The Shield, one of the smartest, edgiest and most uncompromising crime shows on TV, ended its seven-season run in 2008 with a brilliant final season and one of the greatest series finales ever broadcast. Michael Chiklis’ Vic Mackey is one of the most distinctive TV characters ever created, a maverick officer at once corrupt and dedicated, violent and protective, and utterly passionate in his job while lining his pockets on side. But this season, every evil act and dirty deed that Mackey and his Strike Force ever perpetrated comes back on him as his one-time best friend Shane (Walton Goggins) goes on the run and his wife is confronted with the truth of his legacy. Creator Shawn Ryan and his crew keep surprising us with the turns the show takes yet never compromises the integrity of the show, the characters or the world they live in. Watching Vic’s world unravel is riveting, but every character gets to shine as the show takes its final bow. The Shield: Season Seven – The Final Act out on DVD in a four disc box set with commentary on every one of the thirteen episodes by various collections of the cast and crew and a well-made half-hour featurette on the development of the storyline and character arcs of the final season: Nobody Expects to Lose, Nobody Expects to Die: The Shield’s The Final Act.
The Jack Lemmon Film Collection features five comedies made between 1954 and 1964. These are not his most famous films but the earliest in the set chart the development of the young star and the best of them show off the talents that made him such an appealing, attractive leading man before he settled into the exasperated whine of the oppressed everyman in films like The Fortune Cookie, The Odd Couple and The Prisoner of Second Avenue. This collection rediscovers the confident, somewhat cocky yet cheerfully charismatic modern urban single male, a man of wit and wile and a cornerstone of decency. Phffft! (1954), his second screen appearance, reunites him with Judy Holliday in a comedy of divorce written by George Axelrod, who approaches it like a dry run for The Seven Year Itch. Witty and urbane, it’s a modern romance for the fifties cocktail culture with a surprisingly knowing attitude toward sex and a romantic heart. It deserves a more comically adept director than Mark Robson but it’s a delight all the same. Richard Quine directs Lemmon in Operation Mad Ball (1957), an Army comedy with Lemmon in the familiar role of the guy who works the system behind the scenes while evading his commanding officer (Ernie Kovacs), with a script co-written by Blake Edwards. Both Quine and Edwards reunite with Lemmon for The Notorious Landlady (1962), a quasi-Hitchcockian comic mystery that sends American diplomat in London on the case of proving the innocence of murder suspect Kim Novak. Lemmon is charming and insistent without coming off as a wolf or a wise guy and carries the somewhat overlong film. The six disc set also features Under The Yum Yum Tree (1963) and Good Neighbor Sam (1964), the documentary Jack Lemmon: The Man Behind the Magic hosted by Chris Lemon and Marrigeable Male, a 1954 episode of Ford All-Star Theater with Lemmon in fine form wooing Ida Lupino with an elaborate charade.
New releases this week include Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, which he has indicated may be his last appearance in front of the camera, and the modern thriller The International with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts chasing the biggest criminal conspiracy in global finance.
And new on Blu-ray is Woodstock: Ultimate Collector’s Edition: the concert film, the cultural event, the director’s cut. It’s the music that everyone remembers and the film is a time capsule of pop music and youth culture of the era. But the filmmakers spend almost as much time observing the audience as they do the musicians and it charts the evolution of the event over the course of the weekend: “Three days of peace and music,” as the subtitle reads, a chronicle of both the music and the community that formed around it and lived together in peace for three days on Max Yasgur’s farm.
For the rest of the highlights, visit my weekly column, which goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment, or go directly to the various pages dedicated to New Releases, Special Releases, TV and Blu-ray.