Video View

January 29, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

When it comes to DVD releases, this is yet another week when high-profile TV series trump high-profile movies, but that's not to say there aren't a lot of new theatrical titles available. In fact, this is the first week of the new year in which there are more than a thimbleful of previous theatrical releases to choose from. Lovers of classic cinema will be delighted by the release of a two-disc special edition of El Cid, although it is curious that there's no high def version of the set to go along with the standard one. The enjoyable documentary, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a good choice to put on your Netflix queue. A couple of titles are marginally worth consideration for a rental: King of California, which hits the trifecta: standard DVD, Blu Ray, and HD-DVD; and Rocket Science, which is standard DVD only. Something you may not have heard of during its limited theatrical run but which gets a solid recommendation from me is the apocalyptic mystery Right at Your Door. Some titles better off ignored: The Invasion, the Nicole Kidman/Daniel Craig butchering of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers - in standard DVD and Blu Ray; Trade; Daddy Day Camp, which is inexplicably being released in Blu Ray as well as regular DVD - bet that will really get high def purchasers excited; and an unrated version of The Comebacks.

A couple of double-dippers have fearlessly entered the marketplace, hoping to bamboozle fans into thinking they're offering something more than a repackaging of previously available material. There's the 15th Anniversary of Groundhog Day, which proves that groundhogs have at least three lives (this is, I believe, the third DVD version of this film). Curiously, there's no high def version. Meanwhile, Monty Python's The Life of Brian is back yet again, although at least this time the umpteenth standard DVD version is being accompanied by the first-time Blu Ray edition. Whether you want to buy it one more time to get the high def version is up to you. Much as I love the film, I have already purchased it enough times. My standard DVD is good enough. On the straight-to-video front, there's Lake Placid 2. I didn't like its predecessor so there's not much chance I'll be checking this one out. Besides, I did my penance with respect to cheeky monster movies by recently reviewing Tremors.

On the TV show front, there are full season packages for Curb Your Enthusiasm (6th season), JAG (5th season), Emergency (4th season), and Damages (1st season, also available in Blu Ray). Masterpiece Theater's Mansfield Park (the one with Billie Piper) is targeted at Jane Austen and Doctor Who fans (an odd combination if ever there was one). Adult Swim aficionados will enjoy Aqua Teen Hunger Force Volume 5. Then there's a Disney money-grab. The Mouse that Roared is releasing a measly four episodes of the incredibly popular Hannah Montana on a single disc for about $15 (discounted). Sounds like what Paramount used to do with Star Trek.

The only notable special box set floating around this week doesn't come from Criterion. It's the Val Lewton Horror Collection, and features nine of Lewton's films: the original Cat People (not the remake), Curse of the Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, The Body Snatcher, Isle of the Dead, Bedlam, The Leopard Man, The Ghost Ship, The Seventh Victim, and Shadows in the Dark. Plus there's a documentary called Martin Scorsese Presents Val Lewton – The Man in the Shadows. In all, that's ten films over six discs. Amazon is selling it discounted at less than $45. For that price, it's hard to find an excuse not to buy it, especially since some of those films are the best horror excursions made during the 1940s.

This weekend's DVD review will be of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which is the most-requested title I have gotten since I reviewed Raiders of the Lost Ark as part of my Top 100. I will review The Last Crusade before Memorial Day weekend, but not immediately. Upcoming I have Eastwood, Hitchcock, and Gilliam (although not necessarily in that order).