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Smash: Season One (DVD)





So, here's another one of those shows that I had read about but never seen an episode of before the DVD arrived in the mail. Being that I'm still all charged up for musicals after Les Miserables, I was intrigued and popped it in.

Many hours later, I had watched all the episodes from season one. This show isn't perfect, but it is certainly addictive. It tracks the making of a musical for Broadway, the subject being Marilyn Monroe. Two writers (Debra Messing and Christian Borle) put the initial show idea together with a couple of tunes, and a producer (Anjelica Huston) steps in. A director (Jack Davenport) is hired, while two girls (Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty) battle for the coveted lead role.

McPhee plays Karen, the candidate with the least experience but most talent. McPhee is captivating in this role, one that affords her plenty of chances to sing beautifully. The show often finds ways for the characters to sing outside the context of the musical. For example, McPhee gets to belt Florence and the Machine's "Shake it Out" while performing at a bar mitzvah. McPhee is the main reason I had to keep watching this show. She's amazing.

I also liked Hilty as her nemesis, Ivy. Ivy has more experience, and looks more like Monroe. Her musical talents are just as strong, but Karen has got that "something" that keeps her in contention. The show couldn't have found better actresses for these roles.

It's fun to see Huston vamping it up big time as the producer, and Davenport is a likable cad as the director. When the show turns to the Messing subplots involving her infidelities and strained marriage, it gets a little tedious and soap operalike. I like it better when it's singing.

There are some dynamite guest appearances, including the always incredible Bernadette Peters as Ivy's mom (She gets a chance to sing a tune, and it rules!). There's also a multi-episode story arc involving Uma Thurman (Emmy nominated) as a movie star cast in the play to get publicity. Thurman does a terrific job of playing a troublemaker you can't help but like.

The show is coming back for season two on Tuesday, Feb. 5, on NBC. Jennifer Hudson is joining the cast, and I suspect this could be a very cool thing. It's also worth noting that the show is executive-produced by some guy named Steven Spielberg.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get some extended musical numbers and deleted scenes, some making-of features and the ever-important gag reel.

SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden (Blu-ray)





With Zero Dark Thirty (reviewed elsewhere in this week's Tucson Weekly) going into wide release, this controversial smaller movie, which aired on the National Geographic Channel during the elections, comes to home video.

This film takes more of an action-movie approach, utilizing fictional interviews with Team Six members and CIA operatives to tell its story. For a TV movie, it actually isn't half bad.

Compared to Zero Dark Thirty, it doesn't quite stack up dramatically or technically. But it did manage to keep me engaged. I watched both films on the same day, and I can tell you that the major difference that occurs during the Osama bin Laden raid is that one film has Osama armed, while the other just has him running around in a robe.

The feeling that pervades this film is that it is a little more gung-ho. As for the political controversy, it does have those real shots of Obama and his Cabinet watching the mission, and a lot of Obama voiceovers. One does get the feeling that the makers of this movie had a favorite candidate for president in the last election.

Overall ... this movie was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. It's not good, but it's not bad either.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The only special feature is a short making-of featurette.

Hit and Run (Blu-ray)




BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 5.25 (out of 10)

Real-life couple Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell star in this reasonably entertaining and funny road comedy, Shepard's feature directing debut.

Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, living in the witness protection program unbeknownst to his girlfriend (Bell), who has an important job interview out of state. Charlie decides to drive her to said interview, leaving the confines of his protection and often needing to drive really fast. He's pursued by a former partner in crime (a funny Bradley Cooper) who has a bone to pick with him about his prison experiences.

I had a good time with this one, which also stars Jason Bateman, Tom Arnold and Beau Bridges. It's not a classic by any means but, if you missed it in theaters, it'll pass the time nicely on your home screen.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some behind-the-scenes features and deleted scenes.

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