Katharine Hepburn: 100th Anniversary Collection (Warner Bros.): Speaking for buffs who find Katharine Hepburn’s filmography more enjoyable than John Wayne’s, I’m sorry studios aren’t making as big a deal out of her hundredth birthday as his. Still, this budget-priced set offers six films new to DVD — not her most famous, perhaps, but ones that won her Oscars and paired her with such favored collaborators as Spencer Tracy and George Cukor — with cartoons and shorts to boot. For more Kate, TV’s Biography special is now available, individually and as part of a slightly odd lineup in the Legends of the Silver Screen collection.
Planet Earth (BBC): High-def photography finds its raison d’etre in this release, which (obviously) travels the planet looking for amazing sights. As a recent Wired magazine feature explained, the high-def cameras achieved feats (like tracking animals from so far away they can’t hear the helicopter) that can be appreciated even in a standard-def DVD release. For HDTVers, both high-def formats are available.
I’M AFRAID OF AMERICA: In other docu-news, recent releases amount to a single, comprehensively ugly portrait of the USA. Fired! and Maxed Out detail the hassles of earning money and the terrors of borrowing it. ...So Goes the Nation and Hacking Democracy show the sorry state of political campaigns and the fragility of elections themselves. Finally, a greatest-hits roster of terrifying things our government does (Gitmo: The New Rules of War and The Murder of Fred Hampton), tries to do (638 Ways to Kill Castro), and puts off for way too long (Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die?, chronicling the sluggish response to the Holocaust). Sleep tight, America!