Five Wonders of the World
Roll over, Marlin Perkins, and tell Jacques Cousteau the news: There's never been another nature series like this. You will spend forever glued to this five-disc collection, finding among such holy-shit discoveries a herd of never-before-photographed camels who live in the frozen wastelands, great whites dining on unsuspecting seals, swimming monkeys and flying lemurs, and polar bears struggling to survive as their world melts around them--thanks to CO2-emitting humans living thousands of miles away. As much a cry for conservation as an ode to the wonders of nature, this is an astounding, riveting, thrilling, terrifying, and altogether unforgettable collection of how'd-they-get-that footage, as must-own as anything on your shelf. All that, and piranhas too. --Robert Wilonsky
WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete First Season
Yup, the entire first season of Hugh Wilson's small-screen FM redux is here, including the two-part pilot and the classic "Turkeys Away" episode. As for the boxed set being "complete," well, not so much. For some reason, Fox saw fit to release WKRP stripped of some of its integral music tracks, which have been replaced by generic filler (thanks to the high costs of licensing music for DVD), rendering the final product unsurprisingly flat and phony. Which isn't to say the writing and performances don't hold up; to the contrary, WKRP might be slower than you remember it--with its four sets and eight actors, it's got a late-night put-on-a-show feel to it--but the memorable one-liners ("As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly") and classic deadpans retain their clout. --R.W.
The greatest pleasure here--aside from the film itself, for which Helen Mirren won the Oscar for her astoundingly poignant portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II--is watching it alongside British historian Robert Lacey, who contributes a commentary track. The author of several books about the royals, Lacey expounds on each scene--each frame--of the film until this interpretation of the events following the death of Princess Diana begins to feel very much like the real thing. Already a bitterly funny and surprisingly heartbreaking endeavor, in Lacey's hands The Queen becomes something else: a sort of history lesson, wherein we understand from the very first moments just why the queen acts as she does. We not only forgive Elizabeth her insolence toward her subjects, but we understand it, we accept it--we almost demand it. --R.W>
Phantom Museums: The Short Films of the Quay Brothers
Like modern dance or free jazz, stop-motion animation is one of those artistic backwaters that you either love or loathe. If your natural response to four hours of nonlinear, mostly dialogue-free inhuman strangeness is to flee in terror, well, that's understandable. But for those with a taste for it, the Quay Brothers are as good as it gets, and Phantom Museums is a fine introduction to the form. There's never been any stop-motion that isn't a little creepy--it consists, after all, of things that shouldn't move moving oddly--but the Quays, with strange creatures wandering shadowy worlds, push the ick factor to the edge. Commentaries and an included booklet help decode the weirdness. But just a little. --Jordan Harper
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