Video View

January 15, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

This is another slow week for new movies on DVD. There are really only four worth mentioning, and none are very good. (I wouldn't even waste a rental on any of these. It's not the loss of money so much as the loss of time.) Good Luck Chuck is arriving in an unrated package on standard DVD and Blu-Ray. The new material, which made it unrated, doesn't result in a better film - just a longer one. Also on standard DVD and Blu-Ray is Mr. Woodcock. The Ten, a lackluster comedy, is one of HD-DVD's only releases this week; it's also on regular DVD for anyone who cares. Finally, there's the Jason Biggs/Isla Fisher romantic comedy, Wedding Daze. This movie never got a real U.S. release but I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival in 1996 with the title of The Pleasure of Your Company. This movie, by any other name, would smell as rank.

The rest of the DVD movie roster is comprised of re-releases. Hollywood is getting so desperate to revive the flagging DVD market that they're trotting out repacked versions of proven sellers, perhaps thinking we'll fall for the new covers and buy the same thing again that we already have. Often, there's little or nothing new in the package – the same commentaries, the same movie transfer, the same extras. This week's re-releases (all good movies) include: In the Heat of the Night, An Affair to Remember, When Harry Met Sally, and She's Gotta Have It. Finally, there's a worthwhile older movie arriving for the first time: Criterion is distributing Cornel Wilde's 1966 feature, The Naked Prey. And Dungeons & Dragons fans have something to consider (although not necessarily a reason to rejoice): a direct-to-DVD animated version of Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, a popular D&D-related book that has been kicking around for about 25 years. According to reports, however, this features sub-standard Saturday morning cartoon quality animation that pretty much ruins the whole thing.

There are a lot of TV shows arriving this week, although none falls into the "highly anticipated" category. Family Guy: Blue Harvest is the stand alone double-size episode that spoofs Star Wars. The Rockford Files brings us Season 5, Sabrina the Teenage Witch debuts Season 3, The Adventures of Old Christine makes its DVD bow with Season 1, and 'Allo 'Allo shows its age with Season 7. The complete Extras is also available. Of these, the only one that tickles my interest is The Rockford Files, and that's for reasons of nostalgia (and it has a great theme song). Extras is popular with many film lovers but it has always struck me as too uneven. Family Guy: Blue Harvest is amusing but not well priced. It is, after all, only one episode (albeit 45 minutes without commercials).

Finally, if you're looking for something special, consider Criterion's box set, "Post-War Kurosawa." It contains five of the master Japanese filmmaker's least-known efforts: No Regrets for Our Youth, One Wonderful Sunday, Scandal, The Idiot, and I Live in Fear. While the set probably is too dense for general consumption, it's a must-have for Kurosawa completists. It's also very nicely priced. One doesn't have to look far to find this available at a discounted cost of less than $50. That's a good buy for any set of five movies, but almost unheard of for Criterion. As with all Criterion releases, this is standard DVD only. No word on when (if at all) Criterion will break into the high-def market.

In general, for those who like to sample the latest DVD fare, whether in standard or Blu-Ray form, this is not the best time of year. We're into the months when the September/October theatrical releases are coming to home video and those aren't Hollywood's best months. A few weeks' patience is needed, then the Oscar candidates will start showing up. February has a bunch of stuff - just wait for the groundhog.