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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Romantic > Slapstick > Latino > Singing > Crime > TV Variety Show > Country Music > Situation Com > A La Mala (2015/Lionsgate DVD)/The Encore Of Tony Duran (2011/Cinedigm DVD)/Hot Pursuit (2015/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Hee Haw Collection (1969 - 1973/Star Vista/Time Life DVD)/I Love Lucy: Ultimate

A La Mala (2015/Lionsgate DVD)/The Encore Of Tony Duran (2011/Cinedigm DVD)/Hot Pursuit (2015/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Hee Haw Collection (1969 - 1973/Star Vista/Time Life DVD)/I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 2 (1952 - 1953/Desilu/Paramount/CBS Blu-ray)/Mike & Molly: The Complete Fifth Season (2014 - 2015/Warner DVD Set)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Hee Haw DVD set is now only available from our friends at Star Vista and can be ordered from the link below along with more episodes of the show that are extensive and on-line exclusives.

Here's a group of new comedy releases for you to know about...

Pitipol Ybarra's A La Mala (2015) has Aislinn Derbez as the title character, whose name partly means literally disaster (the English title Falling For Mala tales away that joke) as an actress who went to school for it, but keeps ticking off the people who keep hiring her. She is also good at isolating herself overall, so will she ever find a job, let alone love?

Things take a quick turn when she starts making money as a seductress to find out if women's boyfriends will go for her if she hits one them. Will they flirt too? Should these guys get dumped? That adds to her hiding behind things and not allowing herself to be open. The only problem is whether she needs to 'surrender' like the male-dominated society might expect, but that is among the missed opportunities in the script. However, Derbez is appealing and the cast is good, so I'm glad I saw this one and it was worth a look.

There are no extras, unless you count Digital Copy, which we don't.

Fred A. Sayeg's The Encore Of Tony Duran (2011) has Gene Pietragallo as the title character, a man whose life I at a dead end, but still remembers his dreams of being a singer. Can he try to make this work late in life? Well, that would have made for a good film, but instead, he gets involved in unfunny, dumb schtick about selling drugs for quick money (his character has limited experience in this respect) and the humor is one-note all the way to its awful ending.

William Katt (playing a drug kingpin unrecognizably), Nikki Ziering and Elliott Gould also show up among the cast that get wasted and are far better than their material. We suspect the Al Pacino film Danny Collins (with its problems, reviewed elsewhere on this site) is the reason this one finally got picked up. In both cases, if you are going to do a film about singers or would-be singers in their later years, stick to the subject.

A Movie Promo, Inside Look interview and Director's Video Commentary are the extras.

Anne Fletcher's Hot Pursuit (2015) is a new comedy that is mixed and did mixed at the box office, despite the fact that its female leads have some chemistry. Reese Witherspoon (back in form after personal problems temporarily (we hope) got in her way) as daughter of a policeman who was well respected (with more than a few odd Silence Of The Lambs references) who has grown up to become an officer herself. She is also too by the book for her own good, but it is to show us she is a good woman.

That immediately helps when she joins another officer to pick up a witness (Sofia Vergara in a fun comic turn that the film fails to capitalize on) and her husband when two sets of unknown gunmen show up at their pricey home and go gun crazy. She and our near-heroine escape in what looks like something that might develop into Thelma & Louise meets Midnight Run, but the script keeps piling on the missed opportunities for obvious humor and hot or miss jokes. Too bad, because if this were handled better, this could have been a shocking, surprise blockbuster. Instead, it is mixed and ultimately disappointing. See it if curious and you might get something out of it.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, an Alternate Ending, Gag Reel and three Behind The Scenes/Making Of featurettes.

The Hee Haw Collection (1969 - 1973) samples the early years of the hit rural variety comedy show that was a big surprise hit in its time (a special that suddenly become a set of shows that CBS saw become an instant hit) that critics hated but fans loved and kept in production for decades. Inspired by Laugh-In like so many shows (including the animated Groovie Goolies, reviewed elsewhere on this site), they replaced the wit with cornpone and the result was success. Buck Owens and Roy Clark were a perfect pair to host and this new set reminds us that energy helped make it also happen.

Never a big fan myself, I have a new appreciation for its good-heartedness and some classiness critics missed and is far more obvious today, but the most inarguable thing is that the show is also a vital record of the country & western scene long gone and that is beyond validated by musical appearances by legends like Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Donna Fargo, Dottie West, Merle Haggard and Tennessee Ernie Ford just on these few shows!

However, variety shows were hot at the time the show arrived and when CBS dropped it, it lasted longer in syndication becoming the second most successful such show next to Lawrence Welk that anyone can think of, so the series helped build syndicated TV in ways it might not always get credit for. This is a good sampler, ups and downs, to see why.

Extras include 7 interview clips on the first 2 DVDs (starting with Roy Clark on how the show got started) and 3 sections of bonus skits on DVD 3.

I Love Lucy: Ultimate Season 2 (1952 - 1953) continues the Paramount/CBS rollout on Blu-ray of one of the most successful TV series of all time, then, now and forever. We previously covered the debut season Blu-ray with some other CBS-owned classics at this link:


I'm thrilled to say these classics get the same top rate treatment that the first season got and add the ton of extras and it lived up to being very 'Ultimate'. The two big event episodes include Job Switching, the first show of the season where the men try doing the housework while the gals go out to find jobs. Just when things could not get funnier, Lucy & Viv land up at a chocolate factory and the series (as well as all of TV) reaches a new high in lunacy. The other is Lucy giving birth to Ricky, which they get the most out of for several episodes.

The writers also have their showbiz shows on Ricky's club, the Mertzes and Riccardos against each other and other surprises for which brief description do not do justice to the writing or performing. However, the energy, joy and way out of the way the makers went on each show remains amazing and the gold standard for how to do such comedy. Great that they had such an amazing cast to pull it off.

Extras are many including some from the DVD version and include a 1952 Promo to alert everyone this new season was coming, 4 new introductory clips for four episodes shot while Lucy was away actually having her child, Audio Commentary tracks that include Director William Asher, Writers Bob Carroll Jr. & Madelyn Pugh Davis, Stage Manager Herb Browar, and TV Historian Bart Andrews across several of these discs, the unfortunately colorized Job Switching, a French-Canadian version of the show, new opening and closing pieces for The Handcuffs shown a few years later for the 4th season, Flubs blooper clips, Lucy On Radio in several My Favorite Husband episodes, text-oriented Meet William Asher bio, text-based biographies for co-stars from various episodes, Operetta missing scene only surviving from an earlier script draft, text Production Notes, Photo Galleries, Stars in the Eye 1952 Kinescope as the Lucy cast plugs the show, 1952 CBS Eye clip promoting the show, opening & closing for the internationally syndicated copies of Redecorating, Audio Book Behind the Scenes piece on the show from Laughs, Luck...and Lucy by Jess Oppenheimer, with Gregg Oppenheimer, a Welcome Little Ricky clip letting everyone knowing of 'the arrival', a Heart Fund PSA with Lucy and Desi plugging The Heart Fund, 1953 Red Skelton Show sending up the show and how popular Lucy merchandise was (and still is), the Spanish-language title from the Lucy Hires a Maid episode, and I Love Lucy: The Movie shows the artificial theatrical film cut from three episodes of the show (The Benefit, Breaking The Lease & The Ballet) which was more common back in the day than you might think.

Mike & Molly: The Complete Fifth Season (2014 - 2015) has the Melissa McCarthy hit still hanging in there (until she does feature films full time we suspect) as part of a likable cast that includes Billy Gardell as her policeman husband and a decent supporting cast including the capable Swoosie Kurtz, but I never found the show particularly funny. At best, it is pleasant ans at this point, there is not many more places for the storylines to go. At this point, it is for fans only, but it is not as bad as most sitcoms get at this point to its credit.

All 23 half-hour episodes are here and they have at lats one more season ahead. We'll see where that one goes.

A Gag Reel is the only extra.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Hot looks good for a new shoot, if not featuring any kinds of shots that are particularly memorable, but it is consistently professional if nothing else. The anamorphically enhanced DVD that comes with it is much softer though.

The 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers of the Lucy episodes are as solid as the first set, with some moments showing the age of the 35mm film materials used, but this is all far superior to the previous versions of these shows only matched by actual good film prints of them. There are also again minor video issues, but it is impressive all around yet again and for a series that likely had many prints made from original camera materials early on, we're luck they look this good. Cheers to CBS for putting the money out to fix them up so well.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Mala is sadly the softest presentation here, despite somer good shots, so the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Duran (as off as it can be) and the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Mike (for a modern, standard-looking sitcom) look better by default, even if they have their softness.

The 1.33 X 1 color, NTSC analog videotaped episodes on Haw look good for their age too with decent, consistent color, even when it is sometimes flawed. These shows have never looked so good and began on 2-inch videotape. Good job.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Hot is easily the sonic winner here without much effort, well mixed and presented with a consistent soundfield despite it being joke and talk-based. Music and sound effects are overdone at times to accomplish this. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the DVD version is not as warm or consistent, but passable.

The PCM 2.0 Stereo on the Lucy Blu-rays again can show their age and a little inherent compression, but they far outdo their DVD versions and are about as good as these shows will ever sound.

The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on Mala, Duran and Mike tie for third place, not even as strong as the Hot DVD, but audible enough if lacking good soundfields. Mike has less of an excuse for this due to being stage-bound and having higher budgets. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Haw is unfortunately, smaller-sounding and more compressed throughout than expected, which is especially noticed when guest stars show up to sing... even if they are lip-synching. Be careful of high volumes and volume-switching.

And now for more on Hee Haw from the press release that offers more shows beyond the set offered above, but also including it...

''For true HEE HAW fans, Time Life will also be releasing several exclusive sets, only available online at http://timelife.com/products/the-hee-haw-collection or by calling 1-800-950-7887. The direct response HEE-HAW COLLECTION offers either 11 episodes across 8 DVDs or 23 episodes across 14 DVDs, for approximately $100 or $190, respectively. Both sets arrive with hours of bonus programming including in-depth interviews and Hee Haw comedy classics.''

- Nicholas Sheffo


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