This Week in the Best of '05 You Didn't See

  Joss Whedon can't catch a break.  OK, so he created the uber-successful Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is in preproduction on the much-anticipated Wonder Woman film, so he's not really hurting in the large sense.  Still, his labors of love have been 2002's series Firefly and this year's big-screen follow-up Serenity; the former was mishandled and cancelled by Fox, and the latter failed to ignite the post-summer box office. (Through no fault of the series' obsessively faithful fans, who all but got the feature made through DVD sales of Firefly.)  Still, here's your chance to make it up to ol' Joss; this week sees the DVD release of Serenity, and it cannot be stressed enough what a crackin' flick this is.

For the uninitiated, here's your rundown: It's the future, about 500 years hence, and mankind has abandoned an overcrowded Earth for a distant galaxy with numerous terraformed planets. Following a galactic civil war, veteran Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) and his crew perform odd jobs (mostly illegal) to keep food on the table and their ship in the air. We join them as their fugitive passengers—wealthy young doc Simon (Sean Maher) and his psychologically damaged yet supremely gifted sister River (Summer Glau)—are about to be tracked down by the Alliance operative (Chiwetel Eijofor) who wants to return River to the government lab she was rescued from.

Sound convoluted? It's not; granted, it's densely plotted and if you saw the series then Serenity will resonate that much more. Still, this is meaty sci-fi—action-packed, smart and often (as per Whedon's style) uproariously funny. The ensemble cast, all originals from the series, are exceptional, particularly Fillion and Glau; he a magnetic, charming scoundrel in the Harrison Ford mold and she an ethereal, emotive powerhouse with a lethal roundhouse kick. Outfitted with a surprisingly decent selection of extras for such a quick release, Serenityis absolutely unmissable on disc.

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