Genuine Fake Robots

 

Transformers (DreamWorks)

No doubt, Michael Bay's slam-bang action-figure commercial doesn't play nearly as well on TV, no matter how high or high-def your screen; this demands to be seen on a screen the size of a skyscraper and heard on speakers as large as jet engines. So the first half-hour plays flat, and the last half-hour's just hard to see — is that Optimus Prime's foot or Megatron's, goddammit. But those inconsequential quibbles aside, Transformers remains the only Bay movie worthy of his blockbuster rep: Funnier than it might have been (and for that, thank Shia LaBeouf) and leaner than it could have been (it never feels 143 minutes long), it also proved computers could generate characters that look genuinely three-dimensional. The special edition includes a whole disc of extras, most of which just spoil the fun. — Robert Wilonsky

Transformers: Michael Bay has never blown stuff up better.
Transformers: Michael Bay has never blown stuff up better.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (Warner Bros.)

"Turn off your TV right now!" So barked Judd Hirsch four minutes into the pilot episode of Aaron Sorkin's much-maligned, little-seen NBC series that exited stage left with barely a whimper in June. But if the creator of Sports Night and The West Wing knew he'd signed his death warrant with the Network homage, he doesn't let on: At its best, the show offered top-notch work from a mighty ensemble (Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford especially) wrestling with heady stuff — the salvation and damnation of television, mostly. But at its worst, the show was preachy and pedantic, never more so than when dealing with Bush and Iraq. Alas, NBC was happy to see it go: 30 Rock took its share of shots at Studio 60, which got better as it went (and went away). — R.W.

Crazy Love (Magnolia)

Burt Pugach has always been nuts for Linda Riss — so nuts that he almost killed her rather than lose her to another man. This documentary recounts Pugach's 50-year obsession, with more twists and turns than a month of telenovelas. It's a hell of a story, but to tell you any more than "love burns" would ruin the fun of watching it unfold. By the end, all of the major participants are loonballs, and everyone from Johnny Mathis to Carmine "The Snake" Persico has been dragged into the mess. If the aged participants weren't telling the story themselves — along with lots of newspaper clippings to back it up — your instinct would be to call bullshit. Extras include letters from Burt to Linda, for those who need more crazy in their lives. — Jordan Harper

Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film 1900-1934 (National Film Preservation Foundation)

The title sounds like a textbook you'd never want to open; the boxed set itself is something you'll have a hard time turning off — four discs of priceless archival rarities that capture the dawn of cinema and the turn of the 20th century in haunting, hilarious, and ceaselessly fascinating detail. The third installment of the wondrous "Treasures From American Film Archives" series gathers fragments of long-forgotten safety films, one-reelers, propaganda, newsreels, and cartoons: Here you'll find a Mafia yarn from 1906, an animated Uncle Sam squishing union rats for Ford Motor Co., and the self-explanatory "How They Rob Men in Chicago." Perhaps best of all is Cecil B. DeMille's rip-roaring 1928 feature The Godless Girl, an atheism exposé as only the maker of The Ten Commandments could do it. — Jim Ridley

 
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