Screens : Armchair Cinephile

To infinity and ... you know

I'm not often impressed by the "Wow, has it really been that long?!" sort of observation, but I experienced it from a different angle looking at the 10th anniversary special edition of Toy Story (Disney/Pixar). I was delighted by the film when it premiered and still am, but the little kids for whom Buzz Lightyear and Woody were intended are now teenagers. Now that seems odd to me for some reason, especially for a movie that still feels so fresh.

Many of Buzz's real-life counterparts have been boldly going onto video-store shelves recently. The BBC production Voyage to the Planets and Beyond (Warner) is an odd mix of fiction and non-fiction, using staged drama with actors to illustrate what scientists know about the galaxy. We see men walking on Mars and exploring space, but the drama is built around what scientists actually expect to find there, not little green men.

The docudrama points in the opposite direction in From the Earth to the Moon (HBO), the acclaimed TV miniseries that retold the first few chapters in humanity's exploration of space. The story begins with JFK's optimistic pronouncement in 1961 that Americans would land on the moon by decade's end, but it doesn't end with that "one small step." Instead it follows the Apollo program through the rest of its missions, letting the limelight shine on all the moon tourists who weren't lucky enough to be the first one there.

From the Earth to the Moon comes with a coupon good for one free admission to Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon, the latest 3-D IMAX movie. The last 3-D space doc, IMAX: Space Station, was just released (in regular, 2-dimensional format) by Warner Brothers. Narrated by Tom Cruise, it's a bit of rah-rah NASA promotion that does provide a more intimate view than most of us have of life away from gravity's pull. Yes, there's a little bit of Homer Simpson action involving flying M&M's.

Space is a big draw for pure fiction as well, of course. The recent The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Touchstone) is fresh out on disc, and in the spirit of the movie the disc offers not only honest-to-goodness bonus features but fake ones also - deleted scenes that were never meant for the film, for example. The movie might be a bit underwhelming for those with fond memories of Douglas Adams' wit, but it does offer diverting visions of other worlds.

Film buffs looking for more intellectual sci-fi will be all right if they can just hang on another week and a half: Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth will make its crash landing on September 27 in a lavish new edition from Criterion. The two-disc package boasts commentaries by David Bowie, Buck Henry, and director Roeg, plus a disc's worth of additional interviews both new and vintage. As a bonus bonus, the discs are packaged with a reprint of the Walter Tevis novel on which the movie is based. Criterion's Roeg trip continues in the non-sci-fi realm with Bad Timing, his 1980 film starring Art Garfunkel and Theresa Russell (Roeg's wife) as lovers in Cold War-era Vienna.

Lastly, I'm not going to say whether it's science fiction or just a tale of air travel gone very wrong, but the first season of Lost (Buena Vista) has spent a lot of time in my DVD player the last week or two. Readers who share my aversion to broadcast TV may have only a faint idea of what this show's about, and that's a good thing: Suffice to say that it isn't - as I had assumed from its "we're stuck on an island" premise - a reality show. Just how divorced from reality is it? That's more fun to learn on your own.

John DeFore on DVD


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