Some Kind of Joke
The Mel Brooks Collection (Fox)
Talk about taking the good with the bad; how else to describe a boxed set containing Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (Brooks' silly masterpieces), and Robin Hood: Men in Tights and History of the World, Part 1 (both overrated, even by people who can't stand them). It's an incomplete collection -- no Spaceballs or The Producers -- and it rehashes older releases to make way for new ones no one was clamoring for (To Be or Not to Be and The Twelve Chairs). But it does serve a purpose: as a sad reminder that comedies, and comedians, do not age well. Brooks in his later period was like the Marx Brothers in theirs, peddling crusty gags in place of the quick and surreal whimsy that highlighted his earlier years. -- Robert Wilonsky
Crash (Lions Gate)
Crash has entered the hallowed halls of Best Pictures That Nobody's Gonna Watch in 10 Years. Not that it's as bad as some critics insist; it boasts fine performances from Matt Dillon and Don Cheadle, and it's easy to be drawn into its weblike drama of 36 hours of L.A. racial politics. The problem is, Crash is more "important" than it is good (don't get uppity, Brokeback fans -- same difference). Between people who play the race card and those who play the you're-playing-the-race-card card, discussions of race are so difficult in this country that anything that passes for honesty is going to get praised and reviled far beyond worth. And now, a Best Picture that will be filed between Casablanca and Driving Miss Daisy has a special edition it doesn't deserve; did we really need the featurette on director Paul Haggis? Storyboard-to-screen comparisons? Music montages? -- Jordan Harper
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Disney)
Literary merit aside, this thing is a no-brainer: The Lord of the Rings plus The Passion of the Christ equals a giant windfall for Disney. A Christian allegory turned blockbuster, Narnia may look a shade too similar to Middle Earth, but its centaurs, minotaurs, and griffins are fantastic and blend seamlessly with their surroundings. The biggest flaw comes from the source material: Having children as the center of your book helps kids get involved in the story, but on film it means cutting away from the Talking Jesus Lion to focus on untalented British moppets. The two-disc version comes with scads of special features: a director's commentary, a very nice encyclopedia of Narnia, and enough documentaries to suck the sense of wonder out of any child's heart. -- J.H.
Patton Oswalt: No Reason to Complain (Paramount)
Slap the word "alternative" in front of any music or medicine or lifestyle, and in a few years it'll degenerate into a code word for "stupid" (see Creed, urine therapy, lesbian chic). "Alternative comedy" now has its own Creed in the form of gibbering frat-boy Dane Cook. But it also has Patton Oswalt, founder of the alt-comedy supergroup the Comedians of Comedy. This Comedy Central special features Oswalt attacking everything from babies ("a shirtless, bald human being with a bag of its own crap around its waist") to '80s hair metal ("gayer than eight guys blowing nine guys") with a sharp eye, hyper-literate phrasing, and scads of obscenity. It's great fun, but it's also a few years old. Which is not to say it's dated: George Bush is still George Bush, after all. -- J.H.
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