By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
V for Vendetta (Warner Bros.)
Illustrator David Lloyd calls this adaptation of the comic he made with writer Alan Moore "very good" -- so why did Moore beg to have his name removed? The intentions are noble, sure; name another big-studio blockbuster in which a government manufactures fear to keep its citizens in line (and no, Fahrenheit 9/11 doesn't count). And for damned sure, it's provocative, enlightening, and infuriating. But as entertainment, it talks and thinks itself to death. (And why Natalie Portman, whose English accent never gets better, or Hugo Weaving, who is heard but not seen?) The bonuses are strictly made-for-HBO docs; yeah, the movie's "very good," but what else ya got, except for the howdunits that never really say why they did it in the first place? Very good, yeah. Not really great. --Robert Wilonsky
Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Fifth Season (HBO)
Even fetishists for Larry David's make-it-up claimed the fifth (and most recent) season was where Curb jumped the shark -- and it came way before the dream-sequence finale that tried to say too much for a show that's about very little. Purists thought it became too strident, too bitter, too fuckin' loud. Maybe so, but the decline began at the end of season four, with a Producers homage that played it way too straight. But still, in season five, there was the sandwich-naming episode. And the "kamikaze bingo" show. And the thing with Richard Lewis' kidney. This double-discer proves that at its worst, Curb Your Enthusiasm is still the best show on TV. And the two talking-head clip-job docs remind us that seasons one through three were better, but so what? --R.W.
25 Years of Improv Comedy: Live from the Chicago Theater(Image Entertainment)
Improv often seems like an art for people who like comedy, but aren't that big on laughing. Even at its best, the scenes will be punctuated with as many awkward silences as giggles. Watching it on DVD leavens the anxiety a little, as does the caliber of talent in these films from a single night celebrating a hallowed hall of the craft. The disc features scenes with Andy Richter, Amy Poehler (and the rest of the Upright Citizens Brigade), Tim Meadows, Mike Myers, Andy Dick, and others trying to squeeze out jokes on the fly. Fans of the art will enjoy watching this master class at work, as well as the interviews between sketches. But those expecting the level of laughs to be found in these comedians' planned-out works are advised to steer clear. --Jordan Harper
The Comeback (HBO Video)
A show called The Comeback, starring a washed-up sitcom star (Lisa Kudrow) playing a washed-up sitcom star (Valerie Cherish) trying to get a second life with a new show, was destined to fail. How could the gods of irony resist? Of course, the gods help those who help themselves, and The Comeback didn't do itself any favors with its tired show-within-a-show and fake-reality meta-meanderings, or its rather unlikable cast. While Kudrow is a much better actress than most sitcom stars, she lacks the genius of Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David. The show also didn't have the charming gall to make it a hedonistic fantasy, à la Entourage. But the show does have some shining moments of absurdity, such as when Cherish's publicist gets her the cover of a yoga magazine, forcing the actor to learn the moves, quick. --J.H.