DVD of the Week
Ben Stiller musters every single one of his schmucky schticks as a new security guard at New York's Museum of Natural History. It's a pretty good job. There's only one headache: The exhibits come to life when the lights go out. It's the stuff of children's books (and originally was one), but it gets even weirder when it becomes up to Stiller to resolve some of the centuries-old enmity that still exists between cowboys, Indians and Teddy Roosevelt (yet another paycheck for Robin Williams). As well as this strange political perspective, boomer viewers will savor the creaky shenanigans of fellow guards Mickey Rooney and Dick Van Dyke.
No, it's not subtitled The Simon Cowell Story. Prime Suspect's Helen Mirren plays Queen Elizabeth II, coping with the death of Princess Diana, a former daughter-in-law she didn't particularly care for. Those who fail to understand the appeal of the nobility will still be impressed by the quiver Mirren puts in stiff upper lip. Anyone who enjoys well-heeled but brittle PBS dramas about the lives and loves of the Windsors, though, will be fascinated by this smart look at private and public mourning. With commentary from director Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things), writer Peter Morgan (The Last King of Scotland) and a "royal expert."
Investigating a terrorist attack on a New Orleans ferryboat, copper Deja VuDenzel Washington discovers a team of feds using time-warping technology to find out whodunit. Once this far-fetched premise is gotten over, Deja Vu turns into a fast-moving thriller. Enemy of the State director Tony Scott throws the quantum-physics rulebook to the wind in favor of some cool car chases. And Washington is still the most watchable actor in the universe, even when he is talking about crawling through wormholes. With a making-of doc and deleted scenes.
Best remembered for shoving a grapefruit in Joan Blondell's face in the 1931 gangster flick The Public Enemy, Cagney always wanted to taken seriously as a song 'n' dance man. In fact, he was simply one of the most talented people ever to appear on film. This collection of five films from 1940-1950 eschews his most memorable roles in favor of a broader portrait. In The Fighting 69th, he's a cowardly braggart. In The West Point Story, he heads to military school in order to snag a soldier for his Broadway show. No matter how ridiculous the material gets, Cagney gives it everything, particularly when he takes on the Nazis in the WWII tub-thumper Captain of the Clouds. Still, Warners, no room for the awesome Ceiling Zero or the mile-a-minute Hollywood satire Boy Meets Girl?
2007: A Geo Odyssey. Once upon a time, painters gave the earth its "gee-whiz" factor, fashioning impossible landscapes that hinted at the wonders of creation and the inter-relatability of all living things. Nowadays it's up to BBC documentary producers, who harness satellite imagery, microscopic lenses and hi-tech computer graphics to stick the audience's noses right up against existence's beautiful muck. Hosted by the affable David Attenborough (the U.S. version, currently airing Sunday nights on The Discovery Channel, is hosted by Sigourney Weaver), this 11-part work of art disguised as a series on the earth's regions is the kind of thing worth investing in a nice fat plasma screen for that total immersion effect. With 90 minutes of footage not seen on The Discovery Channel.
In 1978, budding music fans like yours truly used to love this radio station-set sitcom for its hipster DJs -- the impossibly suave Venus Flytrap and Dr. Johnny Fever -- and classic rock soundtrack. Music-rights issues, however, have kept the show off DVD for years. Alas, this compromise will satisfy almost no one, as certain songs have been cut (don't expect to hear the program director wonder where the barking is coming from when Pink Floyd's "Dogs" plays), and many of the episodes are represented only in 22-minute syndication cuts. Cue needle-scratch noise.
"Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?" Well, they can for five seasons. Tony Randall was the fastidious -- some might say flaming -- Felix Unger. Jack Klugman was the sportswriter who invited Felix to share a pad when his wife evicts him. Together they had more chemistry than Beyonce and Shakira. The 24 episodes from 1970 and 1971 also feature footage of Klugman's Emmy win, introductions by series helmer Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman), and an appearance by the two stars on Mike Douglas' vintage afternoon talk show.
Carey's average guy sitcom went on to become a rerun perennial, but it took a season to find its feet. The Cleveland comic played an assistant-personnel manager at a department store seemingly modeled on Scott Adams' Dilbert cartoons. As well as an unseen tyrant of a boss, Carey also had to contend with the hefty Kathy Kinney as his nemesis. There are still a few tweaks to be made -- the office romance will turn out to be short-lived -- but the roots of Carey's success are here: sharp observations grounded in everyday reality, and a cast you can actually imagine gathering around a keg somewhere for a brewski. 22 episodes on four discs.