DVD of the Week
Onetime Saturday Night Live head writer Tina Fey isn't exactly stretching herself with this NBC sitcom centered on the backstage shenanigans at an SNL-style TV show. But Fey wields the sharpest pen on TV, and her brilliant scripts are superbly fleshed out by Alec Baldwin as the exec from hell, Tracy Morgan as a boorish star comedian, and the four-eyed Fey herself as the sweetly vulnerable show scribe. 21 episodes on three discs.
The latest footnote to Lindsay Lohan's career in scandal is a corny family drama in which our rebellious heroine is left to the care of grandma Jane Fonda by alcoholic parent Felicity Huffman. Fonda strangely channels her father Henry's On Golden Pond performance as a feisty coot, while LaLohan is so barely there the producers sent her an open letter demanding she return to the set. They should at least have had the sense to include some outtakes.
28 Days Later's Cillian Murphy is a medical student forced to take sides as Ireland struggles for independence, then falls into civil war. The insurgency has obvious parallels with the Iraqi conflict, but what makes this film extraordinary is the way British director Ken Loach keenly illustrates how revolutionary fervor can result in compromised ideals. Historical epics don't come better.
"It's Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and he's a wild man, so bug off." Ivory-haired New York filmmaker Jim Jarmusch is the missing link between John Cassavetes' bebop cool and Quentin Tarantino's geek chic. His 1984 breakthrough set a gang of vaguely lovable losers loose in a pop-art America, with downtown hipster John Lurie tending to his "I Put a Spell On You"-loving Hungarian cousin. Funny, sad, beautiful, unique. This double disc edition also includes Jarmusch's head-turning debut feature, Permanent Vacation.
Jarmusch's 1991 portmanteau of cab-confined stories puts his minimalist style to the test with its confined settings and two-handed exchanges. Like the proverbial box of chocolates, you're never quite sure what you're going to get, whether it's innocent Winona Ryder behind the wheel in Hollywood, or the bittersweet aftertaste of the concluding Helsinki story. Extras include contemporary and new interviews with Jarmusch, and a Paul Auster essay.
In the first Resident Evil, Milla Jovovich battles flesh-eating virus victims underground. In the second, she battles them over-ground. Brilliant! This game-inspired franchise has about as many brain cells as one of the villainous Lickers, but a combination of pumped-up visuals and Jovovich ass shots keeps fanboys coming back for more. A snip at $20, which also includes a ticket to the forthcoming Resident Evil: Extinction, in which the aforementioned zombies presumably learn to fly.
Never mind Evan Almighty, Steve Carell. We still love you as idiot boss Michael Scott, although the third series of the hit NBC sitcom concerns itself more with whether Jim (John Krasinski) would get horizontal with Pam (Jenna Fischer). Ricky Gervais may have been wise to limit the British edition of the show to two seasons, but there's still plenty of satirical bite amid the plot complications. The show is also masterfully cross-promoted, with many viral goodies turning up as extras on the DVD, such as the "Lazy Scranton" video.
The plots don't change much. The knock-kneed sailor and his brutish rival are always battling for the attention of the rail thin Olive Oyl. But even as Popeye and Bluto throw punches and mumble antagonistic asides, it becomes pretty obvious that fraternity is central to the classic cartoon's charm. They like to clash, they like to show off, and they like their constant sparring. Whether they're firemen, deep-sea divers, or babysitters, the giddy invention of the classic plots does what a cartoon is supposed to do: put a grin on your face. Makes you think there should always be a can of spinach in the house somewhere. A must-have for boomer households and stoner weekends.
After a wayward second season, the addition of Sex and the City's Kyle MacLachlan as the splendidly slimy Orson and Frasier scribe Joe Keenan in the production office revived the ABC hit's compulsion factor. While the gang tries to figure out why Orson tried to kill Teri Hatcher's squeeze, Felicity Huffman starts a pizzeria and Eva Longoria woos the town's mayor. 23 episodes on six discs, with a behind the scenes featurette.
Brothers Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell spent most of the year on the run from creepy fed William Fichtner and looking for the stashed $5 million, while their compatriots went their own way. The Fox hit's second season somehow manages to be as preposterous (and gripping) as the first, while -- even minus a hand -- Robert Knepper's psychotic T-Bag manages to steal the show from underneath Miller's tattooed abs. 22 episodes on six discs.
It's fair to say that this FX plastic surgery drama has realized the only way to retain its edge is to become extremely peculiar. So this fourth season brings some bizarre hallucination sequences, a flash-forward to 2026, and -- yikes -- Rosie O'Donnell and Alanis Morissette as guest stars. Still, the suspicion that the show is made on massive amounts of drugs is allayed by the lashings of sex, even when a midget is involved. 15 nutty episodes on five discs.
Battling Black Crowes bros Chris 'n' Rich have never quite exacted the kind of fascination provided by other double acts like Gregg 'n' Duane, Liam 'n' Noel, or even Tegan 'n' Sara. This acoustic set, however, is a combination of undeniable chemistry and Southern-fried rock allowed to breathe a little. The 20 song performance includes Crowes classics like "Thorn in My Pride," "Jealous Again" and a version of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young."