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Rated 3.03 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Xenatainment
by Betty Jo Tucker

A show that is really a show

Brings cheers when the hero appears

And you say as she jumps in the fray   

That’s Xenatainment!

      (With apologies to Howard Dietz, who wrote the lyrics to “That’s Entertainment.”)

Seriously, folks, even even if you’ve never watched Xena: Warrior Princess on television, the Season Four Ten-Disc DVD set will keep you entertained for hours. There’s something for everyone in the 22 episodes and bonus features included in this wonderful Deluxe Collector’s Edition. You want intense drama? Watch “The Crusader” episode. Slapstick comedy? “If the Shoe Fits” fits the bill. Amusing satire? Take a look at “The Play’s the Thing.” Provocative philosophy? Catch “Devi” and “The Way.” Dynamic action? Every episode, of course.

Viewers who like behind-the-scenes information will find plenty to please them in the many interviews with actors, producers, writers, directors and costume designers that are presented as part of the Xena: Warrior Princess -- Season Four bonus features. Lucy Lawless, Renee  O’Connor, Michael Hurst, Rob Tapert, Hudson Leick, Ted Raimi, R.J. Stewart, Steven L. Sears, Donald Duncan, Robert Field, Jane Holland, Chris Manheim, Rick Jacobson and others offer fascinating, candid comments about their Xena experiences.

Among the additional bonus features are: video and audio commentaries by Lawless, O’Connor, Tapert and Manheim; director’s cuts of three episodes; three featurettes (“Bringing Monsters to Life,” “Adventures in Sin Trade: An  Exploration," “Bruce & Ted: Cabin Fever”); bloopers and outtakes; a photo gallery; and a CD-Rom containing series trivia and original production sketches.   

Set again “in a time of ancient gods, ruthless warlords and capricious kings,” season four continues to take liberties with mythology and Roman politics while emphasizing the universal theme of true friendship. It follows Xena (Lucy Lawless), a mighty Warrior Princess “forged in the heat of battle,” and her pal Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor) as they journey from Greece to as far away as India. For Gabrielle, it’s a quest to find her true path, even if it means toying with pacificism. Xena, however, livens things up with her trademark strenuous fighting for Good against Evil. “It seems your way has more to do with the fighting than the Good,” Gabrielle chastises Xena in one episode. Along the way, welcome surprises delighted me -- such as Bruce Campbell (Bubba Ho-Tep) showing up as an amusing thief with a heart of gold and Kathryn Morris (from TV’s Cold Case) commanding the small screen in the role of a crusading zealot.

During the fourth season the bond between Xena and Gabrielle grows even stronger, and secrets are revealed about Xena’s past as well as predictions about her future. Lawless and O’Connor grew on me as I watched them portray two sides of the same coin. (That's probably why their role switching shocked me so much during an interview in which Lawless describes how tough and authoritarian O'Connor was when she directed "Deja Vu All Over Again.") As Xena, Lawless projects a brawny heroism with such gusto she’s hard to resist. O’Connor endows Gabrielle with a soulful charm, but she also displays considerable comedic talent in several episodes. Conversely, Ted Raimi, who provides most of the comic relief throughout the series as Joxer, delivers a first-rate dramatic acting job in “The Convert.”

In one of the DVD features, Raimi describes why Xena: Warrior Princess (a spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) became such a big success. "It came along at a time when a strong female character was needed," he says. I agree, but the imaginative stories and creative  production techniques also helped draw a devoted audience.  And now, this new Xena: Warrior Princess – Season Four DVD set should satisfy anyone who has a taste for action/adventure, surprising humor and excitement galore. (For more information, visit the official site.) 

Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment and Davis-Anderson Merchandising Corp.; not rated by MPAA.


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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