Angel-Season 4 Box Set Part 2 (2002)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 27-Apr-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Vampire Main Menu Introduction
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Orpheus, Inside Out
Audio Commentary-The Magic Bullet, Home
Featurette-Prophecies: Season 4 Overview
Outtakes-Season 4
Featurette-Last Looks: The Hyperion Hotel
Featurette-Fatal Beauty And The Beast
Featurette-Malice In Wonderland: Wolfram & Hart
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 458:34 (Case: 495)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jefferson Kibbee
Jeffrey Bell
Marita Grabiak
James A. Contner
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring David Boreanaz
Charisma Carpenter
J. August Richards
Amy Acker
Vincent Kartheiser
Andy Hallett
Alexis Denisof
Stephanie Romanov
Case PUSH-DV-18
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), and most importantly, Season 4 Part I.

    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 II, the last three discs out of the six that make up the season. The episodes on these discs are:

Episode Time Writer Director  
Calvary 42:28 Jeffrey Bell
Steven S DeKnight
Mere Smith
Bill Norton Our heroes learn that the Beast is not their only worry
Salvage 42:33 David Fury Jefferson Kibbee Wesley brings in outside help in the form of a familiar brunette
Release 41:59 Steven S DeKnight
Elizabeth Craft
Sarah Fain
James A Contner Continuing to attempt to capture Angelus
Orpheus 40:47 Mere Smith Terrence O'Hara Fred brings in outside help in the form of a familiar redhead
Players 40:46 Jeffrey Bell
Sarah Fain
Elizabeth Craft
Michael Grossman Electric Gwen asks for Gunn's help to rescue a kidnapped little girl
Inside Out 41:38 Steven S DeKnight Steven S DeKnight The horrible truth stands revealed, and then gets worse
Shiny Happy People 42:38 Elizabeth Craft
Sarah Fain
Marita Grabiak "She" has a dramatic impact, and all seems well, briefly
The Magic Bullet 42:41 Jeffrey Bell Jeffrey Bell Fred is on the run; the hotel fills with people
Sacrifice 41:20 Ben Edlund David Straitton One of "her" followers has followed her to this world
Peace Out 41:50 David Fury Jefferson Kibbee Angel fighting in the other world, while "she" is growing in power
Home 42:34 Tim Minear Tim Minear The team get an amazing offer, but there's got to be a catch...

    By the end of the first half of this season we thought we knew what was going on: the Beast was a threat to the entire world, the sun had been blotted out over Los Angeles (and the blot was spreading) — all looking like a classic "big bad" situation, the kind of thing to which we are accustomed in Angel or Buffy. That should have tipped us off. Joss Whedon does not like to repeat himself, so we should have expected a twist, or two, or three...

    When Buffy the Vampire Slayer moved from being on the same network as Angel to a rival network (between season 5 and season 6 of Buffy, season 2 and season 3 of Angel) we were warned that there'd be no more cross-overs. But when Buffy was in its final season, the team just couldn't resist (and we didn't want them to!). (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Faith's appearance didn't qualify as a real cross-over, because last time we saw her she was in Angel, when Angel visited her in prison. But Willow's appearance definitely was a cross-over, and she took Faith back to Buffy with her to magnify the impact. Angel's appearance on Buffy is instigated by the last episode here, but happens after this season; it still qualifies as a cross-over, though.

    All of these episodes pick up exactly where the previous one left off — there's no pretence that this is a series any more: it's an out-and-out serial, a long and involved story played out in eleven pieces, more if you count the end of the first half. And there is so much happening in each episode that I found myself surprised: there are events which I'd have sworn took place in different episodes (because so much happens between them), yet they occur in the same one. These eleven episodes are spread over the course of some small number of days, perhaps a week. Very full days, though!

    It's hard to say much about these episodes without giving too much away.

    This is no show for a misogynist. Although the eponymous character is male, and there are some strong male characters: Wesley, Gunn, Connor, even the Beast; so much of the power is in the female characters: Cordelia, Lilah, (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Faith, Jasmine, and most definitely Willow. This balance of strength between the male and female characters, and between good and evil, is probably one of the elements that makes Angel a more interesting show than Buffy. Buffy, although I prefer to watch it, is unbalanced, with many more female characters than male (especially in Season 7!).

    One of the most interesting characters in this season is Wesley. He begins the season a bitter man, acting from stubbornness and pride. He even articulates this, when he talks of all his friends deserting him. Yet this season is his redemption — kind of strange, when we consider that Angel is the character whom we most associate with seeking redemption. I thoroughly enjoyed the scene (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) where he was trying to explain to Willow that he'd been "to a dark place" and she wouldn't understand — her reply that she'd "flayed a man alive and attempted to destroy the world" kinda topped that. You have to love any series with scenes like that.

    Fred takes a much larger role this season. She is no longer the mousy librarian, acting as a substitute Wesley for research, and cowering while the fighting takes place. She fights alongside the others, with noticeable skill (she must have been training over summer).

    In one of the extras, Joss Whedon describes this as the best season of Angel. I'm not so sure about that, but I do think that it's really good, enjoyable, and involving.

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, or minimal, edge enhancement. There are moments of imperfect focus, but they are brief and pass quickly. Shadow detail is very good on a good display in good conditions. It's not so good on a poor display, or when there's too much ambient light, but I'm not going to blame the transfer for that. Even the low light shots are clear — vital stuff for a show that is so often filmed in dark places at night. Film grain is generally only noticeable on especially dark shots (the ones that are 90% black), although you should look at 8:01 in Home (the final episode of the season) — this is definitely grainier than I'd like. There's no low-level noise.

    Colour is well-rendered, especially some nice red blood (although there's surprisingly little blood). Colours look natural in all but the sequences that are deliberately distorted. There are no colour-related artefacts, save for the deliberate blooming and overblown brightness associated with "her".

    There is occasional aliasing, but it's both rare and light. There's minimal moiré, even on Lorne's outfits. There are no MPEG or film artefacts.

    There are subtitles in seven languages. I watched the English for the Hearing Impaired ones. They are easy to read, well-timed, and I found little to criticise about the occasional abbreviation needed to keep the lines manageable. I did note that the word "versus" was misspelt "verses" at 32:43 in Orpheus, but that's a fairly small error. Note that we get subtitles for commentaries (in English, as well as other languages) this time — that's going to make hearing-impaired viewers happy.

    The discs are single-sided (with 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. There's nothing significant in the surround speakers, 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. Given that the show was made for TV, in stereo, this is probably the original sound, and that's not a bad thing.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand almost all of the time. There are infrequent moments of slight distortion, such as at 25:16 in Salvage, or 10:33 in Orpheus, or 26:51 in Inside Out, but it doesn't stop you understanding what is being said; nor does the momentary hiss at 10:49 in Inside Out. There are no visible audio sync issues.

    Robert J. Kral is responsible for the score on all these episodes, and does his usual excellent job. He deserves at least part of the credit for the feeling that is Angel.

    This soundtrack provides no signal for the subwoofer, and nothing of any significance to the surrounds.

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

Extras

    The first half of this season got nothing but commentaries and trailers for extras. This half gets more variety, but at least it still gets the commentaries. All the featurettes are on the final disc.

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:

    Note that this, together with the first three discs (showing Angel, Cordelia, and Gunn), is almost the order in which the characters are credited at the start of each episode — the only one out of sequence is Wesley, who should be at the end. Note also that Lorne appears between Connor and Wesley in the credits from the 18th episode (Shiny Happy People) on — it's nice to see Andy Hallett as a regular instead of a guest star (and he didn't get killed for it, as Amber Benson did on Buffy).

Commentary: Jeffrey Bell (co-executive producer) and Terrence O'Hara (director) on Orpheus

    This commentary has some gaps in it (I think they were getting involved in watching), but they still manage to convey quite a bit of information. There's some interesting trivia, such as Alexis Denisof's bad back making it difficult for him to carry Eliza Dushku, and how they managed to work around Charisma's pregnancy and Alyson Hannigan's amazingly busy schedule. They also point out that Alexis and Alyson were engaged at the time, adding extra spice to their scenes.

Commentary: Steven S. DeKnight (writer/director) on Inside Out

    This was his first effort at directing, and he had hoped the episode would a fairly simple one. Instead, he found himself responsible for a crucial episode. It's very interesting to hear what he has to say about it now.

Commentary: Jeffrey Bell (writer/director) on The Magic Bullet

    Another first-time director, and another interesting commentary. He has plenty to say, but there are some big gaps. He even comments on some of the small conceits that he fell for as a first-time director. It wasn't until this commentary that I understood the double meaning of the title.

Commentary: Tim Minear (writer/director) on Home

    Tim Minear goes into some detail about some of the techniques he used in shooting this episode, and it's quite a good listen. He even admits that he went to some trouble over the part of the show immediately after the opening credits — he wanted all the opening credits to finish before any of the characters spoke.

Featurette: Prophecies: Season 4 Overview (39:11)

    Despite being padded out with plenty of grabs from the show, this is an interesting enough look at the main storylines in Season 4. Chockfull of spoilers, of course, so don't watch it until you've seen all of the episodes.

Featurette: Unplugged: Season 4 Outtakes (3:03)

    The usual silliness of outtakes — well worth watching.

Featurette: Last Looks: the Hyperion Hotel (5:42)

    We get a conducted tour through the various sets that make up the interior of the Hyperion Hotel.

Featurette: Fatal Beauty and the Beast (6:06)

    A look at Jasmine and the Beast. I was surprised at how little they had changed the natural voice of Vladimir Kulich (who played the Beast): his voice really is that deep.

Featurette: Malice in Wonderland: Wolfram & Hart (7:57)

    The lawyers we hate even more than regular ones....

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.

    Postscript: I bought a full set of the Region 4 discs today, and I'm disappointed. Fox Australia has chosen to use rather cheap and nasty keep-cases, rather than the good quality ones they've used in the past. They haven't even been consistent — some discs are in one kind of case, some are in another. Maybe I'm bitter because I managed to cut myself on one of these cheap and nasty cases. I think I'll be transferring the discs into better cases — that's a nuisance, but at least it's easy, because the cover slicks will fit equally well in good quality cases; try doing that with the R2 or R1 packaging!

Summary

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

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras include decent commentaries and some reasonable featurettes (which total about an hour).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, May 05, 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

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Shane A

Comments (Add) NONE