COUCH THEATER — DVD PREVIEWS

By DNA Smith
PICKS OF THE WEEK
“Last Chance to See” (Unrated) — In 1990, writer Douglas Adams (“Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Doctor Who,” “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy”) and zoologist Mark Carwardine traveled the far-flung reaches of the planet in search of rare animal species on the verge of extinction. The result was the best-selling book and BBC radio series, “Last Chance to See.”

Now, 20 years later, legendary television presenter/comedian/author and close friend of late Douglas Adams, Stephen Fry retraces the author’s footsteps along with Carwardine to see if any of the species have survived. The result is a brilliant, entertaining and thought-provoking six-hour television series.

What makes “Last Chance to See” such a joy to watch is that it eschews the run-of-the-mill heavy-handed messages about saving the environment and is more of a celebration of our planet’s diversity. And it does so many times with the aid of humor. My favorite episode involves the kakapo, a rare, flightless, five-pound parrot. In one scene, an extremely randy kakapo (dubbed Sirocco) mounts Carwardine’s shoulders and begins to ravish the back of the man’s head with the furious, libidinous gusto usually seen only in Japanese stag films. Yeah. You won’t see THAT on Animal Planet.

“Steamboat Bill, Jr.” Ultimate 2-Disc Edition (Unrated) — For the past decade, Kino International have carved out a niche for themselves as the Criterion Collection of silent and Golden Age films. This release of the Buster Keaton classic “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” only enhances their reputation for high-quality digital remastering and outstanding special features.

“Steamboat Bill, Jr.” is the 1928 follow-up to the legendary Buster Keaton epic “The General.” Both films are considered among his finest work. In “Steamboat Bill,” Keaton plays the college puddin’ son of a Mississippi steamboat captain who has come back to help his pop, who is in the middle of a fierce rivalry with another captain. Trouble abounds as Keaton is not only inept at the job, but also is in love with the daughter of his father’s rival. The climax of the film involves a cyclone and some of the most amazing slapstick stuntwork you’ll ever see on film, as Keaton runs through the town and buildings literally collapse around — and on top of him.

There were two versions of the film made, and this two-disc set features both the theatrical release and the alternative version featuring different takes and angles. Also included is a documentary on the making of the film, a montage of the best moments of Keaton’s career and vintage recordings of the folk song “Steamboat Bill.”

TV SERIES
“Project Runway” Season 7
“Life On Mars” (UK): The Complete Collection
“Battlestar Galactica” Season 4.0 & 4.5
“Monk” Season Three & Four
“Squidbillies” Vol. 3
“Touching Evil” Complete Collection
“Dragnet 1968” Season Two
“Rhoda” Season Three
“Have Gun Will Travel” Seasons 1-4
“Doc Martin” Series 4

© 2010 King Features Synd., Inc.

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