Steven Spielberg's frightening remake of George Pal's seminal 1953 classic was the popcorn-munching movie of last summer. This time out, the aliens' decimation of Earth is told from the highly personal viewpoint of a single, divorced man (Tom Cruise), trying merely to keep his family safe amid the chaos. This one-view approach proves highly effective, as it thoroughly puts the viewers in our hero's working-class sneakers.
What Harold and Maude was to funerals, Wedding Crashers is to nuptials. A rollicking buddy comedy that spearheaded the great "Return of the R-Rated Comedies" campaign of 2005, this Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn team-up proved to be a true word-of-mouth box-office success. Besides wonderful comedic chemistry between Wilson and Vaughn and the writing's total immersion in sexual frankness (e.g., "Why don't you go enjoy yourself while I go ice my balls and spit up blood?"), David Dobkin's assured pacing and direction won over audiences with both the film's infectious energy and the sincerity of the romantic subplot.
The massive reconstruction of Ground Zero for Oliver Stone’s tribute to the heroes of 9/11 is one of the more fascinating DVD extras I’ve seen in a while. The set had to resemble the actual site and be flexible enough to allow for lighting and shooting in tight spaces—all while being safe for the crew to work on and around.
If you've rented or purchased xXx: State of the Union, chances are you're not looking for something too heady. In fact, if you're not really in the mood to have things like logic or character development get in the way of fast-paced action, explosions, and the occasional shocking stunt, then you've come to the right place.
Alfred Hitchcock in a Box
The matured DVD format enables library builders to enjoy the full sweep of a great career in cinema for minimal investment. A perfect example is Alfred Hitchcock, the Master of Suspense. Most of his major works are collectible in huge boxed sets that cost less, per title, than a movie ticket. True, the HD DVD and Blu-ray formats may eventually bring high-def reissues. But that would take years, and in the meantime, the standard-def boxes are bargains. Grab them before they slip away.
Newspaper columnist Dan Burns (Steve Carell) dispenses advice to families in his column, but his own personal life is in shambles. The widowed father of three girls is afraid of letting go and letting his kids grow up. He's so consumed with their lives that he has no time to live his own.
Five years ago to the month, six SGHT writers gathered in the Guide's then home base of Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the magazine's first evaluation of the hottest new development in video: the DVD. Until then, the favored videophile format was the laserdisc. The LD had not only served us well for many years but, arguably, had made home theater a reality. I don't think any of us truly believed that DVD would seriously outperform that trusted 12-inch silver platter.
We last wrote about the explosion of science fiction TV shows on DVD in a two part feature that appeared in the November 2004 and January 2005 print issues of Ultimate AV. Those features, which covered the gamut from Star Trek to Babylon 5, will be posted on the website in April. Watch for it.
Time marches on. DVD software has steadily improved in its half-decade history, so you'll see lots of recent releases on this year's best-of list. The never-ending tide of discs keeps our perspective (while subjective) in a constant state of flux. Time, DVD's evolution, and the chance to plumb the most elaborate discs' untold depths have yielded some modified rankings from last year's list. As for our criteria, the film itself must be good, or at least good enough—or even so bad that it's back to good. Given DVD's storage potential, few movie-only discs made the cut. Picture and sound quality are essential, as are quantity, value, and originality of extras. Our comments cut right to the chase; so, if you want further insight, why not rent or buy the discs we list below to find out for yourself what makes a great DVD?
As the annually updated list of the top 100 DVDs of all time hits stands in the August issue of Home Theater magazine, we thought we'd take a moment to honor the number-one picks from each category in last year's ranking. We purge these "best of the best" titles each year to help keep the list current, although they still receive our highest recommendation: Buy them all as part of your own ultimate DVD library.
Best Music DVD
Christopher Reeve flies again.
Perhaps never before in the history of home video has a studio crafted months of releases upon a single theme, as Warner has in 2006, “the year Superman returns.” No doubt tying into that new feature film, all manner of Super movies and TV shows have been issued on DVD, some for the first time—new seasons of Smallville, the classic Adventures of Superman, Lois & Clark, Superboy, The Animated Series, and even the cartoon adventures of the Dog of Steel, Krypto. But we can never give enough credit to Christopher Reeve and his dual role as the impossibly awkward Clark Kent and a gentlemanly savior in a red cape. Reeve’s electric screen presence was born of classical acting training, an understanding of how to fly under his own power—from his experience as a glider pilot—and a willingness to bulk up his lean frame under the tutelage of Darth Vader himself, trainer David Prowse. The later of Reeve’s four franchise films were not an ideal stage for his inspired thespian stylings, but his characterization was a high-water mark for the timeless hero, as celebrated in Warner’s new boxed set, The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection.