Tuesday, May 24, 2011

True Blood: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review

May 23, 2011 by Jami Ferguson
On May 31, 2011 the HBO network will release True Blood: The Complete Third Season on Blu ray and fans of the first two seasons of True Blood won’t be disappointed.  If you haven’t watched the first two seasons yet, I don’t recommend starting with season three as this isn’t the type of show where you can watch a thirty second clip of what happened on previous shows and you’re caught up.  This is a running story-line with a lot of major characters plus a there's a ton of new characters and creatures this season. As devotees of the show can attest, True Blood is a very addictive show and you may find yourself watching the whole season in a day or two.

Film (4 out of 5 stars)
True Blood is based on the novels by Charlaine Harris, which I admit I have not yet read   I’ve often wondered if it’s better to read the book then see the show, or vice versa but I couldn’t wait to find out.  I jumped right into the show and will probably read the books some day.  The show centers around the vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and his love interest, the mind reading waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin).  Much of their community in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana is also featured prominently.  For those unfamiliar with True Blood, vampires are known to the world and most are attempting to peacefully co-exist with the humans.  Most of the usual vampire lore holds true – they will fry in sunlight, can’t enter a house without being invited, they are allergic to silver, and they drink blood.

Season three picks up right where season two left off with Bill going missing.  Season three also introduces quite a few new characters which adds some new excitement to the show, but at the same time makes it more unwieldy.  With so many new characters and creatures added this season, it takes away a lot of screen time away from the regular cast. That's not to say that the regulars don't have their own plot lines because they do but unfortunately there's now too many story-lines to do each of them justice.

For example, Sam locates his biological family and his younger brother. Werewolves are added to the show and play a big part this season and just like vampires (and humans), some seem to be good natured and others are definitely evil.  Merlotte’s bar has a new waitress, Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) has a new love interest, Tara (Rutina Wesley) is distraught over a recent incident, Hoyt (Jim Parrack) and Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) have to decide if a relationship between a vampire and a human can workand we meet Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare), the Vampire King of Mississippi .  In addition, Sookie’s brother Jason has one of his most unsual affairs (and that says a lot when talking about Jason Stackhouse).

True Blood Season Three contains the following episodes:
  • Bad Blood – Sookie turns to Eric for help in finding Bill; Andy urges Jason to keep their secret; Sam reconnects with his past; Tara seeks refuge from her grief.

  • Beautifully Broken – Russell Edgington, the Vampire King of Mississippi, concocts a plan to consolidate his power; Eric remembers his past; Sam tests the strength of his family bonds; Tara finds an ally in shady vampire Franklin Mott.

  • It Hurts Me Too – In search of Bill, Sookie heads to Jackson, Mississippi in the company of Alcide, a werewolf bodyguard assigned by Eric to protect her.  Franklin charms Tara, and gets Jessica out of a jam.  Eric bequeaths a gift to Lafayette.  Bill makes a surprising pledge of allegiance.

  • 9 Crimes – Sookie joins Alcide at a werewolf engagement party; Eric is given a deadline to turn in a blasphemer; Bill, Russell, and Lorena dine out.

  • Trouble – Russell probes Bill about Sookie’s identity; Jason falls hard for Crystal; Tara considers a proposal from Franklin.

  • I Got a Right to Sing the Blues – Sookie, Bill and Tara find themselves in unenviable predicaments; Russell reveals his master plan to Eric.

  • Hitting the Ground – Sookie’s faith in Bill is put to the test; Sam infiltrates a dogfighting ring; Russell rebukes the Authority.

  • Night on the Sun – Sookie rethinks her relationship with Bill; Jason throws down the gauntlet; Eric proves the depth of his allegiance to Russell.

  • Everything is Broken – Bill uncovers Sookie’s true identity; Eric finds safety in captivity; Russell takes his case to the people.

  • I Smell a Rat – Bill warns Sookie about imminent dangers, while Eric lays low to avoid the wrath of Russell.

  • Fresh Blood – Bill tests the limits of Sookie’s trust, again; Eric makes a deal with Russell; Sam embraces his dark side.

  • Evil is Going On – As Eric and Bill play out their endgame with Russell, Sookie contemplates a life free of vampires.
Season three is all about motives.  You spend a lot of time wondering where everyone’s allegiance lies.  This is the season where we finally find out why Sookie has the powers that she does and it's something of a letdown.  Apparently it's disappointing to her too since she hilariously exclaims, "How f***ing lame."   Between all that and the addition of the new vampires and a whole lot of new creatures and it makes for a very interesting (if over busy) season.  Season three also made me laugh out loud twice.  Once, when Sookie tells Russell his word is about as useful as tits on a turtle, and again when a member of an inbred family calls his father uncle-daddy. Despite the overabundance of characters and creatures, this is still a great show even if it is starting to bust at the seams.  

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The show is presented in a 1080p AVC MPEG-4 (1.78:1) transfer, that is just as stunning as the previous season sets.  In both darkness and daylight scenes, the community of Bon Temps is both visually rich and detailed.  I have not watched the series live on HBO, but the video quality on Blu-ray is very impressive.  Flesh tones are so well delineated that you can see the difference between the warmth of the living and the unnaturalness of the undead.  There are many discernible shades of red, which is important in a show with so much blood.  For a show that takes place almost entirely at night, the black levels must be accurate and I'm happy to say that that's the case. Blacks are deep and satisfyingly inky and there's also a an excellent level of detail and clarity to the picture.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
True Blood:  The Complete Third Season's DTS Master Audio 5.1 sound track did not disappoint. The dialogue is clear and intelligible and even Bill’s raspy Vampire whisper is easily understood.  The surround sound was well utilized and the precise directionality leaves the listener feeling like they are in the middle of the action.  The LFE channel packs a wallop and adds a sense of power and urgency to just about every scene. The rear speakers also add a lot of immersion and the cross panning between all of the channels just makes this sound fantastic.  

Special Features (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
There's a decent amount of extras for this set and they are all in high definition which is always appreciated.  

Exclusive Blu-ray Enhanced Viewing Experience – Each of the twelve episodes have some interesting ways to learn more about the show through a picture in picture window.  The following options are included:
o    Character Perspectives This is an interesting way to view the episodes.  I wouldn’t watch it this way the first time through though, it would be too distracting.  The character perspectives are obviously scripted.  I would have rather just had the actors being themselves making comments, rather than having them stay in character.  The characters Jessica, Andy, Tommy, and Alcide are your commentators for this set.
o    Flashback / Flash Forward – A cool way to see exclusive mini-episodes from the past that have never been shown and then flash forward to see their impact and significance now.
o    Vampire Histories / Character Bios – New to the show or think you might have forgotten some of the characters?  Fear not, because these bios will get you caught up in no time!
o    Hints / FYIs – Want to know even more?  Then look no further as this extra will give you informative facts, hints about the show, and some clues as to what’s coming up.

·         True Blood Lines - Found on disc five, this is an interactive onscreen guide highlighting the connections between the humans, vampires, werewolves, and assorted creatures in this world.

·         Anatomy of a Scene – Found on disc one, this is a look at the introduction of the werewolves into Bon Temps by Alan Ball and his cast and crew.  There is also a discussion of how they filmed the werewolf attack at the start of the season.

·         True Blood Post Mortems – Short extra segments at the end of each episode that adds a little something for fans of the show.  It could be a thank you from Alan Ball or a humorous mini-mockumentaries about some aspect of the show.  These are a lot of fun and provide a nice extra for True Blood fans.

·         Snoop Dogg “Oh Sookie” Video – This music video from Snoop Dogg can be found on disc five.

·         Seamless Play – This Blu-ray gives you the option of utilizing a disc-to-disc seamless menu system that provides you with a complete season viewing experience if you choose to use it. 

·         Audio Commentaries – There are six audio commentaries split between the discs.  They include the following:
o    Beautiful Broken with Alexander Skarsgard and director Scott Winant
o    It Hurts Me Too with writer Alexander Woo and director Michael Lehmann
o    9 Crimes with actress Kristin Bauer Van Straten and director David Petrarca
o    I Got a Right to Sing the Blue with Alan Ball and actor Denis O’Hare
o    Hitting the Ground with Anna Paquin and Joe Manganiello and writer Brian Buckner
o    Evil is Going On with Stephen Moyer and director Anthony Hemingway

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars)
True Blood : The Complete Third Season seems to be a lot more gorier than the earlier seasons.  I was well used to seeing people bitten and drained of blood from the first two seasons but this season seems to have ramped up the killings.  There is also a lot less sex this season which is surprising since the first two seasons can affectionately be labeled as soft-core vampire porn.  My one real complaint is that there is a little too much going on in this season.  There's a lot of story-lines to keep track of and I wish they had  just focused on the addition of the werewolves and left the rest for future seasons.  Taking that into account, I still love the show and I highly recommend it to anyone else that enjoyed the first two seasons!

Order your copy today!


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