Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Complete Season 1 (1997, Fox), w/ Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Head. The long-awaited DVD release of the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a mixed blessing. BTVS is one of the best shows in the last decade of television, and Fox's partial Season One VHS issue in 1999 left out the best episode, Prophecy Girl. Season One is a little erratic, a series trying to find its feet, reaching for the unsettling blend of comedy, romance and horror that Buffy mastered in its second season. However, the show's virtues, especially series creator Joss Whedon's skewed sense of reality and the performances of the principals -- Gellar as Buffy, Head as Giles and Alyson Hannigan as Willow -- are on display from the very first episode. One can also watch the secondary dramatic emphasis begin to shift from Nicholas Brendon's Xander to Hannigan, the series's MVP -- Most Vulnerable Player.
Excellent commentary tracks by Whedon on the first two episodes, Welcome To The Hellmouth and The Harvest. Canned bios, a photo gallery, the original pilot script. But that's it -- the "Joss Whedon talks about..." sequences are from the VHS issues. Where are the outtakes? The bloopers? When they get to Season Three, I want a Hannigan commentary track on "Doppelgangland." NNNN
Big-screen rating: N/A
Stealing Beauty (1996, Fox), dir. Bernardo Bertolucci w/ Liv Tyler, Jeremy Irons. Stealing Beauty marks Bertolucci's return to Italy, but not to Italian, this being a country-house movie about a gang of aging boho expats whose summer is disrupted by Tyler's arrival in search of the answer to the timeless question, "Who's my daddy?" While it is narratively and emotionally unsatisfying, Stealing Beauty remains one of the more remarkable tributes ever mounted by a major director to a relatively unknown ingenue. About 75 per cent of the film's two-hour running time is devoted to ravishing shots of the 18-year-old Tyler. With Darius Khondji (Se7en) behind the camera, Stealing Beauty is major eye candy, but little more.
Extras: None, really. A making-of featurette from the film's electronic press kit, cast bios. A French dubbed version and English and Spanish subtitles. And the menus are hard to read. NN
Big-screen rating: more sweet than salacious. NN (IR)
The Object of My Affection (1998, Fox), dir. Nicholas Hytner w/ Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd. Aniston is an undervalued asset. Her films away from Friends, not to mention her performances, are more impressive than those of any of her co-stars save Lisa Kudrow, and she has a willingness to take supporting roles in interesting projects like Office Space. The Object Of My Affection, from a screenplay by Wendy Wasserstein, is one of the more intriguing romantic comedies of recent years. Aniston plays a New York social worker with a rich stepsister, a labour-lawyer boyfriend and a gay roommate who turns out to be her true love, though they never act on that. Less preachy than the usual Wasserstein, though it's definitely her milieu. The film is carried by the impressive cast, which includes Rudd, Allison Janney, Nigel Hawthorne, Alan Alda and Timothy Daly.
Fox Video ought to consider consumer response when that little trailer about the greatness of its product -- "Deleted scenes! Commentaries! Extras!" -- precedes a disc that has none of those things. (See comments under Stealing Beauty. Fox has released both these DVDs as part of a "romance" package, most of them mid-priced reissues.) NNN
Big-screen rating: NNN (JH)