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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Mystery > Action > Crime > Prison > Murder > Fantasy > TV > Medical > Drama > British > Literature > Au > Alcatraz: The Complete Series (2012/Warner Blu-rays)/Coma (2012/Sony DVD/TV Mini-Series)/Screwed (2010/Inception DVD)/Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (2010/Acorn DVDs)

Alcatraz: The Complete Series (2012/Warner Blu-rays)/Coma (2012/Sony DVD/TV Mini-Series)/Screwed (2010/Inception DVD)/Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (2010/Acorn DVDs)


Picture: B-/C+/C/C     Sound: B-/C+/C+/C+     Extras: C-/D/C-/C+     Main Programs: C-/C+/C+/C+



Now for some Mini-Series and limited series TV dramas, plus a British theatrical drama in the same narrative mode that fits nicely with these releases.



To start with the oddest first, Alcatraz: The Complete Series (2012) is part of a cycle of bad fiction that is so hell-bent on revisionist history that the premise is outright ridiculous to start with.  This one has us believe that prisoners from the famous and now defunct island prison somehow slipped through time (circa 1963) as active prisoners and have turned up in New York City today.  As hard as this wants to be the next X-Files or the like, it is just lame and convincing to begin with, then only becomes more convoluted and just gets more and more goofy until you cannot believe it got made.


Sam Neill tries to lead the not-bad cast in this J.J. Abrams-produced fiasco and it just gets more and more boring as it get more preposterous.  I cannot even see it having a cult following, plus the real Alcatraz is more interesting and the island has had its legend used to much better effect recently (Sean Connery in The Rock) so this was a bad idea all around that no talent in the world was going to be able to salvage.


Extras include Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel and a behind the scenes featurette.



Then we have a remake.  Coma (2012) is a TV Mini-Series remake and attempted update (like it needed it) of the 1978 hit film of Robin Cook’s hit novel then directed by Michael Crichton.  The new one is helmed by Mikael Salomon and has newcomers Lauren Ambrose and Steven Pasquale in the lead roles originally held by Genevieve Bujold and Michael Douglas, now with cyber technology and we guess an attempt to get more out of the book.


Susan Wheeler (Ambrose) is a student doctor who starts to become suspicious that too many comas are happening at her hospital and when weird, odd things start to happen, she only gets more suspicious.  In addition, her grandfather used to work at the same hospital, but she becomes intrigued by a place called Jefferson that for some reason keeps getting the coma patients.


I was not a big fan of the first film, but thought it was good, though it has dated.  The new technology and tech designs here have not improved the story any and despite a nice strong supporting cast that includes James Woods, Geena Davis, Ellen Burstyn and Richard Dreyfuss, the teleplay tries out some new ideas (including bad digital visual effects) that ruin this ambitious attempt to update the source material.  This also results in script troubles that eventually ruin an ambitious remake that Warner and Sony made this with Ridley Scott and in one of his last works of any kind, the late Tony Scott.


I wish all had shown some more restraint and the ending is especially dumb, but what does work here is not awful and if you are interested, you might want to take a look.  There are no extras, but you can read more about the original Coma at this link for its Limited Edition CD soundtrack:






James D’Arcy is a British military veteran who returns from the Middle East to take a job as a guard at a tough prison in Reg Traviss’ Screwed (2010), but finds corruption throughout the system and that there may be more than a few secret activities going on that is ruining order and other things.  The supporting cast is decent, the writing solid and this is more realistic than you might get on British TV, but some clichés and some things we have seen before (despite the realism being decent) stop this from being a great motion picture, yet it is not some lame TV movie on the subject either and there have been plenty.


D’Arcy can more than carry the lead and tends to be very underrated, which this is yet more evidence of.  Besides the obvious meaning of the title, a guard in a British prison is known as a “screw” since they holds the place together.  Based on the book by Ronnie Thompson, who co-wrote the screenplay, it is intelligently done and worth going out of your way for if you are interested in seeing it.  A trailer is the only extra.



Finally we have Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (2010), based on what is considered a key book from Down Under, though I have barely heard of it.  The book might be great, but the mini-series at 6 hour-long shows runs on a good bit, is very, very melodramatic and sadly, is also very predictable as we get one of those soap opera set-ups where just about every single clichéd bad thing that could happen to the characters does.  The two families, The Lambs and The Pickles, are the focus of the story taking place from 1943 to 1963 and I did find some of the moments well acted and well done.  There just were not enough of them.


We have covered tales of Australian locales before like The Killing Of Angel Street or the popular megahit soap opera Number 96 here on the site, but this stab at “quality television” seems more determined to compete with the latter and not have enough of the edge of the former (or the likes of Wake In Fright) so it simply did not play as well or as honestly as I had expected.  Now you can see for yourself.


Extras include a 41-minutes behind-the-scenes featurette, character clips with actors explaining their roles and five additional featurette clips.


The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Alcatraz is the best performer on the list by default being a Blu-ray, but it still has styling to make it look like some dark thriller show and we also get motion blurt and some other flaws.  Still, a few good shots can be found here and there.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Coma is on the soft side and on Cloudstreet is a little softer than I would have liked, even when you factor styling for different periods, plus we get noise in a few more shots than expected in both cases and color is sometimes limited by accident or on purpose, so expect unusual playback quality throughout.


That leaves Coma the best of the DVDs, as the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Screwed is also a bit softer than I expected, despite it being a somewhat stylized HD shoot itself.  It was clean and consistent, but a Blu-ray would likely work better in all three cases.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Alcatraz is once again the best of the four releases here being the only lossless option, yet sound is towards the front speakers resulting in inconsistent soundfields on all the episodes.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Coma and Screwed has some surround moments, but are underwhelming and Screwed purposely has its silent moments.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Cloudstreet has some vague Pro Logic surrounds, but it plays like regular standard stereo otherwise and is well-recorded for the most part.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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