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Alias
DVD disk
09.26.2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Alias order
Director:
Various

Actors:
Jennifer Garner
Ron Rifkin
Michael Vartan

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Estranged student Sydney Bristow (Garner) is recruited into a mysterious branch of the CIA as a special operative. Surrendering her entire life to the Agency, she soon discovers that she may unknowingly be a double agent working for the very same people from whom she thinks she's protecting her country.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
One of television's biggest hits of the past few years, ALIAS delivers a fresh twist on the spy game and some great Sunday night entertainment for viewers of all ages. It's one of those TV shows that is easy to really get into, as demonstrated by the rabid fan base it's developed since its 2001 debut. It's also responsible for the rise of Jennifer Garner as one the brightest young stars in Hollywood with a big screen career that leapt into the forefront with her role as Elektra Natchios in DAREDEVIL, a role she's parlayed into her very own sequel. All this comes to her in a well-deserved manner considering her excellent work in ALIAS in which she holds the fort, both as far as playing the lead character, and in displaying great dramatic, comedic and physical abilities.

In addition to offering a bright new star, ALIAS offers underestimated TV viewers a series bereft of spoon-fed junk and containing interesting, well-written storylines well adapted to the small screen and conducive to very addictive viewing behavior. Among the supporting cast who help flesh out these stories are Victor Garber, as Sydney's father, who is caught in the same trap as his daughter and whose allegiance is constantly in doubt and Ron Rifkin who stars as Sydney's boss. Home wrecker Michael Vartan plays Sydney's CIA contact who she works with to bring down SD6, the renegade agency for whom she works. He's a pretty charming guy and even if you don't buy a 30-something year old guy in the high echelons of the CIA, he still manages to be convincing enough not to compromise credibility. He also gives something for the ladies to enjoy while the men drool over the long-legged Garner.

The one drawback to Alias is the series' reliance on long story arcs that span several episodes (Rambaldi, anyone?). While it gives the writers time to expand on some good storylines, the continuous elements make it pretty difficult to pick up mid-season and those who miss a week or two may find themselves frustrated upon their return. Fortunately, this effect is somewhat tempered by the integration of individual mission elements within each episode and its slick action and tension. Overall though, for those familiar with ALIAS, this first season offers a great springboard to a good series and a great hook for those who haven't had the chance to catch it yet. As far as television drama goes, this may not be the artistic best, but it's definitely one of the most exciting.
THE EXTRAS
The special features are all included on Disc 6 of the set with the exception of the episode audio commentaries found on the episodes marked with a asterisk on the above episode guide. It's a bit disappointing that only four episodes would get this treatment, but there is a nice variety of actors and crewmembers and a different combination on each.

Alias Pilot Production Diary (20 minutes) is the main documentary on this set. It chronicles the shoot of several key scenes of the pilot episode through on-set footage and interviews. Fast-paced and never boring, the documentary does well in explaining what's involved in every scene it describes, from stunts to effects, to plot preparation and actor goofs.

The next stop in Inside Stunts, a 10-minute rundown of the many dangerous situations the actors and doubles put themselves through for this series. Make no mistake, Jennifer Garner is not only one sexy looker, but she's also a freaking stunt machine that climbs buildings, gets punched across the face and dives into bodies of water in a car. Although she does resort to a stunt double at times, like whenever fire and sharp objects are involved, she's still pretty impressive.

There's also a set of six deleted scenes that are fun to watch, but hard to place inside of 22 episodes. Then again, I have yet to hear anyone complain about having to watch more Jennifer Garner footage. They go quite well with the 3-minute long gag reel, which is not much more than flubbed lines, people laughing on set and tripping once in a while.

The rest of the stuff is pretty standard fare: a set of five TV Spots, a preview of Season 2 and a preview of the upcoming ALIAS Video Game.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
For those who've watched and enjoyed the show, this DVD set is a perfect chance to fill in the parts you didn't quite "get" or to enjoy a show with good rewatch value. It's a pretty considerable investment though since it retails at around US$70 so it may be mooch material or a rental if you're just in the mood to experiment and to catch something new.
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