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BAND OF BROTHERS ***** If there is one set you should be the proud owner of, it's this exceptional Golden Globe-winning mini-series that shows the strengths and weakness that make humanity tick under the strain of war. Based on the bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose, it tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, US Army. Drawn from interviews with survivors as well as soldiers' journals and letters, it brilliantly chronicles the experiences of these men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. It features 6 discs with 10 episodes and some great bonus features, including a 80 minute documentary on The Men of Easy Company and a 30 minute Making-of featurette, as well as an interactive field guide with real-life war heroes.
OVER THERE ***** (First Season: 13 Episodes) From producer Steven Borco (NYPD Blues, L.A.Law and Hill Street Blues) comes this riveting series. It is the first scripted series set in a current, ongoing war involving the United States in Iraq. It takes you to the front lines of battle and explores the effects of war on a U.S. Army unit sent to Iraq on their first tour of duty, as well as the equally powerful effects felt at home by their families and loved ones. It's not about politics or politics, but an intense human drama that dissects the human psyche and shows the cruel and monstrous face of war. The features include audio commentary on selected episodes, and documentaries on 'Weapons Debriefing' and a 'Tour of Duty: Filming Over There'.
GENERATION KILL ***** Following their massive critical success dealing with Baltimore crime in The Wire, writers/producers David Simon and Ed Burns have turned to Evan Wright's portrait of the Iraq War, Generation Kill. The seven-part series follows the course of one Marine Recon Battalion as they roll up and down the Iraqi landscape, gathering information while dealing with enemy forces and garbled messages that have trickled down the chain of command. Unrelenting and unvarnished, Generation Kill shows the harsh day-to-day of war without politicizing or imposing standard Hollywood drama.
This gripping seven-part HBO drama starts with the beginning of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and follows the Marines in the First Recon Battalion through the early weeks of the war, up to and just beyond the taking of Baghdad. Though the scripts follow the full Battalion, from the highest rank on down, the main focus is on one Humvee in particular, the lead truck that carries the "scribe" into battle to show him the true face of war. Lee Tergesen ("Life on Mars") sits in for Evan Wright, and he rides with four of the major players in the tale: quiet gunman Cpl. Walt Hasser (Pawel Szajda); the trigger-happy rookie Lance Cpl. Harold James Trombley (Billy Lush, "The Black Donnellys"); Cpl. Josh Ray Person (James Ransone, Ziggy from The Wire); and Lt. Brad "Iceman" Colbert (Alexander Skarsgård, "True Blood"). In this small group, we see the varying tones of the soldiers, from Brad's cool-under-pressure manner (hence the nickname) to Ray's more manic and profane philosophizing to Trombley's insecurity-fused bloodlust. As most of these men's time is spent in transit, their job is filled with long stretches of nothing; the boredom leaves a lot of time to think, and given the trouble too much thinking can instigate, they off-set it by constant chatter. They might sing songs or trade movie quotes (a long stretch of episode 4 features unseen characters swapping Big Lebowski lines) or, in the case of Ray Person, launch into raunchy crackpot theories about how the war is really just a front for NAMBLA's need to replenish their supply of young boys.
Much of this talk also turns to personal insults, and Evan Wright and the show's other creators (Simon and Burns wrote most of the scripts, and the directing duties are split between BBC regulars Susanna Wright and Simon Cellan-Jones) don't shy away from any harsh topic that might arise in the course of this joking. Given that the Marines are very much a boy's club, the ongoing conversation reflects the worst of frat house barbs, including racism, homophobia, and misogyny. A brotherhood like this inspires a strange camaraderie, where each soldier has the other's back but can't afford too much sentimentality; thus, this kind of humor provides the connection while maintaining the tough exterior required for battle.
Watching them move across unmarked desert, we see these Marines in a kind of surreal pocket dimension, a separate world within our world. The men are both aware of the futility of much of their actions but totally committed to their duty. Getting something done is preferable to nothing at all, and there is no room for moral questions. The filmmaking style of Generation Kill is gritty and of-the-moment, in that on-the-spot way David Simon pioneered back on Homicide: Life on the Streets and continued in The Wire. It's a mixture of documentary camerawork and traditional drama that creates a sort of hyperreality, working in conjunction with the complicated language to both immerse us in the experience and make us aware of the artifice. Though Generation Kill asks us not to judge these warriors, it does ask us to reflect on what we demand of them rather than maintaining the safe distance that is our luxury.
The exciting bonus features include an animated map that can be viewed episode by episode to see the progress the Marines make from one show to the next. This runs across all three discs, tied to each episode. The individual shows also each have the "previously on" intro for those who might require it (they don't play automatically) and 6 of the 7 shows have audio commentaries. Other features include:"Generation Kill: A Conversation with the 1st Recon Marines", a 23-minute chat between Evan Wright and a handful of the real soldiers the show portrayed, including Brad Colbert and Ray Person. The group talks about the truth of the shows and of Wright's reporting, as well as catching us up on where they are now. Two of the participating soldiers, Eric Kocher and Rudy Reyes, also served as advisors on the series and as actors, with Reyes playing himself. (He's the muscular soldier always making fancy coffee for the others.) "Making Generation Kill" (25 minutes) is a fairly standard but substantial look at the production, featuring on-set footage and conversations with the cast and crew. The talk moves from the origins of the story and Wright's book to the actor's boot camp and how to recreate the reality of the war experience from the ground up, including sets, costumes, etc. The final two featurettes are the half-hour "Eric Ladin's Video Diaries," an actor's personal video journal about his experience as part of the Generation Kill production, and "Deleted Dialogues," a collection of 5 audio clips of different characters in conversation. There is no explanation as to why these deletions only exist as audio and not with video, particularly as we can hear lots of background noise, suggesting that they were actually filmed
SLEEPER CELL (Complete Season 1) ***** Sleeper Cell offers a viewers a chance to see what life is like on the other side--specifically, the preparation of a terrorist attack from a small Al Qaeda terrorist cell. As a praiseworthy effort to enlighten viewers about peaceful practice of the Muslim faith and lesser-known aspects of domestic terrorism, Sleeper Cell succeeds as a conventional thriller with its heart in the right place. Like 24 and Alias, Sleeper Cell gets pretty intense with lots of action, drama, and suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. The Showtime original series Sleeper Cell debuted last year with a total of eight one-hour long episodes and a two-hour long series finale. The show has been compared to the popular Kiefer Sutherland starring series 24 for its content, and for those who have watched an entire season of 24, Sleeper Cell is an experience just as exciting, if not more. In a nutshell, Sleeper Cell is about an undercover FBI agent who instigates himself amongst an Al Qaeda terrorist cell that is planning an attack on the Los Angeles populace. Awesome doesn't even begin to describe the experience of watching Sleeper Cell. The show is very intense with lots of action, suspense, and drama. With each passing episode you will be on the edge of your seat dying to know what happens next. And after you are finished with the series finale, you will want more and more and more. The show focuses on the undercover FBI agent Darwyn Al-Hakim (Michael Ealy), who is a practicing Muslim. In the early stages of the series, it is revealed that Darwyn went undercover in a federal prison to make contacts with Muslim extremists. Upon his parole, Darwyn manages to hook up with Faris Al-Farik (Oded Fehr), who is an extremist putting together a small team of followers to unleash a terrorist attack on the Los Angeles populace. Bonus Features: They include two episode commentaries, deleted/extended scenes, and two featurettes. The deleted/extended scenes run for a little over twenty seven minutes and feature optional commentary with Reiff and Voris. The two featurettes included a behind the scenes look at the series finale and a documentary. The behind the scenes featurette "Making of Finale" features over one hour of content with cast and crew during the filming of the series finale. It is hosted by Reiff and Voris. The documentary featurette "Know Your Enemy" is a fifteen minute production about Sleeper Cell.
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