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  Specs
  • Full FramePan&Scan
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Surround
  Subtitles
    French, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
  Extras
  • Audio commentary - Are You Now or Have You Ever Been? - writer Tim Minear
  • 2 Featurette - Making Up the Monsters, Inside the Agency
  • 2 Photo gallery - Still gallery, blueprints
  • 1 Original screenplay - Darla

Angel - Season 2 - Volume 1

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 458 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

If you’ve somehow been asleep for the past 246 or so years, or at least the past six, to get you up to speed Angel is a vampire with soul. We’re not talking James Brown styled soul here though – as evidenced by his managing to murder songs by Barry Manilow AND Wang Chung (a serious challenge in itself) in this series – we’re talking soul as in being able to experience emotions and feel responsible for past actions. He hasn’t always been this poster child for soulfulness however, possessing a past chequered with much extreme brutality and general naughtiness - in all some serious baggage for him to carry about under his big black coat. So what do you do about it? You brood. Lots.

Now, how do you atone for all these past sins in-between outbreaks of broodiness? Well, a vow to help the helpless, fight the good fight, clich the good cliché – you get the idea – is a damned good start, and what better place to do it than in Los Angeles? Especially as it has an entire underworld of creepy and icky demons, monsters, ghouls and assorted other examples of nastiness bubbling under its surface. There’s simply not enough yuk in this particular world.

This second series of Angel continues to nicely develop Joss Whedon’s spinoff from one of the greatest television programmes ever, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It has an interesting plot development for a season in that the main continuing arc tends to resolve itself part way through, leaving a show that deftly fluctuates between seriously heavy drama and disarmingly light entertainment to concentrate a bit more on the latter towards the end – and by the time you get there you’ll be glad of it, as early on there’s plenty of trouble with a capital “troub”.

Season two sees occasional character Charles Gunn gets promoted to fulltime cast member, and one of the fabbest characters to ever grace the show also gets his introduction. Credited simply as “The Host”, this delightful compere of a karaoke club, complete with Kermit-esque complexion and funky little horns, adds a spark to proceedings that makes you crave for more regular appearances.

So what are we in for this time around? Well, pop a bottle of nummy A-positive into the ice bucket, settle down, relax and read on...

Judgement
El Broodicus, Cordie and Wesley are back – and Gunn is now a regular member of the Angel Investigations team. Oh, and thanks to Wolfram and Hart Darla is well and truly back too. Oops – oh my god, Angel killed Kamahl! So what to do? Why not... SING!? Having a little faith can always help too, even if in the end it’s all about the coat...

Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?
So, what do you do when your old digs have kind of blown up? Look for new ones, of course. That would explain Angel’s fascination with a certain hotel, which we learn has quite the intriguing past. Oh, and the odd demonic tentacley thing gets its comeuppance, too...

First Impressions
The head-split factor increases on Cordie’s visions, and while Gunn may be rather chuffed with recent Oscars results, he’s still got a thing or two to learn. The broodmobile is stolen, but then Angel is such a sleepyhead he probably didn’t notice...

Untouched
Angel does his knight in shining armour thing with a girl named Bethany, little knowing her involvement with Wolfram and Hart. She may not be as helpless as she seems, however, assuming she can harness her telekinetic powers. Angel is still a sleepyhead.

Dear Boy
Wolfram and Hart’s Angelic head-bonks continue, and as our big hunka hunka burnin’ broodiness has all manner of vivid dreams of his past, the present day seems to be taking a back seat. Then he sees Darla, and he knows he’s awake... Watch that personal bubble now, won’t you?

Guise Will Be Guise
A demonic Fat Tony-type is planning one hell of a fiftieth birthday, and wants Angel’s protection for his daughter. With a rather threatening hired goon sent to fetch Mr Broodsome, who is off gallivanting about trying to get in touch with his inner demon with help from a swami, Wesley (sort of) fills his coat...

Darla
Spike! Alright, so he may be flashback pre-punk Spike, but he’s still Spike – mmm... Spikey Spikey Spi... oops, sorry. Umm, Darla’s conscience starts to catch up with her, and she isn’t taking it too well as we get quite the glimpse into her and the be-coated one’s past...

The Shroud of Rahmon
What’s a girl got to do to get a guy to notice her haircut? Make it big, boofy and hideous it seems. Meanwhile, Angel breaks the brood long enough to do his Vegas thang, posing as a Rat Pack-ish vamp hired to liberate a certain artefact from a local museum - complete with help from a mouldy Worf-alike. Hmm. A hearty “hmm” even...

The Trial
How do you solve a problem like Darla? Well, getting into a death game thingy that would have the makers of most any reality TV show salivating at its potential may help. Or it may not. Meanwhile it’s tanty time - oh and Dru sucks...

Reunion
Grandmother, daughter, mother, father – little wonder there are pronoun problems. Angel is on the hunt for Darla, who is proving herself to be a not-so delightful girl with a very firm grip. Speaking of grip, the Investigations team worry that their boss is losing his – then they get fired... what a fangless job.

Redefinition
The brooding goes supernova, and why is Angel trying to become Buff? Ah, who needs him anyway? Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn decide to continue to fight the good fight without the big guy... Moo!

  Video
Contract

OK, first things first. Although this series of Angel was shot in 1.78:1, this region 4 release has been cruelly massacred into full frame, hence about a quarter of the image goes unseen. At least when shot the action was framed for boring old 4:3, however what we miss out on is the breathing space the wider screen vision offers, not to mention a more cinematic feel for a television show that is indeed very cinematic. It’s just incredibly disappointing that after the fuss over the same being done to the first series Fox apparently stuck their fingers in their ears and went “la la la” rather than listening to the myriad of disappointed and passionate fans, and this disregard for their market is even more disturbing when sourcing this series of Angel in its correct ratio would have been completely, totally and utterly dead simple as the region 2 release is presented correctly – and is entirely uncut. This sucks more than Spike on a serious blood bender, and needless to say the video rating plummets accordingly....

All that being said, at least some consolation can be found in the visual quality of the image we’re lumbered with. As fans will be well aware, old man Angel has an aversion to sunlight akin to the way that smelly guy who hangs around in computer shops in Melbourne apparently cannot go anywhere within a 50 kilometre radius of a bar of soap – if he’s exposed to direct sunlight he kind of smoulders, bursts into flames, and leaves the show's producers with a quandary as to how to come up with a new way to resurrect him (as for smelly computer guy, the mind boggles as to what effect soap would have...) This is all a very long-winded way to say that Angel features a remarkable amount of dark scenes, and pretty much all of those presented in this first half of the season deliver exemplary shadow detail, other than a little grain at times in extremely dingy scenes.

Otherwise there is virtually no grain to speak of, except within a few establishing shots which exhibit minute amounts. Colour rendering is superb throughout whether scenes are light or dark, The Host’s verdant skin tones in particular scrubbing up magnificently. Otherwise, there are only very occasional and tiny white flecks which shouldn’t bother anybody but the finickiest of the finicky. Although presented on dual layered discs, there are no layer changes as the episodes have been placed two per layer, which is appreciated.

  Audio
Contract

As we’ve come to expect by now, we get another Dolby Digital stereo surround-encoded soundtrack. On its own it does its job suitably, send it through a receiver that will process it then spread it out amongst the six speakers and it perks up even more, especially in the subwoofwoof department. All is synched well - although the eagle-eyed may notice a couple of obviously looped lines here and there - and the balance between dialogue and score is fine.

Speaking of the score, this series sees season one assistant Robert J. Kral take over the reigns by himself, and he does it with much aplomb. He manages to deftly combine darker then night incidental music at times with much lighter fare when appropriate, and his score for Are You Now or Have You Ever Been? in particular is a standout. Once again Darling Violetta’s wonderful theme tune remains – as we hope it will for the entirety of the show’s run.

  Extras
Contract

Hmm, there’s hardly a cellar full of vamptastic extras to wrap our fangs around with this first half of season two. The menus are static and accompanied by Angelic music, and hide away a couple of bits and pieces of note...

Audio commentary - Are You Now or Have You Ever Been? (writer Tim Minear): Hmmf, he’s no Joss (still, who is?), however Tim still offers up an engaging commentary on this film noir treat, which is definitely one of the more intriguing episodes of the second season. As well as occasionally pointing out the rather obvious, Minear goes into much detail about the sizeable cuts made to his original story, and many of the ideas behind the eventual realisation we see of what is his favourite personally-penned script.

Script - Darla: Presented in the same manner as previous releases of both Angel and Buffy, the entire script is here from beginning to end for those who have the patience to wade through the innumerable still frames.

Featurette - Making Up the Monsters: Well, this just sub-seven minute affair is actually called The Makeup of Angel, but anyway... In a similar fashion to earlier release featurettes, we get interview snippets with all manner of cast and crew interspersed with some footage from the show – as such be warned, there are a few spoilers for those who haven’t viewed the entire 22 episodes. Much time is spent concentrating on how The Host’s makeup is achieved, and it’s rather startling to see the transformation actor Andy Hallett undergoes.

Featurette - Inside the Agency: More renaming shenanigans, as this is actually entitled The Sets of Angel, which is much more appropriate. Running for 15 and a half minutes, although this retreads some previously released featurette territory, it is still an entertaining guide to the sets, especially as those for season two are pretty much all entirely new. For the bulk of it we’re guided around soundstages by production designer Stuart Blatt, and once again this is inter-cut with scenes from the show and short interview clips with most of the cast. This featurette is particularly spoilerific, so you may wish to hold off viewing this until you’ve experienced all of season two.

Art Gallery – Still gallery: 39 images of varying quality taken from the show, complete with a weird framing effect that looks like something is hanging over the top of your telly.

Art Gallery – Blueprints: 12 blueprints of various sets – Angel’s hotel room, Cordie’s apartment, the hotel and Caritas (the karaoke bar) to be more precise.

  Overall  
Contract

So, it’s decision time. Should fans support this sub-par local release, or import the region 2 set which is visually presented as it should be? As intimated earlier, both sets are entirely uncut, meaning even all the “previously on Angel” introductions are all present and accounted for, so what makes the decision tricky? Well, other than the monetary factor there’s the packaging. While Europe gets an origami nightmare cardboard creation prone to dog-earing and wear and tear, we get decidedly more robust slip cases with each disc housed in a separate Amaray case. Arguments will rage with fans longer than Angel’s lifespan as to which is better, I’m not going to weigh in more than I have in the above statement...

If you can get past the aspect ratio issue, and admittedly we’re used to seeing Angel on TV in 4:3, then there are no complaints about the visual presentation on offer here. Sound too is as good as could be expected, although the extras are a bit of a let down – surely a few more commentaries could have been commissioned?

To get a whole season of one of your favourite ever series’ on DVD should be something to be unequivocally joyous about, yet this release manages to leave quite the sour taste. If you’d seen comparison shots of 1.78:1 compared to 4:3 you too would probably feel the same...

Still, in the end this IS an entire season of the dark and broody one’s exploits on DVD, and it’s probably better to have three quarters of it released here than none at all. Maybe we should get Angel well and truly happy, then set him onto the decision makers at Fox Australia? After all, he IS a vampire you know. (Weird!)


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1406
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      And I quote...
    "Well, it’s probably better to have three quarters of the season released here than none of it at all..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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