak Peek (8:37) - A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the third season premiere episode. Interviews include Dania Ramirez, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Ali Larter, Greg Grunberg and Jack Coleman.

Generations Alternate Ending - (17:59) This is from what turned out to be the final episode of the season. Because of the strike, they had to alter the ending and this shows what happens if Peter didn't catch the virus. This includes some temporary vfx. The alternate ending is called lost footage and they weren't able to repurpose it, as they are going with a different storyline at the start of season 3.

Inside the Alternate Ending of Generations (10:57) - Creator/Executive Producer Tim Kring, Executive Producer Jeph Loeb and Co-Executive Producer/Writer Jesse Alexander discuss the alternate ending and detail episodes 11-13. They talk a little about what they were planning for the next 6-8 episodes. Episodes 11-13 had been shot. They talk about the viral outbreak idea and Maya's ability.

Untold Stories (12:13) - This is some footage of scenes that never aired. Like the alternate ending, there is some temporary sfx and scenes that were not finished. It is divided into 6 sections: Teaser (4:28), Act 1 (1:08), Act 2 (:32), Act 3 (2:08), Act 4 (:218), Act 5 (from episode 213) (1:41)

NBC.com Featurettes
Hotel Gurintihain Explosion (:43)
Maya y Alejandro Viral Video (2:31)
Nathan and Peter Brooklyn Cam (:34)

Tim Sale Gallery of Screen Art (2:02) - Screen art is shown with music being played in the background.

Previews (6:42)
Battle Star Galactica, Coach, Eureka, The Incredible Hulk, Murder She Wrote, Northern Exposure, Quantum Leap, The Rockford Files, The A-Team/Knight Rider/Magnum P.I.

Final Comments: This is a pretty nicely produced set, although it can't match the season 1 release. The highlights of this set are the audio commentaries on every episode by the cast and crew. Even if you've already seen all of the episodes, they will add some new insights into the making of the episodes. I also enjoyed the Genetics of a Scene featurette which went into some detail on how they made scenes from four different episodes.

I was a huge fan of the first season, but the show went into a bit of a sophomore slump in season two. A lot of this was because of the writer's strike. No other show as probably more affected. They were only able to produce 11 episodes. I also think they added a few too many new characters and the pace was too slow at the start of the season. It would have been very interesting to see how the second half of the season would have played out with the viral outbreak idea. We will never know now, since they are going into a different direction at the start of season three. Hopefully they can get some of the magic and excitement back of the first season. If you gave up on season two, maybe you will want to give season three another try. The promos have looked very good. Watch the season three premiere on NBC on September 22, 2008. Chime in!

-- Reviewed by Todd
(4/5 stars)

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A Blu-ray version is also being released on the same day. Purchase it here.

Related links:
SitcomsOnline.com Full DVD Reviews Page
Heroes Official Site
Heroes TV.com Page
Heroes Internet Movie Database Page
Heroes Wikipedia Page


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Wednesday, May 22

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The Conners - "Less Money, More Problems" (ABC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Mark takes on odd jobs, determined to find a way to pay for school. Meanwhile, Darlene grapples with her emotions when she discovers her household is about to change dramatically.

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Wednesday, May 22

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