THIS WEEK IN DVD’S
In addition to their uber-popular series DVD releases, HBO has a firm grip on single-serving titles, as is proven (with varying degrees of success) with three new titles.
Roseanne Barr: Blonde and Bitchin’
Roseanne Barr: Blonde and Bitchin’ is the least impressive of this bunch, and that’s a shame, seeing as the releases of Roseanne’s early seasons have been a reason to earnestly stop worrying and love the DVD (it very well could be the best sitcom ever—Stanley Kubrick couldn’t be wrong). This one-woman show starring a newly-platinum Roseanne Barr contains fleeting moments of greatness that hearken back to the comedienne’s glory days, but it’s hard not to find this one-night-only stand-up special lackluster in comparison (what wouldn’t pale in comparison to Roseanne?). One thing that is better than life in the Conner household: The 16×9 transfer given this staged performance is absolutely sparkling, and the 5.1 sound mix makes you feel as though you’re seriously sitting right there—so you can be mundanely entertained with near-perfect stereophonic prowess. Yay!
The Hitchhiker: Volume Three
The first installment of The Hitchhiker on DVD was notable simply because it featured an exemplary episode directed by the monolithic Paul Verhoeven (it’s a fantastic little piece of TV—lots of boobs, guns, and nastiness: God bless you, Paul). Too bad The Hitchhiker: Volume Three doesn’t hold a candle to its first release (unless you count an episode directed by Barbarella helmer Roger Vadim to be a valuable asset). These tales of suspense—in the same line as the Masters of Horror or Tales From the Crypt collections—make for moderately engaging low-budget midnight fare, but with so-so video transfers and uneven episodes (HBO isn’t releasing the show season-by-season, but in bizarrely compiled volumes), this one’s a hitcher that’ll chop you up and throw you in the trunk if you pick it up.
Boffo! Tinseltown’s Bombs & Blockbusters
And even though Boffo! Tinseltown’s Bombs & Blockbusters is by-the-books documentary filmmaking, the subject matter at its core is intriguing enough to enchant sycophantic cinephiles. Steven Spielberg, Danny DeVito—shit, even George Clooney—describe how a major movie bomb (Batman and Robin, 1941) can both impede and inspire a filmmaker’s career. And the cultural architect of tinseltown, Peter Bogdanovich, is here (he happens to be the modern swami of mega-flops), and his perspectives are worth purchasing this disc straight away. Or, you could just rent Ishtar on VHS. That’s always fun.
St. Elsewhere: Season One (Fox)
It may have started the ball rolling, but Grey’s Anatomy in its prime did it better. St. Elsewhere: Season One (Fox) features some standout performances from Ed Begley Jr. and Denzel Washington (Hell, even Howie Mandel gets a chance to show of his minimal thespian chops here), but while at the time the series was a novelty-ridden “Hill Street Blues in a hospital” powderkeg, in this post-E.R., currently GA-obsessed medical TV biosphere, St. Elsewhere sure seems tame in comparison (it’s far more culturally imperative as a Gnarls Barkley album title than an antiquated TV soap-drama). But this first season gets moderately good treatment on DVD: Transfers and sound mixes are hit-and-miss, but the commentaries included shed some fascinating light on the show (highlights include guest star Doris Roberts’ appearance on one track and some exceptionally lucid thoughts from series regular David Morse on another).
Bones: The Complete First Season (Fox)
It seems as though every hour-long show on television these days reeks of CSI (let’s call it an aromatic mix between butter-squash potpourri and blood-stained shoes), and Bones: The Complete First Season (Fox) is no exception. In fact, this David Boreanaz vehicle is lousy with CSI-isms: A team of forensic experts led by a quietly sexy forensic anthropologist (Emily Deschanel) teams up with a sassy, dreamy FBI agent (that’s David) and they solve mysteries while they lick each other where they pee (just kidding—though that probably would make for more interesting TV). This DVD set is no prize, either. Sure, the 5.1 surround tracks are enveloping and sturdy (especially for a TV title), but the 16×9 Anamorphic transfers are way grainier than they have any right to be, and the two commentary tracks and three featurettes included don’t do much to stand up for the show’s shaky narrative status. C’mon, Fox: Lick Me Where I Pee—it really could be something great.