Angel-Season 4 Box Set Part 1 (2002)

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Released 27-Apr-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Vampire Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-The House Always Wins
Audio Commentary-Spin the Bottle
Audio Commentary-Apocalypse Nowish
Trailer-Buffy Season 2, Buffy Season 3,Buffy Season 4, Buffy Season5
Trailer-Buffy Season 6, Slayer Collection,
Trailer-Buffy The Vampire Slayer Movie, Angel Season 1
Trailer-Angel Season 2, Angel Season 3, Buffy/Angel DVD
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 460:33
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sean Astin
Terrence O'Hara
Skip Schoolnik
Joss Whedon
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring David Boreanaz
Charisma Carpenter
Amy Acker
Alexis Denisof
J. August Richards
Andy Hallett
Vincent Kartheiser
Stephanie Romanov
Case ?
RPI $80.95 Music Robert J. Kral


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
French
Norwegian
Swedish
French Titling
Dutch Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
French Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes, rare
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Before you read this review, you might want to read my reviews of Angel Season One (Part I and Part II), and Season Two (Part I and Part II), and Season Three (Part I and Part II). It has been a year since the last release of Angel on DVD, so it is possible you've forgotten where we're at.

    If you haven't seen the earlier seasons of Angel and Buffy, I strongly recommend you not read any more of the plot synopsis.

    This is Angel Season 4 Part I, the first three discs out of the six that make up the season. The episodes on these discs are:

Episode Time Writer Director  
Deep Down 42:18 Steven S DeKnight Terrence O'Hara Gunn and Fred are trying to find Angel and Cordelia, but Wesley is the one doing the real work
Ground State 40:58 Mere Smith Michael Grossman Angel, Gunn, and Fred trying to steal the Axis of Pythia, but they bump into another thief
The House Always Wins 40:23 David Fury Marita Grabiak A little trip to Vegas to see Lorne has some unexpected complications
Slouching Towards Bethlehem 42:38 Jeffrey Bell Skip Schoolnik Cordelia sings for Lorne in an attempt to discover her missing memories — that doesn't go well
Supersymmetry 41:06 Elizabeth Craft
Sarah Fain
Bill Norton Fred's fifteen minutes of fame in physics result in her making a horrible discovery
Spin the Bottle 42:42 Joss Whedon Joss Whedon A sure-fire memory spell does not go as planned
Apocalypse Nowish 42:43 Steven S DeKnight Vern Gillum The Beast makes its appearance, and things go the way of fire and doom
Habeas Corpses 42:24 Jeffrey Bell Skip Schoolnik Wolfram and Hart learn that the Beast is not their friend
Long Day's Journey 42:31 Mere Smith Terrence O'Hara The Beast attacks the members of the Ra-Tet, with a horrible objective
Awakening 42:42 David Fury
Steven S DeKnight
James A Contner They need more information about the Beast, and the only source seems to be Angelus...
Soulless 41:08 Sarah Fain
Elizabeth Craft
Sean Astin Are the team up to handling the monster they've unleashed?

    Season Three ended on a cliff-hanger. (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Angel and Cordelia were supposed to meet to discuss their love (which neither had admitted), but both were intercepted before their tryst. Cordelia was stopped by Skip, who told her she was to become a higher being. Angel was confronted by Connor and Justine, locked in a steel box, and hurled into the ocean. Not exactly the loving embrace by the sea that we'd been set up to expect, but hey, this is not a romance, it's Joss Whedon's twisted mind (and don't we love it?).

    There are some interesting literary allusions in the titles of these episodes. Slouching towards Bethlehem is a reference to a line from a poem by Yeats (although the phrase has echoed repeatedly since). Interesting that the full line is "slouching towards Bethlehem to be born", referring to the second coming of Jesus Christ, and suggesting that it may not be the happiness and light that is generally expected. Perhaps a hint or two about the second half of this season? And Long Day's Journey is the start of the title of the Eugene O'Neill play Long Day's Journey into Night, a play about a dysfunctional family. Not all of the titles are literary references, though, others are just puns, like Habeas Corpses.

    It is interesting to note that the eleventh episode was directed by Sean Astin, who is probably best known for playing Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings.

    Several of the experienced writers were otherwise occupied during the first half of this season, some of them on Firefly. Joss was stretched thin, working on three series, but even so, these are quite decent episodes. There is plenty of action and some big surprises, even though the main function of these is to set the stage for the second half of the season. There's some comedy in episodes like Spin the Bottle, but things get more serious rapidly.

    I like the new occasional character, Gwen Raiden (Alexa Davalos), introduced in the second episode. She is honest about being a thief, and she has good reason to be cynical about the rest of the human race.

    Charisma Carpenter was pregnant during this season (she had a baby boy), which explains the changes in her figure. This entire season takes place in a matter of only two or three weeks of storyline, which would have made it difficult to work her pregnancy into the show if this were a normal show...

    Many of the episodes pick up exactly where their predecessor left off — it's not real-time, but there are few gaps.

    There is a dedication of an episode to Glenn Quinn (he played Doyle in Season 1) — he died during the shooting of this season.

    This series is dense with story — lots of things happen in every episode, and you can hardly afford to take your eyes off the screen, making it a prime candidate for watching (repeatedly) on DVD.

    This may not be the best season of Angel, but it's good, really good. Shame there's only one more after this one.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This season was screened here in widescreen on digital TV, and somewhat letterboxed on analogue TV. These DVDs are in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and they are 16x9 enhanced. That's the way the series was shot, and the way it was intended to be viewed according to Joss Whedon.

    The image is usually sharp and clear, with the faintest touch of softness that shows there's no edge enhancement. There are moments of less-than-ideal focus, but they are transitory, and don't interfere with enjoying the show. Shadow detail is very good, and low light shots are clear — vital stuff for a show that spends lots of time in the dark. There's minimal film grain, except in the darkest shots (and those shots are pushing the edge of film chemistry). There's no low-level noise.

    Colour is nicely rendered, what there is of it. With so much darkness, it is fairly impressive that we can discern colours at all. There are exceptions, like the bright lights of Las Vegas in the third episode, and they come up well. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    There is a touch of aliasing here and there, but it's surprisingly light. There's minimal moiré, and very little shimmer. There are no MPEG or film artefacts. This is a good transfer of well-shot footage.

    There are subtitles in seven languages. I watched the English for the Hearing Impaired ones. They are easy to read, well-timed, and accurate apart from the necessary abbreviation to keep the lines short. Note that we get subtitles for commentaries (in English, as well as other languages) this time — that's welcome.

    The discs are single-sided (nice labels), and dual layered, but there's no visible layer change. Each episode is placed entirely on one layer — two on one layer, two on the other.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are only two languages of soundtrack provided: English and French. Both the English and French soundtracks are Dolby Digital stereo, surround encoded at 192kbps. I only listened to the English soundtrack. It's pretty much devoid of surround sound, but I think they surround encoded it to spread the sound across the fronts; there's some left-right stereo separation, but the centre channel does the bulk of the work.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand almost all of the time; there are two slightly garbled lines. There are no visible audio sync issues.

    Robert J. Kral is responsible for the score again. The score is a seamless part of the show, and that's as good as you can get.

    If your amp's bass management routes some sound to the subwoofer, then it may seem some work; otherwise it will get the night off, because the soundtrack has no explicit signal for it. It won't be surprising if there's some bass management going on: there's plenty of beefy bass in the sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There isn't a lot of variety in the extras, but that's cool, because they are mostly my favourite: commentaries by writers and directors.

Menu

    The menus have transitions (full of spoilers — try to ignore them), but once they appear they are static, with music behind them. The image behind the menu is:

Commentary: David Fury (writer) and Andy Hallett (Lorne) on The House Always Wins

    This commentary is too quiet — I boosted the volume by 5dB and it was still a bit of a strain to hear.

    This is an interesting commentary, talking about how the shooting in Las Vegas went. They point about the members of the crew in the audience of Lorne's show. David Fury also points out the background references to David Greenwalt's departure (he left just before this season started).

Commentary: Joss Whedon (writer/director) and Alexis Denisof (Wesley) on Spin the Bottle

    A Joss Whedon commentary — yay! This one is as entertaining and informative as we have come to expect them to be.

    It is quite disconcerting to hear Alexis Denisof, because he speaks in his natural accent, which is distinctly American, and so unlike Wesley's British.

Commentary: Steven DeKnight (writer) and Vern Gillum (director) on Apocalypse Nowish

    This is quite interesting. They discuss the changes they had to make because the TV network (WB) wanted a Christmas break after this episode, so they had to move some of the storyline around. They are both impressed with Vincent Kartheiser (Connor).

Trailers

    We get a long list of trailers, but they are mostly quite short, and almost all of them have appeared on previous DVD sets. Most (All?) of them are really TV spots.

    Note that the themed DVDs have been released in Region 2, but as far as I can ascertain, will not appear in Region 4. Each is a selection of four episodes featuring the named character.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Season 4 of Angel was released in Region 2 at the start of March — we're two months behind them. On the other hand, it has not been released yet in Region 1, so we're ahead of them. Judging by the releases of previous seasons, there will be very little difference in the way of extras on the Region 1, when it finally does arrive. And note that unlike Buffy, Angel is presented in widescreen in Region 1, so the framing will be the same.

    The Region 2 version appears to be identical to the Region 4 in terms of disc content. The big difference between the two remains the packaging. Once again, the Region 2 version is packaged in an album / book version, with the discs held in page-like sleeves, while the Region 4 is just a set of keep-cases in a cardboard slipcase. I used to prefer the Region 2 version, but I've discovered how easy it is to scratch the discs slipping them in and out of the sleeves. The Region 4 doesn't have that problem. They could save me some shelf space by packing two discs into each of three double keep-cases, but I guess they feel committed to releasing the discs in two volumes of three and three, so that ain't gonna happen.

    The Region 1 packaging will probably be a digi-pack design, like the previous seasons. It will be a little bulkier than the Region 2, but considerably more compact than the Region 4. Probably not as robust as either, though.

    Although the Region 4 packaging is the bulkiest, and perhaps the least attractive to the eye, I'll be getting the Region 4 version this time. I expect to watch these episodes multiple times, and this is the packaging that will make that the easiest.

Summary

    A good season of Angel, presented rather well on DVD.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are the kind I like: interesting commentaries.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Friday, April 30, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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