Dead Zone: Season 5, The (US - DVD R1)
Gabe gets all touchy-feely and mindy readie with Anthony Michael Hall...
John Smith (Anthony Michael Hall) had the perfect life. Then he got in a horrible car accident and went into a coma. When he woke up his wife was remarried and another man was raising his son. To make matters worse he could now see images from the past, present, and future just by touching people, or the things they have touched. That's what happened in the movie. On the series there was apparently four seasons of adventures before the point I came in. I'm guessing some stuff happened.
I have no idea who these people are. No really, what the hell's going on here? This is the problem with studios sending me a later season of a thematic television series. I'm really expected to understand what's going on, and I don't. The whole 'previously, on The Dead Zone thing doesn't help.
Fortunately most of the episodes on this collection don't require me to care about the series' overall arc. In fact, I can see how the major arc would be frustrating for fans, only the first and last episodes really deal with it, and the last episode ends on the obligatory cliff-hanger. These stand-alone episodes are pretty entertaining though, and I can understand why the show is so well loved.
The dialogue is occasionally cornball, but most of the episodes are so well structured and directed that I wasn't bothered. The acting matches the direction in theatrical feel and scale. The leads are solid (with exception), but often it's the single episode guest stars that make the show (the pig-tailed professional killer was a personal favourite). The people involved with the series aren't pushovers, and even though this is the fifth season, it seems that there isn't a shortage of episode ideas here. I suppose I'm just assuming here, maybe everything here was already covered in earlier seasons.
The writers are the weak link, but defiantly not what I'd call bad. The show lacks a bit of polish, as if maybe just one more pass at the script would clean up the weak dialogue and occasional weak plot element (mostly pertaining to a series of silly coincidences). The series problems are most obvious in its general predictability. I pretty much guessed where these stories were going before they ended. The specifics usually escaped me, but the general plot is pretty easy to calculate. The episodes are still very suspenseful, proving that sometimes the value of a story is in the telling rather than the tale.
My next issue is very common in dramatic television, repetition. Though Stephen King's original story made for a nice one-shot, it just turns into an emotionally distraught, but extremely selfless psychic saving one person after another. This is, of course, unfortunately magnified by the fact that I watched the series on episode after another, rather than waiting the usual week between. I'm thinking a road series would fit the character more, like The Incredible Hulk, only with psychic visions instead of a green Lou Ferrigno.
I'm also not entirely clear on the specifics of John's powers, even though I saw the original Cronenberg film. I thought he had to touch people specifically to see their future, but apparently he can also touch the stuff they've touched. This isn't so big an issue that I can't suspend my disbelief, but I just thought I mention it.
I've never watched The Dead Zone on television, and I can't find the specs online, so I can't say what the OAR is for sure. This DVD is presented in a widescreen friendly 1.78:1 ratio. Occasionally things are a little cramped on the top and bottom, but things look pretty good overall. The transfer's black levels are lacking a bit, but are mostly free of noise. Colours are bright when needed, but do tend to bloom a bit. Everything is passable except for the interlacing and combing effects. These aren't overwhelming, but can be found at least a few times in every episode.
Everything's nicely remixed into a more than decent 5.1 surround track. The CSI discs I reviewed last year were more aggressive, probably the most aggressive TV series DVDs I've ever heard, but the effects are impressive. When Smith gets his visions the soundtrack is at its most heightened and hyper-real. Directionally stuff moves where it should, but the surround channels are a bit soft in all. The general lack of LFE leads me to believe that this is only a slight remixing of the original, made for TV 2.0 track. It's nice, but not numbingly awesome.
There are four audio commentaries, each with various commentators. The first is with actor/director Chris Bruno, his actor brother Dylan, and series producer Shawn Piller is probably the best and most talkative. Things are a little 'techie', and a bit defensive, but should entertain series fans. Star/producer Anthony Michael Hall shows up to his commentary a little late, and his track, with the DVD producer Rob Chynoweth and writer/producer Micheal Taylor, is the weakest, and the most silent. The third track features actor/director John L. Adams and writers James Morris and Shintaro Shimosawa. Like the other actor/writer commentary, it's a little focused on the technical details of filming, but features its share of laughs. The final track, on the series finale, features producers Tommy Thompson and Lloyd Segan, and writer Adam Targum (I am not making these names up). It's the most personal track, and a bit back-patty.
The deleted scenes are a bit of a surprise, because some of them are pretty good. Some even make sense of a few of the less sequential scenes. In the case of some scenes deletion was necessary to hide the final climax. I suppose it's easy to give away too much of your mystery, and I appreciate the editors and directors making the right choice in these cases.
The featurettes are super-fluffy. The first, ‘A Day with JLA’ (which unfortunately has nothing to do with any D.C. Superheroes) is exactly what it claims to be, a day with co-star John L. Adams. Adams is awkward, not engaging, and most unfortunately not funny in the ill-advised portrait, but series fans can get a decent look behind the scenes if they watch closely enough. The second featurette, ‘The Other Side of the Camera’, is a little more interesting. It seems that actors John L. Adams and Chris Bruno were given a chance to direct an episode apiece, and we get to watch them squirm. Surprisingly, Bruno's episode is one of the best, and Adams' episode is one of the most important in terms of greater character development.
It's pretty much hit and miss the whole way through this collection. As a non-fan, I'm not familiar enough with the series to get too excited about character moments, and some of the stand-alone episodes are plane bad. Overall I was much more impressed with the series than I'd assumed I would be, and there are a few moments of clever scripting, genuine suspense, and the actors are mostly in top form. I don't think I'll be catching the premiere of season six, and I won't be renting any back seasons, but I was entertained throughout. Not bad at all.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 5th June 2007
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Extras: Commentary, Deleted Scenes, A Day with JLA, The Other Side of the Camera
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Anthony Michael Hall, Nicole deBoer, Chris Bruno, John L. Adams
Genre: Drama and Thriller
Length: 492 minutes
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