TVonDVD: The Light and Dark and In-Between of TV: Hannah Montana: Pop Star Profile, Hex – The Complete First Season, Jesse Stone

Pop Star Profile - Box ArtOne of the cool things about television is that it really can reach all age groups. Disney’s second Hannah Montana release, Pop Star Profile, may be just the next step in establishing Miley Cyrus as a multi-talented G-rated star, but it shows that she just may have the chops to pull it off. Meanwhile, the American DVD release of Hex – The complete first Season provides a dark, supernatural series with the smarts and the humor to speak to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. Finally, there are two entries in the Jesse Stone mystery movie series: Night Passage and Death in Paradise…

Hannah Montana – Pop Star Profile

This collection of four episodes from the Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana TV series centers around the intrusion into Miley/Hannah’s life of an egotistical young man, Jake Ryan [Cody Linley], who just happens to star in the hottest show on TV, Zombie Slayer!

From his very first appearance in New Kid in School Miley Stewart [Miley Cyrus] finds Jake insufferable. Meanwhile, everyone – including the science teacher and the school principal – hang on every word he says. Everyone including Miley’s best friend, Lily [Emily Osment], which leaves Miley cold.

Pop Star Profile - Box Art

It’s not until Miley gets a guest-starring role on Zombie Slayer [More Than a Zombie To Me], and Jake tells her about this girl at school he kinda digs, that she begins to think he might be worth knowing. Torn between just letting things be, and going after Jake, Miley gets some sound advice from her godmother, Dolly Parton [Good golly Miss Dolly]. Finally, in People Who Use People, both Jake and Miley use others to make each other jealous.

Sure, Hanna Montana is another of those ‘tween shows that never quite know when to cut down on the sugar content, and tend to teach life lessons via less than subtle means. Sure the B-plots involve such things as a Stewart family tradition of playing pranks. And, yes, the acting is as uneven as it gets [not as over-the-top as Lizzy McGuire; not as grounded as That’s so Raven!].

On the other hand, Miley Cyrus is the real deal. Sure she’s cute in the Hilary duff mold, and yes, she’s as prone to overacting as anyone on the show. The thing is, as singing star Hannah Montana, she works… well! The girl has pipes – pipes of sufficient strength and nuance to be almost out of place in her skinny, fourteen-year old body. We’re talking Tanya tucker pipes, folks. Unfortunately, she doesn’t do nearly enough singing on the show – though when she does, wowzers!

Features include: The Real Miley Cyrus [a day with Miley, her family and co-stars] and Nobody’s Perfect [a live concert performance].

Grade: Hannah Montana – Pop Star Profile – C+

Grade: Features: C

Final Grade: C+

Hex – The Complete First Season

Cassie Hughes [Christina Cole] is blonde, beautiful and shy. She longs to be popular and, by the bye, she’s a witch. Her roommate, Thelma [Jemima Rooper] is an outgoing, cheery sort – a bit plump, but thoroughly engaging. She’s also a lesbian and in love with Cassie – but she’s willing to settle for being her best friend. Cassie also has the strangest feeling that there’s a man following her…

Hex appears to be the story of how Cassie and Thelma survive their days at a remote English boarding school – Medenham Hall. I say appears to be because Thelma dies early on and appears in the rest of the series as a ghost! Then there’s the man who is following Cassie – a fallen angel named Azazeal [Michael Fassbinder], who has a plan that involves seducing and impregnating her.

The Complete First Season - Box Art

The first season of Hex was actually five [or was it six] episodes, so this DVD set actually includes four second-season eps [which will help make the Making Of Hex feature make sense]. The first season essentially set up the battle for Cassie – and established the stakes [yes, the world hangs in the balance – but we’re not necessarily doomed!].

There are odd connections that lead to dramatic results – like the one between Cassie’s mother and Azazeal. And all the while, the regular kids and the school staff seem to have no idea what’s going on – except for those few who’ve been dragged into the situation by Cassie and Thelma. But even they may not be of any help…

Like a good many recent BBC series, Hex is smart, funny and dramatic. It features an extremely solid cast and the writing is beautifully [almost evilly] thought out. As things ramp up, Thelma [it turns out] will not be the only fatality – though she may be the only present-day ghost. The show’s only real fault is that, sometimes at least, the pacing is a bit too slow – which can be off-putting.

If you love programs that deal with the supernatural, Hex is definitely worth your time.

Feature: The Making of Hex

Grade: Hex – The Complete First Season – A

Grade: Features – D

Final Grade: B

Jesse Stone: Night Passage, and Death In Paradise

It’s not often that an actor gets two career-defining roles and it’s even less often that they come seventeen years apart. In the alcoholic Sheriff of the New England town of Paradise, Jesse Stone, Tom Selleck has found that second special role. First assayed in 2005’s Stone Cold, Selleck has turned Robert B. Parker’s world-weary cop into an on-going franchise.

In 2006, CBS aired two Stone TV-movies: Night Passage and Death In Paradise. A fourth episode aired a few months back, and a fifth is in the works. Despite the network’s recent aversion to TV-movies, Selleck’s Stone appears to be here for as long as he wants to play the guy. Death in Paradise is actually a prequel to Stone Cold.

Night Passage deals with Stone’s hiring by the Paradise Town Council and his first case in the seemingly idyllic town. After managing to get the job despite being hung over enough to qualify as still drunk, Stone finds himself looking into a case of spousal abuse – a case that leads, somehow, into a money laundering scheme that seems to involve the local bank manager, Hasty Hathaway [Saul Rubinek].

Night Passage - Box Art

Not one to miss a chance to multitask Stone is also settling into his home – a secluded house on the water – with his faithful hound dog, and getting involved with Abby Taylor [Polly Shannon]. Along the way, unsavory details come to light and miscreants of various sorts make things tough for Stone – especially Joe Genest [Stephen Baldwin], who involved in the money laundering as well as being a wife-beater. At the same time, the rest of the Paradise Police Department isn’t quick to cotton to Stone, making things even more uncomfortable.

Death In Paradise finds Stone, having won over his staff, investigating the death of a local girl who has turned up dead, badly decomposed, floating in the water. Evidence points to a local prep school sports hero. Of course, being who he is, Stone has other problems, too. Haunted by bad dreams and afraid that he might not solve the case [in which case it’s back to the bottle], he takes his ex-wife’s advice and sees a therapist [William Devane] who lost his wife and job to alcoholism.

Somehow, his murder case gets Stone involved with the Boston Mob and things get more complex for a while before things click into place. Selleck plays Stone’s determination and fear into something palpable. By the end of Death In Paradise, we’re as completely with him as we ever were with Magnum.

Like its predecessors, Death In Paradise is a tale that unfolds in a deliberate manner. This is not a “blowed up real good” type of series. Instead, like Parker’s novels, the tale develops around its interesting characters and when violence occurs, there’s not that much of it – the contrast, and brevity, making it all the more powerful.

Neither DVD contains any bonus material.

Final Grade: Jesse Stone: Night Passage – B+

Final Grade: Jesse Stone: Death In paradise – B+

See our DVD Reviews page for reviews of more recent reviews.

EM Review Posted by Sheldon Wiebe

Originally Posted 07/18/07

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