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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Burn Notice: Season Two

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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted June 24 2009 - 02:34 PM



Burn Notice: Season Two (Blu-ray)
Directed by Matt Nix et al

Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Year: 2008-2009
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 690 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
Region: A
MSRP: $ 59.99

Release Date: June 16, 2009
Review Date: June 24, 2009

The Series

4/5
A brisk, breezy caper procedural with a wry sense of fun, Burn Notice has developed into one of the most successful and popular basic cable series running, and its popularity and acclaim are well earned. A wonderful premise, a solid cast, and some clever, just-intricate-enough scripts make for a wonderfully involving hour of television. It may not be drama at its pinnacle, but it’s a certain good time and very addictive.

Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) used to be a spy and a very good one. Then, one day he learns he’s been burned by some unknown governmental agency and is now blacklisted from the secret service. Dumped in Miami with no job or references, he must find undercover and black ops work as best he can calling on an ex-girl friend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and a former fellow spy Sam (Bruce Campbell) to assist in a variety of capers to put yogurt in his refrigerator and a roof over his head. Adding to his difficulties as he works his cases and attempts to learn who was behind his unfair dismissal from the service is his interfering mother Madeline (Sharon Gless) who happens to live in Miami and expects her oldest son to drop everything he’s doing whenever she needs to talk.

Season two begins with the mysterious operative Carla (Tricia Helfer) dangling the carrot of information about his burn notice above Michael’s head. But information comes with a price, and Michael must participate in a series of undercover operations for Carla and her associates in order for him to garner the facts of his case. Michael’s work with her and his ongoing attempts to find out about Carla constitute a running storyline that continues from episode to episode straight to the end of the season. Otherwise, each program offers an open-and-shut operation that Michael undertakes as part of his pseudo-private eye occupation. These capers, whether he’s posing as a safe cracker, hitman, playboy, or drug dealer, always feature one of the show’s most charming signature motifs: Michael’s voiceover narration offering a “Spy School for Dummies” running commentary on how to adapt undercover operative methodology to the everyday world.

Michael Westen is a career making role for actor Jeffrey Donovan, and he plays it for all it’s worth. He can be rough or gentle as the part calls for, and he pulls a range of nifty accents out of his dialect drawer that are fit for all occasions. Gabrielle Anwar gets the most out of demur-on-the-surface/tough-as-nails underneath gun happy girl friend Fiona while Bruce Campbell steals most of his scenes as the happy-go-lucky Sam, eager to engage in Michael’s schemes but just as content to kick back with a brew or mojito in hand. Sharon Gless’ perpetually chain-smoking mother is oftentimes more an irritant than an asset with her whining, demanding ways (she spends the season premiere complaining ad nauseum about a burned up coffeemaker), but Seth Peterson makes appealing recurring appearances as Michael’s ne’er-do-well younger brother Nate.

Here are the sixteen episodes from Season Two as contained on the three Blu-ray discs in the set. Names in parentheses refer to the participants in that episode’s running commentary.

1 - Breaking and Entering
2 - Turn and Burn
3 - Trust Me
4 - Comrades
5 - Scatter Point
6 - Bad Blood (Bronwen Hughes, Ben Watkins, Rashad Raisani, Matt Nix, Rob Benedict and Method Man)
7 - Rough Seas
8 - Double Booked (Tim Matheson, Jason Tracey, Craig O’Neill and Matt Nix)
9 - Good Soldier
10 - Do No Harm
11 - Hot Spot
12 - Seek and Destroy
13 - Bad Breaks (a bank robbery with Michael as jinx is my favorite episode of the season)
14 - Truth and Reconciliation
15 - Sins of Omission
16 - Lesser Evil (Matt Nix, Bruce Campbell and Michael Shanks)


Video Quality

3/5
The show has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Image quality is erratic throughout the sixteen episodes with sharpness never quite as razor-edged as one would expect, and some shots are definitely fuzzy and indistinct. Color saturation can be lush but sometimes overly hot and unrealistic though black levels are very good. In the Miami flyover stock shots, there are occasional signs of aliasing and moiré patterns, and there is some occasional edge enhancement, too. Each episode has been divided into 12 chapters.

Audio Quality

4/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is above average for a cable series, but it can’t hold a candle to the adventurous audio tracks of some network TV action series like Lost or the various CSI programs. The salsa/hip hop music score spends most of its time in each episode’s rear channels, and while there are occasionally ambient sound effects sent there, most of the gunfire, explosions, and other cacophony are spread more across the front soundstage.


Special Features

3.5/5
There are three audio commentaries available with select episodes. All are good-natured affairs with much joking around and high spirits. I preferred the commentary with show #8 to the other two (though the season finale has something to recommend as well). There are just too many participants in the commentary for show #6.

In all, there are twelve deleted scenes spread over the three discs with each show containing deleted scenes having its own menu button to screen them. All deleted scenes are in 480i.

“Nixin’ It Up” is the 14-minute behind-the-scenes featurette detailing the production of the episode “Do No Harm” written and directed by series creator Matt Nix. He comments on the seven day shooting schedule, how he directed the actors, what it was like shooting on location in Miami, how he storyboarded the action sequences, and even drops a few hints about what’s upcoming for Season 3. This is in 480i.

There is a longer than usual 10 ¼-minute gag reel that offers a few good chuckles. It’s presented in 480i.

“Boom Notice” is a silly 8 ½-minute satire on the show with the program’s sound team adapting their jobs to the “burned spy” premise of the show. It’s in 480i.

There are 1080p trailers for Pink Panther 2 and 12 Rounds.


In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)
One of the most entertaining hours on television, Burn Notice only increased its audience during its outstanding second season. The Blu-ray set doesn’t feature the reference video quality one might have hoped for, but it well represents the series with some good bonuses thrown in for added value. Recommended!


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC
Edited by MattH. - 7/1/2009 at 01:06 pm GMT

#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted June 25 2009 - 05:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattH.
The Blu-ray set doesn’t feature the reference video quality one might have hoped for, ...
It originates in Super 16mm. Color saturation has that somewhat old-fashioned deeply saturated with slightly elevated contrast look you get from some of the current Fuji film stocks, but resolution suffers a bit from the decision to go 16mm.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted June 25 2009 - 05:20 AM

Matt-
Does it look better, worse or about the same as it does when you watch the episodes on Universal HD?

FWIW this is one of my favorite series. A great show and its never too late to start watching.

#4 of 8 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted June 25 2009 - 08:42 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken_McAlinden
It originates in Super 16mm. Color saturation has that somewhat old-fashioned deeply saturated with slightly elevated contrast look you get from some of the current Fuji film stocks, but resolution suffers a bit from the decision to go 16mm.

Regards,

No wonder there are so many shots that seem soft focused. Thanks so much for the info, Ken.

#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted June 25 2009 - 08:44 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich
Matt-
Does it look better, worse or about the same as it does when you watch the episodes on Universal HD?

FWIW this is one of my favorite series. A great show and its never too late to start watching.

Very hard to answer. When I watch it in HD on cable, the image seems to pixelate sometimes during the broadcast which I've just chalked up to overcrowded bandwith. The Blu-rays certainly have none of that. Image quality otherwise, however, is about the same.

#6 of 8 OFFLINE   MattFini

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Posted June 30 2009 - 04:45 AM

I might pick this up despite the fact that nobody seems to be terribly impressed with the video presentation.

This is the best review I've read on it.
Universal, please release Streets of Fire on Blu-ray.

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted June 30 2009 - 04:48 AM

I would buy it over the DVD.  Just because it doesn't look that much better on BD than it does on USAHD doesn't mean that it itsn't a big upgrade from the DVD!

#8 of 8 OFFLINE   MattFini

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Posted June 30 2009 - 05:55 AM

Yeah, I've heard the DVD is a total disaster - which is a shame since I have the first season on SD and my OCD likes to remain constant (sad, I know).

But either way, this is a great show and season two was a total blast.  It's perfect summertime entertainment and I will definitely be looking to snag this set sometime soon.
Universal, please release Streets of Fire on Blu-ray.





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