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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Strange Frequency 2
Strange Frequency 2
Paramount // R // March 15, 2005
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Scott Lecter | posted March 27, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
MTV seems to have found the right formula for hit television. Throw some unknown youngsters (chosen by their ability to fill a certain stereotype) in a house and let the cameras roll: The Real World. Take the same basic ingredients and throw them in an RV to roam the country and do a few stunts: Road Rules. Put the same people in a competition against each other to see which group whines more: all those seemingly endless installments of Real World-Road Rules Challenge. They even broke the mold a few times by surrounding a rock-God (Ozzy) and his family with cameras: The Osbournes. Then, they took a newly married couple of B-level celebrities and turned them into Hollywood A-listers: Newlyweds. For a station that used to air music videos the majority of the time, in the past ten years or so, they've certainly produced more than just a few hits.

The same, however, can't be said about their sister station: VH1. Sure, they've had a bit of a hit with their Behind the Music series, but that's about it. I don't count the passing trend that is their I Love the… series or the fact that they snatched up subsequent seasons of The Surreal Life. None of these shows have been a pop-culture phenomenon like the shows on MTV. So, with all that being said, I ask you this very simple question: Does anyone even remember watching the VH1 original series Strange Frequency? I certainly don't, and judging by the quality of its follow-up, Strange Frequency 2, I can understand why.

The series is basically an anthology show in the same vein as The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery. Take a few simple stories, throw in a somewhat paranormal twist near the end, and you've got the basic formula. The only difference in Strange Frequency 2 is that each story has a rock-and-roll bend to it. They each have something to do with music or the lifestyle that surrounds the musicians. Sex, drugs, fame, and groupies are all relevant topics to be explored. The results, however, are nothing like that of the shows Strange Frequency 2 is modeled after. To even begin to compare The Twilight Zone to Strange Frequency 2 is like comparing a mansion to a shack. I'm sorry now that I've even mentioned the two in the same sentence.

The four stories in Strange Frequency 2 deal with the most obvious rock-and-roll situations. "Soul Man" is a tale about a guitar-tech who only wants his chance to shine, play with the band, and get the girl. "Cold Turkey" is about a front man and songwriter who must deal with his drug addiction if he wants to stay in the band. "Instant Karma" is the story of a naïve groupie who falls for the wrong guy. And "Don't Stop Believin'" - the most original of the group - is about a campaign song that has some strange consequences for the man running for Senate. Needless to say, each story ends with some sort of paranormal twist. I guess they're supposed to be ironic. It's supposed to be the "twist of fate" that turns these, otherwise familiar tales, into something spooky or horrific. For the four stories in Strange Frequency 2, however, it doesn't exactly work. They, ultimately, come across as being sillier than they are spooky or ironic.

The only saving grace in this mess is the appearance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel veteran James Marsters. Still sporting the same blond head of hair that he donned for the character of Spike, Marsters is assured and nuanced in his performance as Mitch, the guitar-tech who finds Jimi Hendrix's last song in a thrift store, in "Soul Man." It's a strange sight to see Marsters without the usual Spike accent and leather duster, but his performance is a testament to the fact that he will certainly be around television and film for quite some time.


Even Marsters, however, can't save Strange Frequency 2 from being an unoriginal, formulaic rip-off of shows that have done the same thing with much better results. Roger Daltrey, who hosts the show and plays a role in most of the stories, is basically going through the motions here, and the supporting cast isn't any better. As much as I dislike most of those hit shows that MTV has spawned, I'd rather watch any of them than have to sit through Strange Frequency 2 again. Watching something this bad makes me smile every time I see an episode of The Twilight Zone. Even when they missed the mark, those episodes were infinitely better than this VH1 series.

The DVD

Video:
Strange Frequency 2 is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame format that, although it has a few problems, is quite adequate. The transfer lives up to the same standards as most broadcast television with a somewhat flat appearance, but nice color saturation and accurate flesh tones. Blacks aren't as deep as they could be, and the image sometimes appears soft, making for a less intricately detailed appearance. Digital artifacts and pixelation didn't seem to be a problem at all, but there is a fair amount of grain present throughout, especially in darker scenes. When the film does show off some brighter colors, they appear vibrant and rich with well-delineated shadows and lighting. Only the slightest amount of edge enhancement can be seen throughout the film. While this transfer certainly isn't one that you'd use to show off your home theater, it does an adequate job of capturing the original broadcast quality of the film, and even improves on a few areas.

Sound:
The audio on this disc is presented in a Dolby 2.0 stereo format that is similar to the visual presentation in that it adequately reproduces the original broadcast quality of the film, and even improves on a few aspects of the soundtrack, but ultimately fails to impress. For a film that is filled with rock-concert footage and assorted rock-and-roll performances, it would have been nice to have an enveloping surround mix. We are, however, only given the stereo soundtrack. For what it is, though, this track does a nice job of handling dialogue and even pumps out a few forceful moments when the soundtrack's guitars and drums really kick in. Spatial separation across the front channels is just fine and the dialogue is always crisp, clear, and discernable while never being overwhelmed by the rest of the soundtrack. Played through Dolby Pro Logic II decoding this track even shows a few glimpses of some exciting surround action during the various bands' performances. Just like the visual presentation, however, this isn't a track designed to show off the home theater system, but one that simply gets the job done.

Extras:
There are no extras features on this disc.

Final Thoughts:
If you're still considering picking up Strange Frequency 2, you might do best to save your hard-earned money for a few weeks until you have enough to pick up something much more interesting like The Twilight Zone. Trust me on this one; even if they show reruns on television every single year, there are probably still a few episodes you've missed at some point in your life, and anything - yes, anything (even from the infamously-loathed third season - from The Twilight Zone is better than even one minute of this VH1 series. Aside from the adequate audio-visual presentation, Paramount doesn't appear to have put much effort into this disc, and rightfully so. I can't help but advise you to skip it. Don't waste your valuable time or money.

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