- Serenity: An Old West tale set way in the future.
Joss Whedon's film version of his TV series Firefly came and went like a lightning bug in October; the predicted phenom stuck around the multiplex just long enough to lose millions. But like Firefly, which sold enough boxed sets to warrant a movie, Serenity's bound to do well on DVD, with its 15 minutes of deleted scenes, and docs and commentary sure to appease the fans who share the Buffy creator's love for a future that looks a great deal like the Old West. Despite its failure to catch fire at the theater, the movie is a dynamite blast, its wit and warmth reminiscent of the first Star Wars trilogy and the original Star Trek episodes; it's smarter, too, than your average studio release, with its messages of media manipulation (Take that, Fox!) and global decimation obscured by a high-flyin' tale of spacemen with six-shooters. -- Robert Wilonsky
Chicago: The Razzle-Dazzle Edition (Miramax)
Chicago boasts a banquet of talent, from director Rob Marshall to its Broadway designers to its stars, most notably Catherine Zeta-Jones and John C. Reilly. But its true strength lies in the music of Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb, and John Kander; the dark tone and bleak themes of celebrity justice and death feel far more modern than those of, say, Rent. But are the spangles added to this double-disc edition worth the extra dough? Nope. Those with the original release already have the wisely excised Zeta-Jones/Queen Latifah number "Class," Marshall's commentary track, and the by-the-numbers making-of doc. What are promisingly billed as "extended musical performances" are mostly just alternate camera angles and rehearsal footage. Timed to coincide with Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha, this edition is more flash than substance; its very title gives it away. -- Jordan Harper
The Brothers Grimm (Dimension)
It's not news when Terry Gilliam films fail at the box office, but it's rare that they fail with critics too. In a wry commentary track here, Gilliam admits that he hated the script, but was broke, and he hints at the pain involved in working with Miramax. The Weinsteins forced Gilliam to fire Samantha Morton in favor of Lena Headey -- a fact he brushes over by ignominiously referring to Morton as Headey's stand-in. Among the extras, there's a deleted scene that includes an elaborate fight with a living tree and a featurette on the special effects. Like all Gilliam films, Brothers Grimm is never less than interesting; it's just less than inspired. -- Luke Y. Thompson
Four Brothers (Paramount)
John Singleton's remake of The Sons of Katie Elder gets all Funky Bunch up in this bitch; Mark Wahlberg stars as, well, John Wayne -- which makes André Benjamin the Dean Martin stand-in, an astute bit of casting. Also featured are Tyrese Gibson and Garrett Hedlund, the latter the recipient of more gay jokes than a Paul Lynde roast; blessedly, some of them landed on the cutting-room floor, only to rear their ugly heads among the deleted scenes that could have stayed that way without anyone minding. The movie's still a riot -- a western that takes place in Detroit, where, apparently, nobody minds if you brandish a shotgun at a high school basketball game. The small screen makes it look oddly dated, which works; after all, it's a '70s blaxploitation picture too, about four bruthas taking down the mutha (Chiwetel Ejiofor, also in Serenity) who whacked their foster mother. Best thing Singleton's done in ages. -- Wilonsky