Weekly Video/DVD Picks
National Geographic: Inside the Vatican (2002)
Respectful and often fascinating, Inside the Vatican offers a unique behind-the-scenes look at the life, history and inner workings of Vatican City, the world's smallest sovereign state and spiritual capital of the world's 1 billion Catholics. Though the documentary plays like a “day in the life” at the Vatican, National Geographic filmmakers actually spent three months in Rome amassing footage and interviews. The result is a well-rounded portrait, or series of portraits, of Vatican life. Vignettes include the ordination of a bishop, the restoration of a priceless tapestry, the swearing-in of a Swiss Guard soldier, receptions of world leaders and a race to digitally preserve disintegrating documents. Footage of the Vatican's secret archives includes Henry VIII's rejected divorce petition, and there's a look at the enclave process by which a new pope is elected.
The film touches on the origins of the papacy in Jesus' call of Peter, Peter's martyrdom in Rome and burial at Vatican Hill, site of St. Peter's Basilica, and the 20th-century discovery of Peter's grave and bones.
Episodes in papal history, glorious and otherwise, are discussed, from Pope Leo X's financial mismanagement to Pope John Paul II's role in the downfall of the Soviet Union.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
The most widely appealing of the Star Trek films, The Voyage Home is also the most idiosyncratic. There's no traditional antagonist such as Khan or the Klingons and no big fight scenes or starship shootouts. Instead, the plot revolves around an endearingly goofy conceit: A mysterious alien vessel is approaching earth, attempting to make contact-with by-then-extinct humpback whales.
Somehow the probe is wreaking havoc on the earth and will destroy it unless it makes the desired contact.
This provides the excuse for a crowd-pleasing trip back to the 20th century to recover a pair of humpback whales.
The Voyage Home is also the conclusion to the “Spock Trilogy” begun in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and continued in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. Heroically sacrificing himself at the end of Wrath of Khan, Spock was fortuitously rejuvenated in Search For Spock, but the return of this beloved character would have seemed abrupt and unsatisfying if the series hadn't allowed a kind of readjustment period for him and his friends. The Voyage Home meets this need while also providing some of the most humorous and humane moments in the Trek canon.
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The zaniest, most delightful, most romantic screwball comedy of them all, Bringing Up Baby features Katherine Hepburn at her effervescent best and Cary Grant in a marvelous performance combining stuffiness and injured dignity with his usual debonair charm. Grant plays a bookish paleontologist unfelicitously engaged to his even stuffier assistant (Virginia Walker); Hepburn's a flighty, madcap socialite who bursts into his life on the 18th fairway and is very soon literally driving him to distraction. Grant's meticulously assembled dinosaur skeleton perfectly embodies the ossified, dead-end direction his personal life is currently taking and contrasts strikingly with the much livelier and more formidable (not to mention quirkier) beast he meets in Hepburn's company — a Brazilian leopard with old-fashioned taste in music.
In a performance reportedly inspired by silent comedian Harold Lloyd, the bespectacled Grant does the slow burn beautifully. And Hepburn's battering-ram personality and non-sequitur repartee are irresistible rather than irritating.
- June 22-28, 2003