HTF REVIEW: ALIAS Season 2

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by DaViD Boulet, Jan 13, 2004.

  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]


    ALIAS
    the complete second season
    Studio:Disney / Buena Vista / TouchstoneYear:2003Film Length:22 episodes (@ 1 hour each)Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.78:1 (OAR)Audio:5.1 DD English Subtitles:SpanishExtras:Making of “The Telling”, The Look of Alias, 7 Delted Scenes, Kroq Radio Interview, Blooper Reel, TV Spots, The Making of the Video Game, Audio Commentaries (4 key episodes), DVD-ROM scriptscanner.ReleaseDate:Available



    Show...


    Most of you reading this thread are probably familiar with the show. Alias is an engaging, intelligent, and well-acted action-drama centering around the life of Sydney Bristow, who is a double agent working with the CIA acting as a mole to help bring down SD6--a counter organization that masquerades as an off-shoot of the CIA.

    Bottom line is that Alias is GOOD, and worth watching (and I don’t even consider this type of genre my usual thing). A little willing suspension of disbelief of the laws of physics and divine coincidence is required at times, but does not really hamper the fun or one’s ability to stay engaged with the program.

    Season 2 has a slightly different writing/production style which, to this viewer, feels more mature and sure of itself. The gripping “cliff-hangers” we had grown accustomed to concluding each episode from Season one have been tamed…which provides a more continuous flow as you inevitably watch several episodes in succession. Character development deepens with the second season as well which adds solid weight to an already excellent production characterized by good writing, complex story lines that manage to not become arcane, and a profound sense of mystery and adventure that will keep you staying up late watching another episode even after you promised yourself that “this will be the last one and then I’ll go to bed.”

    I could recommend Alias to almost anyone. If you haven’t seen it, start with Season one. If you’ve seen Season one, then you’ll enjoy Season two even more. The only difficulty is that the DVD-releases don’t keep pace with the broadcast television program, so if you never got a chance to watch it on television from the very beginning, you can’t ever catch up from watching the DVDs to the point where you can leap-frog and land chronologically in the series on the air (and you just cannot skip episodes with this series...they build a cumulative storyline). This is a real shame for anyone who is HD capable because the show is broadcast in glorious 16x9 720P HD! If you’re without HD (like me at the moment) the loss is minimal as the 16x9 DVD…especially this season…offers the videophile an exceptional 16x9 SD image.




    Packaging & Presentation…

    A handsome outer plastic sleeve slides over a box containing three standard-size keepsake cases each containing two dual-layer single-sided discs. Very nice and does the job, and I prefer this style multi-disc case to the cardboard “fold out” cases you sometimes see. One nice touch is that the back cover of each DVD case has list of episodes contained inside clearly printed with a brief synopsis—making it easy to figure out which disc you’re currently watching without having to put discs in to review the episode menu or open the case and wrestle with a booklet.

    WARNING: Disc 1 (and only disc 1) has forced trailers in traditional Buena-Vista fashion. The danger is that one of the trailers happens to be for the very Alias Season 2 set you’re about to embark upon watching…and this “trailer” contains some serious spoilers that will RUIN your surprise of many things yet to come. Avoid this trailer (by pressing “menu” or “skip” on your remote) at all costs until after you’ve finished the complete 22 episodes! Discussion of this travesty can be found here:

    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/htfo...hreadid=171676



    Picture...


    Film-style remains unchanged: Season two continues to convey a wonderful almost film-noir overtone with often drab colors, heavy film-grain and a strange contrast that gives you the blacks of underexposed photography coupled with the bright-blooming whites of an overexposure. These are artistic imagery devices by the creative artists and should not be confused with flaws in the DVD mastering, but they do provide for some challenging source material that the MPEG2 codec of our DVD format must fight hard to properly represent.

    Picture quality is much improved over the DVD set for Season one. The former DVD set for Season one (also 16x9) had an edgy, electronically-processed look and also suffered from sometimes severe MPEG noise especially in dark background scenery. Season 2 seems to have stripped that layer of digital haze right off the picture and you feel as if you’re looking much more closely at real film (a good thing). Film grain is finely rendered and seems much more natural and doesn’t have the garbled coarseness that often results from edge enhancement (the first disc had noticeable EE). In fact, edge-enhancement is completely absent from this Season 2 set as far as my eyes can tell.

    Detail is strong (though seems that it could be a *tad* stronger) and represents the type of natural picture information that can be seen when ringing artifacts are kept out of the picture. The image is smooth, smooth, smooth. The film-like impression is natural and relaxing. The black level appears crushed (meaning it swallows up subtle shadow detail) at times and the peak-white level tends to bloom, but I’m not convinced that these are faults with the DVD as they appear to be part of the overall look intended for the show (those of you who’ve seen this broadcast in original HD please share your thoughts). The image is rich and 3-dimensional, and shades and tonal gradations are rendered smoothly with no digital banding or distracting digital noise. There is some mild MPEG noise on occasion but nothing as egregious as what you saw on Season one.

    I’m very satisfied with the picture quality on this DVD. My impression is that this DVD set looks about as good as it can without going to the source HD source. Alias Season 2 is beautiful to behold and I find myself constantly being drawn into the picture because of its superb quality. Well done Buena Vista!

    Picture: 4.5/ 5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Sound...


    Sound is on-par with the quality of what you were hearing at the end of Season one, if not slightly improved. The bass will not put your subwoofer to the test and in general the sound feels somewhat compressed in comparison to most well-recorded 5.1 mixes. But it also sounds reasonably solid and vocals do not sound thin or shrill. The sound spreads nicely across the front soundstage and rears are used effectively for occasional effects and ambient cues. All in all it’s “ok” but for some reason I have this imaginary 5.1 Alias mix in my mind that I keep comparing the sound to, saying to myself “if only it had deeper bass” or “if only it created more of a seamless 360 degree sound-field and made slightly better use of the surrounds”. Yes we audiophiles are a sick breed… [​IMG] In any case, I don’t mean to be too critical, and the sound mix is good—but the mixing style and general character just sound more like what you’d expect for a comedy or drama type of genre and not quite the level of an “action adventure” fan-fare.

    All in all…

    Sound: 3.5/ 5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]




    Special Features...

    Here we go:

    [*]Audio Commentary:
    Episodes 12, 17, 21, and 22. I briefly sampled some of the commentary and my honest impression is that it’s not much to write home about. I think the basic problem is that they assemble too large a group of folks for each recording session (usually around 4 or so) which seems to engender an atmosphere of a “rap session” where the actors and other talent want to laugh and reminisce about behind-the-set shenanigans. The level of this socializing ranges from mild to strong in each of the various commentaries so don’t watch one and judge the rest by it. I welcome your comments since this disc has been available for a while and doubtless many of you have strong opinions about the commentary.
    [*]The Making of “The Telling”:
    A very interesting behind-the-scenes making of for the season’s final episode…but I suggest that you wait to watch this until AFTER you’ve seen the final episode. Otherwise, your good effort to avoid the forced-trailer on disc one will be for naught!
    [*]Undercover: The Look of Alias:
    Man, who knew that some of those wigs cost $4,000! This featurette was very enjoyable. I really hadn’t considered how much care and thought went into the costume, makeup, and wig designs (mostly centering around Sidney which is understandable). Nice.
    [*]Blooper Reel:
    “Cute”. I guess that’s what a blooper reel is supposed to be. It’s assembled into a montage that feels a little over-produced. I’d rather just have a series of actual raw-blooper footage that’s less polished, but that’s a minor quibble and one that’s likely not shared by most other folks.
    [*]Deleted Scenes:[/b] Seven Deleted Scenes that are nice to have though I didn’t find them particularly profound. If memory serves me correctly…they are 16x9 encoded. I’ll double check and make any edit here to correct if I’m in error.
    [*]The Making of the Video Game:[/b] Didn’t check it out. Report back here and tell the rest of us what you think.
    [*]Audio-Only Comments:[/b] An interesting sort of “commentary” of sorts that are surprisingly interesting given their audio-only nature. This ties in with one of my favorite extras…
    [*]Kroq Radio Interviews:[/b] Apparently, the actor for the character Marshall did a few over-the-air radio interviews. Really interesting. I sat and listened to them all the way through which surprised me. He shares lots of personal as well as professional insights into the show. His real-life speaking style is nothing like the character he plays so that you wouldn’t know to recognize him by his voice alone.
    [*]Alias TV Spots:[/b] The usual sort of TV self-promotional shorts.
    [*]DVD-ROM Features:[/b] Script-scanner for the episodes “Phase One” and “The Telling”. No DVD-ROM drive over here (taking up a collection…wanna contribute? [​IMG] ) so those of you thusly equipped, do share with the rest of us.

    [/list]
    I would consider myself a “fan” of the show and certainly these DVD extras seemed substantial and worth-while to me. Most of them are contained on the last disc with the exception of a few of the commentaries which appear on episodes on other discs. A very nice plethora of special features; Thank-You Buena Vista/Touchstone!



    Summary...


    Great show. Great DVD mastering. Great Extras. In short:

    RECOMMENDED
     
  2. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the review David. I already have Season 2 and am about half way through. I also am pleased with the improved picture quality vs. Season 1.
    Actually, since it is on ABC, that would be 720p. And while I haven't watched it myself (because I haven't caught up as you discuss), the concensus I've read at places like AVSForum is that the HD picture isn't too special for this show. Often described as dark, grainy, and no better than the DVD of Season 2. So I don't feel as bad about missing the Season 3 HD broadcasts. I guess it's possible that they will rerun Season 3 from the start later this year, but I may just wait for the DVD anyway. No commercials, no week waits, etc.
     
  3. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    correction has been made.

    BTW, I'm about half way through too and I just found out what happened to Sloane's wife last night... Whew!!

    -dave [​IMG]
     
  4. Joe6pack99

    Joe6pack99 Second Unit

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    Just got my season 2 in the mail good to know its even better quality than season 1 which I was impressed with.
     
  5. Kevin Porter

    Kevin Porter Supporting Actor

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    Great set and so far the best Season of Alias. Rewatching this on DVD reminded me of how amazing this show is and how awesome Lena Olin is. This is easily one of my favorite seasons of any TV show and one of my favorite DVD boxsets. Easily surpasses the previous season in terms of everything, especially packaging. Nice job David Prior and team! And David, if you think that thing with Sloane's dead wife is amazing just wait for the mindblowing "Phase One" (which I assume is your next ep) and "The Telling". Especially the endings.
     
  6. richardWI

    richardWI Second Unit

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    Season Two was really as good as the show ever got. Many episodes were less awkward feeling and a tremendous amount happens (cue "Back in Black" music!) While I'm not happy with the eventual direction things took, I've gotta give Season Two its props. For me it was close to the entertainment level of "The X-Files" in its prime.
     
  7. Ric Easton

    Ric Easton Cinematographer

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    I'm still about two thirds into season one! I'm gonna start watching one a week, which should have me finishing season 2 in August. Hopefully they'll release the season 3 box set before a 4th season starts (If there is one) and I can rip thru it and get caught up and finally watch it live! Its been real tough avoiding spoilers.

    Ric
     
  8. Joel C

    Joel C Screenwriter

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    Huh? It's now season three, and only halfway through that. You couldn't really even guess what direction it is going in (who could have predicted the end of season 2 midway through the year?).
     
  9. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Great review David as usual. I just finished the set myself a few weeks ago. Been recording Season 3 but missed a few episodes so I'll wait for the season 3 dvd hopefully around August.

    I also agree the video/audio are improvements too.

    Count me in among those in the Jennifer Garner fan club.

    This is well acted, well written & directed, and just alot of suspense AND fun. [​IMG]
     
  10. Kevin Porter

    Kevin Porter Supporting Actor

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    Yes yes yes and yes. But what I think elevates this over the average action television show is the fact that you actually care about the characters. That attachment gives the show the upper hand to many similar shows. Like 24, for instance, I don't care about anybody. I don't care about Jack anymore because he's almost a caricature. While not anywhere near as deep and personal as Aaron Sorkin characters, it seems the crew goes the extra mile to make these people real and to make us care about them.
     
  11. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

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    Amen Kevin. Well said. There are times when I even feel for Sloan. The action is at times over the top, but certainly the characters seem real. Excellent point. [​IMG]
     
  12. Robert James Clark

    Robert James Clark Second Unit

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    Just watched the first disk of season 2.
    The picture quality is so much better than season 1 it's not even funny.

    It's much closer to the HD feed...

    I LOVE Alias, it's so much fun. And Quentin Taratino is coming back. [​IMG]
     
  13. Kevin Porter

    Kevin Porter Supporting Actor

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    Robert, I'd advise you put that thing about who's coming back in spoiler tags for those not in Season 3.
     
  14. Kai Zas

    Kai Zas Second Unit

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    I'm having trouble connecting to Alias. I watched the first ep, thought it was great and recently bought the two seasons. Now, halfway through the first season, something dawns on me: there's abolutely no humor in this series. At least, not enough for me.

    Ofcourse, Tarantino was good for a laugh, but I enjoyed him mostly because it seems to me he got to write his own lines. And I'm almost sure the "McTiernan airco" on his van was a wink to the Die Hard movies.

    Other than that, it's kind of cold. I don't feel for ANY of the characters. I don't feel Sidney's pain for loosing her one dimensional, not fleshed-out at all-husband to be. I don't feel for her friend the reporter, nor do I feel for Vaugh or any of the others. I've had a few plot-twist already, but none of them meant anything to me. If it wasn't for the tone of the music, I wouldn't know what I was supposed to be feeling.

    The action scenes are technicaly okay, but they're just that. Is it me or are the episodes based on a formula that's very transparent? You know, the cliffhanger-opening, followed by a mellower scene after the cliffhanger. Themesong. A bit with her friends, the inevitable boardroom meeting explaining the mission and the introduction of "the gadget of the week". Then we have the counter with Vaughn and it's off to the action. Tippin does his thing, Sidney does hers.. perril... Cliffhanger, on to the next show.

    It feels to me Alias is missing a soul.
     
  15. Kevin Porter

    Kevin Porter Supporting Actor

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    Two words: Marshall Flinkman
     
  16. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Agreed. Season 2 really changes dimension in terms of character development and plot/story line.

    Naturally this series isn't about humor. But I do agree that Marshall brings a somewhat humorous tone into the picture...one that fits nicely with the rest of the context without disrupting the flow.

    Kai Zas,

    There's a good chance I might get a Farscape box set to review sometime soon. [​IMG] I've got my fingers crossed!

    dave [​IMG]
     
  17. Steeve Bergeron

    Steeve Bergeron Cinematographer

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    This guy cracks me up everytime he speaks! [​IMG]
     
  18. Robert Ringwald

    Robert Ringwald Cinematographer

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    There's a lot of humor though... mostly in one-liners...

    "What was wrong with the black one!"
     
  19. Kai Zas

    Kai Zas Second Unit

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    Okay... I was about to chuck both boxes after watching 11 episodes. Thank God they threw in Tarantino when they did. That kind of kept me going, considering it was a two parter, the structure wasn't all that apparent. B

    But Marshall... I realy don't see what's funny about him. Sure, he has some kind of speech impediment. That, to me, isn't all that funy.

    Oh well, I'll hang in there and see where it goes.

    (Maybe I should've watched FireFly AFTER Alias. Most shows do take a while to find their pacing, Firefly had it from episode one.)

    David! You'll have a great time reviewing Farscape.
     
  20. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    Marshall doesn't have a pseech impediment. He's just not that socially well-adjusted.
     

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