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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Burn Notice ~ Season 2 [Blu-ray]

 

(Created by Matt Nix, 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Fox Television Studios for USA Network

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 684 min

Chapters: 16

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case, w/ flippage, complete on 3 discs

Release date: June 16th, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 17 Mbps

 

Audio:

English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1

 

Subtitles:

English, Spanish & French

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentaries on 3 episodes by cast & crew

• Featurette: NIXin' it Up (13:57)

• Featurette: Boom Notice – in SD (8:38)

• 7 Deleted Scenes

• Gag Reel (10:22)

 

 

The Film:  5
Only a few minutes into this series, I get this déjà-vu feeling. Where have I seen this before? Aha! It’s not the content so much as the style, reminiscent of Stephen J. Cannell’s The Rockford Files and Wiseguy. Rockford, a show synonymous with James Garner, was character-driven in hour-long self-contained formulaic episodes. Wiseguy less so, as it added a seasonal arc about how Ken Wahl’s character, Vinnie Terranova, is groomed to be accepted into the underworld. In both cases, the writing is what set them apart from everything else on TV at the time – that and the casting of the principals. When we see Bruce Campbell, King of B-pictures, in the all-important second banana position on the present instance, we can be comfortable that Burn Notice doesn’t have Cannellian aspirations.

The set-up is that Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan, whom I liked much better on Touching Evil and as the Police captain in Clint Eastwood’s Changeling) wasn’t so much fired from his job as spy for the government as he was "burned" – by persons and forces unknown – left out in the cold. All is not lost, since there is one group, who remains a mystery who takes advantage of the situation by hiring Westen out for odd and dangerous jobs. Westen wants to know who burned him - we assume this will take as long as he is permitted to remain on the air. In any case, he has the help of a friend and FBI informant, Sam Axe, (Campbell) and a ”trigger-happy” semi-ex-girlfriend (Gabrielle Anwar). In most of the episodes, Westen finds himself helping some innocent third party unravel themselves from the clutches of his new handler, or whomever, in hit and miss efforts to get him closer to learning the identity of thems that burned him. One–armed, we assume.

If only the writing wasn’t so obviously self-conscious. If only Donovan’s voiceover didn’t seem so bored with the whole thing – his character might be half asleep, but I’m not. . .though I do like his primers on how to be a spy. And what’s with the zoom cha-cha step every other time the camera does aerial spins around Miami! – Is this the producer’s way of making sure we don’t confuse this series with Dexter, or CSI: Miami, or Miami Vice? I don’t think he need worry on that score. Season One was fresher. Maybe that was all the show had in it.
 


 

Image: 2/6
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVDs, including SD 480i.

This is one of those instances where, even if the result on Blu-ray is identical to the source, even if it as good – or better - than its network incarnation, the image is so grainy as to make the experience of watching it on a large display make you wonder who approved this mess for release. This is not what high definition was born for. My player tells me that the resolution is 1080p. I can see that bit rates are in the upper teens. But in fact I’ve seen more highly resolved images on DVD – often. I take it that the image is the result of post-processing to achieve a certain kind of artistic effect – one that gives the show its unique visual identity. Perhaps it works just fine on smaller displays, but on a large screen the grain is so large it looks like I’m looking through beach sand. Had enough! No? The picture is soft, flat and lifeless. Shadow detail is just black. Yuk!
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 6/6
The audio fares better, but it's far from what we have gotten used to with shows like Lost and True Blood. The dialogue and music is clear enough, but despite the DTS HD-MA it all sounds like, well, The Rockford Files. Dynamics are crushed, though every once in a while there is a disproportionate kablam or other comic book noise and very little in the way of immersive effects.

 

 

 

Operations: 5
After what must be the funniest promo piece on Blu-ray this year – an ad for "Burn Notice Season 2 on DVD," presented in SD no less, and repeated on each of the three discs – Fox gets down to business. I’m not a fan of hidden menus, and this Blu-ray hides everything, even the fact that there is an episode submenu.
 

Extras: 5
Each disc offers an audio commentary for one of its episodes, making three such roundtablers in all. So if you want to know more about the whys and wherefores about the show this, is the place to go. “NIXin’ it up” is a 14-minute featurette that introduces us to Matt Nix, the creator, writer and exec producer of Burn Notice. Boom Notice is a little spoof on the series featuring Fred the boom operator.
 

 

 

Bottom line: 3
This just didn’t work for me on any level. I gather that my reaction to the series is very out of the mainstream, Burn Notice being the "No. 1 basic cable network series among the cherised (sic) 18-49 demo" (ref: Sun Sentinal) – but I will admit to my maybe being influenced by an unwatchable image. You think?

Leonard Norwitz
June 29th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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