Friday, September 12, 2014

Cinefiles: The latest TV on DVD releases

Posted By on Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 11:46 AM

A heroin-era Aerosmith rocks the Midnight Special.
  • A heroin-era Aerosmith rocks the Midnight Special.

The Midnight Special (Not Rated)
StarVista Entertainment

Forget American Bandstand — in the ’70s, when teens wanted to see the biggest rock, pop and soul acts of the day, they tuned into The Midnight Special, a late-night variety show that showcased such a haphazard lineup that it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see a hard rock band lined up next to a Motown group followed by a folk singer-songwriter or a total bubblegum pop attraction. For music fans, StarVista’s six-disc collection is an absolute must-own, featuring classic performances from acts as diverse as John Denver and Linda Ronstadt to Alice Cooper and Janis Ian. Every performance is a true miracle of music, hearkening back to a time when showmanship was an earned incentive, not a hallow add-on. It’s impossible not to binge-watch all six discs in a row, 96 mind-blowing performances. If you weren’t lucky enough to see them the first time, count your blessings that you can see them now.

Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (Not Rated)
StarVista Entertainment

StarVista continues its run of finally releasing some of the best musical moments ever captured on television with Motown 25, the legendary 1983 NBC special that cemented Motown as the music of America. Featuring not only one of Marvin Gaye’s final performances, it was also the debut of Michel Jackson’s Moonwalk, which, if you were a kid in school back then, was the most openly imitated dance move of all time by the next day. What’s truly amazing is that besides the special, you get two other discs filled with tons of never-before-broadcasted footage, numerous bonus featurettes, rehearsals and a special roundtable about the event. And, if that really wasn’t enough, there’s also a six-disc (!) special edition. This is an important pop culture artifact that makes one hope and pray that a Motown 50 special is just around the corner.

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-Ray) (Not Rated)
Anchor Bay Entertainment

It’s amazing to me that The Walking Dead is still a much-beloved television show, especially given that every season at least half of the episodes contain way too much filler. Season Four is no different, and while it’s not as bad as the season where the survivors were stuck on that farm, the first few eps here, where they have to deal with a flu outbreak, grow repetitive really fast. Star Andrew Lincoln comically emotes way too much for my tastes, but things pick up halfway through when the Governor returns to wreak havoc. Some of the best stories of the season come as the gang gets divided and tries to make it to a safe haven called Terminus. The cliffhanger is a real hum-dinger that’ll keep me watching next season, even though I know I’ll be disappointed for most of it.

Portlandia: Season Four (Not Rated)
IFC/VSC

Supposed comedian Fred Armisen and former indie darling Carrie Brownstein continue to beat the dead horse that is Portlandia, a once hilariously biting satire on hipster culture that has pretty much devolved into one easy fart and dick joke after another, each episode more dumbed down than the last. It seems that instead of focusing on the writing, the duo are too busy becoming the thing they parodied, filling the show with one hipper-than-thou guest-star after another and losing touch with what once was pretty brilliant stuff. In Season Four, many of the same retread characters (the feminists, the motorhead and his vapid girlfriend, etc.) return, with nothing really new to do, scoring easy laughs and not much else. Maybe it’s time to put this one to bed.


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