“Returning for its fifth season, “True Blood” is HBO‘s sexy, scary, wildly entertaining drama series from Oscar(R)- and Emmy(R)-winner Alan Ball (“Six Feet Under”) and based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. In addition to returning cast favorites – human/faerie waitress Sookie Stackhouse, her vampire suitors Bill Compton and Eric Northman, soul-searching pal Tara, shape-shifting boss Sam, rakish brother Jason, clairvoyant Lafayette and teen-vamp Jessica – Season 5 introduces a whole new wave of otherworldly characters. There’s Vampire Guardian Roman, president of the Vampire Authority, who wants co-existence between humans and vampires; vampire zealot Salome (yes, the Salome), intent on recreating the world in God’s vampyric image; Authority Chancellor Nora, who shares the same maker as Eric; werewolves J.D. and Martha, who want a reluctant Alcide to take his rightful place as packmaster; and many more. Mixing romance, suspense, mystery and humor, True Blood Season 5 goes deep into the battle between the Vampire Authority and “vampire fundamentalists” – a political power play whose outcome could decide not only the fate of Sookie and her Bon Temps friends, but of all human existence.“
“True Blood is the sexy, scary, wildly entertaining drama series from Oscar®- and Emmy®-winning Alan Ball (HBO’s Six Feet Under), and based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. Mixing romance, suspense, mystery and humor, True Blood tells the continuing tale of Sookie (Anna Paquin, Golden Globe-winner for this role), a human waitress with telepathic gifts – and a so-far irresistible attraction to 174-year-old vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer). Surrounded by familiar faces – including her brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten), shape-shifting boss Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), soul-searching pal Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley), Tara’s cousin Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis); police chief Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer), vampire suitor Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) and teen vamp Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) – Sookie faces some new otherworldly threats in this season – as if vampires, werewolves, werepanthers and shapeshifters weren’t enough!“
This is Kubrick day. There’s no doubt about it. As much as I love a lot of these other releases hitting shops today, it’s all about the Kubrick. Check out the unboxing video above, made by the fine folks over at DVDTown to see for yourself what all the fuss is about. That’s a damn beautiful set!
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“9 Groundbreaking Movies. 10 Discs. One Visionary Moviemaker. SPARTACUS (1960) The genre-defining epic tale of a bold gladiator (Kirk Douglas) who leads a triumphant Roman slave revolt. LOLITA (1962) Academic Humbert Humbert (James Mason) is obsessed with a blithe teen (Sue Lyon) in a dark comedy from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) “Accidental” nuclear apocalypse, anyone? Peter Sellers heads the cast of one of the most blazingly hilarious movies of all time. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) “The most awesome, beautiful and mentally stimulating science-fiction film of all time” (Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic). A CLOCKWORK ORANGE: 40th Anniversary Edition (2-Discs) (1971) Future world neo-punk Malcolm McDowell becomes the guinea pig for a government cure of his tendency toward “the old ultraviolence.” BARRY LYNDON (1975) The visually spellbinding tale of an 18th-century Irish rogue’s (Ryan O’Neal) climb to wealth and privilege. THE SHINING (1980) In a macabre masterpiece adapted from Stephen King’s novel, Jack Nicholson falls prey to forces haunting a snowbound mountain resort. FULL METAL JACKET (1987) Marine recruits endure basic training under a leather-lunged D.I., then plunge into the hell of Vietnam. EYES WIDE SHUT (1999) A wife’s admission of unfulfilled longing plunges a Manhattan doctor into a bizarre erotic odyssey. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star. “
Oy. Where do I start? This is one monster boxed set. One of the most significant Blu-ray collections that will be released all year. And for the most part, it’s a killer. A must-own. If you don’t have a bunch of the included discs in your collection already.
This 9-film, 10-disc collection of the works of director Stanley Kubrick includes his entire oeuvre, short of the pre-1960 works (Fear and Desire, still unavailable on home video, Killer’s Kiss and The Killing coming to Criterion Blu-ray on August and Paths of Glory which you can grab on an awesome Criterion Blu right now.) The films themselves are beyond reproach, say what you will about Eyes Wide Shut. Every title in the collection is a classic. Sadly, not every classic is treated equally in the boxed set.
As you’re no doubt aware by this point, most of the discs in the set have been appropriated from previously released editions, with Spartacus and Dr. Strangelove making appearances here in this Warner Home Video set thanks to their home studios, Universal and Sony, respectively. Sony’s disc is balls-out awesome, with a great transfer and tons of extras. Universal’s disc sucks, with a crappy looking picture and an anemic selection of bonus stuff (I’m still crossing my fingers that Criterion will win back the license to release the definitive Blu-ray edition of Spartacus, a high-def upgrade of their amazing DVD from 2001.) The rest of the films, the 7 titles under Warner’s control, never suffer as much on Blu as the waxy-looking Spartacus does, with most transfers appearing quite spectacular (I’m looking at you, you handsome, reference-quality 2001: A Space Odyssey Blu-ray!) Eyes Wide Shut is afflicted with a relatively noisy, inconsistent presentation and A Clockwork Orange, despite being available in a new 40th Anniversary Edition is still far from perfect (it’s the same VC-1 transfer from the previously available 2007 Blu-ray) but most everything here is roses. The old transfers for The Shining and Full Metal Jacket are all-around quite nice and the brand spanking new editions of Barry Lyndon and Lolita are gorgeous. Actually, I’d go so far as to say that they’re nearly perfect. While devoid of bonus features, these are the Blu-ray editions of the films that you’ve been hoping for.
If you already own a bunch of these discs separately, you’ll probably want to avoid picking up the Collection set, as it only offers you a couple of films new to Blu that you can now purchase in individual releases (Amazon exclusives, at the moment.) The tenth disc in the set features the docs Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (142 minutes but still in SD) and O Lucky Malcolm! (an 86 minute, HD feature about Malcolm McDowell) and is also available in the new A Clockwork Orange: 40th Anniversary set.
The book-like packaging of the entire Collection is handsome, however, and much nicer to have on your shelf than separately packaged discs. Have I mentioned how much I love this type of packaging? It’s the same sort of gorgeous hardcover, thick digi-book that Warner used for their fantastic Deadwood Blu-ray set. It’s so nice, it’s almost worth ditching your old discs for the upgrade.
Either way, if you’re a Kubrick fan or a film fan in general, you’ll want to pick up these films on Blu, whether all together in the set, or simply the stunning new editions of Lolita and Barry Lyndon on their own. You can’t go wrong.
“How does an Irish lad without prospects become part of 18th-century English nobility? For Barry Lyndon (Ryan O’Neal) the answer is: any way he can! His climb to wealth and privilege is the enthralling focus of this sumptuous Stanley Kubrick version of William Makepeace Thackeray’s novel. For this ravishing, slyly satiric winner of 4 Academy Awards, Kubrick found inspiration in the works of the era’s painters. Costumes and sets were crafted in the era’s designs and pioneering lenses were developed to shoot interiors and exteriors in natural light. The result is a cutting-edge movie bringing a historical period to vivid screen life like no other film before or since. “
Like I said above, this is the Blu-ray edition of Barry Lyndon you’ve been waiting for. It’s stellar all around. The transfer is soft, as you’d expect from this candle-lit picture, but all-around stunning and accurate to the source. The mono audio source has been expanded to an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, though remains quite front-heavy in execution. Sadly, the only special feature is the theatrical trailer.
“Newly arrived in Ramsdale, New Hampshire, European émigré Humbert Humbert is smitten. He plans to marry Charlotte Haze. That way he’ll always be close to his dear one – Charlotte’s precocious daughter! Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick explores the theme of sexual obsession (a subject he would revisit 37 years later in Eyes Wide Shut) with this darkly comic and deeply moving version of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. James Mason plays devious, deluded Humbert: wedded to needy Charlotte (Shelley Winters); rivaled by the ubiquitous Clare Quilty (chameleonlike Peter Sellers); and enraptured to his gelatinous core by the blithe teen (Sue Lyon) with that “lovely, lyrical, lilting name” – Lolita. “
Again, if you’ve been praying to the home-video Gods for a faithful, impressive release of Lolita on Blu, your wish has been granted. The image is everything you’ve been hoping for – a film-like presentation completely accurate to the source material. The DTS-HD Master Audio track doesn’t expand beyond the original audio this time and sounds great, for what it is. There are no extras of which to speak on this disc, beyond the standard-def trailer.
“Stomping, whomping, stealing, singing, tap-dancing, violating. Hooligan Alex (Malcolm McDowell) has a good time – at the tragic expense of others. His journey from amoral punk to brainwashed proper citizen and back again forms the dynamic arc of Stanley Kubrick’s future-shock vision of Anthony Burgess’ novel. Controversial when first released, A Clockwork Orange won New York Film Critics Best Picture and Director Awards and earned four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Its power still entices, shocks and holds us in its grasp. “
The individual release of the 40th Anniversary A Clockwork Orange Blu-ray is an upgrade from the 2007 edition in that it includes a couple of new HD bonus features, a second disc with excellent docs on Kubrick and lead actor Malcolm McDowell and a handsome digibook package. The only other difference from the old disc is that a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track takes the place of the earlier uncompressed LPCM mix. To my ear, however, they sound identical.
Commentary by Malcolm McDowell and historian Nick Redman
Malcolm McDowell Looks Back: Malcolm McDowell reflects on his experience working with legendary director Stanley Kubrick on one of the seminal films of the 1970s (new)
Turning like Clockwork: the film’s ultra-violence and its cultural impact (new)
Still Tickin’: The Return of Clockwork Orange
Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures: Kubrick’s career comes into sharp focus in this compelling documentary narrated by Tom Cruise. Fascinating footage glimpses Kubrick in his early years, at work on film sets and at home, augmented by candid commentary from collaborators, colleagues and family (new to Blu-ray)
O Lucky Malcolm!: Documentary about the life and career of actor Malcolm McDowell produced and directed by Jan Harlan
“Sergio Leone‘s monumental picture, here in its original form, ranks among his most admirable achievements. In the dying days of the Old West, a struggle to control water in a dusty desert town embroils three hard-bitten gunmen in a epic clash of greed, honor and revenge. Henry Fonda stars in his most sinister role as Frank, a hired killer who ruthlessly slays an entire family. Jason Robards plays Cheyenne, an infamous bandit framed for slaughter. And Charles Bronson is The Man, a mysterious loner determined to exact vengeance for a grudge he refuses to divulge. An influence on countless directors, Leone’s masterpiece is considered among the greatest Western’s ever made.“
On any other week, Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West would’ve been a shoe-in for the number one slot. This is a classic film, most would agree that it’s the director’s best, presented now in a gorgeous new Blu-ray edition from Paramount. Detail is astounding here, in a picture that offers greater depth than you’d expect from a film of its age. Colours are vivid and sun-ravaged and blacks imposing and deep. Slight print damage survives the digital restoration and some unobtrusive wobble is present but nothing that will distract from this otherwise excellent presentation. This is what a studio can do with a classic film when they really put their minds to it.
Paramount have included the original mono soundtrack for purists but you’ll want to check out the more dynamic, yet still tasteful, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Subtle ambient effects inform the sonic environment without compromising the original sound design of the film. Excellent work.
Special features have been carried over from the previously available DVD edition of the film and are, for the most part, well worth a look. The most impressive feature of the disc, however, is the fact that the studio has included two different cuts of the film for your viewing pleasure – the original theatrical 165-minute version as well as the 166-minute restoration.
Feature Film: Restored Version
Feature Film: Theatrical Version
Commentary with contributions by directors John Carpenter, John Milius and Alex Cox, film historians Sir Christopher Frayling and Dr. Sheldon Hall, cast and crew
“The Maenadian reign of terror may be over, but Sookie Stackhouse and the townspeople of Bon Temps face a new calamity that makes the bacchanalian evils of Maryanne Forrester seem tame by comparison. In Season 3, Sookie desperately tries to locate her fiancé, ending up in a netherworld of human and undead interlopers, among them the powerful Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington. “
Oh my God, True Blood is addictive. I only just received the Complete Third Season boxed set the other day and have been blasting through its 12-episodes ever since. While I haven’t finished it yet, as of this writing, I have to say that I think it’s the most compelling season yet. But not always for the best reasons. Watching True Blood feels a lot like how I would imagine reading a dirty, yet well crafted romance novel would make one feel. I know I’ve been sucked into pulpy, low-class fare full of naked skin, spilled blood and creatures of the night but damn, I just can’t stop watching. And I don’t feel guilty about it, either. Much like the previous two seasons, the writing is strong and unpredictable, production design is pulpy, sweaty and dark and performances are solid across the board.
HBO and Warner deliver another fang-tastic Blu-ray transfer (sorry) with True Blood: The Complete Third Season. If you’ve seen the first two seasons on Blu, you know what I’m talking about. Blacks are deep and striking, colours are vivid and detail abounds. I did note some compression issues in the blacks but unless you’re watching an improperly calibrated LCD from off-centre, you’ll never notice. The sound track is beyond reproach, with every neck bite and howl to the moon perfectly reproduced in ambient, dynamic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
This third season features the best collection of extras for the series to date, with every episode awarded its own picture-in-picture ‘Enhanced Viewing Experience‘ and short ‘Post Mortem‘ follow-up. There are 6 commentary tracks, an 11-minute “Anatomy of a Scene” breakdown, an interactive guide to the characters, previews, recaps and a music video.
“Academy Award® nominee Javier Bardem is Uxbal, a man on the wrong side of the law who struggles to provide for his children on the dangerous streets of Barcelona. As fate encircles him, Uxbal learns to accept the realities of life, whether bright, bad — or biutiful — in this unforgettable Academy Award®-nominated film from director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel). “
Finding this pre-summer weather a tad too cheery for your liking? Why not take it down a notch with the dour, depressing, yet quite outstanding Oscar nominated Biutiful? At over 2 1/2-hours long, this blow to your emotional core can be pretty tough to take but if you’re the type of film-goer who enjoys a challenge, and genuinely moving work from gifted filmmakers and performers, then this one might just win you over. The Blu-ray looks impressive, with beautiful photography captured in two different aspect ratios – 2.40:1 and 1.85:1, both exhibited on the Blu-ray. Deep blacks and lush colours are the highlights here. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track is also impressive. There are over 20-minutes of the director’s video and audio “notes”, a 4-minute long look at the various talents of the crew and 8-minutes worth of interviews.
“From director George Lucas (“Star Wars”) and producer Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather”), “American Graffiti” is a classic coming-of-age story set against the 1960s backdrop of hot rods, drive-ins and rock n’ roll. Starring Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips and Suzanne Somers in their breakout roles, this nostalgic look back follows a group of teenagers as they cruise the streets on their last summer night before college. Nominated for five Academy Awards(R), including Best Picture and Best Director, “American Graffiti” features the howling sounds of Wolfman Jack and an unforgettable soundtrack with songs by Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys and Bill Haley & His Comets.“
Ok, don’t kill me, but I still haven’t seen George Lucas’ American Graffiti. I know, I know. What business do I have including it in the Top 10 list then? Well, I thought it’s a significant enough release of an important film that it should live somewhere around the middle. Now, I was dying to get my hands on this bad boy until I read early reviews of the disc which claim it suffers from an awful lot of edge enhancement. Why Universal can’t do right by their catalogue releases is a mystery to me. Special features are carried over from the DVD. A George Lucas U-Control Video Commentary and The Music of American Graffiti are new picture-in-picture features, created especially for the Blu-ray.
“A classic action-filled John Wayne western is set into motion with a spectacular robbery of a Union pay train by Confederate guerrillas. The train’s colonel (Wayne) jails the enemy leaders but the three men later become friends when the war ends. Together they seek the Union traitors responsible for a string of Confederate train robberies, a mission that culminates in a rousing shoot-em up finale. “Rio Lobo” was the fifth collaboration over a 22-year period between John Wayne and the legendary director Howard Hawks.“
I’m certain that Paramount is unleashing a host of westerns on Blu-ray in anticipation of their big True Grit remake release coming up next week. Rio Lobo doesn’t receive the same kind of love that Once Upon a Time in the West gets from the studio, nor does it particularly deserve to. By that I mean it’s just not as much of a classic. It’s another John Wayne/Howard Hawks film that milks the tried and true cowboy formula perfected in movies like Rio Bravo and El Dorado. But does so with considerably less vigor. That’s not to say that Rio Lobo isn’t a good film. It’s just not as extraordinary and fun as previous Wayne/Hawks dusters.
The Blu-ray disc looks fine but far from exemplary. There’s no untoward use of digital tools here, unlike previous catalogue westerns from the studio, so the results are far more film-like. However, this isn’t the most detailed Blu-ray disc you’ll ever see, looking overall like it was minted from an older high-def transfer. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, it’s just not going to knock your socks off. Soundtracks are offered in both DTS-HD Master Audio stereo and 24-bit 5.1 surround and sound more impressive than they deserve to. There are no bonus features of any kind on the disc.
““Legend”, from director Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner”, “Gladiator”), is a visually stunning fantasy-adventure in which pure good and evil battle to the death amidst spectacular surroundings. Set in a timeless mythical forest inhabited by fairies, goblins, unicorns and mortals, this fantastic story stars Tom Cruise as a mystical forest dweller, chosen by fate, to undertake a heroic quest. He must save the beautiful Princess Lily (Mia Sara) and defeat the demonic Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) or the world will be plunged into a never-ending ice age.“
Another Blu-ray disc I haven’t had the opportunity to screen this week but one I’m just itching to get my hands on. Despite its weaknesses, I’ve always been a big fan of Legend. I think it has a lot to do with a combination of the production design, Tim Curry’s badass portrayal of the villain, the Lord of Darkness and the impressionable age at which I first saw the film. Being from Canada, I grew up with the shorter cut of the film, with the Tangerine Dream synth score and only saw the longer “International Cut” with Jerry Goldsmith‘s music a few years ago on DVD. What a difference! Nevertheless, without the shorter cut and the rethink of the music, I never would have discovered Bryan Ferry (whose track ‘Is Your Love Strong Enough’ plays over the end credits in the US cut) and his band Roxy Music. For that, I’ll always be thankful.
“Richard Harris stars in this carefully documented epic that attempted to realistically portray the life of the American Sioux in the early 19th century. When an English lord is captured by a Sioux Indian tribe, he is given to the chief’s aging mother as a servant. Gradually, he embraces the tribe’s way of life and falls in love with the Chief’s sister. But before he can be accepted with honor as an equal member of the tribe, he must endure the Sun Vow – a savage ritual far beyond the realm of anything dreamed of in the civilized world. To recreate authentic Indian costumes for the film’s accuracy, the production designer met with real American Indians only to discover their notion of Indian clothing was based on the costumes designed by Hollywood studios.“
A Man Called Horse is surprisingly stunning on Blu-ray. I mean, the film – based on a story of the same name by Dorothy M. Johnson – is lovingly well-shot to begin with, sporting gorgeous colours and breathtaking vistas. The shock here is that without too much intrusion on Paramount’s part, the transfer to video has avoided being watered down in any way. It looks great! This is most likely not a brand new transfer but it certainly manages to remain eye-catching. The print is so clean here, you’d almost think this was the product of a costly restoration. Much like Rio Lobo, two audio tracks have been provided but you’ll want to try out the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 over the uncompressed stereo. It’s a bit more aggressive and fun to listen to. There are no bonus features on this disc.
‘In this action-filled western, John Wayne stars as Big Jake McCandles, a husband who hasn’t seen his wife (Maureen O’Hara) in over 18 years. But he returns home after his grandson is kidnapped by a vicious outlaw gang. While the law gives chase in rickety automobiles, Jake saddles up with an Indian scout (Bruce Cabot) and a box of money – even though paying a ransom isn’t how Jake plans to exact good old frontier justice. Spiced with humor and first-class gunfights, this is a vivid depiction of the last days of the wild frontier. “Big Jake” was a family affair for John Wayne. His oldest son produced it and two other sons, Patrick and John Ethan, appear in it. The film also marks the second time Richard Boone and John Wayne worked together and the fifth time Wayne worked with Maureen O’Hara.”
Big Jake is a lesser version of The Searchers, produced fifteen years later by a far less celebrated director. Once again, the Duke finds himself on the trail of a kidnapped child but this time, the hunt takes only days instead of years, and the villains are thugs instead of a band of Comanche. On its own, the film is a fun ride and looks pretty decent on Blu but can’t hold a candle to its predecessor.
This appears to be another catalogue title from Paramount that hasn’t received any restoration but also hasn’t suffered the ugly hand of digital tampering. Luckily, the source appears in good health here, resulting in an image that’s colourful and rich, with a nice, overall film-like appearance. Again, Big Jake features a couple of solid audio tracks in the form of a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround track and one in lossless stereo. There are no extras on the disc.
“When a simple robbery at a research institute leads to a series of brutal murders, a blind puzzle maker (Academy Award(r) winner Karl Malden of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE) and a tenacious reporter (James Franciscus of BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES) begin their own investigation of the crimes. With nine different clues to follow, they uncover a shocking web of twisted genetics and dark sexual secrets that will finally lead them to a shattering climax of violence and suspense.
Originally released in 1971, THE CAT O’NINE TAILS secured the international reputation of director Dario Argento as ‘The Italian Hitchcock.’ This is the definitive version of Argento’s masterful second film, presented completely uncut and uncensored in a brand-new High Definition transfer from its original camera negative!”
It’s another classic Argento on Blu from Blue Underground!! This time around, though, I’m a bit torn about the resulting quality of the new HD transfer. Taken on its own, it appears bright and film-like, with seemingly accurate colours and solid blacks. But the colour timing is vastly different from previous releases and, when viewed back to back, seems a bit blown out. There appears to be a loss of detail from cranked up whites, with colours maybe a bit hotter than they should be across the board. I’m no expert on this film and would love to hear from someone who has had more experience with it theatrically. But from what I can see, this transfer, while solid, appears to misrepresent Argento’s original intent where the photography is concerned.
The audio is DTS-HD Master 2.0 and is clean and clear throughout. BU also includes the original mono track in lossless audio. Special features include ‘Tales of the Cat‘ – 14-minutes worth of interviews with Argento, co-writer Dardano Sacchetti and composer Ennio Morricone, radio interviews, TV and radio spots and a couple of trailers.
With new HBO boxed sets like The Pacific and the incredible Deadwood: The Complete Series freshly unleashed upon the public it’s very possible to forget that the studio released some truly great gift-worthy titles earlier in the year. To make certain that you don’t overlook both the True Blood and Entourage Blu-ray season boxed sets, the studio has hit us with these fairly entertaining, if not mildly confusing ads. What do you think? Will you be putting either on your wish list this year or giving either as a gift?
With a cast of great characters and compelling b-movie storylines, True Blood is just as silly, soap operatic and supernatural in its second season as it was in its first. Perhaps even more so! And that fun transfers in whole to this exceptional Complete Second Season Blu-ray set!
As I mentioned earlier in the week in ourTop 5 Blu-ray disc column, I’ve only just started watching this series. My girlfriend and I burned through both the first and second seasons of True Blood in a matter of days. I can’t say for certain that the experience hasn’t clouded my judgment of the second series as a stand-alone set but I’ll do my best here to single these 12 episodes out of the bunch.
True Blood: The Complete Second Season gets off to a running start, picking up directly from the season one cliffhanger, and never looks back. There’s a new murder mystery in Bon Temps and telepath Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and her 150-year old vampire lover, Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) are caught in the middle of it. Before they can escape the madness and have some time to foster their blossoming relationship, they come up against an army of God-loving vampire killers, a cult of frolicking Dionysian lust-worshipers and the eccentric, Yahtzee-loving Queen of vampires. It’s not easy for the couple to sneak in a few moments alone amongst the weirdo’s, rednecks and shape-shifters of Bon Temps! Especially with Bill’s new, young vampire ward, Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) tailing him around, making trouble at every turn and his powerful vampire Sheriff, Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) desperate to claim Sookie for his own at any cost.
The second season works fairly well, adding a genuine and original threat to the mix and further developing a lot of our favourite characters. Sadly, some interesting characters and plot-threads are introduced and left to twist in the wind (Eric’s 2000-year old “maker” comes and goes before you know it) while other personalities from season one either fail to make an appearance (the vampire magistrate!) or test your patience with a stream of unending (poorly written) shifts in attitude and loyalty (I don’t believe anyone in the real world would act as Tara (Rutina Wesley), Sookie’s best friend, did through this season.) All told though, the series is a light bit of fun. Like a modern day Dark Shadows - a supernatural vampire soap opera with fang planted firmly in cheek!
Much like everything HBO releases on Blu-ray (via Warner Home Video, of course) True Blood: The Complete Second Season looks absolutely stunning! A healthy, naturalistic veneer of film grain compliments a great deal of detail and wonderful contrast here. This is a fantastic looking set of transfers with an equally stunning and enveloping DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.
True Blood: The Complete Second Season features a fairly plentiful yet mixed bag of extras, the best of which are the seven audio commentary tracks. They vary in quality depending on participants but are, generally speaking, the highlight of the set. I would, however, happily trade any or all of them in favour of a nice “making-of” documentary, the likes of which is nowhere to be found here. Instead, we’re offered several episodes with an “Enhanced Viewing Experience” – a picture-in-picture pop-up track that offers up the occasional trivia, detail or factoid and allows direct access to a couple of hours of “Character perspectives” and other content, most of which can be viewed outside of the “experience”. I didn’t like any of it. It’s all in-character conversations monologues, fake infomercials and news broadcasts which, to me, is so much less valuable than seeing behind the scenes of the production. Perhaps fans of the original Southern Vampire Mysteries books will appreciate this additional extended-universe content more than I did.