Latest Software Reviews

DVD: The Alamo—Buena Vista
Audio: 3
Video: 4
Features: 4
I'm not a huge history buff myself, but this version of the story of the men who held the Alamo against Mexican General Santa Ana is compelling and beautifully told, though some may argue that the story isn't historically accurate. As usual, Billy Bob Thornton (as Davy Crockett) steals the show, but the rest of the cast (Dennis Quaid, Jason Patric, and Patrick Wilson) hold their own as well.

The 2:35:1 widescreen video on this disc is outstanding. Especially gorgeous are the sunset scenes against the glorious Texas sky. Check out chapter 13 when Crockett plays his bittersweet and oh-so-American rejoinder to the Mexican drum march on his fiddle. The sun-kissed sky is lit up in glorious shades of purple and pink, and the soft hues are picked up in the faces of the Mexican soldiers as they watch Crockett play.

On the audio side, this disc features a decent THX-certified (with a THX optimizer feature), Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. As you'd imagine, the battle scenes, particularly chapter 15, are your best bet if you want to hear some surround action.

The extras on this disc are great. The "Walking in the Footsteps of Heroes" featurette is definitely worth a watch for more details on the men who lived the history that the film is based on.—Monica James

DVD: Bridget Jones's Diary Collector's Edition—Universal
Audio: 4
Video: 4
Extras: 4
Lovelorn singletons everywhere found their cinematic representative in the amusingly imperfect Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger). Although the story of a thirtysomething woman struggling with common concerns like career and weight falls soundly into chick flick territory, this film, which also stars Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, tempers its potential pigeonholing with a healthy dose of self-deprecating British wit.

Based on Helen Fielding's best-selling novel, the film receives the slickly produced special edition DVD treatment on this new release, which includes several additional documentaries, and feature-length commentary from director Sharon Maguire. While most of the supplemental material is extraneous at best, the abundant deleted scenes are a lot of fun to watch, and "The Young and the Mateless" offers a lighthearted sociological perspective on Jones.

On the technical side, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, though not challenged much in the way of special effects, performs adeptly on both music and dialogue, with smooth highs and rich lows. And the 1.85:1 anamorphic picture presents natural-looking colors and crisp edges, with a lot of detail in even the darkest scenes.

Although Jones isn't the best choice for demonstrating the performance of a manly home theater, it's well worth adding to any DVD collection.—Christy Grosz

DVD: Luther—MGM/UA
Video: 4
Audio: 3
Extras: 1
In the 1500s, Martin Luther fought to free Europe from the religious grip of the Roman Church, preaching that Christianity was not about viewing "relics" or paying "indulgence" to grease dead relatives' paths to the pearly gates. The idea of questioning long-standing traditions is timely these days, and Luther tells this story in a mildly absorbing manner. Don't look for much action—most of the violence occurs off-screen—but this is an effective study of the internal factors that drove Luther to rise up as the voice of Germany's Christians. Joseph Fiennes does an outstanding job as the rebellious monk, looking just dour enough to convince viewers that the weight of the peasant world rests on his trim shoulders.

The 2003 film exhibits a retro look and storytelling pace, as if it were a contemporary of such 1960s movies as King of Kings, and the filmmakers deserve credit for not underestimating their audience. Aiding that look is a muted, earth-tone palette that appears very crisp in this 1.85:1 anamorphic picture. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is sufficient for the material and has the occasional opportunity to throw in some low frequency.

Extras are almost non-existent. There is a theatrical trailer and interviews with the four lead actors, including the late Peter Ustinov, in his last film role. Each interview is broken into three or four subjects, and a "Play All" option would have been nice. Nonetheless, it's interesting to hear the actors talk about the historical Martin Luther as well as their characters and working with each other.—Gary Frisch

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