Video & DVD

Practically everything in the theaters this week sucks. But check out the DVD shelf!

Who knew that even before The Sopranos, HBO was making original series that put the networks to shame? Harking from the early '90, The Larry Sanders Show: The Entire First Season (Columbia/TriStar) is pop culture self-reference at its best. The writing's great, but the genius is in the casting, especially Garry Shandling as a talk show host in a perpetual battle between insecurity and egotism.

Speaking of ego, yours truly would tend to lampoon any DVD boasting "From the visionary director of ..." But a fresh look at Romeo + Juliet: Special Edition (20th Century Fox), makes "visionary" sound like an understatement for Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann. A ferocious restaging of the bard's original text, with actors whose bubblegum appeal doesn't outweigh their talent, the film is well served by extra features that, remarkably, turn behind-the-scenes material into something compelling.

Fetishizing CDs and DVDs usually seems like a goofy idea. But Anchor Bay's new Evil Dead: Book of the Dead Limited Edition, in a foam rubber case molded to mimic the magic evil book in the film, is kind of irresistible. So much so, that I finally broke down and watched Sam Raimi's film, the predecessor to Army of Darkness —and it's great. What Raimi does is technically amazing, on practically no budget, and the cast's delightfully bad performances play into an overall tone which, though not as campy as its sequels, refuses to take itself too seriously as it throws the scares your way. Includes Fanalysis, a short film by Bruce Campbell that explores what life is like for a cult actor.

Just when you think there's no corner of Andy Warhol's world that hasn't been explored and packaged for sale, along comes Pie in the Sky: The Brigid Berlin Story (Docurama). But this one's a lot cooler than that The Warhol Diaries, Volume 5 you might be eyeing. Berlin's weird high society dropout tale—filled with gluttony, exhibitionism, and performance art—is reminiscent of the Maysles brothers' cult documentary Grey Gardens, and a story worth seeing even without the peek it affords into life at the Factory.


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