How to Spend $20
By Kim Hollis
August 12, 2008

No one knows these people, but perhaps they should.

Welcome to How to Spend $20, BOP's look at the latest DVDs to hit stores nationwide. This week, HBO releases the final season of one of its highly acclaimed series, Naruto requests that you "believe it" and an underrated Harry Anderson comedy gets its first season on DVD.

Pick of the Week

For people who just like good, quality television: The Wire – The Complete Fifth Season

I have to admit that I have never seen this acclaimed HBO series, though I have certainly heard plenty about it. On the strength of many, many recommendations from friends, I went out some time ago and purchased Season One. Now that the entire series is available, I think I'm ready to burn through all of the episodes.

The Wire can best be described as a cop show set in Baltimore, but it's the superlatives that intrigue me. In an interview with The Believer Magazine last year (written by no less than Nick Hornby), show creator David Simon discusses the unique structure of each season, as he notes that with every passing year he hopes to go in depth as he explores a certain aspect of American cities. Simon also mentions that where other HBO series draw from Shakespeare (particularly Deadwood and Sopranos), The Wire is more closely related to Greek tragedy. There's been much discussion about the "literary" quality of the show, and that, if nothing else, intrigues me completely. If you'd like to learn a little more, check out Hornby's interview and see if you don't add the DVDs to your Netflix queue immediately. I know I'm making it a point to watch within the next few weeks.

For people who think that Ninjas are supremely awesome and especially like the color orange: Naruto Uncut Box Set 9

I discovered Naruto several years ago, long before it ever made its way from Japan to the United States. When the series begins, we watch a young boy named Naruto as he powers through school and training to fulfill his dream of being the greatest Ninja ever – and possibly Hokage (leader) of his village. One thing that is important to know about the orange-jumpsuit-wearing kid is that he has the spirit of a mighty nine-tailed fox held within him – which means that he is actually a bit of an outcast when it comes to the other kids who have similar aspirations to him. He is teamed with fellow students Sakura, a brilliant girl who might have slight self-confidence issues (especially as regards her forehead) and Sasuke, a brooding young man who is probably a close kin to Batman, or perhaps the vampire Angel. We see their apprenticeship and then their tests and tribulations as they go through the process of becoming official ninjas.

I'm not quite caught up to live TV, as Box Set 9 has some events with which I'm unfamiliar taking place, but I can certainly feel confident in recommending this series to anyone who enjoys odd anime. Although it can get a little silly at times, the writing is outstanding and oftentimes can feel a great deal like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in tone and well-thought out stories. I do think that something is lost in the translation, because the show definitely seems better when viewed with subtitles, but it's nonetheless a singular entry into the world of animation.

For Gator Fans: Dave's World - The First Season

I have fond memories of this sitcom, which was loosely based on the life and works of Dave Barry, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist who lived in the suburbs of Miami at the time (he also wrote the novel Big Trouble). The series starred Harry Anderson (previously of Night Court) as, you guessed it, Dave Barry, a writer, husband and father. Sure, it probably bears some similarities to more popular shows like Everybody Loves Raymond or Home Improvement, but I've always had a huge soft spot for Anderson.

The show also featured Meschach Taylor (Designing Women) and Shadoe Stevens (a well-known disc jockey) as Dave's buddies, and naturally they all got into plenty of scrapes. The show was always centered around a "column", which provided framework and setup for the half hour plot. Other than the rare show like My Name Is Earl or My Boys, sitcoms are largely becoming endangered species these days, but Dave's World does take us back to those bygone days when good family comedy was readily available.

For people who are REALLY willing to suspend disbelief: Prison Break – Season 3

I gave up on this show a long, long time ago. In point of fact, I believe it was sometime during Season 1 when I threw my hands up in the air and said, "Okay, this is just too ludicrous." Sure, I love Dominic Purcell and had followed him from John Doe to this. I just don't love him enough to subject myself to week after week of the over-the-top storylines that Prison Break consistently employs. It's pretty much playing in the same sandbox as 24 with regards to ridiculous plots, and I gave up on that one during its first season as well.

Nonetheless, Prison Break has its proponents, somewhere. Apparently, these must be the people who think that T-Bag is something special to watch and don't seem to mind that they're watching a show called Prison Break when the lead characters are out of their prison and have become fugitives. If that's your cup of tea, the latest season will probably be for you.

For people who need to pay their tax bills: The Art of War II: Betrayal

Apparently, Wesley Snipes was able to take time out from his busy schedule of tax dodging and running from the law to appear in this sequel to the 2000 classic, The Art of War. That movie made $30.2 million at the box office and was obviously perfectly poised for a sequel. Snipes once again plays Agent Neil Shaw, who comes out of retirement and winds up in the middle of a plot to assassinate several senators. Naturally, he's been set up as the patsy in the operation. Just like he probably was when it came to his tax evasion charges.

For anyone who thought Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle needed more cute, fuzzy things: CJ7

I greatly enjoyed director/writer/actor Stephen Chow's work on both Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, so I'm quite looking forward to seeing his more family-oriented film, CJ7. Although it doesn't have anywhere near the buzz or solid reviews of those first two films, previews I have seen do look charming and funny. Chow stars as a father who finds a strange orb in a construction yard and mistakes the item for a toy that his son has been begging for. That orb turns out to be an adorable alien, and he will wreak havoc in their lives while (naturally) teaching them some sort of valuable life lesson. I accept that it's going to be formulaic and a huge departure from his previous work, but hey, it can't be any more saccharine than E.T.

August 12, 2008

The American Mall (2008)
The Art of War II: Betrayal (2008)
Belly 2: Millionaire Boyz Club (2008)
Brand Upon the Brain (Criterion Collection) (2006)
CJ7 (2008)
Diana: The Witnesses in the Tunnel (2007)
Dick: The Devil Dared Me To (2007)
Fellon (2008)
Frank (2007)
Happy Valley (2007)
How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer (2008)
I'm Through with White Girls (2007)
Inside the Circle (2007)
Irina Palm (2007)
Juncture (2007)
Ninja Cheerleaders (2008)
The Orange Thief (2007)
Outside Sales (2006)
Prison Break: Season Three (4-DVD Set) (2007)
The Search for John Gissing (2001)
The Secret (2007)
Smart People (2008)
South Park: The Complete Eleventh Season (3-DVD Set) (2007)
Warlords (2007)
Watching the Detectives (2007)
The Wire: The Complete Fifth Season (4-DVD Set) (2008)