The BBC Natural History Collection Featuring Planet Earth
Nirvana for nature-doc geeks -- and a likely source of slack-jawed wonderment for most other demographics -- this expansive collection brings together four recent series, all narrated by David Attenborough. The 17-disc set (33 hours of programming, 12 hours of bonus material) includes “The Life of Mammals,” “The Life of Birds” and “The Blue Planet: Seas of Life,” all vivid and arresting travelogues. But there’s a reason the cosmic “Planet Earth” gets top billing: This landmark achievement, featuring state-of-the-art high-def cinematography and fleshed out here with a making-of segment for each episode, is the “Citizen Kane” of nature shows.
Charlie Wilson’s War
“War-movie fatigue” might have caused this entertaining, enlightening history play to get lost amid last fall’s impressive prestige-film crop, but in its own way, “Charlie Wilson’s War” could prove as timeless as anything that came out in ’07. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols recount the true story of smart-but-rascally Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson (played by Tom Hanks), who covertly led the campaign to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, then watched as the stability he’d hoped to bring to the region collapsed with the end of the Cold War. Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman give lively performances as, respectively, a promiscuous right-wing socialite and a grouchy, laconic CIA agent. The DVD features short documentaries on the making of the film and on the real Wilson -- who might be even more colorful than the movie makes him out to be.
If there were a hall of fame for movie marketing, the mysterious (and effective) teases for “Cloverfield” would have their own wing. As for the movie? Well . . . some audiences really responded to director Matt Reeves, screenwriter Drew Goddard and producer J.J. Abrams’ daring first-person approach to the rampaging-monster genre. Others were left nauseous, disappointed and clamoring for refunds. Now that the hype is over, the movie will stand or fall on its own merits in a DVD set that includes Reeves’ commentary, additional scenes, featurettes and a full basket of Easter eggs.
20th Century Fox, $27.98
When the brother’s a Brechtian, and the sister’s partial to true-heart confessionals, there’s bound to be some bickering at family dinners. In writer-director Tamara Jenkins’ stark comedy, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney play sibling theater buffs dealing with the care of a father neither of them loves. Jenkins’ dialogue rings painfully true as the kids squabble over whether to be practical and aloof over Daddy’s imminent demise or to use his last days to stage the happy family life they’ve never experienced.
The DVD adds extended scenes and a pair of featur-ettes.
“Before the Nickelodeon: The Early Cinema of Edwin S. Porter” (Kino, $24.95); “Death of a Cyclist” (Criterion, $29.95); “Friday Night Lights: The Second Season” (Universal, $29.98); “Hannah Takes the Stairs” (Genius Products, $19.95); “One Missed Call” (Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99); “Starting Out in the Evening” (Lionsgate, $27.98); “Trailer Park Boys: The Movie” (Universal, $24.98)