Video View

December 04, 2007
A thought by James Berardinelli

In keeping with a schedule I recently revealed, I plan to write a short column every Tuesday remarking on some of the newest offerings on video. Each report will be divided into three sections: New Movies on DVD, TV on DVD, and Other Things of Interest. These columns won't be comprehensive, but will touch on things that I find interesting to mention for one reason or another.

New Movies on DVD: The biggest and baddest movie to appear on video store shelves today is the massively hyped, exceedingly long Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End. (Running time: 170 minutes.) Of the three May blockbusters, this one was the least disappointing but it still fell short of expectations. The action sequences were impressive but the narrative dragged. The pace will improve in the comfy confines of home where the "Pause" and "Fast Forward" buttons can be used as necessary, but the spectacle element will diminish (unless your home theater cost about $50K). Call it a wash. It's out on both standard DVD and Blu-Ray. This will undoubtedly further widen the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD software gap. Also getting the standard/Blu-Ray treatment is Superbad - a fun romp that's definitely worth a look if you didn't see it in theaters. The Nanny Diaries came and went in August without causing much of a ripple. It's a lot easier to recommend this on video than it was for theatrical viewing. It's disposable but not bad, and there are some clever aspects to the story. If you can just see one of those three, it probably will be Pirates but should be Superbad. Nevertheless, there's no clear must-see title available this week, so go where your intuition takes you.

TV on DVD:: There are a lot of season box sets available this week. I've never seen The Wire but I have been told by a number of reliable sources that it's fantastic. Certainly, for fans, the Season 4 set is not to be missed. Saturday Night Live is releasing Season 2 - you know, back when the show was inventive and funny (two things it hasn't been for a painfully long time). 24 is dragging Season 6 onto DVD. I don't recommend that anyone, even die-hards, spend money for this. It's best forgotten. One hopes that at the beginning of Season 7, Jack Bauer will awaken from a dream. Audrey can be in the shower when he pulls back the curtain. For me, the DVD to buy is Battlestar Galactica: Razor. It was pretty impressive shown on TV with commercials. Take away the commercials and incorporate some deleted material (including a kick-ass space battle that uses a version of the original series theme song) and you have the must-buy TV DVD of the week. Unfortunately, it's for Battlestar fans only. This is not the kind of made-for-TV movie that's friendly to newbies. For those in the HD-DVD camp, Season 1 of Battlestar is available this week.

Other Things of Interest: Finally, if you have $300 laying around (or $210 after applying a 30% discount), the Ford on Fox box set is enough to get any classic movie fan's mouth watering. The set contains 24 of John Ford's efforts for Fox, including a number of obscure titles, some not-so-famous early pictures, and a few genuine classics (The Grapes of Wrath, My Darling Clementine, How Green Was My Valley). This is the kind of box set that can keep a viewer busy from now until Christmas or, if found under the tree, until well into the new year. If there's a gripe, it's that some of Ford's best-known masterpieces, including the consensus pick for his pinnacle - The Searchers - aren't in this set (because they weren't made for Fox). Fortunately, they can be purchased as stand-alones. So, if you're buying this as a gift and the intended recipient doesn't have The Quiet Man, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, buy those three as stocking stuffers. If you're buying this set for yourself, chances are you already have the other titles.