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MOVIE INFO

Created By:
Paul Scheuring
Cast:
Dominic Purcell, Wentworth Miller, Amaury Nolasco, Wade Williams, Sarah Wayne Callies, Robin Tunney, Paul Adelstein, Marshall Allman, Robert Knepper, Stacy Keach
Writing Credits:
Paul Scheuring, Zack Estrin, Matt Olmstead, Nick Santora, Karyn Usher

Tagline:
Escape is Just the Beginning.

Synopsis:
Most men would do anything to get out of Fox River Penitentiary, but Michael Scofield will do anything to get in. His brother Lincoln has been sentenced to die for a crime he did not commit, and the only way to save him is from the inside out. Armed with prison blueprints and an impossibly intricate escape plan, Michael gets himself incarcerated, and the race against time is on. Now, he'll need all of the cunning, daring, and luck he can muster ... along with the assistance of some of the prison's most vile and dangerous felons.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 960 min.
Price: $59.98
Release Date: 8/8/2006

Bonus:
• 10 Audio Commentaries
• Deleted Scenes for Five Episodes
• “The Making of Prison Break” Documentary
• “If These Walls Could Speak: Profile of the Joliet Correctional Center” Featurette
• “Beyond the Ink” Featurette
• “Making a Scene” Featurette
• Season 2 Promo
• TV Spots


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Prison Break: Season One (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 30, 2006)

Prison Break comes with a premise that one can view as brilliant, idiotic, or both. A man gets incarcerated with the sole purpose of busting out his brother? I can’t quite decide if that’s really cool or totally moronic.

To help me decide, I gave the series’ first season a look. I’ll check out the shows in the order broadcast. The plot synopses come straight from the set’s packaging.

DVD ONE:

Pilot: “Structural engineer Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) purposefully has himself incarcerated in order to orchestrate the escape of his brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), whom he believes has been wrongly sentenced to death.”

The series opens with a reasonably interesting episode, though it may be overly ambitious. The “Pilot” tries to cram in so many characters and bits that it offers potential confusion. I realize that these elements will straighten out as the series progresses, but the show becomes a bit disjointed. At least it moves well and keeps us interested.

Allen: “Setting his plan in motion, Michael seeks the aid of his fellow inmates, but he makes some deadly enemies along the way.”

We still have a lot of shows to go, but I doubt we’ll find any characters as gross as T-Bag. That’s a perverse name and a nasty dude – in an entertaining way, that is. T-Bag seems likely to add pizzazz to many future programs. As for the specifics of this episode, I like the way we see Michael play both sides in the racial conflict. That adds complexity to the show and makes it more compelling.

Cell Test: “Michael’s plan to test Sucre’s (Amaury Nolasco) loyalty backfires when Sucre requests a cell transfer, and Abruzzi (Peter Stormare) joins in Michael’s plan to escape.”

Characters dominate "Test", as it does more to set up personalities than it does to move along the story. I like seeing more of Sucre, as he’s one of the series’ more intriguing characters so far. He’s more three-dimensional than most – unlike Abruzzi and many of the others, he creates sympathy in the viewers. On the other hand, I can’t stand LJ. Maybe he’ll develop as things progress, but now he’s just whiny and annoying.

Cute Poison: “Michael fears that his psychotic new cellmate will expose his plan, while Veronica (Robin Tunney) enlists the aid of another attorney as she uncovers new evidence in Lincoln’s case.”

Another interesting personality emerges via the nutso Haywire (Silas Weir Mitchell). Yeah, he feels like a plot device more than anything, but he’s a fun plot device. This episode reminds me how dull I think the Veronica side of things is, though. I like the parts in prison much more than those bits outside of jail; the whole legal process just doesn’t interest me so far. The lame “coincidence” that a) Veronica splits with her fiancé and b) the new lawyer is a hunk is also cheesy. Despite the freaky charm of Haywire, this is too inconsistent a program to really work.

DVD TWO:

English, Fitz or Percy: “Kellerman (Paul Adelstein) and Hale (Danny McCarthy) blackmail Warden Pope (Stacy Keach) into moving Michael to another prison, and Michael must think quickly to avoid the transfer.”

After the lackluster “Poison”, the series rebounds with the solid “Percy”. It moves the breakout plot along well and creates a good sense of tension. Heck, even the Veronica parts succeed in this enjoyable show.

Riots, Drills and the Devil (Part 1): “With the escape plan falling dangerously far behind, Michael sparks a full-scale riot by sabotaging the prison’s air conditioner system, and Veronica, growing suspicious of Nick (Frank Grillo), rejects his help with Lincoln’s case.”

I’ll discuss my thoughts about this episode when I go over its conclusion.

Riots, Drills and the Devil (Part 2): “As the rioting rages on, Michael must rescue Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies) from the other inmates, while Abruzzi and Sucre team up to help expedite the breakout.”

Some parts of “Drills” feel awfully contrived, mainly as it puts Sara in danger. Nonetheless, it does seem interesting to watch how the riot complicates the breakout plot, and it includes more action than usual. We get stuck with too much of the annoying LJ, unfortunately, a character with little definition; he goes from hating Lincoln to loving him awfully quickly.

The Old Head: “To his great dismay, Michael discovers that an old storage shed, crucial to his plan, has been converted into a break room for the guards, while outside the prison, Veronica, Nick and LJ (Marshall Allman) find their lives in danger.”

For once, the stories outside the prison actually become more interesting than the internal affairs. Matters turn quite dark as the agents put the pressure on those connected to Lincoln, and these elements help add danger to the proceedings. Sure, I still don’t like LJ, but at least the non-prison bits are exciting. As for the shots inside the jail, they help move along the plot well, though they don’t come across as particularly memorable. I do like the expansion of the Westmoreland character, however.

DVD THREE:

Tweener: “Fearing for the life of his son, Lincoln’s desire to escape becomes more desperate than ever, and Michael faces a tough decision as the vile T-Bag (Robert Knepper) continues to sexually prey on young inmates.”

If nothing else, “Tweener” stands out as arguably the first time we’ve seen genuine emotion from Michael; when T-Bag’s bitch kills himself, he actually displays something other than steely determination. Unfortunately, those feelings come out in this episode’s Afterschool Special theme when Michael tries to rescue the kids T-Bag rapes. I don’t much care for the tone of those scenes; it’d be better to see T-Bag dealt with in a less “TV movie” manner. The infusion of some convenient information about Michael’s psychology doesn’t help.

Other parts of this episode falter. The non-prison elements stall a bit and Lincoln’s attempts to help LJ seem pretty absurd given the circumstances. Only the expansion of Abruzzi’s situation brings a lot to this lackluster program, though it ends with one of the more tantalizing cliffhangers yet seen.

Sleight of Hand: “Michael is forced to reveal the location of Fibonacci (Roderick Peeples), an innocent man whom the mob wants dead, in order to keep the breakout plan on track, and Kellerman and Hale receive some unwanted help in their pursuit of LJ.”

After percolating in the background for so long, it’s good to finally see the Fibonacci storyline take flight. The program doesn’t end the issue, but it develops it well. Add to that a new threat from parties even nastier than Agents Kellerman and Hale along with a new member of the plot and this turns into a solid episode.

And Then There Were 7: “Everyone, especially Sara, is shocked when Michael’s wife (Holly Valance) arrives for a conjugal visit, bringing with her an important key to the escape plan.”

Along with the formal addition of that added member of the plot, this show offers a good expansion of the non-prison tension. I know that earlier in the year I didn’t care for those elements, but as the season progresses, they become more and more interesting and dramatic. I like the way the series slowly expands those moments, and it continues to pursue the prison break well.

Odd Man Out: “As the time of the escape draws near, the group, needing to reduce its number by one, targets T-Bag, but he’s got other ideas. Meanwhile, Veronica, Nick and LJ continue running for their lives.”

I’m starting to think they should have named Maricruz “Plot Device” since she exists solely to prod Sucre into action. “Out” acts as something of a placeholder episode. With Sucre/Maricruz and other interpersonal elements, it has more of a soap opera feel than usual. Abruzzi’s excessive guilt over the accidental death of a kid also seems tough to swallow given his criminal history; I find it hard to believe that he’d feel so terrible about events. This show’s a little too weepy for my liking.

DVD FOUR:

End of the Tunnel: “Just hours before Lincoln’s execution, the team makes its desperate and daring break for it, while outside a guilt-ridden conspirator betrays the others.”

“Tunnel” serves to deepen the tension as we wait to see if Linc gets fried or not, but since anyone with half a brain already knows the answer to that question, the show feels like little more than an unnecessary delay in the action. It moves along the escape but shows us a stall, another predictable element since it’s too early in the season for such a climactic event. At least the actions on the outside provide some good twists.

The Rat: “After the failed escape attempt, Michael tries desperately to have Lincoln’s execution postponed. Meanwhile, Sara pleads Lincoln’s case to her father, the governor (John Heard).”

We know that Lincoln won’t be friend, and this episode’s cliffhanger doesn’t alter that fact. Still, I suppose I can at least give credit to the way the show depicts the lead-up tension. The program makes the events fairly interesting, though it’s not one of the best episodes.

By the Skin & the Teeth: “Lincoln’s execution is stayed by a last-minute phone call, but not before he glimpses a man he believes to be his father. And, as Michael works on a new escape plan, Veronica has a corpse exhumed in her attempt to prove Lincoln’s innocence.”

I’ll give the show this: the twist that leads to the stay of execution comes as a surprise. Actually, “Skin” acts as something of a new lease on life for the series as well. The situations change and open up in fresh ways that add a strong kick. Things hadn’t really gotten stale, but the alterations rejuvenate matters anyway.

Brother’s Keeper: “A series of flashbacks reveals the origins of Michael’s plans and how each of the escapees landed in Fox River Penitentiary.”

Based on that synopsis, I worried that “Keeper” might turn out to offer nothing more than clips from previously aired programs. It proves more creative than that, though it can be a little cutesy at times – I think it’s silly that Lincoln bumps into Sucre as he flees Steadman’s murder site. Nonetheless, it’s cool to see how the various folks wound up at Fox River. It’s an entertaining and interesting episode.

DVD FIVE:

J-Cat: “With Michael out of commission in solitary confinement, it’s up to Sucre to conceal the tunnel beneath the guards’ break room before it’s too late.”

Back in present day, Sucre actually gets to do something for once. Since he’s one of the more interesting characters, that’s a positive. On the negative side, LJ turns whiny, stupid and unlikable again. Despite that, a mix of fun twists occur here – heck, we even get to see usually stoic Michael flip out a bit!

Bluff: “Michael seeks Haywire’s help in remembering the missing piece of his blueprint tattoo, while T-Bag and C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar) must join forces to win a high-stakes poker game.”

Any episode that links opposites like T-Bag and C-Note has to be a good one, right? Yup, though that uneasy alliance doesn’t lead to the sparks I hoped. Still, “Bluff” advances the various stories well. All the complications move things along nicely to create a lively program.

The Key: “A face from Lincoln’s past re-emerges to reveal the motives behind his set-up, and Abruzzi’s return to Fox River sets T-Bag on edge.”

Pretty much every episode develops the series’ story, but “Key” is one of the biggest plot-thickeners to date. We get a lot about what happened to Michael and Lincoln’s dad, and we also see the development of Michael’s relationship with Sara. We find the return of Abruzzi as well, in an apparently complex new Born Again form. These issues meld together for a nice show.

Tonight: “With Bellick (Wade Williams) bound and gagged, the inmates’ escape plans are rapidly accelerated, and Sara is left reeling when Michael reveals his secret to her.”

With very little time left in the season, matters start to really accelerate here. I suppose the urgency allows for some uncharacteristic sloppiness from Michael, though I find it a little hard to believe that Mr. Thorough would suddenly start to slip. The show acts more as a precursor to action than anything particularly compelling on its own.

DVD SIX:

Go: “The cons make their desperate break for freedom via the Psych Ward, and Nick double-crosses Veronica, hoping to save his dad.”

With Season One’s penultimate episode, the sparks really start to fly. Of course, we expect the big payoff to occur in the year’s final show, but this one launches the proceedings with gusto. It throws in some surprises and emotional intrigue to make us dying to see the year’s conclusion.

Flight: “The inmates are safely over the wall, but they’re still a long way from freedom as the deadly manhunt begins.”

We finish off the series’ first season with maybe its most exciting episode yet. That’s to be expected, and “Flight” delivers the goods. However, anyone who hopes for some form of resolution will be disappointed, as the program doesn’t solve anything. Indeed, it leaves us with more questions and intrigue than ever. Hey – nothing like a good cliffhanger to make sure we return for Season 2, right?


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C

Prison Break appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I’ve seen better looking TV series on DVD, but Break offered pretty solid visuals nonetheless.

Very few issues with sharpness occurred. The shows usually came across as crisp and well-defined. Wide shots occasionally looked a bit soft, but not to a significant degree. I saw no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was minor. Source flaws weren’t a concern, though the shows tended to look a little grainy at times.

As one might expect given the series’ setting, Break came as a series with a subdued palette. Blues and greens dominated the proceedings, as other tones popped up infrequently. The colors looked good within the production design. They were also full and well-developed in that realm. Blacks always seemed deep and full, while shadows were mostly clean and smooth. The occasional interior shot was a little murky, but otherwise low-light elements seemed concise. Overall, the series was very attractive.

Though not amazing, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Prison Break worked well. The audio supported the shows just fine. The soundfield emphasized the forward channels and worked quite well within that realm. The front spectrum was nicely broad and blended together cleanly. The elements remained in the appropriate locations and panned smoothly across the channels. Surround usage tended toward general reinforcement and atmospherics, though the rear speakers came to life pretty well during action sequences. Surrounds didn’t dazzle, but they brought some life to the mix.

Audio quality always seemed good. Speech was consistently natural and crisp, with no signs of edginess. Music was clean and concise. The score appeared well-recorded and dynamic. Effects also came across as lively and distinctive, and they lacked distortion. Bass response was deep and firm. Overall, the audio was more than fine for the series.

A mix of extras rounds out the set. We 10 audio commentaries across six episodes. These involve a variety of participants:

Pilot Track 1: Series creator/executive producer Paul Scheuring and actor Dominic Purcell. They cover basics like sets, locations, the cast and characters, production design and the show’s look, and various shot specifics. This commentary acts as a decent summary of a few production issues, but it doesn’t excel. I’d have liked to learn more about the series’ genesis and other developmental topics.

Pilot Track 2: director/executive producer Brett Ratner and editor Mark Helfrich. Ratner dominates this one as we learn how the feature director became involved in the series. We also get notes on casting and characters, sets and locations, and challenges connected to shooting on a tight schedule. This one starts out fairly well but quickly degenerates into a batch of praise. We hear all about how much Ratner and Helfrich love everything about the show. Some decent tidbits emerge, but all the happy talk makes it tough to take.

Cute Poison Track 1: Scheuring, Purcell and actor Wade Williams. This one resembles the earlier track from Scheuring and Purcell. We get some specifics about this episode, with more about cast, locations, sets and the story. A few good notes pop up here to make the track fairly interesting. It’s still not great, but it has its moments.

Cute Poison Track 2: writer Matt Olmstead and actor Silas Weir Mitchell. Mitchell talks of his casting and a little about his character. Otherwise we get general story and production notes. Like its predecessors, this is a praise-heavy discussion that lacks a lot of solid information. Hopefully subsequent tracks will become more compelling; so far they’ve been pretty bland.

Riots, Drills and the Devil, Part 1 Track 1: Scheuring, Purcell, Williams and actors Amaury Nolasco, Robert Knepper and Sarah Wayne Callies. Expect more of the same kind of content here. We hear more about cast and characters, sets and locations, and story issues. At least the added participants help make this one more interesting. It boasts greater energy, and we get some nice notes about character and performances. It’s still not a great commentary, but it provides a step up from its predecessors. I especially like the note about how the devil tattoo was originally planned to be Jesus but the network made them change it.

Riots, Drills and the Devil, Part 1 Track 2: director Robert Mandel and writer Nick Santora. The pair talk about expected topics such as story and plot issues, performances and working with the actors, sets and locations. We also get some references to other films and shows, and that includes a fun story about how an episode of M*A*S*H influenced this program. More informative than most, this ends up as one of the better Prison Break commentaries.

Riots, Drills and the Devil, Part 2: Scheuring, Purcell, Nolasco, Williams and actor Peter Stormare. This one follows similar topics covered earlier. We find more about the cast and shooting of the flick, with a few decent stories tossed in for good measure. It maintains the same lackluster quality of prior efforts, unfortunately. The best parts come from details about how the episode ran short; we learn the techniques used to pad its running time.

Odd Man Out: Producer Garry Brown, director Bobby Roth and writer/co-producer Karyn Usher. Brown and Usher do their own commentary and Roth’s comments are cut into it. We learn about plot, story and script issues, sets and locations, cast and characters, and shooting logistics. This works as one of the better tracks, as it digs into the series and the episode with reasonable gusto. Brown and Usher also create a nice chemistry that makes it fun to listen to them. Roth whispers like he was recorded in a library, so those parts don’t meld smoothly, but my overall impression of the piece remains positive.

Brother’s Keeper Track 1: Scheuring, Nolasco, Williams, Knepper and Callies. Only Scheuring saw a completed version of this episode before the crew recorded the commentary. That’s a mistake; the actors do little more than watch the show so they tell us even less than usual. This track strongly resembles prior Scheuring/cast pieces. We get lots of praise but only a few interesting tidbits.

Brother’s Keeper Track 2: Director Greg Yaitanes and writer Zack Estrin. We get more info about sets and locations, the episode’s various visual looks, the story and changes made along the way, and challenges related to creating this “pre-pilot”. Despite a lot of gushing praise along the way, the commentary proves useful. It throws out enough good facts to merit a listen.

One warning related to the commentaries: don’t listen to any of them until you’ve finished Season One. Even the tracks with the “Pilot” provide spoilers for later episodes.

Also spread throughout the six discs, we get Deleted Scenes. We find clips for five programs. These include “Allen” (one sequence, 0:47), “And Then There Were 7” (one, 1:49), “End of the Tunnel” (one, 1:51), “Brother’s Keeper” (one, 0:48), and “J-Cat” (one, 1:24). Not a single one of these scenes is interesting. Even the alternate ending for “Tunnel” is forgettable, and the others are no better. Fans will want to see these, I suppose, but they shouldn’t expect anything special.

The crumminess of these scenes becomes especially annoying when we know that more sequences are out there. During the commentary for “Brother’s Keeper”, we hear of about eight minutes cut from the final show, so why do we only see 48 seconds? And how about the shots of the actress who originally played Maricruz in the Pilot? Those’d be fun to watch. There’s clearly a lot more footage out there, so I don’t know why the DVD includes so little of it.

The remaining extras all appear on DVD Six. We start with The Making of Prison Break. This 30-minute and 33-second program mixes show clips, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We find remarks from Ratner, Scheuring, Purcell, Nolasco, Stormare, Williams, Knepper, and actors Wentworth Miller and Rockmond Dunbar. “Making” follows the origins of the series and its development. We learn about the shooting of the “Pilot” as well as casting, characters and the atmosphere on the set, filming in a closed-down prison, the work of the various writers, and general thoughts about the series.

With a whole half-hour to devote to the program, I hoped “Making” would offer a pretty good look at the series. Unfortunately, it comes across more like a promotional piece. It introduces us to the show and the characters but comes light on real information. This fluffy program has some good moments – I especially like Knepper’s discussion of his take on the character – but it lacks great substance.

Next comes If These Walls Could Speak: Profile of the Joliet Correctional Center. A nine-minute and 18-second piece, we get notes from warden’s executive assistant Debbie French and chief investigator Chuck Gobble. The program presents a history of Joliet along with other facts about the facility. The featurette offers a tight little examination of the series’ main location. One quibble: how could any look at the subject neglect to mention Joliet Jake?

For a look at the series’ iconic tattoo, we move to the 16-minute and 17-second Beyond the Ink. It features Miller, Scheuring, Ratner, and tattoo artist Tom Berg. The piece examines the design and execution of Scofield’s big tattoo. Berg dominates the show as he tells us how he integrated all the necessary information into the various tattoo elements. He helps make this a fascinating up-close glimpse of the intricate tattoos.

From the Fox Movie Channel, Making a Scene lasts eight minutes. We hear from Miller, Williams, Scheuring, Stormare, Mitchell, co-executive producer Michael Watkins, director Brad Turner, and director of photography Robbie Greenberg. The featurette throws out a few notes about the Joliet setting, shooting in cells, and some specifics of the scene from “Cute Poison” in which Haywire first enters Michael’s territory. I like the look at the recreation of the cells for filming purposes, but otherwise there’s not a lot of information here. The piece is too general and too short to be meaningful.

A few ads round out the set. We get a Season 2 Promo along with six TV Spots and an ad for a new Fox series called Vanished.

Despite the potential pitfalls of a quirky premise, Prison Break proves satisfying. The series progresses at a nearly relentless pace that ensures we never get bored. The twisting plot and sense of threat keeps us interested as we always come back for more. The DVDs feature very good picture and audio along with a mix of lackluster extras. I wish the supplements were stronger, but the series is fun enough to merit my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5517 Stars Number of Votes: 29
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main