TV on DVD for 12/8/09 – Lost, Rescue Me, Brick City and Johnny Mercer

Lost: The Complete Fifth Season (Disney) – For a while it looked like “Lost” had indeed lost itself in its elaborate twists and strange turns but J.J. Abrams’ high concept survival series turned metaphysical epic is back on track and as riveting as ever. The castaways spent the first four seasons trying to get off the island. This season, the few souls who made it back to civilization spend their energy trying to get back while those left behind get tossed through time and manipulated in a power struggle that reaches beyond our mortal coil. Our castaways are mere pawns in a struggle that has gone on for millennia.

"Lost" and found
"Lost" and found

Disney really knows how to put together a special edition DVD for the show and this season is no different. Along with the 16 episodes on five discs are commentary tracks on select episodes, 8 deleted/extended scenes, the obligatory blooper reel and a handful of featurettes. “Making Up For Lost Time” dives into the production challenges of keeping the locations straight in a show that leaps back and forth through time in each episode, “Lost on Location” is a collection of brief featurettes on key scenes from the season, “Building 23 and Beyond” is a tour of the Burbank production facilities with tour guide Michael Emerson and “An Epic Day with Richard Alpert” follows the actor through the final day of principle photography. The high concept “Mysteries of the Universe: The Dharma Initiative” is very clever—a mock-made-for-TV-doc presented as a lost episode of a short-lived 1980s series (it even looks like an old VHS recording)—but the gag wears thin long before it ends. Exclusive to the Blu-ray set is the BD-Live enabled “Lost University” with access to even more information on the show, while the “Season Play” function remembers where you left off and gets my vote for the most useful Blu-ray exclusive to date.

Rescue Me: Season Five, Volume Two (Sony) – Denis Leary’s darkly comic drama of the extreme dysfunction and self-destructive impulses of New York firefighter Tommy Gavin and his coworkers, friends and family may be the most strange and surreal drama on TV. The savagely, fearlessly funny portrait of men who escape the stress and danger of an unforgiving job through reckless and irresponsible private lives takes a wicked turn in this half-season as one member of the crew deals with Ground Zero-related cancer. Maura Tierney is the guest star in this arc, as yet another crazy complication that Tommy willingly invites into his volatile life, already tipping over the scale as he tries to balance affairs with his ex-wife (Andrea Roth) and his cousin’s widow (Callie Thorne), keep his youngest daughter from fleeing him in shame and embrace his alcoholism and return to the bottle, dragging all the sober members of his family with him. The results are devastating, ending the season with yet another fatality and a potential murder that a grieving Uncle Teddy treats as a mercy killing. 11 episodes on three discs in a box set of two thinpak cases. Also features deleted scenes, two featurettes and a gag reel.

Original made for The Sundance Channel, the five-part documentary series Brick City (First Run), from filmmakers Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin, profiles six months in the life of the city of Newark, New Jersey, from the leaders at City Hall (Mayor Cory Booker and Police Director Garry McCarthy) to street-level activists (the Street Warriors and former Blood gang member Jayda) making a concerted effort to end the violence and poverty and rebuild the depressed city. Reviewers called it a real life “The Wire” when it first ran on cable and I can’t top that description: it’s compelling and revealing. Five episodes on two discs in a standard case with a hinged tray, with bonus interviews with directors Mark Benjamin and Marc Levin and an optional introduction by executive producer Forest Whitaker on each episode, plus deleted scenes and the nine-minute featurette “Forest Whitaker in the Bricks.”

Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s On Me (Warner) commemorates the 100th birthday of the Savannah, Georgia, boy who became one of the great American lyricists of the 20th century. This generous documentary, made by musical documentary specialist Bruce Ricker and producer Clint Eastwood for Turner Classic Movies, is a paean to artist and his art, a production less focused on the life of the man who founded Capitol Records and signed Nat King Cole, and more concerned with exploring and celebrating his gift for spinning words into enchanting lyrics and stories told in verse, full of witty wordplays and slangy saying transformed into musical phrases. It’s packed with performances of his greatest songs, from “Hooray for Hollywood” and “Jeepers Creepers” through “That Old Black Magic” and “One For My Baby” to “Moon River” and “The Days of Wine and Roses,” with both new renditions and classic clips of Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and more, including a marvelous collection of TV appearances with Mercer himself crooning his own lyrics. The clips don’t just celebrate the music, they illustrate his gift for the language of the lyric and telling stories through song. The two-disc set also includes bonus studio performances, a session with executive producer Clint Eastwood at the piano with John Williams and Jamie Cullum, stills and other supplements.

Mental: The Complete First Season (Fox) – Yes, it’s another TV show about an unconventional professional whose unorthodox ideas and eccentric manner shake up the staid atmosphere of a bureaucracy comfortable in its routine. Dr. Jack Gallagher (Chris Vance) makes a memorable entrance on his first day as director of psychiatric services at a Los Angeles hospital: he takes off all his clothes to bond with a delusional (and naked) patient. After that, it’s a pretty conventional show about an unconventional character who clashes with the hidebound administration but slowly wins them over (fellow doctor Jacqueline McKenzie, administrator Annabella Sciorra, interns Marisa Ramirez and Nicholas Gonzalez) with his passion and commitment, while a nemesis (Derek Webster) schemes to get him fired and take over the ward himself. 13 episodes on four discs, plus a three-minute promotional featurette and an unrated alternate version of the pilot (the only difference I noticed was a butt shot of Vance). It ends with Gallagher moving on, and why not? The show wasn’t picked up for a second season, which makes this collection “The Complete Series.”

Blu-ray of the week: The Sopranos: The Complete First Season (HBO) – With only the final season of the landmark premium cable series on Blu-ray, HBO goes back to the beginning to release the first landmark season on the high-definition home video standard. More than simply “The Godfather Goes to the Shrink,” this brilliant made for cable drama gives “family crisis” a whole new meaning. Written with a marvelous ear for language and a sharp sense of character, it makes full use of the no holds barred opportunities of cable with shocking violence, casual sex, and epithet laced gangster-speak. 13 episodes on five discs, plus an interview with creator David Chase by Peter Bogdanovich and two featurettes.

For more TV on DVD, visit my weekly column, which goes live every Tuesday on MSN Entertainment: TV on DVD. For more new DVD this week, my DVD picks for the week at my blog and New Releases, Special Releases and Blu-ray at my MSN column.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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