Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez (HBO)
Now that the whole world knows Sacha Baron Cohen, there's a good chance he'll never be this funny again. But the success of Borat makes it a good time to revisit the show that started the phenomenon. Here, his simple method is the same: Create an unbelievably stupid character, then make real people believe it. While the befuddled, sex-crazed Borat is the funniest of the bunch, wannabe gangsta Ali G runs a close second. It's not so much social satire, as some critics have claimed; it's just marveling at the sheer balls it takes to ask Boutros Boutros-Ghali how to say "shit" in French. There's some funny extra footage, but more interesting are the audio commentaries, in which Cohen speaks candidly as -- gasp -- himself. -- Jordan Harper
Preston Sturges: The Filmmaker Collection (Universal)
Comedy writing and directing have never mattered less than they do now; today's formula calls for letting the talent riff endlessly until there's enough for a movie. Even when that works, you don't get the kind of manic verbal ping-pong and orchestrated madness that fill writer-director Preston Sturges' screwball comedies. This set of seven classics makes a great introduction to his work. Among the best of them, The Lady Eve features Barbara Stanwyck as a con woman who falls for her mark (Henry Fonda). It's loaded with enough one-liners and double entendres to make a second viewing mandatory (and just as funny). And Sullivan's Travels, widely regarded as Sturges' masterpiece, ought to be required viewing for that guy behind the video counter who looks at you funny when you rent Anchorman. -- Harper
Star Trek: The Animated Series (Paramount)
At long last the Trekkie gets his (c'mon -- it ain't a hers) Christmas wish: all 22 episodes of the Star Trek cartoon that ran on Saturday mornings in 1972 and '73. Time has rendered them more special than they were: extremely short, decently animated versions of scripts penned by original Trek writers, who either felt unleashed by the ability to actually see what they wrote without special-effects limitations or merely retreaded old shows into tepid kiddie sequels. In the end, it worked only because the original cast signed up for the two-year mission. The extras, such as they are, disappoint: Shatner and Nimoy are nowhere to be seen on the lone doc, there's no footage from the original show, and there's not even an explanation why Filmation couldn't use the original theme music. C'mon -- Trekkies gotta know crap like that. -- Wilonsky
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