Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who
It's not The Kids Are Alright, for better or worse. For better, because director Paul Crowder's two-disc documentary—divided into a feature-length film and six "quick ones" serving as more intimate portraits—is more about context than mere concert footage; he focuses instead on the band's early-'60s ascension as mod heroes. Better, too, because of the estimable amount of rare footage from Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert's collection. If it's worse than Kids, it's only because Amazing Journey doesn't quite have the raw power of Jeff Stein's 1979 collection of unedited concert footage and vintage interviews. And, sorry, but no Who fan needs Sting or Eddie Vedder or the Edge to validate the Who's greatness, not when Townshend's happy to do it all by his lonesome. ROBERT WILONSKY
"Robert Evans was the head of production and the head of seduction," says Roman Polanski in the newly minted documentary Chinatown: The Beginning and the End, among the many terrific reasons to snatch up this collector's edition. Yes, the disc's missing a commentary track and outtakes, but the doc is a worthwhile addition, gathering Evans, Polanski, writer Robert Towne, and a relatively talkative Jack Nicholson for a chat about the last great noir ever made. Polanski is most forthcoming—initially "it was a job," he says, often adding that he was reluctant to return to L.A. following Sharon Tate's murder. As for the movie, 33 years later it holds up better than ever, thanks in no small part to a stellar transfer that gives it a theatrical sheen after years of less-than-impressive DVD dupes. You don't own it? No excuses now. ROBERT WILONSKY
No End in Sight
Charles Ferguson's debut doc, easily the most important in a year full of notable fact-gathering films, assembles some of the key players behind the invasion and occupation of Iraq and seems to ask them but one question: "What went wrong?" In short: everything. But Ferguson's doc is no fist-shaking stab at agitprop pop filmmaking; it's the most thoughtful, in-depth, evenhanded glimpse behind the scenes yet, told by those for whom failure was bound to be an inevitable by-product of poor planning and even worse execution. The filmmaker, a think-tank guy destined for bigger things, even pinpoints the beginning of the end: the looting of the museums, libraries, and archives following the liberation of Baghdad. And the questions keep on coming in the torrent of extras, which include videos of a reduced-to-rubble Iraq and investigations into everything from the military's behavior to the biggie—was it worth it? ROBERT WILONSKY
Michael Moore's latest (and, easily, greatest) documentary united red and blue who felt they'd been battered black-and-blue over the state of their insurance premiums and health care coverage. This is the Moore movie likely to prompt a revolution; give it time. And the DVD keeps piling it on, with seven substantial pieces that add fuel to the fire—chief among them a short about the utopian state of health care in Norway. But Moore's most effective in the short about Cameron Park, Texas, where 58 percent of the town's 6,000 residents live in poverty and have resigned themselves to illness and suffering. Says the priest charged with tending to the broken, uninsured flock: "Somewhere along the line, we lost our sense and our feel of what it is to be one nation under God, indivisible." ROBERT WILONSKY
The DVD life of Twin Peaks has been as drawn out as America's mania for the show was short-lived, but at least this "definitive gold box edition" concludes the saga more neatly than the series itself did. The feature-length pilot episode, available here for the first time, is the gem of the set, just about as creepy and funny a movie as David Lynch has ever made—and you can watch it as part of the series or with the false ending tacked on. A mammoth documentary charts the rise and fall of the show, including some brutal honesty about the season-two train wreck. Best of all, oddly, is composer Angelo Badalamenti's narration of how the score was created. JORDAN HARPER
It's business time! Meaning HBO's first season of Flight of the Conchords is on disc. And for Christmas: How about MGM's new $350 James Bond collection, which apparently includes every 007 movie ever made (though maybe not the first Casino Royale). There's more bad news from Darfur in the documentary The Devil Came on Horseback. License to Wed may be the worst Robin Williams movie since Patch Adams. Spider-Man 3 really doesn't need your help, really. Blame It on Fidel! sounds Cuban but is actually charming and French, while Election is not the old Reese Witherspoon movie but a satisfying new (albeit traditional) Hong Kong gangster flick. Ratatouille is the best piece of animation we've seen this year; also check out the Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1. And with their terrific No Country for Old Men opening this Friday, Coen brothers cultists may dig the box set including Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, and Fargo—just don't expect any commentary tracks.