DVD REVIEW – June 12, 2008

THIS WEEK IN DVD’S – June 11, 2008


Twister Blu-ray (Warner)
Youth Without Youth Blu-ray (Sony)
Signs Blu-ray (Buena Vista)
The Recruit (Buena Vista)


The great thing about Twister is that no matter how much one pays attention to how hideously-written it is, the film never ceases to entertain. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt attempt to infuse their characters with humanism and earnest emotion, but even they seem resigned to the idea that they’re supposed to look good in tight blue jeans while mother nature’s dramatic exploits from the sky unfold around them. And more power to them – if there’s anything about this Blu-ray release of the film, it’s that with near-perfect video and audio quality (seriously – the sound mix here will rattle dishes off your cabinet shelves), Twister is as perfectly enjoyable as it is dramatically brain-dead.

Francis Ford Coppola may not be brain-dead – never count the guy out – but Youth Without Youth is a super-smart movie (in theory) that never quite takes off. The concept of Tim Roth’s character aging backward after a bizarre lightning accident is unique, but even with this Blu-ray disc’s exceptional video transfer, the film ends up being all surface beauty and no substance. It’s nice to have Coppola back after a decade in cinema-limbo, but here’s hoping his next one is more cumulatively engaging.

And here’s the deal with Buena Vista’s new Blu-ray releases of The Recruit and Signs – they sound great. Both of the movies themselves are stinkers – Shyamalan’s inane Signs is especially groan-worthy, especially on repeat viewings – but even with hit-and-miss video transfers, these Blu-ray discs sport excellent PCM 5.1 sound mixes that really stun. Too bad superb aural presence can’t erase screenwriting deficiencies.


The Muppet Show: The Complete Third Season (Buena Vista)
Penn & Teller: BULLSHIT!: The Fifth Season (Paramount)
JAG: The Sixth Season (Paramount)
Rescue Me: The Complete Fourth Season (Fox)


Let’s just get this out of the way right out of the gate: The Muppet Show is amazing, and this third season release of the series showcases those fuzzy geniuses in all their bizarr-o glory. And the guest hosts? Holy cow – it’s hard to believe that there could be anything better than the Dale Evans/Roy Rogers episode here, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t full-tilt mesmerized by Loretta Lynn’s turn as Muppet Matron. Astonishing.

The latest season of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! series underwhelms a bit, though. Maybe they’re running short on concepts, or perhaps these just aren’t the show’s best moments, but even when the effortlessly enjoyable pair sink their teeth into shows about Mount Rushmore and Wal-Mart, the magic just isn’t quite there. Bullshit! at its worst is better than most TV at its strongest, to be sure, but the fact remains that as intriguing as it is, this fifth season isn’t as strong as installments past.

Ditto that with JAG and Rescue Me. Both of these shows have their undeniable assets – JAG is court TV at its most non-threatening and whodunit-suspenseful; Rescue Me is a fantastically emotional character study – but these latest DVD installments don’t hold a candle to earlier incarnations. JAG by its sixth season was just going through the motions, and Rescue Me seems to have hit a kind of brick wall as far as its dramatic potential goes. Denis Leary’s series is something I’d never turn my back on, but this latest release isn’t as air-tight as fans might hope.