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HTF DVD REVIEW - BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: RAZOR - Recommended

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#1 of 22 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted November 29 2007 - 06:10 PM




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UNRATED EXTENDED EDITION

Posted Image
Studio: Universal
Original Release: 2007
Length: 1 hour 27 mins (Broadcast Version), 1 hour 43 mins (Extended Version)
Genre: Science Fiction

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Color/B&W: Color

Audio:
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1


    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
    Rating: Unrated (Some Sci-Fi Violence and Bloodshed, Brief Scene of Sexuality)

    Posted Image Posted Image





  • Release Date: December 4, 2007

    Rating: 3 ½ Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image ½ / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    Starring: Stephanie Jacobsen, Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Jamie Bamber and Michelle Forbes

    Executive Producers: Ronald D. Moore and David Eick
    Written by: Michael Taylor
    Directed by: Felix Alcala





    Battlestar Galactica: Razor is the latest instalment in Ronald D. Moore’s reimagining of the science fiction series from the 70s. This telefilm is not so much a bridge between last year’s 3rd season and the coming (and final) 4th season as it is a revisiting of themes the series is fond of exploring. The primary story centers on a new character, Kendra Shaw, played by Stephanie Jacobsen, who rises to prominence on the infamous Battlestar Pegasus under the command of fan favourite Michelle Forbes as the ruthless Admiral Cain. The story flashes backwards and forwards, all the way from a war fought 40 years earlier to a time near the end of the series’ 2nd season, as the son of Admiral Adama takes command of the Pegasus. The plot follows a mission that reveals facets not only of Shaw but of several more familiar characters, especially the elder Adama and Cain. This film makes the most of its budget, showing us large-scale battles and mayhem not normally shown on a regular basis during the series. But the show still focuses on the real strength of the series – the feeling that all of these characters are haunted by their actions, a feeling of almost impending doom. As a younger man, I once saw a stage production that was described in the director’s notes as a depiction of “the last five minutes of a civilization.” That description is quite appropriate for the new Battlestar series, and it is borne out by the events of this telefilm as well. That said, there’s a lot of fun to be had here, both in some clever references to the earlier series and in a sly reference to ALIENS that is present not only in dialogue but also in one very clever sound effect. There’s also a reference to Unforgiven if you listen for it, but it’s a real quick one. SPOILER WARNING HERE: I won’t spoil the details of the story for you here, but I will give one bit of advice. As with the series, the telefilm features an oracle of sorts – you’ll know who and what that is when you see it. As with all oracles, it’s a good idea to listen to everything this one says.

    If the viewer hasn’t actually seen the television series before, it is still possible to enjoy this telefilm, but it’s likely to be a lot more entertaining for someone who has a full knowledge of the show. The DVD edition of the telefilm includes both the broadcast version, and an extended version that includes just over 15 minutes of additional footage. Much of this footage consists of more extensive flashbacks of a younger Adama’s exploits, as already seen in the “minisodes” presented on the Sci-Fi Channel’s website. There’s a little further footage, including an earlier flashback to Shaw on Caprica and a flashback to Admiral Cain as a young girl, but the bulk of the telefilm is identical between the versions.

    Posted ImageVIDEO QUALITY: 3/5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    Battlestar Galactica: Razor is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that matches the look of the series in its harshness and graininess. This is not a bad thing – the series is designed to look like a documentary, with lots of handheld work, and even a simulation of that in the exterior CGI effects sequences. The common color palate of the film is fairly cold, with a few exceptions – particularly the flashbacks to the young Adama and the more current sequences in the lab area, which are fairly warm.

    Posted ImageAUDIO QUALITY: 3 ½/5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image ½

    Battlestar Galactica: Razor is presented in an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that makes a lot of use of the subwoofer whenever the space battles and explosions occur. There’s not a lot of use of the surrounds other than for music and occasional atmospherics. Most of the sound here is in the front channels, but, again, the subwoofer is a definite presence in this mix.

    Posted ImageSPECIAL FEATURES: 3/5 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
    Battlestar Galactica: Razor contains a producer’s commentary for the extended version, two deleted scenes, almost 22 minutes of featurettes and the collected minisode adventures of young Adama, which total just over 19 minutes.

  • Commentary for the Unrated Extended Edition with Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor - The extended edition of the telefilm has a commentary option with producer/writers Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor. For those who’ve been following these guys for a while, they’ve actually been working together since Star Trek: DS9, so it’s no surprise that Moore pulled Taylor into this project as of its 3rd season. (Taylor previously wrote several episodes of this series, including the first part of last season’s ending opus). Moore and Taylor have a lot of fun discussing the various ideas they had for this telefilm, and sound quite pleased with the project, particularly the sequences where they are able to bring back elements from the original series through the magic of CGI. I should note that this commentary is not the one available via podcast from the Sci-Fi website. That podcast is actually a writers’ meeting, and not a scene-specific commentary, as this one is.

  • Deleted Scenes - (3:38 total, Non-anamorphic) – Two deleted scenes are included here in non-anamorphic format. Both feature the character of Lee Adama. One is an extended introduction to Kendra Shaw’s earliest flashback, this time showing Lee Adama just before the start of the original miniseries for this edition of the show. The second flashback concerns both Lee Adama and Starbuck dealing with the consequences of their actions from the first season episode “33”. (The point of the flashback – that Lee and Starbuck are both haunted by their actions just as Shaw and the others are – is an interesting one, but it isn’t needed to tell this story, and it isn’t missed in the flow of the story.)

  • The Look of Battlestar Galactica - (7:59, Anamorphic) - This anamorphic featurette covers the pseudo-documentary look of the series and this telefilm. Footage from the series is mixed with some on-set video of the making of the telefilm, along with interviews with not only execs Ron Moore and David Eick and the cast, but also, crucially, production designer Richard Hudolin and DP Steve McNutt.

  • My Favorite Episode So Far - (10:27, Anamorphic) – This featurette mixes interviews with the cast and producers with some of their favourite segments from the series. Most of the choices are pretty clear. Edward James Olmos, of course, stands out by making a typically individual choice.

  • Season 4 Sneak Peek - (2:33, Anamorphic) - This anamorphic featurette is really just a clarification of how this telefilm relates to the upcoming fourth and final season of the series. SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS FEATURETTE – DO NOT WATCH IT UNTIL YOU HAVE ALREADY WATCHED THE TELEFILM.

  • Season 4 Trailer - (:47, Non-anamorphic) – This is just a brief trailer for the upcoming season, with a few tantalizing glimpses of what viewers will not be able to see until April 2008.

  • Minisodes (19:18 Total, Anamorphic) – This is a collection of the “minisode” adventures of the young Bill Adama, as seen on the Sci-Fi Channel website. They are presented in anamorphic format. The first two episodes (roughly 5 minutes) and the final episode featuring Olmos as the older Adama (roughly 3 minutes) are footage that was not used in any version of the telefilm. This feature is not listed on the packaging.

    Subtitles are available in English and Spanish for the telefilm itself and for the special features. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. When the first disc is initially started, the viewer is presented with an optional series of non-anamorphic previews including American Pie: Beta House, Balls of Fury, The Strangers and White Noise 2, along with an updated but still non-anamorphic ad for HD-DVD.


    IN THE END...

    Battlestar Galactica: Razor is a solid addition to the collection of stories that make up the current edition of the series. Fans of the series will have a good time with this, and even people who haven’t seen the show before may become fans after they see this. Of course, for people who are avidly following the series, the fact remains that it’s still almost 5 months before anyone will see a new episode from the final season...


    Kevin Koster
    November 29, 2007.


  • #2 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Favate

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    Posted November 30 2007 - 12:17 AM

    I'd have to agree with this review based on the broadcast version I saw last weekend. The show - and this film - have an intensity that I have rarely seen before in a science fiction film or television show. What's remarkable is that it has been sustained over three seasons (so far) and this film. Much as I like shows like DS9 and Babylon 5, Battlestar has a developed idea behind it like no other sci-fi property. Ron Moore was long one of the singular talents behind Star Trek, and I am glad he has gotten his time to shine, and I hope he leads more projects of his own when Battlestar is done.

    Thanks also for the info that the broadcast version is included on the DVD. I had thought it was only the extended version. I wonder if either or both will be on the eventual Season 4 box set?

    #3 of 22 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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    Posted November 30 2007 - 03:36 AM

    Thanks Kevin. I don't think there's anything you could have said which would have made me not pick this up on Tuesday.

    #4 of 22 OFFLINE   Peter Overduin

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    Posted November 30 2007 - 05:40 PM

    When it was over; I stayed in my chair in my darkened HT room for some time to contemplate the excellence and depth of the whole BSG story, and it occurred to me just how far Star Trek has receeded in my estimation over the last 3 years.
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    #5 of 22 OFFLINE   Diallo B

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    Posted December 03 2007 - 04:22 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Peter Overduin
    ....to contemplate the excellence and depth of the whole BSG story, and it occurred to me just how far Star Trek has receeded in my estimation over the last 3 years.

    for anyone that is a fan of both series the sentiment stated in this quote couldn't be stated in any way better.

    i like star trek and bsg. but bsg has surpassed any season of any series of star trek by a long standard. with a close call coming to any borg or 'q' ark in star trek.
    listen with your own ears...
    watch with your own eyes...
    make your own decision.
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    #6 of 22 OFFLINE   Ted Todorov

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    Posted December 04 2007 - 09:48 AM

    Spoiler question: can one watch Razor without having seen (any of) S3 of BSG? Still waiting for the S3 DVDs and I don't want anything ruined.
    Hold on tightly, let go lightly.

     


    #7 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Favate

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    Posted December 04 2007 - 10:39 AM

    Quote:
    The DVD edition of the telefilm includes both the broadcast version, and an extended version that includes just over 15 minutes of additional footage.

    I got this in the mail today and only the extended version is included. Was it different in the UK perhaps?

    #8 of 22 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted December 04 2007 - 10:50 AM

    You could watch this DVD without having seen the 3rd season, but I daresay that it will affect your reaction to some plotlines. It's really a standalone plotline that doesn't have anything to do with the events of the 3rd year - although there is a cryptic reference that doesn't overtly spoil anything.

    The R1 copy which I reviewed has an option when you choose the "PLAY" button, which asks you if you want to watch the original broadcast version or the extended edition. But you have to get into the "PLAY" menu to see it. Are you saying that you're watching an R2 copy?

    #9 of 22 OFFLINE   BillBR

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    Posted December 04 2007 - 02:41 PM

    Great review, Kevin. I'll enjoy watching this a lot...in about four months. If the way I view plotlines will be affected having not seen S3...I'd rather wait.

    Hey Universal, y'know when would have been a great time to officially announce the S3 DVD?

    Right now. Along with Razor. So...good job.

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    #10 of 22 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted December 04 2007 - 07:32 PM

    Bill, I should have also noted that the bonus featurettes and the commentary spoil the living heck out of the 3rd season, not to mention the telefilm itself. You're probably better off doing what you're thinking here. If you're worried about the "spoiler effect", it's best to go ahead and watch the 3rd season first.

    On the other hand, if the reader has never seen the show before and may only watch one thing, this movie isn't a bad place to start.

    #11 of 22 OFFLINE   Kevin Hewell

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    Posted December 06 2007 - 01:19 AM

    I love Edward James Olmos's thought on his favorite show. His favorite show will be the last one.

    While watching this particular bit of the DVD, I'm reminded of how well written this show is.

    It won a Peabody, right?

    #12 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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    Posted December 06 2007 - 12:59 PM

    Just saw this. Amazing. Each time I see a new episode it reminds me again why this is a great show. Posted Image (wow, I just said what Kevin said! Posted Image )

    Anyway, this is definitely dependent on the series, especially season 2. I believe it's not a standalone episode and needs a prior knowledge to understand and enjoy it.

    #13 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Favate

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    Posted December 06 2007 - 11:17 PM

    Just as an aside, Ron Moore is on the front page of The Wall Street Journal today (picture too) in an article about fans standing with writers on strike. There's a bit about a fan asking him if the "mercy killing" in Razor was connected to the one in First Contact. He said he didn't realize it.

    http://online.wsj.co....hpp_us_pageone

    #14 of 22 OFFLINE   JediFonger

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    Posted December 07 2007 - 04:41 AM

    hi guys, i just want to double check. this is SINGLE disc only, correct? i bought the best buy edition and it came with a bonus disc and wanted to make sure that was it. it was a 20min. making of behind the scenes of razor.

    #15 of 22 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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    Posted December 07 2007 - 06:07 AM

    It's a single disc release. Best Buy is apparently packaging a 2nd DVD with it that has another featurette on it.

    And to answer Sam's comment, I agree that it really helps to already know the series before seeing RAZOR, but like the Star Trek films, I still think you could watch this as a first glimpse into this world and then catch up later.

    But in all honesty, the ratings for the telefilm have already indicated that the audience for it are aleady fans of the series. I'd be interested in seeing the reactions of people who haven't watched the show before.

    #16 of 22 OFFLINE   Sam Davatchi

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    Posted December 07 2007 - 10:48 AM

    On the commentary they say that this project was like a stand-alone episode so that people who have not seen BG before, could enjoy it. But honestly I don't understand how they could, since every single arc was connected directly to the previous episodes.

    Some of the season 2 episodes come to my mind that succeeded at this, like the Black Market episode. You can watch them on their own. I actually remember that episode was my ticket into the BG universe. I started with a stand-alone! Posted Image

    #17 of 22 OFFLINE   Will_B

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    Posted December 07 2007 - 11:29 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JediFonger
    hi guys, i just want to double check. this is SINGLE disc only, correct? i bought the best buy edition and it came with a bonus disc and wanted to make sure that was it. it was a 20min. making of behind the scenes of razor.

    And a warning to everyone who thought of buying from BestBuy.com -- they are promoting the bonus disc on their website BUT THEY AREN'T ACTUALLY INCLUDING IT in online orders. I just got screwed by them today. My BestBuy.com package arrived, and it is just the regular 1-disc version of Razor.

    They screwed me last time too, with season 2.5, when they didn't include the bonus disc ("The Story So Far") then either.

    BestBuy sucks! At least, the online version of them.
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    #18 of 22 OFFLINE   DaveB

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    Posted December 08 2007 - 07:15 PM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Will_B
    BestBuy sucks! At least, the online version of them.

    Sounds like their online experience is right in line with what they been offering offline. Posted Image

    I'm among the thousands who have yet to see season 3 (well, I did cheat a little and download the first episode from itunes) but many months now into this long BSG DVD drought, I think I'm going to watch Razor this month. I'll stay away from the special features for now and hope nothing is spoiled!

    #19 of 22 OFFLINE   FranklinC

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    Posted December 09 2007 - 03:43 PM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DaveB
    Sounds like their online experience is right in line with what they been offering offline. Posted Image

    I'm among the thousands who have yet to see season 3 (well, I did cheat a little and download the first episode from itunes) but many months now into this long BSG DVD drought, I think I'm going to watch Razor this month. I'll stay away from the special features for now and hope nothing is spoiled!

    Yeah, I don't think it will spoil anything as long as you've already seen S2. Razor could be dropped right into the middle of S2 as a longer-than-usual episode, really. It's very good, but seeing it reminds me how much I love this show and makes the wait for S4 even more painful. I do think seeing it before S1 and S2 would spoil a great deal, such as the whole Admiral Cain arc and the mystery behind the Pegasus. I don't see how you could make sense of it without knowing what happened before anyway. I don't agree that it's a good introduction to BSG for those that haven't seen it. Why not start at the beginning?

    As someone said before, there is a cryptic reference to a certain character at the end of Razor which seems to tie into something that happens later in S3 (which in fact seems to be very important in S4, based on previews) but I don't think it is direct enough to give anything away. In fact, there really is nothing to give away because I don't think we, as viewers, are supposed to understand what it all means yet.

    Now I've confused even myself...

    #20 of 22 OFFLINE   JediFonger

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    Posted December 10 2007 - 09:10 AM

    remember Babylon5 and its subsequent tie-in standalone movies?

    well, this is just like one of those to be viewed between S2&S3.





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