On DVD: You're Welcome, America: A Final Night with George W. Bush

The most enjoyable aspect of Will Ferrell's impersonation of George W. Bush is the way he embodies a somewhat abstracted "version" of the former President, rather than simply mimicking his voice or body language. On Saturday Night Live, Ferrell's Bush was infantile, impulsive, easily distracted - like a very small child or a puppy. One sketch placed Ferrell's Bush with Dana Carvey as Bush, Sr., on a hunting trip; Ferrell kept picking up a pair of loose antlers and banging them together awkwardly like a two-year-old. Another well-known bit had Bush in the Oval Office, batting around objects on his desk like a kitten with a ball of yarn. This interpretation of Bush was far more effective - and funnier - than a bumbling Bush who made an exaggerated buffoon out of himself. Since Bush did that well enough on his own, a smart comedian like Ferrell was encouraged to take things in a different direction.

Read the full review here


On DVD: Brotherhood: The Final Season

Brotherhood was an excellent political/crime drama that ran for three seasons on Showtime ending in December, 2008. The show chronicles the rising and falling fortunes of the Caffee family in Providence, Rhode Island.

Tommy (Jason Clarke) is an ambitious member of the state legislature, representing "The Hill," a fictional Irish neighborhood where Tommy grew up and a stronghold of New England's Irish mob. (The Hill is an amalgamation of two real Providence neighborhoods: predominately Italian Federal Hill, and the more Irish Smith Hill.) Tommy's only brother is Michael Caffee (Jason Isaacs), who returns to Providence in the series pilot after a seven-year absence during which he was presumed dead by all who knew him. Michael is a career criminal; he returns to Providence and begins methodically amassing power almost immediately, leading to numerous overlaps and conflicts with Tommy's political career. Rose Caffee (Fionnula Flanagan) is the boys' mother - they also have a sister, Mary Kate (Kerry O'Malley). Tommy's wife, Eileen (Annabeth Gish) is silently tortured by loneliness and depression, which has taken her down a number of dark avenues including adultery and drug addiction. Add in a number of politicians, gangsters, law enforcement officers, extended family members, and local business owners, and you've got a wide-ranging cast of characters that represents a broad cross-section of Providence society.


On DVD: Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection

As I suggested in my review for Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection, this boxed set of the four Next Generation pictures seems to have been assembled by Paramount more out economic expediency rather than an attempt to improve upon the previous two-disc special editions. It would have been nice to see each of these films receive its own box, along the lines of a definitive, multi-disc Ultimate Edition. However, Paramount has provided new transfers and new - if limited - bonus material (none of the previously-released bonus content is repeated here). Fans of these films will be annoyed by the lack of expansion, but pleased by the quality of the presentation, and the packaging.

It has always been a great sadness to me - and no doubt to many fans - that Paramount and the creative team behind The Next Generation were not able to make more of the film franchise they inherited in the early 1990s. The Next Generation was wildly successful on television, which assured Star Trek's place on television and in film for years to come. An aging cast and inconsistent box office results (especially those of The Final Frontier) - along with The Next Generation's blockbuster reception - confirmed that The Undiscovered Country would be the final cinematic voyage of the original crew. In effecting a transition to the big screen, the series stumbled a bit with Generations, regained its footing on rock-solid ground with First Contact, continued with the interesting Insurrection, and slit its own throat with the mishandled Nemesis. Taken together, The Next Generation films, while mostly a good time, left minimal impact on the Star Trek universe - at least compared to the parallel television series, or the films featuring the original crew.
Read the full review here


On DVD: Lake Tahoe

In Lake Tahoe, director and co-writer Fernando Eimbcke displays a gentle but controlled sensibility in telling a quiet story that has an almost universal resonance. To clear up confusion straight away, I should point out to those interested that the film's title has no relation to its locale. Lake Tahoe is set firmly in contemporary Mexico, although I can't be more specific than that. Nevertheless, there is logic behind the title, which I won't explain here. Eimbcke's film won major prizes at the Berlin and Cartegena Film Festivals, and at the Mexican Academy Awards (the Ariels), yet it failed to find a theatrical distributor in North America. We are lucky that Film Movement snapped up the DVD rights of this fine film.

Read the full review here

On DVD: Andy Barker, PI: The Complete Series

Andy Barker, P.I. ran for six episodes on NBC in 2007. It was a mid-season replacement and part of their blockbuster Thursday night lineup for four weeks, with the final two episodes being dumped on a Saturday night. NBC took a chance putting an odd new show on its Thursday schedule, especially one starring the always-cancelled Andy Richter (Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Quintuplets). It's as if the show was forced to run across a mine field already strewn with corpses.

Read the full review here


On DVD: Wrestling Ernest Hemingway

Wrestling Ernest Hemingway was released at the end of 1993, with very little fanfare, despite being timed for awards season. It stars two undeniably great actors - Richard Harris and Robert Duvall - in deeply-felt roles requiring tight control, subtlety, and wit. The film's themes, however, may have been a contributing factor in Warner Bros.' lack of marketing - a lack that compounds the film's central idea, which is the way the elderly are discounted and ignored by society at large. That concept was affirmed by the studio sidelining the picture, and by the Academy, which did not award the film a single nomination.

Read the full review here


On DVD: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

Although I am a voracious consumer of mystery novels, I never got around to Alexander McCall Smith's series The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency, and I suppose the main reason for that was because I smelled a concoction tailor-made for the Martha Stewart crowd. Think about it: a woman opens a detective agency in an exotic locale; many topical issues are touched upon, and her cases don't involve a lot of physical danger. Oh, and much tea is consumed. It's like Miss Marple, but without the edgy wit or, as it turns out, murder.

Read the full review here.


On DVD: Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection

In an odd but interesting move, Paramount has released this box set of the first six Star Trek films in their original theatrical versions. Although the two-disc Special Editions offered up tweaked director's cuts of three of those six movies, along with huge amounts of bonus material, Paramount has now reverted to the theatrical cuts - they are presented here in remastered transfers with all new extras, thereby jettisoning the entire content of the two-disc Special Editions.

The content here cannot be argued with. The packaging is above-average, the transfers are fine, and the bonus content is appealing if not overwhelming. But why replace excellent releases (the Special Editions) with the merely interesting?

Read the full review here