Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

DVDs in Brief

As pop-culture phenomena go, the 23 episodes of Heroes: Season 1 (Universal) are exciting and frustrating in equal measure. Starting out with the neat idea of ordinary people acquiring superpowers, Heroes gradually deepens its mythology as the creators realized that audiences were willing to follow these characters almost anywhere. But from the zippy serialized pace to the pathetic season finale, Heroes ultimately feels like a show that all concerned assumed would be canceled early. So some of the best TV of last year is undercut by some of the biggest letdowns…

Though lazy and sloppy in many respects, the hit comedy Blades Of Glory (Paramount) capitalized on what's become a winning formula: Give Will Ferrell a subject juicy enough to improvise around, and hope your formulaic comedy takes off. Though not as strong as Ferrell's broadcast-journalist movie or his car-racing movie, this figure-skating spoof does have its share of inspired moments, from footage of a North Korean pairs' tragic attempt at a trick called the "Iron Lotus" to a chase scene on skates that reaches dry land…

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At his worst, screenwriter Mike White (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl) tends to turn quirky characters into human cartoons, narrowly defined by their particular lot in life. That tendency is on full display in his uneven directorial debut, Year Of The Dog (Paramount), not so much in Molly Shannon's sympathetic portrait of a lonely woman coping with the loss of her beloved pet, but in broad peripheral characters like John C. Reilly's gun-toting hunter, or Peter Sarsgaard's vegan animal-rights activist…

In Andrea Arnold's washed-out Scottish melodrama Red Road (Tartan), Kate Dickie plays a tower-bound Glasgow security monitor who thinks she sees a dangerous ex-con on one of her TV screens, and decides to pursue him on her own time. Arnold likes watching people think more than listening to them talk, and she employs an intense, close-up-heavy style that holds on the heroine while keeping the bigger picture just out of focus…

World Cup fever suffuses the superb Iranian film Offside (Sony), which is set nearly in real time around an Iran-Bahrain qualifying match that could secure Iran's place in Germany in 2006. Government policy dictates that Iranian women aren't allowed into stadiums (women from visiting countries are exempt from such restrictions), and the film follows a group of young girls who are caught trying to sneak in. Director Jafar Panahi makes a simple plea: What's the big fucking deal?