DVD REVIEW – July 24, 2008

THIS WEEK IN DVD’S – July 24, 2008


Jake and the Fatman: Season One, Volume One (Paramount)
Cannon: The First Season (Paramount)
Walker, Texas Ranger: The Fifth Season (Paramount)


William Conrad has a great boob-tube presence – in many ways, he’s just the robust guy next door, yet somehow he’s also the kind of ass-kicking authority figure we all want in a ballsy, take-no-prisoners crime-fighting force. Yet somehow both Jake and the Fatman and Cannon are both ho-hum shows. The debut DVD releases of both series showcase Conrad’s exceptional skills as a lightning rod for gravitas – call him a pre-Michael Chiklis Michael Chiklis – but for anyone save those who loved them the first time around, these aren’t exactly must-haves.

Walker, Texas Ranger, though – now there’s some entertainment. So what if this fifth DVD box set is low on dramatic quality, intrigue and video transfers (for some reason this show has some of the worst-looking DVDs out there)? When Chuck Norris takes off his trenchcoat, rolls up his sleeves and beats the crap out of various bad guys, the show still feels as stupid-fun as it did the first time. This isn’t the kind of show you need every episode of, but trust me – an episode or two of Walker goes a long way to cure the summertime blues.


Stop-Loss (Paramount)
The Ruins (DreamWorks)
Gangs of New York: Blu-ray (Buena Vista)
Mon oncle Antoine (Criterion)


It’s nice to have Kimberly Pierce back on the scene – I don’t know if I’d ever be able to sit through her amazing Boys Don’t Cry a second time (it truly is a movie as enthralling as  it is marvelously devastating), but she’s definitely a talent who should be working more. And while Stop-Loss isn’t exactly a masterpiece – it falls into that category of being more noble in scope than it is as an actual film – she’s able to drum up exceptional performances from the likes of Ryan Phillippe and Channing Tatum (the guy can act? Who knew?). A little more attention to the emotion behind the madness of the film’s Iraq war theme might have been a good idea, but Pierce remains a filmmaker worth checking out. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Far less impressive is the big-screen adaptation of Scott Smith’s The Ruins. The book was able to wind its creepy little way right into your head – I don’t know how good a read it was, but it freaked the crap out of me – but everything the novel did right, the movie gums up. There’s no subversion here – only pretty people getting gored. Bo-ring. And I’m not afraid – I’ll cal Gangs of New York bo-ring, too. Daniel Day-Lewis turns in a wondrous performance, but aside from that, this Martin Scorsese award-hungry piece (boy, did it get shot down at the Oscars!) is a jumbled, overlong mess. Even the transfer of the picture presented on this Blu-ray edition of the film isn’t up to snuff.

Luckily, a little Canadian gem was able to wash the taste of those two films out of my mouth. Mon oncle Antoine is heralded on this Criterion release as the greatest Canadian film of all time, and even though I can’t fervently agree with this (there are some early Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg flicks I’d throw into the mix for that title), the film is really something. This Claude Jutra coming-of-age tale has a kind of open-hearted warmth to it that literally jumps off the screen. And in addition to this Criterion release looking lovely, the two documentaries included on this disc really open up a discourse on the film, its development and its importance in the realm of Canadian cinema. A must-see.


Jericho: The Complete Series (Paramount)
Dynasty: Season Three, Volume One (Paramount)
Saving Grace: The Complete First Season (Fox)


Jericho’s legacy will probably have legs – even though this end-of-the-world nuclear drama couldn’t get a wide audience while on the air, this Complete Series collection (containing both seasons of the show) will at the very least allow for newcomers to see what the buzz was about. Yeah, the series feels truncated, and therefore not exactly rewarding when it’s all said and done (boy, that final episode comes quick), but with lovely presentations and a boat-load of intriguing bonus features, it’s not a stretch to say that this release is of the kind of high quality every show wants to get on DVD.

The same can’t be said for Dynasty – Paramount continues to split up its TV-on-DVD releases of any show not recently on the air (AARGH!), and with a cliffhanger-laden show like this one, to dangle the carrot of season three only to leave viewers hanging half-way through is nothing short of a sin against nature. And speaking of sin – how hot is Holly Hunter? Yeah, yeah – her Saving Grace series is impulsively watchable TV, with deliciously flawed characters and a steamroller of a lead performance from the Oscar-winner. Fine. But Saving Grace presents Holly Hunter as hellcat in a fantastically appealing way. She’s on fire!