December 21, 2006
7th Heaven: The Complete Third Season (Paramount)
Looking at the cover of 7th Heaven: The Complete Third Season (Paramount) kinda makes me wants to take my own life. Against a white background and wearing mostly white clothes, Stephen Collins, Catherine Hicks, and their Aryan brood (as well as a white dog—I’m not making this up), smile like Jonestown Kool-Aid enthusiasts, allowing their dead eyes and wide “Jesus Saves!” demeanors to assault us—even from under a layer of cellophane. The show—about a preacher, his doting wife, and their clan of whitewash idiots—has its fans, to be sure, but young urban professionals tend to avoid the show (except on a dare, of course). Even more reason to stay away, though, is this third-season DVD set. Transfers are yucky, the simple stereo mixes don’t do much of anything, and you’d think that with a show having this sizable of a down-home fan base, they’d throw at least one or two extras into the mix (shit—even a bonus called “The Third Season’s Cutest Moments” would be in heavy rotation in many houses), but no: There’s nothing here. Buy a couple more copies of Left Behind II: Tribulation Force instead: much more fun.
Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez (HBO)
Another entry in the “Hollywood Bleeds Fans Dry” department: Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez (HBO) contains absolutely no new stuff that wasn’t attached to the already-released editions of the show’s two season-long releases. All you’ll get as gravy here is a holographic cover (where Ali G switches into Borat and then switches back again. Lah-dee-friggin’-dah). Are the discs good? Sure—in addition to Sacha Baron Cohen’s endearingly brutal comedic stylings in his Ali G Show, the commentaries, featurettes, and bonus footage included on the two DVDs of this edition are notable additions to the Ali G/Borat/Bruno pantheon. Is it worth spending fifty bucks on when you (or at least someone you know) already has these two DVD sets? No.
Robin Hood: Most Wanted Edition (Disney)
The Robin Hood: Most Wanted Edition (Disney) is a marvelous release, but unfortunately not definitive. Previous releases of this enjoyably lilting animated Disney film from 1973 have housed 1.37:1 transfers, and this Most Wanted Edition gives us a 1.75:1 ratio. Here’s the story: The film was originally created with a 1.37:1 negative ratio and a 1.75:1 intended ratio (when the film was released, it could be shown in either format, so the film’s theatrical exhibition allowed the potential for both). Yet even with a lovely transfer and a handful of notable—if thin—bonus features (including a storyboarded alternate ending), it’s a blow to completists that both the 1.33:1 and the 1.75:1 transfers weren’t included here (Disney is usually really good about providing as much appropriation as possible with their animated films on DVD). So, enjoy it, love it, show it to your kids, but keep pining for a definitive release—because this one isn’t it.
Gary Cooper: The Signature Collection (Warner)
Warner Bros Signature Collections are mish-mash affairs: While it sure is swell to have a nice, pretty box set with a selection of films from a movie star’s oeuvre, most of the time these editions house one classic film and four or five turkeys. Gary Cooper: The Signature Collection (Warner) is no exception. Sergeant York (1941) is a wonderful Howard Hawks vehicle, to be sure, and even though The Fountainhead (1949) has some weirdo postmodern tweakiness to it, Sergeant is the only picture in this six-disc set worth a hill of beans (Dallas, Springfield Rifle, and The Wreck of the Mary Deare round it out). And to add insult to injury, the transfers are decidedly sub-par, and with the exception of the commentary and pair of documentaries included on Sergeant York (and a minimal featurette on The Fountainhead), there are no notable bonuses to mention. Rent Sergeant York (and Fountainhead, if you’re an Ayn Rand freak), but let the rest of this set lie.
Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film (Paramount)
And just as no one believed that a movie about gay cowboys could end up being the best movie of last year, it’s a miraculous achievement that Ric Burns’ (yes, Ken’s brother) Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film (Paramount) is hands-down the best film of 2006 (not counting the late-season entries for which we’re still chomping at the bit). What makes this particular Warhol doc notable? It’s four hours long, bitch! There’s nothing exceptional about the film’s style or Ric’s craftsmanship—no bells and whistles about the film’s construction that calls attention to itself (No Direction Home this ain’t). What Andy Warhol ends up being is a singularly harrowing and deliciously engrossing apparatus with which we get a far more exhaustive glimpse of Warhol’s genius and life. Do we see “the real Warhol”? Of course not, and we probably never will (no documentary crew is that good). But Andy Warhol lets us cavort with a who’s-who of the coked-out and fabulous in the New York scene, it gives us fantastic commentary from art dealers and critics who took a chance on the young Polish boy from Pennsylvania when everybody else thought he was a precocious crackpot—even if we don’t dive beneath the plasticene veneer of Warhol’s ever-present artifice, this film gives us access to his life and times like nothing else that has come before it. Too bad this DVD doesn’t accentuate the film’s power: The film looks fairly good (in standard 1.33:1 full-frame) and sounds so-so (it’s a simple Stereo mix), but there are absolutely no bonuses to mention. It’s too bad that what very well might end being the movie of the year doesn’t have a solid DVD release behind it to seal the deal. Mir.
Wondering if you should pony up $40 for that two-disc spectacular? For all your DVD questions, ask Mike at [email protected]