Your Show of Shows

May 24, 2006 at 4:00 am
Boston Legal: Season One (Fox)

David E. Kelley's latest legal drama is nothing more than a TV show about TV shows; hence the casting of Captain Kirk and Murphy Brown, with guest shots by Diane Chambers, Golden Girl Rose Nylund, and Alex Keaton. It's like a Nick at Night mash-up, with the laugh track muted, but the dumbstruck chuckles nonetheless ever-present amid all the exaggerated, overzealous teeth-gnashing and cigar-chomping. It works so well thanks to the dynamic duo of William Shatner and James Spader, who suggest in a doc here that theirs is the same relationship on- and off-screen. And Candice Bergen, still the prettiest woman ever to squeeze into a screen too small for her, provides ballast when the whole bombastic thing threatens to fly into the ether like a zeppelin full of giggle gas. -- Robert Wilonsky

The Cecil B. DeMille Collection (Universal)

Cecil B. DeMille is a filmmaker more referenced than watched these days. His name is synonymous with the "swords and sandals" birth of the Hollywood blockbuster, but most viewers are familiar only with his 1956 epic The Ten Commandments, made when DeMille was 73. Universal dug up five others from his 1920s-'30s heyday for this frills-free boxed set. Cleopatra, The Signs of the Cross, and The Crusades are pure DeMille, with elaborate sets and costumes, and outsized performances. Aside from their interminable talkiness, these films feel surprisingly modern -- a testament to DeMille's influence. Four Frightened People hasn't aged well (much like other jungle adventures from that era), but Union Pacific, a western about the construction of the transcontinental railroad, is the real treat of the set. -- Jordan Harper

The Boondock Saints: Special Edition (Fox)

When roughneck bartender Troy Duffy signed with Miramax to direct his script for The Boondock Saints, the media proclaimed him the next Tarantino. Then Duffy got on the bad side of Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein and the project was scrapped, later to be made on a shoestring by a micro-studio. The story of two brothers who take on the Boston underworld yielded a deeply flawed film, full of wooden acting and third-rate Tarantinoisms. But it's also an exhilarating, atmospheric B-flick, featuring Willem Dafoe's strangest performance yet (meditate on that), Scottish comedian Billy Connolly as a brawling badass, and oodles of bullets. This unrated cut lacks only a sticker reading "Now with more blood!" But the commentaries and deleted scenes are a snooze; for a real special feature, get the documentary Overnight, which chronicles the rise and deserved fall of Duffy's film career. -- Harper

Kingdom of Heaven (Fox)

The size and scope of this four-disc box -- which contains as its centerpiece a two-plus-hour movie about the Crusades, stretched to 194 minutes -- suggests the theatrical version was a masterpiece that just needed fine tuning. Yet no amount of extra footage (much of which was deemed tangential, says director Ridley Scott in his glib intro) can correct the casting; Orlando Bloom, as the heir to a sword and the blood it spills, has all the gravitas of a kindergartner delivering Shakespeare. The movie's merely more sprawling now -- an epic in search of a soul, a damnation shouted so loudly that it drowns out its noble intentions. The collection's loaded with extras, but the movie -- even at this new length -- doesn't offer enough to merit the attention. -- Wilonsky

Boston Legal The Cecil B. DeMille Collection The Boondock Saints Kingdom of Heaven

Robert Wilonsky Jordan Harper