The Small Screen

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Posted April 2, 2009 in The Small Screen

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Unless you just adore Keanu Reeves—or Jennifer Connelly, (who has little to do here but gape at Keanu)—you’d be better served to just rent the 1951 original version of this cautionary sci-fi tale, in which a benign(ish) alien comes to Earth with the warning that if we keep doing what we’re doing, the future of earth is in jeopardy. In 2008, nuclear threat has been replaced by global warming, Keanu’s Klaatu is a little more directly responsible for said jeopardy, and Gort (his robot companion) is a lot more CGI. Even muttering Klaatu Barada Nikto at the screen won’t save the new version.

Specials Highlights: “Making of” featurette displays the filmmaker’s good intentions, but doesn’t explain how they can so badly miss the point of what makes a film riveting to watch.

Doubt

Don’t shy away from Doubt because of its dour packaging and “Issue” subject matter, you’ll rarely find a better acted or more subtly directed human drama. Directed and adapted for the screen by John Patrick Shanley—who also wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning play—it’s like a chess match of human personalities at odds with each other and often their own instincts. The gathering of Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Viola Davis, as the two nuns, one priest and one mother struggling over the welfare of a boy, doesn’t have a weak link.

Specials Highlights: “The Cast of Doubt,” an interview with the four Oscar-nominated actors.

Iditarod: Toughest Race On Earth

When you’re creeping on the 91 between Weir Canyon and Green River you can think about these mushers, who make better time through the Alaskan wilderness on a sled pulled by 16 dogs. The laws of attrition and the miracle of the human will are on display here, as the Discovery Channel series gives a great overview of the 2008 running of 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome. Where it falls short on essential factoids the docu-series gains with in isolated feelings of the participants—most notably, Lance Mackey, who has a trick or two up his sleeve.

Specials Highlights: Bonus disc containing “Expedition Alaska” a documentary about global warming’s effect on the state.


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