THIS WEEK IN DVD’S – Aug 14, 2008
Stargate: Continuum (MGM)
Star Trek: The Original Series: The Complete Second Season (Paramount)
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Collection (Acorn Media)
I remember going to see the original Stargate movie along with all the other nerds and cine-thrill seekers – I was a freshman at Cal at the time (what seems like 100 years ago) – and though I have yet to revisit the film since, I remember having a helluva time. Androgynous Jaye Davidson as a space-Egyptian? James Spader screaming and running through the desert? Fantastic. It was dumb, it was loud, and it was fun.
Stargate: Continuum, though, lacks in the fun department. Far more new Battlestar Galactica than old Battlestar Galactica, this story about a devious time travel adventure – lead character Baal travels back in time and prevents the Stargate program from even beginning (gasp!) – is neither giddy, campy goof nor legitimate science-fiction.
Far more over-the-top is the second season of Star Trek. This set is a bit of a disappointment – Paramount released the revamped season one set of the show in HD DVD before the format collapsed – so if you already have these episodes, it might be worth waiting until they hit Blu-ray (that will happen before Christmas 2009, I’m told…). Your buddy Mike still prefers the ST movies to the television show – what can I say?: I like the one about whales! – but this set is chock-full of goodies, and it looks and sounds just about as good as DVD can provide. The newfangled effects are still a bit difficult to swallow, but I’d recommend fans rent this set straightaway and start saving for the Blu-rays immediately: They’ll be awesome.
Where Stargate disappointed and Star Trek was, well, Star Trek, I must say that the real wild card of my DVD reviewing week was Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Collection. This animated fantasy adventure set touts itself as ‘a little bit Shakespeare and a little bit Hollywood’, but that doesn’t exactly do this wildly inventive set justice. Based on the best-selling books by Pratchett, I can’t exactly say I have any idea what actually happened on this set – between so-so animation and storylines that seem like they’d only be crystal-clear to devotees of the books, I was lost from the get-go – but something about the mood they set is nevertheless engaging. I plan on reading one of the books soon…
Family Ties: The Fourth Season (Paramount)
Dave’s World: The First Season (Paramount)
Caroline in the City: The First Season (Paramount)
I feel bad saying it, but by the fourth season of Family Ties, we’d learned all we needed to know from the Keaton family. This iconic series – it belongs up there with The Cosby Show and Roseanne as far as defining what America looked like in the late 1980s – has moments of sheer greatness, and with a cast as solid as this one, it’s easy to get involved with the drama and narrative of each episode here, but this fourth season set is autopilot at best.
That being said, however, Family Ties at its most mundane still runs circles around Dave’s World and Caroline and the City. These early-90s sitcoms with high-level stars (Harry Anderson and Lea Thompson, respectively) have streaks of successful humor to them – some of the Dave Barry-inspired laughs in Dave’s World are legitimately appealing – but for the most part, these are shows that, while perhaps mild hits in their heyday, have little to offer a new generation of TV-junkies.
The Love Boat: Season One, Volume Two (Paramount)
Perry Mason: Season Three, Volume One (Paramount)
South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season (Paramount)
Dexter: The Complete Second Season (Paramount)
I’ve complained before and I’ll complain again – these Paramount season split-ups (releasing multiple volumes of single seasons of TV shows) drives your buddy Mike nuts. This week I got to take a peek at the beginning of a solid Perry Mason season and the end of a wildly bizarre Love Boat season, and aside from critiquing individual episodes, I find myself with little to say. TV-on-DVD is a new genre of home entertainment – one gets to enjoy a season of television in a marathon setting, if one chooses – and to have a comprehensive season at hand is a drag. Sure, The Love Boat has Charo (brilliant), and the third season of Perry Mason really showcases Raymond Burr coming into his own on screen, but I say give us full seasons! Anybody with me?
Ugh – and Dexter…The only thing this series does is prove how much of a bigot I am toward anyone associated with Six Feet Under (except Rachel Griffiths – who, after Muriel’s Wedding, can do no wrong). Michael C. Hall turns in a great performance here as a sometimes-forensic expert, sometimes-killer, but the show progresses with a tone and pace so similar to SFU that I had trouble sticking with it. My best friends bogarted my copy of this second season set and said it was damned good, though, so don’t listen to me.
Finally, South Park. Just when you think the show has run out of gas, it returns with a giddy vengeance. As every SP fan knows, in every season there are one or two stinkers, three or four classics and some other solid entries, and this eleventh season is no exception. Some of the stuff doesn’t work, but the gay-bar 300 parody is exceptional and the Imaginationland trilogy could very well be Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Ben-Hur.