11/3/09 Edition
Charles Kuralt Classics on DVD
Plus: THE PRISONER on Blu, TV on DVD & More

It has been said (and written in this column) that it’s not a good time for archival titles to be released on DVD, something that was reaffirmed last week when Universal announced it was entering into a partnership with TCM to start a manufactured-on-demand DVD process for their catalog films. Similar to Warner Home Video’s Archive series, Universal and TCM are supposed to offer a variety of vintage movies for $19.99 a pop, starting with a series of Universal ‘30s chillers that fans have been anticipating for some time.

While this is good news in some regards (as it means a few titles that would never have been considered for a national retail release otherwise will be available to the public for the first time), the fact that studios seem to be steering away from mounting remastered/restored DVDs with supplemental content and heading towards a M.O.D. model is distressing in others (manufactured-on-demand is a lower risk/lower cost venture for the studios, particularly because little work is generally invested in the mastering process-- Warner Archive releases, for example, are often culled from older, pre-existing video masters, and pale in comparison with the studio’s typical DVD releases).
While some of this may well stem from the current economic climate (indeed, DVD review copies from a few major studios are no longer being provided to most websites including The Aisle Seat -- something that we can only hope will be temporary), it’s a trend that seems to be continuing as we progress towards the new year.

All of these developments, then, make a release like Acorn’s terrific edition of ON THE ROAD WITH CHARLES KURALT (378 mins.) something to savor.

The late Kuralt provided a series of vignettes for years on the CBS Evening News, traveling outside America’s interstate highways to find people and situations he found interesting. Kuralt’s brand of human-interest storytelling is something we rarely see on the news these days, with the fading network newscasts trying to hold onto their audiences while major cable networks are seemingly preoccupied with endless political content from both sides of the aisle.

Kuralt’s penchant for interviewing, and relating, human interest stories drove “On the Road,” and whether it was on the CBS Evening News or on CBS Sunday Morning -- which Kuralt also hosted for some 15 years -- viewers loved seeing his homespun tales that reflected America’s diversity and interests, ranging from a chronicle of the men who built the Golden Gate Bridge, to an older African-American gentleman who rented out bikes to kids of all colors in his neighborhood. Some of the pieces have a historical context, others are just a celebration of the day-to-day good things people do, but all of them are wry, poignant portraits of the human condition, made all the more affecting by Kuralt’s insight.

Several years ago The Travel Channel compiled many of these vintage pieces from the best surviving sources for a series of 30-minute “On the Road” episodes. Acorn’s three-disc DVD edition of “On the Road” offers a handful of these specially-edited segments, each disc containing six half-hour programs with welcome supplemental text information on what might’ve happened to the people, innovations or products detailed over the years since their respective segment broadcasts.    

It’s a terrific set that comes highly recommended -- and especially when you consider DVD releases like this are becoming fewer and fewer in number.

New on DVD & Blu-Ray

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS Blu-Ray and DVD (**½, 94 mins., 2009, PG; Fox). WHAT IT IS: One of the year’s biggest international box-office hits (incredibly grossing nearly $600 million worldwide!), this third entry into the affable, if a bit underwhelming, “Ice Age” franchise offers more CGI-rendered prehistoric shenanigans for its intended young audience. This time out the gang runs into a gaggle of wacky dinosaurs while Scrat finds a romantic interest in Scrattle, all of the action being played out against colorfully designed, eye-popping jurassic backdrops. TECH SPECS: Fox’s Blu-Ray disc includes a reference-quality AVC-encoded transfer with DTS Master Audio and loads of extra features, including filmmaker commentary tracks, deleted scenes, making of featurettes, BD Live extras and more. The BD comes with a digital copy and a copy of the standard DVD edition, which boasts a clear 16:9 (1.85) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio with the same filmmaker commentary track. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: I enjoyed the first “Ice Age” but have found the sequels to be mostly pedestrian, offering more of the same while diluting the formula that worked so well in the first picture. Still, if you’re Fox, it’s tough to argue with the approach, especially when you consider how much money this third entry raked in worldwide. 

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3 Blu-Ray (**, 106 mins., 2009, R; Sony). WHAT IT IS: Mediocre remake of the superb Walter Matthau-Robert Shaw 1974 thriller (an adaptation by Peter Stone of John Godey’s novel, expertly directed by Joseph Sargent) finds NYC transit dispatcher Denzel Washington dealing with a nefarious criminal (John Travolta) who hijacks a subway car and takes its passengers hostage. Tony Scott directs in his usual “slick” style and Brian Helgeland’s script attempts to update the story to the 21st century, but the original “Pelham” was a product of its era to a degree, and its more memorable aspects (Matthau’s humor, its sense of time and place, David Shire’s score, and that great last scene) have been watered down for what turns into a by-the-numbers, overly familiar thriller. TECH SPECS: Sony’s Blu-Ray edition of the 2009 “Pelham” includes a superlative AVC-encoded 1080p transfer plus an active DTS Master Audio soundtrack sporting a score by Harry Gregson-Williams that’s as predictable as Scott’s visual and editorial style. Extras include commentary from Scott, another commentary with Helgeland and producer Todd Black, plus several Making Of featurettes, some BD Live content and a digital copy for portable media players. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Perhaps if you’ve never seen the 1974 “Pelham” this serviceable and yet mostly uninspired re-do might be satisfying enough. For those who have, you won’t be able to shake your memories of its predecessor, no matter how boisterous this modern adaptation is by comparison.

HARDWIRED DVD (*½, 94 mins., 2009, R; Sony). WHAT IT IS: Cuba Gooding, Jr. continues his downward spiral into direct-to-video sludge with this tired action outing. In “Hardwired,” Gooding wakes up from a coma and tries to piece back his existence, all the while a scientist (Val Kilmer) and a group of shady folks have implanted a lethal microchip in his brain. Perhaps Gooding himself has a microchip that’s causing him to appear in junk like this, while Kilmer likewise “chips” in a just-for-the-money performance that’s nearly as sad. TECH SPECS: Sony’s DVD transfer is fine (16:9, 1.78 widescreen) but the movie’s threadbare production does not result in a particularly good looking film. The 5.1 soundtrack is fine while a making of featurette rounds out the disc. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: While it’s easy to laugh at a movie like “Hardwired,” it’s sad to think that, 10 years ago, Gooding and Kilmer were at the top of the A-list in Hollywood. Both stars are capable of so much more that it’s depressing to see them hitting rock bottom here.

WINGS OF DESIRE DVD (***½, 127 mins., 1987, Criterion). WHAT IT IS: Wim Wenders’ beautiful tale of an angel (Bruno Ganz) who falls for a mortal trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin) was widely embraced and acclaimed upon its release in 1987. While the director would bring back Ganz for his follow-up “Faraway, So Close!,” “Wings” would rank as one of the top art-house hits of its era, with crisp B&W cinematography and an eclectic supporting cast including Peter Falk also on-hand. TECH SPECS: Criterion’s terrific double-disc DVD package includes a restored, new digital transfer supervised by Wenders; an older commentary track from Wenders and Falk; a 2003 documentary on the film’s production; deleted scenes and outtakes; trailers; and other goodies. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Forget the American remake (“City of Angels”) and enjoy this sumptuous new Criterion edition of one of Wenders’ best.

TWO GIRLS AND A GUY Blu-Ray (**½, 84 mins., 1998, R/NC-17; Fox). WHAT IT IS: James Toback’s 1998 study of two women (Heather Graham, Natasha Gregson Wagner) who confront the man (Robert Downey, Jr.) they’re both dating was controversial for its day, and ended up netting an NC-17 rating for its frank sexual content. The performances by the three leads are all fine but the movie is awfully talky and pretentious. TECH SPECS: “Two Girls and a Guy” isn’t a title most would’ve expected to be released on Blu-Ray by this point, but Fox has nevertheless issued the film in a fine AVC-encoded transfer with DTS Master Audio sound. This isn’t the kind of movie you’d ever want to use to show off the benefits of HD, but it’s a fine presentation on the technical end. Extras include a new “Conversation with James Toback” in addition to commentary from Toback, Downey, and Gregson Wagner, plus the trailer, and both the R-rated and NC-17 rated versions of the picture. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Downey Jr.’s career resurgence -- and upcoming big movie slate of “Iron Man 2" and “Sherlock Holmes” -- undoubtedly paved the way for this 1998 film to hit Blu-Ray. It’s a perfectly watchable yet underwhelming film that its admirers ought to find quite satisfying on Blu-Ray.

SAY ANYTHING Blu-Ray (***, 100 mins., 1989, PG-13; Fox). WHAT IT IS: Cameron Crowe's popular late '80s chronicle of a high school outsider (John Cusack) who decides to court his graduating class' gorgeous, and seemingly impenetrable, beauty (Ione Skye) is back on Blu-Ray and DVD in a new anniversary edition. Cusack, Skye, and John Mahoney (as Skye's domineering father) are all terrific, and there are choice moments and incisive lines in Crowe's original screenplay. The movie though has always had a split personality, with a wonderful first half marred by a second stanza (involving Mahoney's criminal activity) that doesn't quite work. TECH SPECS: Fox's Blu-Ray disc is a winner, from its excellent AVC-encoded 1080p transfer to its DTS Master Audio soundtrack and all-new extras. On-hand are commentary from Crowe, Cusack and Skye, as well as a retrospective documentary, interview with the writer-director, trivia track, a slew of deleted/extended/alternate scenes, trailers, TV spots, a photo gallery, and vintage featurette. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: For a movie as uneven as "Say Anything..." it's amazing that the film has as many iconic genre moments as it does. The picture fades in the second half but the opening hour is a poignant and effective chronicle of growing up, marked by splendid performances from the cast. Recommended!

TV on DVD Wrap Up
THE PRISONER: Complete Series Blu-Ray (aprx. 15 hours, 1968, A&E). SERIES LOWDOWN: Network’s acclaimed, remastered transfers of this classic 1968 ITC series have been imported by A&E for their terrific Blu-Ray release. Patrick McGoohan starred in “The Prisoner” as a man held captive in an odd “Village” where he seeks to sort out his identity and find a way out, and which, not coincidentally, has arrived on Blu just in time for AMC’s mini-series remake with Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen, which begins November 15th. BLU-RAY SPECS: The crisp, full-frame 1080p transfers are just tremendous, as are the remastered 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks. Directly sourced from Network’s UK release the transfers are reportedly an appreciable upgrade on A&E’s own domestic DVD editions, while copious extras (some of them on standard-definition DVD) include a feature-length documentary; two featurettes; original mono soundtracks; an alternate edit of the episode “Arrival” with an optional music-only track featuring Wilfred Josephs’ “complete and abandoned score”; the original edit of “The Chimes of Big Ben”; seven commentary tracks; trailers; commercial break bumpers, an image archive, DVD-ROM scripts and press releases, and a promo for the upcoming remake. A goldmine for “Prisoner” fans. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Ranking right up there with CBS’ superb Blu-Ray editions of “Star Trek: The Original Series,” A&E has delivered the goods with an outstanding, five-disc presentation of a series that remains a favorite of viewers worldwide. Packed with marvelous special features and backed by outstanding transfers, “The Prisoner” comes highly recommended!

THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW: Season 5 DVD (624 mins., 1974-75, Fox). SEASON LOWDOWN: Mary tries producing the news, Lou becomes Mary’s neighbor, and Ted starts the false rumor he’s dating Mary in this fifth season of the classic sitcom, which Fox has at last brought to DVD in a three-disc set featuring the entire original cast (MTM plus Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight and Cloris Leachman). DVD SPECS: Remastered full-screen transfers and mono soundtracks are on-hand, though there may also be edits and alterations (despite there not being any indication of such on the packaging), so buyers, as with any TV on DVD release, are cautioned to keep that in mind. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Some MTM fans had thought that Fox had abandoned them, but thankfully the studio has returned with a top-quality presentation of another marvelous year for one of the seminal sitcoms of the ‘70s. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait as long for the next couple of seasons!

BONES: Season 4 Blu-Ray (1052 mins., 2008-09, Fox). SEASON LOWDOWN: “Bones” (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz) are back for another go-around in this fourth season of the hit Fox prime-time drama, which Fox has brought to Blu-Ray for the first time this month. The 24 episodes include “Yanks in the UK,” “The Man in the Outhouse,” “The Finger in the Nest,” “The Perfect Pieces in the Purple Pond,” “The Crank in the Shaft,” “The He in the She,” “The Skull in the Sculpture,” “The Passenger in the Oven,” “The Bone That Blew,” “Double Trouble in the Panhandle,” “Fire in the Ice,” “The Hero in the Hold,” “The Princess and the Pear,” “The Bones That Foam,” “The Salt in the Wounds,” “The Doctor in the Den,” “The Science in the Physicist,” “The Cinderella in the Cardboard,” “Mayhem on a Cross,” “The Double Death of the Dearly Departed,” “The Girl in the Mask,” “ The Beaver in the Otter,” “The Critic in the Cabernet,” and “The End in the Beginning.” BLU-RAY SPECS: The inaugural Blu-Ray release of “Bones” sports Fox’s customary AVC-encoded 1080p transfers and DTS Master Audio soundtracks. Extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel, and two behind the scenes featurettes. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: “Bones” fans should be happy with this latest release from Fox, which has done a splendid job bringing several series to Blu in the last month (following the latest respective seasons of  “How I Met Your Mother,” “My Name is Earl” and “The Unit.”). Well worth it for fans.

VEGA$: Season 1, Volume 1 DVD (aprx. 10 hours, 1978, CBS). SEASON LOWDOWN: Robert Urich IS private eye Dan Tanna, who investigates a series of murders, landowner disputes, and the seedier side of Las Vegas in this Michael Mann co-created prime-time series, which helped launch Urich as a leading man. Judy Landers, Phyliss Davis, Will Sampson, Bart Braverman, and Greg Morris co-star alongside Tony Curtis, who plays Tanna’s landlord “Slick” Roth. DVD SPECS: CBS’ debut DVD of “Vega$” includes the first half of its inaugural season, meaning the three-disc set offers 11 episodes in satisfying full-screen transfers and mono soundtracks, with episodic promos on certain episodes. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: “Vega$” was a bit before my time but it’s nostalgic entertainment for fans craving some late ‘70s prime-time goodness, and Urich certainly was “the man” back then as well.

THE GUARDIAN: Season 1 DVD (aprx. 16 hours, 2001-02, CBS). SEASON LOWDOWN: Before he was “The Mentalist,” Simon Baker made his first splash on U.S. TV in this CBS series as a high-powered attorney who has to perform 1500 hours of community service after being arrested on a drug charge. Subsequently Baker finds he’d rather work with the Children’s Legal Services of Pittsburgh instead of his usual day job. DVD SPECS: CBS opted not to split up the first season of “The Guardian,” which fans will be thanking them for. This six-disc set includes the complete first season of “The Guardian” in fine 16:9 transfers and 2.0 stereo soundtracks. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: I never paid much attention to “The Guardian” but its fans seemed to enjoy it and it certainly helped propel Baker onto future success. Aficionados will be satisfied.   

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 Vol XVI DVD (6 hours, Shout!). VOLUME LOWDOWN: Four more hilarious episodes from “Mystery Science Theater 3000" arrive on DVD for the first time in a terrifically packaged Shout! limited edition release. The four entries included here are highlighted by “Santa Claus,” the horrific(ally bad) Mexican holiday release that remains one of the more memorable entries in MST3K canon, along with “The Corpse Vanishes,” “Warrior of the Lost World,” and “Night of the Blood Beast.” DVD SPECS: A limited-edition Tom Servo figurine is the highlight of the package, which also includes vintage MST3K “Turkey Day” bumpers (aaahhh, how I fondly recall those Comedy Central Thanksgiving marathons), theatrical trailers, a “Turkey Day” edit of “Blood Beast,” “Santa Claus Conquers The Devil: A 50-Year Celebration,” and a new interview with “Warrior” director David Worth. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: While some MST3K fans continue to lament the slow (and expensive) progression of individual series episodes to DVD, Shout!’s presentation is nevertheless top notch and ought to be a must-have for MST’ies this holiday season. (Available Dec. 1)

ANDY BARKER, P.I. The Complete Series DVD (132 mins., 2007, Shout!). SERIES LOWDOWN: Poor Andy Richter has been like TV Kryptonite since leaving the halycon days of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” After starring in the acclaimed (but little-seen) “Andy Richter Controls the Universe,” Richter tried his hand in this short-lived NBC series, co-produced by O’Brien, with the comedian as a CPA who opts to play detective after being mistaken for a retired P.I. This six-episode series, co-starring Harve Presnell, isn’t as enjoyable as Richter’s prior Fox sitcom (I’ll just forget that “Quintuplets” ever happened), but it’s low-key and moderately amusing, and has been brought to DVD in another excellent package from Shout! DVD SPECS: Full-screen transfers and a full slate of extras are on tap, including a gag reel, cast and crew commentaries, and interviews with the writers and producers. Yet another fine supplemental compilation from Shout! AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: “Andy Barker” isn’t really an undiscovered gem but it surely did deserve a better fate, particularly considering most of the junk that NBC trots out nightly these days. For fans this is a fine DVD anthology with Shout!’s customary DVD extras and top-notch presentation leading the way.

ZORRO: Complete First and Second Seasons DVD (Disney Treasures, aprx. 19 hours each). SERIES LOWDOWN: Guy Williams starred as the legendary masked avenger in Disney’s fondly-remembered late ‘50s TV series, which was previously available on disc in a Season 1 release exclusive to Disney’s mail-order DVD club. Both seasons of the series have now been released as part of the studio’s terrific annual “Disney Treasures” limited-edition tin releases for all to enjoy, with new supplements and remastered transfers to boot. DVD SPECS: Each “Disney Treasures” tin offers collectible pin, lithograph and certificate of authenticity, as well as a bevy of extras. The latter include introductions from Disney scholar Leonard Maltin, plus rarely-seen specials “Zorro: El Bandido” and “Zorro: Adios El Cuchillo” (on the Season 1 release) plus “Zorro: The Postponed Wedding” and “Zorro: Auld Acquaintance” (on Season 2), episodes that were previously broadcast on the anthology series “Walt Disney Presents.” Transfers and soundtracks are terrific, having been fully restored and remastered. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Viewers who grew up during the ‘50s and ‘60s are likely to remember “Zorro” as part of their childhoods, and Disney’s long-overdue retail release of the series comes highly recommended.

JIM HENSON’S FRAGGLE ROCK: The Final Season DVD (596 mins., 1983; Lionsgate). SEASON LOWDOWN: Fourth and final season of the beloved children’s series from producer Jim Henson has been issued individually for the first time by Lionsgate (it was previously packaged as part of Hit Entertainment’s complete series DVD box-set). DVD SPECS: Full screen transfers and stereo soundtracks are complimented by a good array of extras, including a retrospective on the series, footage from the show’s last day of filming and its wrap party, and other goodies. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: If you didn’t pick up the complete series box-set this is a terrific package from Lionsgate, celebrating the final year of a show that remains one of Jim Henson’s most satisfying creations. Strongly recommended!

KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS Season 2 DVD (220 mins., 2008; Lionsgate). SEASON LOWDOWN: More shenanigans with Kim, Kloe and Kourtney Kardashian, with the occasional appearance by stepdad Bruce Jenner, are on-tap in this second season of the E! Entertainment reality series. DVD SPECS: Lionsgate’s DVD includes full-screen transfers, stereo soundtracks, deleted scenes and a video blog by the sisters’ younger brother Rob. AISLE SEAT BOTTOM LINE: Has anyone done less to achieve a level of celebrity than the Kardashian clan? Lionsgate’s DVD is fine, but unless you’re a reality junkie there’s no reason to even attempt to keep up with them.

Christmas on DVD & Blu-Ray, Part 1

You know the holidays can’t come soon enough for retailers when seasonal products start popping up on store shelves before October 31st. Sure enough, it’s no different as far as the big studios go, as holiday-themed product began arriving at our Aisle Seat offices a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the first (and undoubtedly not the last) yuletide round-up of new DVDs and Blu-Ray releases.

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET Blu-Ray (***½, 96 mins., 1947; Fox): A bona-fide Christmas classic hits Blu-Ray in a fine Special Edition package from Fox that essentially offers the same contents as its 2006 DVD, minus that release’s computer-colorized version (though obviously that’s no great loss). Commentary from Maureen O’Hara is on-hand while an excellent AMC “Backstory” episode recounts the production and a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featurette, promo shorts and other vintage material round out the disc. Technically Fox’s effort sports a crisp, AVC-encoded B&W transfer with DTS Master Audio sound and the original mono mix also on-hand.

Also being released on Blu is writer-producer John Hughes’ remake of MIRACLE ON 34th STREET (**½, 113 mins., PG; Fox), which was expected to be one of the big smashes of the 1994 holiday season but failed to find an audience in spite of mostly positive reviews.

There’s nothing “wrong” with the movie per se, which has the look of quality (with Hughes re-using many members of his “Home Alone” production team), a nice Bruce Broughton score, a fine cast including Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott in the Maureen O’Hara-John Payne roles, a veteran supporting cast (J.T. Walsh, Robert Prosky), a cute young star (Mara Wilson, remember her?), and Richard Attenborough as Kris Kringle himself....it’s just that, like many remakes, there’s little reason to select it over its predecessor, which has held up quite well.

Fox’s Blu-Ray edition of the ‘94 “Miracle” includes another nice AVC-encoded transfer with DTS Master Audio sound but no extras.

HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK Blu-Ray (**½, 120 mins., 1992, PG; Fox): For the follow-up to their 1990 box-office blockbuster “Home Alone,” writer-producer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus opted to recycle the first movie’s formula, bringing back Maculay Culkin as little Kevin McCallister, who this time is left alone to fend for himself in a Big Apple hotel during Christmas time after his folks, once again, leave him stranded. The gags involving thieves Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are more elaborate this time out, but there’s a definite air of familiarity about “Home Alone 2,” which in addition to bringing back its original cast, also reunites most of its key behind-the-scenes personnel, including John Williams (who composed another marvelous score with a pair of new, original Christmas carols), editor Raja Gosnell and cinematographer Julio Macat, who really makes NYC sing with his dreamy, colorful visuals. There are also engaging supporting turns from Tim Curry, Eddie Bracken and Brenda Fricker (in what amounts to a reprisal of the Royal Dano next-door neighbor role from the original), making for a festive sequel that’s principally let down by Hughes’ copycat script, which takes no chances whatsoever. Fox’s Blu-Ray disc looks and sounds terrific, with its DTS Master Audio soundtrack and top-notch AVC-encoded transfer, yet extras are limited to trailers for the “Home Alone” series (this does not offer the “Home Alone” trailer that had Bruce Broughton’s name attached as composer).

NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS DVD & Blu-Ray (**½, 98 mins., 2008, PG-13; Anchor Bay): Alfredo de Villa’s ensemble film follows a Puerto Rican family who come together to celebrate the season in Chicago. Included in the group are parents Alfred Molina and Elizabeth Pena; Freddy Rodriguez as their son, an Iraq war vet; Vanessa Ferlito as an aspiring actress; and John Leguizamo, who shows up with tightly-wound spouse Debra Messing, just in time to create all kinds of sitcom-like shenanigans. The cast is winning but the Alison Shaw-Rick Najera script feels like small-screen material, with the laughs alternating with heart-tugging moments and predictable situations. Anchor Bay’s DVD edition of “Nothing Like the Holidays” includes a commentary with Freddy Rodriguez, DeVilla and producer Robert Teitel; bloopers; the trailer; a fine 16:9 (2.35) transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. The Blu-Ray edition includes a superior 1080p transfer, the same extras plus a BD-exclusive picture-in-picture “insider exclusive” set of cast interviews and a digital copy for portable media players as well.

AN OLD-FASHIONED THANKSGIVING DVD (88 mins., 2008; Sony): Fine, family-oriented TV movie with Jacqueline Bisset as the estranged mother of farm widow Helene Joy, who has hit hard times while single-handedly raising her three children. This TV movie, shot in Canada by director Graeme Campbell, offers fine performances and a heartwarming script penned by Shelley Evans, based on Louisa May Alcott’s short story of the same name. Sony’s DVD includes a satisfying 16:9 (1.78) widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.

FRAGGLE ROCK: A MERRY FRAGGLE HOLIDAY (74 mins., 1983, Lionsgate): A trio of holiday-themed episodes from Jim Henson’s delightful live-action series arrive on DVD. Episodes include “The Bells of Fraggle Rock,” “The Grapes of Generosity,” and “The Perfect Blue Rollie,” with extra features including the animated episode “The Great Fraggle Freeze” and segments from “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” and “The Christmas Toy” included for good measure.

NEXT TIME: More of the latest reviews from DVD and Blu-Ray! Until then, don't forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!

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