THIS WEEK IN DVD’S – JAN 3, 2008
The Big Chill: 15th Anniversary Edition (Sony)
The Big Chill: 15th Anniversary Edition (Sony) is a nice upgrade from earlier releases, but as a definitive document of this groundbreaking film, it leaves a bit to be desired. Sure, this Lawrence Kasdan film hasn’t aged exceptionally well – its gender-play seems all but completely antiquated fifteen years on – but this new DVD doesn’t even attempt to give the film a time-capsule sheen. The documentary included on the disc is surface-level at best, and while it’s nice to see a handful of deleted scenes, where’s Kasdan’s commentary? Where’s a cast commentary, for that matter?
The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume 2 (Paramount)
The only reason to pick up The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume 2 (Paramount) is if you actually made it through the first set without holding your head in your hands with frustration. It is without reservation that this writer avows that the historical-backdrop documentaries on this 9-DVD (!) collection are really pretty great, but man these episodes are bad. Not even a noble performance from Sean Patrick Flannery as young Indy can save it from its own bloated sensibilities and overcooked faux-adventurous aims.
Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume One (Paramount)
Much more entertaining is Gunsmoke: The Second Season, Volume One (Paramount), the newest installment of the hit western series from back in the day. Though this release brings up a different kind of issue: Multiple-releases. I’m not sure exactly what Paramount intends with multiple-part season-long releases of shows (Gunsmoke, The Streets of San Francisco and The Fugitive – among others – have had their seasons hit DVD in two installments), but it is nevertheless a drag to get through a box set like this one only to realize that the second half of the season (which was meant to be shown right after the first half, no?) is months away from release. At least these episodes are good fun, I guess…
Frasier: Season Ten (Warner)
Dirt: The Complete First Season (Buena Vista)
Then it’s back to the mundane: Frasier: Season Ten (Warner) is, not surprisingly, little more than the same old same old – by the time this admittedly intelligent sitcom finishes its first decade, it’s glaringly apparent that the show is both past its prime and on auto-pilot in pretty much every way. And as much as I hate to say it, Dirt: The Complete First Season (Buena Vista) doesn’t even get a chance to work its way up to redundancy as Frasier did: It starts dull and just snowballs from there. It’s a shame, because Courtney Cox’s show about the evil that women do in the sleazy halls of tabloid journalism has all the readings of a fascinating late-night, steamy fun time – in execution, though, the show is part social commentary, part fashion show and part soap opera, and none of those parts ring true.
The Wire: The Complete Fourth Season (HBO)
On the other hand, The Wire: The Complete Fourth Season (HBO) is better than anything its first three go-rounds offered, and that’s saying something. Don’t let this series be the kind of thing that critics talk to themselves about and audiences ignore – start at the beginning and work your way toward this explosive fourth installment: It’s as good as you’ve heard.
Zodiac: 2-Disc Director’s Cut (Paramount)
Last, but not least, we have a title that’s already primed to join a ‘Best of 2008’ list. First of all, this writer loathed Fight Club and Panic Room, so it was nothing short of a miracle that I found Zodiac to be hands-down the best thriller of 2007 and a stunning film, to boot. I couldn’t really find too much difference between the theatrical release and the Zodiac: 2-Disc Director’s Cut (Paramount), but that’s really not the point: The HD DVD release of this title is one of the best-looking things I’ve seen in a while. The DVD edition is stellar, to be sure – it has commentaries and documentaries all over the place – but in addition to a stunning 1080p transfer and upgraded Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 sound mix, the four major documentaries included on the set are presented in high-definition (only the previsualization featurettes is standard-def). It’s a cinephile’s playground and a techie’s dream come true: This one’s a slam-dunk.