DVD Picks & Passes 11.08.2009

New on DVD, the debate documentary Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson follows the self-proclaimed anti-theist polemicist Hitchens and the Reformed pastor Wilson as they meet in formal and informal debate promoting their jointly authored book Is Christianity Good for the World? (adapted from a back-and-forth originally penned in 2007 for Christianity Today).

Collision intersperses key points from the debates with behind-the-scenes personal glimpses and informal exchanges. The picture of Hitchens as unhinged by fire-breathing hatred of believers is challenged by a more complex and human portrait: Hitchens is gentlemanly to Wilson, delighted by their mutual love of Wodehouse and intrigued by an unfamiliar argument.

Wilson likewise credits Hitchens’ intellectual and rhetorical chops and praises many of Hitchens’ public moral stances — before arguing that Hitchens’ moralism has no philosophical foundation without God.

Sometimes intrusive editing breaks up lines of thought to maintain interest or build suspense, and soundtrack choices are occasionally abrasive. Still, worthwhile viewing.

New this week on Blu-ray and DVD is one of the year’s best family films, Pixar’s Up. From the wordlessly eloquent prologue’s images of lifelong love and heartbreak to the first act’s keen portrait of old age, from the soaring second-act lyricism to the rousing finale, Up is among Pixar’s most audacious, emotionally resonant films.

DVD extras include commentary by the directors, a new short with Dug the dog and behind-the-scenes featurettes on story development and the filmmakers’ expedition to Venezuela’s tepui highlands.

Blu-ray extras offer tons more, including featurettes on several characters (elderly Carl, young explorer Russell, brightly plumed Kevin, even Carl’s house) and a geography game.

New from the “Walt Disney Treasures” series, Zorro — The Complete First and Second Seasons features the complete adventures of Guy Williams as the 1950s’ archetypal television swashbuckler and arguably the most beloved Zorro of all time. This “Disney Treasures” edition marks the DVD debut of the fully restored black-and-white series (a colorized version was previously released). Four hour-long “Zorro” specials from “Walt Disney Presents” are included.

Williams’ Don Diego feigns a studious rather than foppish manner, and his mute servant Bernardo only pretends to be deaf to serve as his master’s spy. Catholicism is a positive background presence, as when Father Filipe aids Zorro by offering sanctuary to a wrongfully arrested prisoner. Great fun!

Introductions by Leonard Maltin, a pair of featurettes on Zorro’s many faces, and a behind-the-scenes extra with Guy Williams Jr. round out the handsomely packaged set.

Bonus Blu-ray Picks: Pixar’s Cars and Monsters, Inc. and Buster Keaton’s silent comedy classic The General (all fine family viewing).

Content advisory: Collision: Anti-religious polemics; a couple of Protestant-skewing comments; a few crass words. Fine for thoughtful teens. Up: Menace and peril; an offscreen action death; sober depiction of mortality and grief. Fine family viewing. Zorro: Swashbuckling action and other violence. Fine family viewing.