star trek: the next generation season three (Paramount Home Video) w/ Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Marina Sirtis Rating: NNN
Having re-experienced about 50 episodes from the first three seasons in the past several weeks, I have two words on Star Trek: The Next Generation -- radio plays. You don't actually need to watch them, once you know what the actors look like and what kind of latex appliance has been glued to the guest alien's forehead. They are devoid of visual imagination, even by TV standards, and no one involved in the creation of this show ever felt that anything was better left unsaid. You can actually "watch" Star Trek: TNG from the next room.
EXTRAS: This is a unified edition -- the boxes are the same, the menus roughly the same, and the disc's seven documentaries take the same format in each box: the Mission Overview, looking at the major changes in the season; the Selected Crew Analysis, studying what happened to the characters; a tech documentary; and the fun-anecdote-interview documentary. English captions.
pearl harbor: the director's cut (Touchstone Home Video) D: Michael Bay, w/ Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale. Rating: NN for the film, NNNN for the DVD package
Disney plainly plans to milk Pearl Harbor for all it's worth -- there's the basic edition, the gift box, the 60th Anniversary Commemorative Special Edition and now this, which by adding about two minutes of hospital gore gets to call itself the Director's Cut. That doesn't mean Pearl Harbor is any more than a bloated producer's fantasy project, overlong and underwritten. But complaining about the writing and acting in a Jerry Bruckheimer production is much like complaining about the action sequences in an Eric Rohmer movie.
This is part of Touchstone's Vista Series -- which means the four discs (yes, four) are fully loaded -- three commentary tracks, two History Channel documentaries and a fourth disc devoted to disassembling and reconstructing Pearl Harbor's centrepiece, the attack itself, right down to offering the animatic storyboard Bay created to pitch the project to the American defence department to get the military's cooperation. It's also one of the most beautifully packaged DVDs I've ever seen.
Or it could just be a chance for Bay and producer Bruckheimer to masturbate over their magnum opus.
If you must have Pearl Harbor, then this is the way to go -- there's even a $10 rebate for those who've already bought the 60th Anniversary Edition.
Why anyone would see Pearl Harbor as a must-have is another question.
EXTRAS: Director, technical and actor commentaries with Affleck, Baldwin and Hartnett, two theatrical trailers, documentaries Unsung Heroes Of Pearl Harbor, One Hour Over Tokyo and Journey To The Screen: The Making Of Pearl Harbor, production diary, interactive special effects sequences.
Unexpected fun -- Affleck and Hartnett's commentary, where they goof on the film's homoerotic subtexts and the inexplicable things in action movies ("Why is the floor in the hangar wet? It makes no sense") and offer hilarious impressions of Alec Baldwin and Michael Bay.
shallow hal (20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment) D: Peter and Bobby Farrelly, w/ Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Black. Rating: NNN
After Dumb And Dumber and There's Something About Mary, the Farrelly Brothers have been tagged as the kings of gross-out comedy, a label that tends to miss the enormous affection they have for their characters and their generosity to the actors who play them. In Shallow Hal, Jack Black plays the title character, a guy who seeks physical perfection in women until he meets Tony Robbins, who gives him a hypnotic suggestion that allows him to see inner beauty. So when he meets the obese Rosemary, he sees Gwyneth Paltrow at her most luminous.
It may be sacrilege to suggest, but Paltrow gives her best film performance here. Watch her body language -- she's playing the fat character even when she's not in the fat suit. While the Farrellys' comedies hold up surprisingly well on repeat viewings -- and Shallow Hal is their best after There's Something About Mary -- their video packages are less than they seem to be.
Watching their commentary tracks is like listening to someone discuss home movies -- "There's Billy! We went to high school together!" and the two making-of featurettes are basically promo shows for HBO and Comedy Central. Good assortment of deleted scenes, though.
EXTRAS: Director commentary, 11 deleted scenes with commentary, two making-of featurettes, effects and makeup mini-documentaries, Shelby Lynne music video, theatrical trailer. English, French and Spanish dubbed versions, English subtitles.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb
No rating indicates no screening copy