Studio: Acorn Media
US DVD Release Date: January 26, 2010
Broadcast Year: 2008
Rated: Not Rated (contains violence and graphic scenes)
Running Time: 344 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)
Movie: 4 out of 5
Don't mess with me! I'm an archeologist!!
Gillian Magwilde (Julie Graham) leads a team of archeologists from the fictional Wessex University in Bath, England, following in her mother's obsessive footsteps in search of Excalibur, in Bonekickers, a six-episode series that aired on the BBC in 2008 and on select PBS stations here in the US last summer. The series was created by Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah, the team responsible for two other BBC shows, Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes. Each episode follows a mystery linked to an historical event when the team is brought in after an artifact is discovered, usually a site where that artifact doesn't belong.
Julie Graham portrays Gillian as someone who doesn't play by the rules, allowing her obsession and passions dictate her moves. Adrian Lester plays Ben Ergha, Gillian's assistant and former lover, who brings some rationale to the table. Hugh Bonneville, who was delightful in the one-man show Diary Of A Nobody, is very funny as Gregory “Dolly” Parton, an archeologist who literally does not like to get his hands dirty, and delivers some of the series' best lines. Rounding out the main cast are Gugu Mbatha-Raw as intern Viv Davis, and Michael Maloney as the exploitative department head Daniel Mastiff (we are introduced to him in the first episode at a party celebrating the release of his latest book Sex Rites of the Ancients).
For the most part, the series has a cinematic look to it, although occasionally a few shots have a digital video look to them. The visual effects are surprisingly good for a British series, with the major exception of episode four, The Cradle of Civilisation, which has some very obvious matte paintings and a very CGI-looking snake. The storylines can, at times, be absolutely preposterous, but that is part of the charm of the show. If you put your brain on hold, Bonekickers is a fun-filled ride of the guilty-pleasure variety.
Video: 4 out of 5
The six episodes are presented in their original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with anamorphic enhancement, and are evenly spread over three discs, two episodes (plus bonus features) per disc. The series was shot in 24 frame high definition video, and looks quite good on DVD when upconverted on my Sony PS3. Detail is exceptional, with minimal noise and compression artifacts. Colors are often well-saturated without bleeding, and flesh tones are consistently accurate. The digital video never looks over processed, although (as noted above) there are some occasional shots that come across as though they were filmed at 30 rather than 24 frames and then processed to look like film.
Audio: 4 out of 5
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack, encoded at a surprising 448 kbps, is quite impressive. Although not encoded for Pro-Logic surround, dialogue is intelligible and mostly confined to the center channel, with music and ambient sound effects spread across the left, right, and surround channels.
Special Features: 3 out of 5
Bonekickers includes some decent behind-the-scenes featurettes for each episode, all are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
The Show Idea (3:05): Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah discuss what inspired them to create the series and how long it took to develop it.
The Script (2:48): Matthew Graham, Ashley Pharoah, and Director James Strong discuss developing the script for the pilot episode.
Visual Effects (4:10): Effects Producer Will Cohen, Sr. Compositor Simon Holden, and Digital Matte Painter David Early discuss and walk us through how they created the effects for the episode's climax.
The Shoot (4:55): Matthew Graham, Ashley Pharoah, and Director James Strong discuss how difficult and slow shooting the episode's climax was inside an abandoned hangar.
The Edit (3:19): Editor Adam Recht discusses the complexities of editing the episode's climax with its many effects shots yet to be completed.
Production Design (3:02): Bryan Sykes shows us early storyboards, concept drawings, and miniatures that helped design the look of the final sequence for this episode.
The Edit – Live Cut (5:45): Editor Adam Recht introduces a side-by-side comparison of two different cuts of a sequence from the first episode.
The Script (4:29): Matthew Graham and Ashley Pharoah discuss the evolution of the story for episode two.
The Shoot (2:21): Director James Strong discusses blocking the shootout sequence near the end of the episode, using Michael Mann's Heat as his inspiration.
The Audio Mix (6:25): Re-recording Mixer Graham Wild and Supervising Sound Editor Ian Bown walk us through the final mix for the shootout sequence.
The Script (4:32): Matthew Graham discusses bringing in another writer for this episode, bringing a lot of backstory to the characters, and eventually having to rewrite the script himself just prior to shooting.
The Shoot (4:37): Director Sarah O'Gorman discusses blocking, rehearsing, and shooting the final scene of episode three.
The Audio Mix (6:51): Re-recording Mixer Graham Wild and Supervising Sound Editor Ian Bown discuss mixing a scene with one long monologue, using sound effects to transition sequences, and mixing a complex action sequence.
The Colour Grade (2:20): Colourist Kevin Horsewood discusses and provides examples of how changing the lighting and coloring during post production can change the mood of a scene. Not quite as dramatic as the Digital Grading featurette from Lord of the Rings, but still interesting.
The Script (3:37): Matthew Graham discusses bringing modern political issues into the series and giving them an historical context, such as the Iraq War in this episode. Interestingly, Graham does not find the CG snake to be silly or too fake looking.
The Shoot (1:36): Director James Strong discusses the use of a CG snake in the episode, and that it was his decision to go CG rather than real or animatronic.
The Costume (4:32): Costume Designer Pam Downe discusses the different styles of costumes used in the series and what materials were used to create them.
Foley (3:33): Foley Artist Richard Hinton and Foley Recording Mixer Richard Crosby discuss and demonstrate how the sound effects for the snake's movement were achieved using a scouring pad.
Visual Effects (6:06): VFX Producer Will Cohen and 3D Supervisor Jean Claude Degaura discuss and demonstrate how the CG snake effects were achieved. Cohen prides himself on how real the snake looked.
The Script (2:09): Matthew Graham discusses how the script for this episode had to almost literally be rewritten from scratch just prior to shooting, and had to be centered around props and costumes already acquired.
The Shoot (5:02): Location Manager Dee Gregson and Standby Art Director Maxine Carlier discuss location shooting, dressing those sets, and having to deal with last minute changes that were made to the script.
The Music (7:15): Composer Ben Bartlett discusses creating the many different themes used throughout the series, specifically Gillian's theme and the soldiers' theme for this episode, and sometimes having the director want a very different mood than what he composed for.
The Script (4:16): Matthew Graham discusses having to rewrite the episode due to budget restrictions, yet still achieve the same outcome.
The Shoot (7:36): Director Iain MacDonald, Julie Graham, Adrian Lester, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Hugh Bonneville discuss shooting at Wales Cathedral.
The Music (5:38): Composer Ben Bartlett discusses the use of the Bonekickers theme throughout the series and using music to heighten suspense.
Overall: 4 out of 5
While not ground-breaking television, Bonekickers can be a joyful ride if you put your brain on hold. Acorn has done a nice job of bringing this British import to DVD with a handsome video and audio transfer with a nice set of extras.