DVD Picks & Passes 11.15.2009

Star Trek (2009)

Best of Star Trek: The Original Series, Vol. 2

Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Vol. 2

Thou Shalt Laugh, Vol. 4

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek was among the summer’s best surprises and most enjoyable popcorn entertainments. New this week on DVD, Star Trek boldly goes where no “Trek” movie has gone before, breaking dramatically with well-established franchise continuity to explore a strange new universe, to seek out new life and new storytelling possibilities.

Blending action, character development and humor, the film rides a wave of mercurial vitality that almost seems to flow from Chris Pine’s brilliant take on a Kirk more cocksure, reckless and immature than ever.

Kirk’s notorious womanizing gets some comeuppance, and humor runs high among the supporting cast. Eventually, the story falters as coincidences pile up and some plot points don’t jibe.

Not in the same league as, say, Batman Begins, Star Trek surprises and delights — something “Trek” hasn’t done in a couple of decades. I’ll take it.

Also new on DVD are Vols. 2 in the “Best of Star Trek” series, featuring four new episodes apiece of “The Original Series” and “The Next Generation.”

The Original Series, Vol. 2 opens with “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” an early episode highlighting human fallenness and the dangers of godlike powers (perhaps Roddenberry’s utopian optimism wasn’t yet fully engaged). There’s also “Space Seed,” introducing Ricardo Montalban’s Khan, “A Piece of the Action,” set in a 1920s’-esque gangster culture, and “Journey to Babel,” introducing Spock’s father Sarek.

The Next Generation, Vol. 2 includes a pair of Patrick Stewart starring vehicles: “The Inner Light,” in which Picard lives an alien lifetime in a few hours, and “Tapestry,” an existential meditation on youth, regret and how our past shapes our future. There’s also “Relics,” featuring the sentimental return of Scotty, and “Cause and Effect,” a nifty time-loop episode.

Thou Shalt Laugh, Vol. 4 is the latest in a Christian-produced stand-up comedy series that host John Tesh promises you don’t need to have seen the first three volumes of to get the latest volume. I caught Vol. 1 and thought it was okay, but three outings later the acts have improved.

The “Christian” label mostly means “clean” — definitely a departure from typical stand-up comedy — though Michael Jr. gently spoofs Protestant culture. Opener Rex Havens and magician-comedian Dana Daniels are among other standouts. Diverting fun.

Content advisory: Star Trek: Much action and sci-fi violence; a brief, abortive bedroom scene (nothing explicit); ogling a lingerie-clad woman; limited profanity and a few coarse references. Could be okay for mature teens. Best of Star Trek: Stylized violence, some suggestive material. Family friendliness varies by episode. Thou Shalt Laugh: Nothing particularly problematic, but aimed at teens and up.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.