Pride and Prejudice (1995) PICK
The Spectacular Spider-Man: Vol. 8 (2008) PICK
The Young Victoria (2009) PICK
Newly available from A&E in a DVD “Restored Edition” as well as Blu-ray, the BBC’s five-hour Pride and Prejudice miniseries remains the definitive version of Jane Austen’s beloved tale 15 years after its small-screen debut.
“The best Austen of them all,” wrote The New York Times — probably accurately, since Pride and Prejudice is easily the most popular of the author’s novels, and the BBC adaptation is the best adaptation of its source material.
With the leisurely running time, the full scope of the moral and social issues Austen explores are engaged. Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennet is just right, conveying as much of the protagonist’s inner life with her eyes and enigmatic smiles as with her delivery of Austen’s dialogue. Colin Firth is the Darcy to whom all others must be compared. If you don’t have this one already, now’s the time.
A more recent 19th-century English romantic costume drama new to DVD, The Young Victoria stars the delightful Emily Blunt as the titular princess and then queen at the dawn of her reign and Rupert Friend (Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont) as Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, later Prince Consort.
Frothy, spirited and without any great statement to make, The Young Victoria has the great merit of avoiding the sort of subversive, sexed-up revisionism that characterized Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth movies, among others.
Screenwriter Julian Fellowes mucked up the recent Brideshead Revisited in much the same way, but he’s on better behavior here. (Those who grumbled about Fellowes’ mushy coda to the 2005 Pride & Prejudice may likewise roll their eyes at the mild amorousness between the newlywed young queen and her consort, but come on. Lighten up.)
Alas, it’s now official: The newly released The Spectacular Spider-Man: Vol. 8 is the last installment ever.
After only two seasons, the smart, well-written series has been canceled. In its place, Disney is planning a new “Ultimate Spider-Man” series, but without the same creative team, it’s anyone’s guess how good it will be. It wasn’t broke; why fix it?
At least Vol. 8, featuring the last three episodes of Season 2, ends the series on a high note, particularly “Opening Night,” crosscutting between a high school performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Spidey’s battle with a whole cell block of super villains, and “Final Curtain,” featuring the final showdown with the Green Goblin and a dramatic twist in Peter’s love life. It was great while it lasted.
Content advisory: Pride and Prejudice: Romantic complications, including a subplot involving a scoundrel leading a young girl astray. Generally fine family viewing. The Spectacular Spider-Man: Much fast-paced animated action violence, menace and scary images; romantic complications. Fine for all but very sensitive kids. The Young Victoria: A couple of mild marital bedroom scenes (nothing explicit); a scene of gun violence; an instance or two of profanity. Teens and up.