DVD REVIEW – January 11th, 2007


  • Step Up (Buena Vista)


“Two dancers. Two worlds. One dream.”  This is what the cover of the box art for Step Up (Buena Vista) promotes and the cheesy-as-Hell-itself film delivers: Step Up is the kind of user-friendly chick flick that drives mortal men to suicide.  You know the drill: Dancer chick (Jenna Dewan) meets tough-guy (Channing Tatum) who doesn’t “dance” (how gay is that?!), but nevertheless can totally dance, and they both show everybody that young folks can really change the world (as long as they have a nice set of boobs and/or a hot ass).  This DVD doesn’t have much in terms of additions to the already-slim Step Up pantheon: The deleted scenes and bloopers are nothing at all, and while it’s nice that Channing, Jenna, and director Anne Fletcher spent time recording a commentary track, it’s a snoozer.  More interesting are the dance contest videos included here: In an attempt to hire dancers for the film, Step Up’s producers placed an ad on MySpace to bring in tryout videos from around the world, and the freaks of Earth responded big time.  Unless the sight of Channing Tatum acting super urban tough with his shirt off gets your blood pumping, this is an easy one to steer clear of.

  • 1900 (Paramount)

  • The Conformist (Paramount)


Two of Bernardo Bertolucci’s hardest-to-find releases hit DVD late last year, and even though we had to wait more than a little while for them, it was worth it.  Both 1900 and The Conformist (Paramount) are staggering achievements for the director, and their DVD presentations are second-to-none.  The Conformist is the real striker—in an almost chiaroscuro fashion, Bertolucci is able to make a stunning visual palette (thanks to Vittorio Storaro’s inimitable photography) that compliments the thriller’s narrative thrust to a T.  But the little-seen full five-hour cut of 1900 is a similarly impressive beast, a masterful peek at turn-of-the-century friendship and wartime hardship.  Nether of the DVD editions here are definitive—all we get are two or three featurettes on each (where are the commentaries, Bernardo?)—but their stunning widescreen transfers completely forgives the lack of bonuses.  These are some of the best-looking films ever shot, and they look downright glorious on DVD.  Now, if only Bertolucci could get back to making good movies…

  • Joan of Arcadia: The Complete Second Season’s (Paramount)


There’s a reason Joan of Arcadia only lasted two seasons: This holier-than-thou 7th Heaven retread about a girl who gets memos from God and then shares those mantras with her boring friends and family members had moderate critical backing at first, but all support of the show was burned at the stake by the time this second (and dull-as-Hell) season rolled around.  Good news, though: For those suckers out there who enjoy Joan of Arcadia: The Complete Second Season’s (Paramount) blind, patronizing sermons, the widescreen 16×9 transfers here are quite impressive.  Bad news: The bonuses on this set are embarrassingly sub-par (Satan himself doesn’t approve of Barbara Hall, James Hayman, and Stephen Nathan’s appendicitis-inducing commentary tracks).

  • The Marlon Brando Collection (Warner)


They look great, they sound fantastic, but the entries on The Marlon Brando Collection (Warner) end up being little more than distant blips on the otherwise booming radar of Brando’s exceptional career.  Yeah, his turn in The Mutiny on the Bounty is notable (even if the film itself remains a tad overcooked), but all the other movies here—Julius Caesar, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Teahouse of the August Moon, and The Formula—are decidedly mediocre affairs.  Sure, there are a few featurettes here and there that are worth checking out—the prologue and epilogue for Bounty included here have never been available in an Anamorphic format on DVD (and that’s nice to see)—but this year’s Tennessee Williams Collection (that features a glorious Streetcar Named Desire) and the Apocalypse Now: The Full Dossier sets are far better recent examples of the master’s insanely eccentric output.

Wondering if you should pony up $40 for that two-disc spectacular?  For all of your DVD questions, ask Mike at [email protected] .