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"Serenity" Movie a pleasing result of the power of DVD sales

Steve Lackmeyer

Friday 6 January 2006, by Webmaster

Looking back, 2005 was one of those pivotal years for the video industry. We saw $30 DVD players become commonplace — you can even pick one up at the drugstore or grocery.

And so it goes; the electronics industry decided we have no more excuses not to move on to DVDs, and they announced that VHS is about to join the ranks of 8-track and Beta tapes.

We also saw the power of DVD sales manifested in taking a canceled television show — "Firefly" — and creating enough of a groundswell to bring it to the big screen, then back to DVD. I’ve raved about the series, a combination of Wild West and sci-fi, several times in this column.

The resulting movie, "Serenity," is a fun, action-packed adventure that solves most of the mysteries left unresolved in the short-lived series.

A refresher for those of you yet to be introduced: The story begins in the future, when the ragtag rebels lose out to the Alliance, and some of the surviving heroes move on by operating a cargo operation that skirts the law and moves along the edge of civilization.

The story lines stretch out over the "Firefly" series, slowly revealing each character: the brooding and disillusioned Capt. Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion); his wartime buddy and cargo ship partner, Zoe Warren (Gina Torres); her goofy pilot husband, Wash (Alan Tudyk); the girl-next-door mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite); and misfit renegade Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin).

Joining the crew is the mysterious preacher Shepherd Book (Ron Glass); a beautiful "companion" (Morena Baccarin); a doctor on the run (Sean Maher); and his whacked-out sister, River (Summer Glau). As soon as we fell in love with the characters and the story lines, Fox canceled the series.

The "Serenity" DVD includes extensive deleted scenes demanded by fans, and a celebration of the series and its short-lived revival. (Creator Joss Whedon is indicating that this is the end to this fairy tale).

We’re also reminded by another new release this week as to why the box office is faring so poorly, even as DVD sales surge.

I’m a big John Cusack fan. So is my wife. And we both appreciate the work of actresses Diane Lane, Elizabeth Perkins and Stockard Channing. Someone must have thought, "Gee, let’s get this great cast together in a romantic comedy, add some dogs and, bingo, we have this year’s ’Sleepless in Seattle!’"

Ah, if only it were that easy. Truth be told, it’s been a while since we’ve seen a great romantic comedy. "Must Love Dogs" is enjoyable enough, pitting Lane and Cusack as two professionals in their late 30s who find each other through the Internet after being dumped by their significant others. Yeah, we’ve seen this story before, and the characters look and feel way too familiar.

"Must Love Dogs" is a fine expenditure of $4 for a rental, but I can understand why people didn’t want to spend $20 to make this a date night adventure at the theater.

So what’s ahead in 2006? More change, for sure. Some movie studios are about to start releasing films simultaneously on DVD and in theaters. I suspect we’ll see fewer corner video stores as online rentals and movies on demand become more mainstream.

You won’t have to wait for this: The Oklahoman writer who shares a name with a character in a classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon is Augie Frost. The cartoon character is Augie Doggie, who starred with Doggie Daddy in dozens of short features from 1959-61.