Quickies 2

Final Destination 2 (R)

(New Line Home Video)

Death doesn’t get to take a holiday in this gruesome but enjoyable horror romp that works overtime to find new and inventive ways to slice and dice a group of strangers after they escape the grasp of the grim reaper. This delightfully ghoulish sequel incorporates elements from the first film, pumping up the volume with each and every dispatch. When Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) looks into the future and sees a horrific traffic accident, she stops the deadly pile-up from occurring, setting off the wrath of death, who is anxious to collect on a debt owed.


One by one, the survivors are stalked by death, who takes obvious pride in the splashy ways he expedites their comeuppance. New Line Home Video fills the Infini-Film DVD with tons of extras, including an all-access pass that allows you to watch the movie and then click on icons that take you behind the scenes with informative featurettes, screen tests, facts and trivia and much more. Those interested in expanding the experience can access the informative filmmaker commentary with director David Ellis, the producer and screenwriter team.

Deleted and alternate scenes, a great featurette on the creation of the bloody special effects, interviews with individuals who have crossed over and come back, plus original, contagious DVD-ROM extras make this release a must-have for fans of the series.

Daredevil (PG-13)

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Blinded at youth, adult attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) seeks justice of another kind when he dons the suit of “Daredevil,” a costumed avenger making Hell’s Kitchen safe for man and womankind. Using his fine-tuned senses, Daredevil battles ruthless criminal kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) and his paid assassin Bullseye (Colin Farrell) while wooing the dark and mysterious Elektra (Jennifer Garner), who suspects the super hero in the death of her father. Written and directed by Steven Mark Johnson, “Daredevil” was a moderate hit in theaters, another Marvel super hero in search of a franchise. The two-Disc DVD has super powers of its own, including a feature-length production commentary with the director and producer, an enhanced viewing mode that allows you to watch the movie and then immediately go behind the scenes to see how the film was made, a fun and fascinating on-screen trivia track, plus two extensive (60 minute) documentaries that go deeper into the myth, the man and the movie, 6 production featurettes that dissect the film’s various aspects, screen tests, music videos, multi- angle comparison features, and exclusive DVD-ROM content with web links. The DVD looks sharp, sounds great, and has enough extras to keep you busy for hours.

Gods and Generals (PG-13)

(Warner Home Video)

In what could only be described as Turner’s Foley, Ted’s $40 million prequel to “Gettysburg” took ten years to reach the screen, and feels nearly that long with its endless scenes of dialogue and war recreations that seem to go on forever. Turner, a self-proclaimed Civil War buff, along with writer-director Ronald F. Maxwell, turn the events leading up to “Gettysburg” into dramatic pauses that never seem to capture the immediacy of the moment. The cast, including Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee and Stephen Lang as Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, are quite good, but feel confined by the filmmaker’s need to etch every moment in stone. To better appreciate the long-winded film, check out the DVD extras that explore the themes without wearing out their welcome. Numerous featurettes, DVD-ROM historical text, and sporadic commentary manage to say a lot more than the film ever does, bringing to the foreground interesting facts that were omitted from the screenplay.

Nicholas Nickleby (PG)

(MGM Home Entertainment)

Charles Dickens’ colorful characters come vividly to life in writer-director Douglas McGrath’s streamlined version of the coming-of-age tale. Charlie Hunnam (“Queer as Folk”) is excellent as Nicholas, forced to provide for his family after the unexpected death of his father. With a mother and sister to feed, Nicholas warms up to his dastardly uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer), who sees the Nickleby family downfall as his opportunity to split them up and win the heart of young Kate (Romola Garai). That means sending Nicholas off to the country to work for a vile headmaster and his wife, where he befriends handicapped servant Smike (Jamie Bell) and sets out to avenge his family’s dishonor. Beautifully acted, written and directed, “Nicholas Nickleby” is a joyful experience. The DVD includes a standard issue commentary by McGrath, featurettes that explore the behind-the-scenes mechanics of making the 19th Century period piece, cast interviews, a multi-angle dissection of five scenes, and several theatrical trailers.

One Step Beyond (NR)

(VCI Entertainment)

Long missing in action, the supernatural and paranormal ABC series pops up on DVD and VHS courtesy of VCI Entertainment. Hosted by John Newland, this creepy thirty-minute weekly anthology series, which made its debut in 1959, was the perfect compliment to “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits,” and became a staple of 60’s afternoon television. I remember rushing home from school to catch “One Step Beyond,” which featured up and coming stars and spooky storylines. Collection #1 includes twelve black and white episodes from season two, 324 minutes of demented drama supposedly based on actual events. Join Suzanne Pleshette, George Grizzard, Yvette Mimieux and dozens of other notable actors as they guide us through stories dealing with ghosts, mental telepathy, extreme coincidence, and precognition. A nostalgic blast from the past.

La Femme Nikita (NR)

(Warner Home Video)

Fans of the USA Cable Network series, based on director Luc Besson’s French thriller, will relish this first season DVD collection that includes all 22 episodes in a handsome box set with enough extras to make spending the weekend with Peta Wilson and friends a wet dream come true. Unlike the French film, starring Anne Parillaud, and the American remake “Point of No Return,” with Bridget Fonda, the series delves deeper into the tortured life of a convicted murderer recruited by a clandestine organization to be an assassin. In the films, “Nikita” was actually guilty of her crime, but Josephine (Wilson) is innocent, making her transformation a real challenge for her handlers. This plot twist allows the writers to tinker with the formula, lending a certain amount of humor and more insight into the training process to program a seemingly innocuous woman into a killing machine. It also allows for more story threads involving romance and intrigue, all of which made the series a long-running cult hit. The 6-Disc collection includes audio commentary on the pilot and season finale episodes, a short but sweet featurette “Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita,” and an assortment of deleted scenes with optional commentary.

Shanghai Knights (PG-13)

(Touchstone Home Video)

In this high spirited sequel to “Shanghai Noon,” East meets West in turn-of-the-century England, when Chinese cowboy Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) and American B.S. artist/writer Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) travel to London to rescue Wang’s kidnaped sister and recover the Forbidden City’s Imperial Seal. Like “Noon,” “Knights” plays off the good natured, cross-culture differences between Wang and O’Bannon, who are as different as night and day, but must rely on each other in order to rescue the damsel in distress. “Knights” doesn’t bear the burden of setting up the plot and characters, and immediately leaps into action. Filled with numerous humorous pokes at other films, “Knights” has something for everyone, including enough Chan-inspired fight scenes for several films, musical gags that betray the time period, and a wild sense of playfulness that showcases both men’s natural abilities. The DVD features a brilliantly rendered widescreen transfer, a rambunctious 5.1 surround soundtrack, two audio commentaries, one with director David Dobkin, the other with the film’s writers, plus numerous deleted scenes that expand on Chan’s fighting ability, which are also highlighted in a music-video montage and a “Fight Manual.”

Solaris (PG-13)

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Remake of the well regarded but long-winded Russian space drama stars George Clooney as Chris Kelvin, a psychologist suffering from the loss of his wife, assigned to the Prometheus, a space station orbiting the planet “Solaris.” His assignment is to investigate the strange apparitions plaguing the crew, but once he arrives, Kelvin becomes enveloped in the planet’s mysterious force that challenges his sanity and beliefs. Written and directed by Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s Eleven,” “Out of Sight”), “Solaris” compacts the extended arcs of the original film into a more cohesive, linear storyline, while maintaining its complex themes. Clooney is excellent as a man of science looking for answers in a world where dreams and nightmares collide. Released last Christmas, “Solaris” failed to attract a large following, possibly because audiences weren’t prepared for a thoughtful science-fiction film. The DVD includes an extensive, equally thoughtful full-length audio commentary with Soderbergh and producer James Cameron, who provide powerful insight. There’s also a behind-the-scenes featurette, plus the HBO “Making Of” P.R. piece, and the film’s original screenplay. Delivered in the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen format, “Solaris” looks great, with excellent attention to detail and an intricate, fine-tuned 5.1 Dolby surround soundtrack.

Lost in La Mancha (R)

(Docurama)

When director Terry Gilliam (“Brazil,” “The Fisher King”) recruited film students Keith Fulton and Luis Pepe to make a video diary of his production “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” he thought it would be a nice extra for the film?s DVD release. Little did he realize that the diary would become “the” film, a document of a failed production that went from one major disaster to another. Faced with a tight budget, unstable locations and an ailing leading man, Gilliam fought against the odds to make the best of a bad situation, hoping to shake off the ghost a previous troubled production, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” The harder he fought, the more ground he lost, and his trials and tribulations are exposed like a raw nerve in this fascinating documentary that takes on a life of its own. The two-disc DVD set contains the documentary, on-camera interviews, deleted and optional scenes, production media, including storyboards and stills, an Independent Film Channel focus on the director, plus an interview with Gilliam and author Salman Rushdie at the Telluride Film Festival, and a trailer for a film that would never be released. A must see for anyone interested in the mechanics of making a movie.

Phone Booth (R)

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

What could have been a one-gimmick movie, what happens to a self-absorbed publicist trapped inside a New York City phone booth by an unseen sniper, is instead a compelling and intense character study thanks to the performance of Colin Farrell. Farrell is riveting as Stu Shepard, who uses and disposes of people like Kleenex, forced to use his skills as a negotiator in order to save his own life. That includes slowly tearing down his own facades until only a shell of a man exists. All of this takes place on a busy Manhattan street, with the media and the local police present for his confessional. Director Joel Schumacher, who provides a frequently funny feature-length commentary on the DVD, uses numerous cinematic devices to draw the audience into Shepard?s sense of isolation and desperation. The DVD looks sharp, delivered in crisp widescreen (and full-screen), with a nicely rendered 5.1 Surround soundtrack that constantly catches you off guard.

Angel Trilogy (R)

(Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Fueled by an irresistible poster tag-line that proclaimed “High School Honor Student By Day…Hollywood Hooker By Night,” the legend of “Angel” was born in 1983, featuring young Donna Wilkes as an avenging teenage prostitute taking back the streets and her life. Exploitation at its best, “Angel” rode the wave of vigilantism films started by Charles Bronson?s “Death Wish,” creating enough interest to warrant not one but two sequels. “The Angel Collection” arrives on DVD thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment, whose goal has been to rescue and release minor and obscure hits to anxious fans. Wilkes stars in the first film, where Angel witnesses the murder of two friends and finds herself on the run from the crazed killer, while Betsy Russell picks up the gauntlet in “Avenging Angel,” which finds the former prostitute in law school, drawn back to the mean streets of Los Angeles to avenge the shooting of her mentor. Mitzi Kapture stars in “Angel III: The Final Chapter,” now a freelance photographer in New York, where she finds her mother and learns she has a sister, only to lose one and forced back on the streets to find the other. These three action/camp classics are delivered in their original widescreen formats, with theatrical trailers, plus deleted scenes from the first film, and a poster and still gallery for the second.

Dark Blue (R)

(MGM Home Entertainment)

Kurt Russell delivers a strong performance as a renegade cop in director Ron Shelton’s earnest but ultimately pedestrian crime drama about one cop’s soul searching journey to find the truth on the eve of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Russell manages to overcome a screenplay filled with standard issue police situations and conflicts, playing Eldon Perry, a good cop forced to do whatever it takes to uphold the law, even if it means breaking it. Ving Rhames has some nice moments as the Assistant Police Chief trying to reign Perry and his partner, played by Scott Speedman, in. Shelton contributes a feature-length commentary that discusses the difficulties of shooting on a low budget, while three featurettes examine the making of the film and how the Internal Affairs department operates. The DVD, delivered in sharp and vivid widescreen and full screen formats, also contains a photo gallery and trailer.

Kangaroo Jack (PG)

(Warner Home Video)

After absentmindedly setting up his mob father (Christopher Walken), Charlie Carbone (the always watch-able Jerry O’Connell) and his best friend Louis (Anthony Anderson) are given one last opportunity make prove their worth. Sent to Australia to deliver $50,000 to another mob boss, Charlie and Louis lose it to a crafty kangaroo named Jack. With two sets of mobsters hot on their trail, the duo recruit a bush pilot and a wildlife expert (Estella Warren) to help get the money back. Surprise spring hit arrives on DVD with two audio commentary tracks, one with Jack (don’t ask), the other with O’Connell, Anderson, Warren, the director, writers and visual effects editor. Kids will enjoy Jackie Legs’ Dance Groves, featuring Jack’s hip hop moves, plus a sound effects featurette on creating flatulence. There’s also a hilarious reel of outtakes and gags, animal casting sessions and a small documentary on the film’s visual effects.

Frida (R)

(Miramax Home Video)

Salma Hayek is absolutely amazing as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who turned adversity into self expression, using paints and an easel to escape injuries she suffered in a bus accident. Relegated at first to self-portraits, Frida eventually finds the strength to walk again, and seeks out artist Diego Rivera for his opinion of her work. Impressed, Rivera introduces Frida to the art world, and eventually marries her. Their life together, filled with happiness and turmoil, is captured with honesty and compassion in this riveting film directed by Julie Taymor. Hayek spent years trying to get “Frida” to the big screen, and her passion is evident in every frame. Not a big film, but a film with a big heart. On disc one of the two disc set, director Taymor lends her expressive thoughts to a full length audio commentary, exploring how she tried to capture Frida’s visual style on film, while composer Elliot Goldenthal chimes in with a sporadic commentary on how he paints each scene with music. There’s also a passionate interview with Hayek, who emphasizes her devotion to the material. The second disc includes a variety of featurettes and television interviews, including an American Film Institute Q & A with Taymor, who also sits down for a Bill Moyers interview. Three featurettes, “The Design of Frida,” “The Vision of Frida,” and “The Music of Frida” explore the various aspects of making the film, with in-depth behind-the-scenes shots and interviews with cast and crew members. Location scouting, a look at the artist, and F/X dissections flesh out the disc.

Black Hawk Down: Special Edition (R)

(Columbia-TriStar Home Video)

Director Ridley Scott?s harrowing depiction of a U.S. led 1993 humanitarian/peacekeeping mission in Somalia gone horribly wrong is filled with graphic scenes of war violence and strong performances, and ultimately, an inspiring sense of heroism. Intent that their war relief efforts don?t fall into the hands of the ruthless war lord who holds an iron grip over the territory, Army Rangers and Delta Force soldiers plan to swoop down into a crowded marketplace in the capital city if Mogadishu and seize two of his top aides. A simple in and out mission becomes a horrifying nightmare as the soldiers belatedly learn that the opposition is not only ready, but armed to the teeth. Columbia-TriStar has reissued “Black Hawk Down” as a 3-disc deluxe edition, including three emotionally charged audio commentaries, one with Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, another with author Mark Bowden and screenwriter Ken Nolan, and a third with veterans of the Rangers Task Force. All three are relevant additions, but the veterans commentary holds the most weight. The second disc includes an extensive, almost exhaustive 150 minute documentary “The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down,” eight deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary, numerous production featurettes, storyboards, photo galleries, and a production design archive. The third disc includes the History Channel?s “The True Story of Black Hawk Down” documentary, the PBS “Ambush in Mogadishu” edition of “Frontline,” a multi-angle presentation, a mission time line, Q & A sessions with the filmmakers, a music video and assorted posters, trailers and television spots. Even if you have seen “Black Hawk Down,” you haven?t experienced it like this.

Windtalkers: Director’s Edition (R)

(MGM Home Entertainment)

During the height of war between the United States and Japan, codes played a vital role in our attempt to successfully beat the enemy. Yet as fast as we could come up with a new code, the Japanese broke it. In 1942, several hundred Navajo Indians were recruited into the Marines with the hopes that their native language would serve as an unbreakable code. John Woo?s “Windtalkers” stars Nicholas Cage as Joe Enders, a Marine assigned to protect Navajo code talker Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), under strict orders to protect the code at all costs, including killing Yahzee should they fall into enemy hands. This moral dilemma, set against a brutal and almost hopeless campaign in Saipan, gets fleshed out in the “Director?s Edition” of the film, which adds more than 20 minutes of background to the story. The 3-disc collection features three full-length audio commentaries, including a director-producer track, one with stars Cage and Christian Slater, and finally, and the most interesting, observations by co-star Roger Willie and consultant Albert Smith, who lend historical significance to the proceedings. Disc two includes numerous featurettes and documentaries, including tributes to the code talkers. “The Code Talkers-A Secret Code of Honor” is the best, with actual interviews of code talkers, Marines, and their final recognition after years of silence. The third disc takes a technical look behind-the-scenes, with several short featurettes that show how difficult it was to capture the film?s graphic and chaotic war scenes, a “Fly-on-the-Set” series of personal diaries that provide personal observations by cast and crew, a short documentary on the “Actor?s Boot Camp” the talent was forced to endure. The collection also includes the usual assortment of trailers, bios, photo galleries and musical promotional spots. With the additional footage and background information, this special edition of “Windtalkers” speaks volumes.

Old School (R/Unrated)

(DreamWorks Home Entertainment)

Surprise hit starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn as three thirty-something men who escape their home lives by buying an old house near a college and then starting their own fraternity. It’s party, party, party, until the evil dean conspires to get them kicked off campus. “Animal House” for Generation X, “Old School” is filled with ribald situations, topless oil wrestling, streaking, and just about every other college hi-jinks you could imagine. The Unrated DVD (R-rated version is also available) contains more the same, plus naughty main menus with topless babes, a very funny feature-length audio commentary with director Todd Phillips (Road Trip) and cast members, outtakes and bloopers, a handful of deleted, extended and alternate scenes, and a hilarious spoof of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” with Will Ferrell as host James Lipton (interviewing himself, no less).

25th Hour (R)

(Touchstone Home Video)

Edward Norton delivers an introspective performance as Monty Brogan, a man getting ready to spend seven years in prison for a drug charge. Brogan has 24 hours to make amends to his family and friends, and spends his final day trying to connect with the people he alienated on his way to becoming a hot shot. For once, director Spike Lee focuses on the human dynamic of his characters instead of racial issues, and the result is one of his most accessible films to date. Brian Cox is powerful as his estranged father, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper shine as two old friends, while Rosario Dawson plays Brogan’s girlfriend with just the right amount of ambiguity. Lee and writer David Benioff each have their own feature-length, scene-specific audio commentary, with Lee’s being the most spellbinding. This is a real director’s commentary, one that looks at the trials and tribulations of shooting on a limited budget in a short amount of time. Lee also takes center stage in “The Evolution of An American Filmmaker,” a featurette that examines Lee’s body of work. Finally, there’s a tribute to “Ground Zero” in New York.

The Guru (R)

(Universal Studios Home Video)

Hollywood meets Bollywood in this enjoyable, charming comedy about an Indian dance instructor/actor named Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry), who comes to New York hoping to be discovered. After absentmindedly ending up in porn films, Ramu falls for veteran porn actress Sharonna (Heather Graham), who teaches him how to be comfortable with his body and sex. While catering a high society birthday party for Lexi (Marisa Tomei), Ramu steps in for a drunk Swami and delights the guests with his New Age wisdom on life and sex. Soon, Ramu is the talk of the town, becoming the next Depak Chopra, all the while pining for Sharonna, who is engaged to marry a fireman. “The Guru” is filled with many unexpected moments, all discussed in length in two full-length audio commentaries, one by Mistry, the other by director Daisy von Sherler Mayer and writer Tracey Jackson. The DVD also includes numerous deleted scenes, some relevant, others fluff, but all enjoyable. I absolutely loved this movie and it’s nods to Bollywood and Hollywood musicals (including “Grease”), plus its wild sense of unbridled fun.

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets (PG-13)

(Warner Home Video)

The second chapter in the “Harry Potter” series of films is a major improvement over the first one, which was burdened with the unenviable task of setting up the characters and plot. With “Chamber of Secrets,” returning director Chris Columbus and writer Steve Kloves dive right in, and while the results are decidedly darker than the first, they are also more satisfying and entertaining. Set during Harry Potter?s (Daniel Radcliffe, more endearing this outing) second year at Hogwarts, “Chamber of Secrets” is bigger and better in all respects. The set pieces are jaw-dropping, with impressive set design and production that take us deeper into the magical world of Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). As with the first DVD, “Chamber of Secrets” is an excellent companion piece that allows fans the opportunity to see the film in all its gorgeous widescreen glory, plus explore the various aspects of making the film. Those who can?t get enough will appreciate the 19 additional and extended scenes, the easy-to-navigate self-guided tours of the Chamber, Dumbledore?s office and Diagon Alley. I personally liked each actor?s take on their character, plus interviews with author J. K. Rowling and Kloves. Kids of all ages will appreciate the many extras, like DVD and DVD-ROM accessible games, an opportunity to build a scene, a plethora of background information, and several challenges that bring the film into your living room. Those with a DVD-ROM on their computer can activate a special feature that allows you to navigate the many puzzles, sliders, and extras using their voice. Truly magical.

The Family Guy (NR)

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Fox Television was so high on “The Family Guy” that they launched it following the Super Bowl in 1999. The politically incorrect cartoon held its own for a while, but then Fox started bouncing the show around their schedule or preempting it altogether. Fans had to look long and hard to find the show, which managed to hang on for three seasons. Unlike “The Simpsons,” which can readily be found in syndication, “The Family Guy” just disappeared, never to be heard from again, until now. Fox has just issued Seasons One and Two in a special four-disc DVD collection that features all 28 uncut episodes, including additional material not seen on its broadcast run. I was a big fan of “The Family Guy,” and after sitting through every episode in the DVD collection, I forgot how addictive the show is. What I appreciated most about creator Seth McFarlane?s dysfunctional family comedy was that it never played by the rules. Everyone and everything was a target, and McFarlane and his creative team took their shots. Not everyone hit a bulls-eye, but the show is frequently funnier than anything presently on the air. McFarlane provided several voices for the show, including perennial loser husband/father Peter Griffin, talking dog Brian, and conniving baby Stewie, constantly dreaming up new ways to get back at earnest mom Lois (voice of Alex Borstein). Seth Green (“Austin Powers” series) provides the voice of slacker son Chris, with Milas Kunis (“That 70’s Show”) as daughter Megan. “The Family Guy” was extremely unconventional, relying on outlandish flashbacks, dream sequences and pop culture gags to garner a chuckle. Come on, Adam West providing the voice of town mayor Adam West? A “Dallas” shower sequence featuring Victoria Principal and Patrick Duffy? The DVD features hilarious, very adult commentaries on several episodes, plus Internet promotional spots that heralded the premiere. Once I started watching, I couldn?t stop. Laugh, I thought I would die. The DVD looks great, with bold colors that leap off the screen, and includes dubbed language tracks in French and Spanish.

Analyze That! (R)

(Warner Home Video)

Even though the novelty of the original has worn off, this sequel to “Analyze This!” is filled with enough honest laughs to warrant a look. Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal return in fine form as the mobster and his shrink, this time thrown together after Paul Vitti (De Niro) suffers a mental breakdown in prison, occasionally breaking out into musical numbers from “West Side Story.” Much to his dismay, former shrink Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) is given custody of Vitti for a month with the hopes of bringing him out of his stupor, which means spending 24/7 with Vitti and helping him land a job. Much of the original cast returns, including Lisa Kudrow as Sobel?s befuddled wife, and Joe Viterelli as Vitti?s bodyguard, who helps his boss uncover who is trying to kill him. Director Harold Ramis pops up in an intermittent commentary track, plus on screen in a promotional making-of featurette. More engaging is a Mafioso Associate Degree Exam (MADE), where you can test your skills as a mobster. Nice widescreen transfer, plus a distinctive 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack.

The Recruit (PG-13)

(Touchstone Home Video)

Director Roger Donaldson and star Colin Farrell provide a fact-filled and engaging commentary track to the DVD release of this crafty spy thriller. Farrell plays a computer expert recruited by hot-tempered CIA honcho Pacino to undergo training, unaware of the emotional toll it will take on him. After believing that he has flunked out, Farrell?s character learns that he?s perfectly suited to go undercover and learn the identity of a moll within the agency. Smartly written and acted, “The Recruit” benefits from Donaldson?s edgy direction, which keeps us as much in the dark as Farrell?s double-agent. The sixteen minute featurette “Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program” offers insights from an actual agent, who guides us through the program and examines the filmmakers attempts to maintain authenticity. Four deleted scenes, cut for time and narrative reasons, are a nice addition, plus look for three coming attraction trailers and CD-ROM links to the film?s official site. Presented in the director?s original 1.77:1 widescreen format, served up with a blazing 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack.

Homicide: Life In The Streets (NR)

(Arts and Entertainment Home Video)

The gritty crime series by Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana may have disappeared from the airwaves, but seasons one and two are now available on a four disc DVD collection that includes a caseload of extras. The Emmy award-winning series stars, among others, Ned Beatty, Yaphet Kotto and a pre-“Law and Order: Special Victim?s Unit” Richard Belzer as Baltimore homicide detectives solving some of the toughest cases in their precinct. Unlike most cop dramas, the emphasis is on the grueling detective work, and through crisp, incisive writing, top flight performances, and sturdy direction, each and every one of the 13 episodes included here is a keeper. Levinson and Fontana provide a running commentary on the pilot episode, and sit down for an on-screen interview. The DVD set also includes an eye-opening episode of A and E?s “American Justice” series titled “To Catch a Killer: Homicide Detectives,” plus season one commercials, a song listing, and cast and crew bios. Presented in their original full-frame format, the transfers looks sharp, while the DVDs offer each episode up in 2.0 Dolby Digital.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (PG)

(Paramount Home Video)

Undeniably the second-best “Star Trek” film in the franchise (right up there with “The Wrath of Khan”), “The Voyage Home” is a rare breed: a science-fiction film for people who don?t really like science-fiction films. The fourth theatrical film in the series (after the long-winded and ponderous “The Search for Spock”), “The Voyage Home” finds the Enterprise crew returning home to future Earth only to find its existence threatened by an alien presence. After learning that the presence will evaporate the oceans and destroy the atmosphere unless it makes contact with whales, now extinct, Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the Enterprise crew must travel back in time, San Francisco, 1986 to be specific, and bring back two whales to save the day. The 2-disc Special Collector?s Edition DVD includes a pitch-perfect widescreen transfer and a pinpoint 5.1 Dolby Digital stereo surround soundtrack that puts you right in the middle of the action. Shatner and Nimoy contribute a scene-specific but occasionally awkward commentary that feels a little like a cut-and-paste job. There is also an on-screen text commentary by “The Encyclopedia of Star Trek” authors Michael and Denise Okuda that dishes up every imaginable detail you would want to know. The second disc is chock full of extras, including no less than ten featurettes on various aspects of the film, including time travel, visual effects, sound design and “The Language of Whales,” “A Vulcan Primer” and “Kirk?s Women.” There are tributes to creator Gene Roddenberry, archives with storyboards and a production gallery, and interviews with series regulars Shatner, Nimoy, and the late DeForest Kelley. Hours and hours of extras, plus one of the best “Star Trek” features, make this DVD a true collector?s edition.

Far From Heaven (PG-13)

(Universal Studios Home Video)

For a more positive portrait of a gay male, look no further than Todd Haynes? award-winning homage to the glossy, female-driven melodramas of the 1950s. “Far From Heaven” is Haynes? tribute to the films of Douglas Sirk (“All That Heaven Allows, “”Magnificent Obsession”), and features flawless performances by Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid as a seemingly perfect couple whose private desires rip their family and life apart. Haynes lovingly recreates the look of the period, but it?s his pitch perfect script that allows the characters to say and do things that Sirk could only hint at. Moore is so seamless in her portrayal that you forget she?s acting, while Quaid is amazing as a man trapped by conventions of the time. The DVD features a stunning widescreen transfer that replicates the theatrical look of the film, presented in a delicate, fine-tuned 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack. Haynes provides an in-depth and fascinating commentary track that is required listening, and shares the spotlight with Moore in the behind-the-scenes featurette “A Filmmaker?s Experience.” The DVD also includes a more traditional “Making Of” featurette, and the Sundance Channel?s “Anatomy of a Scene Featurette” that dissects a pivotal moment in the film. Highly recommended, one of the best films of 2002.

Femme Fatale (R)

(Warner Home Video)

Writer-director Brian De Palma explores familiar themes in this dazzling, sexy thriller about a professional jewel thief who makes some bad life and career choices. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is extremely voluptuous as the film?s femme fatale, a woman trying to escape her criminal past by becoming another person, only to have a nosey tabloid photographer (Antonio Banderas) blow her cover. That?s when her former partners-in-crime swarm in to collect the loot she supposedly took to her grave. Nobody explores duality better than De Palma (Dressed to Kill), and he is once again on his game with this little seen but extremely enjoyable thriller that will leave you guessing right up to the last frame. Romijn-Stamos is so tantalizing she could give a 90-year-old gay man an erection. The flawless DVD transfer looks and sounds sensational, and even though it lacks a director?s commentary, it does features numerous featurettes that take the viewer behind-the-scenes. Definitely worth a look.

100 Years of Hope (NR)

(Universal Studios Home Video)

It?s hard to believe, but actor-comedian Bob Hope turns 100 years old this year, and to help celebrate his centennial, Universal Studios Home Video is releasing the Bob Hope DVD Tribute Collection, including re-issues of four of the beloved “Road” movies starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Fortunately for his fans, Hope will always live on in his wonderfully witty movie roles, including musicals that introduced his signature song “Thanks for the Memories,” among others. The collection includes 17 films on 12 DVDs, many of them from his years at Paramount Pictures. Among his non-“Road” movies in the collection, one of my favorites is “The Ghost Breakers,” a wonderfully spooky 1940 follow-up to 1939’s “The Cat and the Canary.” Hope reunites with “Canary” co-star Paulette Goddard, here playing the damsel in distress who inherits a family mansion on a deserted island off the coast of Cuba. Hope plays radio personality Larry Lawrence, who accompanies Mary Carter (Goddard) to the island after he mistakenly believes he has killed a mob figure. Long before the “Ghostbusters” kicked paranormal butt, Hope and Goddard has fun with the same premise. Universal Home Video has done a terrific job of bringing this and other Hope classics to DVD. I was amazed at how well the film negatives had been preserved, allowing for a better-than-average transfer that trumps anything seen in television syndication. The clarity is amazing, allowing for excellent depth of field and strong detail in the shadows. The sound is pretty decent, even though it suffers from what I like to call “static cling.” It?s not a transfer issue, but a limitation of the original recording process. Even better are the extras that Universal has added to the main features in the collection. The menus are extremely colorful and pleasing, and in the case of “Ghost Busters,” you?ll find such exciting additional material as the film?s original theatrical trailer, a 13-minute documentary “Bob Hope and the Road to Success,” a fascinating blast from the past that explores Hope?s cinematic roots, with additional comments by Phyllis Diller and Hope biographers Randall G. Mielke and Richard Grudens. “The Road to Singapore,” “The Road to Zanzibar,” “The Road to Morocco,” “The Road to Utopia,” “The Paleface,” and “The Ghost Breakers” celebrate Hope?s extensive war time efforts entertaining the troops with such featurettes as “Hollywood Victory Canteen” and “Command Performance,” with all-star tributes to our men in uniform, plus photo galleries, script-to-screen DVD-ROM features, plus selected sing-a-longs of such Hope favorites as “Buttons and Bows” and “The Road to Morocco.” Hope is more than just an entertainer, he?s a humanitarian, and his efforts to bring a little ray of “Hope” into the lives of soldiers all over the world are recognized, albeit briefly, in many of the DVDs extras. How enlightening and appropriate to include nostalgic episodes of “Command Performance” and “Hollywood Victory Canteen” to the mix, unapologetic flag-waving that is not only entertaining, but truly inspiring. One segment finds a young woman hitching a ride on a star-filled, cross country War Bonds tour in order to see her wounded brother. Along the way she encounters Alan Ladd, Humphrey Bogart, Bing Crosby, and witnesses a fabulous tap dancing musical number by Betty Hutton. Other titles in the collection include double features of “The Big Broadcast of 1938” and “College Swing,” “My Favorite Blonde” and “Star Spangled Rhythm,” Louisiana Purchase” and “Never Say Die,” “Monsieur Beaucaire” and “Where There?s Life,” “Sorrowful Jones” and “The Paleface,” and “Caught in the Draft” and “Give Me a Sailor.” Thanks for the memories, Mr. Hope. Happy birthday.

Road to Perdition (R)

(DreamWorks Home Video)

Even though it wasn?t nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, “Road to Perdition” was the best film of 2002. Directed by Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”), working from a smart, literate screenplay by David Self, “Road to Perdition” is the best film to deal with the father-son dynamic since “Field of Dreams.” Self explores that dynamic on three different levels, and succeeds every step along the way. Tom Hanks is exceptional as Michael Sullivan, a Depression-era mob enforcer who works for crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). Even though Rooney shares a tentative relationship with his own power-hungry son Connor (Daniel Craig), Sullivan looks upon him as his own father. Equally tentative is the relationship that Michael Sr. shares with his son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), but all that changes when Rooney orders a hit on Sullivan?s family. While on the “Road to Perdition,” father and son bond, first to stay alive, eventually through mutual respect. Fans of the late, great cinematographer Conrad Hall (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) will appreciate his moody, positively stunning (and Oscar-nominated) work here, every detail perfectly captured on the DVD, which also includes an impressive, three-dimensional 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack that pinpoints every detail of the action. Mendes contributes a thoroughly absorbing feature-length commentary that takes us through every step of the filming process, an engaging discussion filled with anecdotes and behind-the-scenes details. The DVD also features the HBO “Making Of” documentary, and approximately fifteen minutes of extended and deleted scenes that look just as beautiful as the film itself.

American Film Theatre DVD Collection

(Kino Video)

In 1972, film and television producer Ely Landau and his wife Edie came up with a startling idea. As producer of the early 1960s television anthology “Play of the Week,” Landau knew that audiences were hungry for plays that could only be seen on Broadway or in major cities. The experiment was to bring to the screen a series of famous and eclectic Broadway plays, filmed by famous directors, and featuring stellar casts. The Landau?s created the American Film Theatre, and with backing from American Express, generous participation from cast and crew, and commitments from theaters, developed a subscription series of fifteen plays that would screen once a month, on Monday and Tuesday, over a period of two years. Budgeted at less than one-million dollars each, the productions walked a comfortable line between a staged play and a film, with a concentration on acting. The Landau?s were more interested in bringing intelligent, thoughtful, and challenging material to audiences rather than opening the plays up like previous films. The concept was to sell patrons a season?s worth of tickets in advance, and provide them with an alternative to the mainstream, sometimes mindless films littering theater screens at the time. After overcoming initial obstacles (season tickets were delayed or never delivered, major studios objected to benching their movies for two nights a month), American Film Theatre became a reality. Between 1973-75, AFT released fourteen of the fifteen films in the series (“Philadelphia, Here I Come!” was never released theatrically), and even though some of them were not nearly as prestigious or as entertaining as the rest, the Landau?s managed to preserve a slice of timeless theater that has seldom been seen since their initial subscription runs. Now, thirty years later, Kino Video has obtained the collection, and with the first box set (one of three), present these long lost productions in all their glory. Although not being released in their original order, Set One is the perfect introduction to the series, including Eugene O? Neill?s mammoth “The Iceman Cometh,” Eugene Ionesco?s absurdist “Rhinoceros,” Simon Gray?s melancholy “Butley,” John Osborne?s moving “Luther,” and Jean Genet?s sharply etched “The Maids.” The cornerstone of the first set is O?Neill?s “The Iceman Cometh,” a four-hour interpretation by director John Frankenheimer, and featuring Lee Marvin, Fredric March, Robert Ryan, Jeff Bridges and Bradford Dillman. Like all of the films in the collection, “The Iceman Cometh” is presented in it?s original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio, enhanced for widescreen televisions. Even though the print isn?t pristine (time hasn?t been kind to the original negative), it?s impossible not to get lost in this timeless tale of men hashing out life?s problems in a New York skid row bar in 1912. Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel are hilarious under Tom O?Horgan?s direction of Ionesco?s “Rhinoceros,” a offbeat apocalyptic comedy in which everyone is turned into a horned beast, while Alan Bates is terrific as English Literature professor Ben “Butley” who loses his wife, boyfriend and a prestigious publishing honor all in the same breath, captured under the sympathetic eye of stage director Harold Pinter, and co-starring Jessica Tandy. Stacy Keach (ably assisted by Judi Dench, Hugh Griffith and Patrick Magee), examines the religious dilemmas of German cleric Martin “Luther” with a brilliant, penetrating performance, under the direction of Guy Green, while Oscar-winner Glenda Jackson and Susannah York, working with director Christopher Miles, inhabit Jean Genet?s dark and disturbing class drama “The Maids” with shocking authority. Each DVD in the collection features trailers for all the films in the series, a wonderfully engaging 26 minute conversation with Edie Landau on the creation and marketing of the series, a revealing theatrical thank you from Ely to first season subscribers, a reproduction of the original AFT Cinebill (the film version of Playbill), a stills gallery, and numerous essays and reflections by a host of writers, all delivered in a handsome gift box.

Cole Porter Collection (NR)

(Warner Home Video)

Gotta sing, gotta dance. Warner Home Video opens up their vault to release five new titles in their Classic Musical Collection, with a focus on the great Cole Porter musicals of the forties and fifties. New to the collection are “Kiss Me Kate,” starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel (1953), “Silk Stockings,” starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse (1957), “High Society,” starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra (1956), “Les Girls,” starring Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, and Kay Kendall (1957), and Broadway Melody of 1940,” starring Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell (1940). “Broadway Melody of 1940” and “Kiss Me Kate” are presented in their original full-frame format (“Kiss Me Kate” was initially presented in 3-D), while the other three are presented in gorgeous widescreen. All prints have been re-mastered, allowing for the best possible color transfer. Most major age issues (scratches, wear and tear) have been eliminated, but the transfers are not as pristine as some of the more high profile restorations like “Singing in the Rain” and “West Side Story.” Aside from “Broadway Melody of 1940,” the remaining titles have been re-channeled into 5.1 Dolby Digital, and while the process does manage to clean up the usual sound deficiencies of the era, they?re not as intricate as they could or should be. They get the job done. Warner Home Video has also loaded each DVD with numerous extras, making each title a real collector?s item. Stars Ann Miller, Celeste Holm, Cyd Charisse, and Tania Elg host various Cole Porter tribute featurettes, “High Society” includes a premiere newsreel, radio ads, a “Droopy” cartoon, and additional trailers, “Kiss Me Kate” includes a music only track, a vintage documentary short, “Les Girls” extras include a vintage Warner cartoon, “Silk Stockings” features two vintage musical shorts, and “”Broadway Melody of 1940” clocks in with an “Our Gang” short. The perfect Mother?s Day gift for the woman who likes Hollywood?s classic musicals.

Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean (NR)

(Arts and Entertainment Home Video)

Welcome to the offbeat world of Mr. Bean, the straight-laced, rubber-faced creation of British comedian Rowan Atkinson. Atkinson created “Mr. Bean” in 1989, and since then, his appearance on the BBC and subsequent movie have endeared him to fans of dry, wry, and just plain silly wit. Fans of Atkinson (“Four Weddings and Funeral,” “Rat Race”) will appreciate this 3-disc DVD collection of the entire “Mr. Bean” series, including all 14 episodes of the series, plus numerous extras that make the home viewing experience truly special. Watching Bean make a mockery or disaster out of every situation he enters is reward enough, but the DVD also takes you on a 40-minute behind-the-scenes look at the “Bean” phenomenon, includes two never-before-seen sketches, two live sketches as originally presented on “Comic Relief,” plus a trailer for the animated series. A photo gallery, and Atkinson bio/filmography complete the collection. While the video and audio transfer aren?t perfect, they are true representations of the original broadcasts.

About Schmidt (R)

(New Line Home Video)

Jack Nicholson shines in this heartfelt, sympathetic and humanly funny look at one man?s search for meaning in his life. Restless after his retirement, Warren Schmidt (Nicholson) receives another crushing blow when his wife Helen suddenly dies. In order to make sense of his life, Warren buys an RV and sets out to attend his daughter?s wedding. His cross-country trip brings him face-to-face with the realities of life, and once he meets his daughter?s fiancee (Dermot Mulroney) and his freewheeling parents (including a hilarious, memorable Kathy Bates as mom), Warren begins to understand that life isn?t a bowl of cherries, but it?s not the pits either. Director Alexander Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor (“Election”) explore every sweet and bittersweet moment possible from every situation, creating a tapestry of life that is unforgettable. The widescreen transfer looks sensational, delivering flattering flesh tones and warm, comfortable colors. The DVD features nine deleted scenes that help open up the story, and while Payne and Thomas don?t lend their talents to a commentary track, Payne?s opening salvos for the deleted scenes are expressive and funny. The DVD also includes promotional snippets created for the insurance company where Warren worked, plus the usual array of cast and crew info, and theatrical trailers for this and other New Line titles.

Comedian (R)

(Miramax Home Video)

Shot by director Christian Charles on digital camcorders, “Comedian” chronicles the parallel paths and lives of comedian Jerry Seinfeld and up-and-coming comedian Orny Adams over a one-year span. Even though the quality of the documentary never rises above its meager means, it does an excellent job of getting inside the heads of stand-up comedians, exploring their hopes, desires, thoughts, and disappointments. Oh yeah, and lots and lots of anxiety and stress. “Comedian” is packed with cameos from a number of well and lesser known comedians as Seinfeld and Adams cross paths on their way to opposite ends of the spotlight. The DVD contains a bevy of extras, including numerous deleted scenes that are pretty much more of the same, two feature-length commentaries, one with Seinfeld and comedian Colin Quinn, the other with director Charles and the film?s producer. The Seinfeld-Quinn pairing is painfully obvious but still enjoyable, while the production commentary is filled with facts and figures. Martin Short?s rotund talk show host Jiminy Glick shows up for an exclusive and frequently funny DVD interview with the comedians, who are also featured in their full-length stand-up routines on Late Night with David Letterman. Especially revealing is a look at the film?s advertising campaign, plus a short look at what happened to Adams after the release of the film. The picture and sound quality of the DVD are pretty much what you would expect considering the source.

Catch Me If You Can (PG-13)

(DreamWorks Home Video)

Director Steven Spielberg returns in a frisky mood, delivering a winning, nostalgic take on Frank W. Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young con man who, in the early sixties, had the world and an FBI check fraud agent (Tom Hanks) on a string. How he played yo-yo with both the Feds and everyone else he came in contact with makes for grand entertainment, a freewheeling, thoughtful tale of one man?s attempt to make his father proud. The two-disc DVD release frames the film in its original 1.85:1 widescreen format, and what a beautiful, seamless transfer it is. The exquisite period design looks authentic, with flattering flesh tones and outstanding attention to detail. Viewers have their choice of several excellent sound designs, from highly detailed Dolby and DTS 5.1 Surround soundtracks (also available in French), to an equally effective 2.0 Dolby Surround track. Missing in action, as per all Spielberg DVDs, is a director?s commentary track, but a second DVD of extras takes viewers behind the scenes with numerous featurettes. A toast of champagne welcomes young DiCaprio to the Spielberg fold, followed by an extensive behind-the-scenes documentary showcasing every step of the filming process. Other featurettes examine the painstaking process of designing the film and its costumes, the period music, the casting, the FBI?s participation, and a conversation with the film?s subject.

CSI: First Season (NR)

(Paramount Home Video)

I became a fan of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) midway through its second season, and have been hooked ever since. It?s impossible to resist this modern-day “Quincy,” in which a team of Las Vegas forensic experts tackle several tough cases each week. The number one show on television, CSI stars William Peterson (“Manhunter”) as the chief investigator, whose abrasive style and continuing hearing loss make him an unlikely hero. Yet week after week, with the aid of his team (former stripper Marg Helgenberger, former gambler Gary Dourdan, resident hunk George Eads, eager assistant Jorja Fox, and police detective Paul Guilfoyle), they set out to debunk one twisted crime after another. What makes CSI so much fun is smart writing, directing, and most of all, complete conviction from the entire cast. Whether they?re dealing with drug overdoses, freak weather victims, or tangled triangles, the CSI team always rises to the challenge. The First Season DVD collection includes 23 complete episodes on six discs, handsomely mounted inside a nifty box set. All episodes are presented in their original full-frame format, in English and Spanish Dolby Stereo. The collection includes inviting character profiles, a music video of the show?s theme “Who Are You,” plus a featurette on Crime Scene Investigators. The collection looks and sounds as sharp as the episodes contained inside.

Merci Pour Le Chocolat (NR)

(First Run Features)

The alluring Isabelle Huppert teams up with French director Claude Chabrol for another exercise in sly, wicked and devious mayhem. Huppert is exceptional in her bland portrayal of Mika, a chocolate heiress who marries, divorces and then remarries concert pianist Andre (Jacques Dutronc), whose second wife died in a mysterious car accident while on her way to see Mika. After Andre and his son Guillaume move into Mika?s spacious mansion, a young woman with mysterious ties to the family arrives for piano lessons, or is that all she wants? Chabrol and Huppert are a match made in heaven, a director who knows how to bring out the best in his leading lady, and an actress who can turn a simple look into a far reaching quest for truth. “Merci Pour Le Chocolat” is a thinking man?s thriller, filled with delicious interaction from a well tuned cast that never seems to know what?s coming next. The DVD features the original 1.66:1 widescreen format, with a faithful transfer that captures every nuance and detail. The director provides an introduction, plus look for a photo gallery, the original French theatrical trailer, and profiles of the director and cast. In French with easy-to-read subtitles.

Santo: Infraterrestre (NR)

(Rise Above Entertainment)

Mexico?s greatest super hero El Santo, finally arrives on DVD in the United States, and the first disc in the series is also the latest chapter. As an agent of National Security, El Santo, the silver masked fighter for truth and justice, is called upon to stop a mysterious criminal organization from abducting its citizens. With the help of a young boy named Diego, El Santo does battle against a group of extraterrestrials and manages to save the world. Through the year, the endearing campy series has found El Santo battling monsters, vampires, and evil scientists, and “Infraterrestre” is no different. The Platinum Edition DVD features a super hero collection of extras, including numerous deleted scenes and outtakes, the premiere of the film, plus special effects featurettes, an interview with the director, and a “best of” reel of El Santo?s greatest hits, all soon to follow on DVD.

Monsters, Inc. (G)

(Walt Disney Home Video)

Walt Disney Home Video has packed this two-disc DVD with monster extras. I adored this computer-animated tale about monster buddies Mike (voice of Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) who work for “Monsters, Inc.,” a corporation that uses the screams of children for power. Mike and Sully?s simple existence is jeopardized when a little human girl winds up in their world, setting off a series of calamities and close calls. DVD features a sparkling transfer in both full and widescreen formats, director?s audio commentary, the animated short features, “For The Birds,” and an all-new short, “Mike?s New Car.” Monster World offers a collection of games, music features, outtakes, interviews. Human World takes viewers on a behind-the-screen tour of the filming process. Why ruin all the rest of fun and mystery. Go get your own copy.

Singing In The Rain (NR)

(Warner Home Video)

Has it really been fifty years since this grand and glorious musical danced across movie screens? Warner Home Video celebrates the anniversary with a two-disc DVD featuring a handsomely restored print and a new 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack. Many of the film?s original cast and crew members participate in a non-screen specific audio commentary, while Debbie Reynolds hosts “What a Glorious Feeling,” a 40-minute look at the making of the film. DVD also features the full-length documentary “Musicals, Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM.” Watch the DVD in the “Singing Inspirations” mode, which occasionally allows you to stream off from the film to gather little insights and snippets about Hollywood musicals. The song extras are extraordinary, with more than two dozen excerpts, outtakes, clips from other films, and early recordings. Great film, great audio, great extras, this DVD will have you “Singing in the Rain.”

Big Fat Liar (PG)

(Universal Studios Home Video)

Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm in the Middle”) hits just the right note as Jason Shepherd, a fourteen-year-old with a penchant for making up fabulous lies. Faced with flunking out of English if he doesn?t deliver a term paper by the day?s end, Jason comes up with a truly larger than life story. Then Jason literally runs into slimy Hollywood producer Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti), who steals his term paper and develops it as a big summer film. After Jason sees a trailer for the film, he drags best friend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes) off to Hollywood to confront Wolf. Giamatti makes a great villain, the sort of person you like to hate. Muniz and teen co-star Bynes are very likeable. Bynes serves as our host on the DVD menus, occasionally forcing us to make a decision. The Universal Studios Home Video DVD features a bounty of deleted and extended scenes, some that feature entire plot threads. Muniz and director Shawn Levy serve up full-length audio commentaries, and potential liars can take the “Are You a Big Fat Liar?” quiz. Tell the truth. Trivia Challenge winners get a peek at funny outtakes.

Ghost Ship (R)

(Warner Home Video)

When a salvage crew discovers a long-lost ocean liner floating in the middle of the sea, visions of dollar signs dance in their heads. Too bad the liner is the Antonia Graza, which disappeared almost forty years ago, and for good reason. From the makers of “Thirteen Ghosts” comes this devilishly good time, a ghost story filled with frights and unbearable sights, the kind of gore that rightfully warrants an “R” rating. Julianne Moore, Gabriel Byrne, Ron Eldard, and Isaiah Washington are among the crew members who think they?ve stumbled across a gold mine, but instead have awoken the spirits of the long-dead passengers, ready to exact their revenge on anyone who tampers with their tomb. The first ten minutes will leave you stunned, while the DVD features three behind-the-scenes documentaries that unlock all of the mystery, and then some. There?s a nifty little device that provides access to the stories of the passengers, a wicked feature on the film?s equally wicked gore special effects, a Mudvayne music video, and more. The film is chilling, learning how the filmmakers pulled it off is both enlightening and occasionally funny.

Final Destination 2 (R)

(New Line Home Video)

Death doesn’t get to take a holiday in this gruesome but enjoyable horror romp that works overtime to find new and inventive ways to slice and dice a group of strangers after they escape the grasp of the grim reaper. This delightfully ghoulish sequel incorporates elements from the first film, pumping up the volume with each and every dispatch. When Kimberly Corman (A.J. Cook) looks into the future and sees a horrific traffic accident, she stops the deadly pile-up from occurring, setting off the wrath of death, who is anxious to collect on a debt owed. One by one, the survivors are stalked by death, who takes obvious pride in the splashy ways he expedites their comeuppance. New Line Home Video fills the Infini-Film DVD with tons of extras, including an all-access pass that allows you to watch the movie and then click on icons that take you behind the scenes with informative featurettes, screen tests, facts and trivia and much more. Those interested in expanding the experience can access the informative filmmaker commentary with director David Ellis, the producer and screenwriter team. Deleted and alternate scenes, a great featurette on the creation of the bloody special effects, interviews with individuals who have crossed over and come back, plus original, contagious DVD-ROM extras make this release a must-have for fans of the series.

Daredevil (PG-13)

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Blinded at youth, adult attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) seeks justice of another kind when he dons the suit of “Daredevil,” a costumed avenger making Hell’s Kitchen safe for man and womankind. Using his fine-tuned senses, Daredevil battles ruthless criminal kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) and his paid assassin Bullseye (Colin Farrell) while wooing the dark and mysterious Elektra (Jennifer Garner), who suspects the super hero in the death of her father. Written and directed by Steven Mark Johnson, “Daredevil” was a moderate hit in theaters, another Marvel super hero in search of a franchise. The two-Disc DVD has super powers of its own, including a feature-length production commentary with the director and producer, an enhanced viewing mode that allows you to watch the movie and then immediately go behind the scenes to see how the film was made, a fun and fascinating on-screen trivia track, plus two extensive (60 minute) documentaries that go deeper into the myth, the man and the movie, 6 production featurettes that dissect the film’s various aspects, screen tests, music videos, multi- angle comparison features, and exclusive DVD-ROM content with web links. The DVD looks sharp, sounds great, and has enough extras to keep you busy for hours.

Gods and Generals (PG-13)

(Warner Home Video)

In what could only be described as Turner’s Foley, Ted’s $40 million prequel to “Gettysburg” took ten years to reach the screen, and feels nearly that long with its endless scenes of dialogue and war recreations that seem to go on forever. Turner, a self-proclaimed Civil War buff, along with writer-director Ronald F. Maxwell, turn the events leading up to “Gettysburg” into dramatic pauses that never seem to capture the immediacy of the moment. The cast, including Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee and Stephen Lang as Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, are quite good, but feel confined by the filmmaker’s need to etch every moment in stone. To better appreciate the long-winded film, check out the DVD extras that explore the themes without wearing out their welcome. Numerous featurettes, DVD-ROM historical text, and sporadic commentary manage to say a lot more than the film ever does, bringing to the foreground interesting facts that were omitted from the screenplay.

Nicholas Nickleby (PG)

(MGM Home Entertainment)

Charles Dickens’ colorful characters come vividly to life in writer-director Douglas McGrath’s streamlined version of the coming-of-age tale. Charlie Hunnam (“Queer as Folk”) is excellent as Nicholas, forced to provide for his family after the unexpected death of his father. With a mother and sister to feed, Nicholas warms up to his dastardly uncle Ralph (Christopher Plummer), who sees the Nickleby family downfall as his opportunity to split them up and win the heart of young Kate (Romola Garai). That means sending Nicholas off to the country to work for a vile headmaster and his wife, where he befriends handicapped servant Smike (Jamie Bell) and sets out to avenge his family’s dishonor. Beautifully acted, written and directed, “Nicholas Nickleby” is a joyful experience. The DVD includes a standard issue commentary by McGrath, featurettes that explore the behind-the-scenes mechanics of making the 19th Century period piece, cast interviews, a multi-angle dissection of five scenes, and several theatrical trailers.

One Step Beyond (NR)

(VCI Entertainment)

Long missing in action, the supernatural and paranormal ABC series pops up on DVD and VHS courtesy of VCI Entertainment. Hosted by John Newland, this creepy thirty-minute weekly anthology series, which made its debut in 1959, was the perfect compliment to “The Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits,” and became a staple of 60’s afternoon television. I remember rushing home from school to catch “One Step Beyond,” which featured up and coming stars and spooky storylines. Collection #1 includes twelve black and white episodes from season two, 324 minutes of demented drama supposedly based on actual events. Join Suzanne Pleshette, George Grizzard, Yvette Mimieux and dozens of other notable actors as they guide us through stories dealing with ghosts, mental telepathy, extreme coincidence, and precognition. A nostalgic blast from the past.

La Femme Nikita (NR)

(Warner Home Video)

Fans of the USA Cable Network series, based on director Luc Besson’s French thriller, will relish this first season DVD collection that includes all 22 episodes in a handsome box set with enough extras to make spending the weekend with Peta Wilson and friends a wet dream come true. Unlike the French film, starring Anne Parillaud, and the American remake “Point of No Return,” with Bridget Fonda, the series delves deeper into the tortured life of a convicted murderer recruited by a clandestine organization to be an assassin. In the films, “Nikita” was actually guilty of her crime, but Josephine (Wilson) is innocent, making her transformation a real challenge for her handlers. This plot twist allows the writers to tinker with the formula, lending a certain amount of humor and more insight into the training process to program a seemingly innocuous woman into a killing machine. It also allows for more story threads involving romance and intrigue, all of which made the series a long-running cult hit. The 6-Disc collection includes audio commentary on the pilot and season finale episodes, a short but sweet featurette “Section One Declassified: The Making of La Femme Nikita,” and an assortment of deleted scenes with optional commentary.

Shanghai Knights (PG-13)

(Touchstone Home Video)

In this high spirited sequel to “Shanghai Noon,” East meets West in turn-of-the-century England, when Chinese cowboy Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) and American B.S. artist/writer Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) travel to London to rescue Wang’s kidnaped sister and recover the Forbidden City’s Imperial Seal. Like “Noon,” “Knights” plays off the good natured, cross-culture differences between Wang and O’Bannon, who are as different as night and day, but must rely on each other in order to rescue the damsel in distress. “Knights” doesn’t bear the burden of setting up the plot and characters, and immediately leaps into action. Filled with numerous humorous pokes at other films, “Knights” has something for everyone, including enough Chan-inspired fight scenes for several films, musical gags that betray the time period, and a wild sense of playfulness that showcases both men’s natural abilities. The DVD features a brilliantly rendered widescreen transfer, a rambunctious 5.1 surround soundtrack, two audio commentaries, one with director David Dobkin, the other with the film’s writers, plus numerous deleted scenes that expand on Chan’s fighting ability, which are also highlighted in a music-video montage and a “Fight Manual.”

Solaris (PG-13)

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Remake of the well regarded but long-winded Russian space drama stars George Clooney as Chris Kelvin, a psychologist suffering from the loss of his wife, assigned to the Prometheus, a space station orbiting the planet “Solaris.” His assignment is to investigate the strange apparitions plaguing the crew, but once he arrives, Kelvin becomes enveloped in the planet’s mysterious force that challenges his sanity and beliefs. Written and directed by Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s Eleven,” “Out of Sight”), “Solaris” compacts the extended arcs of the original film into a more cohesive, linear storyline, while maintaining its complex themes. Clooney is excellent as a man of science looking for answers in a world where dreams and nightmares collide. Released last Christmas, “Solaris” failed to attract a large following, possibly because audiences weren’t prepared for a thoughtful science-fiction film. The DVD includes an extensive, equally thoughtful full-length audio commentary with Soderbergh and producer James Cameron, who provide powerful insight. There’s also a behind-the-scenes featurette, plus the HBO “Making Of” P.R. piece, and the film’s original screenplay. Delivered in the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen format, “Solaris” looks great, with excellent attention to detail and an intricate, fine-tuned 5.1 Dolby surround soundtrack.

Lost in La Mancha (R)

(Docurama)

When director Terry Gilliam (“Brazil,” “The Fisher King”) recruited film students Keith Fulton and Luis Pepe to make a video diary of his production “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” he thought it would be a nice extra for the film?s DVD release. Little did he realize that the diary would become “the” film, a document of a failed production that went from one major disaster to another. Faced with a tight budget, unstable locations and an ailing leading man, Gilliam fought against the odds to make the best of a bad situation, hoping to shake off the ghost a previous troubled production, “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.” The harder he fought, the more ground he lost, and his trials and tribulations are exposed like a raw nerve in this fascinating documentary that takes on a life of its own. The two-disc DVD set contains the documentary, on-camera interviews, deleted and optional scenes, production media, including storyboards and stills, an Independent Film Channel focus on the director, plus an interview with Gilliam and author Salman Rushdie at the Telluride Film Festival, and a trailer for a film that would never be released. A must see for anyone interested in the mechanics of making a movie.

Phone Booth (R)

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

What could have been a one-gimmick movie, what happens to a self-absorbed publicist trapped inside a New York City phone booth by an unseen sniper, is instead a compelling and intense character study thanks to the performance of Colin Farrell. Farrell is riveting as Stu Shepard, who uses and disposes of people like Kleenex, forced to use his skills as a negotiator in order to save his own life. That includes slowly tearing down his own facades until only a shell of a man exists. All of this takes place on a busy Manhattan street, with the media and the local police present for his confessional. Director Joel Schumacher, who provides a frequently funny feature-length commentary on the DVD, uses numerous cinematic devices to draw the audience into Shepard?s sense of isolation and desperation. The DVD looks sharp, delivered in crisp widescreen (and full-screen), with a nicely rendered 5.1 Surround soundtrack that constantly catches you off guard.

Angel Trilogy (R)

(Anchor Bay Entertainment)

Fueled by an irresistible poster tag-line that proclaimed “High School Honor Student By Day…Hollywood Hooker By Night,” the legend of “Angel” was born in 1983, featuring young Donna Wilkes as an avenging teenage prostitute taking back the streets and her life. Exploitation at its best, “Angel” rode the wave of vigilantism films started by Charles Bronson?s “Death Wish,” creating enough interest to warrant not one but two sequels. “The Angel Collection” arrives on DVD thanks to Anchor Bay Entertainment, whose goal has been to rescue and release minor and obscure hits to anxious fans. Wilkes stars in the first film, where Angel witnesses the murder of two friends and finds herself on the run from the crazed killer, while Betsy Russell picks up the gauntlet in “Avenging Angel,” which finds the former prostitute in law school, drawn back to the mean streets of Los Angeles to avenge the shooting of her mentor. Mitzi Kapture stars in “Angel III: The Final Chapter,” now a freelance photographer in New York, where she finds her mother and learns she has a sister, only to lose one and forced back on the streets to find the other. These three action/camp classics are delivered in their original widescreen formats, with theatrical trailers, plus deleted scenes from the first film, and a poster and still gallery for the second.

Dark Blue (R)

(MGM Home Entertainment)

Kurt Russell delivers a strong performance as a renegade cop in director Ron Shelton’s earnest but ultimately pedestrian crime drama about one cop’s soul searching journey to find the truth on the eve of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Russell manages to overcome a screenplay filled with standard issue police situations and conflicts, playing Eldon Perry, a good cop forced to do whatever it takes to uphold the law, even if it means breaking it. Ving Rhames has some nice moments as the Assistant Police Chief trying to reign Perry and his partner, played by Scott Speedman, in. Shelton contributes a feature-length commentary that discusses the difficulties of shooting on a low budget, while three featurettes examine the making of the film and how the Internal Affairs department operates. The DVD, delivered in sharp and vivid widescreen and full screen formats, also contains a photo gallery and trailer.

Kangaroo Jack (PG)

(Warner Home Video)

After absentmindedly setting up his mob father (Christopher Walken), Charlie Carbone (the always watch-able Jerry O’Connell) and his best friend Louis (Anthony Anderson) are given one last opportunity make prove their worth. Sent to Australia to deliver $50,000 to another mob boss, Charlie and Louis lose it to a crafty kangaroo named Jack. With two sets of mobsters hot on their trail, the duo recruit a bush pilot and a wildlife expert (Estella Warren) to help get the money back. Surprise spring hit arrives on DVD with two audio commentary tracks, one with Jack (don’t ask), the other with O’Connell, Anderson, Warren, the director, writers and visual effects editor. Kids will enjoy Jackie Legs’ Dance Groves, featuring Jack’s hip hop moves, plus a sound effects featurette on creating flatulence. There’s also a hilarious reel of outtakes and gags, animal casting sessions and a small documentary on the film’s visual effects.

Frida (R)

(Miramax Home Video)

Salma Hayek is absolutely amazing as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who turned adversity into self expression, using paints and an easel to escape injuries she suffered in a bus accident. Relegated at first to self-portraits, Frida eventually finds the strength to walk again, and seeks out artist Diego Rivera for his opinion of her work. Impressed, Rivera introduces Frida to the art world, and eventually marries her. Their life together, filled with happiness and turmoil, is captured with honesty and compassion in this riveting film directed by Julie Taymor. Hayek spent years trying to get “Frida” to the big screen, and her passion is evident in every frame. Not a big film, but a film with a big heart. On disc one of the two disc set, director Taymor lends her expressive thoughts to a full length audio commentary, exploring how she tried to capture Frida’s visual style on film, while composer Elliot Goldenthal chimes in with a sporadic commentary on how he paints each scene with music. There’s also a passionate interview with Hayek, who emphasizes her devotion to the material. The second disc includes a variety of featurettes and television interviews, including an American Film Institute Q & A with Taymor, who also sits down for a Bill Moyers interview. Three featurettes, “The Design of Frida,” “The Vision of Frida,” and “The Music of Frida” explore the various aspects of making the film, with in-depth behind-the-scenes shots and interviews with cast and crew members. Location scouting, a look at the artist, and F/X dissections flesh out the disc.

Black Hawk Down: Special Edition (R)

(Columbia-TriStar Home Video)

Director Ridley Scott?s harrowing depiction of a U.S. led 1993 humanitarian/peacekeeping mission in Somalia gone horribly wrong is filled with graphic scenes of war violence and strong performances, and ultimately, an inspiring sense of heroism. Intent that their war relief efforts don?t fall into the hands of the ruthless war lord who holds an iron grip over the territory, Army Rangers and Delta Force soldiers plan to swoop down into a crowded marketplace in the capital city if Mogadishu and seize two of his top aides. A simple in and out mission becomes a horrifying nightmare as the soldiers belatedly learn that the opposition is not only ready, but armed to the teeth. Columbia-TriStar has reissued “Black Hawk Down” as a 3-disc deluxe edition, including three emotionally charged audio commentaries, one with Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, another with author Mark Bowden and screenwriter Ken Nolan, and a third with veterans of the Rangers Task Force. All three are relevant additions, but the veterans commentary holds the most weight. The second disc includes an extensive, almost exhaustive 150 minute documentary “The Essence of Combat: Making Black Hawk Down,” eight deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary, numerous production featurettes, storyboards, photo galleries, and a production design archive. The third disc includes the History Channel?s “The True Story of Black Hawk Down” documentary, the PBS “Ambush in Mogadishu” edition of “Frontline,” a multi-angle presentation, a mission time line, Q & A sessions with the filmmakers, a music video and assorted posters, trailers and television spots. Even if you have seen “Black Hawk Down,” you haven?t experienced it like this.

Windtalkers: Director’s Edition (R)

(MGM Home Entertainment)

During the height of war between the United States and Japan, codes played a vital role in our attempt to successfully beat the enemy. Yet as fast as we could come up with a new code, the Japanese broke it. In 1942, several hundred Navajo Indians were recruited into the Marines with the hopes that their native language would serve as an unbreakable code. John Woo?s “Windtalkers” stars Nicholas Cage as Joe Enders, a Marine assigned to protect Navajo code talker Ben Yahzee (Adam Beach), under strict orders to protect the code at all costs, including killing Yahzee should they fall into enemy hands. This moral dilemma, set against a brutal and almost hopeless campaign in Saipan, gets fleshed out in the “Director?s Edition” of the film, which adds more than 20 minutes of background to the story. The 3-disc collection features three full-length audio commentaries, including a director-producer track, one with stars Cage and Christian Slater, and finally, and the most interesting, observations by co-star Roger Willie and consultant Albert Smith, who lend historical significance to the proceedings. Disc two includes numerous featurettes and documentaries, including tributes to the code talkers. “The Code Talkers-A Secret Code of Honor” is the best, with actual interviews of code talkers, Marines, and their final recognition after years of silence. The third disc takes a technical look behind-the-scenes, with several short featurettes that show how difficult it was to capture the film?s graphic and chaotic war scenes, a “Fly-on-the-Set” series of personal diaries that provide personal observations by cast and crew, a short documentary on the “Actor?s Boot Camp” the talent was forced to endure. The collection also includes the usual assortment of trailers, bios, photo galleries and musical promotional spots. With the additional footage and background information, this special edition of “Windtalkers” speaks volumes.

Old School (R/Unrated)

(DreamWorks Home Entertainment)

Surprise hit starring Luke Wilson, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn as three thirty-something men who escape their home lives by buying an old house near a college and then starting their own fraternity. It’s party, party, party, until the evil dean conspires to get them kicked off campus. “Animal House” for Generation X, “Old School” is filled with ribald situations, topless oil wrestling, streaking, and just about every other college hi-jinks you could imagine. The Unrated DVD (R-rated version is also available) contains more the same, plus naughty main menus with topless babes, a very funny feature-length audio commentary with director Todd Phillips (Road Trip) and cast members, outtakes and bloopers, a handful of deleted, extended and alternate scenes, and a hilarious spoof of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” with Will Ferrell as host James Lipton (interviewing himself, no less).

25th Hour (R)

(Touchstone Home Video)

Edward Norton delivers an introspective performance as Monty Brogan, a man getting ready to spend seven years in prison for a drug charge. Brogan has 24 hours to make amends to his family and friends, and spends his final day trying to connect with the people he alienated on his way to becoming a hot shot. For once, director Spike Lee focuses on the human dynamic of his characters instead of racial issues, and the result is one of his most accessible films to date. Brian Cox is powerful as his estranged father, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper shine as two old friends, while Rosario Dawson plays Brogan’s girlfriend with just the right amount of ambiguity. Lee and writer David Benioff each have their own feature-length, scene-specific audio commentary, with Lee’s being the most spellbinding. This is a real director’s commentary, one that looks at the trials and tribulations of shooting on a limited budget in a short amount of time. Lee also takes center stage in “The Evolution of An American Filmmaker,” a featurette that examines Lee’s body of work. Finally, there’s a tribute to “Ground Zero” in New York.

The Guru (R)

(Universal Studios Home Video)

Hollywood meets Bollywood in this enjoyable, charming comedy about an Indian dance instructor/actor named Ramu Gupta (Jimi Mistry), who comes to New York hoping to be discovered. After absentmindedly ending up in porn films, Ramu falls for veteran porn actress Sharonna (Heather Graham), who teaches him how to be comfortable with his body and sex. While catering a high society birthday party for Lexi (Marisa Tomei), Ramu steps in for a drunk Swami and delights the guests with his New Age wisdom on life and sex. Soon, Ramu is the talk of the town, becoming the next Depak Chopra, all the while pining for Sharonna, who is engaged to marry a fireman. “The Guru” is filled with many unexpected moments, all discussed in length in two full-length audio commentaries, one by Mistry, the other by director Daisy von Sherler Mayer and writer Tracey Jackson. The DVD also includes numerous deleted scenes, some relevant, others fluff, but all enjoyable. I absolutely loved this movie and it’s nods to Bollywood and Hollywood musicals (including “Grease”), plus its wild sense of unbridled fun.

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets (PG-13)

(Warner Home Video)

The second chapter in the “Harry Potter” series of films is a major improvement over the first one, which was burdened with the unenviable task of setting up the characters and plot. With “Chamber of Secrets,” returning director Chris Columbus and writer Steve Kloves dive right in, and while the results are decidedly darker than the first, they are also more satisfying and entertaining. Set during Harry Potter?s (Daniel Radcliffe, more endearing this outing) second year at Hogwarts, “Chamber of Secrets” is bigger and better in all respects. The set pieces are jaw-dropping, with impressive set design and production that take us deeper into the magical world of Potter and his best friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson). As with the first DVD, “Chamber of Secrets” is an excellent companion piece that allows fans the opportunity to see the film in all its gorgeous widescreen glory, plus explore the various aspects of making the film. Those who can?t get enough will appreciate the 19 additional and extended scenes, the easy-to-navigate self-guided tours of the Chamber, Dumbledore?s office and Diagon Alley. I personally liked each actor?s take on their character, plus interviews with author J. K. Rowling and Kloves. Kids of all ages will appreciate the many extras, like DVD and DVD-ROM accessible games, an opportunity to build a scene, a plethora of background information, and several challenges that bring the film into your living room. Those with a DVD-ROM on their computer can activate a special feature that allows you to navigate the many puzzles, sliders, and extras using their voice. Truly magical.

The Family Guy (NR)

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)

Fox Television was so high on “The Family Guy” that they launched it following the Super Bowl in 1999. The politically incorrect cartoon held its own for a while, but then Fox started bouncing the show around their schedule or preempting it altogether. Fans had to look long and hard to find the show, which managed to hang on for three seasons. Unlike “The Simpsons,” which can readily be found in syndication, “The Family Guy” just disappeared, never to be heard from again, until now. Fox has just issued Seasons One and Two in a special four-disc DVD collection that features all 28 uncut episodes, including additional material not seen on its broadcast run. I was a big fan of “The Family Guy,” and after sitting through every episode in the DVD collection, I forgot how addictive the show is. What I appreciated most about creator Seth McFarlane?s dysfunctional family comedy was that it never played by the rules. Everyone and everything was a target, and McFarlane and his creative team took their shots. Not everyone hit a bulls-eye, but the show is frequently funnier than anything presently on the air. McFarlane provided several voices for the show, including perennial loser husband/father Peter Griffin, talking dog Brian, and conniving baby Stewie, constantly dreaming up new ways to get back at earnest mom Lois (voice of Alex Borstein). Seth Green (“Austin Powers” series) provides the voice of slacker son Chris, with Milas Kunis (“That 70’s Show”) as daughter Megan. “The Family Guy” was extremely unconventional, relying on outlandish flashbacks, dream sequences and pop culture gags to garner a chuckle. Come on, Adam West providing the voice of town mayor Adam West? A “Dallas” shower sequence featuring Victoria Principal and Patrick Duffy? The DVD features hilarious, very adult commentaries on several episodes, plus Internet promotional spots that heralded the premiere. Once I started watching, I couldn?t stop. Laugh, I thought I would die. The DVD looks great, with bold colors that leap off the screen, and includes dubbed language tracks in French and Spanish.

Analyze That! (R)

(Warner Home Video)

Even though the novelty of the original has worn off, this sequel to “Analyze This!” is filled with enough honest laughs to warrant a look. Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal return in fine form as the mobster and his shrink, this time thrown together after Paul Vitti (De Niro) suffers a mental breakdown in prison, occasionally breaking out into musical numbers from “West Side Story.” Much to his dismay, former shrink Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal) is given custody of Vitti for a month with the hopes of bringing him out of his stupor, which means spending 24/7 with Vitti and helping him land a job. Much of the original cast returns, including Lisa Kudrow as Sobel?s befuddled wife, and Joe Viterelli as Vitti?s bodyguard, who helps his boss uncover who is trying to kill him. Director Harold Ramis pops up in an intermittent commentary track, plus on screen in a promotional making-of featurette. More engaging is a Mafioso Associate Degree Exam (MADE), where you can test your skills as a mobster. Nice widescreen transfer, plus a distinctive 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack.

The Recruit (PG-13)

(Touchstone Home Video)

Director Roger Donaldson and star Colin Farrell provide a fact-filled and engaging commentary track to the DVD release of this crafty spy thriller. Farrell plays a computer expert recruited by hot-tempered CIA honcho Pacino to undergo training, unaware of the emotional toll it will take on him. After believing that he has flunked out, Farrell?s character learns that he?s perfectly suited to go undercover and learn the identity of a moll within the agency. Smartly written and acted, “The Recruit” benefits from Donaldson?s edgy direction, which keeps us as much in the dark as Farrell?s double-agent. The sixteen minute featurette “Spy School: Inside the CIA Training Program” offers insights from an actual agent, who guides us through the program and examines the filmmakers attempts to maintain authenticity. Four deleted scenes, cut for time and narrative reasons, are a nice addition, plus look for three coming attraction trailers and CD-ROM links to the film?s official site. Presented in the director?s original 1.77:1 widescreen format, served up with a blazing 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack.

Homicide: Life In The Streets (NR)

(Arts and Entertainment Home Video)

The gritty crime series by Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana may have disappeared from the airwaves, but seasons one and two are now available on a four disc DVD collection that includes a caseload of extras. The Emmy award-winning series stars, among others, Ned Beatty, Yaphet Kotto and a pre-“Law and Order: Special Victim?s Unit” Richard Belzer as Baltimore homicide detectives solving some of the toughest cases in their precinct. Unlike most cop dramas, the emphasis is on the grueling detective work, and through crisp, incisive writing, top flight performances, and sturdy direction, each and every one of the 13 episodes included here is a keeper. Levinson and Fontana provide a running commentary on the pilot episode, and sit down for an on-screen interview. The DVD set also includes an eye-opening episode of A and E?s “American Justice” series titled “To Catch a Killer: Homicide Detectives,” plus season one commercials, a song listing, and cast and crew bios. Presented in their original full-frame format, the transfers looks sharp, while the DVDs offer each episode up in 2.0 Dolby Digital.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (PG)

(Paramount Home Video)

Undeniably the second-best “Star Trek” film in the franchise (right up there with “The Wrath of Khan”), “The Voyage Home” is a rare breed: a science-fiction film for people who don?t really like science-fiction films. The fourth theatrical film in the series (after the long-winded and ponderous “The Search for Spock”), “The Voyage Home” finds the Enterprise crew returning home to future Earth only to find its existence threatened by an alien presence. After learning that the presence will evaporate the oceans and destroy the atmosphere unless it makes contact with whales, now extinct, Captain Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the Enterprise crew must travel back in time, San Francisco, 1986 to be specific, and bring back two whales to save the day. The 2-disc Special Collector?s Edition DVD includes a pitch-perfect widescreen transfer and a pinpoint 5.1 Dolby Digital stereo surround soundtrack that puts you right in the middle of the action. Shatner and Nimoy contribute a scene-specific but occasionally awkward commentary that feels a little like a cut-and-paste job. There is also an on-screen text commentary by “The Encyclopedia of Star Trek” authors Michael and Denise Okuda that dishes up every imaginable detail you would want to know. The second disc is chock full of extras, including no less than ten featurettes on various aspects of the film, including time travel, visual effects, sound design and “The Language of Whales,” “A Vulcan Primer” and “Kirk?s Women.” There are tributes to creator Gene Roddenberry, archives with storyboards and a production gallery, and interviews with series regulars Shatner, Nimoy, and the late DeForest Kelley. Hours and hours of extras, plus one of the best “Star Trek” features, make this DVD a true collector?s edition.

Far From Heaven (PG-13)

(Universal Studios Home Video)

For a more positive portrait of a gay male, look no further than Todd Haynes? award-winning homage to the glossy, female-driven melodramas of the 1950s. “Far From Heaven” is Haynes? tribute to the films of Douglas Sirk (“All That Heaven Allows, “”Magnificent Obsession”), and features flawless performances by Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid as a seemingly perfect couple whose private desires rip their family and life apart. Haynes lovingly recreates the look of the period, but it?s his pitch perfect script that allows the characters to say and do things that Sirk could only hint at. Moore is so seamless in her portrayal that you forget she?s acting, while Quaid is amazing as a man trapped by conventions of the time. The DVD features a stunning widescreen transfer that replicates the theatrical look of the film, presented in a delicate, fine-tuned 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack. Haynes provides an in-depth and fascinating commentary track that is required listening, and shares the spotlight with Moore in the behind-the-scenes featurette “A Filmmaker?s Experience.” The DVD also includes a more traditional “Making Of” featurette, and the Sundance Channel?s “Anatomy of a Scene Featurette” that dissects a pivotal moment in the film. Highly recommended, one of the best films of 2002.

Femme Fatale (R)

(Warner Home Video)

Writer-director Brian De Palma explores familiar themes in this dazzling, sexy thriller about a professional jewel thief who makes some bad life and career choices. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is extremely voluptuous as the film?s femme fatale, a woman trying to escape her criminal past by becoming another person, only to have a nosey tabloid photographer (Antonio Banderas) blow her cover. That?s when her former partners-in-crime swarm in to collect the loot she supposedly took to her grave. Nobody explores duality better than De Palma (Dressed to Kill), and he is once again on his game with this little seen but extremely enjoyable thriller that will leave you guessing right up to the last frame. Romijn-Stamos is so tantalizing she could give a 90-year-old gay man an erection. The flawless DVD transfer looks and sounds sensational, and even though it lacks a director?s commentary, it does features numerous featurettes that take the viewer behind-the-scenes. Definitely worth a look.

100 Years of Hope (NR)

(Universal Studios Home Video)

It?s hard to believe, but actor-comedian Bob Hope turns 100 years old this year, and to help celebrate his centennial, Universal Studios Home Video is releasing the Bob Hope DVD Tribute Collection, including re-issues of four of the beloved “Road” movies starring Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. Fortunately for his fans, Hope will always live on in his wonderfully witty movie roles, including musicals that introduced his signature song “Thanks for the Memories,” among others. The collection includes 17 films on 12 DVDs, many of them from his years at Paramount Pictures. Among his non-“Road” movies in the collection, one of my favorites is “The Ghost Breakers,” a wonderfully spooky 1940 follow-up to 1939’s “The Cat and the Canary.” Hope reunites with “Canary” co-star Paulette Goddard, here playing the damsel in distress who inherits a family mansion on a deserted island off the coast of Cuba. Hope plays radio personality Larry Lawrence, who accompanies Mary Carter (Goddard) to the island after he mistakenly believes he has killed a mob figure. Long before the “Ghostbusters” kicked paranormal butt, Hope and Goddard has fun with the same premise. Universal Home Video has done a terrific job of bringing this and other Hope classics to DVD. I was amazed at how well the film negatives had been preserved, allowing for a better-than-average transfer that trumps anything seen in television syndication. The clarity is amazing, allowing for excellent depth of field and strong detail in the shadows. The sound is pretty decent, even though it suffers from what I like to call “static cling.” It?s not a transfer issue, but a limitation of the original recording process. Even better are the extras that Universal has added to the main features in the collection. The menus are extremely colorful and pleasing, and in the case of “Ghost Busters,” you?ll find such exciting additional material as the film?s original theatrical trailer, a 13-minute documentary “Bob Hope and the Road to Success,” a fascinating blast from the past that explores Hope?s cinematic roots, with additional comments by Phyllis Diller and Hope biographers Randall G. Mielke and Richard Grudens. “The Road to Singapore,” “The Road to Zanzibar,” “The Road to Morocco,” “The Road to Utopia,” “The Paleface,” and “The Ghost Breakers” celebrate Hope?s extensive war time efforts entertaining the troops with such featurettes as “Hollywood Victory Canteen” and “Command Performance,” with all-star tributes to our men in uniform, plus photo galleries, script-to-screen DVD-ROM features, plus selected sing-a-longs of such Hope favorites as “Buttons and Bows” and “The Road to Morocco.” Hope is more than just an entertainer, he?s a humanitarian, and his efforts to bring a little ray of “Hope” into the lives of soldiers all over the world are recognized, albeit briefly, in many of the DVDs extras. How enlightening and appropriate to include nostalgic episodes of “Command Performance” and “Hollywood Victory Canteen” to the mix, unapologetic flag-waving that is not only entertaining, but truly inspiring. One segment finds a young woman hitching a ride on a star-filled, cross country War Bonds tour in order to see her wounded brother. Along the way she encounters Alan Ladd, Humphrey Bogart, Bing Crosby, and witnesses a fabulous tap dancing musical number by Betty Hutton. Other titles in the collection include double features of “The Big Broadcast of 1938” and “College Swing,” “My Favorite Blonde” and “Star Spangled Rhythm,” Louisiana Purchase” and “Never Say Die,” “Monsieur Beaucaire” and “Where There?s Life,” “Sorrowful Jones” and “The Paleface,” and “Caught in the Draft” and “Give Me a Sailor.” Thanks for the memories, Mr. Hope. Happy birthday.

Road to Perdition (R)

(DreamWorks Home Video)

Even though it wasn?t nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, “Road to Perdition” was the best film of 2002. Directed by Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”), working from a smart, literate screenplay by David Self, “Road to Perdition” is the best film to deal with the father-son dynamic since “Field of Dreams.” Self explores that dynamic on three different levels, and succeeds every step along the way. Tom Hanks is exceptional as Michael Sullivan, a Depression-era mob enforcer who works for crime boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). Even though Rooney shares a tentative relationship with his own power-hungry son Connor (Daniel Craig), Sullivan looks upon him as his own father. Equally tentative is the relationship that Michael Sr. shares with his son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), but all that changes when Rooney orders a hit on Sullivan?s family. While on the “Road to Perdition,” father and son bond, first to stay alive, eventually through mutual respect. Fans of the late, great cinematographer Conrad Hall (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) will appreciate his moody, positively stunning (and Oscar-nominated) work here, every detail perfectly captured on the DVD, which also includes an impressive, three-dimensional 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack that pinpoints every detail of the action. Mendes contributes a thoroughly absorbing feature-length commentary that takes us through every step of the filming process, an engaging discussion filled with anecdotes and behind-the-scenes details. The DVD also features the HBO “Making Of” documentary, and approximately fifteen minutes of extended and deleted scenes that look just as beautiful as the film itself.

American Film Theatre DVD Collection

(Kino Video)

In 1972, film and television producer Ely Landau and his wife Edie came up with a startling idea. As producer of the early 1960s television anthology “Play of the Week,” Landau knew that audiences were hungry for plays that could only be seen on Broadway or in major cities. The experiment was to bring to the screen a series of famous and eclectic Broadway plays, filmed by famous directors, and featuring stellar casts. The Landau?s created the American Film Theatre, and with backing from American Express, generous participation from cast and crew, and commitments from theaters, developed a subscription series of fifteen plays that would screen once a month, on Monday and Tuesday, over a period of two years. Budgeted at less than one-million dollars each, the productions walked a comfortable line between a staged play and a film, with a concentration on acting. The Landau?s were more interested in bringing intelligent, thoughtful, and challenging material to audiences rather than opening the plays up like previous films. The concept was to sell patrons a season?s worth of tickets in advance, and provide them with an alternative to the mainstream, sometimes mindless films littering theater screens at the time. After overcoming initial obstacles (season tickets were delayed or never delivered, major studios objected to benching their movies for two nights a month), American Film Theatre became a reality. Between 1973-75, AFT released fourteen of the fifteen films in the series (“Philadelphia, Here I Come!” was never released theatrically), and even though some of them were not nearly as prestigious or as entertaining as the rest, the Landau?s managed to preserve a slice of timeless theater that has seldom been seen since their initial subscription runs. Now, thirty years later, Kino Video has obtained the collection, and with the first box set (one of three), present these long lost productions in all their glory. Although not being released in their original order, Set One is the perfect introduction to the series, including Eugene O? Neill?s mammoth “The Iceman Cometh,” Eugene Ionesco?s absurdist “Rhinoceros,” Simon Gray?s melancholy “Butley,” John Osborne?s moving “Luther,” and Jean Genet?s sharply etched “The Maids.” The cornerstone of the first set is O?Neill?s “The Iceman Cometh,” a four-hour interpretation by director John Frankenheimer, and featuring Lee Marvin, Fredric March, Robert Ryan, Jeff Bridges and Bradford Dillman. Like all of the films in the collection, “The Iceman Cometh” is presented in it?s original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio, enhanced for widescreen televisions. Even though the print isn?t pristine (time hasn?t been kind to the original negative), it?s impossible not to get lost in this timeless tale of men hashing out life?s problems in a New York skid row bar in 1912. Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel are hilarious under Tom O?Horgan?s direction of Ionesco?s “Rhinoceros,” a offbeat apocalyptic comedy in which everyone is turned into a horned beast, while Alan Bates is terrific as English Literature professor Ben “Butley” who loses his wife, boyfriend and a prestigious publishing honor all in the same breath, captured under the sympathetic eye of stage director Harold Pinter, and co-starring Jessica Tandy. Stacy Keach (ably assisted by Judi Dench, Hugh Griffith and Patrick Magee), examines the religious dilemmas of German cleric Martin “Luther” with a brilliant, penetrating performance, under the direction of Guy Green, while Oscar-winner Glenda Jackson and Susannah York, working with director Christopher Miles, inhabit Jean Genet?s dark and disturbing class drama “The Maids” with shocking authority. Each DVD in the collection features trailers for all the films in the series, a wonderfully engaging 26 minute conversation with Edie Landau on the creation and marketing of the series, a revealing theatrical thank you from Ely to first season subscribers, a reproduction of the original AFT Cinebill (the film version of Playbill), a stills gallery, and numerous essays and reflections by a host of writers, all delivered in a handsome gift box.

Cole Porter Collection (NR)

(Warner Home Video)

Gotta sing, gotta dance. Warner Home Video opens up their vault to release five new titles in their Classic Musical Collection, with a focus on the great Cole Porter musicals of the forties and fifties. New to the collection are “Kiss Me Kate,” starring Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel (1953), “Silk Stockings,” starring Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse (1957), “High Society,” starring Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, and Frank Sinatra (1956), “Les Girls,” starring Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, and Kay Kendall (1957), and Broadway Melody of 1940,” starring Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell (1940). “Broadway Melody of 1940” and “Kiss Me Kate” are presented in their original full-frame format (“Kiss Me Kate” was initially presented in 3-D), while the other three are presented in gorgeous widescreen. All prints have been re-mastered, allowing for the best possible color transfer. Most major age issues (scratches, wear and tear) have been eliminated, but the transfers are not as pristine as some of the more high profile restorations like “Singing in the Rain” and “West Side Story.” Aside from “Broadway Melody of 1940,” the remaining titles have been re-channeled into 5.1 Dolby Digital, and while the process does manage to clean up the usual sound deficiencies of the era, they?re not as intricate as they could or should be. They get the job done. Warner Home Video has also loaded each DVD with numerous extras, making each title a real collector?s item. Stars Ann Miller, Celeste Holm, Cyd Charisse, and Tania Elg host various Cole Porter tribute featurettes, “High Society” includes a premiere newsreel, radio ads, a “Droopy” cartoon, and additional trailers, “Kiss Me Kate” includes a music only track, a vintage documentary short, “Les Girls” extras include a vintage Warner cartoon, “Silk Stockings” features two vintage musical shorts, and “”Broadway Melody of 1940” clocks in with an “Our Gang” short. The perfect Mother?s Day gift for the woman who likes Hollywood?s classic musicals.

Mr. Bean: The Whole Bean (NR)

(Arts and Entertainment Home Video)

Welcome to the offbeat world of Mr. Bean, the straight-laced, rubber-faced creation of British comedian Rowan Atkinson. Atkinson created “Mr. Bean” in 1989, and since then, his appearance on the BBC and subsequent movie have endeared him to fans of dry, wry, and just plain silly wit. Fans of Atkinson (“Four Weddings and Funeral,” “Rat Race”) will appreciate this 3-disc DVD collection of the entire “Mr. Bean” series, including all 14 episodes of the series, plus numerous extras that make the home viewing experience truly special. Watching Bean make a mockery or disaster out of every situation he enters is reward enough, but the DVD also takes you on a 40-minute behind-the-scenes look at the “Bean” phenomenon, includes two never-before-seen sketches, two live sketches as originally presented on “Comic Relief,” plus a trailer for the animated series. A photo gallery, and Atkinson bio/filmography complete the collection. While the video and audio transfer aren?t perfect, they are true representations of the original broadcasts.

About Schmidt (R)

(New Line Home Video)

Jack Nicholson shines in this heartfelt, sympathetic and humanly funny look at one man?s search for meaning in his life. Restless after his retirement, Warren Schmidt (Nicholson) receives another crushing blow when his wife Helen suddenly dies. In order to make sense of his life, Warren buys an RV and sets out to attend his daughter?s wedding. His cross-country trip brings him face-to-face with the realities of life, and once he meets his daughter?s fiancee (Dermot Mulroney) and his freewheeling parents (including a hilarious, memorable Kathy Bates as mom), Warren begins to understand that life isn?t a bowl of cherries, but it?s not the pits either. Director Alexander Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor (“Election”) explore every sweet and bittersweet moment possible from every situation, creating a tapestry of life that is unforgettable. The widescreen transfer looks sensational, delivering flattering flesh tones and warm, comfortable colors. The DVD features nine deleted scenes that help open up the story, and while Payne and Thomas don?t lend their talents to a commentary track, Payne?s opening salvos for the deleted scenes are expressive and funny. The DVD also includes promotional snippets created for the insurance company where Warren worked, plus the usual array of cast and crew info, and theatrical trailers for this and other New Line titles.

Comedian (R)

(Miramax Home Video)

Shot by director Christian Charles on digital camcorders, “Comedian” chronicles the parallel paths and lives of comedian Jerry Seinfeld and up-and-coming comedian Orny Adams over a one-year span. Even though the quality of the documentary never rises above its meager means, it does an excellent job of getting inside the heads of stand-up comedians, exploring their hopes, desires, thoughts, and disappointments. Oh yeah, and lots and lots of anxiety and stress. “Comedian” is packed with cameos from a number of well and lesser known comedians as Seinfeld and Adams cross paths on their way to opposite ends of the spotlight. The DVD contains a bevy of extras, including numerous deleted scenes that are pretty much more of the same, two feature-length commentaries, one with Seinfeld and comedian Colin Quinn, the other with director Charles and the film?s producer. The Seinfeld-Quinn pairing is painfully obvious but still enjoyable, while the production commentary is filled with facts and figures. Martin Short?s rotund talk show host Jiminy Glick shows up for an exclusive and frequently funny DVD interview with the comedians, who are also featured in their full-length stand-up routines on Late Night with David Letterman. Especially revealing is a look at the film?s advertising campaign, plus a short look at what happened to Adams after the release of the film. The picture and sound quality of the DVD are pretty much what you would expect considering the source.

Catch Me If You Can (PG-13)

(DreamWorks Home Video)

Director Steven Spielberg returns in a frisky mood, delivering a winning, nostalgic take on Frank W. Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young con man who, in the early sixties, had the world and an FBI check fraud agent (Tom Hanks) on a string. How he played yo-yo with both the Feds and everyone else he came in contact with makes for grand entertainment, a freewheeling, thoughtful tale of one man?s attempt to make his father proud. The two-disc DVD release frames the film in its original 1.85:1 widescreen format, and what a beautiful, seamless transfer it is. The exquisite period design looks authentic, with flattering flesh tones and outstanding attention to detail. Viewers have their choice of several excellent sound designs, from highly detailed Dolby and DTS 5.1 Surround soundtracks (also available in French), to an equally effective 2.0 Dolby Surround track. Missing in action, as per all Spielberg DVDs, is a director?s commentary track, but a second DVD of extras takes viewers behind the scenes with numerous featurettes. A toast of champagne welcomes young DiCaprio to the Spielberg fold, followed by an extensive behind-the-scenes documentary showcasing every step of the filming process. Other featurettes examine the painstaking process of designing the film and its costumes, the period music, the casting, the FBI?s participation, and a conversation with the film?s subject.

CSI: First Season (NR)

(Paramount Home Video)

I became a fan of Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) midway through its second season, and have been hooked ever since. It?s impossible to resist this modern-day “Quincy,” in which a team of Las Vegas forensic experts tackle several tough cases each week. The number one show on television, CSI stars William Peterson (“Manhunter”) as the chief investigator, whose abrasive style and continuing hearing loss make him an unlikely hero. Yet week after week, with the aid of his team (former stripper Marg Helgenberger, former gambler Gary Dourdan, resident hunk George Eads, eager assistant Jorja Fox, and police detective Paul Guilfoyle), they set out to debunk one twisted crime after another. What makes CSI so much fun is smart writing, directing, and most of all, complete conviction from the entire cast. Whether they?re dealing with drug overdoses, freak weather victims, or tangled triangles, the CSI team always rises to the challenge. The First Season DVD collection includes 23 complete episodes on six discs, handsomely mounted inside a nifty box set. All episodes are presented in their original full-frame format, in English and Spanish Dolby Stereo. The collection includes inviting character profiles, a music video of the show?s theme “Who Are You,” plus a featurette on Crime Scene Investigators. The collection looks and sounds as sharp as the episodes contained inside.

Merci Pour Le Chocolat (NR)

(First Run Features)

The alluring Isabelle Huppert teams up with French director Claude Chabrol for another exercise in sly, wicked and devious mayhem. Huppert is exceptional in her bland portrayal of Mika, a chocolate heiress who marries, divorces and then remarries concert pianist Andre (Jacques Dutronc), whose second wife died in a mysterious car accident while on her way to see Mika. After Andre and his son Guillaume move into Mika?s spacious mansion, a young woman with mysterious ties to the family arrives for piano lessons, or is that all she wants? Chabrol and Huppert are a match made in heaven, a director who knows how to bring out the best in his leading lady, and an actress who can turn a simple look into a far reaching quest for truth. “Merci Pour Le Chocolat” is a thinking man?s thriller, filled with delicious interaction from a well tuned cast that never seems to know what?s coming next. The DVD features the original 1.66:1 widescreen format, with a faithful transfer that captures every nuance and detail. The director provides an introduction, plus look for a photo gallery, the original French theatrical trailer, and profiles of the director and cast. In French with easy-to-read subtitles.

Santo: Infraterrestre (NR)

(Rise Above Entertainment)

Mexico?s greatest super hero El Santo, finally arrives on DVD in the United States, and the first disc in the series is also the latest chapter. As an agent of National Security, El Santo, the silver masked fighter for truth and justice, is called upon to stop a mysterious criminal organization from abducting its citizens. With the help of a young boy named Diego, El Santo does battle against a group of extraterrestrials and manages to save the world. Through the year, the endearing campy series has found El Santo battling monsters, vampires, and evil scientists, and “Infraterrestre” is no different. The Platinum Edition DVD features a super hero collection of extras, including numerous deleted scenes and outtakes, the premiere of the film, plus special effects featurettes, an interview with the director, and a “best of” reel of El Santo?s greatest hits, all soon to follow on DVD.

Monsters, Inc. (G)

(Walt Disney Home Video)

Walt Disney Home Video has packed this two-disc DVD with monster extras. I adored this computer-animated tale about monster buddies Mike (voice of Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) who work for “Monsters, Inc.,” a corporation that uses the screams of children for power. Mike and Sully?s simple existence is jeopardized when a little human girl winds up in their world, setting off a series of calamities and close calls. DVD features a sparkling transfer in both full and widescreen formats, director?s audio commentary, the animated short features, “For The Birds,” and an all-new short, “Mike?s New Car.” Monster World offers a collection of games, music features, outtakes, interviews. Human World takes viewers on a behind-the-screen tour of the filming process. Why ruin all the rest of fun and mystery. Go get your own copy.

Singing In The Rain (NR)

(Warner Home Video)

Has it really been fifty years since this grand and glorious musical danced across movie screens? Warner Home Video celebrates the anniversary with a two-disc DVD featuring a handsomely restored print and a new 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack. Many of the film?s original cast and crew members participate in a non-screen specific audio commentary, while Debbie Reynolds hosts “What a Glorious Feeling,” a 40-minute look at the making of the film. DVD also features the full-length documentary “Musicals, Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM.” Watch the DVD in the “Singing Inspirations” mode, which occasionally allows you to stream off from the film to gather little insights and snippets about Hollywood musicals. The song extras are extraordinary, with more than two dozen excerpts, outtakes, clips from other films, and early recordings. Great film, great audio, great extras, this DVD will have you “Singing in the Rain.”

Big Fat Liar (PG)

(Universal Studios Home Video)

Frankie Muniz (“Malcolm in the Middle”) hits just the right note as Jason Shepherd, a fourteen-year-old with a penchant for making up fabulous lies. Faced with flunking out of English if he doesn?t deliver a term paper by the day?s end, Jason comes up with a truly larger than life story. Then Jason literally runs into slimy Hollywood producer Marty Wolf (Paul Giamatti), who steals his term paper and develops it as a big summer film. After Jason sees a trailer for the film, he drags best friend Kaylee (Amanda Bynes) off to Hollywood to confront Wolf. Giamatti makes a great villain, the sort of person you like to hate. Muniz and teen co-star Bynes are very likeable. Bynes serves as our host on the DVD menus, occasionally forcing us to make a decision. The Universal Studios Home Video DVD features a bounty of deleted and extended scenes, some that feature entire plot threads. Muniz and director Shawn Levy serve up full-length audio commentaries, and potential liars can take the “Are You a Big Fat Liar?” quiz. Tell the truth. Trivia Challenge winners get a peek at funny outtakes.

Ghost Ship (R)

(Warner Home Video)

When a salvage crew discovers a long-lost ocean liner floating in the middle of the sea, visions of dollar signs dance in their heads. Too bad the liner is the Antonia Graza, which disappeared almost forty years ago, and for good reason. From the makers of “Thirteen Ghosts” comes this devilishly good time, a ghost story filled with frights and unbearable sights, the kind of gore that rightfully warrants an “R” rating. Julianne Moore, Gabriel Byrne, Ron Eldard, and Isaiah Washington are among the crew members who think they?ve stumbled across a gold mine, but instead have awoken the spirits of the long-dead passengers, ready to exact their revenge on anyone who tampers with their tomb. The first ten minutes will leave you stunned, while the DVD features three behind-the-scenes documentaries that unlock all of the mystery, and then some. There?s a nifty little device that provides access to the stories of the passengers, a wicked feature on the film?s equally wicked gore special effects, a Mudvayne music video, and more. The film is chilling, learning how the filmmakers pulled it off is both enlightening and occasionally funny.



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