Alcatraz: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review: More Mysterious Mystical Crap from J.J. Abrams

Every year, J.J. Abrams brings us yet another television series. Around that same time every year, I grow a little crazier. Sure, you may just consider the two seemingly-unrelated items to be nothing more than mere coincidence, but it is most assuredly not, boys and girls — as at least one-percent of my madness is unquestionably attributable to the lousy shows Mr. Abrams proudly stamps his “I am to crappy mystical TV shows what Tim Burton is to crappy, overly-artsy movies” seal of approval upon. And the short-lived 2012 Abrams-produced series Alcatraz has become more fodder for my ever-worsening mental condition.

Taking its cue from other similar (Abrams) shows, the story here involves 302 people who disappeared from Alcatraz Island in 1963. Yes, I said “disappeared.” You see, kids: the famous penitentiary didn’t just shut down in ’63 year because of unsafe conditions for all who lived or were incarcerated there like we were all told. What really happened is that everybody on the accursed island simply vanished one night without a trace. All mysterious like: in an almost-patented, not-very-linear, Losty, Fringey kind of way, to boot. Oooooooh! And, since then, a clandestine government department has been set up waiting for these folks to return.

Sure enough, they’ve started to do just that. Naturally, they all know it’s the future — and the fact they haven’t aged a bit and are back in our world with inexplicable objectives on their minds only adds to the whole supernatural mystery aspect of this show. Strangely enough, it also makes it a lot easier for J.J. Abrams to cast a majority of somewhat green young actors as opposed to a bunch of seasoned old farts. Why, he even brought Lost star Jorge Garcia onboard as a (young) published expert on Alcatraz and its inmates — a character who proves indispensable to our main star, the virtually unknown Sarah Jones, who plays a hot-headed (young) San Francisco detective who somehow winds up working for the abovementioned secret task force.

Of course, you still have to fulfill your AARP quota if you intend to have at least one viewer out there take you seriously. So, for Alcatraz, we get a weathered, very bored-looking Sam Neill as the head of said covert FBI division: a once-distinguished actor who was at one point highly considered to become James Bond, but who — sadly — had to settled for inhabiting the role of a humorless character named Emerson Hauser (!) for this mind-numbing program.

Throughout the run of this repetitive 13-episode series (which began as a mid-season replacement on Fox before the network execs there finally canceled it — one of the few times in history where they canned something that truly deserved it), Jones and Garcia — under Neill’s expressionless supervision — track down the latest guest criminal/guard of the week (they’re all called “’63s,” incidentally) using their combined wits; a collection of mental prowess that is only paralleled by the Kardashian sisters, as these three are pretty inept at their job. But hey, you gotta pad each story to meet the hour-long runtime, right? Even the recurring sight of Robert Forster as Jones’ uncle and a guest role by Frank Whaley as a returned guard don’t add much to this dull, let’s-see-if-we-can-beat-this-whole-genre-to-death series.

Warner Bros. brings us this forgettable shot-on-Hi-Def video program to Blu-ray in a 1080p/AVC transfer that is something of a joy to behold, visually. Flashbacks are shown in a cold manner to relate the harsh physical and mental brutality the Rock was famous for, while modern-day scenes are very warm to the eyes. Neither falter when it comes to relaying to us vibrant colors, strong contrast, or fine detail. The rather dialogue-centric series boasts a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that really kicks into gear during each episode’s obligatory, clockwork-like action scenes. French and Spanish 2.0 DD audio tracks are also provided here, as are a number of subtitles.

In terms of special features, the two-disc Blu-ray/UltraViolet Digital Copy combo of Alcatraz: The Complete Series contains a number of deleted scenes (most of which are housed on the first disc), with additional items consisting of a short behind-the-scenes featurette with select cast and crew, and the always mandatory gag reel.

In short: skip it. Unless you like this kind of crap to begin with, that is, in which case you probably already have it in your collection. And, is that is the case, then J.J. Abrams has succeeded in driving me just that much further to being in the mouth of madness.  [Insert Sam Neill joke here.]

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Luigi Bastardo

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