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V: The Complete First Season(TV) (2009-2010)
They arriVe. Earth’s first alien encounter begins when huge motherships appear over 29 major cities. The visitors – the Vs – are human-like beings who know our languages and bring awesome gifts of healing and technology. People everywhere welcome them as saviors. But a fledgling resistance is on the rise, determined to reveal the shocking truth. Among the underground cadre: an FBI Counter Terrorism Agent who uncovers a terror cell no one ever expected…and finds that her teenage son is drawn to the beauty and promise of the Vs. Get in the know with the amazing first season of the series that combines sci-fi thrills with the uncertainties of the post-9/11 world. Here. Now. AdVenture begins.
For more about V: The Complete First Season and the V: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see V: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 7, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, Logan Huffman, Laura Vandervoort, Morena Baccarin, Scott Wolf
Director: John Behring
» See full cast & crew
V: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
"We are of peace. Always..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 7, 2010
Think climate change, partisan rage and oil spills are frightening? Try growing up in the '80s, when it was next to impossible to go to sleep without visions of hissing Sleestaks, knife-wielding Zuni dolls and shifty reptilian Visitors slithering through your head. In retrospect, none of them deserved my late-night fear -- well, maybe the pint sized Trilogy of Terror beastie... it still manages to skitter into my nightmares from time to time -- but there's something to be said for imagery that can continue to haunt a grown man some twenty-five years after it first invaded his mind. V, the well-received 1983 sci-fi miniseries that spawned a 1984 sequel and a short-lived series, is probably best remembered for its tattered man-suits, unsettling glimpses of scaly skin and ungodly, inhuman babies. That was enough though; enough to help the franchise weather the decades, enough to allow it to linger in the dark recesses of our cultural consciousness, enough even to inspire a somewhat successful ABC reboot (set to air its second season this January). Sadly, little about the new V series will be remembered thirty years from now. It's mildly entertaining, I suppose; a guilty pleasure, sure. But it's also derivative, heavy-handed, fairly shallow and, ultimately, a bit frustrating.
When twenty-nine alien spaceships position themselves over key cities around the world, mankind braces for the worst. That is until the Visitors' leader, a disarming beauty named Anna (Firefly's Morena Baccarin), appears in the heavens and attempts to reassure the entire planet. (Each ship is conveniently equipped with multilingual jumbo-trons. Just go with it.) Taken at face value, her intentions are pure and her goals mutually beneficial to both species -- Anna offers to share her people's advanced technology in exchange for a small portion of Earth's abundant natural resources -- but her true motivations are much more sinister. In fact, the Visitors aren't noble humanoids at all; a truth FBI counter-terrorism agent Erica Evans (Lost castoff, Elizabeth Mitchell) learns all too well after she stumbles into the middle of a terrifying, decades-old conspiracy. Using genetically engineered human skin to disguise their true appearance, the aliens are up to no good, and willing to kill anyone who gets in their way. As the deceived governments of the world move to embrace their newly discovered interstellar neighbor, Erica races to aid a growing rebellion (comprised of outcast aliens and skeptical humans), struggles to keep her son (Logan Huffman) out of the Visitors' sights, and tries to figure out precisely what Anna and her carnivorous kind are after.
There are moments when V aims high and soars higher. A palpable sense of paranoia and distrust permeates every episode, identity is always called into question and no character, human or otherwise, escapes suspicion. Is kindly Catholic priest Father Travis (Scott Hylands) a naive optimist or a dastardly alien sleeper agent? Is Ryan (Morris Chestnut) really a reformed V or is he simply obsessed with his own survival? Is Joshua (Mark Hildreth) an emotionless scientist hellbent on man's destruction or a human sympathizer willing to risk his life for the greater good? Is Lisa (Smallville's Laura Vandervoort) a cold and seductive she-devil or a misled loyalist, torn between her devotion to her mother and a budding sense of right and wrong? Does Erica's partner of seven years (Alan Tudyk) have something to hide? Is her boss (Roark Critchlow) really a diligent FBI agent? Can insurgents like Georgie (David Richmond-Peck) be believed? Whose face is merely a mask? Who can be trusted? Some questions are answered, some are not. But it's micro-mysteries like these that legitimize V's melodrama and allow its more powerful scenes to resonate. Despite its plot holes, cringe-inducing dialogue, hit-or-miss special effects and lurching narrative, V excels whenever it asks viewers to evaluate each character's moral compass, and its cast excels whenever given the opportunity to sink their claws into the ever-shifting fray.
At the same time, few surprises lie in wait for those who are able to look past V's lesser qualities. Its story could have been a scathing indictment of the times; a complex and relevant political allegory in the vein of Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica. Instead, we get a thinly veiled satire of the Obama administration -- the seedy aliens toss around words like "hope and change" and promise universal healthcare as a weary television audience asks, "really?" -- and a tired rehash of lukewarm-button issues of the last ten years. Its battles of hearts and minds could have been meticulously crafted allusions to international conflicts of the 21st century. But no, one-note intrigue is as deep as V's rabbit hole goes. Its characters could have been fascinating blank slates; realistically flawed, hopelessly outnumbered everymen and women facing impossible odds. And yet the series offers a colorful lineup of two-dimensional heroes and comicbook villains make for a terribly conventional cast of rogue FBI agents, faith-starved priests, cannibalistic sirens, callous henchmen, whiny teenagers and quick-witted rebels. In other words, nothing sci-fi aficionados and television addicts haven't seen -- literally -- a thousand times before. V's greatest offense is that it isn't nearly as original as its showrunners seem to believe. Like NBC's Heroes, it opens strong, slumps soon thereafter and never quite lives up to its potential. Is it a complete waste of time? No. Frankly, I've sat through far, far worse. At its best, V is harmless entertainment that falls short of its '80s legacy and pales in comparison to other recent sci-fi series. Start with a rental and see if the series' upcoming second season deserves your attention.
V: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner's 1080p/VC-1 encode doesn't make V's unsightly FX seams or glaring green-screen gimmickry any easier to stomach -- each instance is more apparent than ever -- but as high definition television presentations go, it's quite effective. Skintones, be they human or reptilian, are as warm, milky or unnerving as fans could hope for; primaries, whether slathered on protest signs or bleeding out on the floor, are vibrant and alluring; and black levels, though muted during a limited number of nighttime and low-lit sequences, are deep and satisfying on the whole. Detail is also impressive, despite sometimes drifting into dangerously soft territory. Closeups look fantastic, fine textures are generally well-resolved, delineation is fairly revealing and edge definition is sharp and clean. Minor smearing suggests the use of noise reduction, and dazzling alien interiors produce a string of hazy halos, but both seem to trace back to the series' source, not the studio's technical presentation. Not that it's impeccable. Bristling noise and faint compression artifacts haunt several shots per episode (watch the walls and floors of the motherships closely), banding is a nuisance whenever the Vs question or torture a prisoner in their white interrogation labs (and at its worst when Anna disrobes to tend to her minions' weary spirits), and other split-second anomalies pop up here and there. None of it amounts to a significant distraction, but each issue, however small, takes a slight toll. All things considered, V's encode may not be perfect, but it's the undisputed high point of the series' Blu-ray debut.
V: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Another Warner television release, another standard 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. While far from the worst sonic travesty exacted upon the human race, V's hum-drum audio mix is a dull, front-heavy bore. Dialogue is crisp, clear and natural one minute, hollow and tinny the next; prioritization is precise at times, indecisive at others; dynamics bare their teeth whenever the Visitors are up to no good, but whimper in the corner the moment whatever nefarious deed is done; LFE output is weighty and aggressive when Marco Beltrami's music surges, but offers little more than atmospheric thooms as the series lumbers along; and rear speaker activity, lively as it may be, is too restrained, inconsistent and score-centric to create an immersive soundfield. Moreover, directionality is largely two-dimensional, acoustics are typically either muffled or superficial, and ambience is schizophrenic. It isn't an outright mediocre experience by any means, but between the series' heavy-handed sound design and Warner's pudgy lossy wares, there isn't much to get excited about. An effective and engaging experience at its best, an underwhelming but adequate mix at its worst, V's audio track is a forgettable one.
V: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 2-disc Blu-ray edition of V: The Complete First Season arrives with a serviceable suite of special features, each of which is presented in less-than-sparkling high definition. The various production featurettes provide a welcome overview of the series and its creative vision, but its lone commentary track, however informative, struggles to shoulder the supplemental burden of a twelve-episode television release.
V: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
V is the latest in a long line of guilty pleasures cut from the major networks' market-driven cloth. Think too hard, and the series' spotty storytelling will come undone. Dig too deep, and you'll drown in plot holes. Look too closely, and you're sure to be disappointed. However, if you're hungry for a bit of gimmicky, episodic sci-fi schlock, if you don't mind a hearty helping of melodrama and faux-intense dialogue, and if the threat of imminent cancellation doesn't frighten you, V might be the Big Dumb TV Mystery you're looking for. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray edition has its share of problems, including a few notable (but minor) transfer issues, a diluted Dolby Digital audio mix and a lightweight supplemental package. Personally, I would suggest renting The Complete First Season before extending the series a more formal invitation. You'll know before the credits roll on the first episode if V is worth your time and money.
V: Other Seasons
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V: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• V Season 1 Blu-ray Announced - July 28, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced V: The Complete First Season for Blu-ray release on November 2. This ABC science-fiction series, a remake of the acclaimed 1980s TV series, will be presented in two discs, with over two hours of all-new bonus features.
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