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Weeds: Season Three (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment / 2007 / 388 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: June 03, 2008
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Friday, June 20, 2008
’Weeds’ tells the tumultuous tale of a widower named Nancy (the indomitable Mary Louise Parker) who’s forced to cover her late husband’s debt by dealing marijuana in a wealthy California suburb. The series’ first season followed the Botwin matriarch as she fought to keep her home in Agrestic, hide her extracurricular activities from her best friend Celia (Elizabeth Perkins), and boost pot sales with clients including her city councilman Doug (Kevin Nealon). Along the way, she received reluctant help from her brother-in-law Andy (Justin Kirk), a supplier named Heylia (Tonye Patano), and Heylia's nephew Conrad (Romany Malco). Season two added a welcome dose of darker comedy to the unconventional family dramedy as Nancy began to encounter the dangers of her chosen profession. So it was that amidst a variety of personal struggles and close calls, Agrestic’s homegrown dealer finally began to emerge as a viable player in her trade.
’Weeds: Season Three’ pulls the Botwin clan further down the rabbit hole as Nancy is forced to work for a violent dealer named U-Turn (Page Kennedy), barter with an edgy supplier named Guillermo (Guillermo Diaz), and use her best assets to hold a secondary job under a corrupt community developer named Sullivan (Matthew Modine). It seems Sullivan is desperate to finalize a deal that will allow his neighboring suburb of Majestic to run a much needed sewer line through Agrestic. As the shrewd businessman tries to manipulate Celia to his whims, Doug works furiously to undermine the deal and ensure the city council comes out on top. Along the way, Nancy has to deal with her oldest son’s interest and subsequent involvement in the family business, Andy’s short-lived careers in the U.S. military and porn industry, and Celia’s newfound knowledge of Nancy’s profession. In all, the comedy hits harder and the dark side of Agrestic is bleaker than it’s been before, keeping ‘Weeds’ feeling fresh and staying light on its feet.
Thankfully, the series’ scripts are as sharp as ever and the ensemble cast delivers their lines with wit and candor, despite the intermittent absurdity of some rather far-reaching dialogue. In fact, Parker perfects her character’s inner moral conflict this go around and further anchors the entire show to her increasingly brave performance -- her portrayal of Nancy as a survivor is enlivened by the surprise she shows with every decision she embraces. In season three, we finally get to see Nancy come out of her single-mother shell and draw several key lines in the proverbial sand. She believably goes toe to toe with some ferocious foes and always manages to narrowly come out on top.
The supporting cast is excellent as well. The actors portraying Nancy’s sons finally have some interesting things to do, Nealon and Kirk make Doug and Andy as hilarious as ever, and Perkins manages to develop her character beyond her potentially one-note roots. Best of all, the new additions to the roster provide a trio of compelling villains that aren’t relegated to sneering at every turn. Modine chews every scene as a smarmy intellectual force intent on manipulating Agrestic to his whims. His varying reactions to the only two people who see through his rouse (Nancy and Doug) provide some of this season’s best moments. Kennedy and Diaz are more traditional physical villains, ensnaring Nancy as she pushes further and further into their world. As she overcomes each individual hurdle, U-Turn and Guillermo always seem to find ways to keep her bound to their underground empires.
Despite such excellent performances, I don’t think season three is quite as strong as the series’ second outing -- some of the situational comedy is aimless and borders on farce (Andy’s stint in the military springs to mind), a handful of subplots are unnecessary and fairly dull (the random appearance of the actual Scottson wife for one), and a recurring appearance by a bland Mary-Kate Olsen comes across as a bitter attack on belief rather than a satirical glimpse at its extremes. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Weeds’ is still one of the most original comedies on television, but series writer/creator Jenji Kohan seems to try a bit too hard. At times, the show loses grip on the effortlessly breezy qualities that defined its first two seasons.
That being said, ‘Weeds: Season Three’ still manages to hit plenty of solid notes, offering a rash of brilliant new characters, and expanding the potential of the series with a fantastic cliffhanger that left me itching to catch the fourth season on television this month. While I do have minor complaints about various developments in particular character arcs, I can’t help but wholeheartedly recommend ‘Weeds’ to everyone willing to give it a try.
’Weeds: Season Three’ arrives on Blu-ray with another impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer from Lionsgate that easily bests its standard DVD counterpart and HD television broadcast. While the series’ palette is still dominated by intentional oversaturation, colors are bold, stable, and vibrant. The show’s ever-essential greens look fantastic, whether bathed in yellow heat lamps, dangling in clear plastic, or sitting in the shadows. On that note, black levels are nice and deep, only losing their inky luster in a handful of shots (hardly a big deal considering the number of episodes on the disc). Contrast is strong as well, imbuing the majority of scenes with a bright, crisp appeal consistent with the second season’s BD presentation. Last but not least, fine object detail makes ‘Weeds’ one of the more striking high-def TV series on the market. If I wanted to nitpick I could point out a half-dozen scenes that look softer than the rest of the episodes, but these brief hiccups are few and far between.
The only major complaint I can level against the transfer is that it suffers from errant bursts of artifacting that sometimes cluster over flat expanses of color. While this issue isn’t nearly as prevalent as it is on the HDTV broadcast (which transmits at a much lower bit-rate), it still caught my eye on more than one occasion and detracted from the otherwise remarkable presentation. Luckily, the transfer doesn’t fall prey to other noise and the majority of the scenes look clean and well-rendered. All things considered, ‘Weeds: Season Three’ looks great and should please fans of the series and Agrestic newcomers alike.
A DTS HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track may sound like overkill for a conversational television dramedy, but I’m certainly not complaining. Lionsgate continues to deliver the latest and greatest in audible goodness and I continue to applaud their commitment to high definition and the fans of their films and series. Thankfully, whether you have the hardware to enjoy it or not, ‘Weeds: Season Three’ sounds excellent. Dialogue is crisp and cleanly distributed throughout the soundfield, light ambience populates the rear speakers, and a welcome sturdiness in the soundscape allows the LFE channel to readily support gunfire, clashing dealers, and explosions (yep, this season boasts a few). Technically, the track leaves its mark as well. Channel pans are swift and transparent, accuracy is surprisingly adept for a talkative series, and the addition of two supported speakers expands the soundfield even further than its 5.1 presentation.
Sure, the soundfield is still reasonably front-heavy the majority of the time and there aren’t a lot of sonic fireworks to turn the heads of your friends and neighbors. Even so, ‘Weeds: Season Three’ includes one of the better television audio mixes I’ve reviewed in high-def and handles everything Kohan tosses its way with graceful simplicity. Fans should not be disappointed with the results.
The Blu-ray edition of ‘Weeds: Season Three’ includes all of the special features packed on the standard DVD release, as well as an exclusive BD arcade game. While fans will find plenty of content to dig through, anyone looking for commentaries from the lead cast members won’t find a lot here. Compared to the first two seasons, this supplemental package feels a bit hit-or-miss, but certainly adds a lot of value considering the low cost of the release.
- Cast and Crew Commentaries -- Eight commentaries include chats with series creator/writer Jenji Kohan on “Doing the Backstroke” and “Go,” supervising producer Mark Burley on “Shit Highway,” actor Justin Kirk on “Bill Sussman,” young actors Hunter Parish and Alexander Gould (Nancy’s two sons) on “Grasshopper,” director Craig Zisk and cinematographer Michael Trim on “The Two Mrs. Scottsons,” director Ernest Dickerson on “Release the Hounds,” and writer Roberto Benabib on “Protection.” One of my favorite aspects of the first two seasons of ‘Weeds’ was the audio commentaries, but this collection doesn’t feature the pizzazz of previous tracks. Where’s Kevin Nealon? Romany Malco, Elizabeth Perkins, or, more obviously, Mary Louise Parker? Sadly, we’re left with a series of rather dry discussions about the evolution of the series and its characters from a production perspective. Kirk is the lone standout, delivering a fantastically sharp dissection of the show that packs in quite a few laughs.
- Good Morning Agrestic! (SD, 31 minutes) -- I couldn’t possibly have prepared myself for such a cringe-inducing series of in-character clips. Directed by Nancy’s youngest, these segments feel completely divorced from the show as a whole. The cast has a great time launching at each other’s throats, but the slapstick gags and cheap chuckles are an overblown waste of disc space.
- Uncle A.W.O.L. (SD, 7 minutes) -- A tongue-in-cheek featurette in which actor Andy Kirk parades around the set for an interview. Unfortunately, this tired mockumentary is little more than a fairly amusing addition that lacks the bite and intelligence of Kirk’s commentary.
- Little Boxes: Randy Newman (SD, 3 minutes) –- One of the shortest featurettes is also one of the best. This mini-doc digs into musician Randy Newman’s contribution to the season’s opener.
- Gag Reel (SD, 6 minutes) -- This standard collection of mistakes and laugh-offs isn’t anything to write home about and will mainly appeal to the series’ most studious fans.
- Little Boxes Music Montages (SD, 3 minutes) -- Four versions of the show’s opening theme are presented with behind-the-scenes photos. The featured artists include The Individuals, Kinky, Persephone’s Bees, and Man Man.
- One-on-One with Mary-Kate Olsen (SD, 3 minutes) -- Ugh. I watched as much “Full House” as the next kid on the block, but there’s only so much I can take of either creepy, dead-eyed Olsen twin.
- Soundtrack Sampler -- A teasing promotional feature that allows users to play short audio clips from this season’s official soundtrack. I have to admit I was really disappointed with this feature. Since I can’t pop my BD disc in a CD player, I don’t understand why the entire soundtrack isn’t available for playback.
- Subtitle Trivia Tracks -- A series of decent textual trivia tracks adorn seven episodes including “A Pool and His Money,” “The Brick Dance,” “He Taught Me How to Drive-By,” “Roy Till Called,” “Cankles,” “The Dark Time,” and “Risk.” As a nice touch, the episodes that lack an audio commentary are the ones that receive a trivia track. It really helps spread the behind-the-scenes love across the entire series and hit as many details as possible. While a commentary on every episode would have been more ideal, this is a welcome concession.
The only exclusive content on this Blu-ray release is a game called “Kush Kush and Away” that doesn’t add a lot of value to the disc. The experience is basic and the content feels contrived. At the most, it will provide a brief thrill for anyone looking to milk every last minute out of this release.
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’Weeds’ continues to chart new and interesting courses well into its third season. There are a few missteps along the way, but the series consistently offers plenty of dark comedy, family drama, and outlandish situations for the Botwins to traverse. This Blu-ray release follows in the steps of the second season’s BD with an excellent video transfer, a lush 7.1 Master Audio soundtrack, and a vast reservoir of supplements that includes 8 commentaries and 7 subtitle tracks. All in all, this is a remarkable release that offers a great show, high quality, and a lot of additional content for a surprisingly reasonable price.
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