Video View

February 12, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

Every war, regardless of its nature, is comprised of a series of battles. Yesterday, HD-DVD lost two big ones. Early in the day, Netflix announced that it would no longer support HD-DVD. To salt the wound, Best Buy indicated later in the day that they would be "emphasizing" and "recommending" Blu Ray. Translation: They'll still sell HD-DVD players - at least for the time being - but that hardware will be hidden in some dark corner of the store. If you go to Best Buy and ask for high def DVD, you'll be steered toward Blu Ray. The ramifications of this are far-reaching. It's hard to imagine Paramount and Universal not taking note of this. The moves by Best Buy and Netflix represent a direct attack on their bottom line.

On to this week's titles...

Lots of new movies on DVD this week. Gone Baby Gone is the best of the bunch. If you didn't see it theatrically, it deserves a look at home. It's available in both standard and Blu Ray formats. Also worth watching: the Catherine Zeta-Jones food-themed No Reservations, which isn't as good as its inspiration, Mostly Martha, but is still enjoyable; and We Own the Night, a credible police drama. Both are available on standard DVD and in Blu Ray. Becoming Jane tries to turn Jane Austen's life into Pride and Prejudice, and is primarily for Austen fans (standard and Blu Ray). Two films little seen in theaters that deserve a shot on DVD are the Australian import Introducing the Dwights and John Turturro's delightfully offbeat musical, Romance and Cigarettes. If you're looking for something to rent, you could do worse with either. Also out: Kenneth Branagh's somewhat disappointing 1992 non-Shakespeare Peter's Friends (possibly being released now because of the presence of Hugh Laurie in the cast) and John Cusack's even more disappointing Martian Child, which is tough to recommend even for a rental. I haven't seen - and thus can't comment on - Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?, but that's out this week as well.

HBO's talky and nearly hardcore Tell Me You Love Me leads this week's TV series. Dallas does season 8 - I didn't realize it lasted that long. Was that the season dreamed up by Patrick Duffy? The Equalizer - a show I used to watch on a black-and-white set while I was in college - debuts season 1. Girlfriends and Family Ties both release season 3. And animation fans can rejoice that the complete series of George of the Jungle is now available. Watch out for that tree!

There are four notable box sets. The first, from Criterion, is the Lubitsch Musicals and includes four titles: The Love Parade, The Smiling Lieutenant, One Hour with You, Monte Carlo. It's nicely priced at about $42 (discounted). For about the same number of deflating U.S. dollars, you can get the non-Criterion Stanley Kramer Film Collection, which is comprised of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Ship of Fools, The Member of the Wedding, The Wild One, and The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T. The Joan Crawford Collection is a little cheaper at about $38. It includes A Woman's Face, Flamingo Road, Sadie McKee, Strange Cargo, and Torch Song. Finally, Charlie Chan aficionados will want to get The Charlie Chan Collection #4, with Charlie Chan in Honolulu, Charlie Chan in Reno, Charlie Chan at Treasure Island, and City in Darkness. It runs about $35.

Finally, a word about Amy Heckerling's direct-to-video I Could Never Be Your Woman. I haven't seen it yet - a copy is sitting on my kitchen table and will go into the DVD player after I post this column. This was never intended to be a home video title, as one might guess from the cast and crew. As detailed in last week's Entertainment Weekly, it became a victim of circumstances and bad management. Test screenings were positive and the film came thisclose to getting a theatrical release. So... is it deserving of its direct-to-DVD status or is it a hidden gem? I'll know before the night is over and you'll know when I get the review posted later this week. But keep the title on the rental radar screen. It has the potential to be among the best direct-to-DVD titles thus far. (Alas, no high def.)

Next week: Why the hell isn't Focus releasing the gorgeous Lust, Caution in high def? If ever a movie deserved 1080p treatment, this is it... I'd even go the HD-DVD route to get it.