On the heels of the Electric Company boxed sets, which were at once educational and groovy as all get-out, comes the latest in greatest hits from Sesame Street before the neighborhood was gentrified for Elmo's protection. Chief among the copious highlights in this triple-disc acid trip down Amnesia Lane is the rarely screened pilot episode, which has the odd vibe of a video montage, incorporating everything from sparsely staged musical numbers to cut-up Superman cartoons. Parents raised in the '70s will delight in watching with our young'uns vintage clips starring Ray Charles, Madeline Kahn, and the Fonz; and, like, I totally forgot Richard Pryor taught me the lowercase alphabet and how to use the word "ain't" in a sentence. Educational? If you say so.
— Robert Wilonsky
Chinatown: Special Collector's Edition
"Robert Evans was the head of production and the head of seduction," says Roman Polanski in the newly minted documentary Chinatown: The Beginning and the End, among the many terrific reasons to snatch up this collector's edition. Yes, the disc's missing a commentary track and outtakes, but the doc is a worthwhile addition, gathering Evans, Polanski, writer Robert Towne, and a relatively talkative Jack Nicholson for a chat about the last great noir ever made. Polanski is most forthcoming — initially "It was a job," he says, often adding that he was reluctant to return to L.A. following Sharon Tate's murder. As for the movie, 33 years later it holds up better than ever, thanks in no small part to a stellar transfer that gives it a theatrical sheen, after years of less-than-impressive DVD dupes. You don't own it? No excuses now.
Sicko: Special Edition
Michael Moore's latest (and, easily, greatest) documentary united red and blue who felt they'd been battered black-and-blue over the state of their insurance premiums and health-care coverage; this is the Moore movie likely to prompt a revolution, given time. And the DVD keeps piling it on, with seven substantial pieces that add fuel to the fire — chief among them a short about the utopian state of health care in Norway. But Moore's most effective in the short about Cameron Park, Texas, where 58 percent of the town's 6,000 residents live in poverty and have resigned themselves to illness and suffering. Says the priest charged with tending to the broken, uninsured flock: "Somewhere along the line, we lost our sense and our feel of what it is to be one nation under God, indivisible." Amen.
Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who
It's not The Kids Are Alright, for better or worse. For better, because director Paul Crowder's two-disc documentary — divided into a feature-length film and six "quick ones" serving as more intimate portraits — is more about context than mere concert footage; he focuses instead on the band's early '60s ascension as Mod heroes. Better too because of the estimable amount of rare footage from Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert's collection. If it's worse than Kids, it's only because Amazing Journey doesn't quite have the raw power of Jeff Stein's 1979 collection of unedited concert footage and vintage interviews. And, sorry, but no Who fan needs Sting or Eddie Vedder or the Edge to validate the Who's greatness — not when Townshend's happy to do it all by his lonesome.